Benjamin, Pshevolodskey, Radetsky, Gretchinsky

December 27, 2014

David Benjamin

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

Henningsen, Piukkula, Arreta, Berkis

December 20, 2014

Hans Peter Henningsen

  • Hans Peter Henningsen came to Australia with his family as a boy in 1900. They farmed in the Woombye area in Queensland. Hans and his family were Danish, but enlisting in the AIF, he stated that he was born in Russia.
  • While in Gallipoli Henningsen served in the 5th Light Horse regiment. He wrote to his parents from Gallipoli: ‘We feel that if we were not sent out in a righteous cause, we would not stand five minutes, as the bullets come like a shower or rain’. Back in Egypt he was transferred to the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance and served in this unit in Egypt in 1916-1918.
  • No data about his life after the war could be found.

Otto Piukkula

  • Otto Piukkula, a Finn from Abo, Finland, was a sailor for six years before coming in 1913 to South Australia, where he worked as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he reached Gallipoli in September 1915 with the reinforcements of the 16th Battalion. In 1916 he was transferred to the 4th Light Trench Mortar Battery and served on the Western Front, attaining the rank of Lance corporal. In April 1917 he was killed at the battle for Bullecourt.
  • After his death his commander, Captain A.W. Nott, sent a letter to Piukkula’s mother in Finland, in which he wrote: ‘Let me include congratulations that you had such a gallant man for a son, with deepest feelings of all comrades’.

August Arreta

  • August Arreta, a seaman from Haapsalu in Estonia, came to Western Australia in 1911. After 18 months in Mornington, working probably at the timber mills there, he moved to South Australia, working in Port Pirie and Port Augusta.
  • With the 10th Battalion he participated in the landing at Gallipoli and was wounded in the leg in May 1915. After several months in hospitals in Egypt, he returned to the trenches in August 1915. In early 1916 he was transferred to the 24th Howitzer Brigade as a gunner and moved to the Western Front. In November 1916 he slipped on the rain soaked ground and his leg was crushed by the wheel of a gun. After some time in hospitals he was repatriated to Australia.
  • After demobilisation he received a pension for a time and worked as a wharfie in Port Adelaide. On 24 November 1922, loading a collier, he fell into the hold and died. Workingmen’s Compensation paid 20 pounds for his funeral expenses.

Arvid Berkis

  • Arvid Berkis, a Latvian sailor from Riga, came to Australia in 1909 via Russian Vladivostok. He was a heavyweight boxer, and travelling around Australia, worked as a sailor, labourer and miner.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne; with the reinforcements for the 6th Battalion he sailed to Egypt in February 1915 per Runic. A correspondent wrote about a boxing championship held aboard the ship: ‘Berkis (Vic.) defeated ‘Bob’ Goyen (Tas. Artillery). The winner is of Russian parentage and a beautiful model of a man. He is 42in around the chest normal measurement, and is a terrific hitter’.
  • Landing at Gallipoli, Berkis was wounded in May in the charge at Krithia, but recovering in Egypt, he rejoined his battalion and was severely wounded again in the fight for German Officers’ Trench in July. He died of his wounds aboard the ship returning him to Egypt and was buried at sea – a sailor’s fate.


Amolin, Riedel, Popoff

December 16, 2014

John Amolin

  • John Amolin, a Latvian from Riga, served on the trading vessels as a seaman, landing in Australia in 1911. He worked as a miner in Broken Hill.
  • He arrived at Gallipoli with the reinforcements of the 16th Battalion in May 1915 and was killed in action on 23 August 1915.
  • After the war his cousin Jan Rosiang, who also served in the AIF, learnt that Amolin’s father died in 1916 and his two brothers were killed by Bolsheviks in 1920. The Australian government paid Amolin’s mother a pension till her death in 1952.

Charles Riedel

  • Charles Riedel from Sosnowiec in Poland was probably of German descent. Before the war he worked as a labourer in Mount Barker in South Australia.
  • He arrived at Gallipoli with the 10th Battalion reinforcements in May 1915 and later served on the Western Front. He was killed in the battle for Mouquet Farm in August 1916.
  • His family in Poland was never found.

Alexander Popoff

  • Alexander Popoff was of ethnic Russian descent, from Vologda. His mother Neonila Kaverzneva was the wife of a priest. Alexander came to Australia as a seaman and enlisted in the AIF in Sydney.
  • He served at Gallipoli and the Western Front and was killed in action in the battle for Poziers in July 1916.
  • His family in Russia was never found, and there are grounds to believe that his younger brother Ivan Kavrznev was arrested during Stalin’s purges of 1937.

Balooda, Hendrickson, Ljung

December 15, 2014

David Balooda

  • David Balooda from Riga was most likely a Latvian. According to his naturalisation he came to Australia in 1907 and worked on the farms in Victoria and Queensland, but in his obituary it was mentioned that, being a Lutheran, ‘he arrived in Australia in 1902 and was a pastoral worker in South Australia until war broke out in 1914’.
  • In his naturalisation and in the obituary it was stated that, enlisting in the AIF in Melbourne, he sailed to Egypt with the 24th Battalion, but was later invalided back to Australia. Service records concerning his AIF service have not been found in the archives and Balooda himself later stated that all his documents were lost when his camp at Barracoola in Queensland burned down.
  • In 1927, by the time of his naturalisation, he worked as a coal miner in Barracoola and had a family. In 1928 he took a selection at Callide Valley where many Russian families were engaged in farming.

John Hendrickson

  • John Hendrickson from Riga enlisted in the AIF in South Australia and fought with the 10th Battalion in Gallipoli.
  • In August 1915 he fell ill with otitis and rheumatism and was invalided to Australia. Nevertheless in 1917 he enlisted once again and served at the Western Front, where he was wounded in left arm in May 1918.
  • After the war, he disappears from Australian archival records.

Karl Richard Ljung

  • Karl Richard Ljung from Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland settled in South Australia before the war.
  • Serving with the 10th Battalion, he participated in the landing in Gallipoli and later served on the Western Front. In April 1917 he was killed in the battle for Noreuil in France.
  • His mother Ida was never found, but his Australian friends, the Glazbrook family from Birkenhead in Port Adelaide, commemorated his death in the local newspaper, printing his portrait. In October 2012 the Australian War Memorial dedicated one of its Last Post evening sessions to his memory.

Danberg, Schatkowski, Kleshenko

December 1, 2014

Rudolf Danberg

  • 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.

Joseph Kleshenko

  • 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.