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Churchill's Secret War WIth Lenin: British and Commonwealth Military Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918-20

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wrightdw
4 hours ago, 17tankman said:

Do you have any information on Lt Clarence Raymond Wentworth Knight RAF?

Thanks

17tankman

 

Hi tankman,

 

Knight and his observer Lieut. Neill get a full page, 231-232.

 

In summary:

 

Knight's DH9 from No. 3 (Bereznik) Sqn. was forced down by ground fire on 21 June 1919 in enemy territory near Troitsa on the Dvina River, Knight was wounded in the stomach and Neill in the arm and head.

 

Knight was unable to be moved and ordered Neill to make a run for it. Neil was lucky to return to White Russian lines where he was shot at as a suspected Bolshevik.

 

Knight's body was recovered the following day by a patrol from 2nd Hampshires, he was buried with full military honours in Topsa churchyard.

 

Neill was recommended for the DFC but the decoration was not awarded.

 

Knight's grave has since been lost to time and he remains commemorated on a Special Memorial in Archangel Allied Cemetery.

 

Knight is also recorded in the annotated Roll of Honour (Appendix I).

 

 

15417105.jpg

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RCWresearch
Posted (edited)
 Hello Damien,

I am reading your book. I also have some questions pls. 
 
What do you know about any exact military plans discussed by the British with the Provisional All-Russian Government (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_All-Russian_Government)? Including where an initial front was to be opened in that area?
 
It is widely known that the above conglomerate of the underground political opposition was drawing up plans for the creation of an Eastern front against the Germans and Bolsheviks and the British apparently took the lead in the planning of such a front. So I was wondering what the British discussed with them.
 
From the British perspective, these discussions apparently took place against the background of the massive German offensive that began in March on the Western front and after the negotiations between the Allies and the Bolsheviks broke down in April of 1918.
 
You wrote, 'British and Commonwealth military intervention in Russia, whether for the right or wrong reasons, was one of the most ill-conceived and poorly planned campaigns of the twentieth century.'
 
Agreed, but wasn't a major part of the reason that British send to few troops, for one of course because they had few to spare, but primarily also because they were counting on local troops to help them? Or as British Consul Douglas Young stated: 'The root of the whole evil lies in the assumption, long proved false, that the Russian "Whites" would speedily cut the throats of the Bolsheviks while the Allies looked the other way, and that the story of the pre-intervention proceedings would be buried with the corpse.'

Thus also for example the 'Syren ' Force, which had originally been called 'Develop',in common with Dunsterforce, on which it was modelled,  was composed of senior officers  and experienced non-commissioned officers, whose task it was to train the masses of men from the anti-Bolshevik parties that the British and other Allies expected to attract to Murmansk.   
 
Also shortly after  'Syren' Force's landing at Murmansk, Admiral Hall received an intelligence report that held news of another attempted coup in Petrograd: 
 
'Situation Petrograd end of June was as follows: - Party who were secretly preparing a counter-revolution were discovered by Bolsheviks. Head of organisation General Shouiffo took refuge in German Embassy. Bolsheviks only arrested a few people. The above party was composed of elements of both pro-German and pro-ally but a large majority of latter. On being discovered party (? dispersed), and split when news was received of Grand Duke Michels [sic Michael's] proclamation in Siberia and also when allies move at Murmansk became known. Both these events have had a most salutary effect and allies are rapidly gaining ground. All news from districts around Petrograd Pskoff, and generally North Russia seem to indicate that although Soviets are anti-ally, intelligent classes of peasants and social revolutionaries are realising there is a Russian Country and that they must unite to oust Soviets and Germans.'
 
This attempted coup has all the appearance of being timed to coincide with the Allied intervention. In the event, the conspiracy was discovered before its participants could strike. 
 
The Allies appeared to be courting the widest possible range of political elements in Russia to create, it was hoped, a national force that would be powerful enough to crush the Bolsheviks with the aid of limited Allied forces. Their intrigues embraced every anti-Bolshevik party from the Right Social Revolutionaries to the Monarchists and, with these last, they were in direct competition with the Germans.
 
By the end of June the British and French Governments might have considered that their plans were destined for a favourable outcome. Most of the significant opposition groups in Russia (several of the most important had joined together in the above-mentioned Provisional All-Russian Government) had been enticed into their corral, while the Monarchists had at least been persuaded to remain neutral. 
 
The Allies as you suggest, at that time, viewed developments in Russia through a telescope marked 'War', and their efforts were bent towards forming a united anti-German front in Russia. As it had become clear that the Bolsheviks would not go to war against Germany and their overthrow was at the heart of the programmes of the opposition parties, they, initially by default it seems to me, now became just as much the target as the Germans. 
 
You mention British shortly after their arrival battling with the White Finns. Whereby as you will know one of the prime reasons also why on 3 June the Supreme War Council endorsed resolution for the occupation of Murmansk was  also because Russia was under German pressure to cede the Rybachi Peninsula west of Murmansk to Finland. This would give the White Finns (and the Germans) control of territory right to the doorstep of Murmansk. The Allies were apprehensive, since this decision would give Petchanga Bay to the Germans and it was thought that a submarine base could be established there. This was a strategic concern and would endanger the Atlantic sea routes carrying US soldiers to Europe.
 
It also seems that the one force that could have beaten the Bolshevik rulers is Germany as they had the presence on the ground. The German high command had also negotiated its deals with the anti-Bolshevik Kuban and Don Cossacks, seeding them with 15 million rubles, more than Britain spent on the Volunteer Army. Unbeknownst to the German Foreign Office, which had requested that he contribute 'six or seven divisions' for anti-Allied operations in North Russia, Ludendorff inserted the operational option (code-named 'Schlußstein': https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unternehmen_Schlu%C3%9Fstein  see also here: http://ubm.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2011/2651/pdf/doc.pdf)  that they would proceed to Murmansk and Archangel by way of Petrograd, where they would forcibly depose the Bolsheviks. Called in English 'Operation Capstone' as the Wikipedia article indicates, most of the earlier literature about it was in German although John Horne (who was a Professor at a German University) referred to it in 'A Companion to World War I'(2012) p. 459, and Adam Tooze in his 'The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order'(2014).
 
The Germans also had operational plans to occupy Baku and secure the Caspian oil fields. (The Turks beat the Germans to Baku, arriving on 15 September. Even so, Ludendorff issued an order to “plant the German flag on the Caspian” as late as September 29.) After learning of the assassination attempt on Lenin, Ludendorff ordered a division of German warplanes north from Kiev to the Baltics. On September 4, Ludendorff ordered preparations for Operation Schlußstein 'to begin as soon as possible.'

 

Had Operation Schlußstein been carried out, it is difficult to see how Lenin’s regime could have survived. A German occupation of Petrograd would have left Moscow isolated, an island of Bolshevik rule in a raging sea of foreign armies.

 
Instead, the Bolsheviks were granted another improbable reprieve, on a hitherto obscure front in the world war: the Macedonian. Owing to diplomatic fallout from Brest-Litovsk, which had seen Bulgaria’s co-belligerents deny her hoped-for spoils from the carving up of Russia, morale in the Bulgarian army holding the line in Macedonia against an Allied expeditionary army based at Salonica since 1915 had begun to crack. On September 15, the Allied commander at Salonica, Louis-Félix-François Franchet d’Espèrey, ordered a general attack that quickly blew a hole 20 miles wide in the Bulgarian line, opening up a clear path for the Allied armies to Belgrade, and Vienna. At the high command, Ludendorff threw up his arms, telling aides that 'the war was lost.' On September 27, he called off Operation Schlußstein for good, one could say, granting Lenin a stay of execution.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Richard
 
                                                                                       
Edited by RCWresearch

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MartH

A very interesting post RCWresearch. I have read that there where German troops embarked for the attack on Murmansk but it was only the Allied counter attacks before the last Hundred days that stopped it and the troops disembarked and put on to trains for the Western Front. Is this correct?

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RCWresearch
Posted (edited)

Before the last Hundred days?

 

Of course, Damien supposed to be the expert on any Allied clashes in Murmansk.

 

As far I know, after the landing of British troops there were clashes with White Fins but I have not seen anything about an Allied counterattack against German troops in Murmansk, where did you read this?

 

The only details I have knowledge of are the preparations for a German attack not 'before' but near the 'end' of the last Hundred days. This was the result of negotiations that started as soon British troops went ashore at Murmansk. When initially the Bolsjewists refused, the Germans then next also discussed it with the Monarchists (many of the latter would later move to Munich). That is until 18 August 1918 when Lenin feeling increasingly threatened by the actions of the Allies, allowed Russian Ambassador Joffe to signal to Berlin that he was open to the plan. What slowed it down at this point is the insistence by Germany that they occupy Petrograd. Otherwise, the whole operation could already have started before the end of August. But after a few more negotiations, on 8 September, a team of German and Finnish military engineers indeed began exploring the transport routes around Petrograd in the direction of Murmansk to move 50,000 German troops. Of course, Ludendorff by now also wanted to crush the Bolshevists, control the Murmansk (Kirov) railway and cut Russia's access to the Baltic sea. But on 27 September these plans were abandoned.

                                                                                                             

                                                                                                 Richard                                                                              

Edited by RCWresearch

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wrightdw
Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, RCWresearch said:

Before the last Hundred days?

 

Of course, Damien supposed to be the expert on any Allied clashes in Murmansk.

 

As far I know, after the landing of British troops there were clashes with White Fins but I have not seen anything about an Allied counterattack against German troops in Murmansk, where did you read this?

 

The only details I have knowledge of are the preparations for a German attack not 'before' but near the 'end' of the last Hundred days. This was the result of negotiations that started as soon British troops went ashore at Murmansk. When initially the Bolsjewists refused, the Germans then next also discussed it with the Monarchists (many of the latter would later move to Munich). That is until 18 August 1918 when Lenin feeling increasingly threatened by the actions of the Allies, allowed Russian Ambassador Joffe to signal to Berlin that he was open to the plan. What slowed it down at this point is the insistence by Germany that they occupy Petrograd. Otherwise, the whole operation could already have started before the end of August. But after a few more negotiations, on 8 September, a team of German and Finnish military engineers indeed began exploring the transport routes around Petrograd in the direction of Murmansk to move 50,000 German troops. Of course, Ludendorff by now also wanted to crush the Bolshevists, control the Murmansk (Kirov) railway and cut Russia's access to the Baltic sea. But on 27 September these plans were abandoned.

                                                                                                             

                                                                                                 Richard                                                                              

 

Hi Richard,

 

Mart is referring to reading he has done elsewhere, not in my book.

 

 

Edited by wrightdw

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wrightdw
Posted (edited)
On 25/06/2017 at 18:07, RCWresearch said:
 Hello Damien,

I am reading your book. I also have some questions pls. 
 
What do you know about any exact military plans discussed by the British with the Provisional All-Russian Government (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provisional_All-Russian_Government)? Including where an initial front was to be opened in that area?
 
It is widely known that the above conglomerate of the underground political opposition was drawing up plans for the creation of an Eastern front against the Germans and Bolsheviks and the British apparently took the lead in the planning of such a front. So I was wondering what the British discussed with them.
 
From the British perspective, these discussions apparently took place against the background of the massive German offensive that began in March on the Western front and after the negotiations between the Allies and the Bolsheviks broke down in April of 1918.
 
You wrote, 'British and Commonwealth military intervention in Russia, whether for the right or wrong reasons, was one of the most ill-conceived and poorly planned campaigns of the twentieth century.'
 
Agreed, but wasn't a major part of the reason that British send to few troops, for one of course because they had few to spare, but primarily also because they were counting on local troops to help them? Or as British Consul Douglas Young stated: 'The root of the whole evil lies in the assumption, long proved false, that the Russian "Whites" would speedily cut the throats of the Bolsheviks while the Allies looked the other way, and that the story of the pre-intervention proceedings would be buried with the corpse.'

Thus also for example the 'Syren ' Force, which had originally been called 'Develop',in common with Dunsterforce, on which it was modelled,  was composed of senior officers  and experienced non-commissioned officers, whose task it was to train the masses of men from the anti-Bolshevik parties that the British and other Allies expected to attract to Murmansk.   
 
Also shortly after  'Syren' Force's landing at Murmansk, Admiral Hall received an intelligence report that held news of another attempted coup in Petrograd: 
 
'Situation Petrograd end of June was as follows: - Party who were secretly preparing a counter-revolution were discovered by Bolsheviks. Head of organisation General Shouiffo took refuge in German Embassy. Bolsheviks only arrested a few people. The above party was composed of elements of both pro-German and pro-ally but a large majority of latter. On being discovered party (? dispersed), and split when news was received of Grand Duke Michels [sic Michael's] proclamation in Siberia and also when allies move at Murmansk became known. Both these events have had a most salutary effect and allies are rapidly gaining ground. All news from districts around Petrograd Pskoff, and generally North Russia seem to indicate that although Soviets are anti-ally, intelligent classes of peasants and social revolutionaries are realising there is a Russian Country and that they must unite to oust Soviets and Germans.'
 
This attempted coup has all the appearance of being timed to coincide with the Allied intervention. In the event, the conspiracy was discovered before its participants could strike. 
 
The Allies appeared to be courting the widest possible range of political elements in Russia to create, it was hoped, a national force that would be powerful enough to crush the Bolsheviks with the aid of limited Allied forces. Their intrigues embraced every anti-Bolshevik party from the Right Social Revolutionaries to the Monarchists and, with these last, they were in direct competition with the Germans.
 
By the end of June the British and French Governments might have considered that their plans were destined for a favourable outcome. Most of the significant opposition groups in Russia (several of the most important had joined together in the above-mentioned Provisional All-Russian Government) had been enticed into their corral, while the Monarchists had at least been persuaded to remain neutral. 
 
The Allies as you suggest, at that time, viewed developments in Russia through a telescope marked 'War', and their efforts were bent towards forming a united anti-German front in Russia. As it had become clear that the Bolsheviks would not go to war against Germany and their overthrow was at the heart of the programmes of the opposition parties, they, initially by default it seems to me, now became just as much the target as the Germans. 
 
You mention British shortly after their arrival battling with the White Finns. Whereby as you will know one of the prime reasons also why on 3 June the Supreme War Council endorsed resolution for the occupation of Murmansk was  also because Russia was under German pressure to cede the Rybachi Peninsula west of Murmansk to Finland. This would give the White Finns (and the Germans) control of territory right to the doorstep of Murmansk. The Allies were apprehensive, since this decision would give Petchanga Bay to the Germans and it was thought that a submarine base could be established there. This was a strategic concern and would endanger the Atlantic sea routes carrying US soldiers to Europe.
 
It also seems that the one force that could have beaten the Bolshevik rulers is Germany as they had the presence on the ground. The German high command had also negotiated its deals with the anti-Bolshevik Kuban and Don Cossacks, seeding them with 15 million rubles, more than Britain spent on the Volunteer Army. Unbeknownst to the German Foreign Office, which had requested that he contribute 'six or seven divisions' for anti-Allied operations in North Russia, Ludendorff inserted the operational option (code-named 'Schlußstein': https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unternehmen_Schlu%C3%9Fstein  see also here: http://ubm.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2011/2651/pdf/doc.pdf)  that they would proceed to Murmansk and Archangel by way of Petrograd, where they would forcibly depose the Bolsheviks. Called in English 'Operation Capstone' as the Wikipedia article indicates, most of the earlier literature about it was in German although John Horne (who was a Professor at a German University) referred to it in 'A Companion to World War I'(2012) p. 459, and Adam Tooze in his 'The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order'(2014).
 
The Germans also had operational plans to occupy Baku and secure the Caspian oil fields. (The Turks beat the Germans to Baku, arriving on 15 September. Even so, Ludendorff issued an order to “plant the German flag on the Caspian” as late as September 29.) After learning of the assassination attempt on Lenin, Ludendorff ordered a division of German warplanes north from Kiev to the Baltics. On September 4, Ludendorff ordered preparations for Operation Schlußstein 'to begin as soon as possible.'

 

Had Operation Schlußstein been carried out, it is difficult to see how Lenin’s regime could have survived. A German occupation of Petrograd would have left Moscow isolated, an island of Bolshevik rule in a raging sea of foreign armies.

 
Instead, the Bolsheviks were granted another improbable reprieve, on a hitherto obscure front in the world war: the Macedonian. Owing to diplomatic fallout from Brest-Litovsk, which had seen Bulgaria’s co-belligerents deny her hoped-for spoils from the carving up of Russia, morale in the Bulgarian army holding the line in Macedonia against an Allied expeditionary army based at Salonica since 1915 had begun to crack. On September 15, the Allied commander at Salonica, Louis-Félix-François Franchet d’Espèrey, ordered a general attack that quickly blew a hole 20 miles wide in the Bulgarian line, opening up a clear path for the Allied armies to Belgrade, and Vienna. At the high command, Ludendorff threw up his arms, telling aides that 'the war was lost.' On September 27, he called off Operation Schlußstein for good, one could say, granting Lenin a stay of execution.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                        Richard
 
                                                                                       

 

Hi Richard,

 

Thanks for your detailed post. Many of the points you discuss are detailed in my book. I apologise that I do not have time to respond to each of the points in your post individually..

 

 

 

 

Edited by wrightdw

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RCWresearch

As for,"Many of the points you discuss are detailed in my book. "

 

Not really.

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RCWresearch
Posted (edited)

Hello Damien,

 

Another brief question refers to the printed sources you looked at. I remember for myself, in 1993 I was impressed by a book that incorporated hundreds of previously not published documents in a book that laid out the whole scenario of British intervention titled 'Imperial Spies Invade Russia' by A.J.Plotke. Whereby ten years later  Dances in Deep Shadows: The Clandestine War in Russia, 1917-1920 (2007) by Occleshaw, also using original documents covered similar ground. Although the conclusions drawn to me seemed more sound in the case of Plotke, I didn't see these including a number of other sources, not mentioned in your book?
 
Having come to p. 452 in your book a very brief question. You write about the Romanian Treasure that was sent to Russia for safekeeping during World War I, you mention "Hill and Boyle solved problems as they encountered them. They were also tasked with the return to Romania of its gold bullion reserves, crown jewels, foreign office archives and millions of pounds of Romanian currency which had been moved to Russia for safekeeping following the collapse of the Romanian Army. It took nine days to reach Jassy in eastern Romania during which time neither men had the opportunity to wash or shave. Considering the value of the items they were transporting and the lawlessness in Russia at the time, Hill and Boyle agreed it would be unwise to stop any longer than necessary to refuel. Both officers successfully returned the national treasures to Romanian authorities and were awarded the Order of the Star of Romania in recognition of their services." 
 
 
 
Also briefly here:
Edited by RCWresearch

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wrightdw

Hi Richard,

 

You appear to be harbouring some resentment that someone has published a book in your area of expertise?

 

Your contributions to this thread thus far appear to be an attempt to dismantle my work and you joined the forum apparently for that purpose only?

 

You appear to have read the book (which only came out last week) with the intention of posting your criticisms on this thread?

 

Rather than responding antagonistically to someone who you may perceive to have "tread on your turf", perhaps you could consider me a kindred spirit in that our interests correspond and intersect in this very interesting period of history?

 

You are clearly knowledgeable about some aspects of the campaign and your research is high level, have you published on the campaign? Rather than viewing my book as challenging or competing with your research, perhaps you could view it as complementing your work?

 

Your knowledge of the political background and high level machinations is very good however my book is a campaign history of "boots on the ground" military operations from individual, platoon, company, battalion and brigade levels, my research did not focus on the politics or high level negotiations.

 

I don't know who you are, we have never met, there aren't too many of us with expertise in this area so it is unfortunate that you have approached this thread antagonistically.

 

Thank you for buying my book by the way.

 

 

 

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RCWresearch

    Surprised you react like this Damien

    My questions were honest.

 

                                                    Richard

                                   

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bootneck

My copy arrived yesterday and I have only dipped into it and found it to be an impressive tome. Congratulations to Damien on putting it together and I forward to learning more about a subject I have a passing interest in.

My knowledge of post war events outside Ireland and Mesopotamia is rather sketchy and so remedy this I’ve bought a copy of Robert Gerwarth’s The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923.

Bootneck

 

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RFT
Posted (edited)

Hello wrightdw

 

Book has just arrived and very much looking forward to reading it.  

 

Couldn't help but be drawn to your topic South Russia And Crimea: Nov 1918 -June 1920 and your description of the work of 47 'A' Squadron.

 

A preliminary question if I may - Is the death (from pneumonia) of AC/2 J T Garvey and his burial at Gorlovo in the presence of Capt Kinkead contained in AIR 1/408/15/232/1 War Diary of RAF Mission South Russia Dec.1919-Jan. 1920, or does it appear in another document?  

 

Rob

Edited by RFT

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wrightdw
Posted (edited)

Hi Rob,

 

I am having to wrack my much depleted memory, I am trying to recall if it was in an RAF HQ folio (the immediately preceding footnote is the WD for the RAF Mission) or one of the "Reports from RAF HQ" files later in the AIR 1/408/15/232/# series.

 

I copied the files many years ago, I don't recall which one specifically. At the time of writing the manuscript it was not a pertinent enough detail to footnote.

 

I note your expertise in 47 Sqn., have you ever made contact with Keith Chiazzari (from memory residing in South Africa)? His Great-Uncle Len Slatter commanded "A" Flight, he has some unpublished photo albums and other valuable primary source material. The picture of Slatter on page 426 was courtesy of Keith.

 

Regards,

 

Damien

Edited by wrightdw

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RFT

Hello Damien,

 

Many thanks for your reply.  I raised the question because I have a copy of the War Diary of RAF Mission South Russia for Dec 1919 & Jan 1920.  The document only contains about a dozen or so pages (including several pages of official prelims) and the only casualty listed was that for 331013 AC/2 Freeman, who died at Krinichnay.  With your description of AC/2 J T Garvey I began to wonder if I was missing a page!  Hence my question!

 

You may have come across my recent post concerning missing RAF service numbers/records.  Despite the fact that several are purportedly missing (including those for AC/2 Freeman & AC/2 Garvey) this is certainly not the case insofar as J T Garvey is concerned.  Somewhere among my archive is a copy of Mr Garvey's service record which I am currently trying to locate.  It is probably stored in one of our 'yet to be opened' boxes (recent house move)! 

 

I don't believe I have come across Leonard Slatter's gt nephew, Keith Chiazzari, but there are a number of members (or perhaps former members) of the GWF who have family ties with several of the officers of 47 'A' Squadron, not least Raymond Collishaw, John Mitchell, Marion Aten and Edward John Head, to name but a few.

 

Incidentally, the officers of 47 'A' Squadron (p.406) was photographed Sept 1919.  Officer sitting (r.h. end, front row) is Norman Greenslade.  N.G. & Howard Mercer can be seen wearing Devonshire Reg't uniforms and cap badges!   

 

Rob

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nigelcave

Probably being overly pedantic, but who or what was the 'Commonwealth' in 1918-1920 (unless it refers simply to Australia, which is the only commonwealth of which I know in what was part of  the British Empire at the time). Would 'Dominion' have been more accurate?

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Steven Broomfield

I wonder if that's the publisher trying not to upset modern sensibilities.

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wrightdw
Posted (edited)

Hi Rob,

 

Thanks for the ID on Greenslade, it is interesting to note as late as September 1919 the mix of uniforms worn in Russia.

 

I have some unpublished pictures of Mercer from the family which I have attached for your interest. In the group photo Mercer is sitting with his hands on his knees. I do like the studio picture with his Order of St. Stanislaus with Swords and Cross of St. George ribbons.

Mercer.jpg

rrr.jpg

eee.jpg

Edited by wrightdw

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RFT

Good morning Damien,

 

Very much appreciate the above photos.  You may, or may not, be aware that Lieut Mercer and 2nd Lieut Greenslade were wounded while serving with the 10th Devonshire Regiment in April 1917.  Mercer badly so!  I believe his British War Medal & Victory Medal appeared for sale about 15 years ago (unless Lieut Mercer's family know different).

 

'B' Flight 17 Squadron photo - The officer to Lieut Mercer's right is the same officer who appears in the 1919 photo of 47 Squadron.  I am not aware of his name but should be easy to identify him from my records.  Will let you know if I am successful.  Do you have the names of the other officers in the 'B' flight photo (above) as they may well appear in the 47 Squadron roll of officers?  

 

Finally, may I have your permission to include the above photos in my 47 'A' Squadron archive?

 

Rob

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Waggoner

Damien,

 

I think that I have already asked you this, but were you able to find any information about the British Military Railway Mission? My chap, Osborne-Dempster, was a member of it when he was captured by the Bolsheviks.  He suggested in some post-war documents that this was a type of intelligence/secret service organization. This is not mentioned in his service records.

 

All the best,

 

Gary

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nigelcave
On 7/4/2017 at 15:27, Steven Broomfield said:

I wonder if that's the publisher trying not to upset modern sensibilities.

Almost certainly. When I tackled the CWGC on this a good many years ago, pointing out that there was no such thing in the First World War and in the Second it was the British Commonwealth (arguably worse than Dominion?), I got a rather sheepish response from them saying that they entirely agreed factually but.... There are other anomalies, of course: in the First World War Newfoundland was a Dominion and in the Second under direct rule from London (sort of - I imagine that there was considerable local input). Yet all of its casualties are put down as Canadian. On the other hand, Canada is picking up all the bills, so this possibly changes the picture somewhat.

 

But Commonwealth in the Great War: Yuk!

 

 

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Steven Broomfield
1 hour ago, nigelcave said:

 

 

But Commonwealth in the Great War: Yuk!

 

 

 

Some years ago I had a conversation with the Head Master (sorry, Principal) of a large Secondary School. It was actually about his pupils' appalling use of English: his answer was "Well, you and I come from a generation that worries about things like that". The obvious riposte was that, given the standard of education of his inmates, he obviously didn't worry too much, but the gist is accurate - on this one, we come from a generation that worries about things like this. I wish 'the powers that be' did, too.

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Uncle George

I see in this interview with Montgomery:

 

(less than a minute into his introduction) the interviewer refers to Montgomery leading the British army and the "armies of the Dominions" during the Second war.

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wrightdw
On 05/07/2017 at 16:43, RFT said:

Good morning Damien,

 

Very much appreciate the above photos.  You may, or may not, be aware that Lieut Mercer and 2nd Lieut Greenslade were wounded while serving with the 10th Devonshire Regiment in April 1917.  Mercer badly so!  I believe his British War Medal & Victory Medal appeared for sale about 15 years ago (unless Lieut Mercer's family know different).

 

'B' Flight 17 Squadron photo - The officer to Lieut Mercer's right is the same officer who appears in the 1919 photo of 47 Squadron.  I am not aware of his name but should be easy to identify him from my records.  Will let you know if I am successful.  Do you have the names of the other officers in the 'B' flight photo (above) as they may well appear in the 47 Squadron roll of officers?  

 

Finally, may I have your permission to include the above photos in my 47 'A' Squadron archive?

 

Rob

 

Hi Rob, I did not realise that Mercer and Greenslade had served together before RFC/RAF. Mercer's medals were auctioned a few years ago, a nice combination of MC/DFC, he was also awarded a civil CBE in 1951:

 

C.B.E. London Gazette 1 January 1951.

M.C. London Gazette 26 July 1917:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Though severely wounded he carried on for half a mile of heavy barrage to the objective. Here he rendered valuable assistance and set a splendid example to all.’

D.F.C. London Gazette 1 April 1920:

‘On 23 September 1919, at Dubovka, Lieutenant Mercer bombed the concentrated Bolshevik flotilla, which were armed with all kind of guns, including anti-aircraft guns, and then descending to the water level, machine-gunned the personnel on four occasions on that day. Lieutenant Mercer has always been heedless of danger and has proved a very gallant officer during the difficult and dangerous operations in South Russia.’ .

 

I don't have the names of any of the other officers in the No. 17 Sqn. photo, the family did not know either. I wonder if the officer with 'stache is Capt. Sydney Frogley, DSO, DFC? Along with Mercer and Greenslade he also served with 17 Sqn. before transferring to 47 Sqn.?

 

You can of course use the photos as you like, they were given to me by Mercer's family without restriction.

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wrightdw
Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Waggoner said:

Damien,

 

I think that I have already asked you this, but were you able to find any information about the British Military Railway Mission? My chap, Osborne-Dempster, was a member of it when he was captured by the Bolsheviks.  He suggested in some post-war documents that this was a type of intelligence/secret service organization. This is not mentioned in his service records.

 

All the best,

 

Gary

Hi Gary,

 

Osborne-Dempster is listed in the POW's Moscow roll (Appendix II), he was one of 15 officers and men (including two from Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force plus Dempster who I have recorded as "Canadian" although serving with RASC) taken prisoner by the Reds at Krasnoyarsk on 7 January 1920.

 

One of those captured was Captain Brian Horrocks, MC, Middlesex Regiment who had been taken prisoner at Mons in 1914 and held in German POW camps that also held Russian prisoners from the Eastern Front, it here that he learnt to speak Russian. His MC was for attempts to escape captivity, gazetted after his capture by the Reds so he probably didn't know about it until after his release. The British Military Mission to Admiral Kolchak prisoners were held at Krasnoyarsk and transported all the way to Moscow before their release in October 1920 via Petrograd and the Finnish frontier.

 

The British Military Railway Mission came under the umbrella of the larger British Military Mission to General Kolchack. They were charged with improving the efficiency and use of rolling stock along the Trans-Siberian Railway, critical for the vast distances of Siberia. As some indication of the distances, two Royal Marine crewed gunboats operated on the Kama River some 5,000 miles from their parent ships HMS Kent and Suffolk in Vladivostok harbour, that is quite a long resupply line.

 

The Railway Mission officers were also "eyes wide open" to reporting on events as they encountered them, particularly with regards to their White Russian allies, as they were closest to the front line and the reports received in Vladivostok were of dubious veracity.

 

Dempster is pictured although unidentified in the attached image taken in March 1920 of the Railway Mission prisoners before entraining for the 2,500 mile journey to Moscow.

 

 

06071700.jpg

Edited by wrightdw

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Waggoner
Posted (edited)

Damien,

 

Thank you for this information. Apparently, there was also a Lieut. Eyford who was also a Canadian. I haven't looked him up yet.

http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.com/searches/soldierDetail.asp?Id=153627

 

Edit: had a look and found his CEF Service Record - http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=B2967-S040

 

He was released from the CSEF in Siberia for a commission in the BMRM.

 

All the best,

 

Gary

Edited by Waggoner

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