Alexander Sast


Russian spelling

Александр Павлович Саст

Born 27.10.1888

Place Odessa, Ukraine

Ethnic origin Russian

Religion Church of England

Father Paul Sast (or Joseph Sast), farmer & horse trainer

Mother Mary Belugari

Family

Wife Charlotte Elizabeth (nee Hodkinson) Collidge, married 1926 in Melbourne; three stepchildren

Residence before arrival at Australia Served in the Russian Navy on Baltic Sea for 5 years, which was probably not correct as according to newspaper interviews he fled Russia in his late teens to avoid military conscription

Arrived at Australia
from Odessa, Russia
on 3.08.1912
per Etharekiners
disembarked at Port Adelaide

Residence before enlistment Port Pirie, Kilkenny, Broken Hill, Port Augusta

Occupation Motor mechanic, fitter

Service
service number 919
enlisted 31.08.1914
POE Morphettville, SA
unit 10th Battalion, 3rd Australian Ammunition Sub Park, 3rd MT Company
rank Private, MT Driver
place Gallipoli, 1915; Western Front, 1917-1918
casualties WIA 1915 (twice), POW Gallipoli, escaped 1916, reached Britain via Archangel 1916
final fate RTA 24.09.1918
discharged 22.01.1919

Naturalisation 1914

Residence after the war 1924 Melbourne, 1928 Sydney

Died 2.06.1928 Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, Sydney

Materials

Digitised naturalisation (NAA)

Digitised service records (NAA)

Digitised Embarkation roll entry (AWM)

Records of the Assistant Provost Marshal (AWM)

South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau file

Army payfile (NAA)

Family tree on Ancestry.com

* I am grateful for information to Felicity Graves Davies and Linda Djachenko

Blog articles

Russian Anzacs (Russian)

Russian Anzacs (English)

Private Alexander Sast in Just Soldiers

Newspaper articles

Private Sast's escape. - The Advertiser, Adelaide, 30 June 1916, p. 8;

Idem. Prisoner who escaped. Russian Anzac a linguist. - Daily Herald,Adelaide, 1 July 1916, p. 3.

Broken Hill soldier's adventures. - Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, 12 November 1916, p. 4.

Port Pirie man's story. - The Advertiser, Adelaide, 22 November 1916, p. 9.

Anzac's strange story. Port Pirie to London via Archangel. - The Register, Adelaide, 22 November 1916, p. 8.

"I'll razor you!" Man's arm slashed. - Sun, Sydney, 3 October 1923, p. 5.

Broken Hill war volunteer dies in a Sydney hospital. - Barrier Miner, Broken Hill, 5 June 1928, p. 1.

Keith Murdoch, 'Heroic' does not begin to describe this bravest of the Anzac brave. - The Australian, 21 April 2012.

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.

[...] Alexander Sast, a former motor mechanic, was from Odessa; he arrived at Gallipoli with the 10th Battalion. Soon after landing he was wounded in the foot and sent to Egypt to recover, rejoining his unit in July. Then, on 18 July -- as he testified a year later before a court of enquiry -- he 'was sent out in front of the trenches ... to try and drop a sniper'. In the course of doing this, he was wounded in the leg by a shell. 'The wound bled freely and I was very much in pain. I shouted out to my own men but am not sure they could hear me owing to the great noise.' At night a Turk appeared and was about to bayonet him but Sast grabbed hold of the bayonet (Sast was able to produce the piece of shrapnel and show the scar on his fingers from the bayonet). As he was wounded, the Turks carried him to their trenches and finally to a hospital. When Sast had recovered a little, he was taken off for interrogation but refused to provide any information; he was then transferred to Scutari (Üsküdar). There, he underwent torture: 'They tied my hands behind my back and hung me up to a ring on the post with my toes just clear of the floor for two hours'. Each time he fainted he was brought round and the torture continued: 'This went on for four days'. Finally he was sent to a camp, where he met several other Australians, and they worked 12 hours a day, being given just one hot meal a day. In December, with other prisoners-of-war, Sast was transferred to Bulgaria, where they dug trenches under the command of a German officer.

At this camp there was a Bulgarian soldier who was anxious to escape from the army, and Sast made friends with him ('I understood his language for it is like Russian'). So, with the Bulgarian leading the way, together they fled across the frozen Danube and were soon in Romania, where the Bulgarian joined up with other Bulgarian deserters. Sast, who had several gold coins hidden on his person, changed into civilian clothes and travelled to Bucharest, where he met two other Russians. Together, they reached the River Prut and, with the help of a Jewish guide, crossed it and entered Russia. Sast was determined to continue his war, but the only army he wanted to fight in was the Australian army. So, avoiding contact with Russian authorities and with his relatives, too, he decided to get to Archangel in the north of Russia, where British troops had landed. He had to work his way across Russia to get there. 'I saw the way to Archangel on the map and went by train. There I reported. I thought it was the only way I could get back to England. I was afraid to report before as the British Consul might have handed me over to the Russian Military Authorities.' Finally, in June 1916, almost a year after he'd gone out to 'drop a sniper' in the Dardanelles, the British took him to England, where he faced a court of enquiry. However incredible his adventures might appear, even more incredibly 10th Battalion command was unable to confirm that Sast was with the battalion at the time of his capture! The court believed him, however, and he was sent to join an Australian army unit in France, where he served as a driver.