Tom Zeeb 1914 aged 11 donates to children of Europe’s war

In 1914 Tom Zeeb aged 11 years of Brown Hill created many smiles when Goldfields newspaper readers read the following story.


Tom had requested his 1/- with which he had intended to purchase crackers for Guy Fawkes night 5 November, be donated to the Belgium Fund.  He had posted a letter to Mr C. Cutbush at the Belgian Fund Committee:
‘I should like to give my 1/- to the poor Belgian children instead of spending it on fireworks.  Will you please send it on for me?’  Tom also enclosed 12 penny stamps.
A copy of Tom’s letter was published in several Goldfields newspapers.
‘1914 to 1919, the Commission for Relief in Belgium directed an innovative and successful international food relief program for more than 9 million Belgian and French civilians who lived in German-occupied territories and were highly dependent on the importation of foreign food aid for survival.’
The  US generously raised money long before they entered the war.
Its leading figure was chairman, and future President of the United States, Herbert Hoover



Zeeb was born in Brownhill, Kalgoorlie in Nov 1903 to parents ‘Charles’ Karl Felix  Zeeb and ‘Elizabeth’ Eleanor Blanche Hunt who had married 1901 Boulder.   Tom’s father was born about 1870 Hagelloch, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.  He had lived in the Goldfields since late 1890s.
Zeeb snr was employed as a miner at Brownhill – a few kms out of Kalgoorlie.

Above:  Karl Zeeb has gained notoriety over the years for his strong work for Labour and unionism.  He was very active with  Alluvial Miners in Kalgoorlie about 1899 – fighting to have the right to continue mining/prospecting.  There was confrontation with Police who took up guard on areas they tried to mine. A number of miners, including Zeeb were arrested for various  charges, mostly ‘larceny of ore’.
Several thousand miners referred to as a ‘Belligerent Force’  attempted rescue of those locked up and the Police were pressed to call for reinforcements.  The ringleaders of the rescuers, were sentenced to 12 months goal.
The angry miners gathered the next weekend for a mass protest where a a motion was passed demanding justice for the diggers  and pledged to take immediate steps to shake off ‘the intolerable tyranny inflicted in the goldfields residents by the Perth Parliament.’
Those arrested were later found not guilty.


It is believed Karl Zeeb may have faced discrimination for his German birth. There were more than 100,000 germans living in  Australia.  Many were labelled ‘enemy aliens’ and jailed without trial or ability to appeal their detention.
Most inmates were ultimately deported in 1919 in a Government-backed form of ethnic cleansing.
It is highly probable Karl chose to enlist to avoid deportation!
In 1917 Karl Zeeb enlisted and joined Australian Tunnelling Corps as did so many men from Collie and Kalgoorlie and other miners around Australia.  He joined 3rd Tunnelling Coy and in France he was gassed, returned to Australia and discharged August 1918.

In November 1940, Tom Zeeb enlisted with AIF and later joined ‘B’ Coy Headquarters as a Cook.
As a POW in Selarang, Zeeb joined ‘H’ Force Group 3 to work on the Burma-Thai Railway.
Tom survived the railway and returned to Singapore at the end of 1943 to Sime Road Camp.  Being interviewed on his return to Perth at the end of 1945, Tom Zeeb talked of the dedication of Dr Fagan ‘who did everything in his power to help the men’.