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).
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.
May 22, 2015
- Charles Jacobsen from Latvia came to Western Australia in 1903 and made his living as dray carter and kangaroo shooter.
- Enlisting in the AIF on the same day as Aaltonen, he sailed to Gallipoli with the 28th Battalion. He received a shrapnel wound to the head in December 1915, at the very end of the Gallipoli campaign. Although he recovered in Egypt, his wound re-opened just before he was due to leave for the Western Front, and he died from a cerebral abscess.
- Emil Ek from Abo (Turku) in Finland came to South Australia in 1907.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 27th Battalion at Gallipoli and then with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front. He was killed at the battle for Mennin Road at Ypres in September 1917.
John Arthur Anderson
May 18, 2015
- John Arthur Anderson from Vaasa in Finland came to Western Australia probably as a seaman in 1902. He spent some time on gold digging, worked as a labourer and on railway construction. In 1910 he married an Australian girl, Blanche Janes, and they settled in Marrinup in south-west Western Australia.
- Enlisting in the AIF, Anderson came to Gallipoli with the reinforcements to the 16th Battalion and was severely wounded in the leg six days later during the Chunuk Bair Turkish attack in August 1915. He was evacuated to an English hospital and later returned to Australia as medically unfit.
- After the war he moved with his family to Perth and worked as a tarpaulin maker.
- Gershun Harbert, a Polish Jew, was a tailor who moved first to London, where his relatives lived, and in 1910 sailed to Australia.
- Enlisting to the AIF he served with the 4th Battalion at Gallipoli and with 59th on the Western Front, where he was killed in the battle for Sugarloaf salient in July 1916.
Emil Evert Toivonen
- Emil Evert Toivonen was a labourer from Helsinki in Finland.
- Enlisiting in the AIF in Sydney, he fought with the 19th Battalion at Gallipoli, where he was wounded in the eye in September 1915. Recovering, he returned to the trenches. He was wounded in the shoulder at the Somme on the Western Front in November 1916 and gassed in June 1918. The last months of the war he served in the UK in the Australian Provost Corps.
- He was discharged in England, intending to return to Finland.
Emil Alarik Aaltonen
May 10, 2015
- Emil Alarik Aaltonen from Abo in Finland came to Australia in 1909 and worked as a labourer in Bunbury in Western Australia.
- The first time he enlisted was in October 1914, but he was discharged ten weeks later. He reenlisted in May 1915 and sailed to Gallipoli with the 28th Battalion. He got seriously sick there with paratyphoid and was invalided to Australia. In 1916 he tried to reenlist again, but was rejected on medical grounds.
- He stayed after the war in Bunbury.
Charles Henry Raitt
- Charles Henry Raitt was a Britisher with a long-lasting connection with Russia. His grandfather, Charles Raitt, an officer in the British Army, in 1835 married Anne Hill, who was born in St Peterburg. Her ancestors – Hills, Wishaws, Focks, and Ammers – lived in St Petersburg since the eighteenth century. For instance her great grandfather Bernhard Fock worked as a gardener for the Russian Emperor’s family since the 1730s. In the 1830s Charles and Anne Raitt came to Australia and started a family, but their son Arthur returned to St Petersburg where Charles Henry was born in about 1869. The latter, according to his service records, spent a number of years in the British consular service in Russia. He received a good education and came to Australia in the 1880s working as an accountant and then as a bank manager in Melbourne.
- Enlisting in the AIF he was appointed a commander of A Company of the newly formed 21st Battalion with the rank of Major. His war experience started in a dramatic way when his ship, the Southland, on approach to Gallipoli, was torpedoed with loss of life. Raitt survived the ordeal but his nervous system was shattered, which aggravated his other health issues. He was invalived to Australia and continued his service in the depot as a commanding officer, where his knowledge of Russian was occasionally put to use. Being discharged in early 1917, he reenlisted into the Sea Transport Service Unit, travelling to England and back to Melbourne.
- After the final discharge from the army he could not find a job and his family life began to crumble; by that time he had three children. After separation with his wife he left for the US in 1920 and settled in La Grange, Illinois. In 1942 he applied to enlist in the army, taking ten years off his age.
Toivo Alexander Haapanen
- Toivo Alexander Haapanen, a Finnish seaman from Tammerfors (Tampere), came to Australia in 1913 and worked in outback New South Wales and Queensland.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Goondiwindi, he served with the 15th Battalion at Gallipoli and later in the Camel Corps in Egypt, where he became sick. Recovering in Australia he reenlisted and joined the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force with which he served in New Britain.
- After the war he continued his outback lifestyle, working as as seaman and carpenter in the Northern Territory, Kimberly and Broome. During the Second World War he enlisted in the AIF and served in Broome.
May 7, 2015
- Alfroniza Morozoff had deserted from the Russian naval ship Gromoboi when it visited Australia to take part in the celebrations for Federation in 1901. His original name was probably Afanasy Kargopolov, but he changed it to Morozoff and then to Jack Morris. Similarly variable was the place of his birth – from Odessa in Ukraine to Tobolsk in Siberia. He worked as a bridge carpenter at Bunyip Swamp in Gippsland, Victoria, but by the time of enlistment migrated to Cloncurry in North Queensland.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he went to Egypt with the 25th Battalion, but was returned soon to Australia as medically unfit. He reenlisted once again, but was discharged due to a fracture of his left kneecap.
- After the war he continued his wandering life in North Queensland.
- Charles Pertel was most likely a native of Arensburg (Kuressaare) in Estonia, although in the notice about his death a local newspaper wrote that he was born in Moscow. He came to Port Pirie in 1908 as a sailor and worked in the South Australian Coastal shipping company.
- Enlisting in the AIF he served with the 12th Battalion at Gallipoli and later with the 52nd on the Western Front, where he was wounded twice at Mouquet Farm in September 1916 and at Dernancourt in April 1918.
- After the war he lived in Broken Hill, working as a rigger. He married a local girl, Edith White, in 1927, but sadly she died the next year, leaving him with a young daughter. During WWII Pertel enlisted in the Volunteer Defence Corps and died while serving in the army. His war medals were recently found by Glyn Llanwarne and returned to his daughter.
Jacob Lamban Jofs
- Jacob Lamban Jofs was a machinist fron Vaasa in Finland.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served at Gallipoli with the 13th Battalion and was killed in November 1915, at the end of the Gallipoli campaign, being the last Russian born Anzac to be killed in Gallipoli.
- His sister Anna, who settled in Wisconsin, USA, was found after the war and received his medals.
- Walter Pivinski, a Ukrainian sailor from Odessa, served in the Russian Navy for two years.
- He enlisted in the AIF soon after arrival to Australia and sailed with the 18th Battalion to Gallipoli. In August 1915, in the battle for 971 Hill, he was ‘wounded on the left eye with a bayonet’, also had shrapnel wounds to the hand, a ‘fracture of skull’, and was ‘wounded to the back through explosion of shell’. After recovering in Australia he reenlisted, but experiencing severe headaches on the boat he was returned to Australia from Egypt.
- After the war he went to America and enlisted in the US Army, serving in Manila. He later married and lived in Tacoma, Washington.
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