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Home > History


A few foreign soldiers


- CHARLES Robert Edward and LANGLET family

- HARTLEY Harry & Simone PECOURT



- SNAPE Robert Oswald fleche





World War I


CHARLES Robert Edward:

Australian Sergeant, 29th Battalion. A carpenter from Melbourne, Sgt Charles enlisted in March 1915 at 20 years of age. He embarked on the HMAT Ascanius, ship. He injured in Messines in Belgium (maybe when he received gas wounds to his leg). He was hosted with family Langlet during World War 1 and Alice Langlet (Senior) nursed Robert (Bob) back to health after he contracted influenza and was very ill.
During the war he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in June 1918 for his hard work and resourcefulness as a Sergeant Cook and acting Regimental Quartermaster, and returned home to Australia in May the next year. After the war Robert returned to Melbourne and married Nellie Charles who he was betrothed to before left for the war. They moved to Horsham, Victoria, Australia.  He had two farms near Horsham before selling these and running Hotel in Horsham from 1926 to 1950. While in Horsham he was The Returned Soldiers League President for 6 years. He was on the Horsham was a council for many years. During these years he was Mayor twice. He was he held many official positions in many organizations during his short life. He retired in 1950 and went on an overseas tour of Europe with his wife Nellie. He returned to visit the family Langlet. It was at this time taken to a textile factory in Calais in northern France. (1917 He returned after the war to visit the family LANGLET at Calais in 1950.
Robert and Nellie Had four Children Robert Alfred, Madeline (who was named after Madeline Langlet), Virginia June, and Donald.

During the war he was billeted for 8 days at Vignacourt with his 29th Battalion Unit from Wednesday 8th november 1916. He had his photo taken while in Vignacourt with a Corporal James Douglas McDowall from Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia . This photo was sent home on a postcard to his wife Nellie.


Robert Edward CHARLES with children, courtesy of Mrs Sally BERTRAM.



He is born the January 13th, 1889 - Isles of Wight, died after the war in 1940 - Amiens. He married on January 5, 1918 with Mrs. Pauline Marie Simone Pécourt in the church.

Parents of his wife: Paul M. Leonce Pécourt married 20th May 1895 to Mary Louise Helen GUILLAIN. They lived 121 Amiens Street, the main street of Vignacourt village.(Location of the current bakery). Grandparents: Leonce Pécourt married to Zoe Cavillon.

He worked in the Society HARTLEY PONS, manufacturer, wholesaler, of molded rubber located to Amiens south ( N° 7 street: Bellevue - Plant of "La Croix Rompue" ). But also other address (franchises) at Nantes (2 rue de Santeuil) Levallois-Perret 49 rue Jean-Jaurès (in the suburb of Paris), Toulouse, Rouen, Compiègne. Hartley Pons published patents in 1956, (about 18 months after the deposit in France).

Harry Hartley

Harry HARTLEY's wedding photo in the Vignacourt's church - 5 January 1918
Photo Louis Thuillier © AWM Ref P10550.115


Harry ets

Etablissements Hartley Pons Amiens, there is a car in front of the company, perhaps the Bugatti ;)




Eric was the youngest of 6 children born into a Jewish family. His mother Katie had emigrated from America, his father Abraham was Polish. They ran a store in Hay NSW and later settled in Melbourne. Abraham travelled to South Africa at the end of the Boer War seeking riches, but died there of Blackwater Fever. The family were left very poor. Katie tried to make a living by teaching music and singing. Her children were taught also, Eric sang.

Eric Herman

Eric HERMAN - Courtesy of Matthew Freckelton

Eric enlisted 7 January 1915. He was accepted into the 4th Reinforcements to 7th Battalion. They trained at Broadmeadows Camp. The AWM holds a series of photos taken at Broadmeadows of this group on the day they embarked the A18 Wiltshire, on 14 April 1915. Eric is recognisable in two of these photos.
They travelled to Egypt and trained at Mena Camp, before landing at Gallipoli at about 4 pm on 26 May. 124 men landed, 2 were wounded getting ashore. Eric was posted to 'B" Company under Lt Frederick Tubb. "B" Company went into the firing line that night. The b estaccount of what Eric went through over the coming monthscan be found in the detailed diaries kept by Tubb, which have been recently digitised by the AWM. 
Then came the August Offensive and the Battle for Lone Pine. This was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting on Gallipoli, much of the fighting at close quarters, in the dark and with many bomb throwing duels. 
Eric’s battalion bore the brunt of the most savage counter attacks and 4 victoria crosses’s were awarded to his Battalion for this battle. Eric’s B Co had been in the line assisting nearby prior to 7 Bn going into Lone Pine. They were then held in reserve at Brown’s Dip. At about 5 am, 9 August, the situation was so desperate, that a platoon of 7Bn ‘B’ Company was called for, the rest of the Company followed. Eric went in. They held against all odds. 3 Men from that Company were awarded the Victoria Cross for this battle. They were Lt Tubb and Cpls Burton and Symonds. The Company strength at that time was about 140 men. 
During this battle, he was wounded, ankle broken and buried alive by bomb or shell whilst resisting Turkish counter attacks on the newly taken roofed in trenches. He was dug out, being the only survivor in his section of trench. He was evacuated to Lemnos, then Alexandria, where he healed and recovered. His foot though, stuck out at 90 degrees to where it should, so the doctors re-broke his ankle and had another go. 
He was sent to France, on the Somme, fortunately with the 4th Division HQ contingent, his injuries had left him unfit for the front lines, he stayed with this unit for the duration of the War. In 1916 Katie, received news that Eric had been wounded again, but he had been confused with another man in the 4th Battalion with the same surname and service number! The mess took months to sort out!


His brother, Joseph (3800 Private Joseph Herman) joined him in 4th Div HQ from 8th Battalion, it is believed that Eric 'claimed his brother' into his new unit. Eric and Joseph spent about 4 weeks in Vignacourt, in late 1916 to early 1917. In an interesting coincidence, a LCpl Horace Bair, an 8th Bn Gallipoli first day lander, transferred to 4th Div HQ for a short time, at about this time before being sent home unfit. His Niece Susan Bair became Eric's second wife, many years later. Noone ever knew the connection. The AWM holds a group photo of the 4th Div HQ Contingent outside Allonville Chateau (11 mi from vignacourt), near Amiens, taken 31 May 1918. Eric and Joseph are featured.

Allonville castle

Allonville Castle – Courtesy of Matt Freckelton


Another brother, Albert (16165 Private Albert Herman) was in the 4th Field Ambulance. 
He said, the worst thing about Gallipoli was the filth. He did not talk much about his experiences, but had some great jokes that he told. 
For the rest of his long life, he would douse his food in Lea & Perrins Sauce. He could cope with the bad food during the War by doing this.
During WW2, Eric served part time in the Volunteer Defence Corp. He was a Lieutenant and highly regarded by his CO and the men.
Eric and his wife Sue had 3 daughters and 8 Grandchildren. Eric lived to 86 years of age. He was a wonderful man, loved and revered by his family and all who knew him.





Jim Holland paintedJim woodcarved


James Holland painting by M. George PETROU

James Holland scupture by M. John-Luc GODARD


James Holland (known as Jim) was born in England in 1891, but migrated to Australia in 1911. On arrival in Western Australia he took a job as Paymaster with the Roads Board. When the First World War broke out he was working in the Wikepin area . On his AIF Enlistment form he gave his occupation as “farmer”, but his attestation form states “labourer". He was initially assigned to the 28th Battalion as an infantryman and later served in the machine gun company. He boarded HMAT “Ascanius” with his Battalion on 29 June 1915.


Photo credit: Collett, H.B. "The 28th"  page 21, (1922) Gutenberg e-book.
Photo. lent by Mr. E. L. Mitchell, Perth


Before arriving in Europe, he served at Gallipoli and Egypt. In March 1916, he was transferred to the 7th Machine Gun Company as a machine gunner. With this unit he embarked the H.M.T. "Themistocles" at Alexandria, bound for the harbour of Marseilles in France, disembarking there on 21 March 1916. The Company was billeted in Armentieres, from 7th April 1916 until 13th June 1916. In July they moved to Neuve Eglise, then on 9th July 1916 travelled to Steenwerk and the following day to Strazeele.

As early as November 1916, the barometer reached extremely low levels in the north of France and in Paris. By the end of December prolonged and heavy rain meant the Great War soldiers on all sides were contending with difficult conditions. Everywhere there was a lot of mud, and in some places the rivers of the northern region were overflowing.

So in December 1916 when Jim arrived in Vignacourt - with his unit the 7th Machine Gun Company - he was looking forward to some respite from the rain, the mud and the bitter cold. While in Vignacourt his daily routine revolved around the repairing of equipment, training, resting and recreation. He enjoyed the hospitality of the locals and used the respite from the battlefield to relax in cafes and catch up on correspondence.

On one of the postcards he sent to his sweetheart, Dorothy Lightfoot, he wrote he had made a friendship with a local woman photographer and her husband [Antoinette and Louis THUILLIER of Vignacourt]. In fact, whilst billeted with the 1st Division in Vignacourt he had two portraits taken by these local photographers, one in full battle kit, and one without. Both taken against the Thuilliers’ signature painted backdrop, suspended from a beam in their barn.


Jim survived the war, despite being involved in the bitter fighting at Ypres, Flers, and Messines. Amazingly, he was not wounded in action, but was buried alive by mud on three separate occasions when shells exploded nearby his machine gun position. He was hospitalised for infected tonsils in France in July 1916 and influenza in England in 1919.

Vignacourt will forever be linked with the name of James Holland, his portrait - taken in Vignacourt at the Thuillier's farm - is the striking front cover of "The Lost Diggers", Ross Coulthart's book about the Thuillier photographic collection. We all remember watching the video of Mr. Ross Coulthart making a special presentation to Jim's twin children Mrs Kathleen MALTA (née HOLLAND) and Reg HOLLAND on their 90th birthday in 2011. It was the gift of a framed Thuillier portrait of Jim taken in Vignacourt in 1916. Who could ever forget the emotion of the moment when his daughter, catching sight of Jim's face, cried out in pure joy and excitement: "Ooh, it's a photograph of father" .

Thank you to Judy CARROLL, (Jim’s Grand-daughter) for sharing this story and contribution by Ms Alison McCallum.

Thank you to Ross Coulthart and Judy Carroll for permission to reproduce images of James Holland from the book: ​"The Lost Diggers", Harper Collins Publishers Sydney Australia 2012.


SNAPE Robert Oswald


Robert Snape was a musically talented young Australian soldier, who played both the organ and the piano. During the war, he took every opportunity to practice his music, sometimes in the solitude of a church, and otherwise, wherever he found a piano, in an army mess or in an estaminet, for example.
It was his way of forgetting the horrors of the war and rediscovering some of the beauty of civilization.

Robert kept a war-diary, in which he mentioned ““Fine organ in church at Vignacourt. Got cure’s permission played for an hour”.



War diary


After some research and exchanges with the bishopric of Amiens, the name of the parish priest present during the war has been identified, it was Abbe Leclerc.

Robert was a Private in the 6th Field Ambulance, 8th Reinforcements, Australian Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force. He enlisted as a stretcher Bearer in 1915.


Robert courtesy of Walter Barber


He married Miss Margaret Therese ('Madge') McLaughlin, a few months before leaving Australia for the war.

On 29 Dec 1915, he sailed from Melbourne on the His Majesty’s Australian Transport, ‘Demosthenes’, A-64.

In civilian life, Robert had worked as a clerk and a secretary. So, with skills in both stenography and accounting, he was employed in Headquarters positions as soon as he arrived in France...

You can find his war-diary and correspondence on the Museum of Victoria’ website on this link: victoriancollections.net.au and here for the: war diary. Thanks to M. Walter Barber, grandson of Robert and Mrs. Ash Robertson, Manager, Victorian Collections.




"After the Battle of Pozières in 1916 a young Australian, Leo Westhead, found himself at Vignacourt,in Picardy, where he met a charming French girl, Paule Carlier. She could speak a little English, he a little French. Language, however, is no barrier to romance, for not so very long after, they married".

The beginning of this history was written in November 1945 in the "The Argus" (Melbourne).

To continue the story: They got married and they had a child in Australia and the origine of the CARLIER family was in Picardy, but not only to the famous village of Vignacourt. The family worked in the textile sector.

The father: Alfred Edmond born in 1867 was in french: "Passementier" - (for this job, there are several possible meanings, but probably, at this time, it was a specific part of the work on the looms - supply). He was married to Elise Sageais (midwife) and the great grandfather, Alfred Ernest born in 1844 married to Obéline Esther BOITELLE were both, in French language "liseurs" of drawings, several possible meanings but this job concerned a preparation step for work on the looms pattern.

At the origin, the family was established in the department of Aisne in Picardy region near the city of Guise. (Guise has an important cultural and historical heritage) The family lived at Vignacourt in the street "d'Hornas". The brother Edmond Raymond lived in Australia, too!

Leo Westhead and Paule CARLIER

Courtesy of Red cliffs historical society
Mrs Paule CARLIER from Vignacourt & Leo WESTHEAD