Written in 1986 as a postscript to Ronald Walker’s chapter in Chronik der Stadt Weiz und Beiträge zu ihrer Geschichte
Ronald Walker was studying German at the University of London during World War II when he was drafted for war service into the British Army in the year 1944.
He was posted to British Counterintelligence (Field Security Service) and served with the rank of Sergeant (0berfeldwebel) in Italy in 1945. At the end of the war in Europe, Walker was attached for field duties to 409 FSS Section, then stationed in the Carinthian township of Wolfsberg. He and his comrades were the first British soldiers to enter Weiz when the Russians withdrew from our province on that memorable Tuesday, 24th July 1945.
Non-commissioned officers – of whom Sgt Walker was one – were specialists in security procedures and picked for their command of German. The unit took over part of the old house on the Hauptplatz, No.16 as their Headquarters, Security, Eastern Styria and requisitioned the villa of a former national socialist as living quarters. This unit’s immediate assignment was the implementation of a denazification programme. After the departure of the Commander, Capt Teddy Nolan, to other duties in summer, 1946, Sgt Walker took charge of No.3 Security Detachment Weiz and became responsible for the township and villages in the Region.
The British Military Governor, Major Carew Hunt, also left us the following year, leaving Sgt Walker the sole representative of the Occupying Power in the territory. In May, 1949, No.3 Detachment was withdrawn to Fiirstenfeld and Sgt Walker ordered back to England. The tragic events which led to this sudden decision on the part of the military are mentioned elsewhere in Mr Walker’s narrative. After a period of absence in England Mr Walker returned to his home in Weiz to become a student at the University of Graz, and after five semesters there took his Interpreter Diploma. He re-married in this period and left Austria to take up a teaching post in Cologne in 1952.
Ronald Walker can justly claim to have known Weiz for seven years, both as a soldier and civilian. It was whilst serving in the British Army of Occupation that he met and married Ingrid, only daughter of the family of Dipl. Ing. Franz Johann Pichler and a well-liked young lady of our community, in the Parish Church on the Weizberg in June, 1947.
Ingrid’s tragic death two years later did not affect Mr Walker’s decision to make Austria and Weiz his permanent home. His feelings for the country and its people arise from the influence of this sensitive woman and her own profound attachment to our province.
Ronald Walker now lives in retirement. His last post was as principal German master at a High School in the north of England where he resides with his second wife, who comes from Graz, and their family. Of the three children from this marriage his daughter, Karen, studied German at the University of Liverpool.
In the year 1964 Mr Walker was awarded the Silver Medal for German of the Institute of Linguists, London, and for almost forty years he has been a member of the Anglo-Austrian Society and connected with the OKISTA-Program. He had still maintained his academic interests whilst a serving soldier, and in 1949 the English-language newspaper of Vienna, the “Morning News” , awarded him the first prize in an open competition for his English interpretation of a set passage from one of the German classics.
Ronald Walker is our conception of an Englishman; but his Austrian accent and many of the Austrian characteristics he has acquired from his long stay here could easily lead one to believe he is not a foreigner at all. The nostalgic and sentimental attachment towards Weiz which comes to the surface in any conversation with Mr Walker goes back to a time that not many of our citizens can recall. He arrived here as a soldier of a victorious army, little knowing that he was to spend the next seven years as a member of our little community. It was with intense relief that we of our generation watched the Russians go and the British, whose reputation had preceded them, arrive in Weiz to replace them.