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


Christmas greeting card from a soldier to his wife

On 25 October 1916, Sapper T O’Halloran 2711 sent this card from France to his wife in Castlemaine in Victoria, no doubt hoping that two months was sufficient time for military and ordinary postal systems to ensure it arrived before Christmas Day. The item is out of copyright and was a gift to the State Library of Victoria from Misses Josie and Molly O’Halloran in 1976.

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embroidered postcards from a place of war

Here are two stories of correspondence between soldiers and home. One of a father reporting receipt of a letter and “two of the most beautiful postcards [one with] silk embroidered pansies and other flowers hand embroidered on muslin”.  The other is a postcard sent as a thank you note for tobacco sent from a comforts fund in South Australia.

Via The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate – 31 July 1917 and The Bunyip (Gawler SA) – 1 November 1918 respectively.

Jack Sillar - postcardE A Fox - postcard from France

The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has a collection of the French cards that you can view here.

WWI embroidered postcard

Nearly 100 years ago, this postcard was embroidered and then purchased by a soldier to send home to loved ones.  Stretcher bearer George Elliott mailed it to his parents.  He was killed at Messines Ridge in France in 1917.


writing to prisoners of war – WWII

From The Albany Advertiser of 10 July 1941, advice for loved ones regarding communication with prisoners of war.  The information in this article uses all of the information required on a B.33 Red Cross leaflet to be sure (as much as was possible) that the soldier received mail from home.  The image of the B.33 leaflet comes via this site about Signaller Frank Larkin curated by his son John Larkin.

POW correspondence 1 POW correspondence 2

B33 leaflet - Larkin POW


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.


library and museum blogs – finds worth the browse

Trove Australia provides access to thousands of articles, pictures, photographs, book references, maps, diaries and more.  The digitised newspaper collection was the inspiration for establishing this blog.

If you ever doubted the value of libraries (and I sincerely hope that none of this blog’s readers fall into this category), take a stroll through the internet for the wealth of material that gets shared via the blogs of libraries, museums and galleries across Australia.

A  quick browse this morning unearthed these treasure troves.

Who were the first retailers in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane?    The John Oxley Library blog.

McWhirters-300x222

What was the first state funeral ever held in Australia?    State Library of Victoria – Such Was Life blog.

Burke-and-Wills-funeral-procession

Why a duck, Michael Leunig?    State Library of Victoria – Arts blog.

Leunig-300x272

What was the meaning of embroidered floral postcards sent back from the front in World War I?   Australian War Memorial blog.

Australian War Memorial RC06231

What sort of toys did children play with in the 1940s in country Australia? – Powerhouse Museum, Sydney – Inside the Collection blog.

dolls-house-overall.-small-450x360


recording history – Septimus Power

This photograph of the artist H S Power (Septimus Power) appeared in the Canberra Times on 13 May 1927.

The major piece of work that Power painted in relation to the opening of Parliament House was entitled – The Arrival of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and. Duchess of York at the Opening of Federal Parliament House Building, Canberra 9 May 1927.

Power’s work as a war artist is perhaps more well known. He is among many artists featured on the Australian War Memorial site. Bringing Up the Guns is featured here and courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.