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LIONEL LEHMAIER, ON ACTIVE SERVICE, HEADQUARTERS, RABAUL

This local mail cover was addressed to L. Lehmaier, Headquarters Staff, Rabaul and it had a manuscript ‘Rabaul Garrison - On Active Service”.  The green 5 pfennig Deutsch-Neu-Guinea stamp had the black overprint ‘G.R.I.’ and was revalued as 1d., it had a purple oval postmark of RABAUL/ JAN 4 1915/ NEW BRITAIN, and the reverse was not seen (Figures 1 & 2).

 

The vendor had a small sheet of data on the addressee as follows:  The addressee Private (later Captain) Lehmaier, joined the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force in its formation and travelled in H.M.A.T. Berrima with the force to occupy (German) New Guinea.  Also included was a photo of 5 servicemen on the Berrima, and Private Lehrmaier was shown at top right (Figure 3).

Private Lionel Henry Lehmaier’s Unit was listed as the Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (Tropical Unit) (1 Battalion) and it was confirmed that he was on the HMAT Berrima, having embarked from Sydney on 19 August 1914.  He returned to Australia on 25 August 1917.  When he enlisted in Sydney on 15 August 1914 he was aged 25, and his occupation was a mining engineer.   His address was given as the University Club, Castlereagh Street, Sydney.  He gave his next of kin as James L. Lehmaier, East 22nd Street, New York, N.Y.   He rose through the ranks, was later listed  as Captain, and in the list of Honours and Awards he was given the French Medal of Honour - Gold, as gazetted in London on 15 December, 1919, which had nothing to do with his service in New Guinea.

Much more was learnt about his further WWI service (none of which appears listed in Australia), from a newspaper that was published by his Alma Mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass ‘The Tech’ dated Saturday March 29,1919 which headlined: “Many Hardships Face Troops at Gallipoli:  ‘Lionel Lehmaier (class of 1913) describes horrors of campaign waged there by Allies’.  The report first gave some background to his student days where he was a prominent student, active in undergraduate organizations including editor-in chief of The Tech, secretary and then president of the Mining Society.  

He went to Australia (date not given) and he left for the German possessions in the Pacific and then participated in the Gallipoli campaign, until the evacuation in 1915.  After 3 months patrol duty in the Sinai in 1916, he was transferred to active service in France where in May 1916 he was promoted to rank of Captain and participated in the battles of Pozieres, the Somme, Lagnicourt and Bullecourt.  He was shell-shocked, wounded, buried alive and invalided to Australia in 1918, where he was discharged from service on August 26, 1918, and then acted in the capacity of foreign representative of the Guaranty Trust Company of New York.  He started to describe his experiences at Gallipoli, but the description runs to a page that is not included at the website.  

There are minor inconsistencies in his Australian listings in regards to rank and dates, but there is no doubt that there is only one Lionel Henry Lehmaier.  What is unusual is that his experience in the Sinai, Gallipoli, and France is not recorded in Australia (other than his French Medal of Honour), and I will take this discrepancy up with the Australian War Museum.


 
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