Restoring A Brave Loved One

Far From The Land Of Wattle …

Last month I told you how we came across the portrait of William ZORNIG, who had paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting in France during the First World War. We are hoping to restore the portrait to William’s present-day family but, at the time of writing, no one has contacted us.

This month I will tell you a little more of William’s story and of how his family came to be living in the Beenleigh area in the hope that someone in the family will recognise him.

He was born in Ipswich on 26 February 1896, as his grandfather had taken up farming in Dugandan after immigrating to Queensland in 1863. His parents were Herman Frederick and Elizabeth Kate ZORNIG. However, William’s father must have moved his family to the Beenleigh area as William and three of his siblings are recorded as pupils of Beenleigh School in 1907 and 1908.

When William enlisted in the AIF on 5 September 1916, he was 20 years old and working as a night officer with the Railways. He embarked on the A74 Marathon and disembarked in Plymouth. He celebrated his 21st Birthday with friends in England before proceeding to France in March of 1917.

William Zornig
William Zornig

In May 1918 William went into no-man’s land to assist a downed pilot and was wounded by machine gun fire. Sergeants Gerald Fitzgerald and W D Dickson went out under a white flag and brought them both back. However, before William got to the dressing station, he died when a shell exploded near him. The two men who went out to bring William and the pilot back received military medals. Surely William should have received one as well.

William Herman ZORNIG was buried in the Adelaide Cemetery, Villiers Bretonneux. His headstone bears the inscription ‘GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN’.

His loving family inserted a Memorium notice in the Brisbane Courier on 16 May 1919.

Only a grave of a hero

Only a mound of earth

Far from the land of wattle

The place that gave him birth

Somewhere in France he’s lying

He answered his country’s call

And died an Australian hero

Fighting to save us all.

We are very keen to return William’s portrait to members of the ZORNIG family so, if you know of anyone of that name, please ask them to contact us. If not, at the very least, William’s portrait will occupy a place on the walls of our research rooms.

So, until next year I would like to extend our very best wishes for a very merry Christmas with family and friends.

Rob Thomson


Logan River Family History Inc.