Friday, 31 January 2014

The Harder brothers of May Street, Coburg.

Harder could easily pass as an English surname, but the Harder brothers, Keith and Victor, were grandsons of Johann Peter Christian Harder who arrived in Port Adelaide from Hamburg in 1854 and who married Henrietta Nolopp in Adelaide in the following year. Seven children were born to the couple, including the boys’ father Charles August Harder who married Mabel Gertrude Tilbrook in South Australia in 1895.

In that year they made their way to Brunswick where Victor was born in 1895 and Keith in 1897. Four more children were born in Brunswick. In 1907 the family moved to Coburg where three more children were born. Theirs was a large household, as all the children survived childhood.

Victor Harder.
Image courtesy AWM. Image H06553.

Lieutenant John Charles Victor Harder (known as Victor), was born in Brunswick in 1895, attended Coburg State School and is featured in the Coburg State School Soldiers Book which is part of the Coburg Historical Society collection. He worked as a clerk for the E.S. & A. Bank, played cricket for Coburg and served with D Battery, 50th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action on 26 April 1918. 

Keith Harder. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

13295 Private Howard Keith Harder (known as Keith) was born in Brunswick in 1897. He attended Coburg State School and is featured in the Coburg State School Soldiers Book. Keith Harder served in the Army Medical Corps, survived the war and died at Coburg in 1953 aged 56.


South Australian and Victorian Index to Births, Deaths and Marriages (via Ancestry); attestation papers for Howard Keith Harder and John Charles Victor Harder; Coburg State School Soldiers Book (in the Coburg Historical Society Collection); resources in the Coburg Historical Society Collection; AWM embarkation rolls and roll of honour. 


  1. "ROSKEAR" 53 May street Coburg Was the Full Address For the Harder Brothers
    Victor is Buried at Grootebeek British Cemetry about 500 yards North West of Outerdom, Reninghelst, South west of Ypres (Leper) Belgium . Grave Reference C5

  2. Thank you for the extra information on the Harder brothers. Both brothers were featured in the Coburg State School Soldiers Book and I am currently researching the lives of all the soldiers featured in the book. If you have more you can add, please email me at

  3. Hi Cheryl, My father, son of Keith Harder, received a copy of this blog post from a relative, like me interested in the family's history. I visited Victor's grave in Belgium, in 2010; it was a moving experience. My family is delighted you have included this information and I'm happy to provide anything I have which may be useful to you. I'll send you an email, too. Graeme

  4. Thank you so much for your reply, Graeme. I would be very pleased to receive any further information on the Harder family. I have plans for a project featuring the Coburg State School Soldiers Book so would be keen to include any material you and your family are prepared to share!

  5. Hi Cheryl , My Grandfather was a Harder brother from May Street Coburg but not one of the ones in your post he was a younger brother.Dudley Grenfell Harder or "Dougie" as Victor would call him. He was doing training in Australia as a gunner to eventually join his older brothers in the war, thankfully it ended before this became a reality. Imagine my surprise when i came across your post about Fighting the Kaiser and the Harder Brothers of May St Coburg while searching on Google. Of course there are many stories within the family about this time in our history . Maybe one I can share is that Victor had a girlfriend by the name of Dorcas Hill a local Coburg girl. It was in-fact her father that persuaded Victor to leave Australia and seek his commission as an Officer in the British Army rather than the Australian Army. Dorcas Hill was on the local Red Cross Society as a collector. Also she was involved in the "Welcome Home to Private Robert Rotham Hardy now totally blind ex 24th Battilion who saw 823 days war service" A grand affair by all accounts was the welcome home, a concert dance and supper (most of which had been donated by the local community ) was held at the Town Hall Bell st Coburg on 21st November 1917 tickets were one schilling and included a first class program of entertainers one of them being Dorcas Hill. In Victor's Diary on the way to England he mentions going off to write a long letter to Dorcas.
    Hope to visit the Coburg Historical Society on one of the Sundays that they are open but its a bit hard when I work every second Sunday they only match up now and then.
    Paul Sumner

  6. Hi Paul,
    It was fantastic to read your comment on the Harder brothers. I had no idea there was another brother, so you've filled in a gap in my knowledge of the local men who served! It's actually quite hard to track down those who served in other forces and you've added one more person to my knowledge.
    I was also very interested indeed to hear your comments about Dorcas HIll and the welcome home to Robert Hardy. I;read about him in Richard Broome's book on Coburg and have often thought about what it must have been like to return home under such circumstances. You've now added a bit more to that story, so thank you.
    As regards the opening hours for the Coburg Historical Society Museum, you can always contact us and see whether it's possible to arrange an opening when you are able to come.
    Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate it!