Family Trek, The Next Generation: Herbert Bratspies

Family Trek, The Next Generation: Herbert Bratspies

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.


Herbert Bratspies, Flora Kornmehl, Bruno Kornmehl-Obendorfer & Hans Kornmehl

Herbert Bratspies with his grandmother Flora Kornmehl, cousin Bruno Kornmehl, and uncle Hans Kornmehl

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 electroencephal0graph (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 Bratspies, August 29, 1949

Joyce and Herbert Bratspies, August 29, 1949

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.

9 Responses to Family Trek, The Next Generation: Herbert Bratspies

  1. Jill Kornmehl says:

    The Kornmehl family members are scattered everywhere! Fascinating story about the Australian family members from Melbourne. Australia seem to attract Kornmehl relatives as others live in Sydney.
    Yes, Herbert is a great looking kid and who grew up into a talented adult. Thanks for sharing his story.

  2. Joe Bratspis says:

    Thanks for sharing the great story and photos. Herb’s grandfather, Samuel, was born in Zolynia, Galicia which is where my family lived. Several years ago Herb provided me with a Bratspies Family Tree. As far as I know, Herb’s family and my family are the only Bratspies’ from Zolynia but I have not(yet)found any connection between the two families.

    E-mail me if you are interested in my providing additional Bratspies information or if you can provide me with additional Bratspies information.

    Joe Bratspis
    Ivyland, Pennsylvania

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Thanks so much for writing! I removed your email from the body of this comment so that assorted crazies don’t contact you, but will email you in private — thus limiting the lunatic fringe to one 😉

  3. Mark Bratchpiece says:

    Hi Edie, my name is Mark Bratchpiece, from Scotland. The original family name is Bratspies. My grandparents came from Borislav, Galicia. My grandfather, also Mark, was a cavalry officer in Franz Joseph’s Austro-Hungarian Guard. He left Borislav, with grandmother Yetta (Baumgarten) in the late 1890s, arriving in Manchester, England. My dad, Samuel, later came to live in Scotland. The rest of the family changed the name to Bradley, and now live in America and Canada. I see Joe Bratspies in America has been in touch. He knows more about my family than I do!!!! Good luck with your research, Mark

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Mark, thanks very much for writing! How interesting to learn what colorful history may lie behind Anglicized names like Bradley — and how the name Bratspies metamorphosed through the generations. Yes, Joe has been in touch, and he was in touch with Herb too. I’m glad to have been able to contribute a little to this research.

  4. Ken Bratspies says:

    I know my brother, Jeff Bratspies has been in touch with Herb. Unfortunately, as with Joe Bratspis, we have not found a common ancestor yet. I communicated with Gail Bratchpiece, a relative of Mark from Scotland. Somehow, I believe that we all share a common ancestor dating back to the guild era, where the name Braut-spiess (meat skewer or bar-be-que)may have its roots. The “Bradley” name change is new information for me. Thanks, Mark! I’ll keep digging. — “Cousin” Ken

    • Edie Jarolim says:

      Wait — this is amazing, given all the butchers in the Kornmehl family and the emphasis on meat, that another member of the family, albeit one who married into it, has a meat-related name! Thanks for coming by and posting this, Ken.

  5. Yaniv says:

    Super interesting read!
    We are another Bratspiess (we spell it the German way) tribe from Israel. My grandfather was born in Teplice (Czech republic) but his family moved there from Galicia.

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