Author Topic: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?  (Read 37274 times)

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Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #120 on: August 16, 2016, 03:51:07 AM »
Thanks for the reminder about Kronstadt, which obviously reinforces my point that there were major practical difficulties in trying to get the Imperial Family to Britain.

The Germans reimposed unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917, and attacked neutral merchant ships as well as those belonging to belligerents. Hospital ships were supposed to be protected by the Geneva Convention, but there are several incidents where they were attacked and sunk. Probably the most notorious is HMHS Llandovery Castle, torpedoed off Southern Ireland on 27 June 1918 and the subject of one of the few post-WW1 war crimes trials.

As Tim reminds us, anti-German feeling in Britain ran extremely high during the war, so secret negotiations for safe conducts for a former monarch who was anyway unpopular in this country would be a chancy business, politically speaking.

We need to consider how reliable Kerensky's account of discussions is.

Ann

The submarine warfare is the reason an agreement for safe passage of the ship carrying the Imperial Family was reached. In this case, the Germans would have carried out their part of the agreement.

Secret negotiations are, by definition, secret. That was before Wikileaks.

Kerensky told the truth. Massie quotes from a book published in 1935, The murder of the Romanovs, by Captain Paul Bulygin and Alexander Kerensky. Kerensky clearly states that is was the Danish Minister Scavenius who negotiated with the Germans to obtain safe passage. If he just made the whole story up to exonerate himself from guilt, Scavenius could easily have refuted it: he died in 1962. So could Milyukov, who died in 1943.
A possible explanation is that memory played a trick on him and all that happened earlier than he says, at the end of March - beginning of April 1917. But that is not very likely. At that time Kerensky was Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government, after May he was Minister of War and de facto head of government. So he should have remembered if what he reports (Buchanan calling to tell them in tears that the British government had withdrawn the offer of asylum) happened before or after May 1917. He says it happened after May: June or early July.

If what Kerensky wrote is true, that means that the British government not only went back on their previous promise of asylum, but also neglected to inform the Russian Provisional Government about it at the proper time. So the Russians kept thinking that, after all, Nicholas II and his family could be sent to Britain when the internal situation in Russia made it possible.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2016, 03:53:09 AM by NicolasG »

Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #121 on: August 16, 2016, 05:07:33 AM »
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the Baltic was heavily mined in that period, and sea mines do quite frequently break free from their moorings

Wasn't it one of those that killed Kitchener when his ship was sunk in 1916?
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Offline Horock

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #122 on: August 16, 2016, 10:24:24 AM »
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the Baltic was heavily mined in that period, and sea mines do quite frequently break free from their moorings

Wasn't it one of those that killed Kitchener when his ship was sunk in 1916?

Yes it was. Kitchener was on board HMS Hampshire.  The Royal Navy lost three Cruisers, one Monitor, 24 Destroyers and another vessels to mine during the First World War.

Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #123 on: August 17, 2016, 05:01:55 AM »
Yeah, those mines could be dangerous.

Even if a deal could have been worked out to bring Nicky and his family to Britain, those mines would have been a problem.
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Offline Horock

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #124 on: August 17, 2016, 01:04:51 PM »
Yeah, those mines could be dangerous.

Even if a deal could have been worked out to bring Nicky and his family to Britain, those mines would have been a problem.

It might also be possible to identify other potential problems for an RN warship arriving at Petrograd.  A ship heading to the City itself would have had to pass the Russian Navy headquarters at Kronstadt. What if the ship had been damaged by hostile action by elements of the Russian Navy opposed to the Romanovs leaving Russia? If a RN warship had arrived safely at Petrograd and the Russian government had been unable to deliver the Romanovs, would a German offer of safe passage have still have held good if the ship was returning to Britain without the former Tsar and his family on board?

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #125 on: August 17, 2016, 01:15:24 PM »
All good points.

The mine which sank HMS Hampshire was one of a single string laid on the west side of the main Orkney island (Mainland).

Early in 1915, the British and French fleets attempting to force the Dardanelles lost no fewer than three battleships to a single string of mines.

Even avoiding your own minefields was a problem, and highly dependent on accurate charting.

Ann   

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #126 on: August 18, 2016, 06:42:49 AM »
1. The issue of difficulties of the sea voyage was raised from the first moment, by George V himself:

Lord Stamfordham, note of meeting - 9 March - Buckingham Palace
"I pointed out the King's apprehensions entailed in the sea voyage from Romanov (first name of Murmansk: Romanov na Murmane)."

Lord Stamfordham to A.J. Balfour - 17 March
"His Majesty cannot help doubting, not only on account of the dangers of the voyage, but on general grounds of expediency...."

The letter gives him away. What George V feared was not the Russian Imperial Family sinking with the ship and all hands in the North Sea. What he feared was they arriving safely in Britain. When the British government (who could and surely did consult the First Sea Lord, Sir John Jellicoe, about the matter) insisted in keeping their promise to the Russian Provisional Government, the strategy changed and Lord Stamfordham focused in the political consequences for the monarchy.

2. Kronstadt / Dardanelles.

Nobody at the time considered using Kronstadt as point of departure. The sailors of Kronstadt were a mutinous lot who had killed their officers and the sea voyage from Petrograd would involve passing by the German coast and going through the rattrap of the Danish Straits. The Imperial Family had to be picked up in Murmansk (Romanov na Murmane), on the Barents Sea (not the Baltic).

Dardanelles: It is not the right comparison. The whole Gallipoli operation was akin to storming a castle during the Middle Ages. The Turks, under German command, were waiting for the Brits and laid all the mines they could. Murmansk, on the other hand, was a harbour in an ally country, where British ships arrived frequently.

3. Murmansk (Romanov na Murmane)

Murmansk was one of the three ports used by the Allies to supply Russia with munitions during the war. The other two were Vladivostok, in the Far East and Archangel, on the White Sea. How busy were this ports? Norman Stone tell us in his book The Easter Front 1914-1917:

"There remained the ports of northern Russia, particularly Archangel, at the mouth of the river Dvina... As millions of tons of goods arrived in Archangel, the port became a scene of chaos. There were not enough wharved, warehouses, electric facilities, or even rails along which the boxes could be wheeled through the rudimentary streets of the town. The railway itself, with its capacity of twelve small train daily, could manage only a fifth of the minimum requeriment, 500 waggons...
This was still not enough - the more so as the blockage of Archangel was such that "mountains" of goods already existed to be transferred by rail at the turn of 1915-16. The government thought of developing an ice-free port: the Catherine Harbour at Alexandrovsk, subsequently known as Murmansk, offered reasonable possibilities for navigation all the year round, and the government picked up pre-war pland for construction of a railway between it and Petrozavodsk, on the way to the capital... Meanwhile, huge quantities of material built up both at Murmansk and Archangel: at Murmansk alone, 100,000 tons by March 1917...."

These "mountains of goods", "huge quantities of material" have arrived in British ships that followed the same route that the Imperial Family should have done in their way to Britain. They carried millions of tons of material, braving German submarines and mines. Those two dangers were not of the same order of magnitute. Sailors would have tell that they feared foremost submarines. The treath of submarines for the Imperial Family was done away with by the agreement with Wilhelm II. So it remained the secondary dangers of mines.

How big was the danger? I don't have statistics, but I would bet than less than 1% of the voyages between Britain and Murmansk (and back) ended with the ship sunk by a mine.

The "dangers of the sea voyage" were an excuse, a smoke-screen for the real worries (political) of George V and are now used by some posters as an excuse or a smoke-screen for his dishonourable behaviour towards his relatives, the Russian Imperial Family.


« Last Edit: August 18, 2016, 06:47:01 AM by NicolasG »

Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #127 on: August 18, 2016, 07:16:35 AM »
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The mine which sank HMS Hampshire was one of a single string laid on the west side of the main Orkney island (Mainland).

They never recovered the remains, did they.
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Offline Kalafrana

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #128 on: August 18, 2016, 08:06:42 AM »
Kitchener's body was never found, nor were those of most of the crew. Presumably they are still in the wreck, which, regrettably, has been raided by treasure hunters.

Ann

Offline Horock

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #129 on: August 18, 2016, 02:37:37 PM »
Using bold type to try to change the emphasis in a quote does fool anyone.

 "His Majesty cannot help doubting, not only on account of the dangers of the voyage, but on general grounds of expediency...."  Clearly shows that King George V had doubts about an attempt to bring the Romanovs to both on the grounds of the dangers involved in the journey and other considerations.

Petrograd or Romanov-on-Murman presented many of the same problems as a place of embarkation for the Romanovs. To ensure that a ship was not torpedoed meant doing a deal with the enemy - the Germans. The danger of mines, though greatly reduced if Romanov-on-Murman was used, still existed.  Again, If a RN warship had arrived safely at Romanov-on-Murman and the Russian government had been unable to deliver the Romanovs, would a German offer of safe passage have still have held good if the ship was returning to Britain without the former Tsar and his family on board?

On a slightly different note: What were the chances of the Romanovs being able to reach Romanov-on-Murman? In March / April 1917?  Were they safer on such a journey or at the Alexander Palace?

Offline NicolasG

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #130 on: August 19, 2016, 04:56:32 AM »
Using bold type to try to change the emphasis in a quote does fool anyone.

 "His Majesty cannot help doubting, not only on account of the dangers of the voyage, but on general grounds of expediency...."  Clearly shows that King George V had doubts about an attempt to bring the Romanovs to both on the grounds of the dangers involved in the journey and other considerations.

Petrograd or Romanov-on-Murman presented many of the same problems as a place of embarkation for the Romanovs. To ensure that a ship was not torpedoed meant doing a deal with the enemy - the Germans. The danger of mines, though greatly reduced if Romanov-on-Murman was used, still existed.  Again, If a RN warship had arrived safely at Romanov-on-Murman and the Russian government had been unable to deliver the Romanovs, would a German offer of safe passage have still have held good if the ship was returning to Britain without the former Tsar and his family on board?

On a slightly different note: What were the chances of the Romanovs being able to reach Romanov-on-Murman? In March / April 1917?  Were they safer on such a journey or at the Alexander Palace?

If you don't like bold type, you can read the letters and notes of meeting I posted before (I am not going to post them again). At the beginning George V's (and his secretary's Lord Stamfordham) strategy was to bunch as many problems as he could: the "dangers of the voyage", the sustenance of the Imperial Family in Britain, "general grounds of expediency". The aim was to create a case against the Russian Imperial Family coming to Britain. The government replied clearly that they had already replied positively to the request of the Russian Provisional Government and therefore they could not go back on their word (20 March 1917). And then it is when the political complications for the king (the only real worry of George V and Stamfordham) come to fore and the "dangers of the voyage" disappear completely from the correspondence. The logical inference is that mentioning them was useful at the beginning, when they might have helped reject the request and at the same time "save face". When it was obvious that that strategy had failed, it was discarded: on 24 March it was all about "letters from people in all classes of life... expressing adverse opinions to the proposal" and "the article in last Thursday's Justice by Hyndman who condems the invitation, and implies that it has come from their Majesties". No word about mines or submarines. Hyndman was one of the leaders of the Independent Labour Party, a small splinter of the Labour Party and Justice was a publication with small circulation and even less influence.

The "oh, so horrendous" deal with the enemy was done, with the mediation of the Danish minister Scavenius, as Kerensky let us know. German submarines would not attack the ship carrying the Imperial Family. That meant that the family would follow the same route that hundreds of British ships had used to sucessfullly deliver MILLIONS OF TONS of munitions to Russia. Those ships had had to face both submarines and mines and mines were the lesser danger.

Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #131 on: August 20, 2016, 07:03:18 AM »
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Kitchener's body was never found, nor were those of most of the crew. Presumably they are still in the wreck, which, regrettably, has been raided by treasure hunters.

The same kind of people who loot ships deemed memorials.  Those ships are off limits. 

For example, you can't sell anything you salvage from the Titanic, if I understand the law correctly.
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Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #132 on: August 21, 2016, 07:01:37 PM »
Sunk warships are both war graves and property of the nation they belong to. The people who looted the HMS Hampshire and many other ships are salvagers not treasure hunters. This looting is a problem in some parts of the world.

Ann is right about mines there were tens of thousands of them laid in the Baltic alone during WW I and they were a big problem even post WW I in European waters. As I pointed out before the ice in the Baltic did not melt until June 1917. One also must point out that the Russian Imperial navy after the February/march 1917 revolution was a Mutinous mob. While the navy did some minelaying in 1917. I don't know how much minesweeping they did. Add to this getting a RN ship in and out of the Baltic was impossible during WW I. Some submarines did it in the early war period, but no surface ships did. In 1916 it was impossible for even HM submarines to get into the Baltic via Denmark. It would seem the least worst way to get the IF out of Russia in 1917 would be through Murmansk even then I don't know if it would work. There are just too many people besides Kerensky who are afraid that if Nicholas got out he would be plotting a return. Which we know he wouldn't but that's what the revolutionaries believed.
 If the IF did get to Murmansk they should be in the clear. There were RN minesweepers there to sweep the mines. There would have been a British cruiser to pick them up and getting them to England after that with a German offer of safe conduct should have been fairly easy. I should also point out that going to and from Murmansk and Archangel during WW I was almost as hazardous for merchant ships as it was during WW I, but a cruiser should have been fast enough and if escorted by destroyers protected enough to be safe from U-boats.

Offline TimM

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #133 on: August 22, 2016, 05:27:12 AM »
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Sunk warships are both war graves and property of the nation they belong to. The people who looted the HMS Hampshire and many other ships are salvagers not treasure hunters. This looting is a problem in some parts of the world.

I think that ships seemed memorials should be left alone.  Going through them is like digging up someones grave and stealing whatever valuables were buried with the bodies, IMO.


Quote
There are just too many people besides Kerensky who are afraid that if Nicholas got out he would be plotting a return.

That was the sad irony of the whole situation.  Even if it were possible, Nicky probably would not have wanted the throne back.  After he abdicated, a great burden was lifted off his shoulders.  The Herculean task of running the Russian Empire was no longer his problem.  He probably would have been content to just live comfortably in retirement somewhere.

Alix might have been content too.  Perhaps her health would have improved once the stress of autocracy was removed.

Although Alexei would always have a tough life, OTMAA were young enough to make the adjustment too. 

Of course, we'll never know for sure, this is just my personal opinion. 

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Offline Horock

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Re: Attempts of European royal families to save the Imperial family?
« Reply #134 on: August 22, 2016, 01:07:48 PM »
I cannot see how anyone can use terms like ‘bunch as many problems’ and ‘strategy’ in describing correspondence of nearly 100 years ago and then state unqualified conclusions that are really conjecture.

What is clear is that the Kings views were made known to the government in a series of notes and letters.  People on this forum have noted many possible problems that might have been encountered in allowing the Romanovs to come to Britain.  No one knows if the government and the monarch had taken account of any or all of these problems in reaching their decisions but given what is known of the circumstances at that time but in my opinion the King was right express the views that he did.  For me he put the interests of the monarchy and the country first (the two things were partly caught up with each other) and in doing so he acted correctly.

When was the deal done with the enemy regarding the Romanovs' travel arrangements?  An offer of safe passage was made by the enemy which was passed on to the Russian government by a Danish politician. For a deal to be done, the British government had to agree as well.  Is this documented?  Risking British lives to transport vital military equipment to an ally was different to risking British lives to transport the King’s foreign relatives.