William Brandt, an Estonian sailor from Oesel (Saaremaa) Island, came to Australia in 1912.
Enlisting in the AIF in Warragul, a country town in Victoria, he served with the 5th Battalion on the Western Front. He was wounded in the right arm during the February advance in 1917, returned to the front four months later, and was wounded soon afterwards in the battle for Mennin Road, at Ypres, this time in the head. He was returned to the front in March 1918, when Russia had already withdrawn from the war. He refused to fight on these grounds and was court martialled. His 5-year sentence was eventually commuted and he was returned to Australia after the war.
After the war he continued working on coastal steamers living in Melbourne.
Peter Koel, Brandt’s countryman from Oesel, was married in Estonia but continued seafaring. In 1913 he was shipwrecked in the North Sea and survived three days in the water before he was rescued. He came to Australia in 1914 as a seaman. In 1915 Koel and Brandt served together on the ship Westralia and a few months later enlisted together in the AIF in Warragul.
Koel was placed in the same 5th Battalion, but discharged five months later, suffering from rheumatism – a consequence of his exposure after the shipwreck in the North Sea.
After discharge he continued working on the ships in Australia and in the UK.
David Borszcer, a Jewish musician from Bershad in Ukraine, came to Australia in June 1915 with the Belgian Band under the patriotic endeavour of raising money for the Belgian Relief Fund. A number of the members of this band were Russian nationals, and Russian music, including Tchaikovsky’s overture ‘1812’, featured as a highlight of their programs.
Borszcer stayed in Australia and enlisted in the AIF in April 1916; he was not accepted for overseas service but was allocated for service in the Australian Light Horse Band based at Menangle Park near Sydney. While serving he developed pulmonary tuberculosis, which was probably aggravated by his playing cornet. He was discharged from the army in 1917, but after recuperating he resumed his patriotic musical endeavours as a conductor of the Chatswood Orchestral Society in aid of the Red Cross.
After the war he stayed in Sydney continuing his occupation as a musician, but spent the last years of his life in provincial New South Wales, dying in Tumut in 1939.