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.
June 30, 2015
- Alexander Zangey, an Ossetian from Vladikavkaz, came to Australia before the war and worked in Queensland as a labourer.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he served on the Western Front with an artillery division, having the ranks of gunner, acting corporal and driver. In November 1916 he was killed at the Somme.
- After the war the Australian authorities made a number of unsuccessful attempts to find his family in Ossetia.
- Conrad Shlipnekoff, an engine fitter from Voznesensk near Vladimir in Central Russia, enlisted in the AIF in Brisbane.
- He served with the 25th Battalion at Gallipoli and with the 49th Battalion on the Western Front. In November 1916 he received gun shot wounds to his side at the Somme and, after months in English hospitals, he was evacuated to Australia as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Brisbane in Spring Hill and Wooloongabba.
- John Brostrom was born in Svarto in Finland. He came to Australia in 1912, most likely as a seaman, and worked as a labourer in Bundaberg in Queensland and Grenfell in NSW.
- He came to Gallipoli with the reinforcements to the 15th Battalion in October 1915. In November he fell ill with typhoid and was evacuated to Australia. Recovering, he returned to the service, arriving at the Western Front in June 1916. In August he was killed in the battle for Pozieres.
- His father Fredrik Fritof Brostrom was found after the war in Finland.
June 28, 2015
- Edward Poppel, an Estonian from Dago (Hiiumaa) Island, came to South Australia in 1911. He worked as a labourer in Edithburgh on the Yorke Peninsula.
- He came to Gallipoli with the reinforcements to the 10th Battalion. In April 1916, on the way to the Western Front, he became sick with nephritis and pleurisy and was sent to an English hospital and then back to Australia.
- After the war he served in the merchant navy, working in South Australia from Ceduna to Port Elliot, and was active in local RSSILA branches.
- Edgar Gamson, a Frenchman born in Moscow, enlisted in the AIF in Brisbane.
- With his 9th Battalion he served at Gallipoli, but upon return to Egypt he got sick and when discharged from the hospital became an illegal absentee.
- He was never found.
- Jack Limbek from Dago (Hiiumaa) Island in Estonia came to South Australia in 1910. He worked as a labourer and carpenter in the area between Quorn and Petersburg, as well as at Port Pirie.
- Enlisiting in the AIF, he served with the 27th Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1916 he was court martialled for absence without leave, which was qualified as desertion. The sentence of three years was quashed in two weeks and Limbek was sent back to trenches. In November 1916 he was wounded in the right arm at the battle for Somme. In September 1917, at the Menin Gate battle, he was wounded for the second time, in the left hand, and evacuated to Australia as medically unfit.
- After the war he lived in Port Pirie, working as a fisherman and occasionally getting into trouble with police as a result of excessive drinking.
June 27, 2015
- Huon Pollejuke had deserted from the Russian naval ship Gromoboi when it visited Australia to take part in the celebrations for Federation in 1901. At the time of desertion his name was recorded by the police as Ivan Polyxhonk, he also appeared in the documents as Pologouck and his original name can be reconstrusted as Ivan Poleshchuk, while in Australia he was known as Jack Pollock. He was a Ukrainian from ‘Ollenow, Podolia’, which probably was Olenevka in Podolsk Province. After his desertion, Pollejuke stayed in townships north-east of Melbourne and made trips to Tasmania and New South Wales. Later on he settled in Melbourne working as a kitchen hand and a cook.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he deserted three weeks later, probably finding the service too hard for him, as he was already not a young man.
- The latest records about him relate to 1940, when he died in Sydney, a lonely man, working in Surry Hills as a hawker.
David Kalmen Robin
- David Kalmen Robin, or Rabinowitz, from Belostok in Poland came to Western Australia in 1903 as a young man. He lived in Bunbury and Fremantle and was engaged in commence. In 1909 he moved to the US and applied for naturalisation there, but by 1913 he came back to Australia, settled in Sydney and married an Australian girl, Florence Rogan. In 1914 they had a son.
- Enlisting in the AIF he fought with the 18th Battalion at Gallipoli and then was transferred to the Western Front, where he was killed on 16 April 1916, being the first to fall on the Western Front among the Russian born soldiers.
- His son Max Robin served during WWII in the Royal Australian Navy in the North Africa and Middle East.
John Victor Snellman
- John Victor Snellman, a seaman from Hango in Finland, came to Australia in 1912.
- Enlisting in the AIF he landed with the reinforcements to the 18th Battalion at Gallipoli in September 1915. By December he became mentally ill, was was evacuated to Abbasia hospital in Egypt, and finally to Australia.
- In Australia he recovered and worked as a postal assistant and tramway employee in Sydney. In 1916 he married Australian girl Grace Smith and had a family.
June 23, 2015
- Thomas Tarasowf, born in Minsk, Belarus, came to Queensland via the Russian Far East in 1913. He was a fitter by trade and worked in Townsville.
- Enlisting in the AIF he sailed to Egypt with the 26th Battalion, but upon arrival was transferred to the 2nd Pioneer Battalion. He served for nearly 3 years in France, suffering from different ailments and occasionally getting into trouble for AWLs.
- Returning to Australia he worked in Mackay and Rockhampton (probably as a cane-cutter) and then in Mount Morgan as a miner, until he succumbed to TB from which he died in 1940.
- Aaron Lemish from Vishnevichi in Volyn Province of Ukraine deserted from the Russian army soon after conscription and fled to Australia from Harbin in 1911. He worked in Brisbane and Bundaberg as a labourer and flour-mill hand.
- Enlisting in the AIF in Brisbane, he was discharged six months later as medically unfit.
- In 1917 he married a Jewish girl, Rae Crucheck, in Melbourne and had a large family. During WWII he and his two elder sons enlisted in the AIF.
Martin Nicolay Renaud
- Martin Nicolay Renaud from Riga in Latvia came to Australia in 1908, probably as a seaman. After working in coastal shipping and on smelters at Ravensthorpe in Western Australia, he settled in Perth.
- He fought at Gallipoli with the 11th Battalion and then on the Western Front with the 51st Battalion. He was severely wounded in the head at Armentieres in July 1916 and returned to Australia.
- After the war he settled in Mandurah, south of Perth, working as an orchadist, and made several trips to the UK.
- Wolf Dorfman came from Rovno in Volyn Province in Ukraine. After three years of service in the Russian Army he became engaged in trade in Eastern Asia.
- Arriving in Sydney in May 1915, he enlisted in the AIF a few weeks later and sailed to Egypt with the reinforcements of the 13th Battalion. After training in Egypt he was transferred to the 54th Battalion and sent to the Western Front. A few days after his arrival in July 1916, he was reported as missing in action during his first battle. This was the battle of the Sugarloaf salient near Fromelles. It turned out that he was taken prisoner of war by the Germans and spent over two years in captivity, making an unsuccessful attempt to escape.
- Upon returning to Australia in 1919 he settled in Melbourne and was engaged in trade with the Far East. In 1931 he married and had a daughter.
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