Westgarthtown & WWI





Oliver Charles Herman Flight



Oliver Charles Herman Flight (1889-1955) was born at Wedderburn on 27 December 1889, the second son of Charles and Anna (née Knobloch) Flight. His mother Anna, born at Westgarthtown in 1855, was the daughter of Gottlieb and Anna Maria Rosina (née Binner) Knobloch, from Hartliebdorf in Silesia. The Knoblochs, along with son Carl Herman, arrived in Australia aboard the Godeffroy in February 1849.

After a year in Melbourne, the Knobloch family moved to ten acres at Westgarthtown. Gottlieb, a carpenter, was naturalized as a Victorian citizen on 31 January 1853 and on 2 June 1853 he purchased the land on which they had been living for £10. On 4 May 1855 he purchased a further 20 acres from his neighbour Friedrich Gruenberg for £50.

Two further children were born at Westgarthtown – Theodore Edward Julius (1853) and Anna Helena Henrietta Ernestina (1855). In 1855, Gottlieb donated £6 towards construction of the Lutheran church and school building at Westgarthtown, but by August 1857, the Knobloch family had moved to Golden Square at Bendigo, where they operated a boarding house. In July 1858, Gottlieb took out a refreshment licence and by August 1858, was listed as proprietor of the Black Eagle Hotel at Golden Square. Gottlieb had sold the farm at Westgarthtown on 7 December 1858 to the Grosse brothers for £450/10/-.

In 1868 Gottlieb selected 79 acres on the Bulabul Creek near Inglewood. He died there in 1878 aged 62 and Rosina in 1882 aged 64. Both are buried at Inglewood. Many of their descendants who remained in the district are also buried there.

Anna Knobloch married Charles Flight in 1884. Charles’ parents, William Powell and Ellen May Ann (née Robinson) Flight, farmed a 72 acre selection near the Knobloch farm. Charles, born at Stawell in 1859, joined the Victorian Railways in 1882 and was an engine driver for many years. Charles and Anna had four children – Albert (1884), Helena (1885), Oliver (1889) and Percy (1896). Anna died at Inglewood in 1921 and Charles at Inglewood in 1936.

Oliver attended school at Wedderburn and in 1908 joined the Education Department as a junior teacher at Wedderburn Primary School. While studying to become a teacher he qualified as an instructor of junior cadets in 1912. Later that year he was appointed Head Teacher at Natimuk Lake School in the Wimmera. He remained there until 29 June 1915, when he resigned to join the Defence Department’s Physical Training Instructional Staff in South Australia as an Assistant Instructor, with the rank of Honorary Lieutenant. As a staff officer his students were members of the Citizen Military Forces.

On 20 June 1917, Oliver enlisted in the AIF at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide and was appointed Lieutenant and allotted to the 10th Reinforcements, 50th Battalion.  He was then aged 27 and his religion was Church of England. He embarked in Melbourne aboard the Themistocles on 4 August and arrived at Glasgow on 2 October 1917. After training at Gosport in Hampshire he moved to Codford in Wiltshire, then from late November to late December he attended the 40th Army Course PT & BF at Headquarters Gymnasium at Aldershot in Hampshire, where he qualified as ‘Very Good’. On 3 January 1918, he transferred from the 50th Battalion to the General List and was posted for duty as PT & BF Instructor AIF Depots, located at No. 1 Com Dept. Sutton Veny, near Codford.

On 26 October, Oliver proceeded to France and rejoined the 50th Battalion on 3 November 1918, shortly before the Armistice. He remained there until April 1919 when he was attached to AIF Headquarters in London. On 8 August he embarked for Australia on the Katoomba and arrived in Adelaide on 20 September 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 22 October 1919 and allotted to the 3rd Military District (Victoria). On 29 June 1920 he was transferred to the unattached list as Lieutenant; on 16 December 1920 he was appointed an Assistant Supervisor of Physical Training; but on 31 July 1922 he was retrenched from the Defence Department.

Oliver Flight’s engagement to Gladys Kempster of Payneham in Adelaide was announced on 27 December 1919 and they married at Kent Town on 25 May 1920. Following their marriage they lived in Melbourne at Middle Park, Balaclava, Caulfield and Middle Brighton, where a son was born in 1921. In 1922 Oliver purchased a furniture business in Glenferrie, where they also lived, but this was unsuccessful and in 1924 he disposed of it. He and his wife separated soon after and she took their son John to live in Adelaide.

In 1925 Oliver was living at Goodnight on the Murray River near Tooleybuc in New South Wales and his occupation was given as farmer. As his sister Lena Trotman also lived at Goodnight, he probably lived with her. By 1928, however, Oliver had rejoined the Victorian Education Department and taught in many primary schools in Melbourne and country Victoria until he retired in 1955. The schools he served the longest were Bronzewing in the Mallee (1928-31); Beechworth (1937-43); Timboon (1943-44); Pyramid Hill (1947-51); and Bairnsdale (1951-54).

Oliver and his first wife divorced in 1937 and he remarried on 26 February 1938 to Gladys Keen, with whom he had a daughter, Gladys Olive, in 1941. He died at Bairnsdale on 2 June 1955 aged 65 and was buried in the Bairnsdale Cemetery. His second wife died at Paynesville in 1998 and is also buried at Bairnsdale.

Oliver Flight’s name appears on the Jacka Park Soldiers’ Memorial at Wedderburn. His son, Lieutenant John Oliver Flight, served with the 2/27th Battalion during the Second World War and was Killed in Action at Gona in Papua on 29 November 1942. He is buried in the Bomana War Cemetery at Port Moresby.