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Mentze, Seltin, Strauberg, Stenger

December 21, 2016

Alexander Mentze

  • Alexander Mentze, a Latvian seaman, came to South Australia with his Russian friends Edward Seltin and Oscar Strauberg in November 1916. They deserted ship and, under the pressure of the Russian consul, enlisted in the AIF a few days later.
  • Alexander was discharged from the army soon after enlistment because of an old injury to his elbow.
  • He subsequently worked in the coastal shipping of South Australia and New South Wales, settling in Sydney where he married an Australian woman, Mary Green.

Edward Ottomar Seltin

  • Edward Ottomar Seltin, a seaman from Rujenê in Latvia, served for two years on the ships in England before deserting his ship in Australia.
  • He served with the 5th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front. In March 1918 he was wounded at Messines, but after recovering rejoined his battalion and served to the end of the war.
  • Settling in Sydney, he married an Australian girl, Florence Sherwood, and had a son Edward, who later recorded his memoirs. Seltin Sr worked as a coal lumper and later became a tram driver.

Oscar Strauberg

  • Oscar Strauberg, also a Latvian from Riga, served together with Seltin in the 5th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he worked on the coastal shipping out of Port Kembla until he lost his arm in an accident on a ship.

Fedor Stenger

  • Fedor Stenger, an artist (most likely a performer) from Riga, came to Australia not long before enlistment; his wife and two children stayed in Singapore and India, where earlier he was probably a planter.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne in October 1916 under the pressure of the Russian consulate, he was discharged a month later for family reasons. Nevertheless, going to Sydney, he re-enlisted a week later. He served with the 1st Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front until he was wounded in April 1918 at Hazebrouck.
  • He was returned to Australia and discharged in Sydney, but after that he disappears from the Australian records.

Cohen, Rothstein, Michelson, Alksne, Lindgren

December 17, 2016

Morris Cohen

  • Morris Cohen, a Jewish man from Kishinev in Bessarabia, came to Australia in 1910 with his parents and lived in Melbourne, working as a cigarette maker.
  • His service in the AIF was short and he was released a week later.
  • After the war he married Sarah Rebecca Marks and lived in Melbourne, working as a cleaner.

Morris Rothstein

  • Morris Rothstein, a Jewish man from ‘Cherkavosk’ (Cherkasy?), came to Melbourne in 1915 and worked as a steward on ships.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion and the 5th Field Artillery Brigade on the Western Front.
  • After the war he lived in Melbourne and Sydney, working as a manufacturer. He married Rachel Glick and had three daughters.

Albert Gustav Michelson

  • Albert Gustav Michelson, a seaman from Arensburg (Kuressaare) in Estonia, came to Australia in 1913 and worked as a labourer in the Port Pirie smelters. In 1914 he married an Australian girl, Emma Key.
  • He served with the 5th Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he moved with his wife to Western Australia and lived in Boulder and Esperance, working as a labourer.

Carl Michael Alksne

  • Carl Michael Alksne, a Latvian from Orega, came to Australia in 1916 as a seaman.
  • He served with the 18th Battalion on the Western Front and was wounded in October 1917 at Passchendaele; he was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • After the war he lived in Sydney, serving as a consul for Latvia in 1921-1923 and working as a carpenter.

Charles Lindgren

  • Charles Lindgren, a Finnish seaman from Tampere, came to Australia in 1904. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was farming in Kukerin in Western Australia.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Perth, he was allocated to the tunnellers reinforcements, but stayed in Australia and was discharged a year later.
  • It has been impossible to determine his whereabouts after that.

Lindell, Connand, Seletkoff, Erikson, Spisbah

December 11, 2016

Hugo Albert Lindell

  • Hugo Albert Lindell, a Finn from Tammerfors (Tampere), came to Western Australia in 1908 probably as a sailor, and worked as a sleeper hewer on the railway construction sites.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Banbury, he served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1918, during the advance south of Peronne, he was wounded in the head and returned to Australia.
  • After the war he lived in Nelson, working as a sleeper cutter.

George Connand

  • George Connand from Warsaw was most likely of German origin; he came to Australia a few years before the war and was working in Queensland as a labourer and miner.
  • By the time when he enlisted in the AIF in Cloncurry he was in his forties and a widower with two children. He sailed with the 52nd Battalion to the Western Front, but while in England became sick and was returned to Australia.
  • After the war he lived in Queensland, travelling as a swagman in the outback in search of employment.

John Seletkoff

  • John Seletkoff, a Russian from the Sarapul area, worked as a stoker and greaser on English ships since 1900, arriving in Australia in 1910.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Townsville, he was allocated to tunnelling companies, but was discharged seven months later as medically unfit.
  • After the war he worked as a miner in the Queensland outback.

Nils Arthur Erikson

  • Nils Arthur Erikson, a Finnish seaman from Mariehamn on the Aland Islands, came to Western Australia in 1912 and worked as a farm hand.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Perth, he served with the 27th Battalion on the Western Front. In December 1917 he was wounded, but recovered and continued his service to the end of the war.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Coral May Lindley, and worked as a farm manager in Bruce Rock, later moving to Perth.

Alexander Spisbah

  • Alexander Spisbah came from a Russianised German family. Born either in St Petersburg or Kharkoff, he served as a captain in the accountant subdivision in the Russian Army Headquarters. Moving to England, he married Lydia Batoulina in 1911 in Liverpool and sailed to Western Australia, where their son George was born. Alexander worked as a miner in Kurraway and Boulder.
  • Enlisting on the 13.11.1916 at Blackboy Hill, he was discharged a few months later as medically unfit.
  • After his discharge the family lived in Mornington, where Alexander worked in a sawmill. When the mill closed, Alexander was unable to find work and took his own life in 1934.

Perlman, Valichea, Somero, Lebovich, Tsinsadze

December 4, 2016

Max Perlman

  • Max Perlman, a Jewish man from Odessa, grew up in Palestine, where his parents migrated when he was a child. In 1911 he came to Western Australia and worked as a marine collector.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Perth, he was discharged two months later as medically unfit.
  • He stayed in Western Australia working as a bag merchant and labourer. During WWII he re-enlisted in the AIF.

Vladimer Valichea

  • Vladimer Valichea, born in Dvinsk (Daugavpils), came to Australia with his parents via the Russian Far East in 1912 and worked as an engine fitter in Brisbane.
  • He enlisted in the AIF for the first time in November 1915, but was discharged three months later because of his lack of English. He re-enlisted in October 1916 and served with the 47th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he was taken prisoner of war at Passchendaele, Belgium, and returned to Australia after the war.
  • In 1920 he committed suicide in Brisbane.

Daniel Somero

  • Daniel Somero, a Finn from Oulu, worked as a labourer in Kalgoorlie by the time of his enlistment in the AIF.
  • He served with the 44th Battalion on the Western Front and was killed in October 1917 at Broodseinde, near Ypres.
  • His family in Finland was found after the war.

Morris Lebovich

  • Morris Lebovich, a Jewish man from Odessa or Maikop, came to Perth in 1903 with his parents and siblings. He learned the trade of a saddler.
  • He served with the 2nd Battalion on the Western Front and, while acting as a stretcher bearer, was killed near Hazebrouck in May 1918.

George Tsinsadze

  • George Tsinsadze, a Georgian, tried to enlist in the AIF in Sydney, but his service was not long and his service records have not been found.

Sutchkoff, Gross, Woronsoff, Willgren

November 28, 2016

Simon Sutchkoff

  • Simon Sutchkoff, a well-educated Belarusian school teacher, was sentenced to Siberia as a political prisoner. He escaped to Australia in 1912, and worked as a labourer all over Queensland for three years before settling in Edith Creek in north-west Tasmania, where he engaged in farming.
  • With the 47th Battalion he arrived on the Western Front, but was taken prisoner of war a month later, at the battle for Dernancourt in April 1918.
  • After the war he was repatriated to Australia. He continued farming, often contributing letters to the editor of the local newspaper on social and political issues.

Charles Gross

  • Charles Gross, a Finnish seaman, came to Newcastle in 1896 and lived on the Central NSW coast, working as a labourer and timber cutter.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Macksville, NSW, he served in the Field Ambulance on the Western Front.
  • After the war he married Mary Sherriff and farmed in Congarinni, NSW.

John Woronsoff

  • John Woronsoff, a sailor from Nizhni Tagil in Russia, came to Melbourne in 1907 and settled at Waurn Ponds in Victoria. He worked as a teamster and later started farming.
  • He served with the 21st Battalion on the Western Front. A month after his arrival on the front, in September 1917, he was killed at the battle for Menin Road.
  • His family in Russia was never found, but his Australian friends commemorated his death in the newspaper for several years.

Ivar Willgren

  • Ivar Willgren, a Finnish fireman from Vyborg, came to Australia in early 1916 and enlisted in the AIF in Dubbo.
  • He came to England with the 3rd Battalion, but fell ill and was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • After the war he lived in Orange and got into trouble with the Australian security forces as an enemy alien during WWII.

Magi, Pohlson, Anderson, Hamalainen

November 20, 2016

William Magi

  • William Magi, an Estonian seaman, came to South Australia in 1909. He worked as a carpenter, building jetties, and as sailor.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne he served with the 2nd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was killed at the battle for Menin Road near Ypres.
  • His family was found after the war in Estonia.

Gustaf Adolf Pohlson

  • Gustaf Adolf Pohlson, a Finn from Jakobstad, came to Australia around 1889, in his youth. He settled in Chiltern in Victoria, where he participated in cycling competitions. In 1898 he moved to Western Australia. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he worked as a baker in Kurramia near Kalgoorlie.
  • With the 7th Battalion he served on the Western Front and was killed at the battle for Menin Road near Ypres, the same day as Magi.
  • His family in Finland was never found.

John Anderson

  • John Anderson, a Finnish seaman from Björneborg (Pori), by 1916 worked in Kalgoorlie.
  • With the 28th Battalion he served on the Western Front. In September 1917, at the same battle where Magi and Pohlson were killed, he was wounded in the arm. Recovering, he continued his service, but beginning from April 1918 he had several AWLs, and finally he was court martialled for desertion; later the sentence was suspended and he was returned to Australia.
  • After the war he lived in Western Australia.

Salomon Hamalainen

  • Salomon Hamalainen, a Finnish seaman from Vyborg, came to Newcastle in Australia in 1911 and worked in Port Pirie and Queensland as a labourer.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Cloncurry, but was discharged 8 months later as medically unfit.
  • After the war he lived in the Mackay area in Queensland, working as a labourer on the railway construction works.

Nordstrom, Heselev, Haapaniemi, Tardent, Leneve

November 15, 2016

John Wilhelm Nordstrom

  • John Wilhelm Nordstrom, a Finnish seaman from Abo (Turku), came to Australia in 1913 and worked as a fruit grower and farmer in Cleveland, Queensland.
  • He served with the 15th Battalion on the Western Front. In 1918, being teased by other soldiers for being ‘a Russian’, he left his battalion and was court martialled, sentenced for 2 years. The sentence was later suspended and after the war he worked in the Grave registration department.
  • After the war he returned to Cleveland, but disappears from the records soon after that.

Israel Heselev

  • Israel Heselev came from a Jewish family from Guliay Pole in Ukraine. He came to Australia in 1906 with his brother. First they worked in Broken Hill, but later moved to Melbourne, where both brothers worked as musicians.
  • Israel enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne, but was discharged six weeks later.
  • He married Carrie Benness and lived in Melbourne, working as a manufacturing furrier and fur merchant.

Hugo Edmund Haapaniemi

  • Hugo Edmund Haapaniemi, a Finnish seaman from Wasa, lived in Queensland.
  • Enlisting in the AIF as Hugo Asplund, he served with the 15th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he died of wounds at the battle for Passchendaele.
  • His mother in Finland was found after the war.

Emile Auguste Tardent

  • Emile Auguste Tardent was born in Nikolaev in Ukraine. He came from the family of a Swiss teacher and journalist, Henry Alexis Tardent, who lived in Ukraine for many years, but in 1887 emigrated with his family to Australia. Emile grew up in Queensland working as a land ranger. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was married and had four children.
  • He served with the 42nd Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1918 he was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in the Amiens advance. He was wounded in the hip in the same battle. His younger brother Edward Felix and cousin Oswald Urban, born in Australia, were killed on the Western Front; his brother Jules Louis also served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
  • After the war Emile lived with his family at Wynnum in Queensland, working as a journalist and being actively involved in the local RSSILA sub-branch activities.

Morris Leneve

  • Morris Leneve, a Jewish man most likely from Kiev, came to Sydney in 1912 and worked as a tailor.
  • Enlisting in the AIF as Myer Levin, he deserted five months later, was apprehended and court martialled in Australia.
  • After the war he married Daphne Warren. His son Maurice Lionel served in the AIF in WWII in Rabaul.

Sjoberg, Mattson, Plisch, Rickoff, Laurent

November 13, 2016

Bror Gustaf Selim Sjoberg

  • Bror Gustaf Selim Sjoberg, a Finnish seaman from Abo (Turku), enlisted in the AIF in Western Australia.
  • He served with the 10th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 he was wounded in the leg and arm at Ypres. Recovering in England, he returned to the front and served in the 1st Machine Gun Battalion.
  • After the war he lived in Victoria.

Oscar Mattson

  • Oscar Mattson (Madson), a Finnish fireman from Kotka, deserted his ship in Hobart in 1909. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was working in Western Australia as a miner.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Perth as Karl Nurmi, he discovered that he had problems with understanding English and deserted while in Bendigo Camp. He was arrested at Mount Morgan a year later and court martialled, declaring that he was a Bolshevik.
  • After the war he lived in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales working as a miner and sleeper cutter and preserving his Bolshevik persuasions.

Gustave Alexander August Plisch

  • Gustave Alexander August Plisch came from the Cracow area in the Austrian part of Poland, but claimed that his father was a Russian subject. He came to Melbourne as a child to join his uncle Johann Plisch, a well-known baker, and worked as a pastry cook. Later he moved to Adelaide and married an Australian girl, Maud Adeline Watts, they had two sons.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Adelaide as a Russian subject, he was approved for home service, but after his discharge he was court martialled, as the authorities had grounds to believe that he was a German.
  • After the war he lived in South Australia and Queensland. His son Cyril Franz Plisch was killed in an aircraft accident at Temora while serving in the RAAF during WWII.

Charles Rickoff

  • Charles Rickoff from Cracow (possibly Petrokov) in Austrian Poland came to Queensland as a baby with his parents. In Australia he became a cabinet maker and polisher. Before leaving for the front he married Kathlyn Violet Davies.
  • Enlisting in the AIF as a Russian Pole, he served with the 49th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1918 he was wounded in the thigh, but recovered and continued his service to the end of the war.
  • After the war he lived in Bundaberg, working as a cabinetmaker. During WWII he served in the Volunteer Defence Corps, while his son also enlisted in the AIF.

Frank Laurent

  • Frank Laurent, a Finnish seaman from Ilmajoki, came to Australia in 1912 and worked in Sydney as a labourer, marrying an Australian girl, Adele Cressely, in 1916.
  • He enlisted in the AIF twice, in 1916 and 1918, but was discharged both times as medically unfit.
  • After the war he lived in Sydney working as ganger. During WWII he successfully enlisted in the AIF.

John Volkoff: A return from oblivion

October 16, 2016

John Volkoff, a 30-year-old carpenter from Russia, was one of the thousand Russian Anzacs who fought for Australia in the First World War.

The records of his service kept in the Australian archives are brief:

2 August 1915 Joined battalion in Gallipoli

8 August 1915 Killed in action in Gallipoli

However hard Volkoff tried to convey his father’s address on the enlistment form, the Australian military did not manage to crack this brain teaser and inform his family in Russia about his death. The address in the service records was recorded as follows: ‘Weetsk, Pockesnky, Erask, Sergensky, Small, Uhtunose’. It was a bibliographer from Viatka who suggested I decipher it as Viatka province, Iaransk, Serdezh, pochinok Malyi Iukhtunur.

Viatka province, in the heart of Russian forests in the northern reaches of the central Volga River, was famous for its carpenters, and Volkoff, like many of his countrymen, probably moved to Siberia to build the Trans-Siberian railway. In December 1911, Volkoff and another fifty Russians, many of whom were carpenters as well, sailed to Australia via Dairen and Nagasaki on the Japanese boat Nikko Maru. They landed in Brisbane on 8 January 1912 and newspaper reporter commented ‘The new comers had the appearance of being sturdy and healthy people. They are described as agriculturists and artisans, who will endeavour to enter into rural life in Queensland. They are mostly from Harbin’. In 1912 Volkoff is mentioned in the Russian newspaper Echo of Australia, published in Brisbane, as a cane cutter on the Linwood plantation near Bundaberg.

Volkoff enlisted in the AIF on 5 April 1915 in Townsville with another Russian from Siberia, Gregory Smagin. Strong and nearly 6 feet tall, he was readily accepted in the AIF without naturalisation. Two months later he sailed to Gallipoli with a group of seven other Russians from northern Queensland, landing there with the 6th reinforcements to the 15th Battalion. A few days after joining the battalion he was killed at the battle for Lone Pine.

His name is engraved in the memorial panels at Gallipoli and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, but otherwise he seems to have disappeared without a trace. But luckily the digital age brings people and records together, and some materials about John Volkoff have been uncovered. First Kim Phillips, a Gallipoli historian, found John’s photo, published in Sydney Mail after his death. Then an interesting memoir came to my attention. It was written by Captain C.E.W. Bean, the official reporter with the AIF, who would later write his famous multi-volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. He recorded an episode witnessed by his friend during the August fighting (Bean himself was wounded but refused to be evacuated from Gallipoli during the battle.)

According to this report, the friend ‘had noticed a man of the Fourth Australian Brigade making his way, apparently alone, up towards the head of a valley where Turks were fairly thick. Two Turks in particular were visible there, and a few hours later my friend, in passing the same place, went back to see how that duel had ended. He found the Australian, but he was dead. He had been shot through the head, but in the last few moments of consciousness he had apparently remembered that he had no identity disc upon him. My friend searched for the disc and the pay book, but could find none, but in the dead man’s hand was a scrap of paper, and on it was written a Russian name, Slavoff, I think, or something like it. It was the name of a private who enlisted in Melbourne. His brain had served him to make that record before his senses failed.’

There was no Slavoff enlisted in Melbourne or anywhere in Australia and no other Russian-born man with a Slavonic surname was killed during the August battle, so there are all grounds to believe that ‘Slavoff’, whose last exploit was witnessed by Bean’s friend, was in fact John Volkoff.

His family in Malyi Iukhtunur was never found and the village where he was born has long been wiped from the map of Russia, but the memory of Volkoff, a Russian Anzac fallen in Gallipoli, has not been lost.

Pulpe, Cromer, Kalinovsky, Mauchin, Samaroff

October 16, 2016

Charles Martin Pulpe

  • Charles Martin Pulpe from Riga in Latvia came to Australia in 1905 and worked as a fisherman in South Australia and then as a miner in Broken Hill.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he was allocated to the 1st Pioneer Battalion, but deserted six weeks later. When apprehended in 1918 and court martialled, he explained that he did not want to be a soldier. He was sentenced to 140 days of hard labour and discharged.
  • After the war he worked as a labourer in New South Wales and Queensland, constantly traveling in search of employment.

Samuel Cromer

  • Samuel Cromer, a Jewish man from Riga, by the time of his enlistment was working as a tailor in Geraldton in Western Australia.
  • Enlisting in Geraldton, he arrived with the reinforcements to the 27th Battalion to England and absented himself.
  • He was never found, and was discharged as an illegal absentee.

William Kalinovsky

  • William Kalinovsky came from Zhagare in Lithuania. He emigrated to the USA and in Chicago mastered the skill of tailoring and later moved to Australia. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he worked in Cloncurry, Queensland, as a tailor’s cutter.
  • He served with the 21st Machine Gun Company on the Western Front, attaining the rank of lance corporal.
  • After the end of the war he got some professional training in a clothing factory and cutting academy in England. Returning to Australia he married an Australian girl, Clarisse McFeeters, in Broken Hill, and worked as a tailor.

J. Mauchin

  • J. Mauchin enlisted in the AIF in New South Wales. His service records have not been found.

A. A. Samaroff

  • A. A. Samaroff, a Russian, also enlisted in New South Wales, and his service records are not found.