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Slavo-British Legion

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Edited by wrightdw

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What a story!!

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A fascinating story. Thanks very much.


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Can anyone help me with a specific question about the Slavo-British Legion. I quote from the OP

With the influx of recruits from Archangel gaol the Legion was expanded to include a 2nd Battalion, dubbed “Burke’s”, command of which was given to an Australian who had served during the war in the NZEF. Capt Alan Frederick Burke of the Otago Regiment had been awarded the MM for bravery whilst attached to the Legion in 1918 and was also later awarded an MBE for services in North Russia.

My question is why did they give the command to Burke. I have read his service record and he is not an obvious choice

After Gallipoli he reached Sgt

1916 May 6. Reverts to Private at own request.

1916 Sep 12. Awarded 7 days Field Punishment no1 for being drunk

1916 Oct 9 Awarded 42 days Field Punishment no1 for refusing to obey an order.

1916 Nov 28 Wounded and sent back to UK hospital

1917 Sep 7. Appointed Cook. Still a Private

1918 May 25. He stops being a cook on this date, so no longer entitled to cooks pay

1918 May 25. Granted rank of Temp Sgt while on special duty. Posted to Tower of London , Instructional Staff

1918 Jun 16. Left Newcastle for Murmansk on "City of Marseilles"

1918 Aug 3. Reaches Archangel after being in hospital in Murmansk

1919 Aug 25. Transferred from NZ forces to UK forces

1918 Sep 25. MM for bravery in the field (Gazetted 10 Jan 1919) in North Russia

1918 Oct 16. The undermentioned to be temp. 2nd Lts. whilst spec, empld. Sgt A F Burke, New Zealand Infantry

He then goes on to command the 2nd Battalion of the Slavo-British Legion, which seems and odd choice. His 2nd in command was a Major with an MC

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Ron Clifton

It could have been a case of poacher turning gamekeeper, since as I understand it , the Slavo-British Legion had a poor disciplinary record, including an actual mutiny. A CO who knew all the tricks would be useful in that respect.


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Returning to this topic after a long absence.

Burke was a member of the ELOPE Training Mission in Russia (although he did see action with Col. Thornhill's party south of Onega for which he was awarded the MM and possibly other actions as well during 1918).

After the mutiny in which SBL soldiers murdered their British officers, they were disarmed and relegated to labour troops, it was not a combat command.

By the time he was given command he had been in Russia for over a year and had obviously proven himself during that time. He may have become quite fluent in Russian (speculation). The fact that he received the MBE also indicates that his superiors considered him capable.

I have a photograph of him sitting on a railway siding in North Russia. He was from Adelaide, South Australia.

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Just happened to come across this thread  as I was searching  for any relating to Ronald Cross aka Sir Ronald Cross, the British High Commissioner

I happen to be the founder of clayton and whittle at war website

Whittle le Woods is where Ronald Cross and family lived during WW1, his name is on the Roll of Honour 1914 -1915


Also known as Sir Ronald Hibbert Cross, 1st Baronet, KCMG, KCVO, PC

Rank: Second Lieutenant, then Temp Lieutenant as of 3 December 1915

Duke of Lancaster Own Yeomanry

Then joined No 23 Squadron, RFC and flew with Eddie McKay

They flew the DH2 and then SPADs


His name is on the Roll of Honour 

His family live at Crooke Hall in 1911

His family are still there in 1917

The most famous person to be associated with Whittle le Woods to serve WW1 and then have a very high powered political career.during WW2 and afterwards


He married Louise Marion Green-Emmott on the 7th January 1925 at St Peter's parish church, Pimlico, Middlesex

They had Five children


John :thumbsup:

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Hi Alexander,


Photographs of Slavo-British Legion badge being worn are extremely rare. I have attached an image of a British company commander wearing the brass S-BL hat badge. It is mounted on some sort of backing although I am unsure what colour this would be.


You probably would have seen the brass hat badge and 'SBL' shoulder title held by the Australian War Memorial, what the backing is on the hat badge I do not know.


I have also attached an image of a Slavo-British soldier wearing Cross of St. Andrew painted on his helmet, presumably white cross on blue background.


Regarding Finnish Legion, I only have one photograph of three Finns of this unit in British uniform however no hat badge is visible. British officers serving with the unit wore their own regimental headdress.


I have never seen reference to the hat badge of the Olonetz Battalion, it was possibly the same green shamrock as the Karelian Regiment.


Very little has been recorded of the service of these British raised local 'Russian' units (Slavo-British Legion/Aviation Corps, Karelian Regiment, Olonetz Battalion, Finnish Legion) and it is very hard to find any information on them at all. The Slavo-British Legion is probably the best recorded as a result of their mutiny and murdering five British officers in July 1919 after which they were disbanded as untrustworthy and relegated to labour troops.





Finnish Legion.jpg

Lieut. Whetton Finnish Legion.jpg

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