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Johnson, Nyback, Nylander, Platonoff, Schepenski

Peter Johnson

  • Peter Johnson’s true name was August Maren. He was born in Kuldiga in Latvia and was involved in revolutionary activities in Latvia and, later, in London, being a member of the Latvian terrorist group Leesma. Coming to Western Australia in 1911, he got under suspicion of the local police as the infamous ‘Peter the Painter’, the leader of the group, and was arrested, but had to be released later for lack of evidence. He found employment at an amalgam-treating plant on the goldmines.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 11th Battalion on the Western Front, later being transferred to the 51st battalion, attaining the rank of Lance Corporal. In May 1918 he was wounded in the hand and returned to Australia.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Clarice Henrietta Taney, and was farming in Roleystone near Perth. He died in a traffic accident in Sydney in 1929.

Johan Nyback

  • Johan Nyback, a Finnish labourer from Wasa, enlisted in the AIF in Melbourne.
  • Five months later he deserted and was never found.

Nils Nylander

  • Nils Nylander, born in Abo, Finland, came to Australia in 1912 as a seaman and worked in Sydney as a labourer and scaffolder.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, he served with the 36th Battalion as a Lewis gunner on the Western Front, attaining the rank of Lance Corporal. He was wounded four times, in January 1917 near Rouen, in October 1917 at Passchendaele, and in December 1917. Recovering in England, he returned to the battlefield and was gassed in June 1918. For his bravery during the battle for Broadwood Ridge and Passchendaele in October 1917 he was awarded the Military Medal and the Bar to the Military Medal.
  • After the war he married an Australian girl, Dorothy Hilda Biber, and lived in Sydney working as a foreman bridge carpenter in the railway service.

Thomas Stephen Platonoff

  • Thomas Stephen Platonoff (he served as Platonaff), was the elder brother of George Platonoff, who enlisted two months earlier. Thomas was born in Novoukrainka township in Ukraine, came to Australia in 1911 with his parents via the Russian Far East, and worked on a family sugarcane farm in Booyal.
  • Enlisting in the AIF, Thomas served with the 52nd Battalion on the Western Front. In June 1917 he was severely wounded in the arms near Camiers and repatriated to Australia.
  • Soon after demobilisation, Thomas married Vera Kurtish, a girl from a Belarusian family engaged in growing sugar-cane. First they all lived in Booyal, but in the late 1920s Thomas and his family moved further north, to the Mackay area. There they settled in Wundaru and continued the sugar-cane business, employing a number of compatriots for cane-cutting. They suffered during the depression, being evicted from their home. During the Second World War the family moved to Rockhampton and then to Brisbane, where Thomas, in spite of his age and wounds, worked as a wharf labourer and waterside worker. His end was sad. ‘A wharf labourer died a few minutes after falling and striking his head in the hold of a ship last night’, reported a local newspaper in 1954.

Victor Schepenski

  • Victor Schepenski, a Pole from Warsaw, came to Brisbane in 1910 via the Russian Far East with a group of Poles and Russians, who later enlisted in the AIF. Although a bootmaker by trade, he worked on railway construction in Quensland.
  • He served as a sapper with the Tunneling Company on the Western Front. In March 1918 he was gassed, but continued to serve to the end of the war.
  • After the war he worked as a lengthsman and a fettler in Mackay area.