Westgarthtown & WWI





Victor Emil Yann



Victor Emil Yann (1889-1959) was born at Preston on 7 December 1889, the son of Friedrich and Eva Matilda (née Krieger) Yann. Friedrich, a blacksmith, was born at Peterweil, Hesse-Darmstadt on 27 February 1840 and arrived in Melbourne aboard the Alster in March 1859.  A brother, Georg Yann, followed in 1860.

Matilda was born at Frankfurt am Main in 1843 and arrived in Australia on the Isaac da Costa in October 1861 aged 18 with her parents Edward and Magdalena (née Mai) and five brothers and sisters. The family leased a 320 acre farm at today’s Keon Park and the youngest children attended Thomastown Primary School.  One of Matilda’s brothers, Edward Krieger, married Maria Karsten of Westgarthtown in 1877.

Friedrich and Matilda married at the Trinity German Lutheran Church, East Melbourne on 16 March 1866. Friedrich first operated his blacksmith, wheelwright and coach building business at Campbellfield, then moved to High Street, Preston during the early 1870s. Today’s Yann Street marks the location. Friedrich and Matilda raised a large family, of whom Victor was the youngest. One of Victor’s sisters, Emma, married Michael Zimmer of Epping in 1910. Friedrich died in 1911 and Matilda in 1925. Both are buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery.

After attending state school at Preston, Victor worked for his father, as a carriage and motor body builder. On 2 March 1914, he was fined £2 at the Northcote Court for riding a motor cycle in High Street, Preston at an estimated 30 miles per hour, ‘a pace dangerous to traffic’ according to Constable Fletcher. Victor’s riding and mechanical ability, however, was to prove useful when he joined the AIF later that year.

Victor enlisted at Albert Park on 23 October 1914. He gave his age as 24, occupation as coachbuilder and religion as Presbyterian. He was assigned to the 17th Divisional Supply Column, Mechanical Transport 9, Private, No. 2133. He embarked for Europe aboard the Ceramic at Melbourne on 22 December 1914.

He left England for France on 9 July 1915 with the 17th Divisional Supply Column. Early in November, he was briefly treated in hospital for deafness, then on 25 November was granted one week’s leave. On 1 January 1916 he was promoted to Driver/Mechanic. In April he was treated for eczema, then on 3 October 1916 he was transferred from the 1st Australian Divisional Supply Column to the 1st Anzac Corps Troops Supply Column. On 26 December he was granted one week’s leave to England.

He rejoined his unit on 13 January 1917. Nothing more is recorded in his file until 31 December 1917 when he was granted two weeks leave to Paris. On 12 March 1918 he was taken on strength of the Australian Corps Troops Mechanical Transport Company and appointed Lance-Corporal on 2 April 1918. On 27 July he was detached for a week to the 4th Army School of Driving. Having served since 1914, Victor was granted home leave and embarked aboard the Port Lyttelton for Australia on 12 October 1918. He arrived back at Melbourne on 25 December with the 6th Mechanical Transport Company and was discharged from the AIF on 23 February 1919. His name is included on the Preston Cenotaph.

There is little in Victor’s file about the work he performed during the war. He later stated, however, in support of a medical claim to the Repatriation Department, that ‘During my four years war service I served as a despatch rider. As such I was exposed to extreme weather conditions being constantly on the motorcycle. I consider the continuous jarring from the motor cycle on the rough roads combined with the exposure to weather...must have contributed to my disabilities’ He also stated he had come into contact with gas on several occasions while on duty in France.

Victor married Gertrude Mary Drolz in 1922. A brother of Gertrude’s, Frank Drolz, served in the Australian Flying Corps during World War 1.

Victor and Gertrude lived at Regent and raised three children. He later worked as a boilermaker with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board. He died on 28 June 1959 aged 69 and Gertrude in 1971.  Both were cremated at Fawkner.