Author Topic: Australians involved in the Russian Civil War  (Read 2789 times)

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Australians involved in the Russian Civil War
« on: July 19, 2010, 12:23:32 AM »
I was asked to start a new topic on the Australian contribution to the White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War.  

No Australian units were engaged in operations in the Russian Civil War but  many individuals did become involved through service with the British Army during the North Russia Campaign. They served in a variety of roles, including as advisors to White Russian units as part of the North Russian Expeditionary Force (NREF). About 150 men of the Australian Imperial Force who were still in England awaiting repatriation following the end of World War I also enlisted as infantry in the North Russia Relief Force (NRRF), where they were involved in a number of sharp battles. The Royal Australian Navy was involved too, with the destroyer HMAS Swan briefly engaged in an intelligence gathering mission in the Black Sea in late-1918 on behalf of the British military mission then advising the White Russian General, Anton Denikin. There were several Australians acting as advisers with this mission as well, while several more served as advisers with Admiral Kolchak in Siberia.  The NREF was under the command of General Ironside.  
     The initial force was 9 officers and 500 men, of which 3 officers and 6 sargeants were Australians.  After they arrived in Murmansk, they were sent on patrol and then spit into either single advisors or groups of advisors to work with the White Russian or White Finnish armies.   Captain P.F. Lohan served in a variety of administrative positions both in Murmansk and Archangel, whilst Sergeant R.L. Graham was commissioned in the field and became railway transport officer on the Archangel-Vologda railway. Several other sergeants were involved in various training roles, while Captain Allan Brown was attached to the North Russian Rifles based at Onega—a White Russian battalion.  Captain Brown was killed by White Russian soldiers who mutinied and subsequently joined the Bolshevik side.
     It was in 1919 with the start of the North Russian Relief force that the majority of Australians who became involved in the Russian Civil war became involved.  Originally, 4-500 Australians indicated a willingness to join the force but eventually only aobut 150 joined.  The probable reason for the decone in participants was the fact that soldiers interested in the NRRF would have to quit the Australian International Force AIF and rejoin the British army as privates.  If a soldier held a non commissioned or a commissioned rank, this would mean relinquishing it and that was not popular.  After several successful missions, the NNRF pulled out of Russia in 1919.  One Australian, Sergeant Samuel Pearce was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving a group of drowning men who were under fire at Emtsa. Pearse was killed during this action.

Australian ships that were involved in Russia during the Russian civil war included:   HMAS Swan, HMAS Yarra, HMAS Torrens and HMAS Parramatta.

Australians were also involved in the fight to keep the Bolsheviks out of Persia but this is was peripheral to the Russian Civil was and was more about maintaining British influence in Persia.