Francis Birtles

Francis Edwin Birtles was born on the 7th of November 1881 in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. The eldest of three sons, his parents were immigrants from England. At the age of fifteen he joined the merchant navy as an apprentice seaman. In 1899 he jumped ship in Cape Town, South Africa and enlisted in the Cape Colonial Forces soon after the outbreak of the Boer War. After the end of the war he remained in South Africa as mounted police officer.

In 1904 he returned to Melbourne and found work as a lithographic artist. He stayed in Melbourne less than two years before deciding to quit his job, sail to Perth with his bicycle and attempt to become the first person to cross the continent on two wheels from west to east.

He departed Perth on Boxing Day 1906; destination Sydney, more than 4000km away. Despite high temperatures and difficulty in finding water, which almost cost him his life, he achieved his objective. After a short stay in Sydney to recuperate and find sponsors, Birtles kept on going! To the cheers of a large crowd he departed on the 21st of August 1907 to circumnavigate half the continent (Sydney - Darwin - Adelaide - Melbourne - Sydney). It took 13 months to cover the 13500km, arriving in Sydney on the 23rd of September 1908. Following the publication of his book Lonely Lands in 1909 he enjoyed some minor fame and was able to make enough sponsorship deals to continue travelling. By 1912 he had crossed Australia many times more and even completed a full circumnavigation of the continent, a trip of over 16000km.

Due to Birtles proven ability to navigate and survive in Australia’s vast and arid inland, he was asked by the importers of Brush automobiles to join their mechanic Syd Ferguson on an attempt to make the first west-east crossing of the continent by car in-order to show that Brush automobiles were suited to Australian conditions.

Brush automobiles were a chain driven two-seater with a ten horsepower single-cylinder engine. The chassis, axles, and wheels were made of oak and hickory. Birtles accepted the invitation but insisted on bringing his bicycle and dog Rex.

“Altogether I have cycled seven times across the continent, varying the route on each occasion. So when I contemplated making the eighth trip by motor-car I was not ignorant of the possible troubles in store. I found afterwards that I had not overestimated them.”
Francis Birtles in the magazine: The Lone Hand (1st of July 1912).

At 1pm on the 16th of March 1912 the two men and their furry mascot departed Perth to the cheers of a large crowd. The first two days passed relatively trouble free, although progress was slow as they were constantly having to avoid hard to see tree stumps along the sand plains.

“Next day brought us our first serious troubles. First it was a steep hill. We attempted to go down with the brakes on and the engine reversed, with all the kit packed on one side to prevent overturning. But the hill was too steep and we put on the forward speed and negotiated the rest of the descent at a terrific pace. But that was only the beginning of the day’s troubles. When we had half crossed a salt lake the crust suddenly gave way, and the car bogged to the springs. We put the coconut matting down, but the car promptly sank that “aid” several feet in the mud. Then we decided to lighten the car by unpacking our “furniture” and carrying on our backs to the sandy bank a mile distant. We dug the mud from the wheels, and it was so gluey that we had to virtually dig each shovelful off the shovel, so the process was long and tedious.
Next we fastened a rope to a telegraph pole and attached it to the back hub of the motor. The engine was set to top speed – there was a great whirring sound, two fountains of slush were thrown high into the air by the back wheels and the telegraph pole almost came out by the roots. …For five hours in the intense heat, worried by the salt dust and pestered by flies, we kept at it until late in the afternoon we succeeded in getting clear.
Our water supply was giving out and what little remained had to be kept for the radiator. We camped at a rock hole but not to rest – the flies were unbearable… …finally we went to sleep leaving the monsters victor.”
Francis Birtles in the magazine: The Lone Hand (1st of July 1912).

Birtles and Ferguson had to dig the car free many more times throughout the journey, but impassable terrain was not their only problem; the Brush began to break apart. The crankshaft snapped; it was replaced with a spare they were carrying. An engine bearing failed; a repair was made using a piece cut from Birtles’ bicycle frame. A wooden axle cracked; steel pins were created from screwdrivers to make a repair. A wooden chassis rail cracked; a straight limb was cut from a dead eucalypt and fashioned into a new rail.

Despite all these problems, after 28 days they arrived in Sydney on the 13th of April 1912 to a heroes welcome. Many years later Birtles wrote:
“I had a car. As cars went in those days, it was a good car. It had one cylinder and developed ten horse-power. There was a chain drive to the two rear wheels. It had wooden axles, and the two-seater body was supported on spiral springs. In these days, a man accustomed to the modern car would scarcely trust such a one as ours to take him on an errand from one suburb to another. We expected it to take us, from one ocean to another.”
Battle fronts of outback (1935) page 39.

Following the 1912 Brush journey, Birtles started to see automobiles as his future and over the next 20 years completed many more amazing journeys by automobile and set many records using a range of different automobiles including Ford, Oldsmobile and Bean.

Today, Birtles is best remembered for being the first person to drive from Britain to Australia. On the 19th of October 1927, Birtles departed London driving a Bean 14, which on a previous trip he had named ‘The Sundowner’ (as it always managed to turn up at a homestead at sundown in time for supper and a drink), and took 9 months to cover the 26000km to Melbourne. This trip, which was full of adventure, danger and near disaster, is regarded by many as the greatest journey ever completed in an automobile.

“In driving a motor-car from London to Australia, a journey of about 13000 miles, across some the roughest country in the world, Mr. Francis Birtles, who reached Darwin on Sunday, has performed a feat without parallel in motoring history.”
From the newspaper The Argus, 12th of June 1928.

The most difficult part of the journey was crossing the steamy jungle-clad mountainsides of the Naga Hills on the border between India and Burma. No car had ever crossed them before. Birtles and Stollery, a young Canadian traveller who had joined him in India, used a pick and shovel to construct a road, and on particularly steep sections used a rope and a wooden pole to form a ‘Spanish windlass’ to pull the car up. Progress was slow, on some days they only managed to move just 25 meters. It took them one month to travel the 50km needed to clear the mountains.

On reaching Rangoon, Birtles wrote the following in a telegram:
“…The fact that I am here means that the so called English 'impossible' has been achieved. I have run the gauntlet of bandits, wolves, raiders, hillmen, leopards, tigers, and wild elephants so far, and have not lost any 'bark', but I am feeling tired. The Bean car is in perfect order.”

An article in the newspaper The Canberra Times on the 26th of May wrote:
“News which reached an official source in London shows that Francis Birtles, who is motoring to Australia, arrived in Rangoon somewhat of a wreck, absolutely worn out and exhausted and suffering from a poisoned hand, which, however, is yielding to treatment. He was accompanied from Calcutta by a young Canadian called Stollery. Both are penniless. Even the telegram to Calcutta, announcing his arrival had to be paid for at Calcutta. They have no clothes, except for a pair of overalls each. They have also lost a good deal of essential kit in rough country over which they travelled.”

On reaching Singapore, ‘The Sundowner’ was loaded onto an ship, which arrived in Darwin on the 10th of June 1928. Birtles’ delight at being back on Australian soil was short lived. The registration papers for the Bean had unfortunately disintegrated in the jungle’s humidity. Despite the fact Birtles had previously used ‘The Sundowner’ on a well publicised record breaking trip in Australia two years earlier, Customs impounded the car and demanded import duty be paid. With no money, Birtles went to the office of a local newspaper to report his dilemma, and also sent a telegram to Prime Minister Stanley Bruce asking for his assistance. Stollery had been taken to hospital suffering from malaria upon disembarking.

A reply from the Prime Minister came quickly; he ordered the car be released immediately. Two days later, Birtles and Stollery departed for Melbourne via Brisbane and Sydney. In every town and city they passed through on the way south they were greeted by cheering crowds. On their arrival in Melbourne on the 25th of July 1928 a crowd in the thousands brought the centre of the city to a standstill.

In 1929 Birtles donated ‘The Sundowner’ to the people of Australia. Today, the car is on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Within two years, Birtles was again travelling in faraway parts of Australia, but this time looking for gold. In 1934 a mine that he had established started taking payable gold making him a wealthy man.

In 1935 he married his second wife, purchased a house, and published the book: Battle fronts of outback.

Birtles died on the 1st of July 1941 aged 60. These epic journeys have assured his place in both Australian and automotive history.

Andrei Nagel

“Though Andrei Nagel was introduced as Russia’s greatest motorist, he turned out to be quite a small man, far from being old, but grizzled and bald (probably because of hard work) and shabby like an old suitcase that has travelled a lot. The energy and persistence in this small man would be enough for a dozen large men. His famous winter drive from Petrograd to Monaco, with freezing weather and deep snow, only took eight days; this alone has put him on the map in motoring, and he has been on many such feats.”
Evgeniy Kuzmin quoted in the book The world from a car window by Constantine Shlyakhtinskiy.
Andrei Platonovich Nagel, the most famous pre-revolutionary automotive journalist and driver in Russia, was born in St. Petersburg on the 2nd of March 1877. His grandfather was Andrei Aleksandrovich Kraevskiy, a well known and influential publisher, editor, journalist and teacher. As a boy, he attended one of the best private schools in the city.

Like many people of the late 19th century, Nagel was a participant in the bicycle fad. He was a contestant in many races and was extremely talented in the now almost forgotten sport of cycle-ball (a sport similar to football played on bicycles).

In 1900 he began to produce his own magazine called Sport. As the title suggests, it covered a wide range of activities. Perhaps sensing the age of the automobile was on the horizon, in 1902 he set-up a new magazine called Automobile, which soon became popular and remained in publication until the 1917 revolution.

In 1902 he also graduated from St. Petersburg University with a degree in law and found work in the Ministry of Communications where he stayed for 8 years. In the same year he was one of the founders of the St. Petersburg Automobile Club.

In 1904 he joined the Imperial Russian Engineering Society as well as the Imperial Russian Automobile Society, where he managed the department concerned with international motor races.

Not satisfied being just a spectator, Nagel purchased a Russian made Russo-Balt S24-30 (which was not a racecar), and entered it in the 1910 Imperial Prize rally St. Petersburg – Kiev – Moscow – St. Petersburg rally (3200km), which started on the 16th of June. He successfully completed the race without penalty points, and was given a special award for his effort. The same year, to test the reliability of the vehicle or perhaps just for the adventure, he drove from St. Petersburg to the top of Mt Vesuvius near Naples, Italy. The German paper Dresdner Anzeiger mentioned the trip in an article on 7th of September 1910:
"A Russo-Balt automobile powered by a 24-hp engine rolled through our city on its way from St. Petersburg to Rome having covered the St. Petersburg - Dresden leg of the route without a single breakdown. The driver, Mr. Nagel, merits special praise as one of Russia's best motorists."
Using the same automobile he participated in the 1911 Imperial prize rally from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol (2200km) and again completed the race without penalty points.

With the experience gained in the two Imperial prize rallies, Nagel decided to try his hand in the 1912 Monaco Rally (today called the Monte Carlo Rally).

The Monaco Rally, which had first been run a year earlier in 1911, was born out of the rivalry between the Principality and the nearby French city of Nice. Nice was attracting many affluent people during the winter, while Monaco’s luxury hotels remained mainly empty. The success of the Paris to Nice race lead to the idea to have an automobile race that began in January, which competitors would start in various cities throughout Europe and finish in Monaco; thus attracting wealthy clientele with these automobiles (it must be remembered that only wealthy people could afford automobiles at this time). Along the route there were mandatory checkpoints, and during the race repairing the engine or chassis was forbidden (seals were placed on these components prevent tampering). This made the Monaco Rally a challenge for automobile manufacturers as well as for drivers.

Keen to promote their brand, the Russo-Balt factory supplied Nagel with a model S24-55 racecar which featured an open two seater body with an elongated tail section containing an additional fuel tank. It's 4 cylinder, 4.9 litre engine was the first automotive engine fitted with aluminium pistons. It developed 55hp at 1800rpm, allowing speeds of over 110kp/h to be reached. Weather protection came from only a folding canvas top. There was no windscreen for fear it would end up covered in ice (mechanical or electrical windscreen wipers did not yet exist). Instead, a curtain with a plastic window could be attached from the front of the canvas top to the dashboard. In theory, this design was self-cleaning as vibrations would remove water before it had time to freeze. In any case, Nagel mostly drove with the top down and wore aviator goggles and wrapped his face tightly with a scarf.

Other vehicle modifications included using pure alcohol in the cooling system instead of water, and an opening in the floor to bring heat in from the engine bay. To assist with traction on the ice and snow covered roads, the rear wheels were wrapped in chains and Nagel was given special set of skis, which could be attached to the front wheels.

On the eve of the race there was a major setback. Vadim Alexandrovich Mikhailov, Nagel’s co-driver for the race, was attempting to crank-start the car when the engine backfired resulting in a broken arm (such mishaps were common before the introduction a electric starters). As Mikhailov refused to remain behind, Nagel would now have to drive the entire way.

With the compulsory 'Rallye Automobile Monaco' plaque fixed to the front of the car, at 8.00am on the 13th of January 1912, twenty degrees below zero Celsius, Nagel and Mikhailov (with one functioning arm) departed St. Petersburg to the cheers of a crowd.

Due to the amount of ice on the road, progress was initially especially slow with Nagel unable to use second gear for the first 90km.

“The weather was freezing, the thermometer showed minus 17 degrees. Before Luga it began and as a result – snowdrifts. The car became stuck in the snow. Skis did not help – the car with them became uncontrollable. Wearing sheepskin coats and felt boots rescued us. Battling with snowdrifts cost us more than four hours. We spent the night in Pskov.” Andrei Nagel (diary entry).

Next day they continued on to Riga where they arrived at 8pm. For some distance out of Riga they were able to follow a truck that helped clear some snow from the road.

“In East Prussia, the weather was the same. We had to stop and examine the snowdrifts time and time again. What was their depth and direction of the road.” Andrei Nagel (diary entry).

Throughout the journey special measures had to be taken because of the freezing weather. At overnight stops, Nagel would remove the dynamo and put it in his bed to prevent it from freezing. He also had to get up every two hours to start the car otherwise the engine oil would have begun to solidify making it impossible to crank-start the car. When the engine needed oil, a small fire was started to heat the oil-can in order that the oil inside become viscous enough to pour.

On the 15th of January, Nagel sent the following message:
"We should arrive if during the journey wolves do not eat us and we do not freeze to death."

Driving towards Konigsberg after dark, another snowstorm hit reducing their speed to only 10-15 km/h as the car’s headlights only produced a white spot. They drove on only being able to determine the direction of the road from the trees on the sides.

Leaving Konigsberg, they got lost then found the correct road, only to fall into a snow ditch. Once past Berlin the road improved and they were able to make up time.

In France they ran into a large band of fog that was so dense they couldn’t see the trees on the side of the road. Nagel continued by slowly moving forward very quietly listening and feeling for the edge of the road.

In Belfort, France icy ascents and descents made driving treacherous as Nagel had discarded the well worn rear wheel chains back in Heidelberg, Germany as they were heavy and seemingly unnecessary as the roads were completely clear of ice and snow. Nagel, who spoke fluent French, found a nearby village and tried to buy chains, but no one there had any. Finally, someone suggested he try a local winemaker who used chains to tie down wine barrels on a horse cart. The winemaker was found and chains changed hands for 25 Francs (a very large amount of money for a simple set of chains).

With the icy slopes conquered they proceeded to Lyon then on to Avignon, which was to be their last overnight stop. With the end comparatively near and not knowing how far behind their rivals were, Nagel and Mikhailov decided to restrict sleep to less than four hours and drive the last stage to Monaco, via Cannes and Nice, at top speed.

In pouring rain on the 21st of January 1912 an exhausted Nagel and Mikhailov were first to cross the finish line, having taken 195 hours 23 minutes to cover the 3257km from St. Petersburg. And to the surprise of everyone several hours in front of second place Captain von Esmach driving a Dürkopp who had started in Berlin (1700km from Monaco). Out of the 83 vehicles that started only 59 would finish.

In a telegraph to St. Petersburg Nagel wrote:
"I arrived at half past eleven. Motor works as well as it did on departure. Tyres still have St. Petersburg air inside. Huge success. The automobile has been placed in a special pavilion, decorated in flags."
At an award ceremony at the Prince’s Palace, Nagel and Mikhailov were awarded 1st prize for longest route, 1st prize for endurance, and a cash prize of 600 Francs for 9th place overall. Why only 9th place overall? The Monte Carlo rally of 1912 was a competition of elegance and comfort as well as a race. The overall race winner was the one who scored the most points. As would be expected points were scored for distance travelled, average speed and the number of passengers in the car. More subjectively though, a special jury awarded points for condition of the chassis, elegance of the car, cleanliness of the body, comfort of passengers (with luggage as an element of appreciation). In scoring elegance, the jury seemed to have favoured closed body cars as they were found in the top positions. Having started between two to five times further away from Monaco than other teams, as well as having to cope with far worse road and weather conditions, Nagel’s car was never going to arrive as shiny as others.

Needless to say Nagel’s success did not go unnoticed back in Russia. Soon after his return, Czar Nicholas II awarded him the Order of St. Anne, the first state award received for success in motorsport. The Imperial Russian Automobile Society presented him with a gift, and arranged a dinner in honour of his victory on the 23rd of February 1912.

Today, 100 years on, Nagel’s daring drive it is still regarded as the greatest achievement in the history of the Monte Carlo Rally.

Back again in St Petersburg, Nagel was soon once again looking for adventure in his beloved Russo-Balt.
“When we decided to set off on a new journey in my automobile, the first idea that came to me was to choose a route that would be the most interesting challenge for a sports-motorist. First of all, I thought about my desire to visit Africa where a Russian automobile had never before been. Distant Africa seems like a myth blown by the sultry breeze of a tropical legend. So that’s how it happened that a Russian automobile shot along the African continent and burning Sahara for the first time in their existence.”
Andrei Nagel in the magazine Niva no.9 1914.
In late 1913, Nagel together with sports-motorist, journalist and artist Evgeniy Kuzmin and two other Russians, made a remarkable journey from St Petersburg to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia reaching as far south as Biskra (an oasis in the Sahara).

Their image of North Africa being a land of scorching temperatures was tarnished when they were greeted with snow while crossing the Atlas mountains. Another surprise was that the roads in Africa were actually generally better than those in Spain and Italy.
“The road from the Barcelona itself was so bad that every minute we wanted to know whether we were following the right route or if there was a ‘real’ road somewhere. We could not believe that roads in the region of such a big, rich and, as it were, automobile city were so poor. But all people we met assured us that there were no other roads leading to Tarragona and that the road we were going along was a real road. So we had to resign. We reached a borough; a murderous road that was much worse than the road we were travelling on turned to the right, while a quite good and completely new highway ran straight ahead. Some bicyclists invited us to turn right and follow them, but we did not let them deceive us and went along the good road merrily. Alas, the highway turned out a no through road, coming to a dead end at a small town. Against our wills we had to return to the terrible road where the bicyclists, who had been our advisers, were having their Spanish lives thrashed out of them. The road was such that we could not catch up to them. We overtook a pedestrian and a cart, though the pedestrian was one-legged and the cart had a broken axle and was lying in a ditch. All other living things moved quicker than we did.”
Evgeniy Kuzmin quoted in the book The world from a car window by Constantine Shlyakhtinskiy.

Like many of his compatriots, following the October Revolution in 1917 Nagel decided to leave Russia and by February 1920 was in Paris, where he was soon joined by his wife and mother.

Little is known about Nagel’s life in exile. In March 1922 he joined a Masonic lodge created by Russian émigrés, but was expelled two and a half years later. It’s known he later joined an association of former students of St. Petersburg University.

His mother died in 1930, followed by his wife in 1948. In the 1950s he began to write articles for a number of Russian language publications. A newspaper published material by Nagel titled At the dawn of Russian sport, where he described the origin and development of sports such as tennis, athletics, cycling, etc. in Russia.

In 1956 the newspaper Russian Idea published a series of three articles devoted to Nagel’s review of that year’s Paris Motor Show. The last of these articles was published with the announcement of his death:
“The editorial board of Russian Idea with deep sorrow announces the sudden death of their employee Andrei Platonovich Nagel which occurred in Paris on Saturday the 10th of November. The funeral was held on Tuesday 13th of November at the cemetery in Neuilly. On the ninth day after his death, Sunday the 18th of November, in the church on rue Daru there will be the memorial service following the liturgy.”

Australia - Russia relations

The year 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and Russia. However, exchanges between the two countries date back as far as the beginning of the 19th century.

First known contact took place in 1807 when the Russian sloop “Neva” commanded by Leontiy Andrianovich Gagemeister visited Port Jackson (now Sydney) from the 16th of June to the 1st of July. The Neva, on its way to the Russian colonies in North America, called at Port Jackson to replenish water and food supplies. Captain Gagemeister paid an official visit to the then Governor, Captain William Bligh, and on the 23rd of June received him on-board the Neva in accordance with all the rules of naval etiquette including a salute with the ship’s cannons. Governor Bligh in turn organised a ball for Gagemeister and his officers in honour of Russia’s alliance in the war against Napoleon. The festivities began at 11 p.m. with a fireworks display, the dinner commenced at midnight, followed by dancing until the morning.

The next Russian vessel to visit Port Jackson was the “Suvorov” in 1814, commanded by Captain Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev. The Suvorov was first to bring news to Australia about the victory over Napoleon. Both the officers and crew were warmly welcomed by Governor, Major General Lachlan Macquarie (who incidentally had travelled across Russia in 1807), and the residents of Port Jackson during their 3 week stay from 24th of August to the 13th of September. The ship’s navigator Alexei Rossiiskiy wrote in his dairy:
“…One should have seen how cheerfully we were welcomed and with what respect anyone coming ashore from our ship was received: the sailors were forcefully dragged to the pubs and entertained in a brotherly manner”.

Russian ships continued to visit Australia throughout the 19th century, particularly as a stop on their way to supplying the Empire's North American colonies.

The arrival of Russian immigrants in Australia in the 1850s, as well as Russia’s recognition of Australia’s growing role in Asia-Pacific region, led to the appointment of honorary consuls in Melbourne and Sydney in 1857.

In 1863 Rear Admiral Andrei Alexandrovich Popov, Commander of Russia’s Pacific fleet visited Melbourne and wrote:
“…Already now, in absolutely every respect, Melbourne belongs to among the truly important cities of the whole world…”

Another interesting exchange took place when the Russian corvette “Boyarin” arrived in Hobart, Tasmania on the 11th of May 1870. The unplanned visit of the Russian warship was due to the ship’s purser, Grigory Belavin, being seriously ill. Captain Serkov sought permission to hospitalise him and remain in port to replenish supplies and give the crew some shore leave. The Governor of Tasmania granted permission, and the townspeople’s initial panic of an invasion evaporated in a series of balls, concerts and picnics. The public were invited to inspect the ship, and the Mayor of Hobart presented the Russians with Keys of the City. As a gesture of goodwill the Russians visited hospitals, prisons and orphanages to hand out small presents and sweets. Unfortunately, Belavin’s health deteriorated and he died in hospital. Thousands of Hobart’s residents attended the funeral and the Hobart Garrison Military Band lead the cortege. The Boyarin fired a three gun salute as the coffin was lowered. Local people donated money for a headstone. In gratitude of the welcome and condolences given by the local population, with great ceremony Captain Serkov presented the City of Hobart with two mortars from the ship. These still stand today at the entrance to the Anglesea Barracks. When the Boyarin departed Hobart on 12th of June, a military band onshore played ‘God Save the Czar’, and the ship's crew replied with ‘God Save the Queen’.

By the 1890s, the development of Russian-Australian trade ties had become important enough for Russia to appoint a career diplomat to represent its interests. Alexei Dmitrievich Putiata, was appointed as Imperial Russian Consul to Melbourne on 14 July 1893. By 1903 there were honorary or vice-consuls in seven cities throughout Australia.

Following the 1917 October Revolution, the Russian Consul and all the Vice-Consuls resigned. Soon after a representative of the Bolshevik Party, Peter Smirnoff, asked to be recognised as the new Consul but the Australian Government refused. Until the United Kingdom's recognition of the Soviet Union in 1924 bilateral relations between Australia and the Soviet Union were in principle non-existent.

After the Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union on the 22nd of June 1941, the Australian Government decided to provide material and moral support, and that diplomatic relations (not just consular) will be needed to facilitate this.
In October 1941 the Australian warship HMAS ‘Norman’ transported a British trade delegation from Iceland to Arkhangelsk which marked the beginning of a program to assist the Soviet Union. Between August and December 1942, the 455th Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) using twin engine Hampden bombers were based near Murmansk, Northern Russia protecting convoys bringing supplies to the Soviet Union.

On the 10 October 1942 an agreement between the two countries to exchange diplomatic representatives was reached. The first diplomatic representatives were Andrei Vlasov for the Soviet Union, and William Slater for Australia. Slater opened an Australia mission in Kuybyshev, the temporary seat of the Soviet Government, on the 2nd of January 1943, and moved to Moscow on the 12th of August 1943. Vlasov presented his credentials to Governor-General Lord Gowrie in Canberra on the 10th of March 1943.

Today, Russia-Australia relations are expanding and diversifying, especially in the field of trade. Both countries are on the front-line of the world economy being the two largest energy suppliers in the world. As members of The Group of Twenty (G-20) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, they have an active political dialogue on a broad range of issues.

Soviet Ambassador Andrei Vlasov presents his credentials at Government House, Canberra, 10th of March 1943.
Front (left to right): External Affairs Minister Herbert Evatt, Ambassador Andrei Vlasov, Governor-General Lord Gowrie, Prime Minister John Curtin.

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