The Christensen family
Poul Christensen and Ernestine Schwarz met in Australia after emigrating from Europe. They married and settled in Tiaro, Queensland. Ernestine was born in Schleswig–Holstein, an area regularly contested by Germany and Denmark throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, her birthplace is listed as Germany in some documents and Denmark in others.
Upon arrival in Australia, Poul worked as a carpenter while Ernestine undertook domestic duties and raised their five children. In 1911, after living in Australia for 25 years, Ernestine applied to become a naturalised Australian subject.
After the First World War broke out, four of the five Christensen children enlisted for service. The eldest child, Victoria, volunteered as a nurse for the war effort in 1915. Victoria had undertaken her training at a children's hospital, and had worked for five years and acted as a matron before enlisting. Victoria and other members of the Australian Army Nursing Service embarked from Australia on HMAT Orsova in July 1915. Victoria commenced duty at No. 6 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, but also served at the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in England. At the end of the war, she was posted to India before being discharged in July 1919.
Poul and Ernestine's eldest son, Andrew, was the last of the three sons to enlist. Andrew had worked as a grazier in the Maryborough area. He joined the Australian Imperial Force on 2 June 1916, was assigned to the 21st reinforcements of the 15th Battalion, and departed Brisbane on 21 October aboard HMAT Boonah. After recovering from mumps, Andrew served in France and Belgium before he was wounded in action. After being hit by shrapnel in his leg which fractured his tibia and fibula, he was transferred to a hospital in England before returning to Australia in late 1917.
The second eldest son, Paul Daniel, known as “Dan”, worked as a tester and grader in the agriculture industry in Bundaberg. Dan enlisted on 9 March 1916. He had been married to Margaret for only two months before he departed Brisbane aboard the same ship as Andrew. Dan served with the 15th Battalion as a stretcher bearer and played tuba in the band. Dan suffered from trench fever in mid-1917, but recovered and rejoined his unit. He returned to Australia in June 1919.
The Christensens' youngest son, Victor, enlisted before his older brothers on 30 September 1915. Aged 21, Victor departed Brisbane aboard HMAT Commonwealth with the 15th Battalion in March 1916. Victor trained in Egypt before he was transferred to the 42nd Battalion on the Western Front. He had multiple hospital stays due to illness, including a serious bout of pneumonia.
On 31 July 1917 during fighting in Belgium, 600 members of the 42nd Battalion were attacking enemy posts east of Messines in Belgium. Although the attack was described as “highly successful”, there were 190 Australian casualties; 40 were killed, including Victor.
Victor left all his belongings to his sister Victoria in his will. In a letter to a friend dated 31 August 1919, Victoria wrote about her difficulty in coming to terms with the death of her youngest brother.
Victor has no known grave but his name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium. His name is also listed on the First World War Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.