Westgarthtown & WWI





Ernest Henry Feldtmann



Ernest Feldtmann. Photo: Betty Davis.
Ernest Henry Feldtmann (1894-1917) was born at Devenish on 28 December 1894, the son of Charles Henry and Agnes Mary (née Davis) Feldtmann. Ernest’s parents had married in 1891 and farmed at Majors Plains, on a property his Feldtmann grandfather had selected in 1861. Ernest attended Devenish West State School.

Ernest’s paternal grandparents Cord Heinrich Feldtmann and Ernestine Emilie Pauline Hempel had been married in Melbourne at the Trinity German Lutheran Church on 28 March 1862. Ernestine, who was living and working at Westgarthtown as a servant, had arrived in Australia with her family in 1858 aged 18. The Hempel family settled at Westgarthtown soon after and remained there until 1866 when they moved to Arthurs Creek. Feldtmann arrived in Australia aboard the Keystone in 1858.

Ernest applied to enlist at Benalla on 28 February 1916 but his service commencement date is 30 March 1916. He was 21 and gave his religion as Methodist. On 13 April he was allocated to the 3rd Reinforcements, 2nd Pioneer Battalion, Private, No. 2109. On 8 May he was promoted to Lance-Corporal, then on 27 July to Temporary Corporal. On 6 June he embarked aboard the Wandilla at Melbourne and arrived at Plymouth on 26 July 1916. After further training, he left for France on 2 November 1916. Ernest was said to have been ‘One of ten distinguished for Bayonet Fighting and Physical Drill at the Grand Review, Salisbury Plain’ by King George V in late September 1916.

Soon after, on 24 November 1916, he was admitted to hospital at Etaples with mumps. He then spent time convalescing at Boulogne and did not return to his unit until 9 January 1917. He was appointed Lance-Corporal in the field on 8 May and after training at the 2nd Australian Division Gas School in June he was promoted to Corporal on 27 July 1916. 

In September 1917, the 2nd Pioneer Battalion moved from France to Belgium, where it was involved in road building, railway track maintenance and duckboard laying. On 29 October 1917, Ernest was killed in action near Zonnebeke, aged 22. His commanding officer Lt. Grove reported that:

‘…Feldtmann was, when killed in action, a corporal in No. 12 Platoon, C Company…At the time of his death he, with the platoon, were living in some pill-boxes to the east of Ypres, the exact name of the spot I cannot give for military reasons. At about 7.00 am on the 29th October a shell came through the dug-out in which he together with two other men were lying down. The three were killed instantly. I immediately organized a party to dig them out and bury them. This sad duty we performed about 50 yards from point where they were killed. They were buried in one grave over which we at a later date erected white painted wooden crosses. He was therefore not buried in a cemetery but in the field. The grave however, was registered with the Graves Registration Unit, who if consulted would be able to give map reference of location…’

Ernest was later reburied at the Perth China Wall Cemetery, 1¼ miles E.S.E. of Ypres. He is commemorated on Panel 172 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

His father was granted a £1.10.0 per fortnight pension from 17 January 1918.