Ernest Mikel Dreger

Ernest Mikel Dreger
courtesy of Dreger family

Born 18.06.1881

Place Riga, Latvia

Ethnic origin German / Latvian

Religion Lutheran

Father Randolf (Rendolf) Drager

Mother Helena


Brothers Frederick William Draeger & Adolf Leopold Drager; wife Sarah Ligum, arr. as a fiancée 7.03.1911, married 4.09.1911; children Charles Oscar Otto b. 17.12.1912; Rudolph Robert b. 16.05.1914; Annie Eileen b. 20.06.1916; Betty b. 29.01.1921; Freda Maud b.17.10.1923; Elaine b.30.05.1926; Ernest b.1.02.1929


August Maren

Residence before arrival at Australia Left Riga at 14 years of age and spent 4 years in France and Germany as apprentice brick maker. At 18 years joined a ship as a merchant seaman. Worked mostly as a stoker in the boiler room. Traveled to many countries of the world over ten years. Visited Australia in 1907 and returned to London (from memoirs of his daughter Elaine Dreger)

Arrived at Australia
from London
on 16.08.1909
per Port Chalmers
disembarked at Albany, WA

Residence before enlistment Kellerberrin, Northam, Fremantle, London, Bayswater, Culham, Toodyay, WA

Occupation Fireman; after the war: farmer

Service 1
service number 5382
enlisted 27.01.1916
POE Blackboy Hill, WA
unit 11th Battalion, 44th Battalion, 3rd MG Battalion
rank Private
place Western Front, 1916-1919
awards MM (LG 28/01/1918)
final fate RTA 3.09.1919
discharged 10.12.1919

Service 2 (WWII)
service number W71718
enlisted 12.04.1942
POE Morawa, WA
unit 7 Geraldton Battalion VDC
rank Private
final fate Died while serving
discharged 8.06.1944

Naturalisation 1914

Residence after the war Bluff Point, Geraldton, Koolanooka, WA

Died 25.05.1944


Digitised naturalisation (NAA)

Digitised WWI service records (NAA)

Digitised Embarkation roll entry (AWM)

Sarah Dreger's alien registration (NAA)

Assistance and medical file 1 2 (NAA)

Digitised WWII service records (NAA)

Memoirs of daughters Elaine and Betty Dreger, Perth

Family tree on

Blog article



Newspaper articles (selection)

Peter the Painter. Is he in Australia? An arrest in the West. - The Advertiser, Adelaide, 14 August 1911, p. 7.

The Houndsditch sensation. "Peter the Painter's" disappearance. Important local development. Two Russians arrested. - The West Australian, Perth, 14 August 1911, p. 7.

Peter the Painter. Suspect in the West. - The Advertiser, Adelaide, 15 August 1911, p. 8.

The arrested Russians. Police court proceedings. Dreger's story. - The West Australian, Perth, 25 August 1911, p. 5.

The arrested Russians. Police court proceedings. Sarah Ligum's evidence. - The West Australian, Perth, 31 August 1911, p. 7.

"I shall die in this cell". Russian's grievance against Australia. - The Advertiser Adelaide, 1 September 1911, p. 9.

Russians charged with perjury. "Peter the Painter" allegations. - Kalgoorlie Western Argus, 5 September 1911, p. 30.

The arrested Russians. Additional evidence. - The West Australian Perth, 7 September 1911, p. 5.

The arrested Russians. Committed for trial. - The West Australian, Perth, 8 September 1911, p. 5.

Russian tyranny [p.3]. - The West Australian Perth, 2 October 1911, p. 6.

Russian conspiracy case. No further prosecution. - Kalgoorlie Western Argus, 3 October 1911, p. 27.

About a roller. - Geraldton Guardian and Express, 9 September 1929, p. 4.

Alec Gollan. Echo of Houndsditch Murders. Allegations never proved. - The Daily News, Perth, 16 March 1935, p. 14.


Clarke, F. G., Will-o'-the-wisp. Peter the Painter and the anti-tsarist terrorists in Britain and Australia, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1983.

Clarke, F. G., In the shadow of Peter the Painter: Latvian anarchists in Australia. - In: Aldis L. Putniņš, ed., Early Latvian Settlers in Australia, Melbourne: Sterling Star, 2010, pp. 165-189.

From Russian Anzacs in Australian History:

It was probably in [autumn 1917] that Ernest Dreger, the Latvian of German background who had become embroiled in the Peter the Painter story, won his Military Medal. Elaine Dreger, his daughter, explains the circumstances of his award: 'I remember we would ask how our father received the Military Medal for bravery during the First World War. He told us how the Australians were pinned down by some Germans from a particular vantage point. He went quite close and then ordered them to come out and charge. Because he spoke such good German and had a commanding voice the Germans charged out and were captured by the Australians. We would say "Wasn't that sneaky?" but he always maintained he always looked for prisoners and not bodies. On a second occasion the Australians were inadvertently being fired upon by the British forces. Our father volunteered to try to get across the no-mans-land and alert the allies to the situation. This he was successful in doing ... .' Dreger knew what he was fighting for: in Australia his wife was waiting for him with their three young children.