In case someone comes searching.

28 07 2007

The life and death of a fallen ancestor.

Julius Wronsky was born on the 22 January 1889 at “Makouwrskop”, district Wolmaranstad, Tranvaal, Union of South Africa. His parents were Fritz and Maria (neé Libenberg), Fritz and his three brothers, Ludwig, Eric and Wilhelm emigrated from Prussia in the mid- to late 1800’s arriving in the port of Cape Town. They were “Russian Jews”.

Julius had 2 siblings, Alice Elizabeth and William Henry Wronsky. Julius and William attended St. Andrews college in Grahamstown in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s. After completing his schooling, Julius studied to be a teacher at the Normal College in Pretoria, South Africa. After teaching for a number of years, he enlisted and was drafted into “C” company, South African Irish regiment on the 5 October 1914. (No. 260). During his time with the SA Irish, he was involved in the German South West Africa Rebellion and the “S. A. H.” (Highlanders?) He was discharged from that Regiment on 23 July 1915. On the bottom of a pay-slip, Julius’s next of kin was given as “Miss A. Wronsky, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Cape Colony”.

Not long after that, on the 7 September 1916, Julius enlisted again, being drafted into the 2nd Brigade of the South African Infantry, No 7646. On his “Certificate of Medical Examination” is stated the he was 5’8 ¼ “ tall, weighed 175lbs, “flush” complexion and “fair” hair. He was re-assigned on the 20th October 1916 at Robert’s Heights/Potchefstroom to the 2nd Regiment 1st SA Infantry Brigade (Overseas), No. 10348. At that time (11 month later), his complexion was “dark”, eyes “blue” and hair “dark brown” and his weight 165lbs. Strange transformation.

He embarked on the “Walmer Castle” on the 6th November 1916 in Cape Town arriving in Southhampton, England. He left for the front on the 25th February 1917 and joined his unit on 26th February 1917. Julius was killed in action at the battle of Arras, France on the 9th April 1917. He was buried at the “Brown Line British Cemetery, North of St. Laurent Blangy, 1 ¼ miles North East of Arras.

In a letter from the Office of the Staff Officer, War Records, Pretoria, dated 28th December 1920, his next of kin (then given as W. H. Llyod-Wronsley, 4 Mayfield Terrace, Newington, Edinburgh, Scotland) was informed that Julius’s remains were exhumed and re-interred at the Point-du-Jour Military Cemetery No. 1. 2 ½ miles East North East of Arras, France.

All SA troops who saw service in any of the theatres of the war – in Julius’ case – the Western Front – received at least 2 medals. The British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

The BWM was an automatic award you almost just had to report for duty for that one while the AVM was awarded only if you were in a theatre where fighting was taking place.

Julius would have been awarded the medals posthumously them going to his next of kin.

R. I. P.




6 responses

28 07 2007
David van Wyk

The General
‘Good morning, good morning’ the general said,
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of them dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

The little poem by Siegfried Sassoon sums up the incompetence of Allied generals. Sassoon clearly was not happy with the battles before Arras, or with that of Arras itself. Britain’s participation in the war brought 450,000,000 people from all continents into the war, and many believe that the troops from the colonies were often used as cannon fodder.
How much more W. H. Llyod-Wronsley could have done for humanity had he been able to pursue his career as a teacher, instead of giving his life in a war for imperial profit!

28 07 2007
David van Wyk

Or take another little poem from that terrible war,

I want to go home,
I want to go home.
The coal-box and shrapnel they whistle and roar,
I don’t want to go to the trenches no more,
I want to go over the sea
Where the Kayser can’t shoot bombs at me.
Oh, I
Don’t want to die,
I want to go home.

28 07 2007
David van Wyk

W. H. Llyod-Wronsley did not actually die at the main battle of Arras, he died a week earlier. I know this because the main offensive at Arras was only launched on the 16th of April. He died in a preliminary attack to test German defenses. Arras was a complete disaster because the French army, was at this point in the war completely demoralized and facing a mutiny – partly because of the influence of the February Revolution in Russia. Security about the coming offensive was appalling. It was discussed openly in Parisian bars and restaurants. This meant that the Germans were expecting it and were well prepared for it.

28 07 2007

David, your insight …wow. See if you can get hold of the book mentioned. It describes in detail, the events of 9 April, 1917. I would transcribe it for you but I’m a little wasted…btw…WH Llyod-Wronsley was the next of kin…it was Julius who perished.

28 07 2007

I am sorry, I got it a little bit wrong in the previous post, the preliminary attack by the British at Arras was the prelude to the offensive by the French at the 2nd battle of the Aisne and the 3rd battle of Champagne between 16 and 18 April. The French lost 200 000 men in these two days.

28 07 2007

Thanks for the correction about who actually died… I am writing a little feverishly without paying too much attention to detail. Julius Wonsky then. Read the book by Charles van Onselen on Kas Maine, “The Seed is Mine’ which in passing refers to some of the Jewish people who lived in the old Western Transvaal. The South African Jewish community in many ways played a significant role in our country, the Lessings, the Schriners, the Jutas, the Slovos etc, They all stood and were counted in the face of injustice.

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