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.
September 24, 2016
- Egnaty Sologub, a Ukrainian from Konotop, served in the Russo-Japanese War and came to Australia from the Russian Far East in 1912, leaving his wife and two children behind in Sosnovka, Primorsk Province. A bridge carpenter by trade, by the time of his enlistment in the AIF he worked in Cloncurry in Queensland.
- He served with the 11th Field Company Engineers on the Western Front.
- Returning to Australia, he left for Russia in 1920 and probably returned to his family. It is quite likely that his son born in 1901 was arrested and executed during Stalin’s repressions in 1938.
- Arthur Tarkam, an Estonian seaman from Piarnu, came to Australia from America and enlisted in the AIF in Newcastle.
- A few days later he was discharged as ‘being unlikely to become an efficient soldier’.
- After that he continued seafaring between Australia and America, finally settling in San Francisco.
- Edward Dryen, a Jewish man from Pavlograd in Ukraine, came to Australia in 1894 with his parents and worked in Broken Hill and Sydney as a storekeeper. In 1914 he married Eva Bear in Broken Hill and their son Ronald was born in 1916 and daughter Betty in 1918.
- Enlisting in Sydney he served in the Australian Instructional Corps in the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth training the gunners, with the rank of Acting Staff Sergeant Major.
- After the war the family lived in Wagga Wagga, Gundagai, Manilla, and Sydney. During WWII Edward served in the recruiting depot and his son Ronald in the coastal artillery.
September 4, 2016
- Joseph Josephson, a Jewish man from Vilno, leaving Russia lived in Sweden and England. He came to Western Australia in 1912 where he worked as a storekeeper, finally moving to Sydney, where he enlisted in the AIF.
- He served with the 1st Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1917 he was wounded in Bullecourt, and for the second time in November 1917 in Paschendaele. Spending several months in hospitals he was returned to the front in March 1918 and got into the trouble in August 1918 when he refused to fight and was court martialled for desertion; the sentence was suspended and he was returned to Australia.
- After the war he married Annie Glasser and lived in Sydney, working as a draper.
- Robert Meerin, a Latvian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in 1909 and worked as a wharf labourer and rigger in Queensland and Sydney.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 3rd Pioneers Battalion on the Western Front, later being transferred to the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion. Being discharged from the AIF London in May 1919, he joined Middlesex Regiment, the North Russian Relief Force, and served in Russia in 1919-1920.
- Returning to Australia, he married an Australian woman, Vera Pearl Byrne (nee Downer), and lived in Sydney working as a wharf labourer.
- Thomas Damelionok from Vilna (Vilnius) was probably a Belarusian from Vilno (Vinius). He came to Australia in 1914 with his wife and children and lived in Melbourne.
- He made his first attempt to enlist in the AIF in March 1916, but was rejected. He reenlisted in August 1916 and was accepted for home service in the Australian Medical Corps; in December 1916 he was discharged.
- After the war he worked as a labourer in Halifax, Queensland, probably cane-cutting.
- Edward Carlson, a Finnish labourer, came to Australia in 1898 and worked in Queensland in sugarcane industry. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was over 40.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Townsville, but was discharged two months later as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Mackay, applying for an invalid pension.
- John Lovriaen from Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, came to Western Australia in 1912 and worked as a labourer and miner in Kalgoorlie.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Kalgoorlie, he served with the 27th and then with the 28th Battalions on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was killed at the battle for Mennin Road near Ypres.
Carl Albert Nelson
August 30, 2016
- Carl Albert Nelson from Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland came to Australia in 1909 and worked as a miner in Boulder, in Western Australia.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Kalgoorlie with Lovriaen, he was discharged soon after as medically unfit.
- After the war he disappears from the records.
- Karl Alksen, a seaman from Vindava (Ventspils) in Latvia, came to Sydney in July 1916 and enlisted a month later; by that time he was already over forty.
- He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was wounded at Ypres and in July and September 1918 he suffered gas damage.
- After the war he continued seafaring in Australia, but prematurely died in 1924.
- Charles Campman, another mature-aged soldier from Riga, Latvia, had served in the South African War.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Lithgow in November 1915, but was soon discharged for drunkenness and insubordination. He reenlisted in August 1916 in Dubbo and served with the 45th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917, at Messines, he was wounded in the knee and was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
- He received a pension after the war and died soon after his return.
Charles Anton Gedgawd
- Charles Anton Gedgawd, a seaman from Libava (Liepaja) in Latvia, came to Australia in 1906 and worked in Queensland and South Australia as a labourer.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Cloncurry, he served with the 25th Machine Gun Company on the Western Front. For his courage and devotion to duty during the battle for Polygon Wood in September 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal. In April 1918 he was severely wounded in the back, but recovered and returned to the front in September 1918; in October he suffered gas damage and received wounds to the face.
- After the war he lived in country NSW working as a labourer and, marrying Elizabeth Ann Walton, farmed in the Windsor area.
- Alexander Roman, a Polish man from Lublin, came to Queensland from the Russian Far East with his parents and family. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he had four children.
- He enlisted for the first time in June 1915, but was discharged soon after for lack of English. In August 1916 he enlisted again in Cloncurry and served with the 52nd Battalion on the Western Front until he was discharged as medically unfit.
- After the war he went to Poland to reunite with his family, spent some time in China, but returned to Australia in 1926 and worked as a labourer in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
Ernst Arvid Lax
August 27, 2016
- Ernst Arvid Lax, a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors, enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne.
- Two months later he deserted from the camp.
- He continued working as a seaman in the USA, where he naturalised, married and settled in New York.
- Edward Holmberg from Abo in Finland came to Western Australia in 1907 and was farming in Bolgart.
- He served with the 16th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1917 he was wounded in the leg, but recovered and continued serving. In April 1918 he received a self-inflicted wound due to negligence; three months later he was accused ‘inciting a comrade to desert with him’, but remained with his battalion and was wounded in the face in August 1918, during the Amiens advance.
- Returning to Australia, he married an Australian girl, Lenore Fallon, and farmed in Kulin.
- Frank Winter, a Finish sailor from Helsingfors, enlisted in the Army in Claremont, Tasmania.
- A month later he died in Hobart Hospital from pneumonia.
- His mother in Helsingfors was found after his death and paid a pension.
- Alex Alexandroff from Vladivostok came to Australia in 1914 and worked in Sydney as a cook.
- He served with the 4th Battalion on the Western Front. Being discharged in London in August 1919, he enlisted in the Middlesex regiment as an interpreter and served in the Russian Relief Force as a sergeant.
- When returning to Australia in 1920 he was suspected by the Australian authorities to have ‘Bolshevik sentiments’, but soon they lost trace of him. He settled in Sydney working as a chef. In 1943 he married an Australian woman, Doris Fairy Cook. When he was naturalising in 1940 police considered the evidence that he did ‘not mix with people of Russian nationality’.
- Nicholas Kocaj, a Polish man from Tomaszow, arrived in Australia in 1910 and worked as a cook in Coffs Harbour.
- He served with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
- After the war he married an English girl, Gladys Winnifred Wilshere, returning with his wife to Australia in 1920. They settled near Sydney where they had a poultry farm. In 1925 Nicholas died and his widow with four young children returned to England.
- Stanley Elsky, a Polish man from Warsaw, came to Brisbane in 1911 from Vladivostok, where his mother was staying. Although recorded in the shipping records as a student, he worked as a labourer on the farm.
- He served with the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1918 he was wounded in the leg, but returned to his unit in November 1918.
- In May 1919 he was discharged in London and stayed there, naturalising in 1959.
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