Sander, Eckland, Zeeman, Antin

November 15, 2014

Today we celebrate the lives of four seamen; three are from Latvia and one from Finland.

Arnold Sander

  • Arnold Sander, a seaman from Riga, was just 21 when he joined the AIF in Sydney.
  • Serving in the 3rd battalion, he participated in the landing at Gallipoli and was killed a month later, being the first Latvian Anzac to be killed in the war. He was buried in the Beach Cemetery, but his grave was lost.
  • After the war his father was found in Riga, he was given his son’s medals and an Australian pension.

Adolf Eckland

  • Adolf Eckland from Hanko in Finland joined the AIF the day after Sander, but unlike the young Latvian, 29 year old Eckland was a real sea wolf, his arms covered with tattoos and with a knife-wound scar in his left side.
  • In the AIF Ecland was in the same detachment as Sander and participated in the landing. He was wounded in August 1915 at the Lone Pine battle and spent several months in hospitals. With the 45th Battalion he was transferred to the Western Front and was killed in September 1916 at the battle for Mouquet Farm.

Fritz Zeeman

  • Fritz Zeeman (Zeemin) from Vindava (Ventspils), before landing in Newcastle in 1912, worked for 18 years as a seaman.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he reduced his age by five years and served in the 13th Battalion. After Gallipoli he served on the Western Front, where he was wounded through the carelessness of another soldier and returned to Australia as medically unfit.
  • He worked as a miner in Kurri Kurri and Cloncurry and later on the railways in Queensland.

Martin Mikkel Antin

  • Martin Mikkel Antin, a seaman from Riga, enlisted as Fritz Lepin and served together with Zeeman in the 13th Battalion in Gallipoli before being transferred to the Western Front as a saddler in the 4th Machine Gun Battalion. He was wounded and gassed at the Western Front and, while recuperating in England, deserted and was court-martialled: the cause being that his co-servicemen teased him as a German in spite of the fact that he officially applied for the restoration of his original Latvian name.
  • He married soon after the war with a woman who had two young daughters, but his marriage ended in tragedy when he accidentally shot his wife during a squabble. The jury’s verdict was ‘not guilty’.