Westgarthtown & WWI





Kurtzmann family



Christian and Johanna Kurtzmann and their four children – Friedrich, Pauline, Heinrich and Emanuel Robert – arrived in Australia aboard the Emmy in December 1849 from Grünberg, Silesia. Shortly after arrival, they settled at Westgarthtown, but did not purchase their own farm there until 1853.

Several more children were born at Westgarthtown – Holda Klarchen (1853), Christine (1855) and Johann Christian Reinhold (1856). The Kurtzmann family sold their farm in July 1858 to Georg Nebel and by 1859 were living on the Caledonian Goldfields (now St Andrews) as another Kurtzmann child, Rose Minnie, was born there that year. Christian’s occupation was then given as a miner. Mrs Kurtzmann however, was a midwife and delivered babies at Westgarthtown as late as 1862, so the family must have made visits back for special events.

The Kurtzmann family had moved to Jamieson by the early 1860s. Christian died there in 1887 and Johanna in 1898. Both are buried at Jamieson. Two of their grandsons - Richard Victor Kurtzmann and Herbert Claude Charman – and a step-grandson - Louis Kurtzmann - served during World War 1 and sadly none lived to return to Australia. Richard Kurtzmann died of wounds and Herbert Charman and Louis Kurtzmann were killed in action.

Richard Victor (Dick) Kurtzmann (1881-1917) was born Victor Emanuel Kurtzmann at Jamieson in July 1881, the son of Rose Minnie Kurtzmann, who was unmarried. His father’s name is not known. Raised by his uncle Jack  Kurtzmann and his wife Emily at their Australian Hotel at Benalla, he gave his occupation as labourer (he was a fruit picker) when he applied to enlist at Mildura on 14 February 1916, aged 34. He had previously tried to enlist but been rejected because of defective teeth. This time he was accepted and took his oath at Bendigo on 15 March 1916. He gave his religion as Church of England.

While training at Bendigo, Dick was allocated to C Company, 38th Battalion, Private, No. 920, 10th Infantry Brigade on 25 May 1916. He embarked at Melbourne aboard the Runic on 20 June and arrived at Plymouth in England on 10 August 1916. In October, however, he was admitted to hospital at Bulford, then Parkhouse, with venereal disease and did not rejoin the 38th Battalion in France until 15 January 1917.

Dick was wounded in action on 13 October 1917, presumably at Passchendaele in Belgium, where the 38th Battalion suffered 62% casualties. He received a gunshot wound to his right buttock and was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples in France, but died on 25 October 1917, aged 36. He was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery and his name is also commemorated on Panel 130 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the Roll of Honour at Jamieson.

Dick’s personal effects were sent to his girlfriend, Miss Edith Smith, of Boree Creek in New South Wales, who was the beneficiary of his will. His medals were granted to his uncle Jack Kurtzmann.

Bert Charman.
Photo: Chas Ryall.
Herbert Claude Charman (1894-1916) was another of Rose Minnie Kurtzmann’s children, born at Carlton on 18 May 1894. His father is believed to have been George Adcock. In 1896, Rose Minnie married Edward Charman at Euroa, following which her youngest son, known as Bert, took his step-father’s surname.

Bert was a carpenter when he enlisted in the AIF at Melbourne on 22 September 1915, aged 21. He gave his religion as Church of England. He had 4½ years previous service with the Citizen Forces, 57th Infantry, reaching the rank of Sergeant-Major. In July 1915, just prior to his enlistment, he had been the subject of an anonymous complaint by a ‘True Britisher’ who said that as a ‘pure bred German’ Bert should not be ‘training our soldiers’, but the authorities took no action.

Bert was allocated to the 9th Reinforcements, 24th Battalion, Private, No. 3792, 6th Infantry Brigade. On 18 December he was appointed Acting Sergeant and on 8 February 1916 embarked aboard the Warilda at Melbourne for Egypt. He left Alexandria on 21 March and arrived at Marseilles on 27 March 1916.

On 25 June 1916 he was taken on strength of the 1st Anzac Entrenching Battalion and appointed Acting Corporal the following day. He reverted to Private on 31 July and then joined the 24th Battalion on 3 August. He was appointed Lance-Corporal on 12 August but was killed in action at Mouquet Farm, Pozieres on 23 August 1916, aged 22. He is buried in the Pozieres British Cemetery and also commemorated on Panel 101 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Louis Kurtzmann (1891-1917) was born at Jamieson, the son of Catherine Hoskins. Louis’ father’s name is not known and when his mother married Henry Kurtzmann at Jamieson in 1893, he took his step-father’s surname. Catherine died in 1902 and soon after Louis moved to a farm at Glenorchy near Stawell, where the step-father farmed until 1915, then moved to Barellan in New South Wales.

Louis was working as a labourer when he applied to enlist at Mansfield on 12 October 1916 aged 24. He gave his religion as Church of England. He underwent a medical examination at Castlemaine on 24 October, but did not sign his attestation form until 14 November 1916. He was initially allocated to the 24th Battalion, but then reallocated on 8 December to the 8th Reinforcements, 59th Battalion, Private, No. 3176, 15th Infantry Brigade.

He embarked aboard the Medic on 16 December 1916 and arrived at Plymouth in England on 18 February 1917. After training at Hurdcott, he left for France on 14 June and was taken on strength of the 59th Battalion on 30 June 1917.

Louis was killed in action at Polygon Wood in Belgium on 26 September 1917. His name is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres; Panel 168 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra; at Jamieson; and at Stawell.