During the First World War over a thousand Russian-born servicemen enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). They were the largest national group in the AIF after British, New Zealand and Canadian born servicemen. Besides ethnic Russians, these Anzacs included members of a score of different ethnic groups born within the borders of the Russian Empire. Their story is told in my book:
Elena Govor, Russian Anzacs in Australian History, Sydney, UNSW Press in association with NAA, 2005, 310 p., 44 ills
This site provides additional information about each of the Russian Anzacs, as well as statistical and other data. There is a page for each of these servicemen, containing biographical and service details, as well as links to further materials such as archival documents, newspaper articles, photographs, and quotes from books. In many cases these sources have been digitised and are available to view online.
This site was updated in 2014, and from early 2015 all old versions of the site will redirect to this main page. We apologise for any broken links, and advise to update old links to the new address (http://russiananzacs.net).
New! A map which shows the locations associated with the lives of the Russian Anzacs.
Centenary of the First World War
To mark the Centenary of the First World War, this site will, in a weekly blog post, celebrate the Russian Anzacs who enlisted in the AIF that week. Their pages on this new site will be updated with the latest available sources and materials.
November 28, 2016
- Simon Sutchkoff, a well-educated Belarusian school teacher, was sentenced to Siberia as a political prisoner. He escaped to Australia in 1912, and worked as a labourer all over Queensland for three years before settling in Edith Creek in north-west Tasmania, where he engaged in farming.
- With the 47th Battalion he arrived on the Western Front, but was taken prisoner of war a month later, at the battle for Dernancourt in April 1918.
- After the war he was repatriated to Australia. He continued farming, often contributing letters to the editor of the local newspaper on social and political issues.
- Charles Gross, a Finnish seaman, came to Newcastle in 1896 and lived on the Central NSW coast, working as a labourer and timber cutter.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Macksville, NSW, he served in the Field Ambulance on the Western Front.
- After the war he married Mary Sherriff and farmed in Congarinni, NSW.
- John Woronsoff, a sailor from Nizhni Tagil in Russia, came to Melbourne in 1907 and settled at Waurn Ponds in Victoria. He worked as a teamster and later started farming.
- He served with the 21st Battalion on the Western Front. A month after his arrival on the front, in September 1917, he was killed at the battle for Menin Road.
- His family in Russia was never found, but his Australian friends commemorated his death in the newspaper for several years.
November 20, 2016
- Ivar Willgren, a Finnish fireman from Vyborg, came to Australia in early 1916 and enlisted in the AIF in Dubbo.
- He came to England with the 3rd Battalion, but fell ill and was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Orange and got into trouble with the Australian security forces as an enemy alien during WWII.
- William Magi, an Estonian seaman, came to South Australia in 1909. He worked as a carpenter, building jetties, and as sailor.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne he served with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was killed at the battle for Menin Road near Ypres.
- His family was found after the war in Estonia.
Gustaf Adolf Pohlson
- Gustaf Adolf Pohlson, a Finn from Jakobstad, came to Australia around 1889, in his youth. He settled in Chiltern in Victoria, where he participated in cycling competitions. In 1898 he moved to Western Australia. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he worked as a baker in Kurramia near Kalgoorlie.
- With the 7th Battalion he served on the Western Front and was killed at the battle for Menin Road near Ypres, the same day as Magi.
- His family in Finland was never found.
- John Anderson, a Finnish seaman from Björneborg (Pori), by 1916 worked in Kalgoorlie.
- With the 28th Battalion he served on the Western Front. In September 1917, at the same battle where Magi and Pohlson were killed, he was wounded in the arm. Recovering, he continued his service, but beginning from April 1918 he had several AWLs, and finally he was court martialled for desertion; later the sentence was suspended and he was returned to Australia.
- After the war he lived in Western Australia.
November 15, 2016
- Salomon Hamalainen, a Finnish seaman from Vyborg, came to Newcastle in Australia in 1911 and worked in Port Pirie and Queensland as a labourer.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Cloncurry, but was discharged 8 months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in the Mackay area in Queensland, working as a labourer on the railway construction works.
John Wilhelm Nordstrom
- John Wilhelm Nordstrom, a Finnish seaman from Abo (Turku), came to Australia in 1913 and worked as a fruit grower and farmer in Cleveland, Queensland.
- He served with the 15th Battalion on the Western Front. In 1918, being teased by other soldiers for being ‘a Russian’, he left his battalion and was court martialled, sentenced for 2 years. The sentence was later suspended and after the war he worked in the Grave registration department.
- After the war he returned to Cleveland, but disappears from the records soon after that.
- Israel Heselev came from a Jewish family from Guliay Pole in Ukraine. He came to Australia in 1906 with his brother. First they worked in Broken Hill, but later moved to Melbourne, where both brothers worked as musicians.
- Israel enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne, but was discharged six weeks later.
- He married Carrie Benness and lived in Melbourne, working as a manufacturing furrier and fur merchant.
Hugo Edmund Haapaniemi
- Hugo Edmund Haapaniemi, a Finnish seaman from Wasa, lived in Queensland.
- Enlisting in the AIF as Hugo Asplund, he served with the 15th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he died of wounds at the battle for Passchendaele.
- His mother in Finland was found after the war.
Emile Auguste Tardent
- Emile Auguste Tardent was born in Nikolaev in Ukraine. He came from the family of a Swiss teacher and journalist, Henry Alexis Tardent, who lived in Ukraine for many years, but in 1887 emigrated with his family to Australia. Emile grew up in Queensland working as a land ranger. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was married and had four children.
- He served with the 42nd Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1918 he was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in the Amiens advance. He was wounded in the hip in the same battle. His younger brother Edward Felix and cousin Oswald Urban, born in Australia, were killed on the Western Front; his brother Jules Louis also served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
- After the war Emile lived with his family at Wynnum in Queensland, working as a journalist and being actively involved in the local RSSILA sub-branch activities.
November 13, 2016
- Morris Leneve, a Jewish man most likely from Kiev, came to Sydney in 1912 and worked as a tailor.
- Enlisting in the AIF as Myer Levin, he deserted five months later, was apprehended and court martialled in Australia.
- After the war he married Daphne Warren. His son Maurice Lionel served in the AIF in WWII in Rabaul.
Bror Gustaf Selim Sjoberg
- Bror Gustaf Selim Sjoberg, a Finnish seaman from Abo (Turku), enlisted in the AIF in Western Australia.
- He served with the 10th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he was wounded in the leg and arm at Ypres. Recovering in England, he returned to the front and served in the 1st Machine Gun Battalion.
- After the war he most likely lived in Victoria.
- Karl Nurmi, a Finnish fireman from Helsingfors, deserted his ship in Hobart in 1909. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was working in Western Australia as a miner.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Perth, he discovered that he had problems with understanding English and deserted while in Bendigo Camp. He was arrested at Mount Morgan a year later and court martialled.
- After the war he lived in Victoria.
Gustave Alexander August Plisch
- Gustave Alexander August Plisch came from the Cracow area in the Austrian part of Poland, but claimed that his father was a Russian subject. He came to Melbourne as a child to join his uncle Johann Plisch, a well-known baker, and worked as a pastry cook. Later he moved to Adelaide and married an Australian girl, Maud Adeline Watts, they had two sons.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide as a Russian subject, he was approved for home service, but after his discharge he was court martialled, as the authorities had grounds to believe that he was a German.
- After the war he lived in South Australia and Queensland. His son Cyril Franz Plisch was killed in an aircraft accident at Temora while serving in the RAAF during WWII.
- Charles Rickoff from Cracow (possibly Petrokov) in Austrian Poland came to Queensland as a baby with his parents. In Australia he became a cabinet maker and polisher. Before leaving for the front he married Kathlyn Violet Davies.
- Enlisting in the AIF as a Russian Pole, he served with the 49th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1918 he was wounded in the thigh, but recovered and continued his service to the end of the war.
- After the war he lived in Bundaberg, working as a cabinetmaker. During WWII he served in the Volunteer Defence Corps, while his son also enlisted in the AIF.
- Frank Laurent, a Finnish seaman from Ilmajoki, came to Australia in 1912 and worked in Sydney as a labourer, marrying an Australian girl, Adele Cressely, in 1916.
- He enlisted in the AIF twice, in 1916 and 1918, but was discharged both times as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Sydney working as ganger. During WWII he successfully enlisted in the AIF.
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