Thursday, 30 April 2015

Lithuanian Anzacs on the Western Front #2

This post continues with those servicemen who appear to have been of ethnic Lithuanian background.  Clicking on their names will take you to their service record held by the NAA;  much of the additional information is courtesy of Elena Govor's Russian Anzacs project,

Adolph Ignatieff MISHKINIS/Adolfas MIŠKINIS. Born in 1889 in Zarasai he left home aged 13, became a seaman, and lived and worked in the USA and Canada.  He arrived in Australia in September 1915 and enlisted almost immediately, in November 1915 in Melbourne, serving as a private and lance corporal in the 5th and 46th Battalions in France, Belgium and England.  Severely wounded in action in 1916 and 1917, he was returned to Australia in 1918 and medically discharged later that year.  Adolfas was naturalised as a British subject in 1919, married May Curtayne in the early 1920s and raised a family.  His two sons went on to serve for Australia in the Second World War.  Adolfas settled in Ballarat where he died in 1957.
Source: NAA

Anthony (Antanas) PURIS.  Born in 1888 in the village of Padustis (not far from Zarasai), he was working as a miner at Newcastle NSW when he enlisted in July 1915.  Anthony served as a private in the 19th and 4th Battalions in France, was wounded in 1916 and killed in action in May 1917.  He was survived by two brothers in Padustis village (Padusčio kaimas); his service is commemorated at Villers Brettoneux in France and the Australian National War Memorial.

Stanislaus URNIARZ/Stasys URNIEŽIUS.  The following is abridged from my post of 2 April 2015 on Lithuanian Anzacs in Egypt and Palestine:
Born in Vilnius in 1874, Stasys arrived in Australia with his wife Elzbiet/Elizabeth aboard the Ophir in April 1904.  He worked as a tailor in Sydney and was naturalised in 1906.  At he outbreak of World War One, even though he was already 40 years of age, he enlisted and embarked for Egypt in November 1914, serving with the Australian Army Medical Corps at No 2 Australian General Hospital in Cairo until March 1916 when the hospital was transferred to France. He remained in France and England until the middle of 1919, returning to Sydney together with his wife in July 1919.  They left Australia together in late 1920 for England and then Lithuania.  The photo opposite, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial's collection, shows that Pte Urniarz (back row, 8th from the left) was a staff member of the hospital's operating theatre and X-ray department while in France. 

Stanley (Stasys) ŽYGAS.   Born in 1886 in the small town of Surviliškis, he left Lithuania in 1907 and made his way around the world as a sailor visiting Germany, Argentina, England and finally reaching Port Adelaide in 1911.  He became a naturalised subject in 1915, worked in South Australia and Tasmania as a sailor, then an agricultural labourer, handy man, and finally as a fitter and turner before enlisting in Adelaide in September 1917. Stanley served with the 32nd and 50th Battalions on the Western Front, married Kathleen Green in England and they returned to Australia in December 1919.  He became self-employed, operating a mechanical workshop 'Zygas and Son' in Adelaide and died in 1975.  The link here will take you to a WW1 era photo of Stanley at the Russian Anzacs site.

Sources:  NAA and Russian Anzacs.  Additional material courtesy of; AWM; and Metrastis No 1.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lithuanian Anzacs on the Western Front #1

Previous posts looked at those who served in the Mediterranean theatres of the First World War - Gallipoli and Egypt/Palestine.  The next several posts will deal with service in France and Belgium (the Western Front).  Again, I have drawn heavily from Elena Govor's Russian Anzacs project.

Twenty four men with origins in Lithuania served for Australia on the Western Front.  A quarter of these men appear to have had Lithuanian heritage; around half were Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews), while the others were of Polish, German, or Byelorussian (or uncertain) backgrounds.

Let's start with the first four of those who appear to have been Lithuanians (clicking on their names will take you to their service records at the National Archives):

(Here I've largely repeated the information shown on the earlier Gallipoli post:)
AWM memorial panel 61
Arriving at Port Adelaide on 29 September 1914 on the Ajana from Liverpool UK as a single man, he worked at a sawmill in Gumeracha for a short while before enlisting at Adelaide in June 1915.  He served 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 was buried at the Boulogne East Cemetery in France and is commemorated at the Australian War Memorial and at both the Adelaide and Birdwood war memorials in South Australia.  

William Frank JAKS
Born in the province of Kaunas in 1882, he left czarist Russia around 1900 and lived in England prior to arriving in Australia on the Heathfield in 1914.  He enlisted in April 1916 at Adelaide as a single man, giving his residence as Berri, South Australia, and his occupation as a carpenter.  William served as a private with the 5th Pioneer Battalion (reinforcements) in France and was severely wounded in action in September 1918.  He returned to Adelaide in February 1919 and was discharged later that year.  After the war he was self-employed as a furniture restorer and french polisher in NSW and Queensland, eventually settling in Canberra where he married Madeline Elliott in 1936.  He died there in 1951.

P. Kalinauskas (centre),
Sydney circa 1920
(Source: Metraštis No 1)
Russian Anzacs notes, as reported by Kalinauskas' family, that he left home at 14 working as a ship's cook and spent 3 years in Chicago before arriving in Australia; also that he continued to travel after the war, visiting Lithuania and living in the USA, Tasmania, Broken Hill, Newcastle and Brisbane. Metrastis No 1 includes an early photograph of him (opposite) but there is no first name given, only an initial.  He may have been the Petras Kalinauskas who is recorded on Hamburg shipping lists as sailing from Hamburg to New York in September 1913, however we can't be certain. Born in Zagarė in 1893, he was working as a tailor's cutter before enlisting in Cloncurry (Queensland) in September 1916 as William Kalinovsky, a single man.  As a private and lance corporal he served as an interpreter for the 4th Pioneer Battalion, 12th Battalion and 21st Machine Gun Co. in France 1917-19. His army record shows that he attended a cutting academy in London for several months in 1919.  On return to Australia, William used the surname Kalin from the early 1920s, married Clarisse McFeeters in Broken Hill in 1924 and raised a young family, but died in 1937 while self-employed as a tailor in Brisbane.

AWM memorial panel 113

Born in Kaunas in 1889, he was working as a labourer at Kalgoorlie (Western Australia) and a single man prior to enlisting in August 1916 at Kalgoorlie.  John saw service as a private with the 27th and 28th Battalions but was killed in action on 20 September 1917 in Belgium.  He left behind a sister, Eva [Ieva] Alanskas/Alanckienė of Bellevue Western Australia, who had arrived in Australia with her family in 1912 having lived in Scotland for several years. Although arrival records for John Lovriaen have not yet been located, it seems possible that he had also reached Australia from Scotland, particularly as his military record lists his religion as Church of England. Western Australian newspaper reports of his death in 1917 show his residence as Bellevue.  He is commemorated at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium and also at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Sources:; Metrastis No 1; Russian Anzacs; Trove.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

More arrivals from Memel/Klaipeda

Last week's post looked at some examples of people from the Memel/Klaipėda region who arrived in the nineteenth century.  Arrivals into Australia from this region continued into the 20th century, including after the establishment of Lithuanian independence after the First World War and the incorporation of Klaipėda as part of the new state:

Frederich WEDRAT: a family history posted on shows him as a seaman born in 1890 in Memel, arriving in Sydney on the ship Worms from Emden, Germany, in 1910.  He married in 1921 and died in Chinchilla, Queensland in 1963.

Max LIPSCHUS:  Metraštis No 1 records Maksas LIPŠIUS, born in the Klaipėda region, as having been elected to the audit committee of the Australian Lithuanian Society in 1948.  His notice of intention to seek naturalisation, published in The Sydney Morning Herald of 7 March 1939, states that Max Lipschus was born in Kretinga (about 25km north of the town of Klaipėda), was of Lithuanian nationality, had been living in Australia for 15 years, and was then resident at 373 King Street Newtown (Sydney);

PALIOKAS:  Metraštis No 1 also mentions this man, born in Vente  (about 50km south of the town of Klaipėda), but does not reveal his first name.  He had apparently arrived in Australia in 1928 and was present at the docks in Melbourne when the first shipload of Lithuanian DPs arrived there in 1947;

Bruno GREITSCHUS: his notice of intention to seek naturalisation, published in Brisbane's The Courier Mail of 4 August 1937, states that he was born in Memel, was of Lithuanian nationality, and had been resident in Australia for 12 years.  He was then living at Goolburra Station, Offham siding (western Queesland);

Rahel HANEMAN; his notice of intention to seek naturalisation, published in The Sydney Morning Herald of 10 November 1936 states that he was born in Klaipėda, was of Lithuanian nationality, and had been resident in Australia for 7 years.  His residence at the time was 278 Bondi Road, Bondi (Sydney).

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Arrivals from Memel/Klaipeda

Men from the port town of Memel or the surrounding region, known as Memelland, were among the earliest from historically Lithuanian lands to arrive in Australia.

Memel was the German name for the town which has been known as Klaipeda after it became part of Lithuania in the 1920s.  The town and surrounding region (part of 'Lithuania Minor') have a complex history.  By the late nineteenth century the region contained a mix of  Prussian Lithuanians and descendents of settlers brought in from other parts of Europe, including Germany and Switzerland; it was ruled by the Kingdom of Prussia, which in turn became part of the German Empire.  While the Russian Empire ruled the larger part of what was subsequently to become the Republic of Lithuania, the inhabitants of Memelland had greater personal freedoms than their cousins across the border in the Russian Empire, and it is not surprising that the earliest 'Lithuanian' migrants we come across tend to originate from the German side of the border. In addition, coming from a port town it is probably not too surprising that most of their occupations were maritime.

Here are a few examples of the early arrivals:

William SIMKUS.  This man had a distinctive Lithuanian surname.
'The British clipper ship Laomene under full sail at sea'
by Antonio Jacobsen (
Family histories posted on record that he was born in Memel in 1861 or 1862 and arrived in New South Wales in 1886 aboard the Laomene, a sailing ship registered in Liverpool, as a member of the crew.  In 1891 he married Agnes Blishen in East Maitland NSW and became a naturalised British citizen in 1893.  William worked as a labourer, seaman, dredgehand, and night watchman.  He was living at Carrington NSW at the time of his death in 1897 and was survived by his wife and two sons. One of the sons, William Gordon Simkus, went on to serve in the AIF during the First World War.

Karl PLUMBACH, a ship's carpenter born in Memel was sent from England to Australia as a convict aboard the Fanny in 1816 (he is recorded in Elena Govor's Russian Convicts in Australia).  His surname suggests germanic ancestry.

Frederick Robert SUPPLIES; born around 1834 in Memel, he married Mary Breeze in Tasmania in 1855 and was drowned off New Zealand in 1863 while serving as 2nd mate aboard the Hargraves.  A discussion on suggests his family origins were Swiss or German.

John RUSSELL, a seaman born in Memel in 1827 arrived at Port Adelaide on the Mersey in 1859. South Australian government records indicate that he worked as a labourer at Smithfield, Clare, and Tothill's Creek in South Australia, and died a single man aged 40 of diphtheria in 1867.  His original surname appears to have been changed or anglicised to Russell.

Johann Joseph URBAN.  Family histories posted on record that he was born in Memel in 1830 and married in Williamstown  near Melbourne in 1867.  He died in Williamstown in 1877.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Lithuanian ANZACS in Egypt and Palestine

The following men from Lithuania served with the First AIF in Egypt and Palestine (their surnames link to Attestation Papers held at the National Archives of Australia):

Franc MATZONAS (?Pranas MACIUNAS) enlisted at Holdsworthy (Sydney) in October 1915 as a single man and embarked for Suez just before Christmas 1915. He was a private in the Camel Corps and the 6th Light Horse Regiment and was killed in action in November 1917 during the battle for Gaza;

  • he was born in Riga in 1891. His military service file shows his mother Kazimiera Maciunienė was living in Perm, Russia around 1915 but a few years later she was living in the Pasvalys region of Lithuania (probably the township of Vaškai);   
  • Franc was a seaman. Shipping records show an Able Seaman named Matzonas, born in Russia, serving on the German steamship Hoerde from Hamburg arriving in New Orleans in August 1910;
  • shipping records also show an Able Seaman named F Matzonas, born in Russia and aged 24, on the Alta from San Francisco arriving in Melbourne on 29 September 1915. This suggests that Franc wasted no time in enlisting once he had reached Australia;   
  • he is buried at the Beersheba War Cemetery (around 100km  south of Jerusalem) and is commemorated on panel 10 of the Australian War Memorial's Roll of Honour .

Alfred Joseph MEKENASS/MAKENESS/McKENASS (Alfredas MIKĖNAS) enlisted in March 1916 as a private in the 1st Pioneer Battalion. He embarked for Suez in May 1916 but experienced only a brief period of service, returning to Australia and being discharged in October 1916 as medically unfit:

  • he was born in Panevežys in 1892 and arrived in Newcastle NSW in 1912 on a ship from England;
  • he worked as a labourer for J & A Brown at Hexham NSW from about 1914, and also lived at Hexham, becoming a naturalised British subject in 1918; 
  • Alfred married Linda Coward in 1917 at Morpeth;
  • he was killed in a work accident at the Hexham workshops of J & A Brown in December 1925 and was buried at Sandgate cemetery. 

Reuben Laman ROSENFIELD had two periods of service during World War One: first as a Captain and Major with the Australian Medical Corps in Egypt (1916) and then as a Major with the Australian Medical Corps in Britain (1917-18):

  • born to a Jewish family in Raseiniai in 1872, the family appear to have moved soon after his birth to the Crimea before arriving in Australia in 1888;
  • Reuben studied medicine at the University of Melbourne, subsequently becoming an eye and ear specialist;
  • he married Harriet (Hettie) Witkowski in Melbourne in 1899;
  • in the Middle East he was attached to No 1 Australian General Hospital and the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital; his Medical Notes on eye, ear, nose and throat work at No 1 Australian General Hospital, Heliopolis are held by the AWM;  
  • in 1933 he changed his surname to Rosefield, and died in Melbourne in 1958 at the age of 85.  

Stanislaus URNIARZ (Stasys Urniežius) also served, in Australian military hospitals; he was a private attached to No 2 Australian General Hospital (1914-16) in Egypt, and in France from 1916:

  • he was born in Vilnius in 1874 and was said to have participated in the Russo-Japanese War (Metraštis No 1). However, the Russo-Japanese War started in February 1904 and Stasys arrived in Australia with his wife Elsbiet (Elzbieta?) in April 1904.  He stated that he had come from Port Arthur (Manchuria) which was a Russian military stronghold and blockaded by the Japanese from early 1904. They arrived aboard the British liner Ophir, perhaps having boarded in Colombo or the Middle East, as the vessel served the London-Aden-Australia run at the time;
  • he submitted a request for naturalisation in Sydney in 1906, living with his wife at Rozelle, Sydney, and giving his occupation as a tailor.  In 1908 Stasys is listed as a tailor at 370 Harris Street Sydney, and in 1914 at 196 Harris Street;
  • at the outbreak of World War One, even though he was already 40 years of age, he enlisted and embarked for Egypt in November 1914. He served with the No 2 Australian General Hospital in Cairo until March 1916 when the hospital was transferred to France;
  • rather surprisingly, his military records suggest that his wife Elizabeth joined him in Egypt and Europe. The remittance that was being paid to her in Australia was cancelled in mid 1915 because she was expected to join him in Cairo. Whether she was able to do this by becoming a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service or in some other capacity is not clear at this stage. At any rate, both Stasys and his wife returned to Australia together aboard the Bremen arriving in Sydney in July 1919 (in addition to returning soldiers, the Bremen also transported around 100 soldiers' wives and children);  
  • a little over a year later, Mr and Mrs S Urniarz are listed as passengers aboard the Orsova from Brisbane to London departing 6 November 1920. Stasys (and presumably his wife) then moved to Lithuania. His naturalisation file notes that by 1925 he had renounced his British citizenship in order to become a Lithuanian subject.  Apparently he did not return to Vilnius, which at that time was under Polish control.

Other Lithuanian-born members of the AIF (e.g. Anthony Puris and Heyman Wolfson) experienced short periods of service in Egypt before proceeding to France.  Their stories will be told in future posts on those who served on the Western Front.

Sources: NAA; Russian Anzacs; Metrastis No 1;;; Trove.