I’ve been tracing the family of the third of the Kornmehl butcher brothers, Martin, a journey that starts in Vienna (see The Return of Martin Kornmehl) and takes us to Melbourne (see Detention of Jews in World War II: Et Tu, Australia?). Today I finish the story of the newly found Australian branch of my mother’s family — at least for now; in genealogy, you never know — with Martin’s grandson, Herbert (Bert) Heinz Bratspies, born in Vienna in 1923.
To sum up: Herbert’s parents, Lilly Kornmehl Bratspies (born 1896) and Gustav Bratspies (later Brink; born 1895), had to flee with their only child, Herbert, from their comfortable middle-class life in Austria following the Anschluss. After a stint in Singapore, they were deported as enemy aliens to a detention camp in Tatura, Australia, where Herbert was permitted to join the Australian army, but not allowed to fight against the Germans.
We pick up with Herbert’s postwar story here, its details — and, in some case, phrases — drawn from the obituary written by his daughter, Sylvia. The Star Trek references are entirely mine. I suspect Herbert would have forgiven me, given his immersion in science, if not necessarily science fiction.
Who’s Who in Mechanical Engineering
After the war, Herbert completed his secondary education at Footscray Technical School (later the Victoria University of Technology). He went on to earn two fellowship diplomas (four-year courses) at RMIT (originally, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), one in in Applied Physics (1953) and the other Communication Engineering (1956). He was proud to be listed in the first edition of Who’s Who in Medical Engineering (1966).
Between 1950 and 1956, Herbert worked at PYE, an Australian company manufacturing radios and TVs, and then at Siemens. His longest full-time position was at the Mont Park Mental Hospital, where he worked for 33 years maintaining medical equipment, in particular the electroencephalograph (EEG), until he retired in 1988. He continued to work part-time for another seven years at Mont Park and Pentridge Prison, until both institutions were shut down.
He took a course in data processing at the Caulfield Institute of Technology in 1976 and loved computers to the end of his days.
Love and Marriage
After the war, Herbert met Joyce Seaford (born 1923 in Trafalgon, Victoria) at the St. Moritz ice skating rink in St. Kilda, Melbourne, pictured next to the title of this post. Her father was a third-generation Schubert from South Australia, but changed his name to Seaford after World War I when he couldn’t get a job because of his German surname — even though he had fought for Australia during the war. It is a similar story to that of his future son-in-law, though Herbert declined to follow his own father in changing his surname to Brink after the second world war.
Joyce and Herbert were married in 1949 at the registry office and lived with Lilly and Gustav and, after Gustav died, Lilly and Emmy, until their son, Graham, was born. Then Herbert moved his young family to Coburg, a suburb of Melbourne, where their daughter, Sylvia, was born.
Herbert was as fond of technology at home as he was at work, repairing radios, TV’s, and stereos (he and Joyce both loved classical music). His real passion, however, was photography — and photographic equipment. He loved to develop his own film and print his own pictures. Joyce didn’t mind as long as he was happy. When the family moved to a somewhat more rural Melbourne suburb, Blackburn North, Herbert was in his element, as the new house had a room without any windows — perfect for a darkroom.
Herbert and Joyce enjoying the Australian countryside, often driving around on back roads so Herbert could take photos. The couple also enjoyed looking after the grandchildren for a couple of days a week, with Herbert doing the cooking; Sylvia recalls him being “a better cook than mum,” making great roasts and chocolate souffles. He was always tinkering with electronics or using the computer — another favorite toy of his — with his grandchildren as they became older.
In early 2002, just when the grandchildren were all at school and Herbert and Sylvia could have more free time for themselves, Herbert fell off the back roof of his home and nearly died. He spent months recovering and was left a paraplegic at the age of 79. But he nevertheless maintained his dignity, his wide range of interests, and his cheeky sense of humor. Because of his courage and determination — as well as a small army of caretakers, who were glad to help — he was able to live at home for another seven years, until he died in 2009.
Herbert was survived by Joyce, 91, who now lives in Melbourne with her son, Graham.