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!

Fifth cousins on the Wachman line

Today was fun! When you meet up with a family member that you’ve found through your family history research it is a wonderful feeling.

We have spent the day with Lisa who we found through Ancestry DNA & we have worked out that David & Lisa are fifth cousins descended from Wachmans in Lithuania 🇱🇹. Apparently she takes after her Mum butte we could see a definite resemblance between David, his Dad & Stefan in the photos of Lisa’s male ancestors.

Lisa lives with her husband & 3 kids in Redwood City about 30 minutes from San Francisco. She is a published author of fiction & I can’t wait to read her books. She also teaches writing. She writes under the name Elizabeth Percer. She is lovely & we got along really well & shared family tales & information. Her father has written an amazing book of their family for the family & I wished we had time to read it from cover to cover.

Lisa took us to a great Greek restaurant, Kokkari, in the financial district & we really enjoyed the food & the company. Hopefully she will come to Brisbane some time soon.

Our legs had a rest today & were very thankful for it. We were planning on boarding our ship at midday tomorrow but we’ve been notified that it was diverted out to see by U.S. naval exercises & so won’t dock until 2pm which is a bit disappointing. We are quite ready to be spoilt after all the walking we have done. We will enjoy playing in SF for one more day. We’ve really loved our time here.

Edelman and Wachman Family Mystery

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 4.48.47 pmThe WACHMAN FAMILIES

Three Lithuanian Jewish families – obviously connected but how?

It’s a mystery I’ve been pondering for a while & I’d just love to find the missing links. Perhaps you can help me?

Let me tell you about them – I know that two of the families are connected to my husband, David EDELMAN. The first is descended from his great grandmother, Tsipe WACHMAN, or as she became known in Australia, Sophia EDELMAN and this is his direct family line.

The second I found through David’s Ancestry DNA test. This revealed a link to Liza Percer showing a moderate link of being a 5th to 8th cousin. Liza lives near San Francisco in the USA and we are really looking forward to meeting her and her family next May when we visit there.

Photos show that there is a definite family resemblance between Sophia and Shmuel WACHMAN, Liza’s grandfather.

We have found mentions in both of their histories to Resenai, Lithuania although finding information is very difficult. A couple of years ago we hired a researcher in Riga to see what he could find of the EDELMAN and WACHMAN families in Latvia/ Lithuania and the only record he could find was an 1879 census record which could be Louis and Tsipe living in Resenai in Krazia.

Shmuel WACHMAN left Lithuania for Jerusalem in the 1920s, when he was a young man (we’re not sure of his exact birth year, but think it was around 1900). He met his future wife, Shayna SAKS there, and they married and had all their children there. In 1939, Shmuel took the oldest, Yehuda, to New York, and Liza’s grandmother followed about eighteen months later with their other three children: Moshe, Amnon and his twin sister, Dahlia.

Liza’s grandfather’s parents were Moshe WACHMAN and Miriam KANTZIPOVITZ. Moshe was a teacher (melamed) and his father was either Zorach Yehiel WACHMAN or BUCHMAN. Liza is not sure about the surname as her grandfather said he could remember going to a house with the name “BUCHMAN’ on it – another mystery.

They had five other children besides Shmuel. Elhanan WACHMAN, who married Hantza GLICK and lived in Israel; Hannah who married Yankel YANKELOV and perished in the Holocaust; Ahuva who married Moshe KURTZWEIL and lived in Israel; Lina who married Shmuel Svirski ZAHL and perished in the Holocaust; and Sarah, who married Michael HIRSHIN and lived in Israel.

Records tell us that Tsipe WACHMAN (David’s great grandmother) was born around 1851 in Memel Germany, the daughter of Sarah and Samuel. She married Louis EDELMAN (Leib) (1845 – 1905) in Viekšniai Lithuania around 1873.

Together they had six children: Eliot Zawell (Edward George) (1875 – 1958), Albert (Aaron) (1878 – 1941), Harry (1879 – 1952), Roy (1883 – 1962), Annie (1887 – 1978) and Woolf (William) (1887 – 1929).

Louis migrated to Australia, arriving, we think, on the CUZCO in 1889 with his two eldest sons, Edward and Albert. Shortly after in 1890 Tsipe came with the rest of the children and they settled firstly in South Australia before moving to Broken Hill in New South Wales. There they became pillars of the Jewish community and Albert was very involved in the establishment of the synagogue in 1910.

Albert and his family moved between Broken Hill and Adelaide but Tsipe’s other children moved to Perth, the capital of Western Australia around 1910 and there they built their lives. Here I can find them interacting with the other Australian WACHMAN family that I am investigating.

The head of this, the third WACHMAN family is Moshe (or Morris or Moses) WACHMAN and his wife is Seina (Seine or Jane) JACKSON. Seina, the daughter of Rachel Leah, was born in Russia around 1871 and Moshe, the child of Avraham, was born in 1865 also in Russia. Somehow they both arrived in Ireland (I’m not sure how) where they were married in Dublin in 1885. I believe there was quite a community of Jews in Dublin at that time. They had three children in Ireland (Abraham, Daniel and Robert) and then migrated to South Africa. Edward Issy, Harry and Saidie Reva were born in Capetown.

I cannot find when Moshe migrated to Australia but come, he did. Seina and the children came on the Afric arriving in South Australia from Capetown in 1905. Also on the ship were her mother, her brother, Harry JACKSON, and other members of the Jackson family. I don’t know where they were between 1905 and 1907 but their son Ernest was born in Broken Hill, New South Wales on 7 May 1907. Betty (Beatrice) was born sometime before 1910 in South Australia.

By 1916, the family are settled in Perth, Western Australia and Moshe lived there until Seina died on 8 March 1927. Sometime later he moved to St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne Victoria Australia where he died on 23 September 1937 and was buried on 24 September in the Jewish section of Fawkner Cemetery in Melbourne.

The fact that they spent time in Broken Hill where Louis and Tsipe had settled seems to suggest that Mores and Tsipe were closely related. Were they siblings or cousins perhaps? Tsipe had died in 1903 but Louis and the children would still have given them a family connection, very important to the Jewish people looking to find a place to settle.

In Perth, Moshe and his family lived in Mt Lawley, the same suburb where Edward George EDELMAN and his family were living. Digitalised records of Australian newspapers at provide information showing the WACHMAN and EDELMAN families attending each other weddings, playing cricket together and generally being part of each other’s lives.

I have been unable to find any living Australian descendants of Moshe and Seina even calling the WACHMANS listed in the white pages. So what happened to his children and are there any living descendants?

Abraham married Nellie Elizabeth Eddington LAWSON in 1917 in Sydney, New South Wales. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force early in 1918 but by 1923 was living in Bondi, New South Wales and then in 1926 we find them in St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne. Their son, Ronald John WACHMAN, was born in Bega, New South Wales on 28 November 1917 and their daughter Shirley Joy was born in Mt Lawley Western Australia on 28 January 1928. Abraham died on 20 September 1950 in Bondi and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery, Rookwood, New South Wales. Ronald John WACHMAN married Noleen Dallas PATERSON and lived in various suburbs of Sydney. He died on 23 June 2001.

Robert WACHMAN served in World War I in the 48th Australian Infantry Battalion and was killed in action on 11 April 1917 in France. He is buried at Villers-Bretonneux.

Simon Daniel WACHMAN joined the 44th Battalion Australian Imperial Forces in January 1916 when he was living in Perth Western Australia. Sometime later he moved to St Kilda, Victoria and he died in Caulfield, a neighbouring suburb of Melbourne on 12 November 1955.

Edward WACHMAN married Deborah JONA in the Perth Synagogue on 15 June 1927. He died in Perth and was buried at the Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth on 16 Oct 1959. I can find no record of any children.

Harry WACHMAN married Mina Elezabeth STEVENSON in Waverley New South Wales in 1941. He died on 9 August 1955 in St Kilda Melbourne and was buried on 10 August that year. Again, I can find no record of any children.

Saidie Reva WACHMAN married Leon Arie WHITE in the Synagogue in Perth on 21 October 1926 and they had one daughter, Robin Joy who was born in 1929. Saidie died, aged 28, on 23 August 1932 in Fairfield Victoria and is buried in the Fawkner Cemetery.

About Betty or Beatrice WACHMAN I have very little information except that she went to South Africa as she is mentioned as living there in Simon’s death notice in the paper.

Ernest WACHMAN seems to have lived mainly in Victoria but he did return to Freemantle Western Australia at one stage. He married Nancy Winifred (surname unknown) and they were living together at various Melbourne addresses from 1949 onwards as per the electoral rolls but I cannot find any record of a marriage or children. He served in the military during World War II, signing on in Ripponlea Victoria and he died in 1981 at Sandford Victoria. He was buried at the Springvale Necropolis in Melbourne on 2 November 1981. The inscription on his grave is: “Husband of Win”

So, do any of the descendants of Louis and Tsipe EDELMAN know these WACHMANS? Can I find them and can they give us any leads?

Edward George EDELMAN married Bessie Leah Judolowitch SMITH in Adelaide on 28 April 1903 as George Elliot EDELMAN. On his migration papers he was Eliot Zawell EDELMAN. So many name changes they all had! They moved to Perth around 1910. They had five children: Samuel (1904 – 1969), Louis (1906 – 1965), Harry Jacob (1914 -), Joseph Robert (1920 – 1999) and Elka EDELMAN who married Frederick David BOOK in the Synagogue at Mt Lawley Western Australia on 9 August 1933.

My husband, David, descends from Albert EDELMAN who married Sarah Gordon (daughter of Louis Gordon and Gnesa Krantz) in Broken Hill in 1909. I’m pretty sure that none of Albert’s descendants have any information for me that will help and I’m also sure that the best leads will be from the Perth side of the family.

Roy EDELMAN was never married and had no children as far as I know.

Woolf married Lily Silverman in Perth on 3 May 1923. From other Ancestry trees I can see that they had a daughter, Shirley who married Jack Macklin and together they had two children Janice & William.

Harry EDELMAN married Rachel Gild in Adelaide South Australia on 3 March 1909 and they had two children: Leah who was born in 1910 in New South Wales and Naomi who was born in Broken Hill New South Wales in 1911. I have made contact with Brad EDELMAN who tells me that Harry has a son Peter EDELMAN. I have been unable to make contact with Peter.

Annie EDELMAN married Marcus FELDMAN in Broken Hill in 1910 and they had two children Zipah and Simon Ferdinand. She died on 2 June 1975 in Perth Western Australia. Simon married Ida Gruzinsky in 1941 in Perth Western Australia and they had two sons: Marcus William born 14 November 1942 and David born 18 November 1943.

Brad EDELMAN is the son of Joseph EDELMAN, another of the sons of Edward George EDELMAN, I am in contact with Brad but he knows nothing of the WACHMAN family either.

To add to the mystery, EDELMAN family anecdotes tell us that Louis EDELMAN had a “reisenbillet”, a special ticket that enabled him to travel between Russia and Ireland as a trader, taking horses to Ireland and returning to Russia with crystal. Could this be true? I can find absolutely nothing that substantiates it but it is interesting, to be sure, to be sure! Another story says that an EDELMAN had to flee from Ireland because he murdered his wife or a barmaid? Again, I can find no proof. All these Irish connections are fascinating though. Louis’ father was Jacob and his mother was Clara JOHNSTON. What could be the Jewish name from which JOHNSTON has originated? Was Clara from Ireland?

So these are my WACHMAN families, descending from Tsipe and two Moshe. Are these links just a series of coincidences or is this one family reunited half way around the world from where they started? I really think it is but I am unable to prove it.

Any ideas?

If you do have any information, clues or suggestions for me, please contact me at