Thursday, 28 May 2015

Lithuanian ANZACS - summary

Immigrants in the AIF

Over 420,000 men enlisted in the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) during the First World War, of whom around 332,000 were sent abroad.  Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of those who embarked for service overseas were not born in Australia, with a range of minorities represented amongst the English-born majority.  These minority groups are currently receiving some renewed attention:

  • German Anzacs and the First World War (John F Williams, UNSW Press, 2003) looked at men of German origin and their war-time experiences, including internment in Australia.  Williams speculated that there may have been as many as 18,000 young men of German origin (not necessarily born overseas) who served abroad with the AIF;
  • Anzacs and Ireland (Jeff Kildea, UNSW Press, 2007) focused on Irish-born members of the AIF.  Subsequently the UNSW's Irish Anzacs project has established a database of almost 6000 Irish-born Anzacs who served in the AIF;
  • Next of Kin Untraceable; Foreign Born in Australia's First AIF was the title of a paper presented by Karen Agutter at 'The First World War - local, global and Imperial perspectives', The University of Newcastle, 25-27 March 2015 [this paper has not been sighted - JM]; 
  • Elena Govor, author of Russian Anzacs in Australian History (UNSW Press 2005) has identified 1036 men born in the former Russian Empire who served in the AIF.  Of these, 241 were born in the then Baltic provinces of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania  - see  These figures do not include Slavs or Jews from those provinces; Govor has aggregated them separately.

Previous posts on this blog have looked at 40 Lithuanian-born men who served in the 1st AIF.  The following seeks to summarise the findings so far (keeping in mind that not all personal particulars supplied at enlistment - on the attestation papers - were necessarily accurate and ideally should be corroborated through other sources).

The first feature that soon becomes obvious when looking at Govor's statistics is that there were many fewer Lithuanian-born men in the AIF than Latvian- or Estonian-born; lists 100 ethnic Estonians, 130 ethnic Latvians and 14 ethnic Lithuanians. This suggests differences in migration flows which could be worth exploring.

The attestation papers held by the National Archives of Australia suggest that the Lithuanian-born men in the AIF were broadly representative of the various regions of the country; they were not exclusively from any one part of Lithuania.  About half of these men gave a specific town or village as their place of birth.  The others gave either Kaunas or Vilnius in almost equal measure; in the absence of other information this could be taken to mean either the cities of Kaunas and Vilnius or the surrounding provinces (gubernia) administered through them. They were also broadly representative of the various ethnicities living in that region: ethnic Lithuanians, Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks), Slavs (Poles, Russians, Belorussians), and Germans.

Their dates of birth ranged from 1870 to the late 1890s, with the most common years being 1892 and 1894 (4 each) and 1886, 1889, and 1891 (3 each).  By the time they came to enlist, they were mostly in their 20s, although a few saw active service overseas in their 40s.

They were mostly single men, although 6 were married.

Their dates of arrival in Australia also spanned a few decades: while Reuben Rosenfield reached Australia in 1888, Adolph Cantor in 1902, Stanislaus Urniarz in 1904 and Leo Gordon in 1908, all the others arrived in the second decade of the twentieth century (5 in 1914, 4 each in 1910, 1911, and 1912, 3 in 1913, 3 in 1915, 1 in 1916 and 1 in 1917, suggesting a fairly constant rate of arrivals in the first half of that decade).

The most common occupations shown on their attestation papers were seaman (12), labourer (6), salesman (4) and tailor or clothing cutter (3).


None of the 40 men appear to have enlisted together, and their enlistment dates span a period of 3 years.  The earliest enlistment was that of Charles Oscar Zander (August 1914) and the latest was that of Antonio Samson (November 1917).  In all, 6 men enlisted in 1914, followed by 12 in 1915, then 19 in 1916, and 3 in 1917.

Over a third of the men enlisted in the state of  New South Wales (15), followed by Victoria (10); South Australia (5), Western Australia (5), and Queensland (4).

Their discharge dates also spanned several years, from 1915 to 1920.


Over half of these men served in the various AIF infantry battalions; the others saw service in pioneer or engineering battalions, machine gun companies, light horse regiments, and the medical corps. Most served as privates, only a few had the opportunity to serve as corporals.  Dr Rosenfield, engaged as a specialist surgeon on contract, was the only one on this list who was appointed as an officer.

34 men were sent overseas:
  • most served on the Western Front;
  • 6 saw action at Gallipoli;
  • 4 served in Egypt/Sinai.

Twelve men were wounded in action (not counting those who were subsequently killed):
  • Harry Cooper;
  • Paul Elias Isaac Finn;
  • Leo Gordon;
  • William Frank Jaks;
  • Anthony Januski;
  • Joseph Josephson;
  • Arthur Levy;
  • Adolph Ignatieff Mishkinis;
  • Sigismund Romaszkiewicz;
  • Gerard Martyn Skugar;
  • Kazys Waliukevic;
  • Nathan Watchman; and
  • Heyman Wolfson.

Six men were killed in action or died from wounds received in action:
  • John Brenka;
  • John Lovriaen;
  • Franc Matzonas;
  • David Minor;
  • Anthony Puris; and
  • Charles Oscar Zander

Thursday, 21 May 2015

More Anzacs from Lithuania who served on the Western Front and in Australia

Previous posts have covered what we know so far about the ethnic Lithuanians and the Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) who served for Australia on the Western Front in the First World War.  Here are a few more men with origins in Lithuania who served abroad (Schatkowski and Zander were previously featured in the post on Gallipoli).  Again, with thanks to the National Australian Archives and Elena Govor's Russian Anzacs project (

Anthony JANUSKI/JANONSKOV/JANWSKO was born in Kaunas in 1896 to a Polish family.  He enlisted in Melbourne in July 1916 and served on the Western Front as a private in the 58th Battalion.  He was severely wounded in action in France (June 1918) and returned to Australia in early 1920.

Sigismund ROMASZKIEWICZ was born in Krekenava in 1876  to a Polish/Russian family and arrived in Brisbane from Japan with his wife and children in 1910.  They settled in Brisbane, where he was active in both the Russian and Polish communities.  He enlisted in October 1915 as a 39 year old and served as a driver with the 15th Field Company Engineers, was wounded in action in France in 1917 and medically discharged in Australia in 1918.  He died in Brisbane in 1949.

Militan SCHATKOWSKI (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.   

Emerick SCHIMKOVITCH (also Shimkovitch) was born in Zarasai in 1894 to a Russian or Polish family.  He left Lithuania around 1911, worked as a seaman, and reached Australia in January 1916, enlisting that same month in Melbourne.  Emerick served as a private and corporal in the 22nd Battalion in France and was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action in August 1918.  He returned to Australia after the war and continued to work as a seaman, based in Victoria.  He worked for a while at the Cape Schank lighthouse, married in 1936 and died in 1951.  The Australian War Memorial's collection includes a group photo of 22nd Battalion's A Company, including Emerick Schimkovitch (click here).

Gerard Martyn SKUGAR, a 22 year old Polish sailor from Vilnius, enlisted in Rockhampton in May 1916. He had arrived in Sydney in February 1914 and then worked at several locations in Queensland (Brisbane, Mt Morgan, Rockhampton, Bundaberg) before enlisting. He served as a private with the 41st Bn in France and was wounded in action in August 1918, repatriated to England and then to Australia in December 1918.  Awarded a Military Medal for bravery in the field, he lived in Queensland after the war and died in Sydney in 1951.

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.

This brings to a close this list of Anzacs with Lithuanian connections who served overseas.  It has largely mirrored the list created by Elena Govor on her Russian Anzacs website, with only a few added details of the individuals concerned.  Nevertheless, over time the list may be expanded as others are discovered hidden in the official records:
About 65,000 men [from Australia, in World War I] used an alias or at least an incomplete name, or saw service with an Allied entity (Lieutenant Colonel Neil C Smith, That Elusive Digger: tracing your Australian military ancestors, Unlock the Past, 2013)

Some men enlisted but were not sent overseas, for example:

Thomas DAMELIONOK, born in 1888 in Vilnius, had arrived in Australia in April 1914 with his wife and children and enlisted for home service in Melbourne in August 1916, but was discharged at the end of that year as his services were no longer required.

William KOSLOVSKY, born in 1882 in Joniškis, arrived in Brisbane in 1912 and enlisted at Rockhampton in November 1915 but was discharged in August 1916 as medically unfit.

Antonio SAMSON, born in 1873 in Kurkliai, arrived in Sydney in June 1917 and enlisted in November of that year. He was 44 years old and a solid labourer, 6 foot tall and 212 lb in weight, but after less than 2 months at the Engineer Depot in Moore Park, Sydney, was dischaged as 'unlikely to become an efficient soldier'.

Anton SUTKIS, born in 1890 at the village of Sutkai, near Šakiai, arrived in Australia as a sailor in 1912, worked as a miner near Sydney and enlisted at Liverpool NSW in January 1916.  Sadly Anton/Antanas did not even see much depot service as he died in August 1916 of pulmonary tuberculosis.

Bronislau KETOVICH/KRETOVITCH, born in 1889 in Vilnius, probably to a Polish/Russian family, arrived in Brisbane in 1911 from Harbin, China, leaving behind a wife, Vida.  He was employed as an engine fitter in Brisbane and Melbourne where he enlisted in June 1916, but 2 weeks later was discharged as medically unfit.

Others were sent overseas but were soon found unsuitable for active service:

Adolph Conrad CANTOR, born in 1876 in Žagarė, had resided in the USA from 1889 and arrived in Australia in 1902. He was a draper and lived at Devonport, Tasmania, then Hamilton and Warnambool in Victoria before enlisting at Warnambool at the age of 39. Sent overseas as a private with the 14th Bn he was discharged in London after a year's service as medically unfit.

Peter SREBEL, born in 1870 in Vilnius, arrived in Brisbane in March 1914 with his wife and child. He enlisted as a 44 year old the next year and was sent overseas as a private with the 25th Bn but only reached Fremantle before being sent back and discharged as medically unfit. Peter continued to work around Queensland for the next several years but returned to Lithuania in 1921.

Samuel SEUFF, born to a Jewish family in 1888 in Šiauliai, first enlisted in January 1915 but was discharged after only a few days. He enlisted again in December 1916 and was sent overseas in early 1917 as a private with the 45th Bn only to be returned to Australia almost immediately and discharged in June 1917 as medically unfit. 

Still others decided to cut short their military service for other reasons:

Joseph BUDREWICZ, born in Radviliškis in 1892, arrived at Darwin in 1915 and enlisted in Perth in June 1916; however by the end of September 1916 he was listed as a deserter.

Phillip JAFFE, born in Kaunas in 1894, had served in the South African Army before arriving in Australia in 1915.  He enlisted at Holdsworthy NSW in August 1915 but by December of that year was listed as a deserter.

Next week's post will attempt to summarise the 'Lithuanian Anzac' experience, at least from the Australian perspective.  No one, as far as I know, has researched any New Zealand/Lithuanian Anzac connections.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

More Litvak Anzacs on the Western Front

This post continues the list of Lithuanian Jews (Litvaks) who served on the Western Front during World War One.  Again, I have drawn heavily on records held by the National Archives of Australia (click on each name for the relevant service record) and on Elena Govor's Russian Anzacs project (

Joe IPP was born in 1897 in Kaunas (the service record has it as 'Counow' which is not dissimilar to 'Kovno' as it was known at the time) and had lived in South Africa for a few years before arriving in Melbourne in 1914.  He worked there as a salesman before enlisting in February 1917 (the service record shows that he was only slightly over 5 feet tall and weighted only 120 pounds; at the start of the war the minimum height requirement had been 5 feet 6 inches).  Joe served in France and Belgium as a private (gunner and driver) with the 13th Light Horse Regiment and 1st Field Artillery Brigade and was discharged in England in August 1919.  He returned to Australia in 1921, married in 1923 and settled in Melbourne.

Joseph JOSEPHSON was born in 1886 in Vilnius and had lived in Sweden for 7 years and England for a short while before arriving in Western Australia in 1912.  He worked at Geraldton and Perth before going into business for himself as a storekeeper and then enlisting in Sydney in August 1916 (his occupation was shown as draper and window dresser).  He served as a private with the 1st Battalion on the Western Front and was wounded at Bullecourt and at again at Passchendaele in 1917.  In 1918 Joseph was court marshalled for refusing to fight but the sentence was soon suspended and he was returned to Australia in December 1918.  He settled in Sydney and was operating a small business as a draper and mercer at Waterloo when naturalised as a British subject in 1922.

Arthur LEVY was born in 1877 in Kaunas.  We don't know when he arrived in Australia but he was already a naturalised British subject when enlisting in December 1915 at Liverpool NSW as a single man aged 35, occupation salesman and traveller.  He served as a private in the 13th Battalion but was wounded in action in February 1917, subsequently was returned to Australia and invalided out in August 1917.  He settled in Sydney and died there in 1964.

Source: Australian War
Memorial's collection

David MINOR was born in 1894 in Vilnius and probably left for the USA in 1912: Hamburg passenger lists and New York arrival records on show a David Minar (age 17) from Vilnius crossing the Atlantic with his mother? Chane (age 51) on the President Lincoln in January 1912.  D. Minor is further recorded as an able seaman on the SS Inga from New Zealand to Sydney in December 1915 and the Mallina from Newcastle to Sydney in January 1916.  He enlisted at Sydney in March 1916 (occupation seaman) and served as a private with the 1st Battalion in France.  David was first wounded in action in 1917, then killed in action in May 1918.  He was buried at Meteren Military Cemetery in France; here is a WW1 studio portrait from the Australian War Memorial's collection.

Heyman WOLFSON was born in 1875 in Seda (his enlistment papers record this as 'Sade', in yiddish the town would be 'Siad'), left home at the age of 14 and spent 20 years in Ireland before arriving in Australia in 1910.  He resided briefly in Melbourne and Brisbane before settling in Adelaide where he was naturalised in 1914; he enlisted in August 1915 at the age of 39, his occupation was given as labourer.  Heyman served as a private in the 32nd Battalion, was wounded in action in 1916 but continued in active service until the end of the war.  He returned to Australia in April 1919.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Litvak Anzacs on the Western Front

The Jews who had settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania generally called themselves Litvaks. Several thousand made their way to Australia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; Elena Govor (Russian Anzacs, p 55) notes that 'Of all the groups arriving in Australia from the Russian Empire, Jews were the most numerous."

Earlier posts have briefly looked at a few Litvaks who served for the AIF in the First World War.  This post deals with some of those who served on the Western Front; again I have drawn heavily on the NAA`s records (click on each name for the service record) and on the Russian Anzacs project (

Ishai BELKIND.  Born in 1885 in Vilnius, he arrived in Australia around 1913 and lived in Perth, Western Australia, before enlisting in Kalgoorlie in December 1915.  His occupation was a gardener/orchardist; initially his next of kin (father's) address was given as Vilnius, but by 1918 the father seems to have moved to Palestine.  Ishai served as a sapper (private) in the 7th Field Company Engineers in France during 1917, returning to Australia in early 1919.  In June 1919 he appears to have travelled to Palestine, but was back in Western Australia in 1921 and registered there as an Egyptian alien;

  • a somewhat different interpretation is that he was actually born in Palestine (then a part of the Ottoman Empire) "so it is probable that Ishai concealed his birthplace in an effort not to be associated with the enemy" (Steve Murphy, Lithuanian ANZACs: research continues, Lithuanian Papers No 27/2013, Lithuanian Studies Society at the University of Tasmania, p 12) 

Samuel BRITAIN.  Born in Vilnius in 1896, he arrived in Melbourne on the Demosthenes in February 1912 and worked as a clothing cutter and designer, possibly for his uncle Joseph Britain who operated a clothing factory in Flinders Lane, Melbourne.  He enlisted in June 1916 and served with the 12th Machine Gun Company and 11th Machine Gun Company in France in 1917, but was returned to Australia and discharged in December 1917 due to health issues.  Samuel remained in Melbourne, marrying and having a daughter, later establishing himself as a clothing manufacturer.  He died in Melbourne in 1950.

Joe CAPLAN.  Born in Kaunas in 1892, he left home for Manchester at the age of 14 and was employed in the cap manufacturing trade there.  He arrived in Sydney in 1912 where he had a cousin, and was working as a waiter before enlisting in June 1916.  Joe served as a private and corporal in the 19th Battalion and the 3rd Battalion in France and England before returning to Australia in early 1920.  His later history is not known; the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages records the death of a Joseph Caplan in 1953.

Harry COOPER.  Born in 1892 in Kaunas, he was working as a commercial traveller in Melbourne before enlisting in July 1915.  At that time he listed his next of kin as his father who was resident in South Africa.  Harry served with the 3rd Battalion and Administrative HQ in Europe and was wounded in action in France in early 1918.  He remained in London, was demobilised and discharged at the end of the war, married Lena Heller, and departed for Cape Town from England in 1919.  

Paul Elias Isaac FINN.  Born in 1887 near Vilnius, he left home in 1907 for Scotland and London, arriving in Melbourne in 1913 aboard the Beltana.  He was working as a motor car driver (railway employee) before enlisting at Newcastle in February 1916 and proceeding overseas to serve as a private with the 35th Battalion.  Paul was wounded in action three times during 1917 and 1918 in France and returned to Australia in early 1919.  He remained in the Newcastle area, was naturalised in 1919, married in 1936, and died in 1956.

Leo GORDON.  Born in the region of Kaunas in 1886, he arrived at Adelaide aboard the Ortonia from England in 1908.  Having worked in Adelaide, Broken Hill and Sydney as a storekeeper and clerk, he enlisted at Sydney in July 1916.  Leo served as a private in the 18th Battalion, was wounded in action in 1917 and again in 1918, and returned to Australia at the end of 1918.  His later history is not known.
[Note: There was another Leo Gordon from Kaunas who came to Australia; he was born in 1879 and lived in Broken Hill from 1911 where he ran a small business.]

Sources: NAA and Russian Anzacs.