The story of Charles Hensler provides an interesting lesson in how information was received and dealt with 100 years ago and how modern data banks have allowed us to gain a clearer view of events that happened a century ago.
John Winn’s book on the, ‘History of the Toowoomba Grammar School Cadet Unit’, has incorrectly included Charles Hensler, of the 4th Battalion A.I.F.
The Toowoomba Grammar School Archive Records state that Charles L Hensler started at the school on 1st January 1912 and left 31st December 1912. The records incorrectly state that he was Killed in Action. Leslie Charles Joseph Hensler born in Goondiwindi, Queensland enlisted in Sydney NSW and stated that his mother was Mrs Ellen Hensler of the Post Hotel, Goondiwindi, Queensland. He was a postal assistant prior to enlisting and enlisted at the age of 23 on 16th June 1916 with the service number 554 with the 69th Australian Squadron, Australian Flying Corp . He was transferred to the 3rd Squadron on 18th January 1918 and was in hospital on 28th October 1918. After service in France and England he returned to Australia and was discharged on 27th July 1919. His brother Cecil Eric Hensler was at the school from 1st January 1911 to 31st December 1912 and enlisted at the age of 21 years and 7 months with the 15th Battalion, Service Number 4511 on 21st August 1915, confirming his NOK as Mrs Ellen Hensler and Mr Jacob Charles Hensler. He was a dental mechanic before enlisting. He was transferred to the 47th Battalion on the 1st April 1916 and then the 45th Battalion on 7th April 1918. He sadly spent a large amount of time in hospital in 1917 with a venereal disease. He returned on HMS Beltana on 21st July 1919. He died 24 September 1968 (Registration details: 1968/B/742)
Below are the hyperlinks to look at the records of Eric Cecil and Charles Joseph Hensler.
NAA MILITARY RECORDS FOR ERIC CECIL HENSLER
NAA MILITARY RECORDS FOR LESLIE CHARLES JOSEPH HENSLER
Private Henry Charles Hensler
The mistake was noticed after receiving this information from Military Historian, Greg Lamerton but it is included to show how easy it was to make a mistake.
Charles Hensler was a young English migrant who arrived in Australia in 1911. He was a Londoner, aged 30, tall and fit at over 6 foot and 176 pounds. He wrote his NOK as his sister Mrs Edith Moss of Fairfield Road, Bow, London. We know he was born at Kensall Green, London, and educated at Olga Street School, near Bow. He stated that in Australia he was single, a labourer and had “no other friends or relations”. He also stated that he had served eight years in the Royal Garrison Artillery, “time expired”.
He enlisted at Randwick in Sydney on 17 August 1917, less than a fortnight after the declaration of war. He gave his Sydney address as Fort Street. He was a member of the COE, fair complexioned with blue eyes and brown hair. He was posted to the new 4th Battalion, one of the 1st Brigade units mustering in Sydney, assigned to HQ with the very low service number of “8”. The battalion embarked as part of the First Contingent on 20 October 1914 aboard A14 Euripides at Sydney and sailed for the Middle East.
After further training in Egypt the 4th Battalion prepared for the attacks at the Dardanelles in April 1915. Charles was part of the Landing force on the morning of the 25 April, the first ANZAC Day. He survived that day and the intense fighting that followed, that saw more than fifty percent of his battalion become casualties. In July Charles was promoted to Lance Corporal.
In early August the men of the 1st Division, including Charles’ 4th Battalion, were prepared for the infamous August Offensive. On 6 August the 4th Battalion was part of the utterly desperate charge and hand-to-hand battle at Lone Pine. From that day he was officially “missing”. Although the struggle lasted several days several witnesses declared that Charles was not seen after the first day. In April 1916 his battalion concluded a court of inquiry into the missing men of August 1915 and amended hundreds of files as “killed in action”. Charles is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, inscribed with the names of thousands of men who have no known grave. He was 34 when he died.
- Charles Hensler has been remembered at Toowoomba Grammar School ever since his death in 1915. Although he may have had no direct connection to TGS, he was mistaken for an old boy of the school, namely Leslie Charles Hensler, who served in the Australian Flying Corps and survived to return home in 1919. Leslie Charles Hensler was a Goondiwindi boy, the son of a prominent local family, three of whose sons served in the AIF, all graduates of TGS. Leslie Charles Hensler also enlisted in Sydney, which may have added to the confusion.
It seems that the publication of the Casualty Lists for August 1915, occurring about a month later, included the name of “Charles Hensler” under the NSW heading; the assumption was made that the past-student had been killed in action. Given the limited communication possibilities available at the time and the uncommon frequency of the surname (only five in the Great War), it is easy to appreciate the circumstances in which Charles Hensler came to be commemorated at TGS.
Toowoomba Grammar School Archive Records state that he started school on 1st January 1912 and left on 31st December 1912.
Australian War Memorial Honour Roll
National Archives of Australia Military Records
AWM4 unit war diaries Item No 23/4/1 Part 2 May-Sept 1915 4th BN