An interesting visit to the Beenleigh Historical Village

Today I joined my fellow members of the Redlands Genealogical Society on a tour of this village and it was definitely a walk down memory lane.

It is a heritage village and living history museum dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the Beenleigh region for current and future generations to enjoy. Beenleigh is situated between Brisbane and the Gold Coast & it took me about 45 minutes to drive there this morning. It brought back a lot of memories and was well worth the drive. We began our visit with damper and a cuppa which we had to have inside because of the rain.

There are quite a number of old buildings making up the village and they are well cared for by the amazing team of volunteers. The old Beenleigh railway station is so typical of those of its time and you can find them scattered throughout Queensland.

I especially loved the old one-teacher school. I didn’t attend this one which was moved here from Loganhome but I did attend similar ones in Hivesville and Jimboomba, both small country towns in South East Queensland and my daughters attended one in Branyan, near Bundaberg. Jimboomba is no longer a small country town but is quite a metropolis and The Branyan State School has grown into a much bigger school.

It was fun to slide into the old-style seating, pick up a slate pencil and write on the slate. I think we used slates until grade 3. We checked out the holes in the desks for the inkwells and reminisced about the cheeky boys dipping the girls’ plaits in the ink well. The Queenslanders amongst us could recite the words on the letter chart: b like a bat and ball and b says ‘b’.

I seemed to be the only one who could remember writing out the good manners chart, pictured above, for talking in class but we could all remember getting a smack over the knuckles with a ruler for talking.

This is a ‘Rural School Building’ which was moved from the Beenleigh Primary School. I went to Caboolture Primary School for grades 4 to 8 and we had a Rural School there too. Kids used to come in by bus from all the little schools around. In grade 6, we learnt ‘milk and cream testing’ which involved using pipettes and a centrifuge etc to measure the fat content of the milk and cream. I’m not sure if this was meant to prepare us to work in local dairies or just interest us in science. Looking back, it does seem a bit strange but I did enjoy it. In grades 7 and 8 we learnt cooking and sewing at Rural School and the boys did metalwork and woodwork. I think it was for one afternoon a week. I remember we had to write up our recipes very neatly and find a picture of what we were cooking and it was marked out of 10. I enjoyed the cooking but showed no skill at all with a needle.

This is a page out of one of my books – it’s a bit yellow with age but I still use some of the recipes occasionally. I would have been pleased with the mark of 8.5 out of 10.

This morning there were plenty of ‘I remember doing……’ or ‘Remember that’ moments. We could all remember trying to make a phone call from a public phone box and hearing the operator telling us to press button A to be connected or press button B to get your money back and being frustrated when you ran out of coins. Mobiles make it all so much easier. There’s all sorts of memorabilia. It was fascinating.

So fascinating that I think I’ll take my grandkids there next week in the school holidays. They will enjoy lunch in the Tin Cup Cafe too as we did before coming home.

A new Aussie author that I’ll be following

I’ve just read the third novel by Jane Harper, The Lost Man. Like The Dry this one is set in the Australian outback, this time in South West Queensland rather than Victoria. Life on a cattle station in the outback is a struggle for all. One of the three brothers is found dead of dehydration in the scorching Christmas heat beside an old stock man’s grave and no one understands why he would have left his vehicle with all his food and water to walk ten kilometres to this headstone.

The story delves into the tensions around families at Christmas and how these tensions are magnified by the death. We go back into the past to enable us to understand the present. It was an excellent read, as was The Dry. I didn’t want to put it down.

A pleasant week in Ayr, North Queensland

Last week we flew to Townsville where my daughter picked us to drive us to Ayr where she teaches Japanese. It was Friday night so first we went to the CBar on the Esplanade in Townsville for a Friday night drink. For dinner, we chose to go to A Touch of Salt which turned out to be a great choice. I really enjoyed my sand crab and scallop dumplings although David wasn’t overly impressed with his beef short ribs. Jac had vegan dumplings and they were good too.

Ayr is about an hour south of Townsville usually but, at the moment, roadworks are slowing it down.

Staying in Ayr is very relaxing. It’s a small country town and everything is within walking distance. Everyday we would wander up the street to our favourite coffee shop, Chill, for our caffeine hit. We went to the movies to see Rocket Man which we all enjoyed. I usually manage to find something that takes my fancy in the little boutiques and this time, I found a groovy, bright comfortable pair of pants that were actually made on the Gold Coast.

I visited the Japanese classroom at one of the school and it looks a very inviting environment in which to learn about the language and culture of Japan.

It was a lovely week staying with my daughter and I look forward to returning soon.

Here he lies……….

This is a story about another of our relatives whose WWI story we followed when we were in France last month – Robert WACHMAN, David’s second cousin once removed.

Robert was born in Dublin Ireland in 1894 to Moshe WACHMAN and Seina (Sina Tzia bat Rachel Leah) JACKSON. This gets a bit complicated but Seina’s mother was Rachel Leah Wachman who married Urel Jackson. Rachel is the sister of David’s great grandmother Tsipe Wachman. If you’ve been following my blogs for a while, you’ll remember that this was the massive brick wall I had in trying to discover the link between Moshe and Tsipe. Well, we think there is a double link in that Seina is Moshe’s cousin. Anyway, as I said, that’s complicated. Enough to know that David and Robert WACHMAN are definitely cousins.

Moshe was born in Tels Lithuania in 1865 and Seina in 1871 in Memel (now Klapedia) Lithuanis. Somehow they both arrived in Dublin where they married in 1885 and started their family. Robert had two older brothers also born in Dublin – Abraham (1891) and Simon(1892). The family then migrated to Capetown South Africa where they had four more children – Edward (1899), Harry (1901), Albert (1903) and Saidie (1904).

They then migrated to Australia arriving in Albany Western Australia in May 1905. Ernest was born in Broken Hill on 7 May 1907 and Betty was born in Australia somewhere in 1909.

So, now to Robert, himself. in 1914 at the outbreak of war, he was a traveller, according to his army record. We presume that means what we used to call a “commercial traveller” and we get a further clue from an item in the Melbourne Herald on 28 May 1914 stating that he and his brother, Simon, applied for a patent (No 12757) for a “push coin vending machine”. I am unable to find further information on the success of this patent and I wonder if anything came of it.

He enlisted in the AIF at Blackboy Hill, east of Perth, on 25 November 1915 when he was 21 years 8 months old and living at 258 Newcastle Street Perth Western Australia. On 10 February 1916 he is shown as being a member of the 16th Battalion 15th Reinforcements. Blackboy Hill seems an interesting place. It was the birthplace of the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) in Western Australia and over 32 000 men did their basic training there for about 10 weeks before heading for Egypt or England. Because of the number of casualties on the battlefields, some battalions had up to 27 reinforcements of 100 men in training here, ready to head overseas. Robert was 5ft 7ins (170cm) tall and weighed 158lbs (72kg). He had black hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion and was of the Jewish faith and he noted that he was a British subject. I think this is because his father was naturalised in South Africa when he was still a minor. His next of kin was his mother, Seina who was living at 137 Lake St, Perth.

On 12 February in Freemantle he embarked on the HMAT A28 Miltiades and he shows on the Australian War Memorial Embarkation roll number as 23/35/3. He joined the 14th Battalion 16th reinforcements on 13 February 1916 and he disembarked at Port Suez on 11 March 16. On 14 May 1916 he was allotted to the 12th Training Battalion at Tel-el-Kabir and it was here that he was awarded 28 days punishment on 28 May for refusing duty and insolence to a Non-Commissioned Officer.

He was transferred to the 48th Battalion, part of the 12th Brigade 4th Division, on 2 June 1916, the day that he embarked on HMT Caledonia at Alexandria. He arrived in France at Marseille on 9 June and they went to the Nursery Sector, to an area around Bailleul, a French Flemish town close to the border with Belgium. The Nursery Sector was so named because it was supposed to be relatively quiet and an area where units new to the Western Front could be sent to get ready for trench warfare. Whilst here they visited the front line trenches at Houplines. In July they were under heavy shelling form the Germans in the Fleurbaix area and were moved by train from Bailleux to Doullens, about 100km south in the Somme.

In July 1916 there was intense fighting around Pozières in an attempt to capture Old German Lines (OGL) 1 & 2. By August 6 and after 10 days of fighting, the Australian 2nd Division had lost 6848 officers and men and it was replaced by the Australian 4th Division which included the 48th Battalion and Robert Wachman. On 8 August, they captured OG1 & OG2 but suffered heavy casualties with 102 killed, 404 wounded and 76 missing in action (MIA). Many were shell shocked and the battalion numbers were very low. They were moved to Albert on 16 August and marched to Warloy Baillon and then back to Albert but by the end of the month they were back near Pozières attacking Mouquet Farm.

On 2 September they were moved back to Albert and from there travelled to Belgium where they had huts and tents, were able to wash and change their socks. What a relief that must have been! They had a church parade – I wonder if there was a Rabbi amongst the chaplains? In October they were at Vierstraat in Belgium at the front but were not in the action. They were billeted in Boeschepe and then moved to Villers sous Ailly where they were also billeted. They were cleaning up the streets and here they were able to attend a concert which was held in a barn.

November saw them moved from Villers sous Ailly to Berthencourt where they were billeted and underwent training and then moved to Vaux which was a good area where they underwent training and even played football. They were then moved to Dernancourt where the billets were poor and extremely dirty. They were cold and wet. Then they moved to Fricourt and then to Switch Trench at Flers which was a very bad area where they dug trenches in the mud and water. They saw action at Flers and here conditions were so bad it was not possible to give the men a hot meal whilst in the firing line. Rain was torrential and the mud was up to the men’s knees. This was the start of the worst European winter for 40 years. To move from rear camps up to the front line with full pack on, the men could take 6 hours to cover the 3 kms so bad was the weather and the mud. Sleep was impossible in the trenches and men could have to remain standing for the full 24 hours as they couldn’t lie in the mud.

The 48th then moved back to Mametz in the mud over bad roads. In December they were in Dernancourt where they were visited by General Birdwood, the British Officer who was in command of the Australian and New Zealand Forces at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. The Battalion was moved to Flesselles and then to Vigancourt and in both places were billeted.

On New Years Day 1917, the Brigade held a sports day and the 48th was the successful battalion winning most events. On 2 January, they marched to Franvillers, a distance of 14 miles in full kit in 6.5 hours. The official war diary states that the men marched well – no one fell out. On 3 January, they marched from Franvillers to Dernancourt in 3.5 hours and again, no man fell out. On the 5th they marched for three hours to Fricourt along roads that were very difficult to march on and again no one fell out. Here they were joined by the 25th reinforcements. On this day, Robert Wachman is promoted to Corporal (Temporary). On the 6th, they marched to Bazentin, back near Flers, and took up lines near Gueudecourt. They moved forward then to support the lines at Bulls Road.

The war diary for the 8th is very interesting to read. All cooking was done in Flers and carrying parties carried the two meals per day to the men in the trenches. This took 3 hours each way each meal. The men were also given hot soup at 3am. Their wet socks were sent back daily and dry ones provided. On the 9th, an easier route was found for the carrying parties and the return trip took only 2.5 hrs. There was heavy artillery fire from the German lines.

On the 10th, it appears that there was debate about how the meals should be delivered efficiently but there is conviction that without hot food helping to keep the men warm and fed, they would not be efficient. Army rations would not be enough. On the 12th enemy artillery fire is heavy and three men are killed – one is buried for 7 hours under debris. Some men are suffering from trench feet with the extreme cold even with the dry socks.

By January 12, the problem with trench feet had become worse with two men evacuated. The other sufferers go to the Battalion Rest Station where the Medical Officer is pleased with the results of a new powder they have been issued with. The porters carrying supplies leave at 5pm and finish their second trip about 5am as it all has to happen under the cover of darkness. Three men are evacuated with mumps. The 15th saw heavy shelling and headquarters was hit and a store containing gum boots was blown up. After 10 days at the front, the 48th was relieved by the 47th at 7:45pm. The men moved to Brisbane Camp and there was a heavy fall of snow.

On January 19, fatigues arrived and all men had a bath and a clean set of clothes. All rifles were cleaned and inspected. I can’t begin to imagine how good that must have felt. I imagine it took a lot of soaking and scrubbing to remove the mud from their poor tired bodies.

On 24th they moved into Bazentin Camp where it was still very cold and the snow was still on the ground. The men worked on the roads and the rail tracks. The diary of the 31st states that the Australians are not used to the extreme cold and they need sufficient fuel to allow them to have a stove to keep them warm and get them ready for their next tour of duty. The lack of sufficient food and heating is not good.

In February, the 48th continued with the railway work and moved to the Albury Camp, to the Flers Sector and then to Bulls Trench and back to Mametz.

During March the weather was still extremely cold and the men were busy cleaning arms and equipment and training. They were wet and cold. On March 17, Robert Wachman was promoted to Corporal.

On 1 April, they marched 6 miles into to an area near Bapaume with full pack and one blanket. It was wet and cold. The men then worked on fatigues. The officers undertook some training on the 5th and then inspected the frontlines at Bullecourt and Noreuil on the 6th. They arranged to relieve the 52nd and did so on the 8th. The next day was quiet and some patrols went out into enemy wire at Bullecourt and discovered that the barbed wire was strong. Bullecourt was part of the German’s defence lines known as the Hindenburg Line and the Allies wanted to break through thi s line

On April 10, the 46th and 48th Battalion were ordered to attack enemy lines on a frontage of 600 yards. The battalions were to be in position to attack in conjunction with the tanks at 4:30am. There was to be no artillery fire so as to surprise the Germans. But the tanks failed to appear and orders to retire were given at 5:30. This had to happen in daylight in full view of the enemy. There was a barrage of enemy fire and five men were killed and 17 wounded.

The attack on Bullecourt did take place on April 11. It was timed to occur at 4:20 but the tanks were late and slow at moving forward so the 48th couldn’t attack until 6:19. This meant that the men were exposed to heavy rifle and machine gun fire and the battalion suffered heavy losses – 14 Officers and 421 men. They breached the enemy position and held it for 70 minutes despite the withdrawal of the other battalions on their flanks. They retired in an orderly manner but were unable to collect the wounded and the dead. A very sad day for Australia.

Sadly, Corporal Robert Wachman was one left behind. He was reported Missing in Action (MIA) on 11 April 1917. He was one of the 3000 casualties of that battle. Another 1170 men were taken prisoner.

The field at Bullecourt where it is thought that Robert’s body lies.

His brother Simon who was in the Transport Section of the 44th Battalion was making enquiries in July 1917 to try to find out what happened to his brother.

His mother, Seina, was his next of kin and on 23 January 1918 she wrote to the army requesting information on Robert’s whereabouts as she had been informed that he was MIA. She received an answer on 30 January saying that there was no further information.

It wasn’t until the 8 March 1918 that Simon received notification that Robert had been killed on 11 April. The Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files contain a statement by Second Lieutenant Brockelberg that Corporal Wachman was badly hit and subsequently died at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917. It’s awful to think of those men lying wounded in that dreadful field and being left behind as their mates retreated.

His effects were returned to his mother on 21 February 1918. All she received were some letters and a book of views (postcards maybe?). She received a pension of 30 shillings per fortnight.

A memorial to the Bullecourt Digger
A digger wearing full pack at the Bullecourt Memorial

He was entitled to two medals: the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and although Seina was his next of kin, his medals were sent to his father, Moshe, on 23 January 1923 as that was the law at that time.

Robert’s name on the Australian War Memorial at Villers Bretonneux. Myriam of Walkabout Digger Tours and David Edelman are pointing to his name during our visit in April 2019.

Visiting the battlefields and war cemeteries of the Somme and learning the stories of those brave men who suffered so much in the mud and the cold under enemy fire is heartbreaking. The noise must have been deafening, the smell horrible, their homesickness overwhelming, the mud suffocating, the cold and wet intolerable….. How did they do it?

I wonder what Robert would have achieved if he had made it home? Would his patent for a push coin vending machine have been developed? What else would he have patented?

If you think about all the young men and women killed in wars and you ponder what they collectively could have achieved, it really is mind-blowing. What a waste!

Frank Couch, The Titanic and Southhampton’l

My maternal great grandparents migrated from Port Isaac in Cornwall (Port Wen of Doc Martin fame) to Melbourne Australia in 1862. Elizabeth Couch and Isaac Hawker had just newly married and had a baby son when they boarded The Accrington. They had worked as farm labourers at Roscarrock farm but all the males in Elizabeth’s family were fishermen, mariners or master mariners.

Elizabeth’s father was Francis Couch and her brother, Francis had a son, Frank Couch, making Frank my first cousin three times removed. Sorry, that became a little complicated. Anyhow, I claim him. He was born in 1884 but he died in 1912. That’s right. He was Able Seaman Couch which means he was an experienced sailor, as you would expect growing up in Port Isaac with his background, and he was in a lifeboat of The Titanic. The lifeboat sank, he died and is buried in Halifax, Canada.

Hence I’m interested in all things Titanic.

In Southampton, there is a both a park and a museum dedicated to The Titanic.

David didn’t want to explore and I thought the museum would be closed on Good Friday. We even had breakfast in the hotel because we thought everything would be closed. Anyway, I asked at the desk where the park was and the guy sent me off around the corner and up the main road. I don’t know if I misunderstood his accent or what but I ended up walking through a footpath of weeds which included nettles trying to grab me.

A couple of ladies who were at reception had said to head for the old church tower so I retraced my steps and headed for the tower. Thankfully it was at the museum.

To my surprise, Sea City Museum was open so in I went. I found Frank’s name on the list of crew. I had a quick walk through and took a heap of photos. (We are currently moored off St Peter’s Port and the internet is weak at the moment so I can’t seem to load photos. I’ll post them later.)

I then wandered through the old town which was lovely. All the shops were open and it was market day. With four ships in port, I guess they couldn’t afford not to open. I mislaid myself at that stage but eventually found David at the Ibis

Then we checked out and caught an Uber to the Gate 10 where we boarded the Oceania Marina, our favourite ship for our fourteen night cruise to Barcelona.

We’ve had a lovely first night – great dinner & a very enjoyable performance by one of the ship’s entertainers singing and dancing to some of the tunes from musical movies.

Shortly we will ride the tender across to explore St Peter’s Port. I’m looking forward to it.

The secrets of The Marais, the old Jewish Quarter

We’ve wandered the old Jewish quarters of quite a few European cities and we always find them interesting. Today we did a walking tour with a young man named Emmanuel who grew up in a Jewish Family but is not a practicing Jew. His grandparents managed to escape Paris to America in 1942 because he was a physicist. Emanuel is a film maker & photographer and he personalised the tour by talking about specific people. It was very interesting.

Firstly we noticed the beautiful cakes in the window of the shop where we met. There a family from San Francisco joined us for the tour. We returned to this shop at the end of the tour to catch our metro but, of course, we took home some goodies to have with our cup of tea when we got home.

There are many beautiful old buildings in this area. Originally Dukes & wealthy people lived in them but during the revolution many escaped or were killed, leaving their homes empty and they became neglected and dilapidated making them cheap to rent. Jews migrating from Eastern Europe came to France as it had a policy of freedom of religion and they took up residence here.

The plaque above is a Memorial to the family who lived in this house in 1942 but were deported and exterminated because they were Jewish.

We were permitted to enter this synagogue which was used by Jewish people during World War II when they were not allowed to worship under the Occupation of the Nazis. It was a secret synagogue and is still used today. A young man was there studying the Torah.

It was lunch time and there were long queues at some shops which all sold kosher food.

During the occupation this was a Jewish school but the students were not taught any traditional Jewish learnings. One of the teachers was Joseph Migneret who assisted 252 of his pupils to escape from the Nazis and this plaque honours him. I think that number is right but I could be wrong.

The street below had its name changed to honour non Jewish French citizens who assisted Jews to escape the Holocaust and did this without any prospect of payment. As you can see there are many names on the wall of the street which honours them. It is the Street of The Just.

Emmanuel had planned to finish the tour at Notre Dame but all the streets are closed off. I imagine this is to allow investigation of the fire and to begin the clean up and rescue of whatever can be saved. David and I went as close as we could to get the following photo

And I’m very happy to report that I found a very delicious, traditional onion soup and now I feel we can leave Paris happy tomorrow. We’ve been to Giverny to see those spectacular gardens of Monet. We’ve seen his wonderful work in Musée de L’Orangerie and his work as well as that of the other impressionists in the Museé D’Orsay and at the Foundation Louis Vuitton. We’ve had our incredible day in the Somme with Myriam discovering the story of our family members who fought in WWI.

We’ve bought and eaten delicious food from the markets and restaurants. We’ve wandered some interesting streets and laneways. We’ve loved our cute little apartment and tomorrow it is time to move on. Will we ever return to Paris? Who knows. But I can tell you that I love Paris in the Spring time – in fact anytime!

Early morning musings

It’s so exciting to be in this beautiful old city of Paris. I look out the window & see an old skyline, not high rise just a series of different shaped ups and downs.

It’s 5am and I’ve been awake for two hours. It seems we can’t stay awake past 8:30pm which, of course, means I wake at 3 having had a really good sleep. David sleeps on. We must stay up one night until the sun sets so that we can brave the cold and go down to the street around the corner to watch the Eiffel Tour put on a show on the hour as it does every night. My almost four year old granddaughter told me yesterday that Peppa Pig went to The Eiffel Tour so I do need to send her some pictures of it, I think.

That does however mean braving the cold. This Queensland girl is not used to the cold and I don’t enjoy it much but it is manageable if I have the right gear. There I have a problem at the moment. I did some of my packing in a stressed state so I have come away with an unmatched pair of boots so, alas, they are unwearable. My joggers will have to do. The zipper on my trusty bubble coat won’t work either. Oh no! How will I manage? I was lucky though as a stall at the markets was selling bubble coats so I have a very nice new one.

When Jac shared her love of the Museé D’Orsay and Museé de l’Orangerie with us in 2013, I loved it too. And I’m very excited because we are returning to them today. I’m really looking forward to sitting on a stool at L’Orangerie and just gazing at those water lilies. Hope it’s not too busy.

I could wax lyrical about the sweetness of the strawberries and cherry tomatoes here. We think they are so much sweeter than at home. I don’t think I’m imagining it. Have a look at them. The cherry tomato bowl was full initially but I’ve been eating them like lollies. And what about this fruit loaf? Yum! French bread is amazing.

So now David has woken up so it’s time to get stuck into that yummy food.