2. Introduction

In compiling this webpage, we have endeavoured to describe to our Australian friends the origins of our Sub-Branch and the reasons why our men and women participated in World War II. Not being aware of the tragic experiences of people under occupation by the Soviet Union, the western world often does not understand why Estonians and other Russian-subjugated nations fought against the western ally, the USSR. Only later has the full extent of communist atrocities emerged in a researched form due to the Russian archives being gradually opened to outsiders.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, more than six thousand Estonian refugees settled in Australia. Among them were hundreds of veterans who near the end of World War II unsuccessfully tried to stem the onslaught of the Russians reoccupying their homeland. These veterans have tried to help their suffering country by reminding the world, and especially the Australians, about the horrors of Russian occupation.

The veterans in Sydney assembled into the Association of Estonian War Veterans (EVU). But their attempts to explain the tragedy of Estonia and its people under Soviet Russian occupation were dismissed by the leftist media as fascist propaganda and not published. It was also difficult for the locals to believe the stories of arbitrary arrests and deportations. Some even asked why people didn’t call the police, even though they were told that since Estonia was an occupied country, the culprits were the Soviet police (militia) and the KGB.

The idea to join the RSL begun to take root among the members of the EVU in 1968, the RSL being the largest and almost the only openly anti-communist organisation in Australia. On 10th May, 1968, August Kreekman, who had been a member of the Penrith Sub-Branch for some years, proposed at the EVU general meeting to apply for the formation of an Estonian Sub-Branch of the RSL. This was approved by the meeting, and already on 15th May a reply from State HQ arrived that the State Council would consider the proposal.

It took some time and clarifications, but on the 15th February, 1969, the National HQ agreed that, in principle, the Estonians fought for the freedom of their country just as people like the Australians did for theirs. A supporting argument was that the Estonian Merchant Navy (more than 50 ships) actively supported the Allied war effort in Europe, losing 37 ships and a few hundred sailors in enemy action.

The final decision by the State Branch to create the Estonian Sub-Branch was taken on 15th November, 1969, when the Charter was signed (State Council Minutes, 216-69). The Charter was issued by Councillor Alan W Laing at the inaugural meeting of the Estonian Sub-Branch on 7th December, 1969, at the Estonian House in Darlinghurst. All of the first ten founding members are amongst those 110 of our members who have passed away during the intervening 35 years. At the moment our membership stands at 53. Since the other states do not have Estonian Sub-Branches, we also have some members located in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Our Banner, donated by Mikk Tooming and dedicated on 20th of June, 197l by Pastor Einar Kiviste, has accompanied us on every Anzac March since then. During our existence, we have presented three proposals to the State Congresses, all of which have been unanimously adopted. Several articles in Reveille have explained the essence and tactics of communism and its horror regime by using the example of Soviet-occupied Estonia.

Meeting of EVÜ (Estonian War Veterans) delegates

Meeting of EVÜ (Estonian War Veterans) delegates

We are members of the World Centre of Estonian War Veterans and we sent representatives to the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Estonian War Veterans’ Congresses, whereas the 7th Congress in Melbourne was essentially organised by our Sub-Branch. One of the speakers at that Congress was our friend Bruce Ruxton, president of the Victorian Branch of the RSL. Sir Colin Hines could not attend, but sent his greetings.

Through subscribing to the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia and to the World Centre of Estonian War Veterans, we supported the worldwide action of keeping the Baltic question in the focus of world opinion. The result was several resolutions in the Australian Parliament US Congress and the European Parliament condemning the Soviet Union for severe breaches of human rights in the Soviet-occupied Baltic Sates. The Government of the Republic of Estonia has recognised these efforts in recent years by awarding several of our members with awards and medals.

The National HQ and the NSW State Branch of the RSL has also recognised the long and dedicated service of several members in the Estonian Sub-Branch by awarding them Life Memberships, Certificates of Appreciation and Meritorious medals.

Sir Colin J. Hines, OBE at our 12th Anniversary, Sydney Australia

Our good friend the late State President Sir Colin J. Hines, OBE, who always had time for our problems – and who was Guest of Honour at many of our functions – was awarded the Cross of Merit, 1st Class, by the World Centre of Estonian War Veterans.

We are much indebted to the long time State Councillor for the Intramural District council, Mr Jim Smith, for his untiring support for our Sub-Branch in good times, and bad. Unfortunately for us, he decided a few years ago to migrate with his family to the United States. Our gratitude also belongs to the present Councillor Mr. Jim Wallace who has always had our interests at heart. We are very grateful to Mr. Rusty Priest, who when State President found the time on quite a number of occasions – despite his busy agenda – to attend functions.

Raivo Kalamae, President
Estonian Sub-Branch of the RSL