The following story was one I discovered through researching a name I came across on a service medal. I found it to be pertinent to the memory of an ANZAC whose story was never told…
On the 9th August 1915, a young Johann Kindler entered the Adelaide recruiting depot to offer himself for military service. He sat on a wooden bench in the old sandstone building and waited for his name to be called. Although he couldn’t read, he held a copy of yesterday’s paper and pretended to be occupied, so he didn’t engage with others waiting in the room.
An hour and a half later, he was called into a small side room and sat opposite a burly Sergeant who took his details without paying much attention to the 23-year-old shop assistant.
“Who’s your next of kin” the sergeant asked as he filled in the paperwork.
“My younger brother Ernest, our parents were killed in an accident a year ago.”
The sergeant grunted and briefly looked up, then returned to the paperwork.
“Right, sign here!” he said as he spun the papers around poking a stubby finger at a line on the bottom of the form. As Johann made his mark, little did he know what the months ahead would hold for him. Had he known that, he would have walked straight past the recruiting depot and headed to the corner store to help Mr. Wilson with the daily chores.
Some weeks later, after a long explanation to his younger brother, he stood on the deck of the transport ship as it left the Harbour bound for Alexandria. The six-week journey was unremarkable, but the months to follow would surely make up for it. As he disembarked in the hot African sun and marched into camp at Alexandria, the excitement of fighting the Turks at Gallipoli was the only thing everyone talked about.
“Training first,” said the 27th battalion Commanding officer as the soldiers were allocated their accommodation. (It is here that his story is taken from a letter to his brother…)
“Dear Ernest, I have been placed with the 27th Battalion and all we do is train. Some of the unit have been sent across the waters to the peninsula to fight, but so far I have been kept back here waiting. Rumor has it we will be heading to France to fight the Germans soon.”
(The next part of his story is only recorded in pieces from archive material)
On the 27th February 1916 Johann is transferred to the 10th Battalion. He is allocated the service number 2704B and four weeks later, the Battalion embarks from Alexandria on a ship called the SAKONIA arriving in France on the 03 April 1916.
Kindler then boards a train in Marseilles...
Whist on the ship to France, Johann makes friends with a couple of lads from the 9th Battalion and when the ship docked in Marseilles, everyone from the 9th and 10th Battalion make their way to the Marseilles station. They all board a train, heading to a number of billets, but it is at this moment Johann makes a life changing decision.
When the train arrives at their destination, he was swept up in the sea of soldiers and so he remained with his new friends causing him to become separated from his regiment. Instead of being billeted with the 10th Battalion some ten miles from the fighting, Johann finds himself transferred to the 9th Battalion billets which were much closer to the front, and so his fate was sealed…
The final part of Johann’s story is told in the 9th battalion report dated April 20th, 1916
“On April 20th, at 1:15pm, C Company billets (9th Battalion) at Rouge de Bout were heavily bombarded, wounding four men, and as others ran to assist, further shelling caused a further 47 casualties, overall killing 3 officers and 23 men.”
Sadly, Johann’s decision to remain with friends placed him in the vicinity of the shelling and ironically the incident makes him the first casualty of the 10th Battalion in Europe, but the history books never mention his story…