Diving into Traces Edition 11, contributor Kelli Schultz uncovers the life of her great-uncle Christian Henry Schultz, during the first World War.
Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be gifted several folders full of letters mostly written by my great-uncle to his parents during World War I. These had been handed down to my father’s cousin, and when hearing that I was researching our family history, he decided to send them all to me. There are well over 100 letters and more than 50 postcards spanning 1914–1918.They tell the story of a 14-year-old boy and his growth into early adulthood. Now that I have scanned and transcribed them, they will be handed over to the Australian War Memorial so others can access them.
On 4 August 1914, war was declared between Britain and Germany. Australian men downed tools and signed up for the cause, many thinking it would only be a couple of months and it would be over. Like many Australian men, my great uncle, Christian Henry Schultz, known as Chris, was underage when he enlisted. Despite his enlistment paperwork stating that he was over 18, there is no date of birth on the actual papers. His birth certificate clearly states 21 February 1900 as his date of birth.
Chris was born in Amphitheatre, a small rural town in northern Victoria, and was the eldest of nine children. The family had moved to South Melbourne by 1912 when his father began working as a labourer.
From correspondence written by Chris in August 1914, it appears that he may have been a cadet in Ballarat. He writes they are treated well, the locals are good to them, and ‘I suppose “Cheers and Gilbey’s” were surprised to hear about me being in camp. Well, I am glad to say that I have not touched drink since I have been here’. Does this mean that at the age of 14 Chris had a drinking problem?
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