Family history motivates Defence service

Department of Defence

A booby trap detonated and collapsed the Bapaume town hall in France on March 25, 1917, killing Lance Corporal Jules Schuller and 23 other people.

Two years earlier, Lance Corporal Schuller survived a gunshot wound at Gallipoli before re-joining the 20th Infantry Battalion in France.

The time-delayed device was left behind by German troops retreating from Bapaume eight days before.

Germans destroyed many of the other buildings before leaving, but left the town hall standing, hoping it would likely be used as a unit headquarters.

Instead, it became a coffee stall and sleeping quarters.

Aussies found and removed an explosive in the town hall cellar but missed another 45kg explosive that later detonated just before midnight.

There were 30 people sleeping at the time. Six men were rescued from the rubble.

Around the time of the explosion, a German radio operator was captured. He asked Australians if they noticed any other explosions around Bapaume and indicated that there were more delayed-action bombs nearby.

Another explosion destroyed a dugout on Bapaume’s outskirts on March 26, killing two signallers.

One hundred and seven years later, Lance Corporal Schuller’s great-great-niece Able Seaman Rachel Brandt said his sacrifice made her understand why service was important.

“I’m proud to know that I’m now Defence and I’m following in his footsteps,” she said.

“It’s a really big factor having that family history in the Defence Force. I feel like it’s a really important part of my life.”

Able Seaman Brandt’s father started researching Lance Corporal Schuller’s history in 2014, motivated by interest in their military heritage.

“My dad ended up getting all of his [Lance Corporal Schuller] medals replicated and has the originals,” she said.

They are the 1914-1915-star, 1914-20 British war medal, Victory medal and a Commemorative WW1 Gallipoli medal.

This Anzac Day, Able Seaman Brandt will be part of the Australian War Memorial dawn service catafalque party.

“Anzac Day has always been a really important part of my life, especially growing up,” she said.

“It’s also about commemorating the sacrifices the thousands of men and women made for their country.”

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