In Honour of Harry Dalziel (A Personal Tribute)

For me it is an honour and a privilege to have met Harry Dalziel personally and to be forever indebted to his memory for a noble and gracious act of care and concern for a family that at the time carried the stigma of being regarded as enemies of our country.

My parents migrated to Australia in 1928.  At the time there were 4 Children, I being the youngest and only 1 year old on arrival in this new land of opportunity. Not only was Germany crippled by the war of 14 -18, but its aftermath proved even more disastrous: huge reparations demanded by the victors, the virtual shut-down of all heavy industries, unstable government, massive levels of unemployment and finally, total economic collapse. All this forced my parents to the conclusion that there was little hope for a growing young family and so came to Australia to take up dairy farming on the Darling Downs.

For a number of reasons my mother never really accepted Australia as her new home. Firstly, the farm we were led to purchase was small and sadly under-productive. Then followed in succession the Depression years, a crippling drought and World War ll.

While we were struggling for survival in the 1930s, our relatives in Germany were able to paint an extravagant picture of a revitalised nation under Hitler's Nazi rule. My mother especially wanted to go back.

The outbreak of war then was a further blow to her hopes, and our whole family soon faced a new problem. Though previously honoured and respected, we became, in the eyes of some, at least, 'hated Germans'. Though we knew nothing of the disastrous philosophy that underlined Nazism, my mother in particular rather unwisely let her pro-homeland feelings get the better of her. We children used to joke about it but soon realised the potential seriousness of the situation when a carload of Security Officers arrived from Brisbane to search our whole place. They had received reports that we were in possession of secret documents from Berlin giving plans on sabotage activities, as well as having a radio transmitter by which we were relaying military secrets to off-shore Japanese submarines.

It was, of course, totally untrue, and we tended to find it rather amusing. When, however, another car-load arrived some months later we knew we were in trouble. Increasing numbers of German origin and suspected of German sympathies were being interned, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that this could well happen to us. Therefore when the Police arrived early one afternoon we expected that our time had come. To our surprise it was only mother who was given half-an-hour to pack a suitcase and say goodbye. The police even refused to go one mile out of the way to enable her to bid farewell to her 3 children at school. The youngest was 5 years old. They did not see their mother for almost 3 more years.

We never held it against the authorities, or our country as such. lt was wartime and national
security was paramount. It did hurt us, however, to have a mother separated from her young family and we could never quite see how this could possibly support the war effort.

It was some two years later that Harry Dalziel touched our lives in a warm and very wonderful way. We had many friends in our country community,  and we were especially close to the Jensen family. It so happened that Harry's second wife, Elsie, was a niece of Mrs Jensen.

Travelling was not easy in those days, especially due to petrol rationing so it was quite an occasion when Harry and his wife visited the Jensens and stayed a few days. lt was here that I met him personally and recall him as a quietly-spoken, unpretentious kind of person who never sought to impress by the fact that he was a VC winner. lt did impress us, however, to know that we were in the presence of a real-life hero, as well as to see the all too obvious evidence of some of the massive wounds to his head, and wonder how he could possibly have survived.

While at the Jensens he heard of our family's situation and determined to do something about it. While he said nothing to us and made no promises, on his return to Oxley he immediately composed a letter to the Head of National Security in Canberra requesting my mother's release, adding that he would accept personal responsibility for our integrity and ongoing loyalty to Australia.

We knew nothing of this at the time so you can imagine our immense joy to receive the news, barely a month later, that mother was coming home. We were overwhelmed, and virtually stood in awe of this rather smallish, unassuming man, firstly to realise the high regard our country has for its VC winners, and the virtual authority that goes with it.

To us as a family, however, there was the far more overwhelming realisation that here was a man who would have had far more reason to turn away from us. After all, he and my father fought against each other in World War l, yet he was the one who had compassion on us and reached his hand across the barriers of enmity and put his own status and integrity on the line for us. Harry Dalziel really was our 'Good Samaritan' as in the story Our Lord gave us.

Harry, we honour you and will never forget what you did for us!

Reinhard Mayer
40 Ormond Road Oxley 4075

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