In February 1916, Walter Toogood Burn, a 21 year old single farmer from Hayes volunteered for service with the Australian Imperial Force. On 1 May he was allotted to ‘B’ Company of the newly formed 40th Battalion, leaving Tasmanian shores on board HMAT A35 Berrima on 1 July 1916.
Despite being out of the line and hospitalised several times during 1917, Walter Burn managed to rise through the ranks from private to sergeant. In May 1918 he was again promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major, a rank he held until joining the No. 13 Officers Cadet Battalion in early November 1918. Despite the end of hostilities, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on 6 January 1919.
Late November 1917 found the 40th Battalion back in the area not far from Messines, Belgium. It was decided that the 39th and 40th Battalions would provide parties for a raid set down for the night of 30th November-1st December. The objective was the enemy trenches immediately north of the railway from Warneton to Las Basse Ville. The plan was that the 39th Battalion would send out a raiding party at 5.15pm and that seven and a half hours later a party from the 40th Battalion would raid the same place, hoping to find the enemy disorganised and busy repairing their trenches.
Two storming parties were established with Lieutenant Alfred Brown leading one party and Lieutenant Ronald Swan the other. Both parties were given the job of taking possession of the enemy front line and establishing blocks to prevent interference from the flanks. The raid was carried off successfully with two prisoners taken for identification and the Battalion sustaining two casualties – one taken a prisoner of war after being wounded and another also wounded. It was estimated that the enemy casualties could have been around 100 killed.
For his part in the raid, Sergeant Walter Burn was recommended and awarded the Military Medal. His citation commending his conspicuous bravery and leadership
Walter Burn returned to Tasmania in May 1919 and the following year married Gladys Vinen and together they had three sons. When war broke out again, Walter Burn enlisted once more. Just how long he served this time as an area officer is not clear as in 1943 he is once again listed in the census records as being employed as an attendant, presumably at the hospital at New Norfolk. Walter Burn died at his home on 15 March 1951.