Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Armistice Day 1918

Earlier posts on this blog have outlined the stories of the first-generation 'Lithuanian Anzacs', men of various ethnicities who had been born in czarist Russia within the borders of present-day Lithuania in the late 19th century and who served with the First AIF (Australian Imperial Force) during World War I. As we approach the centenary of the end of that war, I thought it would be interesting to look back at where some of them were on Armistice Day 1918.

By the end of the European summer in 1918 it was becoming clear that the Great War was coming to an end and that the Central Powers were near defeat. An armistice with Bulgaria came into effect on 30 September 1918, followed by Turkey a month later, then Austria-Hungary on 3 November and finally Germany on 11 November. Nevertheless, the fighting continued on the Western Front right up until the 11th of November. Reports from the field record an abrupt end to the bombardment at 11am and an eerie sense of numbness, exhaustion and quiet on the front lines. In contrast, celebrations had started earlier in the day in many towns and cities across the world, later followed by bonfires and fireworks near some of the front lines that evening.

Martin Place, Sydney, 11 November 1918

 Lithuanian Anzacs on 11 November 1918

At least 40 'Lithuanian Anzacs' served overseas during World War I and nearly half this number were still in Europe at the end of the war.  Many of their stories have been outlined previously (click on their names below). A summary was also posted earlier [click here].

The longest-serving were Stanislaw Urniarz (Stasys Urniežius) and Militan Schatkowski (also known as Militan Oldham) who had both enlisted four years earlier, in November 1914. On Armistice Day 1918 Private Urniarz was still in the field in northern France, working at the 2nd Australian General Hospital; soon after he was permitted to proceed on furlough to the UK. Private Schatkowski/Oldham had already been in the UK since early 1917 and was working for the Australian Red Cross in London on Armistice Day.

Several of the Lithuanian Anzacs had been wounded on the Western Front and transferred to England by November 1918. Private William Frank Jaks was severely wounded in September and invalided to England; he met Armistice Day at the Reading War Hospital. Private Gerard Skugar, wounded in August, was at the Devonport Military Hospital (Plymouth). Private Leo Gordon was wounded in action for the second time in October and was at the 1st Auxillary Hospital at Harefield on Armistice Day. Private Paul Finn, wounded in action for the third time in August, was in medical repatriation in England. Others in England for medical reasons included privates Harry Cooper, Joe Caplan, Anthony Januski and sapper Ishai Belkind.

Some had suffered wounds but were still active combatants in the field as Armistice Day dawned, including Private Heyman Wolfson (enlisted in 1915, wounded in 1916).

A few were fortunate to meet Armistice Day in the field and to have survived the war without apparent major injury, including: Corporal Emerick Schimkovitch (enlisted in January 1916, in the field in France from October 1916); Private William Kalinowsky/Kalin/Kalinauskas (enlisted September 1916, in the field from December 1917); Driver Joe Ipp (enlisted February 1917, in the field from November 1917); Private Stanley Zygas/Stasys Žygas (enlisted September 1917, in the field from April 1918).

Still others had enlisted late in the war and had been sent overseas but not yet entered the field of battle. David Wishman enlisted in May 1918, disembarked at London at the end of September as a private with the 34th Bn and and was still in the UK on Armistice Day. 

And lastly, there were those who did not survive the war and could not return home. Six men were killed in action or died from wounds received in action:

  • Charles Oscar Zander (died 22 August 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, France, no known grave, commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux);
  • John Brenka/Brenke (died 23 August 1916 in the Battle of the Somme, France, buried at Boulogne East Cemetery);
  • Anthony Puris (died 10 May 1917 in the Somme, France, buried in the vicinity of Noreuil, no known grave, commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux); 
  • John Lovriaen (died 20 September 1917 in the Ypres campaign, Belgium, place of burial unknown);
  • Franc Matzonas; (died 11 November 1917 in the battles for Beersheba, Palestine, buried at Beersheba War Cemetery (Israel)); and
  • David Minor (died 11 May 1918 in northern France, buried at Meteren Military Cemetery).
Handcrafted red poppy flowers on the Australian War Memorial's grounds representing the almost 62,000 Australians who lost their lives during the First World War.



1 comment:

  1. Love the way you have covered it. Lithuanian Australians refers to Australian citizens of Lithuanian national background or ... The first voyage under Arthur Calwell's Displaced Persons immigration program, that of the General Stuart Heintzelman in 1947