The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2782) Corporal Claude Schwonberg, 17th battalion, First World War

Place Europe: Belgium, Flanders, West-Vlaanderen, Passchendaele, Poelcappelle
Accession Number PAFU2015/106.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 6 March 2015
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Nicholas Schmidt, the story for this day was on (2782) Corporal Claude Schwonberg, 17th battalion, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

2782 Corporal Claude Schwonberg, 17th battalion
KIA 9 October 1917
Photograph: P06513.001

Story delivered 6 March 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Claude Greybrook Schwonberg, who was killed in Belgium in October 1917.

Claude Schwonberg was born in 1889, one of 13 children of Frank and Ellen Schwonberg, in Maclean on the Clarence River in New South Wales. The Schwonberg family had immigrated to Australia from Hamburg in Germany in the early 1800s, and Frank Schwonberg was the district coroner and major of the town in 1890s. The Schwonbergs were a well-known family in the district; however, their Germanic heritage attracted bitterness and resentment from factions of the Maclean community, who during the First World War called for the family’s internment as “enemy aliens”. Because of this, Claude’s older brother Dugald enlisted in the AIF in Queensland under an unknown pseudonym.

Claude Schwonberg worked as a ship’s purser on the steamship Barringbar in the years after his schooling. He spent six years training with the Maclean Scottish Rifles before enlisting in the AIF at Liverpool Camp in August 1915. Sailing with the 7th reinforcements to the 17th Battalion in November 1915, bound for the fighting on Gallipoli, he arrived too late to join the campaign. Claude spent the following months training in the Egyptian desert, and in March 1916 was among the first Australians to be sent to France to fight the German Army on the Western Front.

Little is known about Claude Schwonberg’s war, but he participated in and survived major actions fought at Pozières, Lagnicourt, Second Bullecourt, and Menin Road. His leadership qualities were recognised by his superiors, and he was promoted to the rank of corporal.

Schwonberg was killed during the 17th Battalion’s attack at Poelcappelle on 9 October 1917.

Eyewitnesses forced to retire in the face of a strong German counter-attack reported seeing him wounded in the chest and leg. He was listed as missing in action, and a court of inquiry later determined that he had been killed.

Only months earlier, the Schwonberg family had learned that Claude’s brother Dugald had also been killed in action.

It is not known what happened to Claude Schwonberg at Poelcapelle, for his remains were never recovered. His name is listed alongside the 54,000 British and Dominion men killed in the fighting in Belgium whose final resting places remain unknown. It is also listed on the Roll of Honour to my right, with more than 60,000 Australians who died in the First World War and his photograph is displayed beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Claude Greybrook Schwonberg, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

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