A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.
Private Victor Beitzel (aka John Conway)
Born: 1894 – Fitzroy South. Killed in action: 7 July 1918 – near Ribemont, France
Enlisted: 6 January 1915 aged 20
Served: Egypt, Gallipoli and Western Front
Work on the Gippsland railway brought the Beitzel family to Pakenham.
Three of Victor’s siblings, Herbert, Arnold (father of famous football umpire Harry Beitzel) and Gwendoline were subsequently born in Pakenham.
Victor attended Pakenham State School for a time, but by 1901, the family had moved to Warragul. Victor’s mother Ada died in 1909 with his father later remarrying.
Victor enlisted for the AIF in Melbourne on 6 January 1915 as “John Conway” and said he was a 22 years old sawyer.
Victor joined his unit at Gallipoli and served there until the Anzacs were evacuated. He was transferred to the 58th Battalion and sent to the Western Front.
Less than a month after arriving in France, the 58th Battalion was deployed at the bloody Battle of Fromelles, where it was “virtually annihilated by machine-gun fire”.
Presumably while on leave in England, Victor met a girl called Mabel and the two of them became sweethearts.
Tragically, Victor was killed in action on 7 July 1918 by a German shell exploding close by him in a trench.
In a letter to his family, Lieutenant Flintoff wrote that:
“Victor’s work at all times has been heroism of the highest order”.
It is not known when or how Mabel was told of her sweetheart’s death.
This is an extract from Patrick Ferry’s book A Century After The Guns Fell Silent – Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-18.
For more details on this and other profiles in the book, head to the website www.pakenhamww1.com