To mark the completion of our first twelve months’ duty in the township, the CO and I were presented with an original pen-and-ink drawing by the well-known Weiz artist, Hans Kienreich, of the old building on the Square which housed our HQ. There was also an informal reception given for his British guests by the Burgermeister in the Rathaus.
Alas, shortly after, we had to bid farewell to our popular Commander, Captain Edward Nolan, who had been comrade and chief to us since June of the preceding year.
Capt Nolan had been posted to Intelligence HQ, City of Vienna, to take charge of three FSS sections in the British sector. In the summer of 1947 this officer returned to Weiz at my invitation in order to attend my wedding to Ingrid Pichler as my best man in the Parish Church on Weizberg in June, 1947. Following an earlier register office marriage in the Rathaus, the Roman Catholic padre, Graz Area, graciously consented to conduct the ceremony in this marvellous, centuries old church overlooking the township.
My marriage to Ingrid and the fact that I had now become part of a proud and distinguished Austrian family for whom honour, tradition and the provincial way of life meant everything made me think seriously of what we were going to do after the end of my service with the British Army. Our decision to stay in our home in Austria was not really a very difficult one, and I began to make preparations for a future life with my bride in the land that had adopted me.
I was presented to the Federal Chancellor, Ing. Figl, when he came to visit Weiz in September. The following year Lt. Gen. Galloway, GOC British Troops in Austria, came to inspect the unit. In 1948 FSS HQ Eastern Styria was transferred to Furstenfeld but I kept our office, Hauptplatz No.16, as Detachment Commander, FSS Weiz, retained whatever rooms were adequate for my use, and handed back the Villa Mosdorfer, formerly the Military Governor’s quarters, to the owner and our own former billet in the Villa Hafergut to the local authorities. A nostalgic visit to this house later, however, for our comrades of the FSS would, I fear, have been in vain. The neighbouring Elin-Works, Weiz, purchased this beautiful house for demolition and extended their factory premises over the site. The National Trust house in which I had my office is now restored to its former glory by the present owners, the Weber Family.
As a military posting Weiz had now become a peaceful assignment. Major Carew Hunt, after two years in the township, married Elisabeth, Countess Meran, in Graz and returned to England. This officer had been Chairman of the Weiz Branch of the Anglo-Austrian Society which had been formed by prominent citizens of the village in the latter days of his stay in Weiz, partly at his instigation and partly due to my own humble efforts, and upon his departure I was asked to take over as Major Carew Hunt’s replacement. This I did, gladly, and my membership of this organization dates back, therefore, to these far-off days.
The events outlined above spelt virtually the end of the British occupation of Weiz, except for the fact that I was still to serve the Army and the local community for several happy months.
Details of my security duties, which for reasons of confidentiality I may not disclose in this narrative, continued, however, to involve routine visits to Area Gendarmerie posts and general liaison with civil authorities in towns and villages and this was an aspect of my work that I am sure I enjoyed most.
During this period I was blessed with the remainder of a profoundly blissful marriage to Ingrid, during which I spent more and more time with her family and in the social life of the community. In the library of the home we shared, rows and rows of books of classical German literature belonging to my father-in-law lined the walls and in these wonderful books I would immerse myself whenever I was able.
Franz-Johann Pichler was a man of considerable culture and tradition whose ancestors’ names were recorded for posterity along the walls of the entrance hall. There was no question about Austria or the Austro-Hungarian Empire – its history and its culture – that he did not delight in answering.
With one stroke the death of my beloved Frau Ingrid at the early age of twenty-five years put an end to the life I had looked forward to in Austria. It was the lasting memory of a beloved Styrian maid and the kindness of her family and friends there that drew me back after my release from the British Army that year (1949) to try to pick up the threads of a new life in Weiz without Ingrid. How strange it was this time not to be in uniform… Ingrid’s family supported me in my decision to return to Austria and enroll as a student at the Karl-Franz-University, Graz, where I immersed myself in my language studies, dedicating everything I did to the memory of that marvellous Austrian girl and to honour the country she loved so dearly.