The First Fleet of the new Australian nationhood

November 1, 2014

The very first contingent of Australian troops, this First Fleet of the new Australian nationhood, whose departure we celebrate today, had 14 Russian-born future Anzacs. The Afric carried Russian from St Petersburg Alexander Arn, Finn Thomas Baer, and Jewish teenager from Poland Robert Mayer; the Argyllshire – George Kamishansky from Ukraine; the Ascanius – Lithuanian German Oscar Zander and Russian Alexander Sast from Ukraine; the Euripides had a Pole, Alfred Jan de Topor Markowicz, Russian Jew Abraham Levene posing as David Conroy from Scotland, Finn Edwin Rosberg, and Russian from Simbirsk Nicholas Sindeeff; the Geelong carried Finn Alexander Hiltunen; the Honorata – Briton from St Petersburg George Ball; the Marere – another Briton from Riga, Francis Wilfred Holt Dyson; and the Medic – Edward Watson from Poland. They would all participate in the Gallipoli landing.

Levene will be killed at Gallipoli; Sindeeff severely wounded and repatriated to Australia.

Hiltunen will contract TB during his service at Gallipoli and die back in Australia, at Port Elliott, in 1917.

Sast will be captured POW at Gallipoli, and escaping from Turks, will cross Russia to reach the British Army in Archangel and rejoin the Australian Army.

Ball, awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry at Lone Pine in Gallipoli, will be killed at the Somme in 1916. Zander, too, will be killed in 1916, at Mouquet Farm. Dyson will be killed at the Somme in 1918.

Baer, wounded at Gallipoli, will survive two years at the Western Front and return to Australia with his British wife. Watson will survive, although be wounded soon after the Gallipoli landing, and again in 1916 at Pozier at the Western Front. Kamishansky and Rosberg, too, will survive Gallipoli and the Western Front.

Arn, losing his fingers at the Gallipoli landing, will reenlist and serve for two more years in the Camel Corps in Egypt. Mayer, repatriated from Gallipoli to Australia with enteric fever, will reenlist and serve on the Western Front where he will be wounded at Peronne at the very end of war.

Markowicz, showing bravery during the first days of the battle, will then be deported to Australia on suspicion of being a spy and will fight for years to clear his name.