Serennikoff, Kazakoff, Nyholm

March 24, 2015

Jacob Serennikoff

  • Jacob Serennikoff (his original name was Serebrennikoff) was born in a Jewish family in Mikhailovka near Melitopol. The family was emancipated: the children studied in Russian high schools and Jacob’s elder sister Berta participated in the revolutionary movement. When enlisting in the AIF, Jacob gave his religion as Russian Orthodox and his occupation as clerk, but his medical records indicate that his original profession was that of a botanist. Alongside this rare profession, he had a lengthy military record. During his five-year service with the Russian Dragoons, he was engaged in suppressing the Boxer Uprising in China in 1900 and fought in the Russo-Japanese war. When enlisting in the AIF, his rank was recorded as Sergeant-Major, although later he was referred to in Australian newspapers as a Colonel.
  • Enlisting in the AIF in Colombo, he went to Gallipoli with the 6th Battalion. Landing on the 7th of May 1915, two days later he received a rifle wound to his elbow, and was repatriated to Melbourne. Russian Consul-General Nikolai Abaza employed him in the embassy as a clerk and charged him with a mission to promote enlistment in the AIF of Russian emigrants. He also was empowered to provide certificates of Russian nationality to Slavs from Austro-Hungary, who could have been otherwise interned in Australia as enemy aliens. With this mission Serennikoff visited South and Western Australia in 1916.
  • Soon after that he married and engaged in farming. He also was involved in exploration of oil deposits on Elko Island on the Northern Territory. In 1927 he died, probably as a consequence of his tropical experience in the Northern Territory.

Alexis Kazakoff

  • Alexis Kazakoff came from a village near Kazan on the Volga River; he deserted his ship in Australia, working here as a labourer.
  • Enlisting in Cairns, he started his service at Gallipoli, becoming a fitter with the 15th Battalion, which included a number of Russians from Queensland. He fought well, being wounded in August 1915 at the battle for Hill 60. Back in Egypt he was transferred to the 11th Field Artillery Brigade and continued his service on the Western Front. In May 1918 he was made a gunner, but refused to take up his new duties, arguing at his trial, ‘I know the language well enough to be a fitter but not a gunner’. Army command was at this stage of the war desperate to utilise every available man and Kazakoff’s arguments were dismissed: he was sentenced to 35 days’ field punishment and mustered as a gunner. In September 1918 he was withdrawn from the front and returned to Australia ‘on account of Russian nationality’.
  • After the war he returned to work as a fitter, married an Australian girl, and had a large family with ten children.

John August Nyholm

  • John August Nyholm, a bricklayer from Vaasa in Finland, fought for Britain in the Boer War. In 1907 he came to Australia and as soon as WWI broke out, rushed to enlist.
  • He was rejected twice and underwent two surgeries to be accepted in the AIF as medically capable. At last he was accepted in the AIF in the 20th Battalion and later transferred to the Field Artillery Brigade. He fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, where he was killed at the Somme in November 1916.