About Karl Ahnall

Karl was born in Stockholm, Sweden on the 15th December 1887 to Adolf & Ida Ahnall. In 1907, when he was 19, Karl emigrated to the USA,  arriving in New York directly from Sweden aboard the the Lusitania. By 1908 Karl was in Omaha, Nebraska working as a clerk, a few years later he was living in San Fransisco working as a seaman on a steamship. In 1911 he was working as a Station Agent for the Kahului Railroad Company in Kahului, Hawaii.

Broome Connection

Karl travelled to Australia by ship in 1912 to engage in the pearling industry. He worked for Streeter & Male, one of the largest pearling firms in Broome. In 1915 he applied to become a Naturalised Australian so he could join the war effort. Karl enlisted in Broome on the 16th March 1915, and his attestation papers were signed by the Mayor of Broome Mr. Walter Clarke-Hall. 

War Service

Karl entered the AIF as a private but was rapidly promoted and was a 2nd Lieutenant by December 1916. His unit (28th Battalion, C Company) embarked from Fremantle to Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in September 1915. After the general Gallipoli evacuation in January 1916, the unit was transferred to Marseilles, France in March 1916.

Karl was wounded in action (gunshot wound to left shoulder and chest) in July 1916. It was during this campaign that he was awarded a D.C.M. for conspicuous gallantry in action. After recovering from his wounds Karl rejoined his Battalion as a scout officer in October 1916.  On the night of 28th February 1917, Karl’s battalion was on a bombing raid when he was wounded and left lying in a shell hole. When men returned the next day only his pocketbook and cap remained. Karl was taken as a German prisoner of war, but died of grenade wounds to the chest, abdomen, and arm on the 2nd March 1917. He was buried in Morchies Soldier’s Cemetery.

Distinguished Conduct Medal

‘For conspicuous gallantry in action. Though badly wounded in the attack, he remained with his company and directed and assisted wounded men to the dressing station under heavy shell and machine gun fire. Though again wounded and shot through the chest, he still assisted in carrying wounded men.’ Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 184 Date: 14 December 1916

Enlistment Details


Somewhere In France, 23rd, of February, 1917. Dear Mrs. Dale: For your very welcome letter of December 26, many thanks. Very glad to hear from you and Maui. I am writing this from an ex-German dug-out, 25 feet below the surface. Fritz is indeed very considerate, making these splendid houses as we advance. There are long galleries lined with bunks like on an emigrant steamer. I wish it was a ship, I don’t think anybody would mind if she did roll. I am leaning back in my bunk, writing and thinking of you all far away in sunny, happy Hawaii. I am sipping a cup of tea, smoking a good brand of tobacco, and am very contented. Up above the guns are roaring, the enemy’s shell sweeping the ground, shrieking from rage at the impossibility of touching us. It would be very foolish to walk about up there during the day. We are not very far away from the German lines. It is 4 o’clock. I work nights and have many hours yet before leaving the comforts of this places. I am scout officer, which means crawling about in no man’s land with my “devil may care crew” , worrying the enemy and finding out about him. It is a nice, exciting occupation and not too bad in frosty weather, but in muddy times it is rather unpleasant. We have had a glorious month of winter, plenty of snow and ice, but alas, I knew it woudn’t last. Now the thaw has set in and things are horrible again. Still what’s the use of complaining. It could be worse, I am sure. I have followed with great interest the papers lately and like the views adopted by the U. S. towards the treacherous Hun. I don’t like to see any more countries join the concert now on, but I am certain America won’t hesitate to give our enemy a hiding one of these days. I received my commission at Christmas. You will now address my letters Lieutenant K. Ahnall, etc. Leave, however, is very scarce and prospects at present somewhat dark, still one never knows. Those two patches on my sleeve are my battalion colors. We all wear them and are as proud of them as the banners regiments used to carry at one time, but now done away with. I am enclosing one of these colors. Sincerely yours, KARL.

Other Online Resources

View Karl Ahnall at the National Archives of Australia
View Karl Ahnall at the Australian War Memorial
Karl Ahnall is wounded in France