Albert Alfred George VOLLER
Railway cross and efficiency medals and ribbons, from the collection of Rod McClean
War Service record: NAA B2455, VOLLER Albert Alfred George (service No. 5410)
NSWGR Employment Card: NSW Public Records (Staff no:37380)
Grandson: Rod McLean
Albert Voller Biography
First work for NSWGR was as a ballast packer, then a relief fettler. One of his early jobs was on the Bundanoon fettling gang that cleared the railway after the Exeter disaster March 1914. He was a permanent fettler based at Bundanoon when he enlisted in 1916. Served as a sniper in the 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion and promoted to Corporal. He was diagnosed with flat feet in 1917 but unlike others was not immediately discharged. He then served as an instructor at a base camp in England and was discharged in 1919.
Returned to his work as a fettler based at Bundanoon. In 1939 he was awarded a bonus of 10 shillings for his services in saving the Penrose railway station when a bushfire destroyed much of the township as well as houses around Bundanoon and threatened the main southern line. Rod’s mother had vivid memories of the roaring fire and concerns for their house.
Born 1888 in Landport (Portsmouth vicinity) England. Migrated to Australia in the early 1900s. First work was on the Transcontinental railway. Aged 27 and single when he enlisted. Had been corresponding with Pearl Phillips who lived in the Berrima-Bundanoon area for some time since arriving in Australia and they married when he returned in June 1919. They had four children. One died in infancy. Albert was a keen member of the New South Wales Railway and Tramway Ambulance Corps. This included a Rifle Club.
It is not known whether he was a member of this but it could account for his skill as a sniper (though the club’s members may have been salaried rather than wage staff). He had trench foot and suffered from this after the war. He also carried stomach injuries as a result of being buried by shell fire for three days. This was not recorded on his war service record as he was not hospitalized and, keen to get home quickly when discharged, did not report for medical tests. He retired at 60 rather than 65 – the ‘burnt-out’ pension. On the honour board at Bundanoon.
Foundation member of Bundanoon RSL sub branch and treasurer. Played the piano at Anzac day luncheons. Rod recalled him as always helping his mates. Also his delight in Rod joining the school band and Rod’s memories of his grandfather showing him photos of war time locations.
Returning to work as a fettler at Bundanoon told by Rod McClean.
My grandfather was a fettler at Bundanoon. He enlisted in February 1916 in the 14th reinforcements of the 19th battalion. He was 27. When he came back in 1919 he married my grandmother and returned to his job on the railway. Like many of them, he didn’t talk a lot about his war service. As a sniper he had been buried alive for three days out in No Man’s Land. It was three days before they could get him back. It was never recorded on his war service record, but it had a long term impact on his health. What I remember as a child was that he had a bowel problem and lots of troubles with his feet from all the marching and standing around in mud and slush for days on end. He retired at 60 – didn’t go to 65. The burnt-out pension they called it. They could get it for war service injuries. If you want the true story of the First World War, read the medical records – the diseases, the injuries and the mental scars they brought home with them. In those days it was just grin and bear it. It was their mates that got them through.
Grandad was a member of the New South Wales Railway and Tramway Ambulance Corps and a foundation member of Bundanoon RSL Sub Branch where he was treasurer for many years and later granted Life Membership. So his service to his mates didn’t end after discharge. He could get a tune out of many musical instruments and often played the piano at Anzac Day luncheons for a sing along. We’d visit him and Grandma every Sunday as kids and he used to get great pleasure from me playing the cornet when I was in the Municipal Band in Goulburn.
Rod McLean, World War One researcher and volunteer at Rocky Hill and the Roundhouse Museum, remembering Albert Voller.