End of the British Mission to Southern Russia

On 29th June 1920, Brigadier Joss Percy left Sevastopol with the remnants of the British Mission to Southern Russia.  The 150 officers and 450 soldiers had been supporting Generals Deniken and Wrangel in the Crimea. They left behind dozens of British soldiers, airmen and sailors who died in the campaign, including the last British soldier to be killed in action in World War I, Captain William Frecheville of the Royal Engineers.

Percy, who was knighted and promoted for his work in Russia, was born John Samuel Jocelyn Baumgartner, but changed his German sounding surname to Percy at the beginning of the war.  A virulent anti-Bolshevik, he went on to be King Zog’s Inspector General for 12 years and instigated the successful reconstruction of Albania before Mussolini’s invasion in April 1939.

The Royal Navy’s evacuation from Batum was completed on 10th July, leaving the way clear for Brian Horrocks and the British prisoners-of-war in Siberia to be escorted to Moscow four days later.  For further details, see Chapter 14 in Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners.

Korean War Anniversary

On 25th June, 1950 Soviet backed troops crossed the 38th Parallel and began a civil war in Korea less than five years after the end of World War II.  That same day the United Nations drafted Resolution 82, which called all members to support its attempts to resolve the crisis.

The government of Australia joined Britain and America in immediately offering troops to assist. Over 17,000 Australians served in the War under the UN flag between 1950 and 1953 with 339 dead and 1,200 wounded.  The picture is of my father commanding a Centurion Tank whilst serving with 2nd Armoured Brigade at Puckapunyal during the Korean War.  The poor driver looks like he had a mouthful of dust, but fortunately for him, Australia never deployed their tanks to the Korean Peninsula.  Puckapunyal

Winston Churchill Ramps Up The Pressure

In June 1920, as the Prime Minister negotiated with the Soviet envoy, Leonid Krassin, Winston Churchill was in open rebellion.  The Secretary of State for War was supported by a large section of MPs, who were appalled that Lloyd George was “grasping the paw of the hairy baboon”.  On 11th June, Churchill circulated a secret memorandum to the Cabinet with his demands of the Soviet Union and a week later, he sent a Military Intelligence report describing the treacherous execution of Britain’s recent ally, Admiral Kolchak, at Irkutsk.

Above all else, Churchill demanded that “All British prisoners of war captured in Siberia..are to be returned forthwith alive and well.”  He now took up the cause of Brian Horrocks, Leonard Vining and the other British PoWs being transported from Irkutsk to Moscow.  With an obsessive determination, he encouraged his friends in Parliament to press the Prime Minister for action to secure their release. See Chapter 14 of Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners…

Churchill's Memorandum


Abandoned and Deceived in Irkutsk

After Captain Rex Carthew departed with the British women and children from Irkutsk, Brian Horrocks and the other prisoners-of-war were left in limbo.  The promised train with supplies and mail never arrived.  In Vladivostok the head of the British Mission sent a telegram to the Secretary  of State, Winston Churchill asking “To what extent may dealings be undertaken with the Soviet authorities in regard to prisoners; please wire urgent.”  The strict policy in place was for local commanders not to say anything that gave recognition to Lenin’s Government and this did not change.

Despondency pervaded the prisoners’ carriage where they lived.  In June, the  Commissars, who had initially led them to believe they would go east to Vladivostok as part of the Litvinov-O’Grady prisoner exchange agreement, changed their tune and told them they were being sent 4,000 miles to Moscow.   Understandably, they felt abandoned by their country and deceived by the Soviets.  On 12th June, two months after they said farewell to Carthew, their carriage was attached to a locomotive and at 2 p.m. they pulled out of the station on the long, depressing journey west.

Smoking Gun 1

MI6 Interviews of Francis McCullagh

When Captain Francis McCullagh was interrogated in Lubjanka, he refused the offer to work as a double agent for the Soviet Union.  Eventually, he was released with dozens of other prisoners and crossed the frontier into Finland on 15 April 1920.  He was picked up by the head of the MI6 section, John Scale, who debriefed him in Helsingfors before he returned to England on the SS Dongola with the Reverend Frank North and a young Dmitri Tolstoy disguised as the son of his nanny, Lucy Stark.

In London, he was interviewed again by a Military Intelligence officer, Commander Boyce, at the Savoy Club Adelphi at the end of May and then in June by Lord Emmott’s Committee to Collect Information on Russia, which reported to the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.  The information McCullagh gives in these interviews is quite different to the story he tells in his memoir published the following year.  For more on this, see Chapter 11 of Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners.