Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ulrich, Theodore Friederick (1888–1963)

by Matthew Higgins

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Theodore Friederick Ulrich (1888-1963), soldier and clerk, was born on 10 December 1888 at Ararat, Victoria, son of German-born Augustus Charles Theodore Ulrich, stock agent, and his Irish wife Catherine, née Darling. He was the youngest of nine children, only five of whom survived to adulthood.

The family moved to Melbourne where Ulrich was educated at Carlton and Wesley colleges. He then worked for Connibere, Grieve & Connibere as a clerk, played cricket for a Carlton team and, aged 22, became a second lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, 6th Australian Infantry Regiment. In 1912 he joined the 63rd Infantry (East Melbourne) Regiment, as militia adjutant. On 14 August 1914 he was appointed lieutenant in the 6th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, and embarked for Egypt on 19 October.

The battalion landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915; two days later Ulrich was promoted captain. For the next seven months he experienced the horrors and hardships of the peninsula before being evacuated sick on 22 November. He returned to his unit in February 1916 and sailed to France a month later, having been promoted major. In July he was appointed brigade major of the 2nd Brigade. He carried out his duties ably during the terrible Somme operations and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order late in 1916. From February to July 1917 he again gave 'conspicuous good service' to his brigade and was mentioned in dispatches.

On 6 July Ulrich became second-in-command of the 8th Battalion. On 20 October, during the 3rd battle of Ypres, he was wounded, but remained on duty. He returned to the 6th Battalion a few days later. His commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Clarence Daly, was killed on 13 April 1918 near La Motte; next day Ulrich was appointed lieutenant-colonel with temporary command of the battalion. The allies' last great offensive was launched on 8 August; in the following two days Ulrich's battalion fought at Lihons, a battle which was, Ulrich confided to Charles Bean, 'a very heavy time' for the 6th. On the 23rd the unit fought near Herleville Wood. Despite heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, Ulrich continually advanced with his troops, keeping closely in touch with his men and controlling their movements. Although the course of the battle at times became obscure, he was able to grasp situations and exploit opportunities. He was awarded a Bar to his D.S.O. By the time the war ended he had been thrice mentioned in dispatches.

After returning to Melbourne in May 1919, Ulrich commanded militia units and worked at various jobs. In the mid-1920s he owned a butcher's shop and for a long time was an office-holder in the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce. On 30 June 1926 he married Ida Violet Ferris at All Saints Anglican Church, St Kilda. With the outbreak of World War II Ulrich was given command of the 12th Australian Garrison Battalion at Broadmeadows. He led the unit until early 1945 when he retired from the army.

Thereafter Ulrich worked at several clerical, accounting and managerial positions. He joined the Brunswick sub-branch of the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia in 1949 and occupied his spare time with golf, reading and carpentry. Survived by his wife and son, he died on 12 December 1963 at his Brunswick home and was cremated. In the words of a member of his family, Ulrich was 'at his best in the army and perhaps a little “out of place” in civilian life'.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • C. E. W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens (Canb, 1946)
  • Age (Melbourne), 14 Dec 1963
  • C. E. W. Bean diaries (Australian War Memorial)
  • Official Historian's biography cards (Australian War Memorial)
  • AIF nominal roll and honours and awards (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Matthew Higgins, 'Ulrich, Theodore Friederick (1888–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/ulrich-theodore-friederick-8897/text15629, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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