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Remembered Today:

French and Italian forces in the Russian Civil War


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I have been trying to get a better understanding of these troops in Russia. It would appear the French had a larger presence in Southern Russia, and the Italians likewise had a greater presence at Vladivostok. (These contingents were commanded by General Janin and Colonel Fossini Camossi respectively.)

In Northern Russia, the French had sent the 21e Battailon de Marche d'Infanterie Coloniale, as well as some elements from Compagnies de skieurs. The 2e Compagnies de skieurs was sent out in its entirety, and from an administrative perspective, it was a part of the 1er Regiment d'Infanterie Coloniale at Cherbourg. It would appear that this had been previously associated with the 28e Battaillon des Chasseurs Alpins.


Wikipedia suggests that the Italians sent to Murmansk the 4th Battalion of the 67º Reggimento fanteria, the 389th machine-gun company, the 165th Royal Carabinieri section, and an engineer detachment, commanded by Colonel Sifola.


Did any Alpini also get sent to Russia?

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I have quite a bit on Italian and French troops under British command in my book on the campaign.


I have posted a few pages here but there are too many pages otherwise, you should obtain a copy of my book if further interested.


You may be interested that the British used French 65mm mountain guns in North Russia although I am unsure if they were brought over by the French contingent and given to the British or perhaps more likely they were war stores donated to the Imperial Russian government before the Revolution.


French Cruiser L'Amiral Aube and 21st Colonial Bn. took part in the amphibious invasion of Arkhangelsk on 2nd August 1918.


You may also be interested to note I have recorded the following incomplete list of British awards to Italian troops in North Russia:


Military Cross


BERGAMACHI, Capt. F., Italian Mobile Coy. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 25th July 1919.

BRACCO, Lieut. Signor Alessandro, 67th Italian Infy. Regt. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 25th July 1919.

FOGLIENI, Lieut. Signor Alessandro, Alpine Regt., Italian Army. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 25th July 1919.


Military Medal


LEONI, Sgt. Grovanni, Italian Mobile Coy. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919.

BAUCE, Cpl. Albino, Italian M.G. Coy. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919.

MORINI, Pte. Gino, Italian Mobile Coy. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919.

FRANCISCO, Pte. Coletto, 67th Italian Infy. Regt. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919.

AUGUSTO, Pte. Frascari, 67th Italian Infy. Regt. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919. (Killed in Action)

GIACINTO, Pte. Majocchi, 67th Italian Infy. Regt. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919. (Killed in Action)

CONCETTO, Pte. Gualtiero, 67th Italian Infy. Regt. (NORTH RUSSIA [MURMANSK]) GRO's Murmansk 7th July 1919. (Killed in Action)



And the following incomplete list of French awards:


Distinguished Service Order (DSO):


DONOP, Col., French Army “To Colonel Donop who in his capacity as senior officer of the French Mission during the two months preceding the occupation of Archangel by the Allies has made at great personal risk successful efforts to obtain information concerning the movement and number of troops, the location of mine fields and of the batteries on the island of Mudyug. It has been proved that the information thus obtained was of greatest importance and there is no doubt that the possession of this information made it possible to avoid great losses during the capture of the island of Mudyug. Furthermore Colonel Donop has greatly contributed to the organization of the movement, which, coinciding with the arrival of Allied troops, made it possible for us to occupy Archangel without opposition. During the days which preceded this revolution as well as during the action itself Colonel Donop though running great personal risks did not diminish his efforts to serve the Allied cause.” Also MID x2: (London Gazette 6th April 1920):”I wish to make special mention of the following: …for his help in all the liaison between the British and French troops.” Also MID: (London Gazette, 21st May 1920) “The names of the undermentioned Officers are to be added to those brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War, for valuable and distinguished services rendered in connection with Military Operations in the theatre of war specified (Published in the Supplement of the London Gazette dated 3rd February, 1920 (No. 31764)):” (ARCHANGEL) (Served with French Military Mission before being appointed by General Poole as Military Governor of Archangel.)

Mentioned in Despatches (MID):


HALLIER, Capitaine de Vaisseau J.E., C.M.G., Cruiser “Gueydon”. (London Gazette, 19th May 1920) “My thanks are due to the following Officers of our Naval Allies:” (R.-Adm. Green’s dispatch) (NORTH RUSSIA [ARCHANGEL])

LEQUERRE, Capitaine de Vaisseau, Cruiser “Conde” (London Gazette, 19th May 1920) “My thanks are due to the following Officers of our Naval Allies:” (R.-Adm. Green’s dispatch) (NORTH RUSSIA [ARCHANGEL]

PETIT, Captain Louis Jules, 'Amiral Aube" (London Gazette, 8th July 1920) "List of officers mentioned for good services during naval operations in N. Russia, 1918" (NORTH RUSSIA [ARCHANGEL])












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Hi Damien,
I have a copy of your book which has been very interesting to read, and has made me ask the questions as to the non-Commonwealth element of the allied forces in Russia.

i had seen the names of the Italian MM recipients earlier today, in Howard Williamson's book "The Military Medal Awarded to The Allied Armies by The British Government", appearing in War Office list 57 dated 19 January 1920. I would like to know how to determine when these men died.


War Office list 58 dated 9 February 1920 has 4x MMs to the US 339th Infantry, and a number of MMs to Frenchmen in the 21e Battailon de Marche d'Infanterie Coloniale and 21e Battailon d'Infanterie Coloniale, which appears to be the same unit. Their war diary has not survived, yet the diary of the 2nd ski company is online.





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I have come across a book which, after a very limited print run, appears to be available solely as an e-book.

Author:      Laurent Droulin

Title:        Corps expéditionnaire français en Russie du Nord, 1918-1919

ISBN 978-2-9542358-0-6



[Cette force] composé du 21ème bataillon de marche, du 1er régiment d’infanterie coloniale (aujourd’hui 1er rima), de deux batteries du 2ème régiment d’artillerie coloniale, d’une compagnie de skieur des Vosges, de trois compagnies de la légion étrangère ainsi que des éléments du 101 éme et 112 éme régiment d’artillerie lourde appuyé par trois croiseurs cuirassé [de la Marine].


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  • 2 weeks later...

The Italian and French governments deployed composite regiments to Siberia.  The French battalion was based in Chelyabinsk and the Italians in Krasnoyarsk.  They were both pulled out as part of the evacuation when the Red Army overwhelmed the Whites in October 1919.  There is a file in the National Archives covering the Allied evacuation in which the Comd of the British Mission wrote a letter to the War Office reporting that the Italian evacuation from Vladivostok was completed on 26th February 1920.  In another Military Intelligence report, one of the British prisoners of war in Moscow claimed that Italy was the most favoured Allied country by the Bolshevik Russians. 

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Thanks for the info about the Siberian element. I recall reading that there was a French battalion in Siberia comprising troops from Indochina (<<Bataillon Colonial Sibérien>>).

I came across this pic from the IWM website, a draft of reinforcements to the French ski companies and the 339th US Infantry Regiment, about to embark on the quayside at Dundee on 20 September 1919.


IWM Catalogue number: Q 102989


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  • 1 month later...
34 minutes ago, SteveMarsdin said:

Good morning All,


The 21e Battailon de Marche Infanterie Coloniale were from mainland France but there were a few non-French colonial troops in Siberia. Although prominently European, the Colonial Corps battalion in Siberia did include some who weren't from mainland France:



Although the JMO on the MemoiresdesHommes site http://www.memoiredeshommes.sga.defense.gouv.fr/fr/arkotheque/inventaires/ead_ir_consult.php?a=4&ref=SHDGR__GR_26_N_II

from which these extracts are taken refers to Bataillon Coloniale Sibérien I cant find the  full JMO for 21e Battailon de Marche Infanterie Coloniale, just one for the 2e compagnie de skieurs





Hi Steve,

The 21e Battailon de Marche Infanterie Coloniale in Murmansk, and the Bataillon Coloniale Sibérien are indeed two separate entities in two geographically separate theatres of war. The composition that you have posted is interesting, as what I had read to date had inferred the ethnicity of these troops was Indochinese. 

The French language forum https://forum.pages14-18.com has discussed this, and mentioned that the 21e BMIC war diary has not survived. Damien's book does refer to a reconnaissance party involving both Lieutenant Angell and Caporal De Hange, both of whom are mentioned in the war diary for the 2e compagnie de skieurs.

One other unit not mentioned so far was a Russian volunteer battalion affiliated to the French Foreign Legion (Bataillon de la Légion Etrangère de Russie du Nord). They were awarded 2x Distinguished Conduct Medals and 6x Military Medals during their brief existence.


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IIRC one of the contributors on “pages14-18” mentioned writing a book and his user name was Laurent. Probably the man behind the e-book, he might be able to elaborate further.



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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

A couple of images of French troops on the Arkhangelsk-Vologda Railway Front, 1918-19.



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