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

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