Darren is a Brisbane architect with a Germanic surname. His home is in a leafy suburb and he enjoys fresh country air and beachside warmth, a world away from the friction blown up by war of a century ago. Darren asked me to research a relative who he thought had died fighting for Australia in the First World War. What I found was a fascinating story of rallying to the flag.
In the beautiful Fassifern Valley of South East Queensland rested the small country town of Engelsburg. Alexander Krueger was a timber cutter in its abundant forests. With the onset of war in 1914, Alex’s peace was torn by a torrent of anti-German sentiment.
Engelsburg was renamed Kalbar. Local boys like John Reick enlisted in the army under the name of Kelly. Even King George V changed his family moniker from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.
Another Engelsburg resident Arnold Weinholt stuck with his name and rushed to service. He spied behind enemy lines, won a Distinguished Service Order and two Military Crosses, and had a price put on his head by the Kaiser himself.
From a neighbouring farm and nine years his junior, Alex Krueger took a quieter path to war. He enlisted on 19 August 1916, and joined the 25th Battalion known as the Darling Downs Regiment. In the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge in Flanders in 1917, the improbable happened. Both the Australians and the Germans emerged from their opposing trenches to attack at the same time. Chaos ensued. The Australians fought like madmen, the Germans broke. Alex had fallen, shot through the lung. He died two days later.
After learning the story, Darren visited the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium where Alex is buried. He touched the grave and walked the battlefield. This weekend marking the 99th anniversary of Alex’s enlistment, Darren visited a Toowoomba memorial to the Darling Downs Regiment. He now knows the story of his relative. Co-incidentally, Darren’s oldest son is also named Alex.