Alfred Jan de Topor Markowicz


Alias Merkowicz, Marcowicz; J. Marr (1931); Alfred Jan Markowitz known as Alfred Jan Marr (death certificate)

Russian spelling

Алфред Ян де Топор Маркович

Born 30.09.1885

Place Markowo, Krakow, Poland

Ethnic origin Polish

Religion Roman Catholic; buried as Jewish

Father Stanislaw Markowicz

Mother Ludviga Markowicz

Family

Uncle Dan Markowicz, lived in Antwerp, Belgium; wife Elsie Louise Marr (nee Norris), married 23.12.1918 in Brisbane; son Jan Edgar Marr, b. 4.01.1922 in Sydney, served in the AIF 1942-1946.

Residence before arrival at Australia Left Krakow ca 1904; served in the Serbian army in the Balkan Wars of 1904-1905; lived in London; 31.01.1909 arrived at Fremantle per 'Friedrich der Grosse'; lived in New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga

Arrived at Australia
from Tonga
on 19.02.1914
per Tofua
disembarked at Sydney

Residence before enlistment Sydney

Occupation 1914 planter and accountant, 1935 journalist; 1919 Secretary of the Returned Soldiers and Citizens' Political Federation; resigned after May 1919; in the 1920s - secretary of Polish Consulate in Australia.

Service
service number 350
enlisted 17.08.1914
POE Sydney
unit 3rd Battalion
rank Private
place Gallipoli, 1915
final fate RTA 10.06.1915
discharged 17.07.1915

Naturalisation in New Zealand, served as naturalised British subject

Residence after the war Brisbane, Sydney

Died 3.11.1935, Sydney (suicided)

Materials

Digitised service records (NAA)

Digitised Embarkation roll entry (AWM)

Investigation Branch file (NAA)

Criticisms of the Department by A.J.D. Markowicz (NAA)

Blog article

Russian

English

Publications

Elena Govor, Russian Anzacs and Anzac legends

Newspaper articles

Sensational rumours denied 1 2, The Press, 5 July 1909, p. 7.

Alfred M. Markowicz. A position of the Austrian, Auckland Star, 18 August 1909, p. 8.

Iron heel of the Hun, The Brisbane Courier, 13 December 1917, p. 7

Recruiting rally, Morning bulletin, 11 June 1918, p. 9-10

The seventh war loan. Address by A.J. de Topor-Markowicz, Cairns Post, 23 August 1918, p. 8

A. J. de Topor-Markowicz. Appeal to the district, Cairns Post, 10 September 1918, p. 5

Mareeba notes, Cairns Post, 11 September 1918, p. 2

Seventh war loan, Cairns Post, 13 September 1918, p. 3

Seventh war loan, Cairns Post, 14 September 1918, p. 8

Seventh war loan, Cairns Post, 8 October 1918, p. 8

War loan organiser, Cairns Post, 21 October 1918, p. 2

A. J. de Topor-Markowicz. Porgoms and their Cause, The Leader, 20 December 1918, p. 5

The Repatriation Act. Need for Amendments. Scheme of Mr. Markowicz., Cairns Post, 3 January 1919, p. 2

Soldiers and politics. ... Party government denounced, The Queenslander, 18 January 1919, p. 13

A.J. de Topor-Marcowicz. Paderewski, Leader, 31 January 1919, p. 5

Meeting of returned soldiers, Queensland Times, 26 March 1919, p. 5

Loyalist demonstration in Brisbane, Western Star and Roma Advertiser, 29 March 1919, p. 4

Critic or repatriation Editor of soldiers' journal charged, Advocate, 17 May 1919, p. 7

Repatriation. Mr Markowicz Arraigned, Cairns Post, 31 May 1919, p. 8

Returned Soldiers' Imperial League, Queensland Times, 25 July 1919, p. 5

The Federation and Mr. Marcowicz, Leader, 1 August 1919, p. 17

Mr. Markowicz. "An Honorable Discharge", Cairns Post, 8 October 1919, p. 2

Starving Poland, Sunday Times, 1 February 1920, p. 13

Pogroms in Poland, Sunday Times, 8 February 1920, p. 5

Russia and Germany, News, Adelaide, 19 January 1924, p. 5

Prosperity of Poland. Vice-Consul's visit to homeland, The Argus, 26 January 1924, p. 29

Progressive Poland, Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton, 18 February 1924, p. 10

Polish Honours for Australians, The Register, Adelaide, 10 December 1924, p. 13

Batik work, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 1925, p. 6

From Russian Anzacs in Australian History:

The very first contingent [...] -- this First Fleet of the new Australian nationhood -- left Australian waters in early November 1914 with at least 12 Russians: the Finns Baer and Hiltunen, the ethnic Russians Arn, Kamishansky, Sast and Sindeeff, the Polish-born Markowicz and Watson, the Jews Zander and Levene, and the Russian-born Englishmen Ball and Dyson.

[...] Alfred Jan de Topor Markowicz was another whose particular experience of the war did not fit the mould. Markowicz was Polish, a worldly, well-educated man who, as a soldier, showed courage and initiative. A few days after the landing at Gallipoli -- at a time when every man counted -- he was suddenly summoned by his commanding officer, Colonel Owen, who told him: 'Markowicz, I have nothing against you. You have done good work but there is a charge against you of having pro-German sympathies and you will have to go to Headquarters and clear yourself.' At headquarters, Markowicz testified, he was kept under close arrest for eight days, and then informed that he 'was to be returned to Australia and discharged' as his services were no longer required -- he had not been charged with anything nor tried. Nevertheless, on board the Kyarra he was held as a prisoner and 'the report was spread all over the Kyarra that [he] was a spy'. His guards refused him access to his own kit and searched it for 'arms and ammunition'; on failing to find anything, they stole his private papers and all his valuables, including his collection of curios from Egypt. When Markowicz complained about items going missing, an officer threatened to 'put [him] in irons'.

Back in Australia Markowicz was interrogated by Intelligence officers. The evidence against him was quite absurd. One point brought up against him was his pre-war employment by a German firm in Tonga: this was the sole 'connection' that the military could find in support of his supposed pro-German sympathies. Another piece of so-called evidence is worth quoting in full: 'He has not resided in France but learnt French at School. NOTE. In the opinion of M. Petitcol he could not speak French as he does unless he had resided in France and most probably in Paris. As he has been 6 years in Australasia this is noteworthy.'

But military intelligence was especially suspicious about his first days at Gallipoli and during his interrogation made Markowicz describe them in full detail. According to this account, when his platoon (9 Platoon C Coy, 3rd Battalion) landed it 'charged over the 2nd ridge' to secure and hold a position there. Markowicz's commander sent him with a message to headquarters. On returning, he could not find his platoon, which had retreated from its initial position. In the dusk, with a group of New Zealanders, he joined up with the 16th Battalion. Here he showed himself to be a fearless fighter who used his own initiative in the confusion that reigned around him. Several times he volunteered to go out and scout and was able to use his knowledge of French to discover that they were surrounded by Turks rather than, as high command believed, by allies. His evidence is still full of the excitement of his great moment.

'... I advanced another pace or so and saw that they were Turks and they were lying in massed formation. I asked again, "Who are you?" They replied (in French) "Soldier". "What army", I asked. They replied "Ottoman Army". At that I jumped back and got into our trench and shouted "They are Turks, fire lads". Our force opened fire but immediately order came from the right "Cease fire on the left. You are killing your own men on the right". I gave orders again 3 rounds rapid fire and five rounds rapid. The enemy then retreated. After that an enquiry came from the right "Who gave orders to fire?" We replied "We fired because we recognised them as Turks."'

In essence, his whole conduct that night was heroic; he prevented many lives from being lost and saved many from capture by the advancing Turks. You might expect such a keen, well-educated private to quickly rise through the ranks -- you might, if he wasn't Russian ... As soon as some order was restored among the allies Markowicz returned to his platoon with a note from the 16th Battalion to say where he had been; he continued to fight bravely with his unit until his sudden detention on 12 May. The records of Markowicz's interrogations depict the chaos reigning in the first days after the landing, the poor command structure, the confusion -- it painfully reminds me of the Russian Red Army's situation in the tragic days of 1941 after the German invasion. In the midst of this chaos, when soldiers were dying in their thousands, there were those who were going round at the same time gathering information about anything 'suspicious' and writing denunciations, and building their military careers on that.

Markowicz, as soon as his interrogation in Australia ended, was discharged for 'Disciplinary reasons' -- words which, in his personal service-record file, are underlined and followed by a pencilled annotation 'No Crime. Doubtful name'. The stain of this episode blighted Markowicz's life. Later, as a member of RSL, he fought for servicemen's rights, disclosing corruption among military bureaucrats, and his opponents dragged up the circumstances of his discharge. It was 1922 before he managed to prove that he had a right to his war medals. But the file remained. In 1931, when he applied for a government job, military intelligence was again consulted about his past but this time the official response was more straightforward, noting that he had been under 'suspicion of being a spy. It was never found that there was anything in that suspicion.'