Albert Carl (Bertie) SOUTH (SCHMELZKOPF) MM

SOUTH (SCHMELZKOPF), Albert Carl

Service Number: 46
Enlisted: 5 September 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, 27 November 1896
Home Town: Hazelwood Park (Knightsbridge), South Australia
Schooling: Prince Alfred College, University of Adelaide
Occupation: Clerk
Died: War Service Related, Keswick Military Hospital, South Australia, 23 September 1923, aged 26 years
Cemetery: AIF Cemetery, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide
Memorials: Adelaide University of Adelaide WW1 Honour Roll, Henley Beach Council WW1 Service Roll, Rose Park Burnside District Fallen Soldiers' Memorial
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World War 1 Service

5 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 46, Morphettville, South Australia
22 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Trooper, SN 46, 3rd Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Trooper, SN 46, 3rd Light Horse Regiment
15 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Trooper, SN 46, 3rd Light Horse Regiment, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
31 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Trooper, SN 46, 1st Light Horse Brigade Machine Gun Squadron, Battle of Beersheba
31 Oct 1917: Honoured Military Medal, Battle of Beersheba
31 Dec 1918: Promoted Australian Flying Corps, Second Lieutenant, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
15 Feb 1919: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN 46, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
12 Jun 1919: Discharged Australian Flying Corps, Second Lieutenant, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)

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Biography

SOUTH Albert Carl : [AKA SCHMELZKOPF Albert Carl] : Service Number - Lieutenant : Place of Birth - Adelaide SA : Place of Enlistment - Morphettville SA : Next of Kin - (Mother) WRIGHT Katie

Albert Carl Schmelzkopf was born in East Adelaide on the 27 November 1896, to Carl and Katie Schmelzkopf of Fourth Avenue East Adelaide, as reported in the Adelaide Chronicle. (1.- See Trove link)

Albert was one of the first to line up for enlistment, as indicated by his two-digit Service Number, on the 5th September 1914.  His address at the time was given as Rochester Street, Knightsbridge, an eastern suburb of Adelaide.  He was enlisted into the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, Machine Gun Section, and embarked with them on the 22nd October 1914 aboard the HMAT Port Lincoln. (2. NAA Service record - see link in sidebar) 

On arrival in the Middle East the Light Horse formed into Brigades; the 3rd Light Horse Regiment belonged to the 1st Light Horse Brigade.  They were initially deployed in the defence of Suez.

After the landing at ANZAC, and the high rates of casualties sustained there, it was decided to deploy the Light Horse as dismounted infantry in mid May.  Bertie thus found himself at Gallipoli from mid June 1915.  He served throughout the campaign.

Like many people with Germanic-sounding names, Bertie's parents subsequently 'anglicised' their name and changed their surname to "South" by deed poll in 1916.  Incidentally his mother's maiden name was Kate Annie Wight so it is unclear how the choice of the name 'South' was made.  With Albert not yet 21 years of age, his surname was automatically changed to South also, and it seems the first Bert knew about it was when told of this development via a communication received through official military channels! (3.)

Bert was posted to the Machine Gun Section which was later amalgamated and placed under command of the Brigade Headquarters as the 1st Machine Gun Squadron.  It was in that capacity that he took part in what was arguably the Light Horse's most famous battle, Beersheba on 31 October 1917.  Bertie was not in the famous Charge, but rather providing fire support from a flank as was the role of the machine gun squadron.   He was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal and ultimately awarded a Military Medal for his actions (see link), having carried ammuntion for his gun team across 400 yards under heavy fire and despite being severely wounded in the face.(4.)

He was admitted to hospital, after being shot through the side of his face and mouth on 31st October 1917 at Beersheba.  The bullet entered the right side of his mouth and carrying away a number of teeth and exiting the other side of his face, which left him scarred.  He was discharged after dental treatment but then had a continuing problem with septaceamia, remembering there were no antibiotics to speak of at that time.  Disinfection of what had become a septic wound finally occurred in late November.(5.)

Albert later applied for a transfer to the Australian Flying Corps in early 1918.  He successfully graduated as a pilot and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant but having completed his training just after the cessation of hostilities (which in the Middle East took place in late October 1918) he did not see any operational combat flying. (6.)

Post war he joined the RSL briefly but his membership lapsed after only a year.  His last address was given as Cadell in 1920. (7.)  His Commission Certificate was addressed c/- Holders at Waikerie,  We have found several informative obituaries which help to fill in the brief period he lived beyond the Great War (see links on left of this page).  He had been a leading light in the community in the Riverland, being a notable sportsman.  He must have been a very eligible batchelor as well.  All of that was to be to no avail though;  he died in Keswick Barracks Hospital after his health broke down, aged just 26, on 23 September, 1923.

That he was listed on the Rose Park Memorial to the Fallen had been perplexing until these obituaries were discovered, as he DID return to Australia unlike many others.  It is after all a Memorial to the Fallen, therefore his demise in 1923 must have been considered to be as a result of his war service, but outside the prescribed period (1921) which otherwise would have seen him interred in A Commonweath War Grave.  He is instead buried in the remakable 'AIF Cemetery' an extension of Adelaide's West Terrace Cemetery where many of his colleagues were to join him in the ensuing years.  The sequel of his premature death aged just 26 is also a poignant one.  Nearly 50% of the men who returned were dead within 20 years of the war's end, compounding the already fearful toll.

Albert's story is part of what is a uniquely South Australian aspect of the Great War;  namely the large numbers of men who were 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation German origin.  German families had come to South Australia in large numbers to escape religious and social persecution, mainly from Silesia and Prussia in Germany's east.  Many of these men 'anglicised' their names to enlist or just get by in the community. In some cases their families were discriminated against or even interned.  Despite this, these men rendered remarkable service to their new country, and must have been particularly valuable on the Western Front where their German language skills would have been very useful in a field intelligence context.

A remarkable and poignant story of another young man whose potential was never to be realised.

 

Military Medal

1914/15 Star: 2112

British War Medal: 617

Victory Medal: 618

 

Research and narative by Steve Larkins, 2014.

References

1. Trove (see link in sidebar)

2. NAA Service record (See link in sidebar)

3. ibid

4. AWM Honours and Awards (see link in sidebar)

5. NAA Service record (See link in sidebar)

6. ibid

7. RSL-SA WW1 era Membership Cards database

 

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