Thursday, October 23, 2008
The Story of Wilhelm Kluge
Statement made by No.1653 Pte J.T.C. Haworth 27 Bn.
On the 10th of June, at 10.p.m. we went over on our sector between Morlancourt and Sailly-La-Lec. The missing man left our trench with me and when we had gone a few yards he went down and I did not see him move again. Our wounded were picked up by our stretcher bearers, but the missing man was not found.
The following days the ground was often under heavy fire from the German guns. I did not pass over the same ground again and beyond this statement I am not able to give any further information.
Wilhelm enlisted in January 1915. At the time he was 23 years old and working as a station hand near port Augusta. He trained in Australia for four months, was taken on strength with 27 battalion and embarked for overseas on HMAT Geelong on the very last day of May. No records for Wilhelm exist for the period from embarkation to January of 1916. Like other soldiers it is likely that Wilhelm served at Gallipoli.
From January he was taken on strength with 27 Battalion at Tel el Kabir and in March he was transferred to the 7th brigade MCG in Ismalia. Wilhelm spent most of March in the 1st General Hospital there being treated for VD. He returned to C company of 27 Battalion, then in June he left Egypt aboard HMT Aragon to arrive in Plymouth on 23rd. For the next 6 weeks Wilhelm was in training around Larkhill and Rollestone in the UK until the 17th of August found him in Etaples. He fought with the 27th Battalion for the next two months until sucumbing to trenchg feet put him back in hospital in Rouen in November. Wilhelm was discharged after almost a month in hospital but he seemed to be attached to the base depot until 28th February, 1917.
This is where Wilhelm's story becomes more tragic. After serving at Gallipoli and several months active service on the western front, Wilhelm deserted in early March. However, he was back with his unit only 4 days later and in another 4 days, on the 12th April, he was court martialled and sentenced to ten years penal servitude. Wilhelm now found himself in Rouen prison.
It is unusual to find sentences of this severity, a number of the other Quorn soldiers absconded at various times, but their sentences were always much lighter, being a few days of FP2 or barrack detention. It is not known what characteristics of Wilhelm,s escapade or external circumstances lead to him being treated so severely.
A month after beginning his ten year sentence Wilhelm had it commuted to two years.
After almost a year in prison, on the 18 May 1918, Wilhelm's sentence was suspended on the basis that he rejoin his unit, which he did on the 21st.
Twenty days later Wilhelm would once again disappear. This time it was not by choice. The investigation at the time sought witnesses, but it was evident that Wilhelm had in fact been killed in action.
Subsequently Wilhelm's body was rediscovered and bought in to the Beacon British Cemetery at Sailly Laurette.