Austro-British Society Carinthia

Austro-British Society Klagenfurt

Austro-British
Society Carinthia

The club history team are trying to locate an Austrian family on behalf of the daughter of a British soldier, Dennis Sheppey, who was stationed in Carinthia during the 1950s while doing his military service in the British Army.

Dennis Sheppey as a young man
Dennis Sheppey in uniform serving with British Troops Austria (B.T.A.). Location unknown

Dennis, understandably, fell in love not only with Carinthia and Villach, where he was stationed, but also with a local girl by the name of Theresa. The two got engaged to be married and were planning to spend time abroad before returning to take over the family-run hotel or B&B her parents owned on or near a lake in the Villach area.

At some point prior to leaving the Army and getting married, Dennis, while in the UK, received the sad news that Theresa, who had contracted tuberculosis, had unexpectedly passed away. It is assumed that Dennis went back for the funeral and kept in touch with friends in Villach, but he eventually returned to live in the UK, where he later married and had children.

Dennis waited his whole life to tell his daughter Tina about his first true love. Knowing that he would not live much longer, he asked her to return his ashes to Carinthia after his cremation.

Even assuming it were possible under Austrian law, Tina would love to make her father’s last wish come true, but there is so much she doesn’t know – like exactly where her father was stationed (she has requested his military records, but it takes time); or Theresa’s identity: or whether Theresa’s family or friends, or descendants – if any are still living and we can locate them – would be interested in revisiting the past and meeting her.

There are a few things we do know that provide a starting point for further enquiries. If anything here strikes a chord, we’d love to hear from you, either via our Facebook group, or privately via email.

  • We do not know Theresa’s surname, or where her parents’ “Gasthaus” was located. All we know is that it was on or near a lake in the Villach area, which means it could have been the Ossiacher See, the Faaker See, or one of the many other lakes in the area.
  • We know that Theresa possibly had a son, probably from a previous relationship (perhaps she was a war widow).
  • We know that Dennis’s job involved some kind of courier services, delivering correspondence of a confidential nature to senior British representatives in Carinthia and high-ranking Austrians, and accompanying high-level British delegations to locations around Carinthia, something that often required the services of an interpreter.
  • We know that one of the interpreters assigned to him for that purpose was a local Austrian woman called Elisabeth. Again, we have no surname, but it is possible that Elisabeth was the daughter of a local mayor, perhaps even the mayor of Villach. Dennis must have kept in touch with Elisabeth (and her husband, who may have served in an Austrian tank regiment), since Tina’s uncle has a photograph that was sent as a Christmas greeting in 1951 (see below) and Elisabeth was a guest at Tina’s father’s wedding in 1954 in England.

Perhaps somebody will recognise the photos or some aspect of the story outlined above. If you have something to share, please get in touch, We don’t have to publish what you would like to share with us; we’d be very happy just to put you in touch with Tina.

Tina and other members of her family have since visited Carinthia on her father’s trail. Like her father, and so many others, she fell in love with the place.

Below are some of the old photographs that Tina inherited from her father. Let us know if you recognise anybody!

Xmas wishes and a happy new year!
Yours,
Elisabeth – Florianne and the children
Florianne-Eric, Theresia and little Francies-Mary.
1951

Fotoalier Tilly Ulbing
VILLACH Hauptplatz 24 u. Paracelsusgasse

Unknown woman, not signed.
Could this be Theresa?
Or is she the same Elisabeth as in the group photo above?

Finally, if you would like to read the story in German, there has been coverage by 5 Minute Villach (Facebook) and Kronen Zeitung (paywall, or see image below). There has also been coverage and discussion on the Alte Ansichten von Villach Facebook group.