Five Finnish Cameleers

February 29, 2016
  • Five Finnish seaman enlisted in the AIF in mid-February 1916 in Casula near Sydney. They were Alfred Axel Syrjalainen from Vyborg, Juho Werner Jokinen from Lahti, Aksel Anselm Mattila from Borga (Porvoo), and two men from Rauma, Frans Wilhelm Salminen and Wilhelm Konsten. The last two arrived in Australia on the Finnish ship Imperator Alexander II in February 1914 with a score of other Finnish seamen; Jokinen, Mattila and Syrjalainen landed in Australia between 1910 and 1912. They must all have worked on the vessels trading on the coast. By the time of enlistment they lived in a few seamen’s hostels in Pyrmont and, obviously, decided to join together. Syrjalainen paved the way, enlisting on 9 February, all the rest followed him five days later.
  • They were allocated to the reinforcements to the Camel Corps, which were forming in Egypt; all but Jokinen sailed for Egypt per the Morea in May 1916. Jokinen was kept behind for further training and left Australia with reinforcements in December 1916. They started service as Cameleers, but later they were transferred to Light Horse regiments and served in Egypt and Palestine. Wilhelm Konsten was killed during a patrol in North Gaza in April 1917. All the rest took part in the famous Beersheba charge in November 1917 and served to the end of war. Syrjalainen and Salminen were the last to return to Australia together in July 1919.
  • After the war, life took them along different paths. Syrjalainen continued his mateship with Salminen; in 1920 the Repatriation Department gave them equipment to go rabbiting. They camped near Molong, where Syrjalainen, as a result of a fight in a bar with another returned soldier, killed two men. Newspaper reported that, when arrested, Syrjalainen was saying ‘in his broken English, “I spent four years killing men, now I take no more notice of killing a man than killing a fly”’. He was convicted for manslaughter. When released, he married an Australian woman, Dorris Thrift, and worked as a labourer in Yenda near Griffith. Later he moved to Sydney. His son served in the AIF in WWII.
  • Salminen after the tragedy in Molong disappears from the records; he probably left Australia.
  • Aksel Anselm Mattila married an Australian girl, Gertrude Cecilia Schwarze, and lived with his family in Sydney working as a crane driver.
  • Juho Werner Jokinen married an Australian girl, Nora Kathleen Baxter, and lived in Sydney working as a seaman and later as a wharf labourer.

Paakola, Boronow, Mamchin, Zook, Sevald

February 27, 2016

John Paakola

  • John Paakola from Uleaborg (Oulu) in Finland came to South Australia in 1914, most likely as a seaman.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Port Pirie, he served with the 48th Battalion on the Western Front. In April 1917 he was wounded in the leg at the battle for Bullecourt and later repatriated to Australia with a diagnosis of deafness. In the 1930s his commander, D.G. Mitchell, mentioned his stamina in his memoirs.
  • After the war he stayed in South Australia, working as a labourer in Port Pirie, Broken Hill, Streaky Bay and Port Adelaide. He married an Australian woman, Charlotte Oborn, who had children from her previous marriage, and they had a large family.

Alexander Boronow

  • Alexander Boronow, a Russian man from Odessa, came to Australia in about 1889, most likely as a seaman, and was cane cutting and cane farming in North Queensland.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Townsville and was discharged six months later as medically unfit. If his naturalisation application is to be believed, at that time he was well over fifty.
  • After the war he lived in Townsville and was an inmate of Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, suffering from asthma.

John Mamchin

  • John Mamchin, another native of Odessa, came to Australia in 1911 from the Russian Far East and worked as a labourer on the railway construction where he developed rheumatism due to working in water.
  • His service in the AIF lasted only two months and he was discharged as medically unfit. He tried to enlist two more times afterwards but did not succeed.
  • After the war he worked on the ships and died aboard the ‘Maori’ while in Lyttleton, New Zealand.

Antoney Zook

  • Antoney Zook, a Russian born in Samarkand, in Central Asia, came to Australia in 1914 from the Russian Far East. He was a clerk by training, but found it difficult to obtain work in Australia.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Townsville, two days after Boronow, and served with the 12th Battalion on the Western Front. He was wounded in February 1917 in the shoulder and hand. Recovering in London he was discharged and employed by the Russian Government Committee.
  • No documents were found about his life after the war.

Edward Sevald

  • Edward Sevald, a Latvian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in December 1915 and enlisted in the AIF two months later.
  • He served as an air mechanic in the Flying Squadron on the Western Front, attaining the rank of sergeant mechanic.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Veronica, and lived in Melbourne working as a fitter and turner on the Victorian Railways.

Bepper, Rossoggsky, Upmal, Adolfsson, Talava

February 27, 2016

John Ludwig Bepper

  • John Ludwig Bepper from Riga came to Australia in 1913 and was a bush worker in Moonan Flat, NSW.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 34th Battalion on the Western Front. In March 1917, at Armentieres, he was wounded in the left arm, and in October 1917, at Passchendaele, in the right hand.
  • While in England after the war he did a course in painting and decorating and married an English girl, Maud Hardman; they sailed to Australia together. They lived in Sydney where John worked as a painter and decorator. In 1939, when the new world war was approaching, he committed suicide; not long before that he told his wife ‘that if people knew what the soldiers had gone through there would never be another war’.

Ivan Rossoggsky

  • Ivan Rossoggsky (his correct surname was most likely Rossovsky), a Ukrainian seaman from Bendery, worked in Moonan Flat with Bepper and they enlisted together.
  • He served with the 34th Battalion on the Western Front, attaining the rank of sergeant. In June 1917, at Wimereux, he was wounded in the shoulder and thigh, but rejoined a month later and was killed in a week, in July 1917, at Messines.
  • His family in Ukraine was never found, but his name was commemorated on the Moonan Flat and Scone WWI memorials.

Ernest Upmal

  • Ernest Upmal, a Latvian seaman from Riga, enlisted in the AIF in Sydney.
  • He served with the 56th Battalion on the Western Front and was killed in December 1916 at the Somme.
  • His family in Latvia was never found.

Adolf Sven Adolfsson

  • Adolf Sven Adolfsson, a seaman from Kråkö in Finland, enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne.
  • He served with the 24th Battalion on the Western Front, attaining the rank of Lance Corporal. He was awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry at Daisy Wood in October 1917, where he fought as a machine-gunner. In March 1918 he was gassed at Ploegsteert, but recovering in England, he returned to the front and gained a bar to his Military Medal at Peronne in September 1918, this time for stretcher-bearing.
  • After the war he was sailing for several years, and then returned to his native Kråkö in Finland. His war service in the AIF is commemorated in the local Parvoo Museum in Finland.

Ansselmi Talava

  • Ansselmi Talava, a Finnish seaman, at the time of enlistment in the AIF lived in Melbourne.
  • He served with the 6th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he was buried by a shell explosion and experienced shell shock. Recovering, he returned to his battalion and was killed in August 1918 near St Martyns Wood.
  • His family in Finland was never found.

Lange, Leyko, Tupicoff, Wagin, Sandell

February 26, 2016

Adolf Lange

  • Adolf Lange from Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland came to Queensland in 1913 and was working as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF Rockhapton, he served with the 3rd Pioneers Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he lived in Comet in Queensland and later moved to Sydney, where in 1929 he was killed by his drunken flatmate.

Fedor Leyko

  • Fedor Leyko, a Belarusian from Slonim, came to Queensland in 1914 from the Far East and was working in Mount Morgan as a labourer.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Rockhampton, but was discharged a week later as medically unfit.
  • In 1916-1917 he worked in Pine Creek in the Northern Territory, but after that he disappears from the records; it is most likely that he returned to Belarus.

Alexis Tupicoff

  • Alexis Tupicoff, a young Russian from Perekopnoe in Samara Province, lived with his family in the Far East and followed his brother Nicholas to Australia in 1914. He worked as a railway labourer in Queensland.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Rochampton with Leyko and Wagin, he served with the 42nd Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917, near Messines, he was severely wounded in the face, mouth and trachea; he survived, but his face was permanently disfigured.
  • After the war he wanted to rerurn to Russia, but was not allowed by the Australian authorities. He tried farming in a soldiers’ settlement, Coominya, then worked as a linesman in Atherton and finally moved to Ipswich where his brother Nicholas lived with his family.

John Wagin

  • John Wagin, a Russian from Voinovo village in Vladimir Province, came to Australia from the Far East in 1913, leaving his wife and daughter in Russia. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF, he worked as a miner in Mount Morgan. He participated in the political activities of the Union of Russian Emigres and in 1915 was elected as its Mount Morgan section secretary.
  • He served with the 47th Battalion on the Western Front. In April 1918, at Dernancourt, he was wounded in the arm. After Russia’s withdrawal from the war in 1918 Wagin refused soldering and was finally returned to Australia.
  • The Australian authorities kept him under observation because of his radicalism, which he did not hide. Unfortunately, in one of their raids they confiscated his private WWI journal. After the war, when his wife in Russia died, Wagin married an Australian woman, Mary Moyce, who was a widow of another Russian, Fred Joga, killed in a mining accident. After farming in Innisfail, Wagin worked as a waterside worker and motor driver.

Emil Ferdinand Sandell

  • Emil Ferdinand Sandell, a Finnish seaman, by the time of his enlistment in the AIF, was working as a farm labourer in Leongatha in Victoria.
  • He served with the 1st Pioneers Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1916 he was wounded in the head at Mouquet Farm and repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he lived in Melbourne working as a labourer. In 1924 he was convicted for drunkenness and his photo appeared in the Police Gazette. He died in 1931.

Fagerlund, Cantor, Petterssan, Vidura, Kaarna

February 25, 2016

Johan Peter Fagerlund

  • Johan Peter Fagerlund came to Australia from Finland, and by the time of his enlistment in the AIF was working as a labourer in Sydney, and had a family with an Australian girl, Ethel Rodgers.
  • He served with the 56th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1916 he was wounded in the leg, but recovered and returned to the front.
  • After the war he lived in Bankstown, working as a labourer.

Adolph Conrad Cantor

  • Adolph Conrad Cantor, a Jewish man from Zagare in Lithuania, came to the USA as a young man and had a family there. In 1902 he came to Australia and was working as a draper.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Victoria, he went overseas with the 14th Battalion, was attached to the Administrative headquarters in London and later discharged there as medically unfit.
  • In 1917 he returned to Australia, where he married Elizabeth Margarette Williams, and was working in Melbourne as a storekeeper and draper.

August Severin Petterssan

  • August Severin Petterssan, a Finnish seaman, came to Australia in 1911 and lived in Melbourne working as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 37th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917 he was wounded at Messines, but rejoined his battalion and was killed in October 1917 at Broodseinde, near Ypres.
  • His family in Finland was found after the war.

Carol Vidura

  • Carol Vidura, a seaman, said he was born in Warsaw, but his mother was probably a Romanian and lived in Romania. Carol came to Australia in 1914.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide, he served with the 50th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was wounded in the leg at Polygon Wood and was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • After the war he worked as a laborer and greaser in South Australia. He was married to an Australian girl, Evylen May Wright, and had five children; his elder son served during WWII on Borneo.

Gusta Kaarna

  • Gusta Kaarna, a seaman from Kotka in Finland, came to Australia in 1905 and worked as a carpenter and mill hand in Western Australia and was in Kalgoorlie by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
  • A month after his enlistment he was discharged and disappears from the records after that.

Limbek, Nyman, Snider, Karllstrom, Domander

February 17, 2016

Yai Limbek

  • Yai Limbek, a seaman from Dago (Hiiumaa) Island in Estonia, worked in Perth as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front. He was wounded in the face at Bullecourt in April 1917, experienced delusional insanity and was repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war, in 1919, he was employed on the railway, but disappears from the records after that.

Julius Ivar Edmund Nyman

  • Julius Ivar Edmund Nyman came to Australia with his parents in 1899; they were followers of the charismatic Finnish leader Matti Kurikka, who tried to establish a Utopian community in Australia. Julius grew up in Yandina in Queensland, working as a carpenter and postal mechanic.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Warwick, he served with the 49th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917 he was wounded in the arm at Messines and in the leg at Polygon Wood in September 1917. After the second casualty he was repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Hilda Frances Ward, and lived in Warwick working as a postal electrician.

Alexander Snider

  • Alexander Snider from Kramkowa in Poland worked as a machine-man in Kurri Kurri, most likely in the mines there.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in West Maitland, he served with the 34th Battalion on the Western Front; in 1918 he was transferred the Australian Army Ordnance Corps and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for efficient service there.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Ella Mackenzie, and lived in Ryde, working as a machinist. His son Alexander Matheson Snider served in the AIF in WWII.

Gunnar Karllstrom

  • Gunnar Karllstrom, a Finn from Helsingfors (Helsinki), came to Australia in 1910 and worked as a labourer in Korumburra, Melbourne, and Ballarat. Already after enlistment in the army he married an Australian girl, Margaret Hanratty, and had a son.
  • He went with the 39th Battalion to the Western Front in November 1916 and died of wounds in January 1917.
  • When news about his death reached Ballarat, the flags on the City and Town Halls were flown at half-mast.

Charles Domander

  • Charles Domander, a Finn from Abo (Turku), came to South Australia in 1898 and worked as a fisherman in Port Adelaide.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 48th Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he continued working on his boat ‘Anna’ on the South Australian Coast.

Hill, Saren, Wirtnen, Baarman, Grusausky

February 14, 2016

Victor Hill

  • Victor Hill from Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland, came to Australia in 1905 and worked as a mechanic and sleeper cutter in Western Australia.
  • He enlisted in the AIF, but was discharged a month later for medical reasons.
  • After the war he lived in Western Australia, working as a labourer.

Olo Yrio Saren

  • Olo Yrio Saren from Abo (Turku) in Finland came to Western Australia in 1913 and worked as a wood cutter.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front. In April 1917 he was wounded in the head at the battle for Bullecourt. He rejoined his battalion and in September 1917 was wounded in the hand at Ypres and repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he moved to the eastern states and died in a traffic accident in Melbourne.

Frank Werner Wirtnen

  • Frank Werner Wirtnen  from Bjorneborg in Finland worked in Queensland as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 49th Battalion on the Western Front until he got sick and was repatriated to Australia with a diagnosis of deafness.
  • After the war he left for the USA.

Albert Rolf Baarman

  • Albert Rolf Baarman, a carpenter fron Ekenas in Finland, came to South Australia in 1904, moving later to Queensland.
  • He served with the 4th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he worked as a seaman in Australia, USA and England, returning to Australia in 1944.

Fridrich Grusausky

  • Fridrich Grusausky, a Baltic German from Riga, came to Melbourne in 1911 as a seaman and absconded from his ship. He was followed by his brother Edward Otto who studied in the Australian Missionary College, while Fridrich became an orchadist.
  • The first time Friedrich enlisted was in July 1915, but was discharged for medical reasons. Enlisting in February 1916 he was more successful. He served with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front; later he was transferred to the Machine Gun Battalion and wounded in the abdomen in June 1918, but survived and was repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he changed his name to Frederick Russell, married an Australian girl, Lillias Amelia Frase, and worked as a hotel keeper in Anglesea, Victoria.

Corby, Gerk, Zbecovsky, Kler, Persin

February 11, 2016

Victor Corby

  • Victor Corby, a Finn from Nakkila, was in Cootamundra by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
  • He served with the 13th Battalion on the Western Front. In February 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal for his courage during the battle for Gueudecourt when, working as streatcher bearer, he made nine trips to the front lines under heavy fire to rescue his wounded mates. In April 1917, at a battle near Louverval, he was wounded in the leg; he also experienced mental illness and was repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he went back to his native Nakkila in Finland.

Charles Gerk

  • Charles Gerk, a Latvian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in 1910 and lived in Sydney.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 1st Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Margaret Annie Colbert, and continued his occupation as a seaman.

Boleslav Zbecovsky

  • Boleslav Zbecovsky, a Belarusian from Brest, came to Brisbane in 1913 via the Russian Far East and lived in Queensland.
  • He enlisted in the AIF, but was discharged soon after that. His service records have not been found.
  • After his discharge he continued working as a labourer in Queensland.

Emil Kler

  • Emil Kler, from Piotrkow Province in Poland, was probably of German ethnic origin. He came to Melbourne in 1913 and worked as a farm labourer in Victoria.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 37th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1918 he was severely gassed and repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he was farming in Loch near Kernot in Victoria.

Michael Persin

  • Michael Persin, a Russian from Tula Province, came to Western Australia in 1912, from where he moved to Victoria and worked as a turner and fitter.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 59th Battalion on the Western Front. In November 1916, at the battle on Somme, he was wounded in the arm and knee. Recovering in England, he returned to the front and was gassed in March 1918 at Amiens, and then wounded in the left foot in September 1918 at Peronne.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Alice Stephens. They lived in Melbourne where Michael worked as manufacturer, engineer and tool maker, becoming managing director of M. Persin Ltd, Metal Stumping Manufacturers at Clifton Hill. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in Volunteer Defence Corps. The Persins lost their four year son in 1932, and upon Michael’s death in 1952, he left bequest to the Children’s Hospital and other institutions.

Ten January 1916 enlistees without service records

February 9, 2016

Since January 1916 the Australian enlisting officers, at the request of the Russian Consul General, Nicholas Abaza, had to send him lists of all Russian subjects accepted for military service. Some of them, although being initially accepted, did not make it to active service abroad and were discharged from the AIF soon after enlistment. In some cases their service records with enlistment details had not been preserved and we have only brief data about them from the lists sent to the consul. In January 1916 there were ten such enlistees without service record files.

  • Alexander Allekson enlisted in the AIF in New South Wales. There is no further data about him.
  • Karl A. Blomquist was a Finn and enlisted in NSW.
  • Theodor Cussoff was probably a Baltic German and enlisted in Victoria.
  • John Grinitz enlisted in NSW.
  • Otto Kampmann was, probably, a Baltic German from Estonia. He enlisted in the AIF in Victoria.
  • Charles Koppel was a seaman from Arensburg (Kuressaare) in Saaremaa Island in Estonia. He arrived at Australia in 1914 and was working on coastal vessels. He enlisted in the AIF in NSW.
  • William Lepama was an Estonian seaman from Dago (Hiiumaa) Island. He came to Australia in 1913, enlisted in NSW and left for England in 1921.
  • Isaac Micolazyk was probably a Ukrainian. He enlisted in NSW.
  • A. Nesterunka was probably Afanacy Nesternko, an engineer from Odessa, who came to Australia in 1911. He enlisted in NSW. In 1917 he was convicted for attempted arson.
  • August Veedof was an Estonian seaman, who came to Australia in 1910 and worked in Sydney as seaman and wharf labourer. He enlisted in the AIF in NSW. After the war he moved to England.
  • J. Wienburg enlisted in NSW. No data was found about him.

Lear, Tolstoi, Raupak Ropenberg, Shimkovitch

February 7, 2016

Guss Oscar Lear

  • Guss Oscar Lear, a Finnish sailor from Nystad, by the time of his enlistment in the AIF was in Western Australia.
  • Three months after his enlistment in the AIF he was discharged for disciplinary reasons and disappears from the Australian records.

Andre Tolstoi

  • Andre Tolstoi, a Russian born in Warsaw, grew up in France and ‘served five years in the French Foreign Legion and a dozen scraps in South American republics’. He came to Australia in 1900 and was mining in Boolboonda and then growing sugar cane in Ambrose in Queensland. In 1905 he married Agnes Tucker and had a daughter.
  • A month before enlisting in the AIF he published a passionate letter appealing to Australians ‘to defend your country, Humanity and Justice’. He served with the 15th Battalion on the Western Front. In April 1917 he was reported missing in action at Bullecourt.
  • His body was never found and wife hoped that he was POW for a long time and sent numerous inquiries. Later he was confirmed to be killed in action.

John de Raupak Ropenberg

  • John de Raupak Ropenberg, a seaman from Riga in Latvia, after studying in a nautical school in Russia, came to Geelong in 1916; three weeks later he enlisted in the AIF.
  • He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1918 he was gassed, but rejoined his battalion.
  • After the war he received some education in nautical schools in London and Leith and returning to Australia continued serving on the ships. In March 1923 he perished aboard the ship ‘Amy Turner’ on which he served as the 1st mate and which was lost in a typhoon near Guam.

Emerick Shimkovitch

  • Emerick Shimkovitch, a Polish seaman from Novo-Aleksandrovsk (Zarasai) in Lithuania, came to Australia with Raupak Ropenberg and enlisted in the AIF together with him (serving as Schimkovitch).
  • He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery.
  • After the war he married Jean Lilian and worked as a motor driver in Melbourne. His wife died in 1931 leaving him with a young daughter. Later he married Esther Gladys Corden and worked as a lighthouse keeper.