This blog is a companion to the Database of Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Gunner Youlden of the 8 FAB

Members of 14 FAB battery, Ypres Front, 28 September 1917   (AWM E00920)
Gunner Frederick Henry Youlden, formerly of Bendigo but lately of Moonee Ponds, was posted to the 8th Field Artillery Brigade where they operated eighteen-pounder field guns as shown above.  The stacks of shells close to each gun amply illustrates how entire gun crews could disappear if the enemy guns found their range.   Fred Youlden died of shell wounds to the chest received on 28 September 1917.    Rod Martin tells the story of Fred Youlden's service here.

His bride Gertie did  not have a child and never remarried, remaining a widow for 35 years. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Life in Egypt, and other places, with the AIF

Unknown Album, circa 1914-1918. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Collection.

The photo above was contained on page 42 of  a photograph album by a mystery photographer who took his camera with him when he enlisted. The photographs are not necessarily in chronological order.  They depict life in Egypt, Lemnos, and Gallipoli and Broadmeadows. The SLV catalogue entry describes the album thus:

Album, containing annotated photographs depicting scenes in Egypt, Gallipoli, Lemnos and Malta. No indication of the compiler's or photographer's name is given. Photographs include men in the 6th, 7th, 8th and 14th Battalions; the 7th and 8th Battalions leaving Mena for Ismailia (1915); the crossing of the Panama Canal on the transport Jaika (Dec. 1918); troops on the Minnewaska en route for Gallipoli and on the Osmanick at Gallipoli; the terrain, and men in the trenches.

There is no provenance given with the album, and the best guess from me is that the soldier served originally with 14 Battalion in A Company and later moved to 8 Battalion, and probably as a cook.  Not all photos are captioned, but some of the groups that are mention that they are cooks.  

I checked all the names mentioned in the album against my database of men from Essendon and Flemington, and the only one I found was Herbert Troy Swindells, whom I thought was probably the Bert Swindles mentioned in the caption above.  He had been a trained baker when he enlisted.   His service record doesn't indicate whether he served as a cook in 8 Battalion, but it is possible he did.  The only other man I could identify in the photo is "Bert Glangell", whom I think was
William Henry Herbert Gangell who also served in 8 Battalion and who was also a baker when he enlisted.  

It is not entirely clear when the photo was taken - it appears on a page where other photos were taken at Broadmeadows, Zeitoun and Mena, but given the sand underfoot, probably it was taken in Egypt.  8 Battalion had two periods in Egypt, in 1915 before the landing at Gallipoli, and in 1916 after the evacuation, so it is not entirely clear when it was taken.

It is an interesting album to browse through, showing ordinary aspects of camp life, such as in the image below:

"Fight.  Mena."

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Petition to the Australian War Memorial

I just signed the petition, “Australian War Memorial - Please delay impending closure of, and access to the old Site.” I think this is important. Will you sign it too?
Here’s the link:

Farrier-Sergeant John Quill

The Maribyrnong Remount Depot, AWM H18770
Among the many branches of the army whose task it was to provide services to support the fighting men was the Remount Units who looked after the horses - the feeding, exercising, breaking, shoeing and a myriad other tasks.   Farrier Sergeant John Edward Quill of Ascot Vale spent his entire overseas service in Egypt with the 1st Australian Remount Unit.

A better known personality in a remount unit was Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson who actually embarked on the same ship, the Orsova, boarding in Sydney a few days earlier than Quill who embarked from Melbourne.  Paterson wrote about some of his experiences in a Remount Unit in France in his book Happy Despatches, which is now available free online through the Gutenberg Project.  Look for "Hellfire Jack" for an entertaining read.

Rod Martin looks in detail at the work of a Remount Unit through the service of Farrier Sergeant John Quill.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Lieutenant Meara, MC, of Ascot Vale

Cover of the 57 Infantry Battalion Unit War Diary for August 1918. Artwork by Presley Benjamin Edward Huthnance.
One of many who were appalled by the casualties at Gallipoli, Michael Meara of Ascot Vale enlisted in July 1915.  Within a short time he was selected for officer training, and went on to serve as a Lieutenant in the 57 Infantry Battalion.    He joined his unit in France in time to endure the bitter winter of 1916-17.  In one of the last campaigns of the war, Lieutenant Meara won a Military  Cross. This unassuming commercial traveller returned the family home in Ascot Vale, returned to work and passed his time playing golf with the Northern Golf Club  You can read his story on the Empire Called website.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Private John Dale, 58th Bn

A member of 2 Battalion writing a letter in the mud at Flesselles, November 1916  (AWM E00030)
John Dale, a butcher of Maribyrnong, passed through Flesselles in November 1916 as a very bitter winter descended on the Western Front.  Rod Martin again looks at the overall progress of the war through the experiences of one soldier, Private John Walter Dale.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Private Stephen Fanner and the Domain Guard

Stephen Fanner was rejected for service with the AIF owing to defective eyesight, but he enlisted for Home Service with the Domain Guard, where he served for 834 days between 14 August 1916 and 22 November 1918 when he was discharged at his own request.  Stephen was also an officer of the Salvation Army, and as a Salvation Army bandsman, probably played with the Domain Military Band while he was a Guard at the Domain Camp.   Stephen and his three brothers, including recently mentioned George Fanner, appeared on the Kensington Salvation Army Roll of Honour.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

George Fanner and the 37 Inf Battalion

This painting by Septimus Powers depicts the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions in the Somme battlefield.  Infantry, supported by horse drawn artillery and two British Mark IV male tanks, moves towards front line, part of the allied offensive of 8 August 1918, the day that became known to the Germans as 'der schwartze Tag' (the black day).

George William Fanner was part of the 3rd Division and took part in this battle, and others.  Rod Martin outlines George's part in the defeat of Germany in 1918, and the cost.  Go to the Empire Called website to read about George Fanner and the 37 Battalion.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Australian Soldiers and Citizens of Enemy Descent

Robert Herman Herweg, enlisted in December 1914.

A few weeks ago I gave a talk at the Flemington Library which was obscurely called 'Diversity in the AIF'.   This title was not of my choosing, and I won't make any further reference to it.   The talk contained some background of events that had implications for Australian families with foreign surnames.   This introduction was followed by a Powerpoint presentation with some examples of young men in the AIF with foreign surnames. I spoke to the Powerpoint without notes.  I have since edited it to make it more self-explanatory.  At the bottom of this post I have included the links to the soldiers' pages in The Empire Called and I Answered if you wish to follow them further.  When I have more time I will try and write it up more coherently.  In the meantime, the Powerpoint can be found here: Stories of the Home Front.

From 1916, German and Austro-Hungarian residents of Australia were forced to register with the police. A fear of possible German-Australian 'conflicted loyalties' led to several regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914, such as forbidding German-Australians to leave Australia or send money overseas. These immigrants, naturalised subjects and Australian-born people, rapidly moved in the Australian consciousness to 'enemy aliens'.

German clubs and Lutheran schools were closed, German place names were changed and community leaders were interned in order to deprive German–Australians of their spokesmen in the mainstream public sphere of Australian society.  Honorary German Consuls (as opposed to official members of the German diplomatic mission), usually prominent German–Australian businessmen residing in the capital cities of the different states, were all interned. The government firmly believed they were working in alliance with the Lutheran clergy on behalf of the Imperial German government. 

Correspondence in the National Archives makes it plain that while the government could not possibly intern every person of German ancestry, they could arrest some prominent Germans to make an example and appease the general population.

In South Australia, Consul Hermann Mücke, was briefly interned during April 1916 and subsequently detained in his home in Adelaide under military guard. At the same time, his youngest son, Francis Frederick, was serving with the Australian Imperial Forces in France after being wounded at Gallipoli.

It is worth mentioning that numbers of Irish ‘Home Rule’ proponents were also interned.

British law specified that a married woman's nationality was always that of her husband, and accordingly, a woman acquired her husband's civic status and lost her own upon marriage.  If her husband at any time altered his nationality by naturalisation, her civic status also changed. The Naturalization Bill 1903 was consistent with British law on this point, and it included a prohibition on the naturalisation of married women.

As the war progressed and propaganda about the 'Hun' German continued, the pressures on German-Australians increased. Many lost their jobs or found their communities no longer safe. Internment without charge or trial was implemented around Australia. In 1915 all internees were moved to the Holsworthy camp at Liverpool, NSW. By 1918 nearly 7 000 men, women and children were interned by the Australian Government. Some were interned voluntarily after they were no longer able to support their families; others were German settlers deported from former German colonies in the Pacific; others still were working class men who had been born in Australia to a German father or grandfather. The aim of internment was to protect Australians and the Australian war effort from 'disaffected and disloyal' 'enemy aliens'.

While the internment process was to a large extent improvised and capricious, there were nevertheless distinct policy objectives. The Commonwealth government had announced early in the war that destitute enemy alien males could volunteer for internment if lacking any prospect of being able to pay for their livelihood. Their families, after being means-tested, were granted a small allowance.

The internment system thus developed into a tool of social control. It was used to segregate and, after the war, to exclude undesirable residents not only because of their ethnic origin but also because of their poor socioeconomic status. Internees who had been imprisoned because they were considered mentally weak were similarly singled out. 

At the conclusion of the war over 60% of internees were deported from Australia, any naturalised subjects having had their naturalisation revoked. They had no recourse to judicial appeal and were expelled from the country they had lived in for most or all of their lives.

So how did citizens with 'foreign' names get on during the war?

Henry was named in a supplementary list of men of German birth or descent working in Defence positions, which was then published in the newspapers. 

The remarks of the investigators were “Adjutant-General's Branch — Warrant Officer [Class 2] H. Kaufman, military staff clerk, pay £210 per year. Returned soldier A.I.F.. gained rank of captain in field. Father born in Germany and arrived in Australia 1852, died in 1911;  mother, English woman, born in London”.

Naturalised Huns in High Places

Whose is the Hidden Hand Which Protects Them ?


 The determined interrogation of Mr. Finlayson, a Queensland Labour M.P., regarding persons of enemy descent in the Defence Department, has borne fruit. Mr. Finlayson last week drew attention to the fact that the official return, published in "The Graphic, of persons of enemy association in the Defence Department, was confined to the lower paid officials, while the higher salaried men were not mentioned.

Mr. Finlayson added that he knew of several men in the higher grades of the service whose names didn't appear in the list, and who had lately received promotion. The Assistant Minister of Defence (Mr. G. H. Wise) has since laid upon the table of the House a supplementary return, which embraces the following cases: —

With regard to enemy descent, the replies were: —

Military Board of Administration: Brigadier-General V. C. M. Sellheim, C.B., C.M.G., A.D.C., to the Governor-General. Adjutant General, pay £725 a year, allowances £100 a year, returned soldier, served in both this and South African wars. His father, who is understood to have been an Austrian, was Under-Secretary for Mines in Queensland, arrived in Australia nearly 70 years ago, and was naturalised; he died in October, 1899. His mother was English, having been the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Morisset, of the 48th Regiment. 

 Adjutant General's Branch — Warrant-Officer (class 2), H. Kaufman, military staff clerk, pay £210 a year, returned soldier A.I.F., gained the rank of captain in the field, father born in Germany, and arrived in Australia 1852; died in 1911; mother English, born in London.

The Graphic, published in Melbourne, went on in this article to vilify people of German descent, even where a parent had been naturalised many decades ago, and accuse them of disloyalty, citing a handful of British cases where person of German birth or descent had been tried and found guilty of providing information to the enemy.  Whether those cases would stand up to scrutiny now is a question that might be asked.  Many of the other newspapers which published the supplementary list including Henry’s name made no further commentary, perhaps believing that Henry’s war record made any further comment unnecessary.  The Graphic commented that “It is usually forgotten that 'loyalty' is the favourite camouflage of the naturalised Hun.”  No amount of service to Australia would fool them, it would seem.

 It is interesting to note that none of the men named in this supplementary list were accused of changing their names to hide their German origins.  It is in fact notable how many men with German origins served faithfully in the AIF without attempting to obscure their origins. It was not until 1917,  under the War Precautions Act, that people “of enemy descent” were prevented from changing their names.  It wasn’t unusual for families with German surnames to suffer from verbal or physical attacks on the home front, no matter how accepted they might be in the AIF.  Sometimes just a “foreign” name would suffice.

The hurt and anxiety caused to the Kaufmans at this time must have been considerable, and probably frightening for May caring for young children. The newspaper story indicates that the report was not the end of the matter.  The list of names had been referred to a Commissioner who would enquire into the matter.  Henry may have been required to appear before a panel, perhaps.  Several reports on his war service appear in his file from May 1918.  There is nothing in his file to indicate the outcome of the enquiry, nor did any statement exonerating Henry from the implication of disloyalty get published in the Melbourne newspapers.  The Kaufmans had to wear the opprobrium.

Henry’s job doesn’t appear to have been in question from the Department's point of view, and he remained working for the Commonwealth government until the further outbreak of war in 1939.  Henry (and his brother John) volunteered again at the age of 55.  


John Vosti’s daughter Nan Lee told me of an incident when the family arose one morning to find a placard nailed to the front fence reading “These people are Germans”.  The family was very upset by the incident.  Nan also recalled that her sister Beatrice Vosti was picked on at school by pupils who believed that she was German, a belief which originated with her teacher who announced this “fact” to the class.  Allan Vosti recalled being told that stones were sometimes throw on the roof, accompanied by yells from the street. 

Nance Vosti’s sister, Adeline Keating, had begun to work for Myer during the war, and moved into the toy department when there was a huge movement to stop trading with German companies. German dolls and other toys had been hugely popular before the war, and in the end Addie benefitted from this anti-German sentiment by being sent to Japan, the first woman buyer to travel overseas, to buy Japanese toys.  There was an active branch of the Anti-German League in Moonee Ponds. Throughout the war.   Some local identities refused to have anything to do with this organisation.   Another cause for division.

[See Bandsman Vosti’s Diaries: War and peace in Essendon, 1917 -1920, by Lenore Frost, the author: Essendon, 2012.

Otto was not a soldier but a Moonee Ponds businessman. Otto Plarre had emigrated in 1909 with three other German pastrycooks – they aimed at getting as far away from Germany as they could.  They became naturalised in 1912 and 1913.  Otto married Leisl Gabsch, born in Melbourne to German parents, and over the next few years they had three children, and established a thriving business in Puckle Street.

“Otto and Liesl Plarre found themselves the target of considerable anti-German sentiment.  This negative reaction from the community grew steadily as the war progressed with many customers refusing to buy Otto’s cakes.  Those who continued to shop at Plarre’s were often harassed outside the store, even accosted and dragged out once they were inside.  Otto was beginning to fear for his young family and considered packing the horse and dray and ‘going bush’ until the war was over. … Tensions escalated to the point where, in 1918, just after the November Armistice, the cake shop in Puckle Street was vandalised.  A brick was hurled through the window, smashing into the shop.”

However, I note that throughout the war Otto and his business was mentioned in the Essendon Gazette from time to time, generally expressing approval of his catering, and both Otto and Liesl were mentioned in connection with patriotic fundraising donations, including the Welcome Home committees.   He couldn’t have stayed in business without support from the local community.   The Plarres are still active members of our community.

[See Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses: a recipe for success. Four generations of baking excellence, Ari Unglik.  Wilder Ghostwriters: Toorak, 1997.]

A short film about the people of German descent at Westgarthtown near Epping in Victoria.  It encapsulates the problems caused by xenophobia during WW1.  It is narrated by Adam Zwar.  It runs for 16 minutes and is well worth the time spent.   

The examples I have given of families with German or ‘foreign’ surnames illustrates the dangers of making blanket assumptions about individuals about whom nothing is known, but based merely upon their name.  In current times there are those who make blanket assumptions about other folk people based upon their religion, or their place of birth, or their colour.  If anyone offers any threat to Australia, that threat needs to be taken seriously, and dealt with on an individual basis, but it does our country no service to condemn a whole people without enquiry, without trial.  

Governments are only too willing to remove people’s rights, and we had best be careful in case they are our rights.   We should be vigilant to preserve what vestiges of freedom and democracy remain to us, and not be willing to give them up because of fear-mongering.   We lost a lot back in 1914 to 1918, not the least of which was the vibrant German community which had so much to offer in culture and hard work.  We need to learn those lessons and not forever repeat them.   

These young men were mentioned in the Powerpoint.

John Christian Herweg (died on active service)

Thomas George Herweg (died on active service)

John Patrick Lundmark

Louis Gilbert Hahn   

There were many others.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Reluctant Soldier

Samuel Gaudie and the 5th Infantry Battalion landed at Gallipoli on day one. Gaudie remained there until he returned to Lemnos in October 1915 though the reason is not clear from the records.  The troops were quite debilitated by exposure and disease by that time, and many were evacuated for a rest, or to recover from disease.  Sam seems to have decided he liked it on Lemnos, and disappeared.  He may have found someone to shelter him in the Greek village of Castro on the island, which would have been delightfully human after the horrors of Gallipoli.  He probably just didn't want to return.  It set a pattern for the next few years.   You can read the story of Sam's misadventures, as told by Rod Martin.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Photos of Instructional Staff - SSM Latchford

 Ern Latchford as a member of the 6th Australian Infantry Regiment, aged 18, seen in the back row, second from the left.  His friend Rupert Holden is in the back row far right. Taken at Lancefield Junction, 1907. 

Officers of the Area 58B (Ascot Vale) Instructional Staff, taken early in 1914  at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Ern is in the back row, second from the right. Compare this with a very similar photo on this page.  

In 1907 Ernest Latchford was an enthusiastic member of the Volunteer militia camped at Lancefield Junction with the 6th Australian Infantry Regiment.  In 1910 he applied for a position with the Instructional Staff whose role it was to train the thousands of new Senior Cadets produced under the new system of compulsory military training for boys.  By 1914 Ern had arrived at the Area 58B Ascot Vale Senior Cadets as Staff Sergeant Major Ernest Latchford.  At that link you will find a series of photos showing Ern's progress from the age of 18 to 28, when he was permitted to join the AIF, and later as a Commissioned as an officer with the 38 Inf Battalion.  The photos come to use courtesy of Mark Latchford.

Other collections of photos and postcards can be seen here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Private Louis Salamito and the Last Post Ceremony

A bugler and piper in the commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial PAIU2013/044.04

The names listed in the Last Post Calendar  are those whose stories are told at the daily Last Post Ceremony at the Memorial. The names are listed in order of the day on which their story was or will be told.   Individuals are commemorated in a series of videos at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra every day.  The list stretches back to 2013.

At the end of each day, commencing at 4.55 pm AEDT, the Memorial farewells visitors with its moving Last Post Ceremony. The ceremony begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by the poignant strains of a lament, played by a piper. Visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes beside the Pool of Reflection. The Roll of Honour in the Cloisters lists the names of more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations over more than a century. At each ceremony the story behind one of these names is told. The Ode is then recited, and the ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post.
 One of the soldiers commemorated in this ceremony was Louis Henry Salamito, who fell on 20 September 1917.  The video of the ceremony commemorating Louis can be found  on this link.

A family member must apply about 12 months in advance of a given date and submit materials which is then researched by an AWM historian and written up. Such ceremonies will only last for the centenary duration of the great war, i.e. so 2014-2018.

If there are any other videos commemorating local soldiers, please let me know so I can put a link on their webpage.

Thank you to Greg Salamito for alerting me to this feature of the AWM website.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Missing - a baker from Ascot Vale

14 Federation St, Ascot Vale. Reproduced with permission from

Twenty-three year old baker Edward Smith left this home in Ascot Vale in 1916 to join the 5th Infantry Battalion and never saw it again.  Rod Martin tells the story of the missing baker.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Diversity within the AIF

Private John Christian Herweg of Moonee Ponds.  Courtesy of John Gilbert.

What happens if you are an Australian officer with a German name?  What happens if you are German with sons in the Australian Imperial Force?  What happens if you have lived  happily in Australia for 40 years, but suddenly become an enemy alien?  Lenore Frost explores the complexities facing different cultural groups within our community. 

The talk will be held on Tuesday 21 March at the Flemington Library, 6.30 to 7.30.  Book online at: or in person at the Flemington Library  or by phone on 8325 1975.