Friday, 19 June 2020

Anthony Minkshlin: soldier, sailor, witness to historical events

Anthony Minkshlin (also written as Minkslin or Minkshtin) was born 13 October 1892 in Vilnius to 'William' (Waltrome, or Baltromy) and Agatha Minkshtin. His father appears to have previously resided in Vidzy (now in Belarus, about 3km from the present Lithuanian border), before moving to Vilnius. Anthony stated that his father was a Lithuanian citizen. His mother's maiden name was Christopher - perhaps meaning the Latvian surname Kristofers - which may explain why the family moved to the port city of Liepaja in Latvia around the turn of the 20th century. Anthony attended schools in Vilnius and Liepaja before embarking on a seaman's career and leaving home at the age of 15.

With thanks to Dr Elena Govor (Canberra) for sharing this image (British merchant marine registration card)) and other details of her research on Anthony Minkshlin at The National Archives, (Kew, UK).
Before long, however, Anthony was based in Australia and working on a farm at Branxton in the Hunter region of New South Wales in between journeys away as a seaman (Branxton is around 40km from the port city of Newcastle). This continued until the First World War; he enlisted in August 1915 and was sent to serve as a trooper with the AIF's 4th Light Horse regiment in the Middle East. By mid 1916 he was in France on the Western Front with the Second Anzac Corps. After the war ended he decided to re-enlist, this time with the British Army and the North Russia Relief Force. His military experience and language skills were presumably well regarded, as he was taken on as a scout and interpreter with the 45th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Wikipedia notes that:
The 45th and 46th Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers were part of the North Russia Relief Force, which landed in early 1919 to support the withdrawal of international forces assisting "While" (anti-Bolshevik) Russian forces during the Russian Civil War. The understrength 45th Battalion was composed mainly of former members of the Australian Imperial Force – many of them veterans of the Western Front – who had volunteered for service in Russia.
The Relief Force was evacuated by September 1919, and Anthony Minkshlin was subsequently awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his service in the Northern Dvina River region. By December 1919 he had returned to Liepaja to visit his parents, and shortly thereafter found another posting that appealed to him - that of interpreter with the British Military Mission in Kaunas, working for Colonel Henry Rowen-Robinson. However by the second half of 1920 Minkshlin was back at sea, based in England, and had applied for naturalisation as a British subject. He received good references and a police check recorded that "he appears to be a respectable man".

With thanks to Dr Al Taškūnas (Hobart) for supplying this image from 1920 (Anthony Minkshlin in Kaunas wearing an Australian Army slouch hat).

Anthony returned to Australia in 1923, married Irene Serova in 1926, and the couple settled in North Sydney. Anthony continued to maintain his links with the sea, working as a seaman for some years and naming his new home "Albatross". Irene was listed on the electoral roll as a tailoress. In older age Anthony resided at the War Veterans' Home in Narrabeen and displayed his craft skills in creating abalone shell jewellery. He died in 1983 at the age of 92 and is buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Frenchs Forest cemetery. Irene had been born around 1905 and died in 1987.    

Sources and further reading:
National Archives of Australia -
Elena Govor: personal communication and and her publications on 'Russian Anzacs', including
Trove -
Dr Al Taškūnas, Lithuanian Studies Society, University of Tasmania.


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