Phillip Schuler

Full name:
Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler
Born:
Melbourne
Vic
Australia
Died:

2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station
Messines, West Flanders, Belgium
Occupation:
Journalist
Education:
Melbourne Grammar School, University of Melbourne
Fate:

Died from wounds

Highest rank:
Lieutenant
Enlistment:
Decorations/ commendations:
1914–1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
Service Number:
10926
Conflict:
World War I 1914-1918
Military event:
Gallipoli Campaign 1915, Western Front
Unit:
War correspondent, 1st AIF Division, 3rd Divisional Train, Australian Army Service Corps (AASC)

An informal photograph of Lieutenant Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler, possibly taken in Cairo, Egypt. AWM PS1405

Phillip Schuler was a World War One journalist and photographer for The Age newspaper. He spent time covering the Gallipoli campaign from late July 1915, along with other correspondents, Charles Bean, Keith Murdoch and British war correspondent, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett. Schuler was tragically killed on the Western Front 2 years later, aged only 27. His legacy of thousands of photographs, books and news stories vividly captured the human experience of the carnage and courage of those who fought in World War I.

Phillip Schuler was born into a wealthy Melbourne family with a strong journalism pedigree. He was the son of German immigrant Gottlieb Frederick Heinrich Schuler and Australian-born Sarah Deborah Strahan. Gottlieb, or Frederick as he was known, was editor of Melbourne's The Age newspaper for 26 years. Sarah was a teacher before her marriage.

Phillip Schuler had a difficult relationship with his father. Mark Baker, in his biography of the young war correspondent, described Frederick Schuler as often distant and harsh–tempered. Father and son argued over Phillip Schuler's decision to drop out of university after only one year of study. They reconciled after a 12-month rift, and Phillip Schuler began working with his father at The Age as a cadet journalist in 1909.

Schuler was bright, talented and enjoyed sports and dancing. When he embarked on the Orvieto for Egypt on 21 October 1914, he was already experienced in the ways of the military, having served in the:

  • 5th Battalion militia in his teens
  • Australian Intelligence Corps as a second lieutenant, in 1911
  • Australian Service Corps, 1912

Schuler accompanied the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) 5th Battalion, 2nd Field Company and AIF headquarters staff. According to Baker, Schuler was the first choice for the role of an official war correspondent, along with Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson. A change in government saw the role given to Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Charles Bean, in a ballot by the Australian Journalists Association.

Bean was an experienced author and journalist. His status as official correspondent meant he could use official channels to send his stories to Australia rather than having to use the slower and less reliable mail service as Schuler did. He was also the only reporter initially given permission to join the Gallipoli landing.

Schuler used his contacts and initiative to cover the action. It was not until July 1915 that Schuler was allowed to land at Anzac Cove. Before then, he based himself on a nearby island and met with wounded Anzacs on hospital ships.

This experience, and Schuler's next few months of observing the action in the Dardanelles, had a profound effect on the young man. His book, Australia in Arms, written on Schuler's return from Gallipoli, presented an intimate picture of life at Anzac Cove. Schuler had an artist's way with words and his writing focused on the human details of the fighting and life in the trenches.

Charles Bean wrote of Schuler:

He wrote only what he saw. His letters were true; and only those who know what oceans of false stuff have been poured on to the world in this war can appreciate what that means.

[Charles Bean, Anzac Bulletin, 4 July 1917]

Schuler had great admiration and respect for the men who fought at Gallipoli.

Surely no words can describe the gallantry of troops, who, without a murmur, bore their wounds. They joked while in the boats, talked of the nearness of the shot and shell, laughed as bullets flicked caps and jackets.

[Phillip Schuler, Australia in Arms]

But, he also did not shy from describing the terrible conditions of war.

In the midst of the whole attack one prayed that something would stop the vibrations that seemed to shake every one and everything in the vicinity. Our trenches were rent, torn and flattened, and sandbags and debris piled up, blocking entrances and exits.

[Phillip Schuler, Australia in Arms]

Schuler's news stories about the battles of Lone Pine and The Nek cemented his reputation as a respected war correspondent.

Schuler left the Dardanelles for Australia in September 1915. He returned home with more than 2,000 photographs and plans for a book about Gallipoli. On his return, Schuler prepared a photo essay Battlefields of Anzac and the book Australia in Arms, and delivered public and invitation-only lectures.

Schuler returns to the Western Front

Schuler in uniform, probably in the garden of his family home in Melbourne, after enlisting in the AIF in April 1916. AWM P07692.001

Once the story of Anzac had been told there seemed no reason for my remaining while others died fighting.

[Schuler letter to Hamilton, in Phillip Schuler, p.191]

Schuler joined the AIF in April 1916. To the surprise of all who knew him, he not only chose to return to the war but did so as an ordinary soldier and not an officer or correspondent.

Schuler was made a driver in the Australian Army Service Corps. The Army Service Corps played an important and often dangerous role in keeping troops supplied and on the move.

After basic training in England, Schuler was transferred to the Western Front. He saw some of the war's most savage, drawn-out fighting in France and Belgium and was promoted to lieutenant.

Fourteen months after leaving Melbourne, Phillip Schuler was fatally wounded by artillery fire in Belgium. Schuler had been showing visitors the camp's cooking facilities when he was hit by shrapnel. He was taken to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station but died later that night.

Schuler's loss was deeply mourned. His family were heartbroken and he left behind a fiancée in Egypt and a son in Melbourne who would never know his father.

In Schuler's obituary, Charles Bean praised the honesty of his friend's work:

The reports which he brought back from his rambles were fuller than the official news and truer, and his history of Anzac will always remain the classic for that period on that account.

[Charles Bean, Anzac Bulletin, 4 July 1917]

Sources:

  • Australian High Commission (Great Britain). 1916. Anzac Bulletin: issued to members of the Australian Imperial Forces in Great Britain and France by authority of the High Commissioner for Australia, London. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-14541500
  • AWM (Australian War Memorial). Undated. Lieutenant Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler, Australian War Memorial. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P11011689
  • AWM (Australian War Memorial). Undated. Studio portrait of Lieutenant Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler wearing the uniform of the Australian Intelligence Corps, Australian War Memorial. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1009556
  • AWM. Undated. Studio portrait of Lieutenant Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler wearing the uniform of the Australian Intelligence Corps, Australian War Memorial. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1009556
  • Baker, Mark. 2016. Philip Schuler: The remarkable life of one of Australia's greatest war correspondents eBook, Allen & Unwin.
  • Baker, Mark. Undated. Philip Schuler. The Australian Media Hall of Fame, The Melbourne Press Club. https://halloffame.melbournepressclub.com/article/phillip-schuler
  • Bean, CEW. 1941. First World War Official Histories, Vol IV, p.562. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1416848
  • CWGC. 2020. Lieutenant Philip Frederick Edward Schuler, Casualty Details, Commonwealth War Graves Commission. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/204015/SCHULER,%20PHILLIP%20FREDERICK%20EDWARD/
  • McKenzie-Smith, Graham. 2015. The army's grocers and truckies: Understanding the Australian Army Service Corps in WW2 [online]. Sabretache 56(1): 16-22. ISSN 0048-8933 https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=113050367039230;res=IELHSS
  • Schuler, Philip FE. 1916. Australia in Arms: a narrative of the Australasian Imperial Force and their achievement at Anzac, T Fisher Unwin.
  • Wikipedia contributors. Gottlieb Schuler. Wikipedia, 21 Mar 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottlieb_Schuler
Steenwerk

Last updated: 13 October 2021

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2021), Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 9 December 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/biographies/phillip-frederick-edward-schuler
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