War correspondences from the Fairfield City Museum collection


[Click to enlarge image]

Handwritten letter on lined page from Bert Woellner to Mrs Stimson, explaining that he has not received a letter from Mrs Stimson for seven weeks or seen his friends Vic and Cliff for a while. This letter, from Bert Woellner is part of a collection of correspondence sent to Marion Stimson, wife of Walter Stimson, from friends on the war front. It is a historically significant souvenir of World War I, and a poignant reminder of the separations of war.


These embroidered postcards from Bert Woellner, made in France, are part of a collection of correspondence sent to Marion Stimson, wife of Walter Stimson and Mary-Anne Jeffress, from Bert Woellner.

  • Embroidered silk postcard with framed panel featuring crown surrounded by rising sun, flowers and embroidered message ‘From 5th Pioneer Battalion France/Keep Smiling’ on the front, and handwritten message from Bert Woellner to Mrs Stimson on the back. Card features silk pocket containing a smaller card with illustration of ship at sea framed by Allied flags and printed message ‘I think of You’ on front, and handwritten message from Private Woellner on the back.
  • Embroidered silk postcard with framed panel. The front features the French and British flags amongst flowers and leaves. A handwritten message from Bert to Mary-Anne Jeffress is on the back.
  • Embroidered silk postcard with framed panel featuring Allied flags and red flowers, with embroidered message ‘On to Victory’ on the front, and handwritten message from Bert Woellner to Mrs Stimson on the back. Card features silk pocket containing a smaller card with illustration and printed message.

Herbert Oscar Woellner was the son of Federick Carl Woellner and Annie Mary Whitton, he had 4 siblings (Charles F., Frederick, Ida S. and Lillian D. ), he was born on the 2nd June 1897 at Broken Hill. At the age of 18, a young Herbert Woellner from Thorney Rd, Fairfield West (a hairdresser by trade) enlisted on the 8th of August 1915 and joined the 4 Infantry Battalion – 9 to 12 Reinforcement (September-December 1915). He embarked on the “HMAT Port Lincoln” in Sydney on the 13th of October 1915.

The 4th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions it was recruited from New South Wales and, together with these other battalions, formed the 1st Brigade.

The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving on 2 December. The battalion took part in the Anzac landing on 25 April 1915 as part of the second and third waves. The commander of the 4th Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel A. J. O. Thompson, was killed the next day. At Anzac, the battalion took part in the defence of the beachhead and in August, along with the rest of the 1st Brigade, led the charge at Lone Pine. The battalion served at Anzac until the evacuation in December.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. In March 1916, it sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion took part in operations against the German Army, principally in the Somme Valley in France and around Ypres in Belgium. The battalion’s first major action in France was at Pozières in the Somme valley in July 1916. Later the battalion fought at Ypres, in Flanders, before returning to the Somme for winter.

The battalion participated in a short period of mobile operations following the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line in early 1917, but spent much of that year fighting in increasingly difficult conditions around Ypres. In 1918 the battalion returned to the Somme valley and helped to stop the German spring offensive in March and April. The battalion subsequently participated in the Allies’ great offensive of that year, launched east of Amiens on 8 August 1918. The advance on this day by British and empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as “the black day of the German Army in this war”.

The battalion continued operations until late September 1918. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent. The November armistice was followed by the peace treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919.

Between November 1918 and May 1919, the men of the 4th Battalion returned to Australia for demobilisation and discharge. On his return , Bert married Rubie Pearl Fitzpatrick in 1928, in Liverpool.

Bert was an active member of society and was widely engaged in numerous community organisation. In 1921, a handful of public-spirited gentlemen like Mr. Jack Hoddinett (President), Mr. Harry Godfrey (Secretary) and Bert Woellner formed a committee to raise enough money to erect a cottage hospital in Fairfield. Over £2.500 was raised; but the authorities who controlled the building hospitals refused to allow the erection of this public utility, therefore the money went to Liverpool Ambulance, Auburn and Parramatta hospitals. He held the position of secretary at the Fairfield Band in 1923 and acted as secretary at the Smithfield RSL. He was also the secretary of the Smithfield Parents and Citizens Association in 1937.

In 1922, council approved the building application of H. Woellner’s shops on Frederick St and Hamilton Rd. In 1932, after the dissolution of a partnership between Rubie Pearl Woellner and Amelia Louisa Monahan for carrying on business as bakers at Fairfield, under the name of “The People’s Bakery”. Herbert Woellner purchase the said business and continued to carry on the same, in the name of “The People’s Bakery”.

On the 3rd of January of 1940 , Herbert re-enlisted for WWII service in Sydney. He served with the Australian Army as a Sargent until 1947, he was discharge on the 8th of April 1947. Herbert passed away on the 27th June 1963 at the age of 66, he was buried at Smithfield Cemetery.

For additional information on the Fairfield City Museum and its unique collection, please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FairfieldCityMuseumGallery

[Source: AWM]

Published in: on October 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm  Comments (2)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://fairfieldlocalstudies.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/war-correspondences-from-the-fairfield-city-museum-collection/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. G’day, I enjoyed this post which I have included in GeniAus’ Gems this week at http://geniaus.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/gags-geniaus-gems-17-october-2014.html

    • Hi GeniAus thanks for the mention!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s