According to his attestation papers dated January 20, 1916, Walter John West was born in Kingsdown, Wiltshire, England on February 16, 1890. He listed his wife Mrs. Rose West, Deane Street, Mimico as his next of kin. He indicated that he was a labourer with no previous military experience. He was 25 years and 11 months of age. He stood 5 feet 9 inches tall. He had brown eyes and fair hair and complexion. He was a member of Church of England.
According to the 1912 Toronto City directory he was working as a brass moulder (most likely at Brown's Copper and Brass in New Toronto) as was bording at the home of E.T. Swayne on the south side of Elizabeth Street.