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.

Lominoga, Stepanoff, Mikkonen, Kekoff, Nelson

October 7, 2016

Matthew George Lominoga

  • Matthew George Lominoga, a Russian from Astrakhan, arrived in Brisbane from the Russian Far East with his parents and worked as a motorcar driver. In 1915 he married an Australian girl, Phyllis Ignatius, and had a son born in 1916.
  • Nevertheless he enlisted in the AIF and served with a transport company on the Western Front as a driver.
  • Returning after the war to his family, he worked as a motorcar proprietor, but later changed his profession, becoming a dancing master and the head of a dancing school.

Nicholas Stepanoff

  • Nicholas Michael Stepanoff also came to Australia with his parents and siblings in 1911 from the Russian Far East. They settled in Brisbane, where his parents ran a boarding house for Russians; the family was at the core of the Russian community in Brisbane. Like Lominoga, Stepanoff became a driver and a mechanic.
  • Enlisting in the AIF together with Lominoga, Stepanoff also served in the transport units on the Western Front as a driver. In September 1917 he was gassed, but continued to serve to the end of the war.
  • He was still in Europe when the house of his parents in Brisbane became the center of a pogrom unleashed by returned servicemen after the Russian participation in the Red Flag Riots in Brisbane. In 1921 his family returned to Soviet Russia, but Nicholas stayed in Harbin, where he married and worked as a bookkeeper. His naturalisation was revoked in 1930 and he managed to return to Australia only in the 1940s, when he reapplied for naturalisation.

Johan Mikkonen

  • Johan Mikkonen, a Finnish seaman from Uleaborg, enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne.
  • He served in the 37th Battalion, but deserted in 1917 and disappears from the records.

Michael Kekoff

  • Michael Kekoff, an Ossetian from Khristanovskoe in the Northern Caucasus, worked in Grafton as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served with the 45th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917 he was killed at Messines in Belgium.
  • His family in Ossetia was never found.

Hugo Nelson

  • Hugo Nelson, a Finn from Hango, was a blacksmith by trade, but came to Australia most likely as a seaman.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1918 he was gassed and in September 1918 was wounded in the elbow.
  • Returning to Australia, he continued working as a seaman.

Knappsberg, Jernberg, Kotkamaa, Preshner, Smith

September 30, 2016

Oscar Bruno Knappsberg

  • Oscar Bruno Knappsberg from Svatro (Mustio) in Finland came to Australia not long before his enlistment in the AIF and worked as an orchard hand in Kurrajong.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Bundaberg and came with the reinforcements to the 25th Battalion to the Western Front in April 1917. A month after his arrival, at the battle for Bullecourt, he was wounded in the thigh and leg and died of wounds the next day.
  • His family in Finland was found after the war and his friend from Kurrajong, John McCabe, wrote to his mother about his death.

Arthur Albert Jernberg

  • Arthur Albert Jernberg from Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland came to Sydney in 1914 as a seaman and worked as a labourer at Rooty Hill, NSW.
  • He served with the 3rd Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 at the battle for Passchendaele he was severely wounded in the back and chest, but recovered after spending months in English hospitals.
  • He returned to Rooty Hill and worked there as a champagne worker, later moving to South Australia. In 1920 he married Josephine Twyford, but his wife died in 1927, leaving him with a baby daughter, and he later married Agnes Margaret in South Australia.

Johannes Kotkamaa

  • Johannes Kotkamaa, born in Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland, came to Australia in 1900 with his parents together with the group of Finnish immigrants, the followers of Matti Kurikka, who wanted to establish a colony in the north of Queensland. Johannes grew up there, bush mastering the trade of a carpenter.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Nambour, he served with the 47th Battalion on the Western Front. His service was not long – he was killed in August 1917, a month after his arrival, in Belgium.
  • His mother Maria Kotkamaa, a pioneering woman of the Australian bush, passed away soon after his death and the residents of Nambour commemorated his death in a local memorial.

Morris Preshner

  • Morris Preshner, a Jewish man from Warsaw, moved with his parents to London when he was 3. In 1913 he migrated to Melbourne and worked as a porter and commercial traveller.
  • He served with the 37th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1918 he was gassed near Suzanne, but remained with his unit.
  • After the war he lived in Melbourne working as a salesman. In 1924 he married Bertha (Bel) Luscombe, who was a vocalist. Sadly, they lost their only son Jack in 1926.

Charles Smith

  • Charles Smith, a seaman from Riga, came to Sydney in 1916 from San Francisco and enlisted in the AIF soon afterwards.
  • He served with the 38th Battalion on the Western Front. In October 1917 at the battle for Passchendaele he was wounded in the leg and evacuated to Australia.
  • After the war he lived in Sydney, marring an Australian girl, Edith Agnes.

Juckham, Osipoff, Lembit, Morozoff, Proosov

September 27, 2016

Henry Martin Juckham

  • Henry Martin Juckham, an Estonian seaman from Piarnu, came to Australia in about 1909 and worked on the ships in Australia waters.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Townsville, he served as a rigger and air mechanic in the Australian Flying Squadron in Egypt.
  • After the war he worked as builder, settling in Narrabeen, NSW.

Michael Osipoff

  • Michael Osipoff, a Russian from Irkutsk, came to Brisbane in 1913 from the Russian Far East and worked on railway construction.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Rockhampton, he served with the 25th Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1918 he wounded himself in the foot, but was returned to the trenches after recovery. In September 1918 he was wounded in the arm at Peronne and evacuated to England; in December 1918, when suspicions towards Russians increased, he was speedily returned to Australia ‘on account of Russian nationality’.
  • After the war he worked as a wharf labourer in Port Pirie and Sydney. In 1932 he married Phyllis Mary Turtle, but she died in 1937, and the same year he married Lucy Shears.

Alexander Lembit

  • Alexander Lembit, an Estonian seaman from Piarnu, came to South Australia in 1913 and continued seafaring.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney, he served as a gunner in artillery units.
  • While in England, he met Agnes Cross from Glasgow and in November 1917 they married and returned to Australia after the war together. They lived in Sydney, where Lembit worked as a tram guard and labourer.

Dermy Morozoff

  • Dermy Morozoff from Kharkov in Ukraine came to Australia from Harbin in 1915. Having the profession of a clerk, he worked as a salesman in Melbourne.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne, he served in the Australian General Hospital, but was discharged by his own request in December 1916.
  • Soon after his discharge he returned to China, where he worked as a customs officer in Shanghai. He has married there and had a son. In 1938 he moved to California with his family.

Isaac Proosov

  • Isaac Proosov, a Jewish man from Gorodok in Belarus, at the age of 15 moved to London, where he worked as a cabinetmaker. In 1911 he married Janie Rosenberg and in 1913 they migrated to Sydney. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he had two children.
  • Enlisting in the AIF under the name of Pruss, he served as an air mechanic in the Australian Flying Corps, based in England.
  • After the war he continued working as a cabinetmaker in Sydney. His son and daughter served in the AIF during WWII.

Sologub, Tarkam, Dryen, Josephson

September 24, 2016

Egnaty Sologub

  • Egnaty Sologub, a Ukrainian from Konotop, served in the Russo-Japanese War and came to Australia from the Russian Far East in 1912, leaving his wife and two children behind in Sosnovka, Primorsk Province. A bridge carpenter by trade, by the time of his enlistment in the AIF he worked in Cloncurry in Queensland.
  • He served with the 11th Field Company Engineers on the Western Front.
  • Returning to Australia, he left for Russia in 1920 and probably returned to his family. It is quite likely that his son born in 1901 was arrested and executed during Stalin’s repressions in 1938.

Arthur Tarkam

  • Arthur Tarkam, an Estonian seaman from Piarnu, came to Australia from America and enlisted in the AIF in Newcastle.
  • A few days later he was discharged as ‘being unlikely to become an efficient soldier’.
  • After that he continued seafaring between Australia and America, finally settling in San Francisco.

Edward Dryen

  • Edward Dryen, a Jewish man from Pavlograd in Ukraine, came to Australia in 1894 with his parents and worked in Broken Hill and Sydney as a storekeeper. In 1914 he married Eva Bear in Broken Hill and their son Ronald was born in 1916 and daughter Betty in 1918.
  • Enlisting in Sydney he served in the Australian Instructional Corps in the Permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth training the gunners, with the rank of Acting Staff Sergeant Major.
  • After the war the family lived in Wagga Wagga, Gundagai, Manilla, and Sydney. During WWII Edward served in the recruiting depot and his son Ronald in the coastal artillery.

Joseph Josephson

  • Joseph Josephson, a Jewish man from Vilno, leaving Russia lived in Sweden and England. He came to Western Australia in 1912 where he worked as a storekeeper, finally moving to Sydney, where he enlisted in the AIF.
  • He served with the 1st Battalion on the Western Front. In May 1917 he was wounded in Bullecourt, and for the second time in November 1917 in Paschendaele. Spending several months in hospitals he was returned to the front in March 1918 and got into the trouble in August 1918 when he refused to fight and was court martialled for desertion; the sentence was suspended and he was returned to Australia.
  • After the war he married Annie Glasser and lived in Sydney, working as a draper.

Meerin, Damelionok, Carlson, Lovriaen, Nelson

September 4, 2016

Robert Meerin

  • Robert Meerin, a Latvian seaman from Riga, came to Australia in 1909 and worked as a wharf labourer and rigger in Queensland and Sydney.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 3rd Pioneers Battalion on the Western Front, later being transferred to the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion. Being discharged from the AIF London in May 1919, he joined Middlesex Regiment, the North Russian Relief Force, and served in Russia in 1919-1920.
  • Returning to Australia, he married an Australian woman, Vera Pearl Byrne (nee Downer), and lived in Sydney working as a wharf labourer.

Thomas Damelionok

  • Thomas Damelionok from Vilna (Vilnius) was probably a Belarusian from Vilno (Vinius). He came to Australia in 1914 with his wife and children and lived in Melbourne.
  • He made his first attempt to enlist in the AIF in March 1916, but was rejected. He reenlisted in August 1916 and was accepted for home service in the Australian Medical Corps; in December 1916 he was discharged.
  • After the war he worked as a labourer in Halifax, Queensland, probably cane-cutting.

Edward Carlson

  • Edward Carlson, a Finnish labourer, came to Australia in 1898 and worked in Queensland in sugarcane industry. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he was over 40.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Townsville, but was discharged two months later as medically unfit.
  • After the war he lived in Mackay, applying for an invalid pension.

John Lovriaen

  • John Lovriaen from Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, came to Western Australia in 1912 and worked as a labourer and miner in Kalgoorlie.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Kalgoorlie, he served with the 27th and then with the 28th Battalions on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was killed at the battle for Mennin Road near Ypres.

Carl Albert Nelson

  • Carl Albert Nelson from Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland came to Australia in 1909 and worked as a miner in Boulder, in Western Australia.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Kalgoorlie with Lovriaen, he was discharged soon after as medically unfit.
  • After the war he disappears from the records.

Alksen, Campman, Gedgawd, Roman, Lax

August 30, 2016

Karl Alksen

  • Karl Alksen, a seaman from Vindava (Ventspils) in Latvia, came to Sydney in July 1916 and enlisted a month later; by that time he was already over forty.
  • He served with the 22nd Battalion on the Western Front. In September 1917 he was wounded at Ypres and in July and September 1918 he suffered gas damage.
  • After the war he continued seafaring in Australia, but prematurely died in 1924.

Charles Campman

  • Charles Campman, another mature-aged soldier from Riga, Latvia, had served in the South African War.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Lithgow in November 1915, but was soon discharged for drunkenness and insubordination. He reenlisted in August 1916 in Dubbo and served with the 45th Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917, at Messines, he was wounded in the knee and was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • He received a pension after the war and died soon after his return.

Charles Anton Gedgawd

  • Charles Anton Gedgawd, a seaman from Libava (Liepaja) in Latvia, came to Australia in 1906 and worked in Queensland and South Australia as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Cloncurry, he served with the 25th Machine Gun Company on the Western Front. For his courage and devotion to duty during the battle for Polygon Wood in September 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal. In April 1918 he was severely wounded in the back, but recovered and returned to the front in September 1918; in October he suffered gas damage and received wounds to the face.
  • After the war he lived in country NSW working as a labourer and, marrying Elizabeth Ann Walton, farmed in the Windsor area.

Alexander Roman

  • Alexander Roman, a Polish man from Lublin, came to Queensland from the Russian Far East with his parents and family. By the time of his enlistment in the AIF he had four children.
  • He enlisted for the first time in June 1915, but was discharged soon after for lack of English. In August 1916 he enlisted again in Cloncurry and served with the 52nd Battalion on the Western Front until he was discharged as medically unfit.
  • After the war he went to Poland to reunite with his family, spent some time in China, but returned to Australia in 1926 and worked as a labourer in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

Ernst Arvid Lax

  • Ernst Arvid Lax, a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors, enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne.
  • Two months later he deserted from the camp.
  • He continued working as a seaman in the USA, where he naturalised, married and settled in New York.

Holmberg, Winter, Alexandroff, Kocaj, Elsky

August 27, 2016

Edward Holmberg

  • Edward Holmberg from Abo in Finland came to Western Australia in 1907 and was farming in Bolgart.
  • He served with the 16th Battalion on the Western Front. In August 1917 he was wounded in the leg, but recovered and continued serving. In April 1918 he received a self-inflicted wound due to negligence; three months later he was accused ‘inciting a comrade to desert with him’, but remained with his battalion and was wounded in the face in August 1918, during the Amiens advance.
  • Returning to Australia, he married an Australian girl, Lenore Fallon, and farmed in Kulin.

Frank Winter

  • Frank Winter, a Finish sailor from Helsingfors, enlisted in the Army in Claremont, Tasmania.
  • A month later he died in Hobart Hospital from pneumonia.
  • His mother in Helsingfors was found after his death and paid a pension.

Alex Alexandroff

  • Alex Alexandroff from Vladivostok came to Australia in 1914 and worked in Sydney as a cook.
  • He served with the 4th Battalion on the Western Front. Being discharged in London in August 1919, he enlisted in the Middlesex regiment as an interpreter and served in the Russian Relief Force as a sergeant.
  • When returning to Australia in 1920 he was suspected by the Australian authorities to have ‘Bolshevik sentiments’, but soon they lost trace of him. He settled in Sydney working as a chef. In 1943 he married an Australian woman, Doris Fairy Cook. When he was naturalising in 1940 police considered the evidence that he did ‘not mix with people of Russian nationality’.

Nicholas Kocaj

  • Nicholas Kocaj, a Polish man from Tomaszow, arrived in Australia in 1910 and worked as a cook in Coffs Harbour.
  • He served with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion on the Western Front.
  • After the war he married an English girl, Gladys Winnifred Wilshere, returning with his wife to Australia in 1920. They settled near Sydney where they had a poultry farm. In 1925 Nicholas died and his widow with four young children returned to England.

Stanley Elsky

  • Stanley Elsky, a Polish man from Warsaw, came to Brisbane in 1911 from Vladivostok, where his mother was staying. Although recorded in the shipping records as a student, he worked as a labourer on the farm.
  • He served with the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1918 he was wounded in the leg, but returned to his unit in November 1918.
  • In May 1919 he was discharged in London and stayed there, naturalising in 1959.