Johann Friedrich (or simply Fritz) Bambach was born in Bensheim in Germany in 1883. With the deaths of his parents when he was just a teenager he abandoned plans of becoming an architect. As an agent of a Berlin import/export business, he travelled and worked in the Middle East, where he added a knowledge of Turkish and Farsi to his fluency in German, English and French. In Northern Iran – in those days Persia – at the outbreak of World War I, he was arrested by invading Russians and taken to Southern Russia for internment, leaving his wife behind.
After the war Bambach was eventually able to return to Iran, establishing a successful business in Isfahan. The outbreak of another war did not disrupt his family’s life, at least not at first. However, when British and Soviet forces moved into Iran in August 1941, Bambach’s life was turned on its head. He was among the Axis nationals arrested, separated from their families and placed in either Soviet or British internment.
Unlike the First World War, this time it was the British rather than the Russians who determined his fate. Though his wife Elly and daughter Inga remained behind, Bambach was sent to Australia, where he spent most of his internment in Loveday There he used his artistic and literary talents to create a precious record of camp life.
Postwar instability in the Middle East, and an acquired love of Australia, persuaded him to remain in Australia and start a new business in Sydney. He wanted his wife and daughter to join him from Germany. Inga had by then met an Englishman whom she wished to marry, so he reluctantly moved back to Germany, residing in Göttingen. Inga married her Englishman and settled in England. Fritz Bambach never really settled in Germany but was happy to be able to visit his family, including two grandsons, in England. He died in Germany in 1962.