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Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
What can we learn about Walter Leslie Schwarz's childhood from historic births, deaths and marriage registrations in Queensland; historic Australian newspapers via the National Library's Trove; and the legwork of researchers such as Ken Anderson - who have viewed a multitude of records in a several countries and summarised their findings in biographical formats? Let's find out! FAMILY: 1. He was evidently a child of German heritage. Walter Leslie Schwarz was born in 1896, and raised in the Queensland town of Toowoomba. According to Anderson, the pre-war Toowoomba of Walter's childhood was home to a sizable German community who actively maintained their German identity through a number of activities. Including the public celebration of German festivals. Both sides of Walter's family included grandparents who had migrated from German-held territory to Australia, and whilst the German "schwarz" can be translated into English as "black", Walter's parents clearly chose not to do this on their children's birth registrations. Thus it is likely that Walter grew up with a strong sense of his German lineage. (See also "German experience in Australia during WW1 damaged road to multiculturalism" Gerhard Fischer: http://theconversation.com/german-experience-in-australia-during-ww1-damaged-road-to-multiculturalism-38594) 2. His immediate family included six other people - for a short time. Walter was youngest of four children born to Heinrich Schwarz and mother - "Augusta" Wilhelmina, née Otto. The spelling "Augusta" is so-spelt on the registrations for Walter and siblings' births, and when she is referred to in the summary of WLS's life and career within the Australian Dictionary of Biography. The above NAA record shows that Agusta was listed as Walter's next of kin, and suggests that Walter and his mother had a loving relationship - for example - a letter in the above file from Walter to his mother is written in a loving and conversational tone. Further, Agusta is pictured the below photograph held by the Australian War Memorial (AWM), sitting next to a standing and uniformed Walter, who Anderson, in his book describes as a "pre-militia cadet". Walter's siblings' respective birth registrations as listed on the Queensland Government's Births, Deaths and Marriages index describe their names as Auguste Wilhelmine Schwarz (b.1885); Wilhelm Henrich (b. 1887); and Lily May (b.1891). They each would have been 12, 10, and 6 years at the time of their father's death. 3. His early life involved some measure of hardship. "Agusta" - as her name appears in signatures and references in the record above (NAA: B2455, SCHWARZ, WALTER LESLIE, hereafter referred to as "AIF Service Record") - lost her husband when Walter was an infant. The sawmill accident which took Mr Heinrich Schwarz's life was described in a Brisbane Courier article dated the 27th of February 1897 and can be found here: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article217727375; and reference to Heinrich Schwar(t)z's death registration can be found online also: https://www.familyhistory.bdm.qld.gov.au/details/42609e976e47ea47b36a6b9cdbce5bf54ba4ae2d92894102471309f81f3a2758). The newspaper article mentions that Walter's father was a member of the local Masonic lodge, from whence the grieving family no doubt recieved support. Following the death, a Certificate of Title for 11 Eleanor Street dated 1897 (cited by researcher Ken Anderson) suggests that one of the impacts of the tragedy involved Agusta purchasing a smaller family home (the cottage still stands and can be seen on google maps:https://goo.gl/maps/iL9EG7Cqf4p). 4. Walter's birthday is listed differently by different sources. With regard to Walter's date of birth, there are discrepancies between at least two offical government records where he is listed under the name of "Walter Leslie Schwarz". Firstly, we can can see in the above Commonwealth Government record - a NAA-held AIF Service Record - that his birth date is marked the "24-4-1896". Curiously however, Walter's birth certificate, held by the Queensland Government's Registrar General's Toowoomba office states his birth date to be the 17th of April 1896. Curious - but such discrepancies are not unusual for the time period. 5. We do not know for certain where the young Walter was educated. Anderson reports difficulties in finding evidence of Walter's childhood school attendance. He describes how Peter Burness' ADB entry cautiously places Walter at Toowoomba State School; whereas Jeanette Finlayson's article in the 'Toowoomba and Darling Downs History Society Journal' places him at the South Toowoomba Boys School. In contrast, a letter to Burness dated the 2nd of December 1985 from Walter's nephew, Mr F H Bradley, places the young Walter at Toowoomba Grammar School. Despite this, Anderson found that none of the abovementioned schools' existing records make mention of Walter Leslie Schwarz during that period. 6. Perhaps he didn't attend a grammar school Later, in a petition to King George the V in which he describes his military career, Walter describes his ambition to join the military from a young age. However, in this letter he mentions that he was unable to travel to Canberra to engage in officer training, stating: "I had no private means with which to enter the Military College [RMC Duntroon]". Anderson notes that there weren't any fees required of those who wish to study at RMC Duntroon, and thus theorises that it was a less a lack of means, and more a lack of sufficient education that may have frustrated Walter's career ambitions.
Universal military training fostered Walter's ambitions towards a military career... The creation of the Commonwealth of Australia occurred against a backdrop of political tensions in Europe and a sense of the ever-present threat of both invasion and war. Thus the Defence Acts of 1903 and 1904 and subsequent related legislation passed by the new Australian Government, gave the parliament the powers to require "unexempted" males (aged 12 and over) to both attend military training in times of peace, and for those aged 18 to 60, to enlist in military service in times of war. This concern over the coordinated defence of Australian territory is evidenced by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin's invitation to Field Marshal Viscount Kitchener of Great Britain, who subesequently visited Australia in 1909. His brief was to inspect the new Commonwealth's defence preparedness, and to provide advice towards its improvement. From 1870 onwards and prior to Federation, each colony had provided for their own defence. Thus Kitchener’s report, submitted in February 1910, aimed at moving towards a coordinated effort. A public version of Kitchener’s report was published as 'Defence of Australia: Memorandum’ in Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers – General (Session 1910, Volume II, pp. 83–104), a key recommendation of which was the introduction of compulsory military training. Kitchener's recommendations had broad parliamentary support and thus the first "universal training scheme" began on the 1st of January 1911, when Walter was aged 15. Whilst the figures of attendance for junior cadet training was in many cases, poor, (leading to the program's cessation in 1922) secondary sources, and indeed Walter's own account shows that he, in contrast, relished the opportunity, and applied himself with gusto. . TIMELINE OF WALTER's EARLY MILITARY SERVICE: 1911: Schwarz joins the cadet corps, and is assigned to training area 11a. At some point, possibly upon leaving school, he engages employment as a grocer's assistant. 1913: With mentorship from Captain Penrose, and having passed the relevant exams, Walter is commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Commonwealth Cadet Corps. In this role, he enjoys attending military classes and gaining certificates of competency, riding on manouevres with senior officers, and drilling his fellow Cadets.This is not, however, a full time position. When at work at the grocer, he often has lunch with his friend Ted, who works around the corner. 1914, 24th June : Joins the Regular Army at age 18, resigning from his cadet position, and enrolling as a private. He takes an oath of allegiance to his Majesty and is appointed gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery at Fort Lytton, Brisbane. 1914, July-August: At some point during this time Walter passes his full bombardier's exam and is picked to attend classes for promotion of the rank of Sergeant Major 1914, ?: At some point during this period, temporary Sergeant Major Schwarz learns that Britain is at war with Germany. He is, however, unable to enlist for overseas service - possibly because of Minister of Defence, George Pearce's instruction that quality troops were required at home in case of attack. He and several other members of the regular Army are thus stationed at Enogerra training camp in Brisbane to train recruits for the Prime Minister's expeditionary forces who ~are~ to be shipped out for overseas service. 1915, ?: As anti-german hysteria begins to be amplified by the nation's media, Walter later reports in his petition to the King that he began to receive verbal and written racial abuse. 1915, 7th June: After learning that a siege artillery brigade was required to support infantry overseas, Walter is applies to participate, is accepted, and is demoted from Temporary Sergeant Major to Bombardier. Lieutenant Colonel Coxen, commanding officer of the 55th Siege Artillery Brigade certifies the Attestation form, and Schwarz given a paybook and the rank of gunner. 1915, 17th July: Embarks onboard His Majesty's Australian transport Ship Orsova, a passenger liner converted to a troop carrier, and sails to England from Port Melbourne. 1915, 22nd August: Orsova arrives in England. See NAA: MT1384/1, ORSOVA JULY-AUGUST 1915 1915, August-September: Settles into camp Lydd - Kent, England. Hears rumours that Germans will not be sent to the battlefront. 1915, ?: He describes in a later petition to King George V that he attended a three week course for battery commander's assistants, and was assigned to Major Hurst's Number Two Battery Crew. Yet was taken off this list, and demoted to mess orderly shorlty after. He allegedly confronts superiors Major Coxen and Major Hurst about this, who had hitherto given him good reports. He reports that they are both evasive and unsympathetic about the issue. He describes this incident as precipitating the execution of his plans for desertion. 1915, 23rd October: Walter boards train from Lydd to London. 1915, 24th November: Court of Inquiry finds Gunner Walter Leslie Schwarz as being AWL - absent without leave - and thus having deserted the 55th Battery RGA on the 25th of October 1915. Walter is henceforth officially "struck off the strength of" this brigade. REFERENCES CONSULTED ... in order of appearance References and original records: "Universal military training in Australia, 1911–29 – Fact sheet 160" http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs160.aspx Timeline of pre Federation events from 1839-1899 "Documenting a Democracy": https://www.foundingdocs.gov.au/timeline-b-1837-t-1899.html Early war service timeline drawn from: "A German Tommy: the Secret of a War Hero" Ken Anderson 2014. This work includes a transcription of Walter's Petition to King George V to beg for His Majesty's pardon with regard to deserting the AIF and enrolling in the King's Army in England. The timeline provided in this account when check against other records is confusing at best. "Schwarz, Walter Leslie (1896–1969)" The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Peter Burness http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/schwarz-walter-leslie-8363; The above AIF service record held by the National Archives of Australia: NAA: B2455, SCHWARZ, WALTER LESLIE The following article: "German experience in Australia during WW1 damaged road to multiculturalism" Gerhard Fischer 2015 https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/social-affairs/german-experience-australia-during-ww1-damaged-road-multiculturalism and, "Ship's Routine Orders for Orsova, July to August 1915" NAA: MT1384/1, ORSOVA JULY-AUGUST 1915 http://www.aa.gov.au/cgi-bin/Search?O=I&amp;Number=425641
DRAFT TEXT Booked a bed in a club, spent the week acquiring clothes. Joined Sportman's Battalion, "Pal Unit" raised independently of the British War Office. Membors shared a common interest in sports - which marked them as a higher class. By 1915 the British Army had absorbed the 1st Sportmans as the 23rd Royal Fusiliers attached to the 86th Brigade. (Fusiliers = Flintlock muskets) Fee of 3 guineas to join. Prior to this date Schwarz or someone posing as him must have presented himself to the Hotel Cecil under the name of Walter Lancelot Merritt for the officer at the desk to have given him an oral examination and a medical form to take to his medical examination. 25 October 1915 Schwarz appears at Royal Fusiliers depot in Scotland Yard, Whitehall as Walter Lancelot Merritt, 21 year old son of Henry Merritt, Englishman, religion Church of England, next of kin Nellie Merritt of James Street, Toowoomba QLD, with current address 23 Warrender Road Holborn, with the profession of clerk. Education: Medical Officer approves of his fitness. Sent to Fusiliers Depot at Gidea Park, Romford put on roll of 30th Royal Fusiliers reserve battalion. No 4432 Private Walter Lancelot. Here he had to undergo officer training anew. Exceeded in physical drill and bayonet fighting. Whilst waiting at the Leamington Spa Billets to be drafted, promoted to full Corporal. The overflow from the 1st and 2nd Royal Fusiliers Battalions was merged with the 30th Royal Fusiliers reserve battalion, to create the 3rd Royal Fusiliers reserve battalion, then sent to France when reserve force was needed to replace casualties. Acclimatised to trenches by being placed with more experienced soldiers, four days at a time. 14th March 1916 listed in draft to the 1st (23rd) Royal Fusiliers 15th March arrived in France. Spent several days at base at Etaples. At Vimy Ridge - most dangerous section of the Western Front 1st May 1916 wounded, 7 May sent to England via hospital ship Panama Taken to Voluntary Aid Organisation's Number 5 Temporary Hospital Exeter, treated for 17 superficial wounds, and according WLS's own account, shell shock. Three weeks at North Bovey Manor, Moretonhampstead Manor House - shell shock treatment specialists. He had done no fighting. Posted back to the 30th Reserve Battalion stationed at Leith Fort, near Edinburgh, Scotland. Appointed to Battalion's physical training staff. Australian Military Board ceases to appoint men of foreign origin. .
DRAFT TEXT August 1916 posted back to France to rejoin the 23rd Fusiliers, part of the 2nd Division which was holding a section of the front between the Redan Ridge near Beaumont-Hamel and Hebuterne. 21st September 1916, Schwarz recalls that his commanding officer Colonel Vernon DSO told him to take charge of a platoon of D Company. 13 November 1916 2nd Division captured Beaumont-Hamel. Winter shortly set in. 9th of December 1916. Returned to England to attend an Officers Cadet Battalion to become an officer. 3rd January 1917 he reported to the No. 7 Officer Cadet Battalion at Femroy, County Cork, Ireland. 24 April 1917 he recieved his second commission as lieutant in HIs Majesty's land forces. The London Gazette, 16 May 1917. 1 of 7 a long list of appointments and promotions from Royal Fusiliers announced in the supplement. Walter is commssioned temporary second Lieutenant. Posted to the 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) which was attached to the 29th Division, which was selected to be in the first assault of a major offensive by the British in an attempt to break out of Ypres to recapture the Belgian coast over the course of three tours of operation 9 October 1917 War Diary of the 2nd Royal Fusiliers - assault of Conde House, and Olga House. Advance came under severe rifle fire, and Schwarz was wounded, but remained on duty. 20 November 1917, The Battle of Cambrai 370 British tanks took the Hindenburg line, losing 170, and with 6000 Germans surrendering. 30th November. Set back to where they began in a counter attack. 45000 men were lost. The Royal Fusiliers role in the counter attack involved defending the village of Marcoing, allowing other units of the division to withdraw. For this, and an earlier battle at Langemark, he recieved a divisional card of honour signed by Major General, Sir Beauvoir de Lisle KCB DSO who commanded the 29th Dvision Between August 1915 and the 12 March 1918. February 1918 Schwarz records that on the Brigadier General Cheape, commander of the 86th Brigade asks Schwarz to join his staff as brigade intelligence officer. In this role he must be alert at all times, be able to interpret signals and messages verbal and written, and help and advise in plotting and counter-intelligence, and ensure plans did not fall into the hands of the enemy. March 21 1918 - Germans sending more troops to the Western front. 4.40am, 6000 guns mark beginning of a major offensive from the Somme to Cambrai, with 62 German divisions advancing, and fading by March 26 7 April 1918 a certificate signed by the secretary of state for war and records, Schwarz recieves his first decoration. He records that it has something to do with the Lys battle. 4 August 1918, military Intelligence appointment made permanent. During an attack on Ploegsteert Schwarz awarded Military Cross - Poste din the supplement to The London Gazette on the 11 January 1919: "a very critical moment when one battalion was completley out of touch with both flanks which had been hed up, he readjusted the whole line under extreemly heavy fire at close rance and led troops into position, gaining touch with the advanced battalion and ensuring the saftey of its flanks. Throughout the operation his courage and initiative was most marked" 28th September 1919 offensive 86th Brigage advanced to break out of the Ypres salient. In the brigade's report of operations, Walter lead the attack at it's centre wearing a large red patch on his back and carrying a red flag. This proved invaluable in assisting troops to keep proper direction". Schwarz notes he did this because the area was devoid of landmarks, so he needed to be seen by troops on the flank and he following waves. He was recommended for a bar into his Military Cross, it was not awarded. He recieved a second MiD (Mention in Dispatches?) from Field Marshall Haig. '11 October 1919, Allies capture Ledeghem Belgium. 14 October Schwarz lead first wave of attack carrying the red flag. They advanced farther than the rest of the brigade which were having difficulty in the dense fog. They were surrounded, and engaged at close range with machine gun and trench mortar fire. They held the line and captured 28 prisoners. A bullet fired at close range smashed into his right leg, fracturing it. But he kept the flag flying. Members of his family report that he was in no-mans land for many hours, and his leg had become septic. He recieved a bar to his Military Cross. Schwarz admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station, where his leg was not amputated. He was kept there for three days before he was considered stable enough to be moved. 17 October 1918 He was placed on a train with other wounded, after which he was taken by ambulance to No. 5 Stationary Hospital, Wimereux and admitted on the 17 October 1918 "suffering gunshot wounds to the thigh and fractures" The leg was amputated above the knee. His survival was open to doubt. 2 January 1919 admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth February 1919 a fellow patient approached and greeted in an Australian accent, Ted Harders a fellow cadet from the Toowoomba drill hall, who had worked next to the grocery store where Walter was employed, and the two often lunched together. Schwarz informed him that he was not the person he thought he was. Ted checked with the nurse to see if a Schwarz was admitted, and was told no. February Schwarz admitted to the Special Orthopaedic Hospital at Southmead, Bristol for operations. Recovered at Rock House, Bath, and then again at Dover House, Rockhampton to be fitted with an artificial limb. He was sent letters from colleagues there, expressing well wishes and mentioning his bravery. April 1920 - a telegram is recieved advising that Schwarz was to be decorated by the King at Buckingham Palace. April 22nd Schwarz attended the ceremony on crutches and found it to be a great honour. July 1919 a citation in the supplement to The London Gazette 2nd Lt Walter Lancelott Merritt, MC, R Fus Bde Intell Off HG 8th Infy Bde. East of Ledgehemon October 14th 1918, as brigade intelligence officer he carried the direction flag in the centre of the attack, and arrived on the first objective with only about forty men, the remainder having got lost in the thick fog and smoke. He and his observers captured twenty-eight Germans during the advance and they held the objective under heavy tench mortar and machine gun fire unti the remainder of the brigade arrived. He was severely wounded inthe leg... He behaved most gallantly and did fine work." The King had approved his bar to the military cross . Schwarz instructs on his death that medals be sent to the Royal Fusiliers HG at the Tower of London. (wikipedia) When the town of Toowoomba learnt about his desertion, they pestered his mother and his siblings, and called him a spy. They may not have known about his move to the British Army until 1921 - a 1985 article in the Brisbane Sunday Telegraph claimed. The person leaked the story, under the name Fair Play. It included a copy of Schwarz's petition to the king - which are otherwise held in the British National Archives and the AWM. However, cousin Joyce Hampson said that Schwarz wrote to a friend in Toowoomba who passed on msgs to his mother, indeed, in his petition he states that he "Deserted under plans already made"
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