Jacob Klaus at the gravesite of his great-great uncle. He was the first descendant to visit him since his death.
Jacob Klaus at the gravesite of his great-great uncle. He was the first descendant to visit him since his death. Contributed

Two mates die together on the same day

PETER Klaus recently headed down to Bellingen to commemorate 100 years since the death of his great-uncle.

The Ballina man took a bottle of Reschs Pilsener, a beer available back then and still being made now, and drank it on April 30 at the local time equivalent to 4.30am in France where his ancestor, Vincent Passlow, died.

Vince and his brother Stanley and his good mate Michael Daly all signed up for the First World War in Bellingen.

Vince was 19 years old and ready to see the world.

He signed up to D Company as a private in the 36th Battalion on February 21, 1916 and was soon on his way to England.

By Christmas of 1916 Vincent was in France on the Western Front.

While Vince and Michael were separated for the rest of 1916, they met up again in January of 1917.

It seemed fitting, although incredibly devastating that these two life long friends, both born in Gundagai should fight together and die on the same day.

"I saw Passlow, D Company, who was about 20 yards from me in a front line trench, killed instantly with one other man by a shell, during an early morning bombardment,” Private J.H. Morris wrote when giving evidence.

"He was buried in the English cemetery, just behind Ploegstreet, and I saw his grave with the cross over it, painted with the regimental colours.”

The Passlow family received the dreaded telegram as did the Daly family to inform them of the deaths of their sons.

The tiny area of Snarebrook, where the boys came from, were so upset by the news the local paper reported that the proposed sporting event for the King's Birthday be abandoned.

Money that local children had collected for the event was used for a memorial to the two dead soldiers.

Sadly, Vince's last letter to his family was sent only two weeks before his death, saying that he was fine.

When Mr Klaus' son Jacob decided to travel to Europe in 2013 he gave him some extra money and said he had a job for him.

"I packed two stubbies in bubble wrap and asked him to pour one over Vince's grave and he was to toast Vince with the other whilst I was back here waiting for his call with a Reschs to drink together whilst my mum, Rita, was in Evans Head with her phone and a rum ready for the call,” he said.

At the time Mr Klaus knew his son would be in the graveyard he called him and Jacob replied that he was actually looking for him just as he rang.

While his father was on the phone, Jacob found the headstone and became the first of Vince's descendants to visit him.

”It gave me goosebumps,” Mr Klaus said.

”As he poured the beer over the grave, (Jacob's) travelling partner said that the clouds cleared and the sun came out.

”I said no wonder, it was his first beer in 96 years.”

References

  • Service Records, 1929, National Archives of Australia
  • 'Heroes who have fallen on the battlefield', Freeman's Journal, Thursday, May 24, 1917, Page 30.
  • Peter Klaus to Ballina Advocate, email, 24 April, 2017
  • 'Snarebrook', The Raleigh Sun, 1 June 1917, Page 2

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