Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lithuanian Anzacs at Gallipoli

Migrants from Lithuania fought for Australia in all the major theatres of World War One. Some also served at home, in Australia. This post will look at the earliest enlistments, those who served at Gallipoli (1915), while later posts will look at the Western Front as well as Egypt/Palestine.

I have drawn heavily on Elena Govor's work on 'Russian Anzacs' (2005), which is the most comprehensive examination yet published of World War One service by men originating from the Baltic provinces of the then Russian empire. More recently, research work specifically on Lithuanian Anzacs commenced in 2013 through the Lithuanian Studies Society at the University of Tasmania, and the results are eagerly awaited.  

The following Lithuanian Anzacs have been identified in Elena Govor's research at the National Archives of Australia (NAA). The links against each surname bring up the digitised service record from the NAA's website.

Charles Oscar ZANDER enlisted in Adelaide at the outbreak of war in August 1914. Born near Vilnius, probably of German heritage (his parents were naturalised Russian subjects), he became a seaman and lived for some time in England where he became a naturalised British subject. He arrived at Port Adelaide around 1911 and was a member of the first Australian contingent to depart for the Middle East in November 1914; he served at Gallipoli as a private in the 10th Battalion, and later as a corporal on the Western Front. He married in London while on leave in 1916 but was killed in action in France on 22 August 1916. Charles' service is commemorated at the Australian War Memorial, the Adelaide War Memorial and the Villers-Brettoneux memorial in France.

Kazis WALIUKEVIC /WALINKEVIC (Kazimieras VALIUKEVIČIUS, also known as Charles Valukavitz or Volukawytz) enlisted at Perth in September 1914. He had been born in Marijampolė and arrived in Western Australia in 1910 from Scotland. He was also a seaman, with a wife in Lithuania, but had remained in Australia working as a labourer. Naturalised in 1914, he served as a private in the 16th Battalion at Gallipoli where he was wounded in action. Discharged in Australia in September 1916 he appears to have returned to the UK in the early 1920s.

Nathan WATCHMAN enlisted at Geelong in September 1914 and re-enlisted at Melbourne in January 1915. Born in Navarėnai as Notel-Kalman Pelts, he had arrived in 1911 from England and worked as a commercial traveller in South Australia and Victoria before being naturalised in 1914. He served at Gallipoli as a private in the 6th Battalion before being wounded in action and returned to Australia. He was discharged in March 1916, later married and died in 1949.

Charles CEPKOUSKI (Kazimieras ČEPKAUSKAS, also known as Charles Capouski) enlisted at Perth in November 1914. He was from Arlaviškės, near Kaunas, and had arrived in 1910, working in Western Australia as a bootmaker and labourer. He served at Gallipoli as a private in the 16th Battalion, but was returned to Australia in August and discharged in December 1915 as medically unfit. Undeterred, he enlisted a second time and was accepted for home service in 1916. He married in 1918, had four children and died in Sydney in 1960.

Militan SCHATKOWSKI (Šatkauskas, also known as OLDHAM) enlisted in Liverpool NSW in November 1914. He was born at Plateliai, possibly of Polish and/or German heritage, and had arrived in Australia in 1914 as a seaman having already lived in the British Empire from 1908. He served at Gallipoli as a private in the 2nd Battalion, and later on the Western Front. He ended the war attached to the Australian Red Cross in London 1917-19, where he also married and was naturalised as a British subject before returning to Australia. He took his wife's surname, OLDHAM, and died in Sydney in 1938.  

AWM memorial panel 61
John Brente BRENKA enlisted at Adelaide in June 1915. His place of birth is not certain (it was either present-day Lithuania or Belarus) but his declaration of catholicism as his religion suggests he was Lithuanian. Arriving at Port Adelaide on 29 September 1914 on the Ajana from Liverpool UK, he worked at a sawmill in Gumeracha for a short while before enlisting in the AIF as a Russian subject. He served for a short while in the Gallipoli campaign as a private in the 10th Battalion, then went on to serve on the Western Front in the 50th Battalion where he died on 23 August 1916 of wounds received in action. He is commemorated at the Australian War Memorial and at both the Adelaide and Birdwood war memorials in South Australia. John had no relatives in Australia.

My wife's grand uncle Lt Thomas John WOODHOUSE (12th Battalion) also served at Gallipoli and was killed in action at Lone Pine on 9 August 1915. It is tempting to speculate that he and some of the above Lithuanians may have crossed paths during that terrible campaign.

The Australian War Memorial advises that during the Centenary period, the name of each of the 62,000 Australians who gave their lives during the First World War will be projected onto the façade of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial. The names will be displayed from sunset to sunrise every night, and can be seen from the Memorial's grounds. Each name will be visible for 30 seconds.

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