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Peter Wennegal

No 10 RAAF (Armament) Apprentice

OBITUARY

Peter Wennagel was born in Jaffa, Palestine on 31st May 1939. His father, Hugo Wennagel, (of German descent) was an architect and had taken over his father's building business. His mother, Johanna, was Dutch. They belonged to the "Temple Society" whose members had left Germany in 1871 and over the succeeding years had very successfully built various colonies in Palestine. During World War 2, in 1941, a total of 665 German Templers were deported to Australia and interned in Tatura till 1947. Peter was two years old when they came to Australia, he started School in the camp. They were at Camp 3 "A" compound. Two sisters were born in the camp, on 27/05/1944 Heidi (dec. 04/03/1971) was born, followed by Trudi on 13/06/1946. At the end of the War, husbands were sent out to find accommodation and work so that their families could follow. In February 1947 Peter and his family followed Hugo to Balaclava (Melbourne), here they lived for about 18 months. In 1949 they moved to Hamilton, Hugo having taken on the job as manager at "Myrniong", a dairy farm, and "Morpur", a sheep station in Hawkesdale, both properties in the Western district of Victoria. Peter went to Hamilton State and High Schools.

He was a keen bike rider and often raced on week ends. He built crystal sets, rabbit and guinea pig pens, bird aviaries. When he was home there was never a dull moment. On 19/03/1955 our little brother, Hans was born. In 1956 Peter joined the Airforce, based in Wagga Wagga, for the 3 year apprenticeship. In 1959 the family bought their own dairy farm and moved to Epping. Peter loved the farm and had plans of taking it over when he retired from the force. He was sent to various bases around Australia and also Butterworth in Malaya. The last years he was based at Laverton which was not far from the farm and he helped on week-ends and at harvest time. It was a Temple Society youth camp that was held at Wilson's Prom. during the last week in 1964 which Peter attended when he fell to his untimely death. We had arrived at Tidal River on Christmas day and that evening some of the blokes discussed getting up early the next morning to climb up Mt.Oberon and put a flag on top. That fateful morning, before breakfast, they walked straight from the camp, up the mountain. Pete had his camera and took shots along the way. Unfortunately it was whilst he was doing this that he lost his footing and slipped.....

He was my hero. I find it hard to accept, even now after 40 years, that he just walked out of my life! Goodbye Pete, thanks for the fantastic memories and great times we shared.

You were the best. Trudi

 

  My recollections of Peter are reasonably clear. I first met Peter at RAAF East Sale VIC 1958 while he was serving as a RAAF apprentice. He and his course mates were at Sale gaining on the job experience before returning to RAAF Forest Hill Wagga NSW for their final examinations and graduation.

  Later I met Peter at RAAF Laverton where he was very popular and highly regarded, I then net Peter again at RAAF Base Darwin during the confrontation with Indonesia that began in 1964. Peter was involved in aircraft trials with ARDU Laverton while I was on 76 Squadron duties. This chance meeting continued until we returned to our respective Units just before the Christmas Period.

  Before Leaving for our Units Peter, a mate Bill Courtney and myself made an arrangement to attend the Boxing day Cricket Test at the MCG but this did not occur as Peter decided to attend a holiday camp instead.

  One evening after I had attended the cricket I was listening to the evening news and heard that Peter had died as a result of a mountaineering mishap. The following day I checked the newspapers to verify his death and for funeral arrangements. I attended the funeral service where I met Win Lupson (Blue) who was a good friend of Peter's.

  After the very sad happening I was told that Peter was very brave during his emergency rescue, he was still conscious and knew he was dying but still uncomplainingly told his rescuers how to make him more comfortable while laying on the rocky ledge.

God bless you Peter,
Ken Edwards

 

Letter from Peter Wennegal's Sister

Mr John Robb,
President
"Gun Plumbers"
RAAF
Dear Mr Robb,

I'm not sure if you can help me but you may be able to point me in the right direction. I am the sister of Peter Wennagel who tragically died on 26th December 1964 whilst climbing Mt.Oberon at Wilson's Promontory. He had been in the RAAF since 1956.

Earlier this year I had to move our parents (they are both still alive, aged 97 and 91 respectively) from their unit in an Aged Care facility to the Hostel. Whilst sorting out all their belongings I came across the box with the ashes of Peter. I know it had always been a very delicate subject but I did not know that they had never disposed of the ashes. I think the box was lovingly stored away and put in the "too hard basket". We had a private funeral at the time - declining the offer of a military one.

This brings me to the reason for writing this letter - to ask if there could be a possibility of having Peter's ashes strewn out of a RAAF plane. He loved the airforce and working in the planes. The property where Peter grew up is no longer in the family so that is not an option, but our parents live at the Tabulam and Templer Homes for the Aged in Bayswater, I live adjacent to that property and my brother Hans (the only other living sibling) lives at the rear, over the road. Peter knew this area well, being part of the Templer Society Australia - so this may be an option if it is possible. I look forward to your response, I can be contacted by phone on 03 97299082 or 0428431002.

Yours sincerely,
Trudi Blessing nee Wennagel

BEST FRIEND.
Peter and I went to Hamilton High School together and were in the same class. We were very close friends and shared similar interests, such as crystal sets and pet rabbits.

In January of 1956 we joined the RAAF at Forest Hill, Wagga Wagga as apprentices and continued our friendship through three of the best years of our lives.

We were posted to Laverton Vic and at the end of 1959 I was posted to Amberley Qld where I lost contact with Peter.

It was with great shock to hear of his death.

Peter was a great friend, an inspiration to others, and has been sadly missed.
Sam Walker

Goodbye Pete 
The Rosebuds, No 10 Engineering Apprentices and No 5 JEAT Intakes, at their 50th Reunion in Wagga, got to finally say farewell to their fellow Rosebud LAC Peter Wennagel.

At 1000 hours on 28th January 2006, Peter’s ashes were spread over the airstrip at Forest Hills, watched from the tarmac adjacent to Basic Hangar, by his sister Trudi and brother Hans and their families, and seventy five of his peers, who had joined the RAAF with him in January 1956.

The aircraft distributing his ashes was flown by Aussie Pratt who was assisted by Russ Keanalley.  The flyover was followed by a service in the base Chapel conducted by Chaplain Ian Whitley.

The occasion was facilitated by Reunion organizers Ted Arneson and Norm Byng.  Norm made the media aware of the significance of both the 50th Reunion, and the spreading of Pete’s ashes, thus it was that both Channel 7 and 9 covered the occasion, filming the flyover and the memorial service.  Trudi Blessing (nee Wennagel), Hans Wennagel, Ted, Norm, Aussie, and Laurie Dicker all starred in interviews.  The Wagga Daily Advertiser gave major coverage with photographs, of this ceremony and the 50th Reunion.

Both Trudi and Hans were I think somewhat overwhelmed by the attention they received, not knowing that the Rosebuds varied times at RSTT formulated a bond that very few non-military people could comprehend.  The Rosebuds gathered at Wagga to commemorate 50 years of that bond, and it was a fitting occasion to say farewell to Pete.

The Gunnies web site and its ability to communicate across the Armament world also had much to do with Pete’s farewell.  For I would not have known of Trudi’s dilemma, had I not, as an ex gunnie, advertised our 50th on the site.  From the name Rosebud’s the connections were made by John Robb, Bill Riley and others.  Thanks guys you helped to make it happen.

Ted Arneson
7th February 2006

The Rosebud Armourers were

Ted Arneson

Ian Leffers

Marty Sharpe   ††

Laurie Dicker

Cliff Morgan   ††

Sam Walker

Don Drummond

Russ Olsson

Pete Wennagel   ††

Graeme Eales

Brian Pringle   ††

Ian West

John Ferguson

Bob Radcliffe

Ian Witter

John Huxtable   ††

Jim Ray

 


This report of Peter Wennagel’s tragic death was retrieved from archives of the Melbourne Sun newspaper held at the State Library of Victoria.
The newspaper article was published on the 28th December 1964. The tragedy occurred on the 26th of December.

CLIMBER DIES IN 100 FT CLIFF PLUNGE

A YOUNG, man who fell down a cliff Mt Oberon at Wilson’s Promontory on Saturday, showed two companions how to treat his injuries before he died.
He was Peter Wennagel, 25, of Cemetery Rd, Epping, a leading aircraftsman at RAAF base of Williamtown, NSW.
Wennagel was climbing with three companions from Norman Bay across Mt Oberon when he overbalanced on a ledge and fell 100ft down a cliff face.
Two companions Werner Steller of John St, Bayswater and Siegfried Messner, 23 of Abbey Rd, Boronia, climbed down the cliff to help him.
The third Hennig Imberger of Wadi St, Boronia went for help.
Steller and Messner said that Wennagel who fell early in the morning died just before night. Despite his serious injuries he had showed them how to treat him.
Wennagel and his companions were in a group of about 60 members of a German church organization, the Templar Society staying at the National Park.
The four climbers left the main party at 5am. Imberger reached the Tidal River ranger’s station to report the tragedy at 9am. However, it was 3.30pm before a rescue squad found the body.

Mist was heavy
Ranger Brian Greer of Wilson’s Promontory National Park, said : “We had terrible difficulty finding the body. Heavy mist stopped us coming from the top of Oberon and we were forced to the bottom and climb up “Where they had very dangerous rock faces and the group had not had any climbing equipment. The lad had fallen down about 100ft, hitting trees and rock outcrops. There was no walking track to the spot but we got the body out on a stretcher. The accident happened about two-thirds of the way up Mt Oberon, which is a couple of miles from Tidal River.” Greer said.
Wennagel’s father, Mr. H. A. Wennagel, a dairy farmer, said last night that his son was not an experienced mountain climber, “But he had been climbing a few times.” He said.

Funeral Notice from Melbourne Sun newspaper 28th December 1964:
WENNAGEL
 
The funeral of the late Mr Peter Wennagel , of Cemetery Rd Epping, will leave our Parlors, 6 Bruce St, Preston (near High St.). TOMORROW (Tuesday) at 12.45 pm, for the Fawkner Crematoriun. Ern Jensen & Sons Pty Ltd 44-5076.