Courtesy of Pakenham Upper Community Church Hall
Private Povl (Paul) Jorgen Holdensen
Pakenham & District War Memorial, Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour and Pakenham Upper State School Honour Book
Born: 1 April 1893 - Holsted Jutland, Denmark
Enlisted: 3 June 1916 aged 23
Unit: 8th Machine Gun Coy, 5th Reinforcement AIF (SERN: 386)
Served: Western Front
Died: 1957, Melbourne, Victoria
Recorded on the Pakenham War Memorial as “P. Holdenson” and known as “Paul”, Povl was the son of Jorgen Peter Holdensen and Katrine Lindberg. Paul was born in Denmark and migrated with his family to Australia in 1898. The family first settled in the Toomuc Valley, before purchasing a 320 acre property on the Gembrook Rd in Upper Pakenham which they called “Linden” (1). Besides their orchard, Paul’s father also had a poultry farm (2) and a large eucalyptus distilling plant (2a). The family was active in community activities and donated land for the Pakenham Upper public hall and tennis courts (3). Paul attended Pakenham Upper State School before becoming an orchardist (4). He was naturalised as a British subject in 1915, and enlisted in the AIF on 3 June 1916, aged 23 years. Prior to enlisting, Paul was working on the Moyles‘ orchard for £2.10.0 per week plus keep (5). At 6 feet 3 inches tall and with striking blond hair, he must have appeared like a Viking giant compared to most of the other Pakenham volunteers, Two of Paul’s brothers, Peter and Lindberg also volunteered to enlist during WWI, though neither saw active service (6).
After enlisting, Paul was assigned to the 5th Reinforcement, 8th Machine Gun Company. Before he left Australia, a local committee of young men in Pakenham Upper arranged a farewell for Paul, together with Robert Ramage and George Keable, who were also heading overseas with the AIF. The event was held at the Pakenham Upper Mechanics’ Institute Hall (7). The proceedings includes speeches, songs, “humorous anecdotes”, recitations and a “stirring address” by Frank Wisewould, who spoke about the duty of other citizens to enlist, as did Shire Recruiting Sergeant Gardiner and Messrs Close and Black. The three soldiers were each presented with fountain pens. The proceedings ended with a “dainty supper”, as well as dancing (8). Paul embarked for England in September 1916 and arrived in Plymouth nearly 2 months later. He went into the No 3 camp at Parkhouse where he underwent further training and spent a period sick in hospital. Paul was taken on strength with the 8th Machine Gun Coy at Camiers France on 28 May 1917. In March 1918, he was appointed as a temporary driver (9). In August 1918, Paul took part in the Australian attack on German positions near Villers-Bretonneux. While the 8th Machine Gun Company achieved its objectives on the first day (8 August) without casualty (10), the next day Paul became a “stretcher case”, being severely wounded by shrapnel in the right arm, hand and leg. He was evacuated to England. His wounding was reported back home in Pakenham at the same time as the death of Private Tom Wilson of Gembrook West (10a). Whilst he was left with no debility, Paul’s war was effectively over. He was repatriated back to Australia in December 1918 (11) and subsequently discharged in March 1919, having served a total of 1,075 days in the Army, including 858 days overseas (12). Paul was welcomed back to Pakenham Upper in October 1919, together with a number of other returned soldiers. At this event, they were presented with special certificates by Justice Frederick Mann of “Goronga” (13). Paul’s name had also been inscribed on the Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour and would later be included in the Pakenham Upper State School Honour Book and on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial.
In May 1919, Paul received a tender from the Berwick Shire Council for fencing work in Upper Pakenham (14). He also received the support of prominent local residents for an advance under the soldier settlement scheme, with W H Carne (Secretary of the Pakenham Upper Fruit Company) writing that Paul was: “in every way suitable to be settled on the land especially an orchard property. He has lived on an orchard for 15 years and has worked on several orchards throughout the district. In my opinion his experience, and qualifications assure his success on a suitable property. He is a good worker, steady and reliable” (15). However, he was unsuccessful as his particular block was regarded as having poor prospects by the Closer Settlement Board (CSB) (16). By 1937, Paul was living in Dandenong, where he worked as a driver and carrier (17). In 1938, he married Muriel Evelyn Dennis of Dandenong (18). By 1954 their address was “Four Winds”, Heatherton Road Dandenong (19). Later, they moved to Noble Park. By this stage, Paul was working as a carpenter. He died in 1957.
(1) & (4) Upper Pakenham State School Honour Roll.
(2) Dandenong Advertiser 29/6/1916 p. 2
(2a) Dandenong Advertiser 27/6/1918 p. 2
(3) Pakenham Gazette 28/9/2011 p.9
(5) NAA B73 R46229
(6) Casey-Cardinia: Commemorating the Great War 1914-1918: www.caseycardinia1914-1918.blogspot.com
(7) & (8) DA 20/7/1916 p. 2
(9) & (11) NAA B2455 HOLDENSON PJ
(10) AWM 4 24/13/29 Unit War Diary - 8th Australian Machine Gun Coy - August 1918 pp. 3-4
(10a) Dandenong Advertiser 26/9/1918 p. 2
(12) Narre Warren & District Family History Group (2016) p. 50
(13) Pakenham Gazette 10/10/1919 p. 3
(14) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 22/5/1919, p. 3
(15) & (16) PROV VPRS 10381 P0 Unit 39 Item 607
(17) Ancestry.com - Electoral Roll - Flinders - Dandenong - 1937 p. 46 & 1942 p. 55
(18) Argus 18/6/1938, p. 8
(19) Ancestry.com - Electoral Roll - Latrobe - Dandenong - 1954 p. 109