from merchant seaman to prisoner of war: Karl Krummel

K Krummel - release from POW camp

Sometimes you find stories that never saw the light of day in family conversations.  When I fell across this article referring to Karl Krummel in the Courier Mail of 3 September 1945, it begged many questions.

The late Roger Mansell told the story of the SS Regensburg which transported survivors of the sinking of the Kirkpool and the Nankin (on which Karl Krummel was second engineer). Several ship transfers later, they found themselves in a civilian internment camp in Fukushima where they spent the next three years of their lives.

Thor sighted Kirkpool on afternoon of April 10th in poor visibility and tracked the vessel until near dark when she closed to track again using her early version radar. She closed range until 2007 hrs at 2,420 yards range torpedo launched, for a miss, and gunfire opened up. Of four shells fired in second salvo, three struck the Kirkpool. Thor ceased fire at 2011 hrs with the steamer on fire. The Kirkpool turned to ram or maybe lost steering control and gunfire was resumed for another minute. Thor stuck around for three hours searching for survivors. The 17 survivors (out of 46 crew) were picked up from the sea. Thor later transferred the survivors to the SS Regensburg. This ship already held POWs from the sinking of the Nankin, (who were also held in Fukushima camp).They were moved again, this time to the SS Dresden, a merchant ship bound for Japan, and then finally transferred to SS Ramses.

They were handed into Japanese custody by the German authorities on the 10th of July 1942 on board the SS Ramses in Yokohama harbour. On the night of the 10th /11th July 1942 they were taken north by train to the town of Fukushima and reached their destination, a Roman Catholic Convent on the outskirts of town which had been turned into a Civilian Internment Camp. There, the civilians were placed in the charge of a special branch of the local police force. One death and one birth were reported shortly after arrival.

We are fortunate to have access to the personal accounts of experience of the Nankin sinking and life in the Internment Camp by Cecil Saunders and Malcolm Ingleby Scott. This aerial photograph of the camp comes from Scott’s article.

photo_fukushima

Lost at SeaIn addition to the personal accounts, I found the book Lost at Sea – Found at Fukushima written by Andy Millar whose father was in the camp.

Here’s an excerpt from what looks to be an excellent way to steep yourself into the lives of David Millar, Karl Krummel and others during those difficult three years for them.

Andy Millar - excerpt Lost at Sea


Balmain businesses 1902

365 Darling Road, Balmain - W J Laws

From The Australian Town and Country Journal of 10 December 1902 comes this item in a special edition of businesses in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney.

My suspicion is that it was a promotional feature which may have involved payment for the placement of what were, in reality, advertisements.

Disclosure:  W J Laws was my great-grandfather who went on to become the Mayor of Balmain in 1907-1908.

W J LAWS

The most imposing block of buildings in Balmain, without doubt, is that which comprises the Town Hall and Post Office, situated, as it is, in the centre of the suburb’s main thoroughfare, and upon an eminence which renders it visible from almost any part of the city, and even of the more distant suburbs. Right opposite the Town Hall, and within a yard or two of the tram stopping place, are the premises of Mr. W. J. Laws, auctioneer, valuer, and property agent.

In such a thriving district there is a lot of business requiring the attention of an expert real estate agent, while a lot of property owners have interests which they must of necessity employ someone else to look after. Of this business and these interests a very large proportion are in the hands of Mr. Laws, who has a local standing of very nearly 18 years, during which period he has not only gained a most intimate knowledge of local properties, but has established a reputation for business aptitude and integrity. Some three years ago Mr. Laws took over the business of Messr. J. Garrard and Company.

Since he first started in the business of real estate agency Mr. Laws has probably had the bulk of the property in Balmain in hand, and his acquaintance with local values is, therefore, of such a character that his advice may be regarded as practically infallible. The fact that he has lived in Balmain, too, since he was but a few weeks old is an advantage in a business requiring judgment as to the relative prospect of advancement as between different localities. He is at the present time a member of the borough council, and he has had, too, a wide experience in local municipal valuation. The list of properties passing through Mr. Laws’ hands is such that it is safe to say that anybody, no matter what class of house was required, could be accommodated almost immediately. Once in each month, or at any time, by arrangement, Mr. Laws holds land and property sales at auction. As an adjunct to his business he conducts the local agency of the United Insurance Company.


first steps in researching family military service records

My paternal grandfather and maternal great-uncle both served in the First World War.  An increasing amount of source material is now readily available to begin to understand some of the experiences of soldiers at war.  Some links to those sources are provided here to assist new researchers to discover their own family stories.

Alfred Buckler

George Elliott 1889-1917

George Elliott

The National Archives of Australia holds the personal service records of Australians at war.  Many of those records are digitised and available for download.   This mine of information can include movements from country to country, training, periods of leave, wounds suffered, hospitalisation periods, promotions and letters from family members particular to the soldier’s service.

The personal service record of a soldier only includes so much information as to specific whereabouts.  However, knowledge of the Division in which someone served can lead you to the battles and incidents of the war your ancestor may have experienced.

Alfred Buckler’s service record includes details of the Military Cross he was awarded.

Once you’ve got some clues, you can take your research to another level.

Charles Edwin Woodrow (C E W) Bean, compiled the multi-volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918.   The military sections of old and new book stores provide indexes to scour.  I found the following reference to A J Buckler in Volume VI (The AIF in France: May 1918 to The Armistice) of Bean’s magnum opus.  It relates to the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918.

Engineers of the 4th Field Company with specially trained platoons from the infantry constructed strong points in that alignment. Footnote 77. The 4th Brigade was to have dug three of these points; but the allotted platoon of the 15th Bn apparently became involved in the heavy fighting at Pear Trench, where Lt E S Davidson (Neutral Bay NSW), the engineer officer detailed to direct the digging of the northern post, was killed.  After his NCO had been wounded, a sapper R A Miller (Sydney) helped with the fortification of the front line.  Lts R S Carrick (Sydney) and A J Buckler (Sydney) duly saw to the completion of the other two positions.”

My mother’s uncle George Elliott was 28 years old and serving as a stretcher bearer when he found himself right in the thick of the Battle of Messines.  The long planned assault on the ridge in the early hours of 7 June 1917 saw 19 huge mines detonated within 20 seconds.  The blast was so loud that it was heard across the English Channel and in Ireland.

According to Robert Likeman’s Men of the Ninth – a History of the Ninth Australian Field Ambulance 1916-1994, ambulance bearers encountered heavy shell-fire on the first day.  George  suffered gun shot wounds to his neck and both knees and succumbed to those wounds on 8 June.

The Australian War Memorial now has Red Cross records available on its Biographical Database.  This note in George’s Red Cross file demonstrates the work of the Red Cross in following up details for the grieving families.

Details of his grave in Pont D’Achelle are also available at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.

Service records provide all sorts of interesting information.  I won’t go into the details here, but this link hints at the reason for other medical treatment George received before his death.  Frankly, if I’d been him …..

If you’re browsing for your own interest, have a look too at The National Library’s Trove : Australian Newspapers 1803-1954 – a source of news of battles, awards and, sadly, family notices of loss.


every picture tells a story

Middle aged woman - gravesiteOften when you come across old photographs, it’s difficult to find any detail to add to an understanding of the subject matter.  In this out-of-copyright photograph (a glass negative) via The State Library of Victoria (ca 1888-1894), the gravestone inscription provides some clues.  The young man, Mark Marston, was almost 19 years old when he died from the effects of a snake bite.

It didn’t take much sleuthing in Trove’s Digital Newspaper collection to find a number of reports echoing the news of this sad event in the Sunbury district in Victoria.  Here’s one of those as noted by The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser of 18 March 1880.

Mark Marston - report of his death by snakebite

The photographic record describes “a middle-aged woman standing beside headstone and grave, iron fence surrounding headstone and fairly well-established garden”. One might surmise that this woman is his mother. A search of Ancestry.com provided the following information.

Frederick MarstonMark’s parents (Thomas and Elizabeth Marston (nee Beeson) emigrated from Lincolnshire shortly after their marriage.  They had six children, the eldest of whom was a daughter who died in the first year of her life. At the time this photograph was taken, Elizabeth would have been in her mid-late fifties.

Mark was not the only son who pre-deceased Elizabeth and Thomas.  Another son Frederick (a railway worker) died at the age of 31.  The Argus of 30 September 1893 reported this inquiry into his accidental death.