Henry, Walter (1791–1860), surgeon, was born 1 January 1791 in Co. Donegal, first son of John Henry, a merchant in Donegal town, and his wife (name unknown). Educated locally, he studied the classics before entering TCD and then the University of Glasgow, where he graduated MD. After completing his training at various hospitals in London under Sir Everard Home, he took the regimental surgeon's examination at the Royal College of Surgeons in England and entered the army in 1811. In December he was appointed assistant surgeon to the 66th Foot and served in the Peninsular war, seeing action at Badojoz and Vittoria, and was later present at the capture of Bordeaux. With the fall of Napoleon he was sent with the 66th to India and Nepal in 1815, but in July 1817 his regiment was stationed at St Helena. He had little contact with the former French emperor, who was a prisoner on the island, but he was not impressed on the first occasion when they did meet: he described Napoleon as looking more like an obese friar than a modern hero. After resisting various bribes to support Napoleon, he was given temporary medical charge of the battalion in 1818. In May 1821 he assisted at the post-mortem of the former emperor and wrote up the official notes, although he did not sign his name to the report as he was only assistant surgeon. Following this service he returned with the 66th to Ireland and was stationed at Athlone, Sligo, and Birr. He was promoted to regimental surgeon in 1826.
Sent to Canada in 1827 he was stationed at Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, and York. Impressing with his medical expertise, he was named surgeon to the army medical department in 1839. Having decided to write his memoirs, he published anonymously an account of his experiences entitled Trifles from my portfolio (1839). This became Events of a military life when it was published under his name in London in 1843. The most interesting chapters relate to Henry's experiences on St Helena, and the account has proved of great interest to scholars of Napoleon. The most controversial point, in an otherwise bland memoir, was a footnote in Latin that Napoleon's ‘private parts were seen to be noticeably small, like a boy's' (Hayward. 182). A keen fisherman, Henry also published various essays on salmon and conservation while in Canada, using such pseudonyms as ‘Piscator’ and ‘Scrutator’. Posted to Halifax in 1841, he was appointed deputy inspector general of military hospitals in 1845. Recalled to England in 1848, he became inspector general of military medical services in British North America and returned to Quebec in 1852.
He died 27 June 1860 at his home at Belleville, Upper Canada. He married first (6 April 1831) Charlotte Todd (d. 1833), and secondly (2 July 1834) Leah Allan Geddes; they had four sons and two daughters.