Westgarthtown & WWI





Farckens family



August and Sophie (née Frohwirth) Farckens arrived in Australia from Neu Buckow in Mecklenburg in March 1854 aboard the Oscar Vidal with two children – Anna and Ernestine – and August’s sister Maria Farckens. Another sister, Susetta Beseler, had previously emigrated to South Australia.

The Farckens family settled at Westgarthtown soon after arrival, as Maria Farckens married widower Ernst Ferdinand Schultz of Plenty Road in October 1854 at Heinrich Karsten’s house. August Farckens was a saddler, but it is not known whether he followed his trade or farmed at Westgarthtown, or both.                                   
At least two Farckens children were born at Westgarthtown – Susetta (1855) and Paulina Carolina (1858). August and Sophie were not landowners at Westgarthtown, so must have lived with fellow Mecklenburgers such as the Karsten, Maltzahn, Peters, Winter or Ziebell families. By 1861, however, they appear to have left Westgarthtown and in 1867 selected land at Mt. Lonarch near Amphitheatre.

Four more children were born after August and Sophie left Westgarthtown - Frederick Edward (1861), John Albert (1863), Edward Theodore (1865) and Amelia Sophia (1869).  August and Sophie later retired to Sebastopol near Ballarat, where he died in 1903 aged 81. Sophie died there in 1913. Both are buried at Amphitheatre.

Three of August and Sophia’s grandsons – brothers John Edward, Robert Victor and Harold Dennis Farckens – served in and survived World War 1. They were the sons of John Albert Farckens who was born in 1863.

John Edward (Jack) Farckens (1887-1946) was born at Ballarat, the son of Albert and Mary Ann (née Starr) Farckens. Jack was a blacksmith who had served for five years in the 19th Light Horse, Citizen Forces when he applied to enlist on 18 August 1914, aged about 27. He gave his religion as Roman Catholic. He underwent his medical examination at Broadmeadows on 27 August, took the oath the same day and was allocated to C Squadron, 4th Light Horse Regiment as Farrier Corporal, No. 405. He was then aged 27.

Jack embarked at Melbourne aboard the Wiltshire on 19 October 1914 and arrived in Egypt in December. He appears to have remained in Egypt throughout 1915, presumably to care for the 4th Light Horse Regiment’s horses, while most of its officers and men served at Gallipoli from May to December 1915.

Jack, by then a Farrier-Sergeant, received a fractured tibia and fibula in late 1915 and it was decided to send him back to Australia. He left Suez aboard the hospital ship Wandilla on 13 December 1915 and arrived back in Melbourne on 14 January 1916. He received further treatment at No. 5, Australian General Hospital in Melbourne and was then discharged from the AIF on 2 November 1916.

In 1919 Jack married Maud Alice Donald and after a brief period as a shopkeeper in South Melbourne, they moved to Geelong, where he resumed his trade as a farrier and blacksmith. He died at Geelong in 1946.

Robert Victor (Bob) Farckens (1891-1979), the second of Albert and Mary Ann Farckens’ sons to enlist, was born at Ballarat on 23 November 1891.  When he applied to enlist on 19 August 1914, he was living at Mildura and gave his occupation as labourer and religion as Roman Catholic. He was 22 and had previously served for three years in the Senior Cadets at Ballarat. He was allocated to F Company, 8th Battalion, Private No. 667, 2nd Infantry Brigade on 25 August 1914 and embarked aboard the Benalla on 19 October 1914. At some point he transferred to C Company, 8th Battalion.

On arrival in Egypt on 8 December 1914, the 8th Battalion camped at Mena, on the outskirts of Cairo. After further training, the 8th Battalion embarked on 5 April 1915 for Lemnos, landing at Gallipoli on 25 April. No further details of Bob’s service are recorded until he arrived back at Alexandria on 7 January 1916.

On 1 February 1916, Bob was appointed Temporary Sergeant-Cook at Serapeum, then promoted to Sergeant-Cook on 27 February. He left Alexandra for France on 26 March and arrived at Marseilles on 31 March 1916. He served with the 8th Battalion on the Western Front in France and Belgium until November 1917 when he was granted leave.

Bob had leave again in February 1918, then in September was granted home leave and embarked for Australia aboard the Kasir-a-Hind at Taranto in Italy on 24 September and the Devon at Suez on 13 October. He arrived back in Melbourne on 23 November 1918 and was discharged from the AIF on 24 January 1919.

Back in Australia, Bob returned to Mildura, where he worked as a labourer. In 1923, he married Bessie Isabella Allison and they lived at Auburn in Melbourne, where he worked as a french polisher. By 1931 they were living at Watchupga in the Mallee, then Berriwillock, where he farmed. On 21 August 1942, during the Second World War, Bob enlisted and served part-time with the 14th Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps (V220870), as a Lance-Corporal until 13 May 1944.

In 1954 they were at Clarkefield where he was a grazier and in the 1960s they lived at Camberwell where he was a storekeeper. Bessie died at Malvern in 1973 and Bob later moved to Five Ways. He died at Cranbourne on 13 December 1979 aged 88.

Harold Dennis Farckens (1898-1969), born at Ballarat, was the third son of Albert and Mary Ann Farckens to serve in World War 1. He was employed as a woodcutter at Boulder in Western Australia when he applied to enlist on 18 January 1916. After a medical check that day he commenced service on 25 January at Blackboy Hill. Harold, who had previously served in the Senior Cadets at Ballarat, gave his age as almost 21, but appears to have been no older than 18 when he enlisted. Although he gave his religion as Church of England, it was recorded as Roman Catholic on the embarkation roll.

On 13 March he was appointed as a Sapper, No. 4324, in No. 6 Tunnelling Company. He embarked aboard the Warilda at Fremantle on 1 June and arrived at Plymouth on 18 July 1916. Shortly before leaving for France on 28 August he was fined for being drunk.

The 6th Tunnelling Company was disbanded on arrival in France and its personnel transferred to augment the 3rd Tunnelling Company, which was sent to the Fauquissart area and took over the chalk workings at Hill 70. Offensive mining involved tunneling under German lines to set and fire explosives to disrupt their defences prior to an attack. Defensive mining involved the construction of underground galleries and chambers to protect personnel.

On 26 October 1916, Harold was detached to the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company, then on 31 January 1917, rejoined the 3rd Tunnelling Company.

He was in trouble several times during 1917 for a variety of offences such as fighting, gambling, swearing and absence from duty, resulting in forfeiture of pay and detention. He was also found guilty of similar offences in 1918, including the possession of a crown and anchor board, resulting in further fines and detention.

Harold left France for England on 20 March 1919 and embarked in London for Australia aboard the Warwickshire on 5 April 1919. He arrived back at Fremantle on 10 June 1919 and was discharged from the AIF on 7 July 1919.

In 1922 Harold was living and working at Kensington in Melbourne as a french polisher. In 1924 he gave his address as Wonthaggi, when he applied for his medals, but in 1934 he was living with his wife Annie and son at Brunswick and and working as a french polisher. By 1936, he had moved to New South Wales where he lived at Concord, Beecroft and Strathfield for the next 30 years and worked as a traveller. He died in Sydney on 14 August 1969.