Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Walter, Edward

WALTER, Sir EDWARD (1823–1904), founder of the Corps of Commissionaires, born in London 9 Dec. 1823, was third son of John Walter (1776-1847) [q. v.], proprietor of 'The Times,' by his wife Mary, daughter of Henry Smithe of Eastling, Kent. He was educated at Eton and at Exeter College, Oxford, He entered the army in 1843 as ensign of the 44th regiment; he exchanged as captain into the 8th hussars in 1848, and retired in 1853. Early in 1859 he founded the Corps of Commissionaires for the purpose of finding employment for discharged soldiers and sailors of good character. The neglected position of the discharged soldier had long been a general reproach. Walter was the first to seek a remedy. Limiting his efforts at first to wounded men only, he obtained by personal canvassing situations in London for eight, each of whom had lost a limb. On 13 February 1859 Walter took seven crippled men to Westminster Abbey to return thanks for employment. Two days later he organised twenty-seven veterans of the army and navy into a society that should be self-supporting and entirely dependent on the exertions and earnings of its members. He provided the men with uniforms, and took offices in Exchange Court, where he carried on his work single-handed. At first he was handicapped by numerous failures of his men to retain their situations. But he had no lack of patience or confidence. For five years he was assisted only by members of his family, but in 1864, when the corps numbered 250, he appealed to the public for the purpose of creating an officers' endowment fund to enable him to engage a staff of officers to assist.

The appeal met with a generous response, and branches of the corps were opened in some provincial cities. The progress of the corps was steady. In 1874 the strength was a little under 500. By 1886 it reached 1200; in 1904 about 3000; in 1909, 3740; and on 11 June 1911, 4152. Of these 2541 men are stationed in London, while the remaining 1611 are distributed in ten other large cities, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Nottingham. The corps is wholly self-supporting, with its own pension and insurance fund and sick fund. King Edward VII, who inspected the corps at Buckingham Palace on 16 June 1907, described it as one of the best regulated and most useful institutions in the country. In 1884 Walter received a testimonial from officers of the navy and army. For his services as founder and captain of the corps Walter was knighted in 1885, and was nominated K.C.B. (civil) in 1887.

For the last years of his life he resided at Pefran Lodge, Branksome, Bournemouth, where he died after a long illness on 26 Feb. 1904. He was buried at Bearwood, and a granite obelisk was erected by the corps to his memory in Brookwood cemetery. He was succeeded in the command of the corps by his nephew. Major Frederick Edward Walter (second son of John Walter of Bearwood). He married in 1853 Mary Anne Eliza (d. 1880), eldest daughter of John Carver Athorpe of Dinnington Hall, Rotherham, Yorkshire.

A portrait in oils, by Mrs. Way, is in possession of Lady Walter at Perran Lodge, Branksome, Bournemouth.

[Official information from the commandant of the corps; Burke's Landed Gentry ; Dod's Knightage; Kelly's Handbook.]

H. M. V.