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corisande

RAF in Russia 1919

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corisande

I have accumulated a fair amount now on Parcell Rees Bowen, MC, DFC and bar (link for full info)

What I am trying to get here is more information on the war in Russia, as effected him. He got a DFC in Russia. Gazette citation reads

1919 Aug 24 Observer-Officer PARCELL REES BOWEN, M.C., D.F.C. (5th Welsh Rifles). On August 24, 1919, whilst observer on reconnaissance over the enemy aerodrome (Toima), he was fired upon at long distance range from an enemy machine, both himself and the pilot being wounded. The pilot having collapsed from his wound on to the controls, Observer-Officer Bowen managed to guide the machine from the back seat and flew homeward for a distance of roo miles, by which time the pilot had slightly recovered and took control of the landing, which was safely made on the Bereznik Aerodrome. This officer's action was highly meritorious, and the guiding of the machine over a long distance was especially noteworthy in view of the wound which he had sustained in the right elbow.

What puzzles me is when you read his RAF service record (link) a posting to Russia - 25 May 1919 to "31 TS", as is being admitted to hospital following his wounding in the DFC action.

The status of RAF in Russia at that time seems a bit murky, yet he clearly won a DFC. And what was 31TS

Can anyone point me at further reading or add anything here

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Simon Jones

I did a lot of research on RAF personnel in North Russia about fifteen years ago (before the service records were available) and have the following:

He embarked for Archangel on the HMT Czar on 3/7/1919.

He served with No 3 Squadron, Slavo-British Aviation Corps, at Bereznik as an Observer (Elope Command).

He suffered a gun shot wound 28/8/1919 with W A Moscrip (pilot).

The Slavo-British Aviation Corps was a mixture of British and Russian personnel but I don’t know what ‘31TS’ refers to.

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corisande

The Slavo-British Aviation Corps was a mixture of British and Russian personnel but I don’t know what ‘31TS’ refers to.

Simon

Thanks for that information. What I don't understand is whether the "Slavo-British Aviation Corps" was "official" RAF or some sort of mercenary squadron. On the one hand he got the DFC, so was recognised by British Government, but the "corps" does not sound British

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Simon Jones

The British formed Slavo-British regiments and also the Aviation Corps from Russian personnel with British officers and NCOs to maintain the fight against the Bolsheviks. This was ostensibly to safeguard a very large quantity of military stores which the British had shipped to Russia which were lying at Murmansk and Archangel. Churchill, who was Minister for War & Air, sent a North Russian Relief Force in the spring of 1919 to enable the evacuation of British forces which had been sent in 1918. I think the British hoped that after their withdrawal the Slavo-British units would continue under Russian officers. They seem in fact to have quite quickly collapsed when the British pulled out in autumn 1919.

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corisande

Thanks Simon, think I understand a bit more clearly now how the air-force detachment fitted in to the overall scheme of the Russian campaign (such that any overall scheme might have been!)

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apple

he was fired upon at long distance range from an enemy machine

Found that quite interesting. So, the Soviets still had an operational airforce in Aug. 1919. Does anyone know if the RAF met much aerial opposition? Sustain many combat casualties?

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corisande

On Bowens engagement I found

Red forces at Puchega are apparently still a nuisance at this time, as they are bombed at least twice by Allied aircraft. (Avro 504s and DH9s) from Bereznik. The Slavo-British Squadrons also sustain the bombardment of Gorodok. Flying a two-seater, Moscrip and Bowen of No. 3. (?) squadron engage a Bolshevik Nieuport in combat over north Toima and are defeated; both are seriously wounded but manage to land safely after making a hundred-mile flight back to Bereznik.

and

In the Red Air Detactment at Kazan, a Nieuport sports personal insignia almost identical to that of one Heinrich Zempel, former pilot of Jasta 65, lending credence to rumours in the RAF that German mercenaries are flying for the Bolsheviks. Some German pilots who were members of the Spartak Union (a German communist faction) are known to have, in fact, joined the Reds, but no details of their Soviet service are known. In addition, a few Austrian or German ex-POWs also serve as pilots in the Red Air Fleet during this time

and

In the south, No. 47 's base at Beketovka is attacked by Red fighters while the squadron is out on a mission; six men are killed on the airfield and one Red aircraft-a Pfalz- is shot down. 'B' flight accounts for 10 enemy aircraft in the first half of the month; two of these victories are an all-black Fokker D.VII and a Nieuport, downed by Aten during a recce mission over Kamyshin.

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corisande

And finally having dug around a bit more:

Three understrength Slavo-British Squadrons ended up sharing the airfield at Bereznik.

  • No 1 squadron. Major Kozakov's squadron were equipped with the latest Sopwith fighters, DH9s & 9As, a few Avro 504Ks and at least one Nieuport of indeterminate type, probably a 17C-1.
  • No 2 squadron under Major Charles R Carr. A New Zealander. For most of W.W.II he was Commander of No.4 Group, Bomber Command and went on to become Air Marshall Sir Charles Roderick CARR, K.B.E., C.B., D.F.C., A.F.C.., retiring in 1947.
  • No 3 Squadron under Major Geoffrey Bowman

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corisande
He suffered a gun shot wound 28/8/1919 with W A Moscrip (pilot).

Simon,

A bit of digging makes me think the wounded pilot was William Roswell Moscrip who had been commissioned from being a cadet on 26th July 1918. And later resigned due to wounds in 1920

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headgardener

His posting on 24th May to '31 TS' is likely to be simply an administrative move; 31 TS would be 31 Training Squadron RAF. He would be attached (or detached) from that unit to the Slavo-British Aviation Corps.

The Slavo-British units (I think they were known as the Slavo-British Legion) that Simon refers to were technically British units, and the men serving in them came under British military law, hence a fairly large number of them (11 or 12, I think) being executed by the British for mutiny in Summer 1919 (see 'Shot at Dawn' or 'British Army Mutineers' for more details).

Edit; just had a quick search on the Forum which reveals that 31 Training Sqn was based at Wyton, and is described as being downgraded to a mobilization station. This would suggest that he was mobilized there prior to being sent to Russia. His service record tells that he had been stood down a month or so earlier. Looks like he was either recalled or volunteered.

Whether or not any administrative records survive for 31 TS is anyone's guess, but I imagine not. I'm sure someone here may be able to advise on this.

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corisande

Thanks for the bit on Training Squadron

I would like to try to avoid adding the mutiny to this thread as do not think it effect the RAF contingent that Bowen was attached to. Correct me if I am wrong, in which case I can add it to his notes.

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headgardener

No, I only mention it by way of illustrating that they were a British unit under British control. You didn't seem conversant with them, and I thought that it might provide some further avenues of research for you (i.e. details of the regiment/legion and role of the Sqn within it, actions they were involved in, etc), though I appreciate that this may only really be 'background' to the story that you're trying to tell.

You could think of the unit being a bit like the British colonial armies; they were made up of local soldiers under the control of British officers and probably NCO's. Can't imagine that that mutiny would have had any bearing on your man's service, other than it being a 'sort-of' interesting parallel to the situation in which he eventually found himself in in Ireland.

Also, I was editing my last post when you were posting your reply (have a quick read, it may shed some light on how he came to be listed as being on the strength of the Sqn). I doubt that any administrative records survive for 31 TS, but who knows? It would be interesting to know if some sort of record survives of them providing drafts to the Slavo-British Sqn, or whether these men were volunteers or were were recalled? (if so, on what grounds)

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Simon Jones

Simon,

A bit of digging makes me think the wounded pilot was William Roswell Moscrip who had been commissioned from being a cadet on 26th July 1918. And later resigned due to wounds in 1920

That sounds like him. The only other thing I have on him is that he embarked on HMT Czar 3/7/19 for Archangel.

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corisande
whether these men were volunteers or were were recalled

Thanks for the bit on 31 TS, I'll add that to my bit on Bowen

I have the impression that they were volunteers from men looking to continue/resume in employment. Rather than being a conventional posting

Again, perhaps someone can put me right on that.

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corisande
he embarked on HMT Czar 3/7/19 for Archangel

Bowen was on the same ship, so must have all gone there together

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James A Pratt III

from what have read on the Aerodrome.com some time ago Aten was not an ace and did not shoot down a single aircraft during his service with 47 squadron in south russia. I think he recieved the DFC for flying ground attack missions.

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apple

In the Red Air Detactment at Kazan, a Nieuport sports personal insignia almost identical to that of one Heinrich Zempel, former pilot of Jasta 65, lending credence to rumours in the RAF that German mercenaries are flying for the Bolsheviks. Some German pilots who were members of the Spartak Union (a German communist faction) are known to have, in fact, joined the Reds, but no details of their Soviet service are known. In addition, a few Austrian or German ex-POWs also serve as pilots in the Red Air Fleet during this time

and

In the south, No. 47 's base at Beketovka is attacked by Red fighters while the squadron is out on a mission; six men are killed on the airfield and one Red aircraft-a Pfalz- is shot down. 'B' flight accounts for 10 enemy aircraft in the first half of the month; two of these victories are an all-black Fokker D.VII and a Nieuport, downed by Aten during a recce mission over Kamyshin.

German (and Austrian) pilots and planes. Sounds like an early, military example of "The Internationale" in effect. Similiar to the later Spanish Republican, North Korean and North Vietnamese airforces. Although, Germans of the opposite political persuasion were certainly messing about in other regions which were formally part of Imperial Russia. So, perhaps it was just a German thing.

Then again, these rumours of German mercenaries/ "fellow travellers" could be completely baseless

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centurion

In the Red Air Detactment at Kazan, a Nieuport sports personal insignia almost identical to that of one Heinrich Zempel, former pilot of Jasta 65, lending credence to rumours in the RAF that German mercenaries are flying for the Bolsheviks.

German pilots certainly flew for the Red Army against Poland, mainly using British machines including some Camels. Interestingly British and Americans were flying Albatross DIIIs for the Poles but there is no record of a British (or American) piloted Albatross encountering a German manned Camel.

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corisande

I came across this download of British Government report on evacuation from Northern Russiain 1919 in an earlier thread in this forum

It does not say much about RAF role there, but does refer to the request by Ironside for authorization for a call for volunteers from the RAF men in Russia to serve in 2 squadrons in a Slavo-British Legion, which would be 50% British officered.

He therefore asks that he may be allowed definitely to call for volunteers among officers and non-commissioned officers now serving in Archangel for further service in North Russia under two categories :

a.) For British subordinate commands and staff.

b.) For an expansion of the Slave-British Legion.

In the case of the latter the intention of General Ironside is to form the present Slavo-British Legion into an efficient force of 3 battalions, 2 squadrons and 3 batteries - 50 per cent. British officers..

This force would form a backbone to the purely Russian National forces.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I assume that the result of this was the three understrength Slavo-British Squadrons which ended up sharing the airfield at Bereznik.

No 1 squadron. Major Kozakov's No. 1 Which I assume was entirely Russian

No 2 squadron under Major Charles R. Carr. A New Zealander. For most of W.W.II he was Commander of No.4 Group, Bomber Command and went on to become Air Marshall Sir Charles Roderick CARR, K.B.E., C.B., D.F.C., A.F.C.., retiring in 1947.

No 3 squadron was under Maj. Geoffrey Hilton Bowman DSO, MC, DFC

I cannot find anywhere how many RAF men volunteered for the Slavo-British squadrons. For example are there any lists perhaps akin to the one that emerged in the Lithuania thread on the RAF men who went on from Russia to Lithuania..

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corisande

I have come across another RAF man in Russia (who, like Bowen in this thread, was murdered in Ireland later on)

John Joseph Fitzgerald (this link has my page on him). This photo is a blow up of his transfer to Russia, I cannot make head nor tale of it.

Can anyone help with working out where he went in Russia either from this service record or from other sources. His RAF record says that he was posted to Russia 12 May 1919 and returned by sea 11 Sept 1919 but I cannot see where he was sent in Russia.

raf-record_blowup.jpg

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charlesmessenger

David

HGe was in No 2 Slavo-British Sqn under the command of our old friend C R Carr. The vlast entry on your scan shows this.

Charles M

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corisande

Thanks Charles

You are quite right, I was looking at trying to make something out of the bit to the left of the word "SEA", but the 2 Squadron NREF is what I actually need to see what Fitzgerald was up to

His dates go out of sequence on the last 3 entries

In a way it is surprising the Fitzgerald did not go to Lithuania Air Force with Carr, Bowen and Saunders

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corisande

Again, for what its worth, I transcribed a list of RAF men in Bereznik given By Ira Jones in his book "An airfighter's scrapbook" Jones was with Bowman's no 3 Squadron, and therefore reflects the men in that squadron more than Carr's

Archangel Pilots named by Jones -

Guy Carter

Geoffrey "Beery" Bowman

Frankie O "Mongoose" Soden

Oliver C Bryson

R L Chidlaw-Roberts

Roddy Waugh

Gardner

Humphreys

Scott

Scramblin (Canadian)

Rogers

Adams

W R Moscrip

Kearny

"Fluffy" White

Dease

Jackson

MacDonald

Kearns

C R W Knight (killed on 21 Jun, CWGC)

Bernard (French-Canadian) (killed or captured)

Dugald D McDougall (killed 25 Aug, CWGC)

D'Arcy-Levy (killed 10 Aug, CWGC)

Archangel Observers - Neill, Bowen, Pettigrew, Davies, Micky Byrne,

Pilot disembarked at Murmansk - Alan Garrard VC, W H "Porky" Park, C A Bouchier

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MAten

The 47 Squadron account mentioned below is from "Last Train Over Rostov Bridge", written by Marion Aten and Arthur Orrmont, or from a source that relied on "Last Train". The 10 victories in the time period mentioned are fictional. The book has stretched the timescale of Marion Aten's Russian experiences and added certain fictional events, but other parts of the account are true, especially the descriptions of strafing and bombing attacks, the desperate retreat, the typhus epidemic, etc. To date no evidence has surfaced that Marion shot down five enemy aircraft while in Russia, and in fact the earlier "Liberty" magazine account of Marion's time in Russia does not make claims to five enemy aircraft being shot down. At most, I credit Marion with one or possibly two aircraft shot down or, more likely, damaged.

A search of "Aten" in this forum will turn up a more complete overview of both the book "Last Train Over Rostov Bridge" and of Aten's adventurous RAF career.

On Bowens engagement I found

Red forces at Puchega are apparently still a nuisance at this time, as they are bombed at least twice by Allied aircraft. (Avro 504s and DH9s) from Bereznik. The Slavo-British Squadrons also sustain the bombardment of Gorodok. Flying a two-seater, Moscrip and Bowen of No. 3. (?) squadron engage a Bolshevik Nieuport in combat over north Toima and are defeated; both are seriously wounded but manage to land safely after making a hundred-mile flight back to Bereznik.

and

In the Red Air Detactment at Kazan, a Nieuport sports personal insignia almost identical to that of one Heinrich Zempel, former pilot of Jasta 65, lending credence to rumours in the RAF that German mercenaries are flying for the Bolsheviks. Some German pilots who were members of the Spartak Union (a German communist faction) are known to have, in fact, joined the Reds, but no details of their Soviet service are known. In addition, a few Austrian or German ex-POWs also serve as pilots in the Red Air Fleet during this time

and

In the south, No. 47 's base at Beketovka is attacked by Red fighters while the squadron is out on a mission; six men are killed on the airfield and one Red aircraft-a Pfalz- is shot down. 'B' flight accounts for 10 enemy aircraft in the first half of the month; two of these victories are an all-black Fokker D.VII and a Nieuport, downed by Aten during a recce mission over Kamyshin.

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flatdog

Forgive me for hijacking this thread but the title is most appropriate. I believe that my grandfather Edward Theobald Roberts served as an RAF mechanic in Russia (Archangel) in 1919. His service number (from his original leather dog tag) was 191031. I have written to the National Archives to see if his service record is available but have not heard anything yet. Are there any other sources that might at least confirm that he was there and if so which Squadron he served with?

Thank you,

Philip

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