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GOLLER, Alfred Ernest (1883-1918) +

GOLLER, Alfred Ernest (1883-1918)

Alfred Ernest Goller was born at Leigh Road (later called Bannockburn) on 21 July 1883, one of twelve children of John George Martin Goller and Matilda nee Harris. He attended Bannockburn State School and Flinders School, before going on to Geelong College in 1897. He was a member of the 1st Football XVIII in 1900-01, and won a scholarship enabling him to attend Ormond College, University of Melbourne, where he graduated BA, with Final Honours in Philosophy.

A E Goller (War Service)

A E Goller (War Service)

At Bannockburn, in 1908, he married Hilda May Beeston, the oldest surviving daughter of Robert and Mary Anna Beeston, of Carlton, and at the time of his embarkation they resided at 81 South Road, Brighton Beach, and had four children, Alfred Robert Goller (born Redesdale on 1 December 1909), John Ormond Goller (born Kyneton on 11 July 1912), and Hilda Mary Goller (born Birchip, 1914), and Clare Harris Goller (born Lancefield, 1917). Captain Goller embarked as Chaplain on HMAT Ballarat on 19 February 1917, and was specially commended ‘for his coolness and helpfulness when the vessel was torpedoed on Anzac Day 1917 near the Scilly Isles’ . Of the three Old Geelong Collegians on HMAT Ballarat when she was torpedoed, all were ultimately to pay the Supreme Sacrifice – Chaplain Goller, Private John Stawell George, and Lieutenant Elgar Watts Opie. Chaplain Goller was appointed first to Salisbury Plain, then on 3 October to Le Havre, and in December to 2 AGH, Boulogne. Finally he was posted to 37 Battalion in January 1918. On 29 September, aged 35, he was attending to the burial of two men when a machine gun bullet pierced his heart, killing him instantly, about a mile east of Rossnoy.

Doug Sutherland (Old Geelong Collegian) described the circumstances in a letter to his family:
‘Do you remember Jim Goller who used to be groom for us at Elcho? You might remember that I went to school with his brother Alf, who afterwards became a parson and who has been over here for some time. He was killed a couple of days ago while looking after some of the wounded. It was very bad luck as he was one of the popular padres over here.’

Chaplain-Captain Goller was buried at St Emilie Cemetery by an American Chaplain, and at war’s end his body was re-interred in Templeux-le-Guerard British Cemetery, Grave II. F. 29.

John Laffin wrote of the Templeux-le-Guerard Cemetery in Guide to Australian Battlefields of the Western Front 1916-1918:
‘Among the Australians (buried at Templeux-le-Guerard British Cemetery) is one of their chaplains, the popular Rev. Alfred Goller, 37 Battalion, who was killed on 29 September 1918. Goller, from Brighton Beach, Victoria, was killed while carrying out his usual duty of collecting the belongings of soldiers who had been killed; he was 35 years old.’

The AWM Collection holds a portrait of Padre A E Goller, 37 Battalion, taken during the disbandment meeting in September, 1918 when the men of 37 Battalion refused to march off to their new battalions, Padre Goller, who was instructed to fall out with the other officers, is reported to have replied, ‘If ever the men need me it is now.’ His youngest brother, Sgt Saddler Harris Victor Goller, served for four years with the 1st Divisional Ammunition Column. Padre Goller’s two sons both served during World War Two, QX33188 Pte AR Goller, enlisted at Ayr, Queensland; and VX43244 WO Class II JO Goller, served with 2/11th Field Regiment.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp43-44 (citing The University of Melbourne: Record of Active Service of Teachers, Graduates, Undergraduates, Officers and Servants (1926); John Laffin, Guide to Australian Battlefields of the Western Front 1916-1918; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Photo The University of Melbourne: Record of Active Service; AWM P01395.002.)
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