Noscov, Wikstrom, Reise, Anderson

October 31, 2015

John Noscov

  • John Noscov from Markushino in Ekaterinburg Province came to Brisbane in 1914, on the eve of the war. After working for several months in Bundaberg, probably as a cane cutter, he enlisted in the AIF in Brisbane.
  • His service was short: four months later he was discharged for lack of English along with another Russian, Vladimer Valichea.
  • After the war Noscov settled in Townsville and started a business as a motorcar proprietor. In 1924 he married Mary Ellen Mulligan and had a large family.

Karl Wikstrom

  • Karl Wikstrom, a sailor from Abo in Finland, by the time of enlistment in the AIF, was in Geraldton in Western Australia.
  • He came to the Western Front with the 51st Battalion in June 1916; in August 1916 he was severely wounded in the hip and abdomen at the battle for Mouquet Farm, and died of his wounds the following day.
  • His father, Karl Wikstrom, who lived in Leningrad, was found after the war and received an Australian pension.

George Reise

  • George Reise, an Estonian sailor from Piarnu, came to Australia in 1914.
  • Enlisting in the AIF he served with the 56th Battalion on the Western Front, where a few weeks after arrival he was severely wounded in the hand at the battle for Sugarloaf in July 1916. After spending some time in English hospitals he was returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • After the war he continued working as a sailor, being based in Sydney and Newcastle.

William Anderson

  • William Anderson, a Finn from Abo, by 1915 worked in Sydney as a wharf labourer. He stated that he naturalized in New Zealand, where he had lived earlier. He had gunshot scars on his back, which suggests that he had war experience in his younger years.
  • In January 1915 he made an attempt to enlist in the AIF while in Perth, but was rejected as medically unfit (he was nearly forty by that time). He was accepted in October 1915 in Sydney and sailed to the Western Front with the 18th Battalion. Reaching France, he got sick and returned to Australia suffering from rheumatism and nephritis.
  • In 1918 he married an Australian woman, Florence Maud Peters, but died in Sydney hospital of a cerebral hemorrhage and nephritis in 1922.

Swirgsdin, Hendrickson, Stauwer, Czarnulla, Romashkevisch, Rowehl

October 24, 2015

Peter Swirgsdin

  • Peter Swirgsdin, a Latvian from Riga, came to Australia in 1910 and settled in Townsville, where he worked at the Alligator Creek meatworks. When enlisting in the AIF he gave his occupation as an engine driver.
  • He served as a gunner in the artillery units on the Western front. In October 1917, in the battle for Passchendaele, he was severely wounded in the back and shoulder and returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • He met his future wife, Hilda Alice White, while, probably, in the English hospital. She joned him in Australia after the war. They lived in Townsville and Cairns, where Peter worked as a foreman and labourer. Their son, Herbert Peter Swirgsdin, died while serving in the AIF during WWII.

Alfred Hendrickson

  • Alfred Hendrickson, a Finish labourer from Helsingfors (Helsinki), was, probably, the eldest among Russian born AIF enlistees. Born in 1856 he came to Australia in 1873 as a seaman, later he worked as a miner in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie in Western Australia, and finally in Broken Hill. His wife Louisa and daughter lived in Sydney.
  • In October 1915 he enlisted in the AIF in Liverpool, near Sydney, and was working as staff cook, but in January 1916 he was discharged at his own request.
  • He died in August 1918, while working in Broken Hill.

William Stauwer

  • William Stauwer was a seaman from Riga. After seafaring for 10 years, in 1907 he landed in Port Pirie where he worked as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he sailed with the 32nd Battalion to the Western Front, and in July 1916, less that a month after his arrival, was wounded in the right thigh at the battle for Sugarloaf. After spending several months in the hospitals, he returned to the front, serving with the ambulance.
  • After the war he returned to Port Pirie where he married an Australian girl, Charlotte Hill, and had a large family. He took an active part in the activities of the local RSSILA branch and two of his elder children enlisted in the AIF during WWII.

Franz Czarnulla

  • Franz Czarnulla, a Polish sailor from Warsaw, came to Australia in 1913 and worked on coastal vessels.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Brisbane, but deserted his unit three months later and continued working as a sailor, occasionally using the name Constantine.
  • In October 1917 he was convicted for assault in Newcastle. A year later he died in Cooktown.

Sigismund Vitold Romashkevisch

  • Sigismund Vitold Romashkevisch, a Pole from Kowno (Kaunas) in Lithuania, came to Brisbane in April 1910 with his wife and three children. They were among the first Russian emigrants moving from the Russian Far East to Australia; three more future Russian Anzacs came to Brisbane with the Romashkevisch family. In 1913 Sigismund, with several other Poles, became a founding member of the first Polish association in Australia, Ognisko Polskie. Upon arrival the Romashkevisch family settled in the Russian agricultural colony of Wallumbilla and later moved to Brisbane where Sigismund worked as a saddler and a bag maker. He had one more child born in 1915, but in spite of this enlisted in the AIF.
  • He served in the Field Company Engineers as a driver and a sapper on the Western Front. In October 1917, at the battle for Passchendaele, he was wounded in the right side and arm; his condition was aggravated by mental disorders.
  • After the war he lived with his family in Brisbane, working as a leather goods worker and waterside worker, being also involved in Polish communal life.

Armen Rowehl

  • Armen Rowehl, a seaman from Libava (Liepaja) in Latvia, came to Australia in 1915 per Gunda with his brother Edwin Nicholas, who enlisted in the AIF a few months earlier, and two other Russian mates, Basil Greshner and Favst Leoshkevich, who joined the AIF as well.
  • He served on the Western front with the 5th and 8th Battalions and in 1917 was transferred to the Army wireless company.
  • After the war he stayed in London and received some vocational training as an artist and decorator in the Goldsmith College. While in London he married Violet Victoria Dilks, with whom he moved to Australia. They lived in Brighton near Melbourne, where Armen worked as an artist.

Papchuck, Matson, Matzonas, Tomson, Clesner

October 19, 2015

Denis Papchuck

  • Denis Papchuck, a Ukrainian from Beresdov in Volyn Province, came to Geraldton in Western Australia in 1913, probably as a seaman. Later he changed his first name to Daniel.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Perth he served as a sapper in the 3rd Tunneling Company on the Western Front.
  • While in the UK he married Edith Agnes Fletcher and brought her to Australia. They had three children, but their marriage did not last and in 1932 he married Annie Mabel Hannan. They had a large family, but Annie died in 1943, leaving him to struggle to raise six children. They lived in Fremantle where Papchuck worked as a waterside worker.

Albert Matson

  • Albert Matson, a Finnish seaman from Waasa, came to Sydney in 1915 and enlisted a few days afterwards.
  • He served as a sapper in the 1st Tunneling Company on the Western Front.
  • Returning to Australia, he married Linda Moore Schneider from New Zealand. They lived in Sydney where Matson worked as a seaman. During WWII he enlisted in the AIF and served in the Garrison Battalion, while his wife had to register with the police as an ‘alien’, as they did not have money for naturalisation.

Franc Matzonas

  • Franc Matzonas, a seaman, stated he was born in Riga, but it is quite likely that he was a Lithuanian, as his mother had a Lithuanian name, Kazimira Maciuniene, and lived in Lithuania after the war.
  • Like Matson, he enlisted in the AIF a few days after his arrival in Sydney. He served in the Light Horse regiments and Camel Corps in Egypt. He was killed in the raid at Tel el Khuweilfe in November 1917.
  • His widowed mother in Lithuania received a pension from Australian government after the war.

Edward Tomson

  • Edward Tomson, a seaman who also gave his place of birth as Riga, was probably an Estonian from Oesel (Saaremaa) Island, where his father lived. Like Matson and Matzonas he landed at Sydney not long before his enlistment and it is quite likely that they all met in a seamen’s house and decided to join together.
  • Tomson served with the 56th Battalion on the Western Front. In July 1916 at the battle for Sugarloaf he was severely wounded in the head, left arm and leg. After months in hospitals he returned to the front a year later and was gassed in April 1918 and then wounded in the head and knee in September 1918 at the battle for Peronne.
  • He was discharged in London and continued his occupation as a seaman.

Sam Clesner

  • Sam Clesner was born in Odessa as Sanya Klezner. He came to Australia in 1914 and worked as a printer.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Sydney and worked for a while for the Headqurters Staff Printers, but was soon discharged.
  • After the war he left Australia in 1921.

Surovsov, Helm, Mackomel, Grip

October 16, 2015

Stephen Surovsov

  • Stephen Surovsov, born in Klimov in Chernigov Province, served for 3 years in the Russian army as a corporal. He probably had some education, as in the records of his arrival to Australia his occupation was noted as clerk and carpenter. He landed in Brisbane in 1914, just on the eve of the war, and worked as a miner in Balgowan Colliery near Oakey in Queensland.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served as a sapper in a Tunneling Company on the Western Front and was mentioned in the despatches for his service.
  • After the war he lived in Dee Why, working as a gardener. During WWII he joined the AIF and died in Brisbane while in service.

Hjalmar Johannes Helm

  • Hjalmar Johannes Helm was born in Abo in Finland. Arriving in Australia in 1911, probably as a seaman, he worked as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Brisbane, he served on the Western Front in the Field Artillery Brigade as a gunner. In October 1917, at the battle for Passchendaele, he was wounded in the back and shoulders, but after recovering returned to the trenches.
  • After the war he lived in Queensland, working as a labourer.

Samuel Mackomel

  • Samuel Mackomel (he served as Muchomel) was born in Odessa and came to Western Australia in 1911 to join his uncle.
  • He worked as a blacksmith and when he enlisted in the AIF he was allocated to the 4th Division Ammunition Column, serving as a farrier sergeant. He served on the Western Front.
  • Returning to Perth, he married Celia Golding from Alexandria in Egypt, and worked as a café owner.

Harry Grip

  • Harry Grip was a Finnish seaman from Helsingfors (Helsinki).
  • He was just nineteen when he enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne. He served in the Machine Gun Battalion on the Western Front until he got sick.
  • After the war he returned to Finland.

Six Ossetians from Port Pirie

October 12, 2015
  • In October 1915 six Ossetians from Port Pirie enlisted in the AIF. They were Bekza Gasieff, Mesart Soltanoff, Alexei Tolparoff, Moisai Bembalat Barakoff, Moss Milcag Mamsuroff, and Bekza Boris Dezantoff. Dezantov claimed to be from the capital of Ossetia, Vladikavkaz, Tolparov came from the township of Salugardan, while four others were from nearby Gizel. It is known that three of them came to Australia in 1912, at the time of peak Ossetian migration. They travelled via the Russian Far East and landed in Melbourne, headed to Port Pirie, where they usually found employment at smelters. Soltanoff was the youngest among them, aged 25, all the rest were in their early thirties. Not surprisingly, three of them were married. While Soltanoff’s wife stayed in Russia, the wives of Gasieff and Dezantoff, both Russian women, came to Australia with them. Incidentally, Gasieff’s mistreatment of his wife was discussed in the Australian press, but they nevertheless had two young children.
  • Barakoff, who worked as an engineer at the smelters, was discharged soon after his enlistment at the request of the state munitions committee for munitions work and continued his work at smelters. Five others were allocated to the 15th reinforcements of the 10th Battalion and sailed together to the Western Front per Mongolia in March 1916. Upon arrival to the front they all were transferred to the 50th Battalion.
  • Mesart Soltanoff became the first casualty here. In August 1916, at the battle for Mouquet Farm, he was buried up to his neck by a shell-blast. He was rescued, but his spine was damaged and for several months he was unable to move his legs. Back in Australia, he was discharged from the AIF in June 1917. Bekza Gasieff soon followed him to Australia after developing chronic bronchitis. The three remaining men became casualties at Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918: Moss Malsag Mamsuroff was killed, Alexei Tolparoff was taken prisoner, and Bekza Boris Dezantoff was wounded. Thee recovering Dezantov was wounded once again, three months later; for him it was the third casualty, and he was finally invalided to Australia. Tolparoff reached Australia only in 1919.
  • Two of them, Soltanoff and Barakoff, disappear from the Australian records after the war; it is quite probable that they returned to Ossetia. Tolparoff and Dezantoff stayed at Port Pirie. The Gasieff family first moved to Brisbane, where Bekza worked as a shopkeeper. In the 1921 Bekza’s wife, Dunia, left for Russia with their two children. Bekza disappears from the records soon after that; he could have returned to Russia too, but his Ossetian relatives believe that during the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne an old man came to the members of the Ossetian team, telling that he was their countryman Bekza Gassieff. He mentioned that he had a son and daughter, and indeed in 1934 Peter Gasieff, his Australian-born son, turned up in India, destitute, where he appealed to the Australian authorities after escaping from Russia. He was admitted to Australia and settled in Sydney, serving in the AIF during WWII.

Kanaef, Voitkun, Goldberg, Greig, Moody

October 8, 2015

Jack Kanaef

  • Jack Kanaef (originally his name was probably Ivan Korneev), an electrician from Moscow, fought at the battle of Mukden in the Russo-Japanese war. His daughter Leah believes that while in Russia he escaped from political exile to Siberia and fled to Australia in 1914. Before the war he lived in Queanbeyan.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Goulburn, he served in the 5th Field Ambulance on the Western Front, but was returned to Australia and discharged for reason of insufficient English.
  • After the war he returned to Queanbeyan and worked as an electrician, being employed at the Canberra Power House in 1922, and was involved in the electrification of the Canberra-Queanbeyan area. In 1920 he married Zillah Lakovsky, a Jewish girl from Ukraine, whose brothers also served in the AIF. In 1922 they had twins, Leah and Mischa, but in 1923 Jack left the family and went to Fiji. During WWII his son and daughter both participated in the war, while Jack surfaced in the USA, registering for army service.

Andreas Voitkun

  • Andreas Voitkun from Riga had a Polish father, Adam Woitkun, and a Latvian mother. A ship engineer by trade, he came to Adelaide with his wife Emily and two children in 1913. They settled in Port Pirie, where Andreas worked as a labourer. Three more children were born there.
  • In spite of the fact that he had a large family, Andreas enlisted in the AIF, as being a Russian citizen he was compelled to serve in the Allied army. He came to the Western Front with the 32nd Battalion. In July 1916, less than a month after his arrival, at the battle for Fromelles he was severely wounded in the right leg and left wrist and taken as a prisoner of war by the Germans.
  • Reunited after the war with his family, he lived in Port Pirie, working at the smelters there. His grandson, Prof. Peter Dennis, is the creator of the excellent database of all AIF servicemen.

Alfred Goldberg

  • Alfred Goldberg, a Jewish man from Kutno in Poland, came to Australia in 1907 in the footsteps of his elder brother Benjamin, who later enlisted in the AIF as well. Alfred was a hairdresser by trade.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Rockhampton under the name of Alfred Lewis. He served in the 26th Battalion on the Western Front and was wounded at the Somme in November 1916. He was returned to Australia and discharged as medically unfit.
  • After the war he married Rebecca Lenzer and lived in Sydney, working as a barman.

Eugene Jack Greig

  • Eugene Jack Greig was a sailor from Riga.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Sydney he served on the Western Front as a gunner in the 1st Field Artillery Brigade. In October 1917 he was killed at the battle for Passchendaele near Ypres.
  • His uncle living in England was found after the war.

Anders Alfred Moody

  • Anders Alfred Moody (his original name was Modig) was born near Jeppo in Finland. He came to Australia in 1905 and worked in the Randwick railway workshops.
  • He served in the AIF as a gunner in the 2nd Division ammunition column.
  • Returning to Australia he married an Australian woman, Lillian Beatrice Smith, and lived in Sydney working as iron worker and pit assistant.


Mersky, Matveichik, Drager, Srebel

October 5, 2015

Joseph Mersky

  • Joseph Mersky, a Jewish man from Diatlovo in Belarus, left Russia to avoid conscription in the Russian army. He spent 10 years in London working as a baker. In 1907 he married Dora Niedel and by the time of his arrival in Australia in 1912 they had three children. In March 1915 his wife with children joined him in Australia, but half a year later Joseph enlisted in the AIF in Brisbane.
  • He served on the Western Front as a baker in the Service Corps.
  • After the war Mersky lived in South Brisbane, in the in the area of traditional Russian-Jewish settlement, where he continued his occupation as a baker and fruiterer. He also became the honourable secretary of South Brisbane Central Synagogue, and took active part in Jewish ex-servicemen reunions in Brisbane. A Brisbane newspaper reported on one such gathering: ‘Mr. Mersky, a member of the Field Bakery Section of the A.I.F., made the bread rolls, and the chief decoration of the evening was a huge khalar, a special loaf of bread baked in the old Jewish style’. His youngest daughter, Cecilia, worked as a nurse during WWII.

John Matveichik

  • John Matveichik, a Belarusian from Juszkowy Grud in Grodno Province, started his travels when he was conscripted in the Russian Army and sent to fight in Port-Arthur during the Russo-Japanese war. Arriving in Australia from Manchuria in 1912, he worked in Guluguba as a lengthsman.
  • He enlisted in the AIF in Toowoomba, a week later after the three men from Krasnoe, and was allocated to the same 26th Battalion. He served on the Western Front where in March 1917, during the attack on Lagnicourt, he was wounded in the right shoulder and repatriated to Australia.
  • After the war he worked at the Blackheath Coal Mine at Blackstone near Ipswich, and as a carpenter in the Bundaberg area.

Adolf Leopold Drager

  • Adolf Leopold Drager was born in Riga, Latvia; his father was a German who came to Russia as a child. A hairdresser and barber by trade, Adolf came to Australia in 1911, following his elder brother Ernest Mikel Dreger, who was a ship’s fireman and had contacts among Latvian radicals in London. Ernest finally decided to settle in Australia and invited there his brothers Adolf and Frederick. Upon arrival Adolf worked in outback Western Australia, Doodlakine and Culham.
  • With the 51st Battalion he served on the Western Front where he was wounded three times: first at Mouquet Farm in August 1916, then in July 1917 and finally near Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918. During the last casualty he was severely wounded in the left leg, which was finally amputated.
  • Returning to Australia, he suffered from depression and in 1922 in an attempt to commit suicide he shot himself in the chest, but luckily was saved. A change for the better came in 1923 when he married an Australian girl, Mary Ellen Armstrong, and had three children. They settled in North Perth where he continued his occupation as a hairdresser.

Peter Srebel

  • Peter Srebel, a carpenter from Vilna (Vilnius) in Lithuania, came to Brisbane in 1914 with his wife and son.
  • When he enlisted in the AIF he was well over 40. A year later, with the reinforcements to the 25th Battalion he sailed for the front, but was disembarked in Fremantle for medical reasons, returned to Brisbane and discharged.
  • After that he led a nomadic life in Queensland working on railway construction. In 1921 he received permission to leave Australia and returned to Lithuania, but his son Sidor (Cedar Srebell) stayed in Australia.

Four Russians from Toowoomba

October 1, 2015
  • On 21 September 1915 four Russians came to enlist in the AIF in Toowoomba, arriving from Guluguba, where they were working on the construction of the railway.
  • The youngest among them was 17 year old Michael Dorofaeff. He was born in Bruslanovo near Lebedian in Tambov Province in Central Russia. His family moved to Chita in Siberia and from there Michael and his elder brother Vasily came to Australia in 1912. Here they were engaged in cane cutting and labouring work.
  • When enlisting, Michael stated that he was nearly 19 and his parents were in Russia. Three months later, his brother Vasily reported that he was just 17 and Michael was immediately discharged. In February 1916 Vasily himself tried to enlist in the AIF, but was rejected as medically unfit.
  • In 1916 the brothers moved to New Zealand, from where they tried to return to Russia with their families in 1936, but did not receive visas from the Soviet authorities when they reached London. They returned to New Zealand. Recently Michael’s granddaughter, Serena Dorf, visited Lebedian in the footsteps of her granddad.
  • Three other enlistees were more successful. They were the three friends, Gregory Matrenin, Nicholas Silantiff and Michael Wolkoff, from the remote village of Krasnoe in the River Volga area, about 200 km from Simbirsk. They all were 27 years old and left wives and children in Krasnoe. Ethnically they were most likely Mordovians. Like many other Russian immigrants they came to Australia via the Far East to earn some money, landing in Brisbane just a few months before the outbreak of war.
  • The Russian-language newspaper published in Brisbane reported that when the war started, the fathers of two of these men — Matrenin and Silantiff — wrote advising their sons not to return, to avoid being conscripted into the Russian army. The fathers were arrested by local Russian police, beaten and told that unless they demanded their sons’ return they would not be freed from jail. The unlucky immigrants from Krasnoe had no alternative but to join the army in Australia.
  • They were allocated to the 26th (Queensland) Battalion of the AIF and came to the Western Front together in September 1916. Within only a few weeks they suffered their first loss when Michael Wolkoff was killed in the battle for the Somme in November 1916. Their second loss occurred three months later, when in February 1917 Nicholas Silantiff was severely wounded in the right arm and both legs and was invalided to Australia. Finally, in May 1917, whilst waiting to attack at Bullecourt, Gregory Matrenin received multiple shell-wounds affecting his right eye, his right hand and forearm, his thigh and left knee. He survived this ordeal but became blind.
  • After the war their stories took different paths. Gregory Matrenin, demobilising in London, was placed in St Dunstan’s hostel for blind soldiers, where he received training in poultry farming and willow basket-making. He applied for his discharge in May 1920, stating his intention was to try to find his wife and two children in Russia. Luckily, he did not manage to get there. In 1928 he married an English woman, Alice Ballard, and worked as a wool rug maker.
  • Nicholas Silantiff, recovering from his severe wounds in Brisbane, had been left with a bad limp. When his war savings were gone he worked as a cane cutter and on railway construction. After several years of such life he applied for permission to return to Russia; it was finally granted in 1923 and he went soon afterwards to Krasnoe. There he met the wife of Michael Wolkoff, Praskovia, who received an Australian pension. In 1936 he was arrested for ‘anti-revolutionary’ activities (probably because he received an Australian pension); Praskovia Volkova was arrested as well. In 1938 Silantiff was arrested for the second time and deported to Kazakhstan. The trace of him ends there. Praskovia survived the ordeal and when the Australian Legation was opened in Moscow during WWII she came there, ‘having walked the greater part of the way from Krasnoe Selo’ to ask to renew her pension, which allowed her to survive.
  • A tribute to these Russian Anzacs from Krasnoe village was made during the Centenary celebrations at the Australian Embassy in Moscow with the participation of the Volkovs’ great grandson.