96-year wait to share beer with soldier
ALMOST a century after his death in the trenches of Belgium, the grave of WWI soldier Vince Passlow received a special visitor.
Last year, the digger's great great nephew, Jacob Klaus of Goonellabah, managed to track down the site and pay his respects to his long-lost relative.
The visit meant a lot to Jacob's father, Peter Klaus, also of Goonellabah, who had been researching his great uncle for three decades.
So when Mr Klaus found out his son was travelling to Belgium he gave him a small task and made sure he was on the phone when it was carried out.
"It was about 1am and I rang him on the mobile and he said 'Dad, I'm just walking into the cemetery now'," Mr Klaus said.
"So I stayed on the line and he said 'Passlow, Passlow, found him!' and I had goose bumps on my arms."
Mr Klaus had given his son two bottles of Reschs pilsener to take to the cemetery, knowing it was the only beer still brewed that was available in Australia in 1916.
"As he was pouring the beer on the grave, Jacob's girlfriend Celia Pethers was on the phone taking the photos and she said the sky just cleared up as he was pouring the beer on the grave," he said.
"He had to wait 96 years for a beer, no wonder the skies opened up."
For years, the family believed Vince fought and died at the Somme battlefield in France.
But when the internet became more accessible in the late 80s and early 90s, Mr Klaus began doing some research and discovered, through the Canberra War Memorial site, that his great uncle Vince had actually fought and died in the Progestasert trenches in Belgium.
Mr Klaus said he grew up listening to the stories of his three great uncles, Vince, Stanley and Glynn Passlow who fought together in the First World War.
Mr Klaus said the three brothers had been in a trench together when a shell known as a "whizz-bang" landed near Vince, killing him instantly.
"He died of concussion," he said. "In the telegrams a witness said that he spotted the body and he carried him and buried him… about 100 metres from where he was killed."
Vince's brothers Stanley and Glynn Passlow managed to make it home from the war and went back to work on the family's Bellingen farm.