Private Albert Henry Auhl
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour
Born: 18 June 1896 - Toolamba, Victoria
Enlisted: 30 May 1917, aged 20
Unit: 5th Battalion 25th Reinforcement (SERN: 7437)
Served: Western Front
Died: 29 July 1968 - Heidelberg, Victoria
Also known as “Bert”, Albert was born at Toolamba near Shepparton in northern Victoria. He was a son of Robert and Sarah Auhl, and brother of Fred Auhl who operated a garage in Pakenham for many years. The Auhls became pioneers in the Cockatoo / Gembrook West (Mount Burnett) area, where they had 110 acres at Cockatoo Creek, three miles from Cockatoo station (1). As a child, it is likely that Bert lived through the massive bushfires of 1906 which swept across large parts of Victoria. According to newspaper reports, the fires in the Gembrook area: “swept across from the direction of Cockatoo Creek ... [when the fires] reached Mr Auhl’s property. Mrs Auhl who was in the house with some of the children escaped. The house and its contents were completely demolished. Mrs Auhl with her children had to take refuge in the cellar to save themselves” (2). The Auhls lost virtually everything on the property (3). Although Robert and Sarah rebuilt, the property was put up for sale in 1910 (4). At the time, Robert was working in NSW as a building contractor (5). Perhaps the property did not sell, Robert and Sarah were living in Gembrook West again the following year (6).
As for Albert himself, he was working on one of his father’s properties at Orbost (7) when he enlisted at Sale in Gippsland on 30 May 1917. Not yet 21 years old, Bert needed his parents’ permission to enlist. At Broadmeadows Army Camp, Bert was assigned to the 5th Battalion 25th Reinforcement. He sailed from Melbourne in August 1917 and arrived in Glasgow Scotland on 2 October 1917. After training in England, Bert was taken on strength with the 5th Battalion in France in March 1918 (8). In March and April, the 5th Battalion participated in battles which stopped the German’s “Spring Offensive” on the Western Front. Later, the Battalion took part in the great Allied Offensive launched on 8 August 1918. This offensive broke the resolve of the German Army on the Western Front and ultimately set in train a chain of events leading to the Armistice on 11 November 1918. On 10 August 1918, Bert was wounded in action near Lihons, where the 5th Battalion was supporting the 7th Battalion AIF in an attack on the German lines. During the battle, the Australians met with heavy enemy rifle and machine gun fire. Bert suffered a gun shot wound to the right thigh. That day, the 5th Battalion lost 20 men killed, 80 men wounded and 2 reported as missing. The Battalion’s Medical Officer (MO) later reported that the wounded were evacuated fairly rapidly due to the “gallant and consistent” effort of the stretcher bearers who worked under heavy enemy fire (9). Bert was invalided to hospital in Birmingham. This effectively ended the War for Bert. He was returned to Australia in December 1918, and discharged as medically unfit in February 1919 (10). In October 1919, Albert was presented with a framed certificate at a special welcome home for returned soldiers at Pakenham Upper (11). Albert’s service was honoured in Cockatoo on that town’s cenotaph and state school roll of honour, as well as in Pakenham Upper and Pakenham East.
After returning to civilian life, Albert settled on a farm at Duncan’s Road Werribee (12). There, he was particularly active in the local amateur swimming and football clubs. In 1932 Albert’s widowed mother Sarah, who had moved to Dandenong, was tragically killed when she was struck by a car while crossing Lonsdale Street on her way to church (13). Bert eventually left farming and moved to Melbourne, where his occupation was listed variously as barman and “useful” (14). A bar useful is someone who cleaned and maintained public areas in a bar, club or dining room - e.g. by collecting and returning glasses to the bar, wiping tables and emptying bins and ash trays (15). In 1950, Albert married Sarah (Sadie) Wilhelmina Latimer Phillips (16). He continued to work well into old age, being listed on the electoral roll in 1967 as a messenger living in North Fitzroy (17). He suffered from ill-health though, including depression, which he attributed to his war service (16). Albert died in Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in 1968 aged 72 years.
The assistance of Jan Shaw of the Cockatoo Historical Society and Wally Nye of Mt Burnett is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) & (4) Argus 15/1/1910 p. 3
(2) Argus 26/1/1906 p. 5.
(3) South Bourke & Mornington Journal - 14/2/1906 p. 3
(5) Freeman’s Journal 12/5/1910, p. 25.
(6) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 17/11/1911, p. 4
(7) NAA B73 M44601
(8) & (10) NAA B 2455 AUHL A H
(9) AWM4 Subclass 23/22 5th Infantry Battalion Unit War Diary August 1918 p. 29
(11) Pakenham Gazette 10/10/1919 p. 3
(12) Ancestry.com.au - ER - Corio - Werribee -1921 p. 2 and 1937 p. 2
(13) Dandenong Journal 22/9/1932, p. 3
(14) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Melbourne - Melbourne p. 8
(16) Information sourced via Ancestry.com.au
(17) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Scullin - Fitzroy North 1967 p. 3