For those who made the ultimate sacrifice we salute you- Series

No 1- Arthur John Montgomery Bleakley

Arthur John Montgomery (Monty) Bleakley was born on the 24/4/ 1892 at home in Delaney’s Ck and lived his life on the land with his family. He was a horseman, an excellent shot and although a rebel everybody loved him. He joined up on the 29/7/1915 aged 23 years and three months. After training in the Gatton Training centre, he embarked at Brisbane for Egypt aboard the H.A.A.T. ship’ Serang Bee’ on the 21/10/1915.

He was a rebel but typical of the Australian soldier. The rural young men of Australia were much sought after, their reputation quickly grew as they were known for their courage , determination and their expertise with using a rifle. because of that they were used as ‘cannon fodder’ and always sent in first, to take the sting out of the enemy and in doing so, many perished whilst getting the job done. In many places in Europe, from this war and the next theatre of war ‘1939-1945’, Australians are still revered.

Monty loved to party and with his friends, in their free time. would spend much time at the D.Aguliar pub . He was also a favourite with the ladies and had many friends but no close relationship before he left for the war zone.

Monty out on the town

Delaneys Ck.
Family homestead “Oak vale”
D’Aguliar pub
His family

On the ship going over he tried his boxing skills but only one chap, a butcher, was a match for him.

So, Monty followed where many had gone before and in the short time he had been in the army, made quite a name for himself by being drunk, missing from his billet and talking in the ranks. Not major crimes but still earned him many hours in detention perhaps he resented the restrictions because of the wealthy family he came from, not being used to being kept on a short leash or maybe it helped nullify the horror they were living and fighting every day and anyway, who could be completely trained after just three months but perhaps they were regarded as temporary soldiers with an uncertain future, so just given the basics.

He arrived on the 1st March 1916 in Egypt and proceeded to Zeitou where he earned his first detention (168 hours). he went on to join the 12 Btn. and on the 11th March,his battalion took the town of Serapeum. On the 29th March 1916 he proceeded to join the BEF in Alexandria and boarded the “Corsican’ bound for Marseilles France on the 6th May 1916.

Monty Bleakley
Pozieres France

He received another detention before he was wounded in action at Pozieres and died of his wounds on the same day, in the Australian Field ambulance ” In the Field”. One of his shoulders had blown off and realizing he had little chance of living, allowed his wounded comrades to be moved ahead of him to the hospital giving himself no chance of survival, therefore showing what an unselfish and courageous young man he was. How terrible it must have been for him, knowing he was dying and no loving hand to hold so far from the hills of home. He was buried in Warloy-Baillion Military Cemetery, five miles west of Albert, by the Rev. C.H. Sheppard. ‘Monty was as game a soldier as ever left Australia’ so wrote a comrade and chum in France

Warloy-Baillion Military Cemetery

Written on the family grave in Toowong cemetery, Brisbane ‘also our second son A.J.M. (Monty) Bleakley 26 Batt. in France died in the Ist Field Ambulance, 24th July 1916 of wounds received in action at Pozieres. Buried in Military Cemetery, France aged 24 years.’

His nephew, Peter Belloc went to France to find his grave and on doing that, could not control his tears. After some time an elderly man who had been watching him, went over and said ‘That is the reaction of everyone, male or female, who come here.

The beautiful Somme valley, is part of the Picardie region of France, the word Somme is a Celtic word meaning tranquillity. It is hard to imagine that in this beautiful place, horrendous battles were fought and many died, including thousands of Australians, losing their lives for a cause they barely understood but which the people of northern France, have never forgotten, nor will they ever forget. The Western Front has not had the recognition that Gallipoli has but two battles in 1916 at Fromelles and Pozieres -28,000 Australians died which is about the same number that fell after eight months of conflict on the Turkish peninsula. In total, 295,000 Australians served on the Western Front, between 1916-1918, 48,000 of whom died and 156,000 were wounded. It is hard for us to appreciate the magnitude of courage, gallantry and sacrifice, let alone the enormous great loss that has occurred here on the battle fronts. There is a ridge around Pozieres more sewn with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.

France is a country of breathtaking beauty but there is something about the hills of the Somme, that reverberate more than most for an Australian because there, in at least one town you will find streets with names such as Rue de Melbourne and Rue de Adelaide with windows displaying kangaroos and koalas clutching their Australian flags but perhaps, it’s because the spirits of nearly a generation of Australians, some of our finest and best live there, forever pining for the land of their forebears and home. It was in this part of France on April 24th and 25th 1918 that Australian soldiers gained legendary status by stopping the German offensive and in doing so turned the tide of the war. Previously the German Army, in less than one week, had managed to regain all the territory that had been previously been won by the British and the Australians in the previous 18 months (Australia’s official historian Charles Bean)

To mention just two operations, two Australian soldiers were able to reach the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux and take an entire platoon of enemy troops with nothing more than a broken Lewis gun. The other, one man with a light machine gun, took an enemy outpost, killing seven soldiers and capturing two others, prompting the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to declare ‘We knew you would fight a good fight but we did not know from the beginning, you would astonish the whole continent with your valour’. This cry was heard after more than one battle ‘Vivent les Australians. Vous les tendres’. Stay alive Australians. You will stop them’.

It makes you wonder why we do not commemorate on Anzac Day the tide turning triumphs of Villers-Bretonnex where our soldiers were saviours of the French, instead of the heroic but unfortunate campaign at Gallipoli where our soldiers were cannon fodder for the British and a lost cause. The British landed them in the wrong place where many were slaughtered by the Turks on the cliffs,before they reached the beach but had they landed further along the coast it could well have been a different story.

We will never know the conditions that they endured, we can only imagine the deprivation, despair and longing for family that lived with them daily, as well as the horror of orders to go out and kill or be killed so we can only, more than 100 years on, remember and honour them.

Written on the Australian War Memorial in Northern France.

“On this monument” said King George V1 in 1938, barely a year before the outbreak of World War 11 “is an inscription telling us and others who visit this hill in the years to come, that it perpetuates the memory of the Australian Imperial Forces in France and Flanders, and the 11,000 of them who fell in France and have no known grave”.

Poppy Fields in France

Final Destination and Karl has anglicized his name to Charles Christiansen

After the quarantine period was over, Karl with a friend he had made were moving north to Glen Innes where work on farms was to be had. The Great Northern Railway line which connected Sydney to Brisbane was opened in Glen Innes in 1884 and in Tenterfield in 1886, so the pair had a comfortable journey to the town. They found work on a property at Red Rock next door to a farmer named Potter. Karl was not to know that, in the future, his daughter would marry a son.Robert Potter, the family having moved and were living next door . Karl by this time, had anglicized his name to Charles, reading in the newspaper that there were openings in the Silverspur mine in SE Queensland for timber workers to supply timber to the mine , he decided to go, but went alone as his friend had decided to stay in Glen Innes. He was happy with being a labourer but Charles was on a mission to own his own property.

Charles was working near Silverspur but camped on the bank of the Dumaresq river, he was not to know that 70 years in the future his grandsons would own this property. The men, at night, used to play cards by lamplight and one evening, after they were unable to work because of rain, were sitting in their allotted place. They all wore long boots and it wasn’t until the water rose over the top of the boots, they realised the river was in flood and they were in big trouble. They managed to scramble up the bank but lost all of their possessions, hence the family of Christiansen lost many treasures brought from Norway and Charles too, lost many memories of his mother and home.

While there, he came to hear that land below the border some 20 miles away was open to be settled,so he quickly made his move. The next couple of years he worked hard clearing the timber and building his property-he was fortunate he had made friends with his next door neighbours, the Schneider boys ( whose father Jack had accumulated much land on both sides of the river , some 15 miles of land, before he died in 1885) and they were willing to help him. They also had a sister, Elizabeth who later became his wife.

In 1892 Charles, while working cutting timber for his house, heard someone call his Norwegian name he looked up and saw his cousin Ole Arneig, which was a surprise but a happy one. Ole was in the merchant navy and while they stopped in Brisbane to make repairs, Ole jumped a train and came west to find his cousin. They had a great time catching up with all the news and Ole would have much to tell when he returned home as Charles, with all the many happenings, had not wanted to let them know too much as they would have been concerned so he had not communicated that much with the family.

In 1893 he married Elizabeth and they started their life and their family on “Holmwood’. They were well respected in the community as Charles was always ready with his time and finances-he used part of his land to make a school and it filled a void of little education until a State school was up and running over the border in Texas. He was an instigator of bringing it into being as well the local hospital. Elizabeth was known as a ‘healer’ and midwife and many came to her seeking help and answers to their problems.

The property had sheep and produce grown in their backyard and they were always ready to help out with anyone experiencing hard times. They also opened their home to travellers who came looking for a place to settle and appreciated their hospitality and a sleep in a good bed as camping out is not a good way to have a restful sleep and as some of these people were on the roads for months, a bed, when offered,was accepted gratefully.

They had busy but happy lives and Charles died in 1940, Elizabeth having passed two years before-he became distressed when he heard the war had come to Norway and became withdrawn and this appeared to affect his health and he passed not long afterwards. It has been said he died of a broken heart.

The writer can vividly recall many happy times spent at “Holmwood” sitting around the dinner table listening to tales of a bygone time, cameraderie and harmony flowing between the occupants of the room. People at ease and comfortable with one another.It was a good time, a magic time, a time to treasure and these memories are kept safely locked in our hearts, as we look back down the years and remember with love, the people who have gone before.

After 110 years it came time to leave the property which had been in the family for so long and as the sun set over ‘Holmwood” we said our final goodbye and turned our faces to the future, where a new journey waited with promise of good and exciting times, new avenues to explore but still with the closeness of family linking us to the past.

The Journey

Karl travelled to Christiania ( later called Oslo) and then by boat to Bremen Germany where the Lloyd Shipping line was based and where many Norwegians had come before but they were emigrating to the U.S.-he made his way to the wharf where his ship was docked and embarked,where he was shown to his cabin; his luggage was already there so he unpacked and settled in-it was November and this journey would take six weeks. The ship SS “Pruessen” was a new beautifully set up ship and this was her maiden voyage – Karl travelled as a first class passenger.

The journey started calmly enough but stormy waters were ahead.

The ship went firstly to Antwerp Belgium where over 400 English passengers boarded. Karl wondered why as they would call at Southampton; he didn’t know that the ship’s owners had a hidden agenda, taking on board more passengers than the ship could reasonably cater for and also bypassing English strict laws on passenger numbers and the sanitation would not be checked either. They were travelling with pigs on board, too many passengers close to them was not ideal, and as far as sanitation goes, a disaster.

Sailing to Port Said an Egyptian city at the northern end of the Suez Canal where people left the ship to see the sights. Karl did not go because he had been warned that these places were rife with diseases including smallpox . Even though he had the necessary vaccinations, he didn’t think it worth the risk.

So he stood leaning on the rail of the deck outside his cabin and watched the hurly-burly of the scene unfolding below and marvelled at this spectacle, it certainly was a new experience. He wasn’t to know his nightmare was about to begin; an Irishman brought the virus aboard.

They sailed on to Aden (now Yemen) and the ship stopped again but this time he noticed that people were not going ashore. Karl was starting to feel uneasy there seemed to be a dark cloud hovering over them , also he could hear muffled screams coming from below. They sailed on through the Suez canal and headed across the open sea to Albany Western Australia. But smallpox had raised its ugly head and although the ship’s doctor tried to keep matters under control, he wasn’t strict enough and adding to his problem was the lack of room to isolate the patients and those showing signs of the illness.

The doctor started to vaccinate but didn’t have enough serum, a man died and the virus was spreading through the passengers of the lower decks, like wildfire. Karl was getting very worried, he knew it would take a fortnight before reaching landfall. On reaching Albany the ship was given a bad report calling it ‘the dirtiest ship they had ever seen’ and some passengers were taken ashore and put in isolation. The same story in Adelaide, Melbourne, and finally Sydney where they arrived on the 30th December 1886

Those left on the ship were sent into quarantine where they languished for two months, the ship had to go through extensive cleaning and fumigation and the ship’s owners wanted to quickly relegate this disaster to the past but this was not to be and it went down in history for all to see and easily found even today on the internet.

Karl had thoughts of returning home but he wasn’t a quitter and then he wouldn’t ever know if he could have succeeded in this country so far from home -so negative thoughts aside he decided to move forward with his dream.

All in all it was a setback,a less than an auspicious end to his journey and he wondered what other challenges lay ahead

Christiania (Olso) 1880
Bremen Germany -1880
Sydney 1880’s

Continuing Karl Christiansen Vatne -Torp

Lars Jonassen-Torp-Havstad called out, ‘Iam here Karl,let the party begin’. Karl smiled to himself, indeed his cousin Lars was always ready for a party.

Karl smiled to himself and said ‘Moderation, dear cousin, is the way to go but come in’.

As others arrived, all in good spirits, called out to Karl who replied ‘Welcome and come in, the music is warming up’. The men shook hands and the girls waited with great anticipation for a kiss from this man, the majority of whom had set their caps . Karl was tall like his brother Mathias and sister Ane but whereas Ane was blonde, the boys had dark hair and Karl’s eyes were a stunning shade of blue which added colour and character to his face , he was, indeed, a handsome man.

They moved inside and when everyone was enjoying catching up with family or friends they had not seen for some time, Karl, Mathias, their uncles and several cousins sat together and a discussion took place. Karl broached the subject of his leaving wanting there to be no misunderstanding among his family. Karl said’ My problem is that Norway and farms have reached a watershed in a problematic situation’, he went on to say ‘As you are aware the government have dug a canal all the way out to the sea, a great deal of land was retrieved and it was divided between the farmers involved. It was a costly operation and many farmers lost their farms’.

His uncle Ole replied ‘Yes that is true, but we can weather the storm as we are well placed’

Karl answered his uncle ‘ You and my other uncles are indeed in a good situation sir, but there are many who are not, I being one of them. I feel with current circumstances I may not succeed, but there is another reason .You know my passion for adventure and I have read many articles about people who have emigrated and I want to be one of them. The winds of change are blowing in this country and I have chosen not wait to see what that brings. I have decided on Australia as it is a young country which may offer better opportunities over America where thousands have gone before’.

Karl wanting to return to his guests indicated that the dancing would commence. He approached the quartet and gave his instructions; because of their social class they were familiar with Strauss’ music so he asked for a waltz followed b the very popular folk music dance Springar and as strains of the beautiful Blue Danube filled the room, Karl put his hand out to his sister and they led the dancers onto the floor.The girls were dressed in lovely dresses, all were well schooled in the art of dancing and as they whirled around the room they made a beautiful spectacle, well appreciated by elderly family members.

Watching the dancing later with his family, Karl said to Mathias and Ane ‘I hope you are not too upset.

Ane replied’ We know of your hopes and dreams and the reasons you have made this decision, you are our big brother who has cared for us since our parents died 15 years ago; you put your life on hold and now this is your time. Of course we are sad and will miss you very much – but we love you and wish you well’

Mathias, a fresh faced 20 year old said’ I am going to miss you keeping me out of harm’s way, but now I will have to make my own way’

Karl answered ‘ There is still time to come with me’

Mathias replied ‘ No you are the adventurer and not frightened of anything, so I will stay and keep the home fires burning, waiting for your return’.

Karl threw him a look and as Ane caught that look. knowing its meaning. her eyes filled with tears and Jacob seeing this came over and took his wife’s hand and said ‘ come on kjaesreste (sweetheart) it is time for us to hear you and Karl sing.

And so, with the ebb and flow of singing, dancing, happy laughter and camaraderie, it finally came time for people to go home and with them, they took the memories of this evening which they knew would remain with them for a very long time and one which would not be revisited

Moretro 1880
Moretro -today

Mahias Kristiansen Torp

Karl Christiansen Vatne-Torp Saga

This is Karl’s story beginning when he was 26 years old and on the property his mother had bought him in 1872 before she died. he was 12 years old and he and his brother lived with their mother’s uncle and Ane lived with Johanne their older cousin. he had invited family and friends to an evening of music, good food and camaraderie before he embarked on his journey to Australia.

Karl was standing at his front door waiting to welcome his soon to be arriving guest From the elevation of his house he could see the carriages coming-all had lanterns on the sides which would be needed when they travelled home.

As he waited Karl’s thoughts went back to the previous afternoon when he and Mathias had stood here looking at the mountains, the wind blowing off those mountains whispering through the pine trees behind the house and as it touched their faces they felt the first icy fingers of winter.

Mathias murmured ‘it won’t be long before snow will cover our fields’

Karl replied ‘yes, you can feel it in the wind’.

They continued looking at the scene before them, each with his own thoughts. Karl was thinking ‘ Soon these green fields will be covered in snow but I won’t be here to see it’. Mathias was thinking ‘ Soon my brother will leave to go on his journey to the other side of the world, how am I going to bear it’. Karl seeing his face put his arm around his shoulder and as he did so , horse hooves could be heard on the road and they turned to see their cousin, Ole Arneig coming at speed. On arrival he jumped off the horse and hugged his cousins- Ole was always demonstrative and was welcomed with affection by his family and the wider community, and now he said to Karl

‘I am here cousin, to party with you before you set off on your great journey and I will be staying the night as well’

Karl smiled, and said’, you are welcome and we will be the happier for your company’

Mathias took the horse around to the stable and Ole catching Karl’s look said ‘You are worried about Mathias and how he will cope?’

Karl replied ‘yes, he will be by himself, Ane is married and does not live close by’.

Ole replied’ He will be but I and the uncles will look out for him’ he went on to say ‘ in a few years I will be leaving to join the Merchant Navy to get some experience before heading to America to join the Revenue Cutters out of Baltimore. Now my mother has passed I will give Torres and our sisters’ time to adjust before heading off. Brother Torres is the farmer anyway and he will support father’.

Now, from the arriving guests, he could hear cheery greetings, firstly from his Uncle Ole Midstue Naerbo, his mother’s brother and his wife Johanne, his father’s sister. They had always been important people in Karl’s life (especially after his father died when he was 11 and his mother followed him the next year) and he moved to greet them, they would be the ones he was relying on to care for Mathias.

His uncle clasped him on the shoulder and his aunt with her twinkling blue eyes gave him a kiss as well as a hug said ‘You are a naughty boy going away and we will miss you terribly, but we wish you well’.

Karl Kristiansen
Ole Arneig

Family history from 1735

Aanon Aanonsen 1735-1806 Lunden -Liene married Johanne Tellefsdatter Norholm 1749-1795

Children:Maren 15/1/1769 -1871-Kirstine 11/11/1771-1/2/1848 – Aanon1774-1774- Aanon 23/9/1775-1848- Lille 17/4/1778-Tellef29/12/1780-1817- Nils 2/2/1784-1861- Johanne 4/1/1787-Gunder 1792-

Maren Kirstine Aanonsdatter Liene 1771 married Jonas Halvorsen Vatne (1753-1828) 10/10/1793

Children Maren 26/8/1794-30/7/1871- Johanne 4/12/1796-6/11/1822 Halvor20/8/1799 -6/2/1822-Aanon 27/7/1802-19/1/1871- Elen 7/5/1805-6/1/1822 (the 3 who died on the 6/1/1822 drowned on the way home from church in Grimmevannt Lake) Christian Jonassen Vatne- Torp 13/5/1808 -27/8/1871– Johanne 14/2/1812-18/4/1889.

Christian Jonassen Vatne-Torp married Maren Kirstine Aanonsdatter Tjore (his cousin 24/10/1811-10/6/1850) on the 15/7/1836

Children Kirstine Christiansdatter-Torp 3/7/1837-9/71869- Jonas Christiansen -Torp 27/12/1840-10/3/1881- Helene Christiansdatter -Torp 27/11/1843-22/61858-Johanne Christiansen-Torp 27/9/1846-1/5/1884

Christian Jonassen Vatne-Torp 2nd marriage- married Gunhilde Johanne Knudsdatter Midstu (b 29/3/1832-30/9/1872) on the 24/2/1854

Children: Mathias b12/2/1855-21/3/1856-Maren 8/2/1857 – 29/5/1860-Karl Johan 20/12/1860 -28/8/1940 “Holmwood’ NSW Australia -Ane 2/9/1863-13/5/1930 Seattle USA- Mathias 26/2/1867- 30/12 1896 “Snohammer” Landvik -Typhoid fever-one month before his son was born

Grimstad Norway
Landvik church -family place of worship
Vatne Norway

Charles Christiansen saga

This is a family story about my husband’s grandfather.I have started with the facts and will tell his story from information given to me and my imagination

Karl’s family have lived in the area, Landvik Norway for centuries. Through his grandmother Maren Kirstine Aanonsdatter Tjore he was related to Danish nobility and through her father Aanon Aanonsen Liene Tjore he was related to the Lunden family that went back in time to the Norwegian kings so he came from a well known and prosperous family.

Kirstine, through her mother Johanne Tellefsdatter Norhelm was a descendant of the Danish noble family Friis. Jacob Friss made a property deal with the Danish King in 1583 and took over the large Lanvik farm. From the king , in exchange for other properties, Landvik was, from then on, counted as a noble farm. The family tree goes all the way back to the Norwegian King Harald Harfagre ” the fair haired”who united Norway into one kingdom-in the late 9th century, his great-grandson Saint Olaf Haraldsen (915-1030) christened Norway, . He was canonized as a saint by the Catholic church because many people witnessed miracles and healing. He was the most famous Norwegian king ever. For centuries afterwards pilgrims came from all over Europe to visit his sarcophagus in the Nidarous cathedral in Trondheim. ( based on the book Storegra Gards historie)

Grimstad harbour
Nidaros Cathedral
Olaf!! Haraldssen King of Norway 1015-1028

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

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