Lieutenant George Pinnock MerzPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Neil Follett
A plaque unveiled at the RSL  Memorial Area of the new Ballarat Cemetery commemorates Lieutenant George Pinnock Merz, Australia’s first military aviation casualty of World War One. The plaque was unveiled in the centenary year of his death. 

George Merz was born in the Melbourne suburb of Prahran on the 10th of October 1891, the middle child of three and only son of George and Annie Merz. When George was 6 or 7, the family moved to Raglan Street in Ballarat where he was educated at State School No. 34 in Humffray St.  George was a gifted student and duxed the school in 1905. George was accepted into the University of Melbourne to study medicine in 1909. 

When applications were announced for the First ever Australian military flying course, Merz was convinced that he had to take up this opportunity. He was dux of the flying school in 1914. 

In February 1915, the Australian government sent a small team of aviators to support the British effort in Iraq, which included Merz. On the 30th of July 1915 Merz and Lieutenant William Burn left Nasiriyeh to return to Basra. They never arrived, and two days later their plane was found badly damaged, with no trace of the airmen. A court of inquiry determined that the men had been forced to land due to engine trouble, after which they were attacked and killed by a group of hostile Bedouins. Merz thus became the first Australian airman to die on operations. Despite extensive searches, the bodies of the two men were never found. They are commemorated on a special memorial in Basra recognising the 40,500 Commonwealth servicemen who died in Mesopotamia during the war and who have no known grave.


Address:1250 Doveton Street North, RSL Block, Ballarat New Cemetery, Ballarat North, 3350
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.531751
Long: 143.861422
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:People


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Monday 3rd August, 2015
Front Inscription

In memory of Lt George Pinnock Merz MID

Australia's first Great War Aviator casualty

Mesopotamia 30/7/1915 

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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