Westgarthtown & WWI





Schilling family



Friedrich Adolph Hermann Schilling, born 10 January 1830 at Bernburg in Sachsen-Anhalt, arrived in Melbourne in February 1850 aboard the Alfred with his friend Julius Groening. As Julius’ father was the Duchy and Government Printer at Bernburg and Friedrich Schilling had been an apprentice printer and compositor, the two young men had probably been workmates as well as friends.

On 5 March 1850, soon after arrival in Melbourne, Friedrich married another Alfred passenger, Charlotte Wassmann. Friedrich and Charlotte are believed to have then lived at Westgarthtown with Julius Groening, who purchased 70 acres there. In April 1853, Schilling’s name appears on a list of members of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Melbourne and his address was Dry Creek, an early name for Westgarthtown.  By 1854, however, he had moved to Bendigo where he remained for the rest of his life. His friend Julius Groening also moved to Bendigo and when Julius married in 1863, Schilling was his best man.

Friedrich and Charlotte raised a large family at Diamond Hill in Bendigo. For some years, Friedrich was manager of the Albert Crushing Company, owned by he and other Bendigo Germans. He was also a shareholder in the Albert Mining Company, the Schilling Gold Mining Company and the Buffalo Head Company. He then managed the G. G. Consolidated (Glasgow and Golconda) Company until ill health forced his retirement. He was also a councillor of the Strathfieldsaye Shire Council for seven years and president in 1882. When Friedrich died at Bendigo on 18 July 1896, aged 66, he had been grandfather to 25 children, five of whom later enlisted during World War 1. Charlotte died on 24 April 1908 aged 81. Both are buried at Kangaroo Flat.

Five of Friedrich and Charlotte’s grandchildren enlisted in World War 1 - Frederick Wassmann Schilling, Robert Julius Schilling, Albert Ernest Schilling, Reginald Ernest Roy Schilling and Wilfred Vivian Hubert Luther Bidstrup - the last of whom was killed in action in France in 1917.

Frederick Wassmann Schilling (1880-1947) was born at Elmore on 24 September 1880, the eldest surviving son of Hermann and Bessie (née Agnew) Schilling, who married at Bendigo in 1877. Hermann was Friedrich and Charlotte Schilling’s eldest son, born in 1852, presumably at Westgarthtown.

Frederick was a blacksmith living at Kangaroo Flat when he enlisted at Bendigo on 10 April 1916, having had three years prior service with the Citizen Forces, Victoria Rangers. He was 35 and had married Margaret McManus in 1913. He gave his religion as Church of England.

On 1 May 1916 he was allocated to the 19th Reinforcements, 6th Battalion, Private, No. 6346, 2nd Infantry Brigade and transferred from Bendigo to Broadmeadows. On 1 August he was reallocated to the 6th Battalion’s 20th Reinforcements and then embarked at Melbourne aboard the Euripides on 11 September for Plymouth, where he arrived on 26 October 1916.

After further training in England, Frederick left for France on 8 February and joined the 6th Battalion on 15 February 1917. On 3 July, however, he was admitted sick to hospital, then evacuated on 25 July to No. 2 Birmingham War Hospital in England with nephritis. After being transferred between hospitals and convalescent depots, it was decided to invalid him home and on 11 January 1918 he embarked aboard the Port Darwin for Australia. He arrived back in Melbourne on 4 March 1918 and was discharged from the AIF on 6 August 1918.

In 1920 Frederick joined the Victorian Railways as a labourer. He and Bessie had four children, but only one survived infancy. Frederick died at Bendigo on 29 August 1947 aged 66 and was buried at Kangaroo Flat.

Robert Julius Schilling. Photo: Bendigonian
Robert Julius Schilling (1885-1964) was born at Bendigo in 1885, the son of Rudolph and Hannah (née Olive) Schilling, who married at Bendigo in 1877. Rudolph, a saddler, was Friedrich and Charlotte Schilling’s second son, born at Lockwood in 1855.

Robert applied to enlist at Perth on 4 April 1916. He had lived in Western Australia for about ten years after first working at a relative’s timber mill at Koondrook in Victoria. He gave his age as 28, occupation as labourer and religion as Church of England. A note on his attestation form reads ‘No objection on the score of nationality’. He had given his father’s name as Richard, rather than Rudolph, possibly to deflect further questions about his German ancestry.

After three weeks at No. 63 Depot, Robert was allocated to the 21st Reinforcements, 16th Battalion, Private, No. 6574, 4th Infantry Brigade. On 13 October he embarked aboard the Port Macquarie at Fremantle and arrived at Plymouth on 12 December 1916 and marched in to the 4th Training Battalion.

On 20 December he was admitted to Codford General Hospital with rheumatism and didn’t return to the 4th Training Battalion until 4 January 1917. He then left for France on 15 February and on 12 March was transferred from the 16th to the 32nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Brigade.

The only large battle the 32nd Battalion fought in 1917 was Polygon Wood near Ypres on 26 September. Robert was admitted sick to hospital at Boulogne on 22 December 1917 and did not rejoin his unit until 18 January 1918. He was wounded in action on 22 March when he was severely gassed by a German shell and evacuated to hospital in England on 8 April. On 3 July 1918 he was fined at Bristol for being absent without leave, then returned to France on 4 October, not long before the Armistice.

In February 1919, he was granted leave to England, then on his return to France he was engaged for six weeks on salvage work. On 23 April he returned to England and embarked for Australia aboard the Somali on 1 June 1919. He arrived back at Fremantle on 8 July and was discharged from the AIF on 15 August 1919.

Robert married Bridget Elizabeth Kilmurray in Western Australia in 1922. By 1924, he had returned to Koondrook in northern Victoria, where he worked as a mill hand for another 20 years. Robert and Bridget had several children. He re-enlisted in the army during World War 2 (V6813). By the late 1940s they had moved to Bendigo, where he died on 20 July 1964, aged about 79. Bridget died in 1966. Both are buried at Bendigo.

Albert Ernest Schilling (1890-1966) was born at Bendigo in 1890, the son of Rudolph and Hannah (née Olive) Schilling. He was Robert Julius Schilling’s younger brother.

Although the Bendigo Advertiser of 28 July 1915 included his name in a list of new enlistees, there is no reference to this in his AIF file.  He did, however, apply to enlist at the North Melbourne Town Hall on 6 October 1916, during the first conscription referendum campaign. A harness maker, he was 26 and gave his religion as Free Thinker. He had previously served in the Militia. He was posted to B Company, 10th Battalion at Geelong on 17 October, but was discharged on 17 November 1916. The reason for his discharge is not recorded.

Albert Ernest Schilling died at Armadale, Melbourne on 25 May 1966.

Reginald Schilling.
Reginald Ernest Roy Schilling (1896-1979) was born at Bendigo on 30 August 1896, the youngest son of Frederick and Isabella (née Cameron) Schilling. His father was Friedrich and Charlotte Schilling’s third son, born at Bendigo in about 1856.

Roy attended Golden Square State School, then worked as a law clerk in Bendigo. When he applied on 29 June 1918 to join the AIF, he had already served four years as a Senior Cadet and three years in the Citizens Forces, 67th Battalion in which he was a Lieutenant. He was studying law at Melbourne University and had previously applied for commission as an officer on 24 November 1917. He was 21 and gave his religion as Methodist.

Roy’s enlistment was approved on 20 August 1918 and he was posted to the Recruit Depot Battalion at Broadmeadows. However, as a German descendant, he had been required to provide satisfactory supporting references before his application to enlist was approved. Constable P. Walker 5018 wrote on 15 August 1918:

‘I the undersigned certify that I have known Reginald Ernest Roy Schilling for the last 8 years & have not the slightest doubt in regard to his loyalty to our King & Empire. He has held a commission in the Citizens Forces for some time.’

Roy served as a Private until 9 October, when he was promoted to Acting Corporal. On 23 October he was further promoted to Acting Sergeant, but was discharged on 24 December 1918, following the Armistice.

Roy went on to complete his legal studies and was called to the bar in 1925. In 1930 he married Iris Gwendoline Colthurst and they had one child, a daughter. During World War 2 he joined the RAAF and served from 1942-45. He later established a legal practice from which he retired in 1971. He was also interested in politics and held the Victorian State seat of Albert Park for the Liberal Party from 1947-50. Roy died at Elsternwick on 7 May 1979 aged 82 and was cremated at Springvale.

Wilfred Vivian Hubert Luther Bidstrup.
Photo: Australian War Memorial.
Wilfred Vivian Hubert Luther Bidstrup (1889-1917), was born at Mitiamo in northern Victoria on 13 May 1889, the youngest son of Robert Ipsen and Minna Louisa (née Schilling) Bidstrup. Minna Louisa, the eldest surviving daughter of Friedrich and Charlotte Schilling, was born at Bendigo in 1861 and married Robert Bidstrup there in 1881. Robert was head teacher at Taminick, Mitiamo and Fryerstown before his death at Castlemaine in 1900, aged 40. Minna Louisa then raised their four surviving children before her death in 1951 at Geelong.

Vivian, as he was known, was educated at various state schools, then Scotch College in Melbourne, before moving to Adelaide in South Australia where he completed his accountancy studies. He was employed by estate agents, Jackman & Treloar, when he enlisted at Keswick on 28 May 1915. He had previously served for two years in the Victorian Rifles, Citizen Forces. He was 26 and gave his religion as Church of England.

After first being posted to F Company, Base Infantry Depot, Vivian was transferred on 15 June 1915 to the Army Medical Corps. In October 1915 he undertook non-commissioned officer training at Mitcham and was then allocated to several Reinforcements units. On 2 March 1916, then a Sergeant with the 4th Reinforcements, 32nd Battalion, he applied for a commission in the AIF and was admitted to Duntroon Military College, Canberra on 22 March 1916 for officer training. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 10 May 1916.

2nd Lieutenant Bidstrup embarked for England on 14 August 1916 as Officer in Charge of the 2nd Reinforcements, 43rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Brigade. He arrived at Plymouth on 30 September and taken on strength of the 11th Training Battalion at No. 8 Camp at Codford on the Salisbury Plain. He proceeded to France on 21 October and joined the 50th Battalion, 13th Infantry Brigade on 9 November 1916. In a letter he wrote to his family on 7 January 1917, while heading for the Front, he wrote ‘We pushed on further today; had to advance slowly and in file on account of the traffic. Once more the roads were muddy and sloppy and the tragedy of war screeched at us from every inch of the landscape. We camped the night in huts and tents, mud being the chief factor in our discomfort.’

Vivian was promoted to Lieutenant on 19 February 1917 but was killed in action at Noreuil in France on 3 April 1917 leading a bombing attack on German trenches. An eye-witness stated ‘I saw Casualty killed at Noreiul, France by Machine Gun Bullet whilst on a bombing raid. He was killed under my eyes, not instantly, but he died of wounds shortly afterwards.’ Another report noted ‘He was found by a search party, sent out to look for him, dead, riddled with bullets and his revolver empty.’

Vivian’s 50th Battalion lost 360 men in their attack on Noreiul - five officers and 90 men were killed and 60 taken prisoner. He was buried at the Noreuil Australian Cemetery and is also commemorated on Panel 150 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. His mother was awarded a war pension of £3.10.0 per fortnight from 12 June 1917.