Westgarthtown & WWI





Fiedler family



Leberecht Fiedler, his wife Therese (née Knobloch) and two children (Charles Gustave Oswald and Anne Marie) arrived in Melbourne in February 1850 aboard the Pribislaw. A shoemaker, Leberecht was naturalized as a New South Wales citizen in December 1850 ‘as he has purchased land’, but he did not take ownership of his 70 acre farm at Westgarthtown until 6 June 1853 when he paid Moritz Wëhner £210.

The Fiedler family presumably lived on this farm at Westgarthtown, or they may have stayed with neighbor Gottlieb Knobloch, probably a relative. Their infant daughter Anne Marie, born during the voyage to Australia, appears to have died soon after arrival but another daughter, Anne Elizabeth, was born in 1856. Leberecht was also appointed that year as one of three trustees of the Westgarthtown Lutheran church and school. He had previously donated ten guineas towards the erection of the church and school building and was also a foundation member of the synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Victoria.

Therese died in October 1860. In March 1861 Leberecht remarried, to Katharina Erhardt, who had arrived in Australia aboard the Electric in December 1856. Leberecht continued market gardening at Westgarthtown and a further four children were born – Leberecht (George), John August (August), John Adolph Henry (Adolph) and Elizabeth Ernestine (Kate) - before he sold the farm there in 1872 and moved to Richmond. A further three children were born at Richmond  - Ernest Francis (Frank) - and Caulfield (Rosine Barbara (1875) and Alfred Albert) where the Fiedler family were living when Leberecht died on 8 January 1882 aged 63. Katharina died in 1920 aged 82 and was buried with Leberecht at Brighton Cemetery.

During the 1860s eldest son Charles Gustav Oswald Fiedler, born in Germany on 24 May 1844, served in the Coburg Rifles, the local militia. By January 1877 he was living at Deniliquin in New South Wales when he married Elizabeth Aston. Four children were born over the next eight years at Deniliquin, Cobram, Gunbower and Barham, but by 1887 they had moved to East Gippsland, where three more children were born at Heyfield, Swan Reach and Sarsfield.

Charles, then living at Johnsonville, selected 197 acres at Mossiface near Bruthen in 1893 (Lots 71-72, Parish of Tambo), but lost his house and everything he possessed in a bushfire in December 1898. When he applied in 1915 to be naturalized, during World War 1, he gave his address as Bruthen and occupation as grazier. Charles died in Melbourne on 16 December 1920 aged 76 and is buried at Springvale. His wife Elizabeth, from whom he had been separated for many years, lived at Sarsfield. She died on 11 July 1945 and is buried at Bruthen.

Outdoor group portrait of the Band of the 51st Battalion. Charles Fiedler is circled.
Photo: Australian War Memorial.
Two of Charles and Elizabeth’s sons served in the AIF and also a nephew. The first to enlist was Charles William Fiedler (1882-1969), born at Gunbower, near Echuca in northern Victoria in 1882. A sleeper hewer at Ewington near Collie, Western Australia, Charles enlisted at Blackboy Hill on 27 July 1915. In 1907, Charles was living at Ensay, between Bruthen and Omeo in Victoria, when he applied to select 640 acres there but he had lived in the Collie area for at least five years when he enlisted and had married Rebecca Fraser in 1913. His age was 33 and religion Church of England.

After initial training at No. 18 Depot, Charles was allocated to the 11th Reinforcements, 11th Battalion on 27 September 1915, Private No. 3326. On 2 November 1915 he embarked at Fremantle aboard the Ulysses for Egypt. On 22 February 1916, he was admitted to the 1st Auxilliary Hospital at Heliopolis with influenza then transferred to No. 3 Auxilliary Hospital at Abbassia on 6 March. He was discharged to the 3rd Training Battalion on 27 March and transferred to the newly formed 51st Battalion on 19 April. This battalion was part of the 13th Brigade, 4th Australian Division.

Charles embarked at Alexandria for Marseilles on 5 June and arrived there on 12 June 1916. Little is known of his service in France until 26 September 1917 when he received a neck wound, probably caused by shrapnel, in action at Polygon Wood and was hospitalized at Rouen. After treatment and rest at Le Havre he rejoined his unit on 2 November 1917 but was re-admitted ill to hospital with pyrexia on 7 January 1918.

He rejoined his unit on 29 January, then proceeded to England on leave, but was admitted to hospital at Newcastle on 13 February. On 6 March he was transferred to Harefield with trench fever, then Hurdcott on 8 March. On 6 May he was being treated for influenza then on 28 May for bronchitis. For the next six months he was in and out of hospital in England with various complaints, before embarking for Australia aboard the Ceramic on 25 January 1919.

Charles arrived back in Australia on 3 March and was discharged from the AIF on 8 May 1919. He, Rebecca and daughter Lily remained at Collie until 1922 when they moved to Busselton for six years. They then returned to Collie where he worked as a miner until 1934 when they moved to Kalgoorlie. Charles and Rebecca’s marriage foundered in 1935 and they divorced in 1939. Charles died in January 1969 and is buried at Kalgoorlie.

Harold Fiedler (1895-1954), the youngest of Charles and Elizabeth Fiedler’s children, was born near Bruthen on 23 August 1895. A bush labourer, he lived with his mother at Sarsfield after his parents separated around 1907. He first tried to enlist on 19 February 1916 but was rejected because of his chest measurements. In July, however, the Shire of Tambo Recruiting Committee certified his loyalty and he re-applied on 7 August 1916. He passed his medical in Melbourne and finally commenced service on 17 October 1916. Single, aged 21, his religion was Church of England.

Harold was allocated to the 18th Reinforcements, 22nd Battalion, H Company, Private No. 6337 on 17 November and embarked at Melbourne aboard the Hororata on 23 November 1916. He disembarked at Plymouth, England on 29 January 1917 but was transferred to hospital at Devonport suffering from measles and broncho-pneumonia. On 5 April he was transferred to Perham Down in Wiltshire with measles and rheumatics and on 11 April to the 6th Training Battalion at Lark Hill. On 17 May 1917, at Weymouth, it was decided he was temporarily unfit for both general service and home service. Included in his medical report was the note ‘Is a German.’

Harold embarked for Australia at Plymouth on 22 July aboard the Euripides and arrived back in Melbourne on 18 September 1917. He was admitted to No 11 Australian General Hospital and after assessment discharged as permanently unfit for service on 24 October 1917 because of recurrent rheumatism and debility. He had suffered rheumatic fever as a boy and from rheumatism since he was 19. He was refused a military pension on the grounds his incapacity was not the result of war service. He returned to Sarsfield where he lived and supported his mother for many years but is believed to have died at Yallourn in 1954.

Charles and Harold’s cousin John Frederick Fiedler (1890-1961) also enlisted in the AIF but served under the Anglicised surname Fielder. John was the son of John August (August) Fiedler, who was born at Westgarthtown on 13 December 1863. August married Selina Stothers in 1889 and John was their first child, born at North Fitzroy in 1890. A metal worker from Glenhuntly, John enlisted at Melbourne on 17 January 1916 aged 25. Although his religion was given as Church of England the embarkation roll recorded him as a Methodist.

After training at Royal Park from 24 January and Warrnambool from 18 February to 4 March, John was allocated to the 16th Reinforcements, 14th Battalion, Private No. 7270 on 10 March and embarked at Melbourne aboard the Anchises on 14 March 1916 for Egypt. He disembarking at Alexandria and marched into 4th Training Battalion at Tel el Kebir on 14 April, before embarking aboard the Huntspill on 7 May and arriving at Marseilles on 14 May 1916.

John was taken on strength of the 46th Battalion, 12th Brigade, 4th Australian Division, Private No. 3093 on 24 May and joined that battalion in the field in France on 14 August 1916. He was hospitalized sick with debility on 2 September then rejoined his unit on 4 October. He was wounded in action on 9 February 1917, receiving a gunshot wound to the head. He was transferred from No. 14 General Hospital at Wimmereux to the Ontario Military Hospital at Orpington in England on 13 February. On 7 March he was transferred to 3rd Auxilliary Hospital, Dartford and then discharged with furlough on 23 March 1917.

From 27 April to the 19 September, John served with the 66th battalion at Wareham in England. He was then transferred back to the 46th Battalion and embarked at Southampton for France on 14 October 1917. He was admitted sick to hospital on 18 December and transferred to England on 3 January 1918, where he was admitted to the 2/1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham with pyrexia on 4 January. He was transferred to the 1st Auxillary Hospital, Harefield on 22 January and discharged on 25 January 1918.

After serving with training units at Hurdcott, Deverall and Codford, John was ordered on 4 October 1918 to proceed from Dover to France to reinforce the 48th Battalion. He arrived there on 6 October and was taken on strength of the 48th Battalion on 10 October, but was transferred back to the 46th Battalion on 19 October 1918, just before the war ended.  He remained in France until 15 April 1919 when he left for Australia via England. On 2 June he embarked aboard the Beltana and arrived back in Melbourne on 19 July 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 10 September 1919.

John lived with his parents at Glenhuntly as a carpenter until his marriage to Amelia Alice McKay in 1924. They moved to 11 Phillips Avenue, Murrumbeena where they remained for the rest of their lives. They had no children. John died at Maroona Private Hospital, Glenhuntly on 13 March 1961 and Amelia on 21 August 1974.