Ernest William, or Ern as he was called, the third son of Louisa and George, was almost twenty two when, on 16 August, 1915, he and his brother Arthur enlisted in the A.I.F.
Another brother, Henry was already serving overseas, and Ern, like so many young men of those times, was eager to do his patriotic duty.
Ern was the tallest of the brothers as his description in the enlistment papers describes:
- height 6’1”, weight 174 lbs., fresh complexion, brown eyes, dark brown hair and perfect eyesight.
He and Arthur sailed together to Egypt and then on to France. Here, Ern was transferred into the artillery and served as a gunner with the 58th Battalion. He served in France from September 1916 to April 1919, with only two fourteen days leave in England in this time. Fortunately he was not wounded and the only hospitalisation that is recorded is a bout of mumps!
Ern was a regular letter writer to his parents, and the following letter, reprinted in the local paper, tells of his sighting of his brother Henry, and of the conditions in France:-
May 5, 1917
Well I have received letters from just about all of you lately and have not been able to get letters away, so I will do it this way now and try and write a fairly long one. I saw Henry yesterday for the first time for about two months and if I have any luck I will see him again tomorrow. He is doing quite well, in fact, nearly as good as I am, but I wish he was in the same Brigade as I am; we would be able to see one another more often.
Well they say it is a cruel war and that we are having a rough time of it over here, but just at present we are doing pretty well. To begin with, the weather is perfect, just like Australian weather, and I can assure you we appreciate it after the terrible cold winter we had.
We are now living in a recaptured village which has not been knocked about too much, and we have made ourselves very comfortable; a good sized room for the three of us, with beds for each and a nice fireplace in it, which we do not need now excepting to do a bit of cooking for ourselves, which we do every day. Of course we have furniture in the place – a nice round table and half a dozen small chairs besides a lovely arm chair, which I am sitting in now to write.
There is plenty of wood and water to be had and as far as fruit goes at present there is only rhubarb which seems to be very plentiful. Well, we have it for tea every night with a bit of custard, which we bought in the canteen. As far as tucker goes we are getting plenty and in a few weeks there will be more strawberries in the place than we will be able to eat, as they practically grow wild here.
To give you an idea of what the change has been like for us after coming out of the mud and cold weather onto solid ground and nice weather must be like coming from Hell to Heaven; that is what a contrast it has been. I think that the cold weather is done for this season. I am as contented and happy here as a sand boy, but I think I will be more pleased when this old war is over and we are back again in Aust.
I suppose before now that Arthur is home again. You did not seem to know that he was coming the last letter you wrote to me. Surely he was not going to give you all a pleasant surprise!
I see by the Chronicle that you had heavy rains home again and spoiled some of the fruit. My word, that is hard luck, but I hope it was not too bad. I have not been getting any papers lately but here there are always plenty about which other chaps get and I always get them when they have finished, so you see I get a bit of news that way.
I believe there is another mail in tonight, so with a bit of luck I should get a letter or two. Well there is not much to write about here that is not official and we must not do that, so I will write again as soon as I get the opportunity.
So do not worry about us as we are both O.K. Best love to all at home.
The Murray Pioneer 17 August 1917
Ern did not return to Australia until nine months after the armistice had been signed and was eventually discharged from the army in September, 1919 when he returned to Renmark to work.
Here he met Meta Matilda Thiele, a dressmaker in Renmark, and on 31 May 1922, Ern and Meta were married at his parent’s home in Renmark. His sister, Lottie Guscott was one of the witnesses at the marriage.
Meta, or May as she was known, was four years older than Ern, and was born in Sutherlands, near Eudunda.
Being a returned serviceman Ern was able to procure a block of land suitable for fruit growing in Winkie, a small settlement near Berri on the River Murray. Here, he and May worked hard to establish themselves.
Unfortunately, they were childless, but Uncle Ern was a great favourite with his nieces and nephews. His niece, Nancy Langdon, said of him, Uncle Ern drove me to my wedding in 1940. I loved him. Auntie May didn’t like children much, and another, Joyce George said, Uncle Ern was the best of all uncles – we all loved him, but Auntie May was a bit hard to take.
Ernest and Meta were married in Ernest's parent's home. Ernest's birth record is Frome District Book 531 Page 69 Ernest is buried in the Barmera Cemetery, South Australia.
Ern died in 1971, aged 77 years and May died in 1981. Both are buried in the Barmera Cemetery.
A History of the Weidenhofer Families in Australia 1846 - 2004. Written by Wyn Allen (née Weidenhofer) 2004 ©.
Reproduced with permission of Stewart Allen, Barry Malcolm and Carlien Melrose.
This is a works in progress and any assistance with information or source details would be very much appreciated.
South Australian Genealogy Index of Birth, Death and Marriage.
Date: 1893 - Name: WILLIAMS Ernest William - Father: George Charles WILLIAMS - Mother: Louisa Sophie WEHR - District: Frome - Registration No.: 531/69.
Date: 1971- Registration No.: 128A/4108 - Name: WILLIAMS Ernest William - Relative: Meta Matilda WILLIAMS [W] - District: Murray.
Link to Index
South Australian Genealogy Index of Birth, Death and Marriage.
Further research is required to locate primary documents to satisfy Wikitree source standards.
Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.
Ern is 34 degrees from Alfred Nobel, 43 degrees from Henri Becquerel, 22 degrees from Niels Bohr, 27 degrees from Marie Curie, 30 degrees from Alec Fleming, 23 degrees from Howard Florey, 36 degrees from Albert Imre Szent-Györgyi, 27 degrees from Barbara McClintock, 34 degrees from Wilhelm Roentgen and 26 degrees from Chandra Garrow on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.