Anzac Day Blog Challenge: He Was Proud to be Australian

When Auckland City Libraries put our the call for the Anzac Day Blog Challenge again, I just had to accept. I would like to introduce you to my Great Grandpa … Otto Rafael Winter … he was a proud Australian.

Born in Helsinki, Finland in 1880, at age 22 Otto chose to leave his family, friends and life as he knew it to become a seaman. This was not only his way of getting to see the world, but also it was the best way to escape compulsory conscription to the Russian Army. Having worked on cargo ships for a number of years, in 1907 Otto jumped ship in Australia to start the next phase of his life.

Why he chose Australia is one of those questions that sadly I’ll never know. But I do know that he adopted Australia as his new home, and in 1909 chose to become an Australian citizen. To further prove his allegiance to his adopted homeland, in 1916 he signed up with the Australian Imperial Force, was assigned to the 50th Battalion, 1st AIF, and was stationed at Marselles, Belgium. He was wounded several times, including being  shot in the stomach and poisoned with mustard gas while tunnelling at Ypres. Despite this, he survived and made it home in 1919 to his young wife (Irene) and baby boy (Harold).

Australian patriotism was shown yet again when World War II broke out when Otto signed up in 1942 for the Volunteer Defence Corps. He did some further training in Australia during 1943, but wasn’t called up to go to the battlefields this time, and was discharged in late 1945.

While there is still much for me to learn about my great grandpa’s life, thanks to the fantastic military records that the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia have available, I know so much of his military life. So this is a thank you to the archives offices for making these records accessible!!

Despite having been born and raised on the other side of the world, I honestly believe that Otto Rafael Winter, was proud to be an Australian. While I never had the chance to meet him, as he died long before I was born … in my mind you don’t choose to become a citizen of that country, and also sign up willingly to defend them unless you have have a sense of patriotism … right?


4 Responses to “Anzac Day Blog Challenge: He Was Proud to be Australian”

  1. Seonaid Lewis (@genebrarian) says:

    Great post. Thank you for contributing to our Anzac Day Blog Challenge, Alona!

  2. Pauleen says:

    Thanks Alona for an interesting post. With German ancestry I am intrigued by how these men with a European heritage reconciled their allegiances, though in his case, perhaps less conflict. I’m also taken by how often they went to sea to avoid conscription.

  3. Alona says:

    Pauleen, have you discovered the Russian Anzacs website? It contains details on a whole bunch of Germans who fought for Australia.

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