Author Topic: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe and His Rescue of Xenia Alexandrovna  (Read 8655 times)

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Offline Voysey

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In the mid 1980's my mother, my future wife and myself went to visit two of my mother's friends, Brigadier and Marjorie de Wolfe, in the town of Batzan in Malta.

Brigadier de Wolfe fought in the Dardanelles during WW1 as a young officer and the noise of gunfire had brought on slow deterioration of his hearing so that went I met him when he was in his nineties he was totally deaf. Communication with him was in the form of written questions to which he would respond at great length in a very loud voice, he was as sharp as a pin. As I used to serve in the Royal Navy he felt it safe to tell me a story.

Late during the WW1, de Wolfe was called in by his commanding officer and volunteered him for mission which was unlikely to succeed but if he did he would never receive any recognition or credit but only quiet thank you from the powers of be.

His mission was to met up with and escort back to the British an important person hiding behind the lines of the Red Russians for apparently the person would only know it was safe by seeing a British army uniform. He was taken through the White Russian lines and guided through to meet this important person. He was introduced to a young lady who had full confidence in him as he spoke virtually no Russian but was fluent in French and he was wearing his uniform. On the return journey the two of them hid in railway cattle trucks and made their way safely back to the British. The lady was a sister of the Grand Duchess Olga.

de Wolfe was told by his commanding officer that the mission never took place, and that he was never to mention it or speak about it. I can only presume he must have told one or two people because he told me about it. Marjorie his wife, also in her nineties at the time, told me "oh yes, it's absolutely true but who cares about it anyway, it was such a long time ago". One must remember that this conversation took place before the fall of communism in Russia, before DNA testing and before it became such a controversial topic. The Brigadier had no reason to make up the story he had been only too glad to have been able to tell the story which he had been forbidden to talk about. I will try to quiz my mother who is herself now 90 and she if she can remember which of the sisters it was. I thought it a fascinating story at the time but never realised it's importance in years to come. I feel privileged to have had such conversation with the person who had rescued the Princess.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2009, 09:03:34 PM by Alixz »

Offline Phil_tomaselli

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2008, 04:53:46 PM »
Alas Voysev you are yet another who chooses to hide behind a false name and, consequently, whatever you say is worthless.  A shame,but there it is.

I will endeavour to investigate beyond the few scraps of information you have provided, as I am a firm believer in British rescue attempts on the IF but strongly doubt if anything will emerge.

Phil Tomaselli

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2008, 05:34:03 PM »
Phil, for what little its worth, he does post from London...

Voysey, in my own family, I've had members tell me outrageous stories they had no reason to make up, but they did.  I've told it before so apologies to old users who have read it before, but my own Uncle Charles, when he was in his mid 80s (back in the early 1970s) gave me the Croix de Guerre from WWI he always carried with him, telling me about his exploits in WWI as General Pershing's chauffeur.  Ten years later, I told my grandmother, his sister about his tales and the medal.  She laughed, telling me Uncle Charles never even SERVED in the military, much less went to France in WWI, he certainly never even MET Pershing, and he had won the Croix in a poker game in the early 1930s in Chicago from the vet who had actually received it!

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2008, 05:58:58 PM »
Phil, for what little its worth, he does post from London...

Voysey, in my own family, I've had members tell me outrageous stories they had no reason to make up, but they did.  I've told it before so apologies to old users who have read it before, but my own Uncle Charles, when he was in his mid 80s (back in the early 1970s) gave me the Croix de Guerre from WWI he always carried with him, telling me about his exploits in WWI as General Pershing's chauffeur.  Ten years later, I told my grandmother, his sister about his tales and the medal.  She laughed, telling me Uncle Charles never even SERVED in the military, much less went to France in WWI, he certainly never even MET Pershing, and he had won the Croix in a poker game in the early 1930s in Chicago from the vet who had actually received it!

The world is rife with such stories. Not that they aren't interesting, but they tend to fall apart in the light of day.

Let's see - there was in fact a "sister of Grand Duchess Olga" who was rescued by the British Navy, not by the Army (to which I presume a brigadier belonged?) in 1919. Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna was part of the party that departed the Crimea with the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna aboard the HMS Marlborough which did make a stop in Malta.

So, the British military did rescue a sister, and there were ties to GD Olga and Malta, too.

But, that's it as far as I can see.

Offline Voysey

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2008, 06:20:36 PM »
Phil

I am very sorry if you got the impression that I was hiding behind some false name, this was quite unintentional, but forgive me as this is the very first time I have ever submitted anything onto the any internet forum in my life.

I am interested that you too think that the British were involved. Brigadier de Wolfe were he alive today would no doubt agree with you that very little if anything would ever emerge of his involvement, as he himself said that no official orders were ever written so one can probably assume that nothing was kept afterwards. The verbal orders must have come from the highest level and passed through a chain of command on a need to know basis. By the way the Brigadier was quite a formidable character and I for one would never have called his recollections worthless, he was in fact exactly the type person to have always risen to any challenge and not seek any reward apart from the fact that he knew he had carried out his orders to the best of his ability. A rare sort, but people like that do exist.

Perhaps writing these few words and placing de Wolfe, and as he described it, "my most extraordinary adventure" into part of that vast jigsaw of the history of Russia is my duty to him.

Tim Hawkins

Offline Voysey

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2008, 06:59:04 PM »
Velikye Knyaz

I too would agree with you that old soldiers tales very often become embroidered over time, however Brigadier de Wolfe very a very respected member of the retired military community that lived in Malta, he retired to Batzan near Attard before the start of WW11 and was there throughout the siege of Malta. Charlatens and there were a few, were soon found out, I met some. But to fill a house with photographs and memorabilia of ones military life purely to tell tales, I have my doubts.

Tim Hawkins

Offline Voysey

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2008, 07:52:01 PM »
Lisa Davidson.

According to the Brigadier you are absolutely correct. He told me that having escaped he delivered her into the hands of the Royal Navy at the Crimea and boarded HMS Marlborough with her, I recollect that he stayed on board until they reached Malta. I mentioned earlier that this happened late during WW1 but it could well have been 1919 making the person he rescued the Grand Duchess Xenia. This was an evenings conversation that took place some 23 years ago whilst drinking some absolutely frightful Maltese 'wine'. ( I understand that it is much better now).

Tim Hawkins

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2008, 08:29:33 PM »
Tim,

This now should not be hard. The HMS Marlborough passenger manifest is available... We have the "imperial" passengers list on the main site.  The full manifest is in the archives of HRH the Queen's Navyt.

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2008, 01:15:34 PM »
Tim,

This now should not be hard. The HMS Marlborough passenger manifest is available... We have the "imperial" passengers list on the main site.  The full manifest is in the archives of HRH the Queen's Navyt.


So, we now know the identity of the person he rescued - Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. This does make sense. There was much fighting going on in the Crimea during this period - Germans versus Russians, Reds versus Ukrainians, etc. The Grand Duchess' husband, Alexander Mikhailovich, had already departed for Versailles along with their eldest son, Andrei. She was in danger, but probably did not realize it. HM King George was very fond of his first cousin, Xenia, so it makes sense he would make sure she got safely aboard HMS Marlborough.

Offline Voysey

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2008, 03:23:01 PM »
Lisa

Thank you very much for your very helpful comments.

Somewhere I have a some slips of paper on which I wrote the words "HMS Marlborough" and another with the phrase "the sister of Olga", these words were part of some questions that I asked the Brigadier for as I mentioned earlier he was totally deaf and written slips were his major form of communication. I will try to locate the manifest for the warship's passage to Malta in the achieves here in England, should be interesting.

You write that the Crimean area was extremely active as regards fighting and I remember that de Wolfe couldn't be sure having departed who was friend or foe at any one time so he just tried to avoid the lot. The entire "adventure" I believe lasted about a week, and he did feel that he had been extraordinarily lucky.

Tim

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2008, 04:16:19 PM »
Tim,

We have the manifest of the "imperial" passengers already, here you go:



To determine if deWolfe was on board, you would probably have to contact the Royal Navy archives.

If interested, you can read our first hand account of the Marlborough in Yalta here:
http://alexanderpalace.org/palace/marlborough.html
« Last Edit: June 17, 2008, 04:18:54 PM by Forum Admin »

Offline Voysey

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2008, 04:53:36 PM »
What service from one and all !

I will follow your advice and check out the Royal Naval achieves.

I hope now that as the Brigadier's story is now known it was of some interest to you. As we all know, recent history i.e. yesterdays newspapers will all tell a slightly different story, and with the passing of time many "truths" are told about any event many at variance with each other, because each truth is based upon a different source, and a different perspective, compounded by Chinese Whispers. Conversing with someone who actually 'did the deed' in not so recent history is a rare experience and needs to be recorded.

Tim

Offline Ilias_of_John

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Re: The Unknown story of Brigadier de Wolfe.
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2008, 12:18:31 AM »
From my limited reading, I believe Xenia made her way to the Crimea separately from her mother and husband. I gather that some of her desendants would know if she was escorted there or to safety by a solitary English officer, we might even be lucky enough to hear a name, and de Wolfe is one that can not be easily forgotten, but easily rememberd.
HMS  Marlborough's crew manifests and any RN archives wont be helpful, as de Wolfe wasn't a part of her crew, and it was a SECRET mission wasn't it?

I will speak to some aquaintances of mine when they return next week from Russia and see what light they can shine on de Wolfe's claims.
I dont doubt the claim but I find it rather unusual that a non Russian speaking officer is sent in to Russia wearing his uniform, to save/escort a Grand Duchess from the hordes of communism.
But then again, we are talking about the British Secret Service arent we?  ;D
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