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Sacrifice and hardship wasn’t confined to the battlefields during the Great War.
They did it pretty tough at home as well – and few communities did it tougher than Harkaway.
Settled by primarily German migrants, the people of Harkaway joined families across the district in sending loved ones to the front but, with family ties to the enemy, they had to endure mistrust and betrayal from their own community.
Take Private Arthur Edebohls as an example.
While he was serving overseas, three of his uncles and a neighbor were being quietly investigated for being pro-German.
John, Joe, and Louis Edebohls and Rudolph Halleur were first reported to the authorities by letter in June 1915 and the Edebohls brothers were again investigated in 1916 and 1918.
Police from three different stations – Berwick, Emerald and Ferntree Gully – were involved in “quietly checking on the men”.
Each time the claims were discovered to be unfounded and with no evidence and one policeman replied that the accusation had been “written in spite”.
The Edebohls story came to light as the Narre Warren Family History Group made preparations for its third book and World War I inspired cemetery walk.
This year’s walk – titled For Some the Bell Tolled: a World War I Walk in Harkaway Cemetery – will be held from 10.30am this Sunday, 23 April.
On the day group members will visit 17 graves and tell some of the stories of 40 soldiers and a nurse buried in the cemetery. The book has the full story and also stories for the 25 men and Nurse Jessie Traill remembered on the Harkaway Memorial Stone at the Harkaway Avenue of Honour.
Private Arthur Edebohls was assigned to the eighth reinforcements of the 58th Battalion and embarked from Melbourne on 16 December 1916 on HMAT Medic.
He enlisted at Warragul on 31 October 1916, the same week as his elder brother Edwin enlisted. Arthur had recently celebrated his 23rd birthday. He was living with his parents Henry and Mary at Frankston Road in Dandenong at the time and worked as a laborer.
It was noted on his medical report that he was just under 182cm tall, and had blue eyes and fair hair. Arthur completed a month of training at Royal Park and was assigned to the same unit as his brother Edwin.
When he disembarked at Plymouth he had another three months of training before he crossed the channel to France, where he joined his unit on the 16 May 1917.
Within a month Arthur was sick in hospital and transferred back to England. He returned to duty in September 1917 and was on the frontline during the battle at Polygon Wood, where days and nights of a relentless bombing barrage resulted in many soldiers being hospitalised with shell shock. Arthur was one of them and once more he was back in England.
During his recovery he was reported absent without leave for 10 days, for this he forfeited 26 days’ pay. He returned to France in March 1918, six months later he was again diagnosed with shell shock and invalided back to England.
In April 1919 he returned to Australia on the Derbyshire and was discharged on 16 September 1919.
The Narre Warren Family History Group reports that Arthur may have struggled to return to ‘normality’ upon his return home.
From a newspaper report in January 1920 he and another returned soldier Charles Brook were charged with being drunk and disorderly and were locked up overnight.
The arresting officer spoke on their behalf in court and no conviction was recorded. However they were subject to a prohibitive order that prevented them both from drinking in the shires of Dandenong, Berwick, Cranbourne or Mulgrave for 12 months.
Arthur did not marry and he lived with his parents for some time. His uncle William died in 1939 at Frankston and sometime during 1940 his father died. In 1954 his mother had died and Arthur moved to Frankston.
Arthur died at Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital on 16 November 1974. He had been living at RSL Park, Overport Road Frankston prior to becoming ill with bronchopneumonia.
RSL Park is still providing care to returned servicemen and women and today it is known as Vasey RSL Care.
Arthur was buried in Harkaway Cemetery on 27 November 1974 aged eighty-one. He received the Victory Medal and the British War Medal and his name is inscribed on a memorial plaque in the War Garden of Remembrance at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery.
The history group will also speak about the Barr family of Harkaway, who sent 11 grandsons to the front.
Between them they almost tell the story of the Great War (the Gazette will feature the Barrs in next week’s special Anzac Day edition).

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