Latest posts

The First Fleet of the new Australian nationhood

November 1, 2014

The very first contingent of Australian troops, this First Fleet of the new Australian nationhood, whose departure we celebrate today, had 14 Russian-born future Anzacs. The Afric carried Russian from St Petersburg Alexander Arn, Finn Thomas Baer, and Jewish teenager from Poland Robert Mayer; the Argyllshire – George Kamishansky from Ukraine; the Ascanius – Lithuanian German Oscar Zander and Russian Alexander Sast from Ukraine; the Euripides had a Pole, Alfred Jan de Topor Markowicz, Russian Jew Abraham Levene posing as David Conroy from Scotland, Finn Edwin Rosberg, and Russian from Simbirsk Nicholas Sindeeff; the Geelong carried Finn Alexander Hiltunen; the Honorata – Briton from St Petersburg George Ball; the Marere – another Briton from Riga, Francis Wilfred Holt Dyson; and the Medic – Edward Watson from Poland. They would all participate in the Gallipoli landing.

Levene will be killed at Gallipoli; Sindeeff severely wounded and repatriated to Australia.

Hiltunen will contract TB during his service at Gallipoli and die back in Australia, at Port Elliott, in 1917.

Sast will be captured POW at Gallipoli, and escaping from Turks, will cross Russia to reach the British Army in Archangel and rejoin the Australian Army.

Ball, awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry at Lone Pine in Gallipoli, will be killed at the Somme in 1916. Zander, too, will be killed in 1916, at Mouquet Farm. Dyson will be killed at the Somme in 1918.

Baer, wounded at Gallipoli, will survive two years at the Western Front and return to Australia with his British wife. Watson will survive, although be wounded soon after the Gallipoli landing, and again in 1916 at Pozier at the Western Front. Kamishansky and Rosberg, too, will survive Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Arn, losing his fingers at the Gallipoli landing, will reenlist and serve for two more years in the Camel Corps in Egypt. Mayer, repatriated from Gallipoli to Australia with enteric fever, will reenlist and serve on the Western Front where he will be wounded at Peronne at the very end of war.

Markowicz, showing bravery during the first days of the battle, will then be deported to Australia on suspicion of being a spy and will fight for years to clear his name.

Woolf, Urniarz, Turner

October 31, 2014

Isaac Woolf

  • Isaac Woolf was born in Uman in Ukraine in 1870. He came to Australia in his youth and worked as a shoemaker.
  • Enlisted in South Australia and was discharged a week later, probably because of his age.

Stanislaus Urniarz

  • Stanislaus Urniarz was born in Vilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania) and was either a Pole or a Lithuanian. He came to Australia in 1904 via the Russian Far East and worked as a tailor in Sydney, being one of the founders of the first Russian circle in Sydney.
  • By the time of the war he was over 40 years old and was accepted into the Australian Medical Corps, later serving in the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Egypt, on the Western Front, and in England.
  • In 1920 he left Australia for his motherland, the young independant country of Lithuania, and in 1925 he renounced his British nationality.

Frederick Claude Turner

  • Frederick Claude Turner, according to his attestation, was born in Bromberg, Germany which is now Bydgoszcz, Poland. Most likely he was British, as he never had any trouble on account of his place of birth in the enemy country. In Australia he worked as a steward, horse breaker and groom.
  • He served several months in Gallipoli in the 4th Battalion until he was hospitalised with otitis and injury to his knee. There followed a chain of hospitals, base depots and AWLs, until he was repatriated to Australia as medically unfit in 1917. In 1918 he reenlisted and served in the Depot as a driver.
  • In 1918 he married and lived in Melbourne, working as a builder and labourer.

Reppe, Watchman, Erickson-Long

October 29, 2014

Charles Reppe

  • Charles Reppe, a Latvian seaman from Riga, landed in Western Australia in 1906, where he worked as a ship’s fireman and a miner.
  • He participated in the Gallipoli landing and was wounded at the Battle for Bloody Angle. His second wound he received in 1916 at Mouquet Farm on the Western Front; and finally he was wounded and became a POW at Bullecourt in 1917.
  • None of that prevented him from taking ten years off his age and re-enlisting in the 2nd AIF during the Second World War. At that time he was prospecting at NSW.

Nathan Watchman

  • Nathan Watchman from Navernai in Lithuania came to Australia in 1911 and worked as a travelling salesman.
  • He landed in Gallipoli with the 6th Battalion in May 1915 and later wrote: ‘I lost all my papers at the landing at Gallipoli’. His service was not long; eight days later he was severely wounded in hand and leg and repatriated to Australia.
  • In 1917 he married, and lived with his family in Mildura, Geelong and Broken Hill, working as a draper and salesman. His son Phillip served in the Australian Navy during the WWII.

Axel Johan Erickson-Long

  • Axel Johan Erickson-Long, was born in Mustasaari near Vaasa in Finland and toiled the sea since the age of 11. He came to Western Australia in 1911 and worked as a mill hand all over the state.
  • He came to Gallipoli in May 1915, serving in the 11th Battalion. At the end of July he was hospitalised with dysentry and dyagnosed with goitre. He was repatriated to Australia and discharged as medically unfit.
  • His life after the discharge remains obscure; even when he was due to be awared with military medals he could not be located.


October 28, 2014
  • Born in Belgorod in Kursk Province, Eliazar Lazar Margolin was educated in a local high school, immersed in Russian culture. In 1892, affected by the Zionist movement, he moved to Rehovot in Palestine, and in 1902 to Western Australia.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he became the highest-ranking Russian Anzac, as lieutenant-colonel and commander of the 16th Battalion.
  • Wounded three time at Gallipoli, he was loved by his soldiers who called him ‘Old Margy”. In 1918 he became the Commander of 39 Battalion of Royal Fusiliers fighting in Palestine and for a short time was the Governor of Jerusalem.
  • Although he died in Western Australia, his ashes were buried in Rehovot in 1949 after the establishment of the state of Israel.

Watson, Haroldson, Zinevich

September 30, 2014

Edward Watson

  • Edward Watson was born in Warsaw, served in the Russian Army for 3 years and settled in WA in 1911, working as a butcher.
  • Wounded soon after the Gallipoli landing, and again in 1916 at Pozier at the Western Front, he was repatriated to Australia in 1917.


Charles Herbert Haroldson

  • A Swede, he enlisted in the AIF as a native of “Moscow, Russia”.
  • Came to Australia in 1892 and worked as an AB seaman. By the time of enlistment in the AIF he was a widower with four children living in Sydney.
  • He served in the AIF as a driver and a batman, was wounded at Gallipoli and repatriated to Australia from the Western Front in 1917.
  • In 1918 his Australian born son Charles Herbert Jr. enlisted in the AIF, but reached Europe too late to take part in the war.


Pavel Zinevich

  • The first Belarusian to enlist in the AIF. Before arriving to Australia as a seaman he worked for three years in Canada.
  • After being wounded in Gallipoli, he served at the Western Front as a Lance Corporal, but was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • His English fiancée Eva Grace Cowne followed him to Australia in 1919, where they married in the Sydney Greek Orthodox church. Paul worked as a carrier and salesman in Melbourne and after his retirement they moved to Highcliff, Bournemouth in the UK.
  • Recently I found his Belarusian family who are eager to get in touch with Eva Cowne’s relatives and to learn more about Paul’s life.

Hiltunen, Walinkevic

September 21, 2014

Today we celebrate the lives of two servicemen, both former seamen:


Alexander Hiltunen

  • A Finn from Vyborg, born in a well connected family, came to South Australia in 1910 aged 20.
  • Settled in Port Elliot at Mrs Trigg’s, who took him into her family as a son and taught him English. Was one of the first to enlist in the area.
  • Wounded soon after landing in Gallipoli, he recovered but soon succumbed to TB which he had contracted at the front.
  • Repatriated to Australia and died a few months later, nursed on his death bed by the kind Mrs Trigg. The local community raised money and established a monument for him.


Kazis Walinkevic

  • A Lithuanian from Mariampol, he came to Western Australia in 1910 as a seaman.
  • Enlisted in the AIF as Kazis Walinkevic, was wounded soon after the Gallipoli landing, recovered and returned to the trenches, but lost his hearing as a result of a shell explosion.
  • Repatriated to Australia, he was discharged as “Charles Volukawytz”. When in 1925 his wife from Lithuania sent a query about “Kazimir Valukevicius”, an officer from Base Records had to undertake a whole investigation to combine these two apparently separate individuals back into one!

Rosberg, Sindeeff, Sast

September 2, 2014

Today we celebrate the lives of three servicemen:


Edwin Ferdinand Rosberg

  • A Finn from Helsingfors (Helsinki), he came to Australia in 1906, working as a telephone mechanic.
  • Sailed to Gallipoli, leaving his young family behind in Sydney. Was wounded soon after landing but recuperated and served on the Western Front in 1916-1918.
  • After the war, he raised a large family in Sydney. He died in the Coral Sea in a tragic accident in 1942.


Nicholas Sindeeff

  • Born in Syzran on Volga River, Sindeeff came from a well-off family.
  • He took a prominent part in political meetings in St Petersburg, so fled to the Russian Far East and in 1910, arrived in Brisbane.
  • Experienced the trades of a ship’s fireman, navvy, and engineer at Dubbo Freezing Works
  • Enlisted in the AIF in spite of Bolshevik propaganda against participation in the imperialist war.
  • In Gallipoli he was affected by a shell explosion during the August battles and, almost deafened, was invalided to Australia.
  • No trace is found of him after that. He either changed his name or returned to Russia.


Alexander Sast

  • Born in Odessa, Alexander fled Russia in his late teens to avoid military service, landing in South Australia in 1912 where he worked in Port Pirie, Kilkenny, Broken Hill, and Port Augusta as a motor mechanic.
  • Wounded at Gallipoli soon after landing, he returned to the trenches of his 10th Battalion and was taken POW by the Turks. After several months in captivity in Turkey and Bulgaria he made a daring escape and, crossing Romania and Russia, reached the British Army in Archangelsk. Smuggled to the UK, he was screened by the Court of Enquiry and continued his service on the Western Front.
  • Returning to Australia, he went blind and died in Sydney of heart failure, leaving behind a wife and three stepchildren.

Luck, Arn, Kamishansky, Baer

August 30, 2014

Today we celebrate the lives of four servicemen:


Sidney Ivor Luck

  • Born in Zamoste, Lublin Province, he came London with his family as a child.
  • Educated as a surveyor, emigrated to Australia in 1912 to work in Broken Hill.
  • Fought in Gallipoli in the Medical Corps. In 1916 transferred to the Imperial Army, serving in Salonica and Constantinopole.
  • After the war had a successful career in London, but visited Russia in 1936 as a member of the British eclipse expedition to Omsk.


Alexander Arn

  • A Russian from St Petersburg, probably a Russian German.
  • Came to Australia in 1911 via the Far East and took to the bush, rabbiting at Coolamon and Walbundrie stations in NSW.
  • At the Gallipoli landing, he lost the fingers on his left hand and was repatriated to Australia, but re-enlisted and served for two years in the Camel Corps.
  • After the war, he moved to London, serving in the British Merchant Navy.


George Kamishansky

  • Son of a Russian St Petersburg court prosecutor, he was born in Kerch, the Crimea. Well educated, he took to the sea after his father’s death, and came to Australia as an AB seaman in 1913.
  • Fought at Gallipoli as a gunner, on the Western Front was attached to the Army Intelligence Staff, where he was able to put his linguistic skills to good use.
  • Worked as electrician, telephone mechanic and customs officer after the war, naming his house in Sydney ‘Kertch’.


Thomas Baer

  • Born in Lappo in Finland, came to Australia as a ship’s engineer.
  • Wounded in Gallipoli soon after landing, but recuperated and fought on the Western Front, reaching the rank of Sergeant.
  • Married in England and lived in Sydney after the war, working as a labourer.

Dyson, Zander, Levene, Mayer

August 29, 2014

Today we celebrate the lives of four servicemen:


Francis Wilfred Holt Dyson

  • Briton born in Riga, Latvia, and educated at Oxford.
  • Worked on farms in Konagaderrer, Victoria.
  • Survived, unscathed, three years in the artillery units in Gallipoli and on the Western Front.
  • Killed in the Somme in April 1918, leaving an orphaned daughter.

Charles Oscar Zander

  • Born near Vilnius; he was most likely a Baltic German.
  • Took to sea at sixteen, and worked on ships in England and South Australia.
  • Survived a full term at Gallipoli, and during furlough in London married his old friend Ethel Agnes Horne, a widow with two young kids.
  • Killed at Mouquet Farm in August 1916.

Abraham Levene

  • Born in Russia in a Jewish family, he was raised in Nottingham.
  • Came to Australia at eighteen to follow the occupation of ‘bush worker and general labourer’
  • Enlisted in the AIF as ‘David Conroy’, a Scot from Glasgow
  • Wounded in Gallipoli at the battle for Bloody Angle, he rejoined his unit only to be killed a few weeks later at Shrapnel Valley.

Robert Mayer

  • Born in Warsaw, Poland, came to Australia with his Jewish family as a child. Was a tailor.
  • Enlisted at nineteen and served at Gallipoli with the 1st Battalion, returned to Australia medically unfit. Reenlisted and served on the Western Front, where he was wounded in Perrone in September 1918. Court martialled for petty crimes in London and repatriated to Australia.
  • Mayer’s life crumbled apart after the war: he became a thief with extensive police records in several states.

Szablowsky, Markowicz, Ball

August 16, 2014

Today we celebrate the lives of three servicemen:


Julian Szablowsky

  • Born in Dlugosiodlo, Poland; works as a cook on Australian ships.
  • He is the first former Russian-born subject to enlist, serving in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.
  • He leaves for the USA in 1915, where, unemployed in the 1940s, he signs up for WWII service and vanishes from the records.


Alfred Jan de Topor Markowicz

  • Came from a noble Polish family.
  • Soon after the Gallipoli landing, he is detained on suspicion of being a spy, and fights for years to clear his name.
  • In 1935, defeated, he commits suicide, and is buried by a chevra kadisha, a Jewish burial society.


George Ball

  • A Briton, Ball was born and raised in St Petersburg, and comes to Rutherglen, Victoria at 18.
  • Wounded in the Gallipoli landing, he is awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry at Lone Pine.
  • Killed at the Somme in 1916.
  • He is commemorated officially in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and in the local Rutherglen newspaper by his friend, Violet Hicks. His St Petersburg family was never found.