It was the war to end all wars, originating in Europe and lasting from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Yet it remains a little known fact that the last British troops killed by the German Army were killed in the Baltic in late 1919, nor that the last Canadian and Australian soldiers to die, suffered their fate in North Russia in 1919, many months after the Armistice.
In Churchill’s Secret War with Lenin: British and Commonwealth Military Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918-20, author Damien Wright explores the virtually forgotten two-year battle between the British Government and the Russian Bolsheviks, seeking to uncover the truth about the Russian Civil War.
“When I first starting investigating the Russian Civil War, asking around British military history circles, few knew anything about the British campaign in Russia after the First World War,” Wright says.
“This seemed bizarre, given the significance of the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, pursuing an undeclared war against the first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin.
“The ultimate victory of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War – and the establishment of the Soviet Union – shaped most of the 20th century, so why would this important period of history slip under the radar?”
Wright says that as Russia fractured into loyalist 'White' and revolutionary 'Red' factions, the British government became increasingly drawn into the escalating Russian Civil War after thousands of German troops were transferred from the Eastern Front to France for the 1918 'Spring Offensive' which threatened Paris.
“What began with a small number of Royal British Marines landing at Murmansk in 1918 to protect Allied-donated war stores, quickly escalated into an undeclared war against the Bolsheviks,” Wright says.
“By mid-1919, British troops were simultaneously fighting the Soviets far into the Russian interior in the Baltic, North Russia, Siberia, Caspian and Crimea. The full range of weapons in the British arsenal were deployed including the most modern aircraft, tanks and even poison gas.”
Wright says that after the withdrawal of all British forces in mid-1920, the British government attempted to cover up its military involvement in Russia by classifying all official documents.
“When files on the campaign were quietly released decades later there was little public interest in what happened, and today, few people in Britain even know that their nation ever fought a war against the Soviet Union,” Wright says.
Both presidents Nixon and Reagan made the same mistake (US troops also fought under British command in Russia) in speeches declaring that the US and Soviet Union had never been at war. However the Soviets had much longer memories with Soviet Premier Khrushchev declaring: “Never have any of our soldiers been on American soil, but your soldiers were on Russian soil. Those are the facts.”
Wright says that despite the loss of hundreds of soldiers, sailors and airmen from across the British Empire including Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ceylon and Rhodesia, most of whom remain buried in Russia, and five Victoria Crosses being awarded (including one to a South Australian and another to a Victorian soldier who received the award posthumously), the campaign remains virtually unknown in Britain today.
Churchill’s Secret War with Lenin is the culmination of more than 15 years of painstaking and exhaustive research with access to many previously classified official documents, unpublished diaries, manuscripts and personal accounts.
Virtually an unofficial war history, this book is the first comprehensive campaign history of British and Commonwealth military intervention in the Russian Civil War 1918-20.
The book is available online.
The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology, Crime and Justice, a new research volume by Dr Antje Deckert and Professor Rick Sarre, is a valuable resource for dedicated academics, public policy analysts and university students.
The book covers the last 50 years of key debates on the subject of criminology in Australia and New Zealand. It contains a comprehensive collection of criminological writing from the two countries and is designed for an international audience.
More than 70 leading researchers and practitioners contribute to the investigation of topics such as the history of criminology; gangs; youth crime; cybercrime; terrorism; Indigenous courts; child witnesses; children of prisoners; gun laws; criminal profiling, and more.
Deckert and Sarre invited selected Indigenous researchers to contribute their unique perspectives on crime and criminal justice issues in Australia and New Zealand. It is an important feature of the book.
Moreover, leading academics examine the implications of past and current trends in official data collection, crime policy, and academic criminological investigation. The work is designed to build up an understanding of under-researched topics, as well as examining emerging problem areas for future research.
The Palgrave Handbook of Australian and New Zealand Criminology, Crime and Justice is available in hardback and online.