Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thankful Thursday(s) - a surprise win

This time last week I got an email from Shauna Hicks, co-ordinator of National Family History Month sent me an email to say I had won one of the fabulous prizes from the many sponsors of NHFM.

I won a full registration to Congress 2015 in Canberra next March - the 14th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry 26-30 March 2015.

What a wonderful prize!

There’s a great program of talks and workshops, and some amazing venues for the welcome function and dinner.

Then today, it arrived in the post - not just a note on how to register but beautifully presented - a special prize indeed.

I had been intending to register before the early bird registrations end on 31 Oct but hadn't got around to it.

Just like I haven't got around to writing my blog for ages.

Here’s my excuse: This is what I’ve been up to in the meantime: the first Volume of our Society’s WWI Commemorative books.

Maybe this is just the inspiration I need to get back to blogging.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Sepia Saturday – There were three in the bed and the little one said...

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is of girls on a bed with dolls and other ‘toys’.
As kids, my brothers and I were always climbing onto each others beds and ‘reading’ stories or making up stories using our toys.

There’s only 3½ years between the three of us so despite living on farms, there was always ‘someone to play with’, or to fight with!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sepia Saturday – The (lost) innocence of youth

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is of a lady filling a sandbag - and a little boy in a sailor suit.
Straight away it reminded me of a photo of my father-in-law Arno van Bergen taken in Limburg, Netherlands around 1930 and wearing a ‘sailor suit’, and so a good prompt to begin writing his fascinating story.

Arno was born Johannes Arnoldus van Bergen in 1925 in Maastricht to carpenter Johannes Jacobus van Bergen (b1895) and tobacconist Maria Elisabeth Hardy (1898-1993). Many generations of both sides of his family had lived in Limburg, with his mothers family going as far back as I could trace - all from Maastricht.

The innocent looking boy in the photo knew nothing of what was to become of him as war broke out in his country by the turn of the decade. He had a very strict Catholic upbringing so he is almost certainly not wearing a sailor suit at all – it is probably a choir or altar boy’s outfit, and he is likely to be holding a bible or prayer book in his hands.

He was a mischievous boy who loved to run and play soccer. He was very good at maths. By 1940 he had probably finished school, or was in his last year.
Despite the destruction of the Wilhelminabrug and the Sint Servaasbrug (pictured)
German troops passed Maastricht, a vital traffic hub, relatively quickly.
Photo taken 10 May 1940 in Maastricht (from Wikipedia)
A month after his 15th birthday, on 10 May 1940, German troops invaded the Netherlands. The inexperienced Dutch Army held out for four days until the Germans bombed Rotterdam and 800 people were killed. The Royal family and the government went into exile in England. Anyone in a government position who stepped down was replaced by a member of the NSB, the Dutch Nazi Party. Some government officials tried to stay on to protect the Dutch people from things like conscription into the German army. Some newspapers and radio stations were banned or shut down in an attempt to control.
The aftermath of the 1940 bombing of Rotterdam from Wikipedia
Before he turned 16 years old, the first ‘roundups’ of Jews occurred, on 22 Feb 1941 and this shocked the Dutch so much the illegal Dutch Communist Party called for a national strike (and marches) three days later. It started in Amsterdam and spread to outlying towns. The Germans were caught by surprise and reacted by shooting at groups of strikers. The strikes didn’t prevent further persecution of the Jews but it did strengthen the disgust for National Socialism in the Netherlands.
In 1941 every Dutch citizen over 14 years (so including Arno) had to carry an identity card. Propaganda was increased, with an overwhelming amount of cinema newsreels, pamphlets, brochures and posters. Aversion to Jews was stirred up.
The Netherlands had pride in their educational system, with different religious groups having separate schools. The Germans had trouble gaining influence in the schools apart from giving preference to NSB teachers, banning school books and increasing the hours of German study. Pupils and teachers were fiercely anti-German so jokes and songs circulated.
Many more people became church-goers as protests were preached from the pulpit and clergymen urged their congregations to help those in hiding.
Catholic and Christian trade unions came under National Socialist leadership in 1941 and when the churches urged members to cancel their membership, 95% took their advice.
The standard of living dropped, imports were impossible and many goods were transported into Germany. There were long queues at shops, petrol became scarce and bicycle tyres were replaced with wooden ones.

Just after he turned 17, at the end of April 1942, all Jews were required to wear a Star of David, and deportations began in that summer. About 80% of the Dutch Jewish population was murdered in the extermination camps.

As Arno turned 18, the Germans decided they needed labour forces and announced 300,000 Dutch soldiers would be transported to Germany. Spontaneous strikes broke out and spread across the country. Known later as the ‘milk strikes’ because they were mainly in country areas where farmers refused to deliver milk to the factories. The German occupiers responded, executing strikers and shooting at groups of strikers. They insisted on all radios being handed in, resulting in many being hidden.
In May 1943, all men between the ages of 18 and 35 had to report for forced labour – this included Arno, aged 18 years and one month – bad timing!

About 140,000 Dutch citizens were taken to Germany and forced to work very long hours in factories that were Allied bombing targets. There were promises of good meals, cigarettes and payment, that in reality didn’t eventuate.
About 120,000 more were used to dig trenches and build fortifications in northeastern Holland – “soldiers without guns”. Arno was one of these - moved from his home in Maastricht, Limburg over 200 kilometres to the area around Lochem, Gelderland.

Many of those in forced labour died or suffered long term physical and/or psychological effects. Many tried to go into hiding but this was difficult as they had no money or ration coupons, and they were fearful of what would happen to their family.

This move was in one sense a good thing for Arno as it is how he met his future wife, and mother of my husband.

This post is long enough – I’ll talk to my mother in law and write more later – including how Arno escaped!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday – WieWasWie is now in English!

Ever since the wonderful genlias website was ‘taken over’ by Wiewaswie, the ability to search (and read) Dutch records in English disappeared.

I was able to fill in lots of gaps in my husband’s family with genlias. It wasn’t completely in English but with the help of my mother in law and google translate, I was able to get lots of answers.

I’ve just seen on a blog from January this year that the new website is now in English! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to notice.

I guess that’s what comes from bookmarking favourite websites and just clicking on them.

So now, a whole new (Dutch) world has opened up.

The WieWasWie (translates to WhoWasWho) database includes civil register records, church records, passenger lists of the Dutch East India Company and - for now - rarely memoranda of succession. Apart from these historical records, you can search user generated content, family trees and biographies by other users.   

There’s even a video to help you use the site – produced by familysearch as part of their FamilySearch Learning Centre.
So much easier to read than the previous view - see below

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sepia Saturday – It’s OK to play games at the table

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is of two little girls playing games and an outdoor table.
I couldn't resist despite being swamped with proofreading for our Society's WWI book.

Among the large number of photos I scanned last time Mum and Dad visited there are a good number of kids (and some ‘grown ups’) having fun around tables. Who said you couldn’t have fun at the table?

The first: My great grandfather with his step children at the main table, and his children at the side table. My grandfather and his brother were close in age and had similar mischievous personalities as men, so I’m sure they were a handful as youngsters. This was taken around 1910 at Black Rock where they had a ‘weekender’, a little beach shack.


My mother in law pouring a cup of tea in the late 1920s – or maybe coffee as this was in the Netherlands. She lived in Lochem, Gelderland.


My mum and her sister having a tea party, 

and then a bit older playing ‘shops’.

Then my 2nd birthday party with a couple of neighbours.

A Christmas party in my grandparents’ lounge room, with my brothers and cousins, the children of Mum’s sister - and of course - silly hats!

My brother’s 5th birthday party around a table in the backyard with the same cousins who at that time lived next door - and more silly hats!

Now living in the Wimmera, the back of the Kingswood station wagon became the table, this time probably in the Darlot swamp near Longerenong where we lived. I’m guessing this is my 10th and my brother’s 8th birthdays because there are two cakes – our birthdays are two days apart. My grandmother is also in this photo, holding her newest grandchild.

And the last:
Same clothes, different table, different cousin (my favourite ‘big’ cousin – really Dad’s cousin but only 3½ years older than me), and a special guest seeking food – a kookaburra. This one was probably taken at Zumsteins in the Grampians (Victoria, Australia).

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sepia Saturday – Lovely ladies

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photo of five ladies taking part in what is described as a 'Greek Cymball Dance’ at a Sufragette Ball. It is suggested we may wish to hang on to that description as a possible avenue to explore if inspiration deserts you. Otherwise we have May Day, dancing, folk traditions or very silly poses; take your pick or forget about themes altogether.

I couldn’t come up with anything related to this but do have a photo of four lovely ladies posing for the camera. 
My mother is the bride. 
She made her own dress and those of her bridesmaids. 
Mum and Dad will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary this year.

I’ve been very distracted from my blog lately.
I’m working as part of a team in our local historical society to publish three books of biographies of local WWI soldiers. We are in the final proof reading stage of Volume 1.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Trove Tuesday – Life in the WW2 Camps

I’ve been writing this month about my grandfather’s experience of WW2. 

This is the 5th in ‘the series’ about him – Sergeant Keith Leo Grenfell.

I found a couple of general articles in Trove about life in the camps and the requirements of the men. 

Things I wouldn’t normally have thought about, or thought to look for.

One of my previous posts contained a fabulous video clip of the Bonegilla march.
I found an article highlighting the problems encountered during that march with the knitted socks sent to the men by ‘well-intentioned’ knitters.

Another article talks about the huge logistics involved in getting them all home for Christmas in 1940.

…and another, about the need for handkerchiefs pyjamas, sandshoes and musical instruments!

Shows accommodation huts, several men sitting on grass nearby.
The donor's father Douglas West (1896-1980) was a carpenter who worked on the construction of the camp buildings in 1941. The buildings were later used as a hostel for European immigrants.
Douglas West collection of Bonegilla photographs. State Library of Victoria

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sepia Saturday – Grandfather’s Dangerous WWII Training

c1940 anti-aircraft training at Bonegilla
This post continues on with a study of my grandfather, Sergeant Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944).

I’m linking the Sepia Saturday photo prompt (related to dangerous activities) to his training at two WWII camps – Bonegilla (near Albury) and Darley (near Bacchus Marsh).

I’ve already written about some of his military service, and the 150 mile Bonegilla march (with the fabulous old film clip - sepia and crackly).

Here are some photos I found on Trove from the two training camps that I consider to be ‘dangerous training’. 

It was certainly dangerous training for my grandfather as he was wounded during one training and never really recovered. 
But that is a story for another day.

Here are some fabulous photos from the Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

c1940 training with a medium machine gun at Bonegilla

We don’t have many photos of my grandfather, so imagine my excitement when I was flicking through the photos and came across one among the Physical Training group.

What do you think – is the fifth from the back my grandfather?

I’ve included a photo from our own collection taken just a few years earlier for comparison.

c1940 training with a medium machine gun at Bonegilla
c1939 Learning the correct way to throw hand grenades at Darley
c1939 Climbing over and through barbed wire fences at Darley
c1940 Learning how to disarm a soldier at Bonegilla
2nd AIF  NCOs training, at Darley. Is it Keith, 5th from the back?
Keith with his son (my Dad) 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Wordless Wednesday - The Bonegilla March

Continuing on with my last two blog posts about my grandfather Sergeant Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944) who lived and worked in Yallourn and his WWII experience

I found this YouTube clip of his battalion, the 2/21st on the Bonegilla march in September 1940.

There is no sound unfortunately, but exciting nonetheless to know that he was in amongst these soldiers.

The text that is included with the YouTube clip is:

The only video of the 2/21st Btn marching from Trawool to Bonegilla. September 1940. In December 1941 they were sent to defend the Island of Ambon, most were taken prisoners by the Japanese after an estimated 20,000 marines invaded the Island in 1942. By the end of 1945 after 3.5 years in captivity only few survived. 

The death rate of the Australian force was over 75%.

I’ve also included another clipping about the Bonegilla camp, 
and a photo of troops marching at Bonegilla, from the Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Trove Tuesday – Sergeant Keith Leo Grenfell – Part I

It seems appropriate to start ‘ANZAC’ month with the Anzac closest to me but who sadly I never met.

When researching my Yallourn post for Sepia Saturday, I came across a couple of other articles linked to my grandfather, Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944). 

There are photos of my grandfather on that post.

Keith was a boilermaker / fitter / engineer at the Yallourn Power Station. 
I found this article from 1937 (when he was there) on the vast undertaking at Yallourn, attributed to Engineers.

I found another where the Yallourn SEC engineers went out on strike and wondered whether he would have gone on strike too. 
If he was at all like his wife and son, I can't imagine he would have gone willingly.

After reading through his military file, I searched and found a couple of articles about the amazing march from Trawool (near Seymour) to Bonnegilla (near Albury) his training battalion undertook in 1940.

And another praising the value of the Militia men in training the soldiers of the AIF.

In 1929, Keith enlisted in the 52nd Battalion of the Citizen Militia Forces (CMF) at the age of 18, in Caulfield. He was promoted to Corporal by mid 1930, then to Sergeant in October 1933.

In January 1937, Sergeant KL Grenfell transferred to Yallourn and was promoted to Company Sergeant Major (CSM) a year later.

After less than a year as CSM, he “Reverted to Sergeant at own request” and transferred to the 37th Battalion from the 52nd. I can’t see anything in his record to indicate why he would request a ‘demotion’.

On 26 June 1940, he enlisted in the 2/21st Battalion AIF. 
This was just before his 29th birthday, although he claimed to be 30 years old. 
At this time he was married to my grandmother and they had a son, my father.

He was promoted to sergeant within days of enlisting, probably because of his previous rank and 10 years service with the CMF.

He joined the assembly of the 2/21st Battalion at Trawool in Central Victoria. 
They trained in Trawool until 23 September 1940 when they were moved to the Bonegilla camp near Wodonga. 
The battalion made the 235km journey ON FOOT!, arriving on 4 October. 
This was the longest military manoeuvre ever undertaken in Australia. 
This battalion was sent to Darwin in March 1941 – without my grandfather.

I'll continue his story in a day or so.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Sepia Saturday – Floods in Yallourn, 1934-5

The Sepia Saturday prompt for this week shows a barge crossing a flooded river or lake.

I didn’t have any flood photos in my massive sepia collection, so turned to Trove, the wonderful National Library of Australia search engine.
Floods at Yallourn 1934-5

I found a large number of articles and some great photos of the 1934 flood that filled the open cut brown coal mine at Yallourn in Victoria’s Gippsland.

The first three photos are from the JP Campbell collection of glass negatives documenting industrial enterprise at Yallourn, ca 1920-1940 (and held by the State Library of Victoria).

On 1 Dec 1934, flood waters burst the banks of the Latrobe River and 65 million gallons poured into the vast open cut mine at Yallourn.
Floods in the open cut c1934-5

The coal, dredgers, and other equipment (valued at more than £500,000) were all submerged and this left Victoria with electricity for only a week.

The plant supplying drinking water to the town was also under water, creating further problems. 

A special train had to be chartered to bring milk, bread and meat to the town as all roads were cut.

The rains that caused the floods were unprecedented and broke the 71 year records held by the Weather Bureau – in three days, the Gippsland region had around 1100 points (about 11 inches, or around 280mm).
Yallourn Power Station c1940

This was followed closely by another flood at Easter 1935. 
But this time, the emergency levees quickly built after the Dec 1934 floods were able to prevent further flooding in the open cut. 
Pumping was still proceeding following the 1934 floods – by February, the open cut still contained 3.65 million gallons.
The pumps were set up on pontoons and drew off 1 million gallons an hour.

This all happened just before my newly-married grandparents moved to Yallourn. My grandfather, Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944) was an electrical engineer (on his marriage certificate) and a mechanic / fitter (on the electoral rolls). 
I’ve written a little about him before.

You can read some personal accounts of the floods on the wonderful Virtual Yallourn website – brought to my attention by another regular Sepia Saturday blogger, Sharon of Strong Foundations.

Front page news 
Keith Leo Grenfell
Sgt K L Grenfell