Gas goggles fragment from Pheasant Wood mass grave, Fromelles : Private R H Pflaum, 32 Battalion, AIF

Unit 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion
Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number REL44989
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Celluloid, Rubberised fabric, Wool flannel
Maker Unknown
Date made c 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Dark grey wool fragment from a pair of gas goggles, complete with a rectangular celluloid eyepiece and sections of the rubberised fabric tape which was once stitched around the edges of the celluloid. The original stitching lines around on both the tape and celluloid are clearly visible.

History / Summary

Damaged piece of gas goggle found with the remains of 161 Private Raymond 'Ray' Holstein Pflaum during the excavation of the Pheasant Wood mass grave in 2010. The son of Theodore and Mary Pflaum, he was working as a shop assistant in his home town of Blumberg, South Australia when he enlisted in the AIF on 21 July 1915 at the age of 18.

Joining A company of the 32nd Battalion, he embarked on board HMT Geelong at Adelaide on 18 November 1915. He arrived in France with the battalion on 23 June 1916 after spending six months training in Egypt.

On 19 July 1916, during the Battle of Fromelles, the 32nd Battalion was involved in an attack on Fleurbaix. Pflaum was in the first wave of the attack when he was wounded by shrapnel to the stomach. He was moved into a nearby dugout and made as comfortable as possible. He was later found in the dugout by his brother, Theodor Milton Pflaum of the 25th Company, Australian Machine Gun Corps. Theodor had to find a position for his gun, and Ray could not be moved so he left Ray in the care of another 32 Battalion soldier. Due to a German counter attack, Theodor was eventually ordered to retreat. Ray was left to be picked up by German stretcher bearers.

Raymond Pflaum died of his wounds that night. He was originally listed by the AIF as wounded in action and presumed to be a prisoner of war. Early information from Germany led the Army to list his date of death as 24 November 1916 but his family later received his identity disc and information from Germany that stated that he died on 19 July 1916.

Pflaum was buried in a mass grave at Pheasants Wood, this grave was discovered in 2009. His remains were successfully identified in 2010 through DNA and he was reburied at the Fromelles (Pheasant Woods) Military Cemetery.