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 28, 2015
Tovio John Kallio
- Tovio John Kallio from Vyborg in Finland came to South Australia in 1912 and was working as a farm hand on the Yorke Peninsula.
- In the AIF he joined the 3rd Light Horse Regiment and fought at Gallipoli and in Egypt. In July 1916 he became seriously sick and was invalided to Australia.
- After the war he married and farmed in Burra in South Australia. He was an active member of the local community and RSL.
- Cezar Wolkowsky from Lipki near Kiev in Ukraine came from a Polish family and studied in a military school in Russia. He sailed to Australia in 1914 on the invitation of his elder brother Theofil Volkofsky, who successfully settled in Bourke.
- Enlisting in the AIF he came with the 19th Battalion to Gallipoli in August 1915 where he was severely wounded two weeks later and invalided to Australia in April 1916.
- After the Russian revolution of 1917 Cezar supported Bolshevik ideas, but his marriage to the Australian girl Gwynnyth Woodberry and the Australian authorities’ refusal to naturalize him somewhat moderated his political allegiances. He worked as a tram conductor in Sydney and fathered two daughters, one of which, Marea, became a soprano singer and a writer.
May 26, 2015
- Stanley Skowronski, a young Pole from Lodz, sailed at Sydney on the eve of the Great War with Gerard Skugar, another Pole from Vilno. Their occupations were recorded as artists. Stanley’s brother Joseph moved to Australia two years earlier. In Australia Stanley worked as a motor driver. Stanley joined the Polish Society and was involved in the organization of concerts to aid war victims, particularly in Poland.
- He enlisted in the AIF a month after the Gallipoli landing, but stayed in the training depot and was discharged in September 1915 suffering from a bullet wound in the leg (a result of an accident).
- After the war he settled in Sydney, married and established himself as glass etcher, patenting some of his technical inventions. He was also actively involved in Polish communal life in Sydney, becoming the president of the Polish National Alliance of Australia. In 1949 he left for Poland for a visit and his tracks disappear after that.
Frans Viktor Vesala
- Frans Viktor Vesala, a Finnish seaman, came to Hobart in 1905. He worked in Hobart and Port Adelaide in coastal shipping.
- Enlisting in the AIF as Carlson he came to Gallipoli with the 19th Battalion and was wounded during the August 1915 battles. Recovering, he continued his service on the Western Front where he was killed at the Somme in November 1916.
- His relatives in the Finnish village of Koylio were found after the war.
- Emil Dahlstrom, a Finnish seaman, came to Australia on a Norwegian sailing ship from South America when the war broke out.
- Enlisting in the AIF he fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, being wounded at Broodseinde near Ypres in October 1917. He recovered and won a Military Medal at the end of war risking his own life to save the wounded.
- After the war he settled in Bomaderry near Nowra, marrying a local girl, Winifred Jones, and working as a PMG linesman.
Frank Bernard Hershorn Lesnie
May 22, 2015
- Frank Bernard Hershorn Lesnie was born, according to his mother, in Warsaw. When he was a young child his family came to England, where he received good education. In around 1914 he emigrated to Australia, aiming to engage in farming.
- He was rejected on medical grounds when he tried to enlist, but at the second attempt, after the Gallipoli landing, he succeeded and joined the 19th Battalion, later being transferred to the 17th Battalion. He enlisted under the name of Frank Bernard, a native of London. While serving in Gallipoli and on the Western Front he wrote detailed letters to his family in England, graphically describing his everyday life and horrors of war. In December 1916 he was granted leave and visited his family in London. In March 1917 he was killed during the attack on the German trenches near Bapaume.
- After the war his mother, who moved to Australia, donated a copy of his war letters to the Australian War Memorial.
- 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
- 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.
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