Updated: Dec 15, 2022
On 25th April each year in Australia and New Zealand, we celebrate ANZAC day in which we commemorate those who fought and died at Gallipoli in 1915 along with honouring those brave men and women who have fought in conflicts since then.
Amongst the young men who enlisted in the Australian Armed forces in WWI were new immigrants from Greece including a Kytherian named Constantine Aroney. He was a dual ANZAC, having served in both WWI and WWII. A few years ago, Amalia and I researched a bit more about the life of this brave man. Here is some of what we found.
He was born in Aroniadika Kythera to parents Panagioti Aronis and Stamatia Margeti on 12th March 1891 and was baptised in the church of Sotiros Christos Aroniadika on 25th March 1891. The passenger list of the Waipara, which travelled from London arriving in Brisbane on 5th July 1911, shows a 16-year-old Konstantine Aronis on board. As we have been unable to locate any other immigration records, and his age fits into his military records, it can be assumed this is the record of his arrival in Australia, as there are no other men arriving with that name or Constantine Aroney at that time. According to military records, he was a naturalised British subject in 1915 (the ties to Britain were still very strong at that time). He was living in Melbourne at the time of his enlistment into the Australian Army on 6th March 1915. His army records show he was initially deployed as a private to 24th Infantry Battalion “B” Company. He was not at Gallipoli on the day of the fateful battle, as he left Australia on 8th May 1915 and arriving there on 30th August 1915. Whilst in Gallipoli he contracted conjunctivitis twice and was hospitalised for a short period. The records show he then went to Malta, Alexandria in Egypt and then was transferred to the 2nd Australian Division Salvage Unit on 24th January 1917 and was deployed to France.
In April 1918, he was admitted to hospital with a suspected hernia. He was transferred to Reading War Hospital in England, where he was operated on for a double hernia. He returned to Australia on 31st July 1918 and was discharged in Melbourne on 11th September 1918.
In October 1939, he enlisted in the Commonwealth Military Forces and seven months later transferred to the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces and the Headquarters of the 1st Australian Corps, serving in Palestine, North Africa, Greece, Crete and Syria.
He was listed as divorced on his enlistment records for WWII. Further investigation into Victorian records show he was divorced from Muriel Agnes Aroney in 1928. At the time of his enlistment, he was living in South Yarra and his next of kin was listed as his sister Annie, who lived in Kythera. By 1940 his address was listed as Carrington Mansions, 22 Albert Rd South Melbourne and his next of kin was listed as Elizabeth Lawrence, a friend who also lived at the same address, where he seemed to have spent the rest of his life. The address may have been a boarding house as one reference to it has been found in a Victorian newspaper archive, in which it was listed as the address of the infamous gangster Squizzy Taylor in 1924.
Aroney’s background and ability to speak Greek proved extremely valuable when serving in Greece. When the allied forces were overrun by the German Army, Aroney managed to escape to Crete in an open boat, taking 23 soldiers with him, whom he cared for with the help of Cretan locals. This heroic feat earned him a British Empire Medal in the new year’s honour list in 1944.
Voters' lists show his occupation as a soldier and later a TPI pensioner. He passed away on the 8th August of 1967 at the age of 73 in Heidelberg Victoria and no reference to children have been located. He is buried at the Brighton General Cemetery in Caufield South in Melbourne. Amalia and I hope to make a trip to Melbourne to visit his grave and pay our respects.
Lest we forget!
Public Record Office Victoria – Divorce Records
Greek Australians in the Australian Armed Forces WWI &WWII by Steve Kyritsis.
www.familysearch.com, Kythera Municipal Council Birth and Marriage records Find A grave index