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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

MURMANSK UNDER BRITISH CONTROL


Greg Bloomfield

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Watching 'Three Kings at War' tonight on Channel 4 the narrator said that Murmansk was under British control in 1917. Can anybody tell me the circumstances that led to this as it's something I was completely unaware of.

Thanks

Greg

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Greg

I think that the program was slightly wrong: it was 1918, not 1917, when Murmansk came under British control. In essence, Murmansk was established as an ice-free port on the Kola River for supplies to reach Russia from the Western Allies, ie as a year-round alternative to Archangel. Construction started in late 1915 and the port facilities, and the necessary railway to connect it to the rest of Russia, were completed by the end of 1916. Much of the money came from Britain, and much of the labour was supplied by Austro-Hungarian Prisoners of War.

Murmansk also served as the base for a Royal Navy squadron dedicated to keeping check on German U-boats and minelayers. However, when Russia left the War in late 1917, it looked as if there was a good chance that Murmansk could fall to the Germans, thereby giving them an ice-free U-boat base from where Atlantic sea-lanes could be menaced. In addition, there was a considerable amount of Allied stores, once destined for Russian use, left there. Hence, on 6 March 1918, a British force landed from HMS Glory to quell any pro-Bolshevik demonstrations and to safeguard the port from the Germans. It was the beginning of Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War.

For more information, see The Day We Almost Bombed Moscow by Christopher Dobson and John Miller; ISBN 0 340 33723 0.

Regards

Gareth

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Thanks Gareth

Apparently a British officer was trying to put together a team of fluent Russian speakers to try to spring the Tsar and his family. They were to be based in 'British controlled Murmansk' from where the op was to be mounted but this was in 1917 so it seems somebody has got their facts wrong.

Cheers

Greg

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There was also an American contingent involved (not to be confused with the Americans sent to secure the Trans Siberian Railway)

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As a matter of interest my grandfather was in the Royal Marines and was wounded in Murmansk in 1919.

Len

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Photo of an American convoy at Murmansk gives an interesting view of the conditions

post-9885-1179058311.jpeg

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Taking a look at the CWGC site, and the cemeteries at Murmansk and Archangel, the bulk of the casualties are late 1918 and 1919 - there were quite a spread of units involved.

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You might be interested in the emblen of the North Russia Expeditionary Force. It seems that this was worn by both British and American troops

post-9885-1179172967.jpeg

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Here are a couple of Photos from my Grandfather who was there with HMS Cochrane, and one of the shore parties from the ship.

Gareth

post-890-1179175195.jpg

post-890-1179175218.jpg

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You might be interested in the emblen of the North Russia Expeditionary Force. It seems that this was worn by both British and American troops

First off, this subject has been raised before on Forum, so a search should bring it up.

Second, I can do no more than recommend (heartily) [Major General] Clifford Kinvig's "Churchill's Crusade" which came out last year, and is about our involvement in Russia in the round (it includes the Russian Far East, the Black Sea and the Baltic). Best modern account.

Third; Not so sure the Polar Bear was worn by the British (and Canadians) in North Russia; certainly was by Americans. The British badge was a five pointed star on a blue square. There is a picture of General Maynard wearing it in Ironside's account "Archangel 1919". I believe the Canadian contingent changed the background colour according to arm of service, but not certain of that.

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  • 3 years later...

Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections

The "American Intervention in Northern Russia, 1918-1919," nicknamed the "Polar Bear Expedition," was a U.S. military intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I. Since many of these soldiers originated from Michigan, the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, has collected materials related to this event since the 1960s. The Bentley collection has over sixty individual collections of primary source material as well as numerous published materials. [Recommended by Chris Bostwick][CEF Study Group – Oct 2008]

http://polarbears.si.umich.edu/index.pl?node_id=272&lastnode_id=1163

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Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections

The "American Intervention in Northern Russia, 1918-1919," nicknamed the "Polar Bear Expedition," was a U.S. military intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I. Since many of these soldiers originated from Michigan, the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, has collected materials related to this event since the 1960s. The Bentley collection has over sixty individual collections of primary source material as well as numerous published materials. [Recommended by Chris Bostwick][CEF Study Group – Oct 2008]

http://polarbears.si...astnode_id=1163

I think that was the 339th Infantry Regiment, which had a large contingent from the midwestern states, primarily Michigan. I had read a book titled "When Hell Froze Over", by E.M. Halliday, which I think was originally published as "The Ignorant Armies", in the 1950's I was struck by the author's description of General Ironside's amazement at the extent at which the US Army went to recover and return the bodies of those soldiers who had died, both in battle and of disease, and to return them to the US. It apparently was not the policy of the British to do so at the time, but to leave them in a patch of earth that was "forever England", I can only assume. What about Canada? Which policy, or is it the British policy as having once been part of the empire? And, can someone tell me if that is the current British forces policy?

Considering the conditions in Northern Russia, not all the bodies of American soldiers were found and the effort was finally called to a close.

I can't say that the book was an academic achievement, but interesting nevertheless.

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British policy in the Great War was that men should be buried where they fell. This applied to all members of the Empire, so included Canadians. Not sure that Scots, Welsh or Irish wanted to be buried as "forever England"! The sheer scale of numbers involved forced this decision. It remained in force, more or less, until the Falklands, but casualties since then.....Bosnia, iraq, Afganistan, etc., have been brought home for burial in Britain.

Bruce

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Not only have, mercifully, the numbers been smaller but air transport has advanced so that a body can be home within a relatively short time from the action that caused the death. It's a smaller world today.

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British policy in the Great War was that men should be buried where they fell. This applied to all members of the Empire, so included Canadians. Not sure that Scots, Welsh or Irish wanted to be buried as "forever England"! The sheer scale of numbers involved forced this decision. It remained in force, more or less, until the Falklands, but casualties since then.....Bosnia, iraq, Afganistan, etc., have been brought home for burial in Britain.

Bruce

Bruce:

I understand your comments about the Scots, Welsh and Irish. I was poorly paraphrasing Rupert Brooke's WWI poem "The Soldier", where he talks about "some corner of a foreign field that is forever England". Thanks for the info.

Bill Berndt

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Not only have, mercifully, the numbers been smaller but air transport has advanced so that a body can be home within a relatively short time from the action that caused the death. It's a smaller world today.

Centurion:

Agreed. Let's hope the numbers always stay smaller....although sometimes I wonder if they ever will. Thanks.

Bill Berndt

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