Left for dead

This postcard never reached the family of Edward Thurecht in Gympie, it was purchased at auction in London many years ago and has been waiting for its’ story to be told.

Lance Corporal Edward Thurecht of the 47th Infantry Battalion was badly wounded on the second day of the Battle of Dernancourt, 5th April 1918. During the night a number of his fellow soldiers, led by his brother Norman searched unsuccessfully for him in no-mans-land.

The next day a German soldier noticed signs of life when he trod on him, and Ted was taken behind German lines as a Prisoner of War.

The postcard shows 15 men at an Allied Prisoner of War Camp in Czerzk, Poland which was at the time, a German occupied territory.

Edward Thurecht is believed to be middle row, 4th from left. The other servicemen are wearing uniforms or badges from British, Welsh, Scottish, South African and French services.

Some are wearing the common German POW uniform with distinctive buttons on the breast pocket, a dark armband and a stripe down the pants leg.  The two men dressed in striped coats were most likely hospital orderlies.

Ted was originally taken to a German hospital not far from Darmstadt, by July he was in a German Prisoner of War camp in modern day Poland.

From the camp he was able to write of his recovery to a family friend, he mentioned that his right arm was so badly injured he must write with his left. His return address is Lazaret, Fabrick Schutt, Czersk.

A typed copy of the letter can be found attached to his AIF service record at the National Archives of Australia.

There were 4,082 Australian prisoners of war (POWs) on the Western Front during the First World War, and 395 died while in German captivity.

Both Ted and Norm wrote to the Red Cross trying to locate each other. Ted was repatriated hospital before returning to Australia in 1919, he never fully recovered the use of his right arm.

His brother Norm was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack west of Bellenglise on the 18th of September.

Tragically, their mother Agnes while waiting for many hours at the wharf in Brisbane for Edward to return, contracted a chill, which coincided with the Spanish Influenza epidemic, and a few days later, on the 8th June 1919, died.

Ted and his brother Norman had enlisted from their home town of Gympie, where the Thurecht family ran a Blacksmith and Coach-building business in Monkland Street.

Ted and Norm both married in the early 1920’s, and set up a joint venture - the Diggers Store - a general purpose business that thrived in the large country town of Gympie.

The Thurecht Family in Australia

Marg Powell and Lara Shprem
State Library of Queensland


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Thank you for this article - Edward and Norman are my Great-great uncles; their sister Ada being my Great grandmother. Ada was pregnant with my grandfather in mid - 1919 when she was waiting for her beloved brothers to return to Australia. She gave birth to my grandfather on 30 April 1919, and called him Edward Norman, after her brothers. He went on to serve as a Lancaster Bomber pilot in WWII and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, which would have made his namesakes very proud.
It is tragic to think that Ted and Norm returned, but in a cruel twist of fate, Ada lost her mother only weeks after giving birth.