Westgarthtown & WWI





Wanke family



Ernst Gottlob Wanke (1821-97) of Berlin arrived in Melbourne in April 1849 aboard the Dockenhuden with his wife Anna (née Hahn). A former medical student, Wanke was engaged as the ship’s surgeon for the voyage from Hamburg to Australia. Anna died in May 1849, six days after giving birth to a son, Andreas Gottlob, who also died.

Wanke (known as Gottlob Wanke) remarried on 24 May 1850 to Pauline Wilhelmina Krumbiegel (née Schumann), a widow from Dresden who arrived in 1849 aboard the Wappaus. Pauline appears to have been living at Westgarthtown at the time of their marriage whereas Wanke lived in Melbourne. On 16 December 1850, along with Westgarthtown residents Friedrich Winter, Johann Wuchatsch and Johann Zimmer, Wanke was naturalized as a New South Wales citizen. His address was then 54 Bourke Street, Melbourne and he worked as a hairdresser. On 30 April 1851 he purchased 30 acres at Westgarthtown (Lot 31, Section 25, Parish of Keelbundora) for £30. This land had previously been allocated to Pauline as the name Krumbuegel appears as joint occupier of Lots 29-31 with Moritz and Eleanora Wehner on an 1850 subdivision map of Section 25. Moritz Wehner purchased Lots 29-30 (70 acres) on 30 April 1851 for £70.

Gottlob was actively involved in the establishment of the Lutheran Church in Melbourne, including serving as a lay preacher. He also served on the committees of the German Union and the German Benevolent Society. When gold was discovered in Victoria in July 1851 he is believed to have travelled to the diggings. He sold his land at Westgarthtown on 6 October 1851 for £150 to Friedrich Gründel, earning a profit of £120.

Following his return from the goldfields, he purchased 640 acres of Crown land in April 1853 at Harkaway, near Berwick. In 1854, by prior agreement, he sold two thirds of this land to Carl and Wilhelm Aurisch, but purchased a further 316 acres of adjoining land, some of which he sold to fellow Germans. The farm he established, first known as Zion’s Hill but later Hillcroft, was about 400 acres.

Gottlob also helped establish a Lutheran Church at Harkaway. In 1869, after having conducted lay reading services for over 15 years between the visits of Pastors Goethe and Herlitz from Melbourne,  Gottlob conveyed a small section of his land ‘in trust for chapel, school and other purposes’ for the nominal sum of £1.

Johann Gottlieb Wanke, a brother of Ernst’s, arrived in Australia with his wife and six children in 1855 and also settled at Harkaway.

Gottlob died at Harkaway on 7 August 1897 aged 75. Pauline died on 9 September 1904 aged 82 and was buried with her husband at Harkaway. Today’s Ernst Wanke Road at Berwick commemorates his presence there.

Gottlob and Pauline had one child, Immanuel Wanke, born in 1856, who married neighbour Bertha Aurisch in 1879. They had 15 children and two sons enlisted during World War 1 - Arthur Robert Wanke and Frederick William Wanke – the latter of whom died of wounds in France in 1918.

Immanuel Wanke was accused of disloyalty in August 1915 but the police found the complaints to be groundless. Wanke wrote to military authorities angrily denying ‘That I or any member of my family have in any way displayed such gross disloyalty is a fabrication of falsehoods from beginning to end.’

Arthur Robert Wanke (1888-1956) was born at Harkaway on 6 September 1888. He was the eighth child of Immanuel and Bertha Wanke. He attended the local state school and was a carpenter when he enlisted at Prahran on 11 March 1916 aged 27. He gave his religion as Presbyterian. On 23 March he was allocated to D Company, 39th Battalion, Private, No. 1427, 10th Infantry Brigade. He embarked at Melbourne aboard the Ascarius on 27 May and arrived at Devonport in England on 18 July 1916.

On 16 August Arthur’s pay was debited for the loss of a handkerchief at Millbank Hospital. He left for France on 23 November but was admitted to hospital for a week with influenza on 21 December 1916. He was hospitalized again on 8 February 1917, this time with scabies.

On 7 June 1917, Arthur was wounded in action at Messines in Belgium, receiving a gunshot wound to the thigh. He was admitted to hospital in France, then evacuated to England on 12 June and admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth. On 20 June he was moved to the Grove Military Hospital at Tooting, then transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital on 2 July. After further rest in England, he left for France on 5 September and rejoined the 39th Battalion on 18 September 1917.

The 39th Battalion fought at Broodseinde on 4 October, then Passchendaele on 12 October 1917, where Arthur was wounded in action for the second time with another gunshot wound. He spent time in various hospitals in France, before being invalided to England on 25 December and admitted to Central Military Hospital, Fort Pitt, Chatham with influenza. Three days later he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford with broncho-pneumonia.

Arthur remained in England recovering in hospital and on furlough until 8 May 1918 when he returned to France. He rejoined his battalion on 10 May but was wounded for the third time on 31 August 1918 with a gunshot wound to his left arm and right leg. He was transferred to England on 4 September and admitted to the Graylingwell War Hospital the next day. On 30 October he was transferred to the Chichester Military Hospital. He finally embarked aboard the Nestor for Australia on 12 December and arrived back in Melbourne on 1 February 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 11 March 1919.

Arthur farmed in Hessels Road, Narre Warren following his return to Australia. He did not marry and died on 6 August 1956 aged 67. He was buried at Harkaway.

Frederick William Wanke. Photo: Dandenong
Frederick William Wanke (1890-1918) was born at Harkaway about January 1890, the ninth child of Immanuel and Bertha Wanke. He attended the local state school and was a farmer aged 26 and single when he enlisted at Pakenham on 28 April 1916. He gave his religion as Church of England. At a farewell party before he left for the Front, his father said that ‘while he and Mrs Wanke felt it hard to part with their sons, they sincerely hoped that they would both do their duty in protecting the British flag.’

Known as Fritz by his family, Fred was assigned to the 19th/20th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion, Private, No. 6379, 2nd Infantry Brigade. After training at Castlemaine during May, then at Broadmeadows, he embarked at Melbourne aboard the Euripides on 11 September for England. He was admitted to hospital at sea on 18 October and not discharged until 24 October, two days before he arrived at Plymouth. Details of his illness are not recorded.

He proceeded to France on 13 December 1916 and joined A Company, 5th Battalion on Christmas Day. During 1917 the 5th Battalion participated in the operations that followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line then moved to Belgium and fought near Ypres. On 30 January 1918, Fred was admitted to hospital, with an injury to a finger on his left hand. He was discharged on 18 February and rejoined his unit, but then had furlough to England from 6-22 March.

Fred received a gunshot wound to the head in France on 16 May 1918 and died at the 3rd Australian Ambulance Station the following day aged 28. He was buried at Borre British Cemetery, Hazebrouck, France and is also commemorated on Panel 45 at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.