December 27, 2014
- David Benjamin came from Warsaw in Poland; he was probably Jewish, although enlisting in the AIF he stated that his religion was ‘Russian Pole’. He served in the Russian Army and then lived for 4 years in Paris, working as a tailor. He came to Sydney in 1912 and naturalised before enlistment into the AIF.
- He was accepted in the AIF as a driver in the Army Service Corps, but deserted two months later.
- Due to his common surname it is difficult to trace his subsequent life.
- Marian Pshevolodskey, a Pole from a village near Novograd-Volynsky in Ukraine, fought in the Russian Army in the Russo-Japanese War. He probably came to Queensland from the Russian Far East, and worked in Brisbane as a carpenter.
- He was accepted for service in the AIF as an interpreter and sailed to Gallipoli with the 15th Queensland Battalion. On 9/10 May 1915, when his battalion was attacking the Turkish trenches facing Quinn’s Post, Pshevolodsky was killed.
- His mother Paulina in Ukraine was never found.
- Sebastian Radetsky, a Ukrainian from the same Volyn Province as Pshevolodskey, served in the Russian Army as well and came to Brisbane in 1912 from Japan.
- He enlisted in the AIF in South Australia and served in the 10th Battalion. He landed at Gallipoli in June 1915 and continued his service on the Western Front in 1916-1918, where he was wounded three times: in July 1916 at Pozieres, in May 1917 at Bullecourt, and in August 1918 during the advance on Amiens.
- After the war he lived in New South Wales and died in Sydney in 1935.
James Theodor Gretchinsky
December 1, 2014
- James Theodor Gretchinsky came from a surgeon’s family in the Ukrainian town of Gorodnia. He was well educated in Moscow and Odessa, gaining the profession of electrical engineer. He also fought in the Russo-Japanese War, attaining the rank of sub-lieutenant. He came to Brisbane from Vladivostok in 1913 and worked at Bingera plantation.
- He enlisted in the AIF in Longreach and sailed for Egypt with the 9th Queensland Battalion. Soon after arrival to Egypt he got sick with varicose veins, had surgery and was returned to Australia, where he was finally discharged with chronic rheumatism.
- He tried to get job in the army as a driver or in the censor’s office (he knew many languages), but all he could get were jobs of a greaser or a wiper on the ships. After several restless years, he finally settled in Sydney, working again as an electrical engineer.
- Rudolf Danberg from Riga was probably a Baltic German. Emigrating to Australia, he worked as a labourer in Holyoak, south of Perth.
- He served in the 11th Battalion, landing at Gallipoli on 7 May 1915. Three months later he was wounded at the Lone Pine Battle; recovering, he was returned to the trenches and was wounded once again, in the head. He continued his service on the Western Front and was killed in September 1917 at the Menin Road Battle.
- His mother in Riga was never found and Mrs Mary Shaw from Queens Park near Perth, the beneficiary of his will, died soon after him, in 1918.
Militan Schatkowski (Oldham)
- Militan Schatkowski was born in Plateliai in Russia (now Lithuania). He was probably of Polish and German origin. He left home as a young man working as a sailor. Landing in Australia on the eve of war he worked as a fireman on coastal vessels.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he arrived in Egypt with the 2nd Battalion and was soon sent back to Australia with a returning ship on escort duty. He joined his battalion in Gallipoli only in October 1915. Soon he fell ill and spent some time in hospitals, arriving at the Western Front in September 1916. Surviving several months of heavy fighting, he fell ill again and was transferred to England, where after recovery he worked in the Administrative HQ and the Red Cross. In 1918 he married a nurse, taking her surname, Oldham.
- In 1919 she came with him to Australia, but did not stay there long, taking their daughter with her and giving birth to a son upon returning to England. She died early and her children grew up not knowing much about their father. Only decades later Militan’s grandchildren managed to piece together his life using archival records. One of his grandsons is Andrew Loog Oldham, the manager of the Rolling Stones. His other grandson, Michael John Oldham, wrote an essay about the life of his grandfather.
November 15, 2014
- Joseph Kleshenko, a 22-year-old seaman who landed in Sydney in 1912, enlisted in the AIF no less than seven times! The National Australian Archives records register his military career as that of three separate men and it took us some detective work in comparing his signatures, physical description and other data to determine that this was the same man. The first time he enlisted was in November 1914 as Joseph Noyland, a Russian subject born in Dubno. The application was filled in by an enlisting clerk, but by the time Joseph was meant to sign it, he had obviously forgotten the name he had chosen for his new identity and wrote at the bottom: ‘Joe Neyman’.
- Enlisting, he disappeared without a trace and in the chaos of the first months of war the military obviously had no time to look for him. Three months later he enlisted once again, this time as Joseph Klinetinko from the same Dubno. The third enlistment he signed as Joe Klestenko, but the enlisting clerk wrote his name as Kleshenko and from now on his following enlistments assembled under this name. A number of his enlistments ended up with him getting venereal disease and discharged with the note ‘unlikely to become an efficient soldier’ or ‘services no longer required’, but he kept on enlisting again and again from different enlisting centres.
- An obvious adventurer and troublemaker, he had a mark from a bullet wound on his ankle. This fitted well with his tales for the enlisting officers: that he not only served in the Russian army, but also in the American army for nine months; he even alleged that he received the bullet wound in the Russo-Japanese war. This seems unlikely as he was born in 1892; later, in any case, it turned into a ‘Gallipoli wound’ (and he most likely hadn’t ever been there).
- As a result of his seventh enlistment, he reached England, where he met his future wife, the 17-year old Ethel from Manchester. Returning to Australia, he worked as a stevedore.
Today we celebrate the lives of four seamen; three are from Latvia and one from Finland.
- Arnold Sander, a seaman from Riga, was just 21 when he joined the AIF in Sydney.
- Serving in the 3rd battalion, he participated in the landing at Gallipoli and was killed a month later, being the first Latvian Anzac to be killed in the war. He was buried in the Beach Cemetery, but his grave was lost.
- After the war his father was found in Riga, he was given his son’s medals and an Australian pension.
- Adolf Eckland from Hanko in Finland joined the AIF the day after Sander, but unlike the young Latvian, 29 year old Eckland was a real sea wolf, his arms covered with tattoos and with a knife-wound scar in his left side.
- In the AIF Ecland was in the same detachment as Sander and participated in the landing. He was wounded in August 1915 at the Lone Pine battle and spent several months in hospitals. With the 45th Battalion he was transferred to the Western Front and was killed in September 1916 at the battle for Mouquet Farm.
- Fritz Zeeman (Zeemin) from Vindava (Ventspils), before landing in Newcastle in 1912, worked for 18 years as a seaman.
- Enlisting in the AIF, he reduced his age by five years and served in the 13th Battalion. After Gallipoli he served on the Western Front, where he was wounded through the carelessness of another soldier and returned to Australia as medically unfit.
- He worked as a miner in Kurri Kurri and Cloncurry and later on the railways in Queensland.
Martin Mikkel Antin
- Martin Mikkel Antin, a seaman from Riga, enlisted as Fritz Lepin and served together with Zeeman in the 13th Battalion in Gallipoli before being transferred to the Western Front as a saddler in the 4th Machine Gun Battalion. He was wounded and gassed at the Western Front and, while recuperating in England, deserted and was court-martialled: the cause being that his co-servicemen teased him as a German in spite of the fact that he officially applied for the restoration of his original Latvian name.
- He married soon after the war with a woman who had two young daughters, but his marriage ended in tragedy when he accidentally shot his wife during a squabble. The jury’s verdict was ‘not guilty’.