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Wieck, George Frederick (1881–1973)

by Chris Clark

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

George Frederick Gardells Wieck (1881-1973), soldier, was born on 18 August 1881 in Brisbane, son of George Johann Heinrich Wieck, printer, and his wife Caroline Maria Friederika Gerhardina, née Riebstein; both parents had arrived from Schleswig-Holstein in 1864. One of nine children, George grew up on the family farm and was educated at Toowoomba. On 23 September 1898 he enlisted in the Queensland Permanent Artillery. He served in the South African War, sailing with the machine -gun section of the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry in November 1899 and taking part in the relief of Kimberley and engagements at Driefontein, Sanna's Post, Pretoria, Belfast and Komati Poort. At Sanna's Post on 31 March 1900 he was a member of a nine-man rearguard when a company of the Q.M.I. was outflanked by Boers; their horses caught in quicksand, seven men were captured. Wieck was recovered from the enemy on 4 June. One of three Australians selected for Lord Roberts's Colonial Mounted Bodyguard in July, he rejoined his unit in November.

Reaching Brisbane in January 1901, Wieck joined the Queensland contingent sent to Melbourne for the opening of Federal parliament. Posted to Thursday Island for two years, he returned to Brisbane in March 1904 as a sergeant instructor with the 9th Australian Infantry Regiment; in May 1907 he was classified as staff company sergeant major. He married Nellie Gannon with Anglican rites on 20 March 1907 at Christ Church, Milton, Brisbane. In November 1908 he went to England for courses of instruction; returning in January 1910, he was sent to the army school at Albury, New South Wales, to train non-commissioned officers. He next became assistant instructor at the School of Musketry. In March 1912 he was commissioned lieutenant and posted to Adelaide.

On the outbreak of World War I Wieck was appointed captain in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1914 and adjutant of the 9th Light Horse, with which unit he served in Egypt, Gallipoli and Sinai. In March 1916 he was promoted major and became brigade major of the 15th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General H. E. Elliott, serving in the Canal Zone and later on the Western Front. He showed considerable moral courage in standing up to Elliott who—during the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line in March 1917—ordered a risky daylight advance in secret contravention of a direct order by the divisional commander, Major General (Sir) Talbot Hobbs. As the two battalions were moving into position, Wieck told Elliott that unless he advised Hobbs of his intention, Wieck would do so himself. Elliott gave way, and a message from divisional headquarters immediately cancelled the attack.

Transferred in July 1917 as general staff officer, grade 2, to the 3rd Division under Major General (Sir) John Monash, Wieck took part in the battle of Passchendaele and played a particularly active staff officer's role during the division's deployment at the Somme to stem the German offensive of March 1918. In May he became G.S.O. 1 of the 1st Division and was temporarily promoted lieutenant-colonel. Awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned four times in dispatches, he embarked for Australia in April 1919. In Adelaide he became chief instructor at an army school before being transferred in 1920 to the Royal Military College, Duntroon, as instructor in tactics. In January 1924 he was posted as senior administrative officer at Perth headquarters. He was appointed O.B.E. in 1937 and retired in April 1940.

Recalled to duty that year, Wieck established A.I.F. training camps before retiring as honorary colonel in 1941. A keen student of geography and history, in retirement he researched and published histories of the volunteer movement in Western Australia, the Northam Army Camp and the United Service Institution. He founded and managed an army museum, using as its basis his own large collection which was later donated to the State museum. A champion rifle-shot, cricketer and hockey player in his youth, he later became a keen gardener and collector of geological specimens. Survived by two sons and two daughters, he died in Perth on 28 August 1973 and was cremated with Methodist forms. His portrait, painted by Margaret Johnson about 1938, remains in the family's possession.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • J. E. Lee, Duntroon (Canb, 1952)
  • P. Pedersen, Monash as Military Commander (Melb, 1985)
  • London Gazette, 2 Jan, 1 June, 25 Dec 1917, 28 May 1918, 7 May 1937
  • Sabretache, Jan 1974, Feb 1975
  • West Australian, 30 Aug 1973
  • private information.

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Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Wieck, George Frederick (1881–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wieck-george-frederick-9092/text16031, 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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