British Army in Russia 1918 - 1919

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, May 25, 2009.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    The British military involvement of 1918-1920 in several parts of European Russia were the outcome of the Russian Revolution of Nov 1917, and were closely connected both with events in Asia (particularly in Persia and in Siberia) and with the general course of the War in the West. The continued German and Turkish threats to India by way of Persia and Afghanistan, and the crisis of 1918 in France caused by the withdrawal of Russia from the Entente, formed the background to the North Russian Expedition and the Allied intervention in South Russia, which are summarised below.

    In the spring of 1918 the main Russian Government, neutral towards Germany and Austria, was surrounded by various hostile regional Governments on the fringes of the former Russian Empire. Its Western front was open, and German troops had been transferred in very large numbers to France.
    Finland, independent since December, 1917, was torn by the struggle between "White" and "Red", and strong German forces entered the country and secured, in May 1918, the ascendency of the "White" Government.

    All these facts suggested British and Allied intervention. This took the form of landings in the North of Russia around Murmansk and Military and Naval Missions with armaments and stores in the South and in the Vladivostok area in the East. The Northern expedition lasted from 1918 to 1919, and was a separate military operation. The intervention in the South was linked with the advance of detachments from the Allied armies in Greece and Mesopotamia, and it lasted from 1919 to 1920.

    Deployment in Russian Far East

    The Americans landed a small force in Vladivostok between Aug 1918 and Apr 1920 to counter Japanese ambitions to seize that area from Russia. There were also British deployments to Vladivostok between August 1918 and late 1919.

    Kolchak's Siberian forces were decisively defeated in the summer of 1919. Denikin, after a successful summer campaign which reached as far as Kiev in September, was driven back throughout the winter of 1919-20 until his last position, at Novorossisk, was lost in March.

    British Battle Honours

    The British awarded five battle honours to eleven infantry regiments for the actions in the north and east, but nothing in the south. In the north: "Murman 1918-19", "Archangel 1918-19", "Troitsa". In the east:
    "Dukhovskaya" and "Siberia 1918-19".

    Units Employed in Russia

    The following infantry battalions are known to have served in Russia:

    2/10th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Royal Scots (Territorial Force) as infantry - Archangel
    45th and 46th (Service) Battalions, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) - Archangel
    17th (Service) Battalion (1st City), The King's (Liverpool) Regiment - Archangel
    6th (Service) Battalion Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own (Yorkshire Regiment) - Archangel
    Unknown Battalion, The East Surrey Regiment - Murmansk
    11th (Service) Battalion (1st South Down), The Royal Sussex Regiment - Murmansk
    1/9th (Cyclist) Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment as infantry- Siberia
    Unknown Battalion, The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry -
    25th (Garrison) Battalion, The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment) - Siberia [and other elements in Murmansk?]
    2/7th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry (Territorial Infantry) - Archangel
    Unknown Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry - Murmansk and Archangel.

    A small detachment of the Tank Corps, some 49 other ranks plus officers, served in Russia between Apr and Dec 1919.

    The following Royal Artillery units served in Russia from 1918-20:

    (a) North Russia:

    6th Brigade, RFA (formed of 420th Battery and 434th Battery which served at Maselga and Medvejya Gora;
    435th (Howitzer) Battery which served in Retchenga and Maselga;
    1203rd Battery which served in Murmansk); and
    421 (Howitzer) Battery which was attached to the 6th Brigade, RFA and served in Archangel.

    (b) South Russia:

    1st Brigade, RFA which consisted on 11th Battery, 98th Battery and D (Howitzer) Battery and served from Batum to Tblisi.
    10th & 28th Brigade also served in South Russia but did not take part in any fighting.

    (c) Those are the only organised Royal Artillery units identified as serving in Russia, but individual members of the RFA and RGA also served in staff positions at headquarters and in training and advisory positions.

    Possible Web Sites

    War Memorial

    There is a Russia Memorial at Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey on which those that fell in this campaign are remembered. The Memorial commemorates 662 sailors, soldiers and airmen of the Armed forces of the British Commonwealth who died in Russia during both World Wars

    This memorial was erected there about 1983 due to the fact the CWGC could no longer tend the graves or memorials in Russia, due to the Cold War. With the changes in Russia I believe that although some are lost, the graves area and or memorials are once again in the care of the CWGC.

    There is a possibility of the Brookwood Memorial now being taken away. It seems that it is the policy of the CWGC to have only one mention of each fallen. i.e. named on a grave or on a memorial.
  2. Dolphin

    Dolphin New Member

    I think that the best (and readable) account of the intervention in Russia is Clifford Kinvig's Churchill's Crusade; ISBN 978 1 84725 021 6.

    Over 30 years ago I met a man who had served in the Cambridgeshire Regiment on the Western Front and, after a long discussion about many aspects of the War, [if only I had a recorder at the time!] I asked him about Russia, and if he knew of the efforts there. He told me that he did, and that he had volunteered for the North Russia Relief Force but didn't get in. Naturally, I asked him why he would want to keep fighting after what he had been through. His answer was that he was an apprentice bookbinder when he joined up in 1915, and by the Armistice he was a Corporal in charge of a Lewis gun section - the thought of going back to being an apprentice just wasn't appealing. However, he did go back to his trade.

  3. AndrewW

    AndrewW New Member

    Years ago I enjoyed reading a book "The day we almost bombed Moscow" by Christopher Dobson and John Miller which covers this campaign very well.
  4. Interrogator#6

    Interrogator#6 Active Member

    The AEF to Vladivostok was, as I understand I, predicated on the notion of an attempt to keep the Russians supplied so they could continue the Great War. The 27th Division (Infantry) was sent to give steel to the efforts of the Russian Railway Service Corps (RRSC) who were slated to keep the Trans-Siberian Railway functioning and eventually improve efficiency. The RRSC was a contingent of Upper-Midwest RR men who were, ironically, mustered in St.Paul on the very day of the Bolshevik Revolution. They were thus instantly redundant. But they were sent first to Japan, waited for months, then sent to Vladivostok.

    The commander of the AEF in this invasion of Russia, Gen. Graves, operated out of Vladivostok but refused to take sides in the then raging Russian Civil War.
  5. Allan M

    Allan M New Member

    The 'unknown' battalion, The East Surrey Regiment. at Murmansk was the 1st Battalion. Landed in Murmansk 25th August 1919, and left Kandalaksh on 2nd October 1919
  6. Diptangshu

    Diptangshu Active Member

    A couple of units more :
    * 19th Punjabi - In 1918 this rgmnt had the unique distinction of being actively engaged against Bolsheviks and while doing the same at Merv, Kaka and Dushak (then Russian Turkistan) all the officers including Subedar Major/Sgt Major of the battalion were killed.
    ** 7th Light Cavalry - This unit was sent to Trans Caspian in circa 1918 to assist the Mensheviks and continued upto the middle of 1919.

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