Johann and Annie (née Rosel) Zimmer, Wends from Weissig near Bautzen in Saxony, arrived in Australia with their three children – Michael, Maria and Agnes - in February 1850 aboard the Pribislaw. Along with many of their shipmates, the Zimmers were original settlers at Westgarthtown, establishing a dairy farm on their 50 acres. Annie died in 1878 and Johann in 1882 and both are buried at Westgarthtown.
Soon after her arrival, eldest daughter Maria Zimmer met and married Alexander McLeod, a widower from the Isle of Skye who lived nearby at Campbellfield. In 1855, Alexander and Maria moved to Broadford, where they raised at least five children before his death in 1863. Maria remarried in 1867 to William Whyte, also a Scot, and bore several more children there. William died in 1882 and Maria in 1905, aged 80. Maria, her two husbands and other family members are buried at Broadford. Five of Maria’s grandsons are known to have enlisted in the AIF during World War 1 – the four Horwood brothers Vincent, Robert, Leonard and Edwin - of whom Robert was later killed in action and Edwin died of illness; and Melville Whyte.
In 1853, Agnes Zimmer married shipmate Michael Zwar and later moved to Broadford, where Michael purchased land in 1854. Agnes and Michael raised eleven children there, including two - Albert and Henry - who owned tanneries at Beechworth and Preston which supplied leather during 1914-18 for the war effort and also became members of the Victorian parliament. Agnes died in 1891 aged 55 and Michael in 1900. They and other members of the Zwar family are buried at Broadford. One of Agnes’ grandsons, Charles Niels Bidstrup, served in the Boer War and three others - Alfred Bidstrup; and brothers Keith and Raymond Zwar - enlisted with the AIF during World War 1.
At the same time as the Horwoods, Zwars, Whyte and Bidstrup were fighting for Australia, along with other relatives such as the Graff and Wuchatsch brothers, the middle-aged sons of Michael and Maria (née Graff) Zimmer at Epping and Broadmeadows were being persecuted with accusations of disloyalty. Despite these anonymous complaints being completely unfounded, they were effective, as the military authorities terminated contracts one of the Zimmer brothers had to supply goods and services to the Broadmeadows army camp.
In 1918 the Zwar family at Broadford were accused of sending morse code signals at night from a hill on their property. While the local policeman dismissed the claim, military intelligence authorities considered censoring the Zwar’s mail.
The Zimmer family made another interesting contribution to Australia’s military effort during World War 1. From 1855-57 a young girl named Maria Kaiser worked as a dairymaid on Zimmer’s farm at Westgarthtown. She sent some of her wages back to Germany so her sister Anna could also migrate to Australia. Anna arrived in 1858 and also worked at Zimmer’s for over a year. In 1863, she married Michael Zwar’s widowed brother Johann, who lived in South Australia but who had conducted evening studies at the Westgarthtown Lutheran Church during a visit in 1862. In 1876 Anna gave birth to Traugott Bernhard Zwar, who in 1915 served as a doctor on hospital ships off Gallipoli.
The Horwood Brothers
On 1 May 1883, Maria (née Zimmer) Whyte’s daughter Emily McLeod married William Horwood, a tanner, in a Primitive Methodist ceremony at Brackish Farm, Broadford. Emily was born at Broadford in 1858 and William at Kilmore in 1863.
Emily and William Horwood had nine children, including six sons, all of whom were born at Broadford. In 1909, however, William Horwood sold his 241 acre farm at Broadford and moved to Preston where he had been working as a tanner. When the war began in 1914, the Horwoods were living at 43 Gower Street, Preston where several family members were tannery workers.
Four unmarried Horwood sons enlisted and a fifth, George, was rejected three times as medically unfit.
Emily and William Horwood remained at Preston for the rest of their lives. She died in 1938 aged 80 and William in 1940. They are buried in the Methodist Section of the Coburg Cemetery.
Vincent’s personnel file does not record where he served from December 1914 to November 1915, so it is not known if he reached at Gallipoli. On 21 November 1915, he transferred from Alexandria to Maadi, then Tel-el-Kibir on 6 January 1916. On 19 February he was briefly admitted to hospital at Ishmalia with dysentery, then left Alexandria for Marseilles in France on 22 March, where he arrived six days later.
From 20-28 June 1916, he was hospitalized at Sailly with enteritis, then rejoined and served with his unit until 4 March 1917 when he was admitted to hospital with bronchitis. Shortly after he was transferred to Rouen with debility, then invalided to England on 16 March and hospitalized at Exeter, in Devon. On 4 May he marched into camp at Weymouth, then rejoined 1st Division Headquarters in France on 17 August 1917. He remained there until 25 February 1918 when he was transferred to England to work on Australian Transports. On 10 March he embarked ‘on staff’ aboard the Durham Castle for its voyage to Australia, but trans-shipped to the Orontes at Cape Town on 19 April and returned aboard that ship. He was discharged from the AIF as medically unfit with ‘debility’ on 21 August 1918 after almost four years service.
Vincent resumed his old trade as leather dresser. In 1919, he married Lilian Nugent and they raised several children. They remained at Preston, living in a house in Murray Road named Orontes, no doubt after the ship which brought Vincent safely home from the war. He died at Heidelberg on 24 February 1964 aged 73 and Lilian in 1975. Vincent’s name is included on the Preston Cenotaph and at the Victorian Garden of Remembrance at Springvale.
Robert William (Bob) Horwood (1893-1916), enlisted on 10 September 1914 aged 21. He gave his religion as Church of England. A leather dresser employed by Broadhurst’s Tannery at Preston, Bob was allocated to C Company, 8th Battalion, Private, No. 1033, 2nd Infantry Brigade. After training at Broadmeadows, he embarked for Albany on 19 October aboard the Benalla. On 1 November his ship left in convoy and reached Alexandria on 8 December 1914.
After several months training in Egypt and Lemnos, Bob was at the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915, but sprained his ankle that day and was admitted to the 15th General Hospital on 30 April. He was discharged to duty on 21 June; rejoined the 8th Battalion at Gallipoli on 28 July; and remained there until early September, when the 2nd Infantry Brigade was relieved and sent to Lemnos to rest. On 25 October he was admitted to the No. 1 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Mudros with jaundice, but rejoined the battalion on 11 November and returned to Gallipoli on 22 November, remaining there until evacuated on 18 December 1915.
After rest and further training in Egypt the 8th Battalion left for France on 26 March and arrived at Marseilles on 31 March 1916. On 6 May, Bob was admitted to hospital at Etaples with tonsilitis, but rejoined his unit on 17 May. He served with the 8th Battalion as a Headquarters Signaller until reported missing on 26 July 1916. A subsequent inquiry, held on 30 January 1917, concluded he had been ‘Killed in Action’ at Pozieres on 26 July 1916. He was 24. It is said Bob was one of seven men sitting in a dugout when a shell hit them, burying and killing three and wounding the other four.
Bob was ‘buried 20 yards south of Albert-Bapaume Rd: beyond Railway Lines in Pozieres, 4 miles north-east of Albert, France’ but his gravesite is now unknown. He name is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneaux Memorial; on Panel 53 at the Australian War Memorial; and on the Preston Cenotaph.
Few details of Len’s service during 1915 appear in his personnel file but on 20 November 1915 he was briefly hospitalized at Gallipoli with diarrhea. He was then discharged to his unit, but readmitted to hospital at Gallipoli and Heliopolis in Egypt for several weeks in December with ‘trench feet’.
After discharge from hospital on 31 December, Len rejoined the 13th Light Horse Regiment on 3 January 1916, but on 24 May his unit was transferred to the 4th Division Cavalry and left for France in June. On 23 November his unit became the 1st Anzac Mounted Regiment. On 10 March 1917, he was detached for two weeks to Headquarters, then returned to the 1st Anzac Mounted Regiment where on 19 September 1917 he was promoted to Lance-Corporal.
In February 1918 he was granted several weeks leave to England, then returned to duty and served in France until the end of the war. Shortly after the Armistice, he reverted to the rank of Trooper, at his own request. He returned to Australia aboard the Nestor and disembarked at Melbourne on 2 July 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 21 August 1919.
Len, who became a motor body builder after the war, married Eileen Fothergill at St Marys Catholic Church, Broadford on 4 December 1920. They lived at Preston and were actively involved in community affairs, including the Catholic Church; the Preston RSL, of which Len was Secretary; and the Preston Football Club, of which he was a committee member. Len died at Preston on 18 August 1965 aged 68. Although he changed his religion when he married, his name is included on the South Preston Methodist Sunday School Honour Roll, which he attended as a young man. His name is also included on the Preston Cenotaph.
Edwin Horwood (1889-1917), a labourer, enlisted on 20 March 1915 aged 26. He gave his religion as Wesleyan. After initial depot training he was allocated to B Company, 24th Battalion, Private, No. 430, 6th Infantry Brigade on 28 April and embarked for Egypt aboard the Euripides on 8 May. He joined the 24th Battalion at Gallipoli on 25 October 1915 and served until the evacuation in December, arriving back in Egypt from Mudros on 10 January 1916.
On 20 March 1916, Edwin’s 24th Battalion left for France, disembarking at Marseilles on 26 March. He was severely wounded in action in the fighting at Pozieres on 27 July 1916, receiving a gunshot wound to the head and right elbow. He was admitted to the 1st Canadian General Hospital on 29 July, then transferred to the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary in England, where he remained until October. He was then diagnosed with Phthisis and moved to another hospital at Leicester.
Edwin was discharged from hospital on 14 January 1917 and left England for Australia aboard the Kanowna on 17 January. He arrived back in Melbourne on 8 March and was discharged from the AIF on 29 May as medically unfit with pulmonary tuberculosis. His family believed he was gassed. He was granted a pension of £3 per fortnight, but his condition gradually worsened and he died on 20 July 1917, aged 28. Edwin is buried at Coburg Cemetery and his name is included on the Preston Cenotaph.
Melville Whyte (1880-1946)
Melville James Whyte, born at Broadford in 1880, was the eldest son of James Whyte and Mary Ann McLeod, who married in 1879. His mother, born at Broadford in 1856, was the daughter of Alexander and Maria (née Zimmer) McLeod.
In 1904, Melville married Ellen Ferguson, also of Broadford. In 1905 they were living on his family’s farm Sunnyside at Broadford, but by 1909 were farming at Willow Grove in Gippsland. In 1911 they leased a dairy and potato farm at Malmsbury in partnership with her brother Ernest Ferguson and remained until their lease expired in 1916 and Melville and Ernest decided to enlist. Both families were members of the local Presbyterian church.
Melville was 35 when he applied to enlist at Brunswick on 3 April. After several weeks training at Castlemaine in May, he transferred to Broadmeadows, where he was allocated to the 19th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion, No. 6099, 2nd Infantry Brigade. He embarked at Melbourne aboard the Themistocles on 28 July and arrived at Plymouth on 11 September 1916. After briefly training in England, he left for France on 22 October, where he taken on strength of D Company, 60th Battalion, 15th Infantry Brigade on 12 November 1916. This battalion had been almost wiped out at Fromelles in July 1916, suffering 757 casualties, or 88%.
In May 1917, Melville’s 60th Battalion defended gains made at the Second Battle of Bullecourt. It was heavily involved in the battle at Polygon Wood on 26 September. On 8 October 1917, Melville was admitted sick to hospital with appendicitis, but rejoined the 60th Battalion on 1 November. He was wounded in action on 25 March 1918 on the Somme near Corbie. when shot in the hand. He rejoined the 60th Battalion on 24 May but on 25 September 1918 it was disbanded so he was transferred to the 59th Battalion. Melville remained with that battalion until he embarked aboard the Port Lyttelton in England for Australia on 10 June 1919. He arrived back in Melbourne on 5 August and was greeted at the Broadford railway station by the welcome home committee and other local residents. He was discharged from the AIF on 19 September 1919.
Sadly, Melville’s brother-in-law Ernest Ferguson, who also served with the 60th Battalion, did not return. He was killed in action in France on 12 May 1917.
Melville and Ellen Whyte lived at Broadford until 1925 when they moved to Sydney where he worked as a grocer. They lived at Westmead and raised several children there. He died in 1946 aged about 66.
The Zwar family
Alfred Cyril Bidstrup (1882-1929), a farmer from Warra on the Darling Downs, enlisted at Toowoomba in Queensland on 22 February 1916, aged 34. He gave his religion as Church of England. He was born at Broadford on 2 January 1882, the son of George and Anna (née Zwar) Bidstrup. His mother Anna had been born at the home of her Zimmer grandparents at Westgarthtown in 1855, before moving to Broadford when she was six months old, where she married George on 27 April 1874. George’s father had migrated from Denmark to South Australia during the 1840s.
Alfred, who married Jane Mortimer at Warra in 1911, was allocated to 20th Reinforcements, 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Trooper, No. 2900, 1st Light Horse Brigade. He had previously served for six years with the 7th Light Horse at Broadford before moving to Queensland. He embarked for Egypt aboard the Malwa on 22 July; was taken on strength of the 1st Light Horse Brigade Isolation Camp at Moascar on 25 August; then moved to the 1st Light Horse Brigade Training Regiment on 23 September. On 25 November 1916 he was transferred to the 1st Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron, serving until 1 September 1917, when he was granted a week’s rest at Port Said. He then rejoined his unit and served until he fell ill on 7 July 1918 with malaria and was hospitalized from 18 July at Gaza, Kantara and Port Said. On 28 August, he was sent to a rest camp at Port Said to convalesce, then finally rejoined the 1st Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron on 7 October 1918.
Alfred served as a Driver from 29 December 1918 to 21 February 1919 then reverted to Private. He embarked at Kantara for Australia aboard the Orari on 16 May 1919 and arrived on 4 July 1919. He was discharged from the AIF on 19 August 1919.
Alfred returned to his farm at Warra, but died at Dalby on 27 August 1929, aged 47. He left a wife and two children. He is buried at Warra. His only son, Neal Mortimer Bidstrup (QX16936, 2/26 Battalion), died of cholera in Thailand as a Prisoner of War in 1943.
Keith Henderson Zwar (1896-1957), was born at Beechworth and employed as an accountant at his father Albert’s Zwar Bros & Co tannery there when he enlisted at Wangaratta on 23 May 1917, aged 21. His mother was Harriett (née Lawrence) Zwar. He gave his religion as Church of England.
A member of the Beechworth Rifle Club, with three years service with the 16th Light Horse, he gave his preference as an artillery unit, but was ‘specially selected’ for the Australian Medical Corps as Private, No. 19142. His entry into the AIF was delayed while he undertook the tannery’s annual ‘stocktaking & balance’. He then served at Broadmeadows from 16 July to 21 August before transferring to No. 5 Australian General Hospital until 30 October, when he moved to the Clearing Hospital at Seymour.
Keith embarked at Sydney on 2 February 1918 aboard the Wiltshire and arrived at Suez on 11 March. He was posted to the 14th Australian General Hospital at Abbassia in Cairo on 18 April, then on 15 June transferred to the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance. On 20 September he was detached to the 12th Light Horse Regiment but rejoined his unit on 6 October. On 4 December 1918, he was appointed as a Temporary Driver, a position he held until 30 June 1919. Shortly after, on 9 July, he embarked at Port Said for England.
He was granted leave from 13 August to 31 October 1919 to study the leather industry in London and visit France. He embarked for Australia aboard the Aeneas on 22 November and arrived home on 9 January 1920. He was discharged from the AIF on 8 February 1920.
Keith returned to Beechworth and resumed work at the family tannery with his father and brothers. In 1920 he was appointed a director of the newly formed Zwar Bros Pty Ltd. In 1926 he married Madge Buchanan at Albury but she died in 1928. He remarried in New Zealand in 1932 to Inez Gillies. Following his father’s death in 1935, he was appointed managing director and chairman of directors of Zwar Bros. Pty Ltd. He died on 8 November 1957 aged 61.
Raymond Albert Zwar (1898-1962) enlisted in Melbourne on his 20th birthday – 9 July 1918. Like his elder brother Keith, he was born at Beechworth and worked in the tannery industry, although he was employed by his uncle Henry Zwar, at Preston. When his parents at Beechworth learnt he had enlisted, they objected, stating ‘He is under agreement to learn a special trade of enamelling & japanning, practically a new and important industry to capture the German trade in this special line…he has another 13 months to go.’ Ray had also trained as a tannery chemist at Preston, presumably at his uncle’s factory.
Ray also had to overcome another hurdle in his bid to join the AIF. Although he had been four years in the Senior Cadets at school and served a further two years in the Citizen Forces, he had to answer questions about his ancestry. On 19 July 1918, he wrote ‘My mother’s grand parents were born in Scotland. My father’s parents were born in Saxony of Slavonic origin.’ The Slavonic reference was to his Zwar and Zimmer grand parents, who were Saxon Wends (also known as Sorbs) rather than Germans.
The obstacles to his enlistment were overcome as he commenced service with the AIF at Broadmeadows on 12 August 1918. He gave his religion as Church of England. On 5 September he was allocated to the 15th G. S. Reinforcements, Private, No. 68900. He embarked for Europe aboard the Boonah at Adelaide on 22 October 1918, but by the time he reached South Africa, the Armistice had been signed and the Boonah was ordered to return to Australia.
While at Cape Town, Ray contracted pneumonic influenza on 7 December. His parents did not receive the welcome news that he was out of danger until 19 December when the Boonah reached Fremantle. When he arrived back in Melbourne, he was admitted to the No. 11 Australian General Hospital, Caulfield and was finally assessed as fit for discharge from hospital on 23 January 1920. He was discharged from the AIF soon after.
Ray returned to work at his father’s tannery at Beechworth. He was appointed a director of Zwar Bros. Pty Ltd in 1920 and lived at Beechworth for the rest of his life. In 1930, he married Linley Cecille Le Quesne in New Zealand. The author Desmond Zwar is a son and the father of television actor/producer, Adam Zwar. Ray died in 1962.
Zwar, born at Ebenezer in South Australia, began his medical studies in Adelaide in 1895. He completed his medical studies at Melbourne University and was appointed first to the Melbourne Hospital, then the Austin Hospital. In 1904 he travelled overseas for post-graduate studies and in 1905 visited Germany to meet family relatives at his parents’ home village of Drehsa, near Bautzen. He was a fluent German speaker and a Lutheran.
A captain in the 14th Army Medical Corps Field Ambulance since 1912, Zwar volunteered his services on 19 October 1914 and was appointed as a Major in the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, which embarked aboard the Kyarra on 14 December 1914. He was 38 when he enlisted. On arrival in Egypt in January 1915, Zwar was based at Mena until 19 April, when his unit left for Gallipoli, where he served on hospital ships from 25 April until 3 June 1915.
From 4-21 June he served on the island of Lemnos, but was invalided to Egypt, then England, with appendicitis. He was operated on in London on 16 July and able to commence light duties by 29 July. On 18 August he was attached to the 1st Australian Auxilliary Hospital at Harefield and worked there until 24 September. The following day he embarked for Egypt where he was attached to the No. 2 Australian General Hospital at Ghezireh from 10 October 1915 to 2 January 1916. Having completed his term of service, Zwar embarked aboard the Ulysses at Suez for Australia on 3 January and arrived back in Melbourne on 5 February 1916.
Zwar married a nurse, Essy Craig, at Hawthorn on 4 May 1916. They had met at the Melbourne Hospital. Essy joined the Australian Army Nursing Service in October 1914 and also travelled to Egypt aboard the Kyarra. She served with the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, but fell ill with rheumatic fever, then typhoid fever, so was invalided back to Australia. Bernhard and Essy married in a Presbyterian ceremony at her mother’s home, Zwar having been advised that his continuation as a Lutheran was likely to prejudice his status in the community.
Zwar went on to forge a distinguished medical career as both a surgeon and administrator. As well as his private practice, he was honorary surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital from 1919 and honorary consulting surgeon from 1935. He was also a member of the hospital’s management committee from 1925 and president from 1937-45 and won acceptance for and implemented the hospital’s relocation to Parkville. He was a lecturer in surgery at the University of Melbourne from 1924-35, served on its council from 1935 and was deputy chancellor in 1943-44. He filled many other roles with various medical associations and was appointed C.M.G. in 1941.
Zwar died at Malvern on 16 January 1947 aged 60 and was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and only child John, also a doctor. Essy died on 18 December 1961.