Gunditjmara man Walter Christopher George Saunders, known as Chris, was born in Warrnambool, Victoria. On 29 February 1916, at the age of 21, Chris volunteered to join the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and serve in the First World War. He was assigned to the 10th Machine Gun Company, and went on to fight on the Western Front in France and Belgium.
Chris set sail from Port Melbourne in early 1916 and was sent to Larkhill training camp in England. On 28 October he was taken on strength in the field with his unit. He proceeded to France the following month and served as a driver. In July the following year Chris was evacuated due to illness and spent the majority of the month in a rest camp before re-joining the 10th Machine Gun Company in France. After serving throughout the first half of 1918, Chris was granted a month of leave in June. After re-joining his unit, he continued regular duties until the Armistice on 11 November 1918.
After the war, Chris returned to England. His sister Lizzie wrote a letter to AIF Headquarters asking whether she would be the one to receive the Female Relatives' Badge for her brother's service. Their mother had passed away, leaving Elizabeth as his sole remaining female relative. She was granted this badge for Chris's service but was denied badges for her sons: Joseph, who was serving with the 8th Light Horse Regiment, and Kenneth, who was serving with the 58th Battalion.
After returning to Australia in 1919, Chris was discharged from the AIF. He soon started a family with his new wife, Mabel. Their first son was named Reginald after his uncle, William Reginald Rawlings, who had also served in the First World War. William Rawlings was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during the heavy fighting along the Morlancourt Ridge in July 1918. He was killed in action the following month at the age of 27.
As a child, Reginald was inspired by his namesake and the stories of the war he heard from his father and his mates. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Reg and his younger brother, Harry, enlisted in the Australian Army.