As we have seen the three intervention groups at their start had no orders, intention, or functional mission to intervene militarily in anything at all. They were meant to extend both human intelligence and signals intelligence access into specific geographic areas of an otherwise inaccessible region for reasons which had only partially to do with Russia.
While the intervention in North Russia was based primarily on commercial and military imperatives and secondarily on Imperial great power politics, as we shall see underneath, on 1 March 1918, the Murmansk government informed Petrograd that they wanted to accept the Allied offer to assist in the defense of the city. The Soviets acting on a positive reply by Trotsky placed regional military authority into the hands of a council controlled by Allied officers. Defense of the port passed to the Allied forces with Russian cooperation.
Also on 10 March that same year, Georgy Chicherin who served as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs told the British representative in Moskau that the Bolsheviks were not concerned with Allied actions in North Russia and would try to expel the Allies from Murmansk.
This attitude changed following when on 7 June news of a German-backed enemy force approaching the railway junction at Kem reached Murmansk. The Murmansk government then acted on its own and authorized the Allies to proceed against the enemy. On 23 June over a thousand British troops commanded by General Maynard, arrived at the port, but as agreed at a War Cabinet meeting, the men remained aboard ship, for the moment. And when Chicherin protested, on 28 June the Murmansk Presidium voted to ignore Moscow's orders, and two days later officially broke with Moscow. And thus by now the intelligence-operations which were meant to guarantee and safeguard communications capability became a military incursion.
When Spies invaded Russia p.3
Between 1917 and 1918, two trends in political affairs coincided with withing Imperial government. The first was the gradual centralization of intelligence. The second was the centralization of political direction at the highest governmental levels.
Thus by March 1918, issues as disparate as the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the consequences of the collapse of Russia in North Persia and Afghanistan were being addressed within a single administrative unit-the Eastern Committee.
By not knowing which of the many-sided elements of the Russian scene would triumph, and having only the most ambiguous idea of what a triumph would mean, the Imperial government was left to limit the damage as best possible. Containment of threat, after all, defined the political strength of the Empire.
The "Convention entre la France et l’Angleterre au sujet de Faction dans la Russie méridionale," which already mentioned the Czechoslovaks, was negotiated by Lord Milner and Lord Robert Cecil and signed by France and England on 23 December 1917, reflected this policy of containment. In assenting to the agreement, the War Cabinet endorsed the arrangement that, "every effort should be made to utilize in South Russia the personnel of the British missions now in Russia, and that for the present they should not be withdrawn altogether from the country."1 It established both the presence and the principle behind the use of "unofficial agents" in the quasi-diplomatic relationships thus far established with the Bolsheviks.2 The War Cabinet broadly interpreted the agreement to mean that all efforts were permitted "To prevent the transference of further (German) enemy troops from East to West" and, significantly, "To deny the resources of Russia and Siberia to the enemy."3
It was under this agreement, a Alfred Milner's urging, that Foreign Office and MI1 (c) representative Robert Bruce Lockhart was sent back to Russia in February 1918.4 It was under this agreement that Francis Oswald Lindley and Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) Agent Henry Armitstead and Leslie Urquhart (a Siberian manganese magnate) later moved to obtain trade guarantees from the new Soviet government.
This was also illustrated by the events surrounding the Economic Mission the British sent to Russia in July 1918. The Mission ostensibly had economic goals. Its members were already Henry Armitstead and Leslie Urquhart, including William Peters of the Commercial Diplomatic Service (who later served Robert Hodgson who served as deputy to Hodgson at the Moscow Mission). One of the duties of the Mission was to examine the banking scheme that had been operated by Terence Keyes. Keyes was certainly thinking on a grand scale when he wrote:
We have the right to nominate our own directors and these banks with their 300 odd branches and their interests in numerous commercial and industrial! concerns offer us an unrivaled commercial intelligence system for investigating old and new undertakings. They offer us the means of setting on their feet such as our concerns as having suffered during the disorders, and of handing out loans and other financial interests.5
There was still another bonus. By controlling this conglomerate of banks, Britain, and to a lesser extent the Allies, would exclude the Germans and cripple their attempts to dominate Russia economically. And if the mechanics of the scheme had worked, it would have reduced the Russian Empire to the status of a satellite of the British Empire.
But when the Russia Committee wrote to Urquhart in January 1918, they envisioned sending him south, not north. The 23 January note covered just about all the possibilities. The Government, it said, would principally "occupy themselves with the Cossacks, the South Eastern Union, and the Caucasus" although there was expected to be a certain amount of "common ground at Novo Tcherkask where the French is assisting General Alekseyev."6 When Urquhart asked what specific areas of responsibility would be his, he was told that he would be functioning as the Southern Mission's financial advisor and would be active throughout all Russian and Turkish territory, even where the provincial government at Tiflis claimed to control. As the group's financial and political agent he would naturally be responsible to General Dunsterville, assisting him to prevent a "junction between the Turks and the Moslem elements in the Caucasus to the East of the Caspian." Urquhart was told that his reports would be transmitted directly to Dunsterville and by Dunsterville to London. Urquhart would be allowed to comment directly, as he liked.7
Meanwhile, the HBC, still operating under its British charter, had been increasing its shipping trade out of the Archangel region for decades before the war, and at its outbreak was one of its leading shipping and marketing agents. It interrupted its operations briefly when the Bolsheviks forced its agents' departure after the war, but it returned shortly thereafter. Its expertise and the comprehensive personal knowledge of its employees of the intricacies of the North Russian trade and transport was at a premium within the planning agencies of Whitehall and entirely at the command of Imperial authorities. Rather than diminishing, HBC found its operations into Archangel port expanding during the war. The HBC had become also the French government's agent for supplies and shipping of timber, wheat, coal, iron, and steel; on 9 October 1914 the Company had signed the first of many agreements with the French government, "becoming responsible for arranging credit for all French purchases and for organizing the shipping of supplies to French ports." HBC shipping also moved war materiel and ammunition in and out of the port of Archangel, where, according to 1916 Company records, the "warehousing accommodation at Archangel permitted the storage of about 20,000 tons"8 and the goods and supply route ran, for goods from Siberia, "by rail to Kotlas and from thence by lighters to Archangel" or from the southeastern provinces, "partly by rail and partly along the Volga to Vologda, from whence it is forwarded by rail to Archangel."9 In 1916, the French government had contracted for 9,000,000 poods of wheat, the majority of which arrived in the contracted fashion, but there was already a "very considerable congestion of goods" on the Siberian Railway, and the port of Vladivostok was "blocked with goods awaiting despatch." The HBC agent then believed that "the apparent congestion here has been taken up as an excuse for stopping the transport altogether."10
The alleged protecting of supplies propaganda
The Company's total shipping, using the newly formed Bay Steamship Company, totaled some 225,000 tons deadweight, and although "more than two-fifths of this tonnage was sunk by enemy submarines, no less than 350 voyages" had been made. The Bay Steamship Company had also chartered an additional number of vessels, so that "at one period the tonnage under the Company's management amounted to over 1,000,000 tons deadweight."11 HBC was handling the transport of munitions-grade alcohol from Russia, as well as flax, tobacco, lentils and the Company's old stand-by furs, but the port and the agent were extremely vulnerable to Russian government pressure to restrict exportation. HBC had a plenitude of ships availableï¿½but the attitude and conduct of the respective "Russian Government Departments, who have, against agreement, and without any notice, suddenly stopped all arrivals" constituted the commercial threat. The terrific expansion of the Company's interests, enhanced by the French contracts, had resulted in the creation of a "network of agencies at the ports of discharge in France, and in the ports of shipment throughout the world."12 According to Company records, an additional 145 agents were appointed, "all its servants in the service of the Allied Cause." Specifically, "for over four years, under various forms of Russian Government, including Bolshevic,"13 the Company handled all the munitions shipping of France to Russia and Rumania through Archangel, taking on the outward voyage, wheat, timber, ore, flax, hemp, and beetroot seeds. By 1917 the Company was also shipping into Russia all kinds of war materiel. Including heavy guns, munitions and locomotives, "and supplying at the request of the Russian government the purchase and delivery of harbour equipment and anti-submarine craft."14 The three coaling vessels kept at Archangel were purchased by the Company for the Russian government, and although one was lost en route, to a German submarine, the others arrived at their station. Throughout the war in the service of France and Britain, the Company lost 110 steamers all told, or about 475,000 tons, with a value at the time of over £ 11,000,000, with cargoes estimated at about £ 14,000,000.15 In addition to its shipping responsibilities, "towards the end of 1917 it undertook the management of four large Russian passenger steamers ... in the special service of the transport of passengers and troops."16 By the end of 1917, the Bay, through its subsidiary, was managing the majority of all shipping and storage into and out of Archangel. To facilitate communication, Sir Robert Kindersley, a member of the HBC Board and subsequently Governor of the Company, invited a friend, Charles Sale, to sit on the Board and take charge of the entire French matter. Sale, who established a base in the Company's London office, proceeded to use the Company's "network of 145 agencies around the world" to sign about "6600 contracts with French government agencies" and with the Belgian, Rumanian and Russian governments. The contracts used several hundred vessels (not necessarily owned by the HBC, but contracted to it); by the end of the war, the Company had "transported over thirteen million tons of cargo, including munitions, textiles, and foodstuffs" into and out of the war-affected regions, including Archangel.17 When Milner later explained the Imperial presence at Archangel and Murmansk, he was "circumspect about the mechanics of the trading connexions. He repeated the Governmental position that the "Ports of Archangel and Murmansk have throughout the War been used as the gateway into Russia, through which the Allies were able to provide the munitions upon which the Russian forces subsisted." That was most certainly correct. But, he added, at "the time of the Brest Litovsk Treaty...large quantities of valuable military stores were lying at both of these ports." That was decidedly arguably, had anyone outside of the government wished to press the issue. But taking his assertion as fact, he went further.
"Directly after this peace," said Milner, "German Agents appeared in large numbers at Archangel and these valuable stores, which had lain untouched for months, began to be railed away in large quantities. Some of this material fell (as was intended by the Bolsheviks) into German hands while the arms and munitions have been used against our own and Allied troops."18
Milner knew better. German agents certainly had appeared, but the valuable stores to which he referred had not "lain untouched for months" - the HBC had been shuttling the goods in and out on a regular basis for the preceding three years. Yet Milner's position in support of the commercial foundation for Intervention depended on the assertion that Archangel shipping was so endangered, and a vital Imperial commercial link so vulnerable, that it was reasonable to occupy it and Murmansk. "The occupation of the latter port" was "accentuated by the expected approach of the Czecho-Slovak troops."19
Like all effective propaganda, the story had an element of truth, even if it was later admitted that the more valuable stores had already been removed to the interior of Russia.20 The propaganda section of MI1, principally using friendly newspapermen, gave detailed accounts of the amount and nature of the stores held in supply dumps, and even senior ministers used their influence 21 to spread the story. There was, for example, the obliging Arthur Copping of the Daily Chronicle, with his frequent dispatches from Archangel,22 or Arthur Ransome, of the Manchester Guardian, who was, according to Bruce Lockhart, "something more than a visitor..." if not a member of the mission. On "excellent terms with the Bolsheviks," Ransome frequently brought Bruce Lockhart and his small staff "information of the greatest value."23
Certainly, at various times between August 1914 and October 1917, supplies had been backed up at the limited railheads to the Russian interiors, sometimes quite horrifyingly so. But the situation was by no means as grim in early 1918. Still, members of the Poole Mission and other men on the spot, including General Knox, Military Attache extraordinaire, seized on the image of the supplies bottleneck in their pursuit of a more vigorous military intervention, falling in with the illusory creation of Mil. Knox, in his role as leader of the faction which had originally opposed Poole, and opposed as well the intelligence aspects of his mission, was, by March 1918, largely in favor of intervention. He had even come to favor Steel's idea of organized "guerrilla warfare" which would take advantage of a hostile political situation and use it to Imperial benefit.24
The simple cause and effect excuse for involvement offered by Milner, endorsed by Knox and spread by the press seemed to make perfect and obvious sense.25 The first political voice raised in opposition to it belonged to Douglas Young, Imperial Consul at Archangel from December 1917 until 2 August 1918. Young bluntly warned that success in the intervention was not a question of "restoring order" in Murman or the Crimea, "but of penetrating to Moscow. "There cannot be a limited intervention," Young asserted.26 For his protests, which were published by the Times, he was suspended and threatened with dismissal by the Foreign Office, 27 even though he had been temporarily lent to the DOT for work in the Russian Section' and was thus under Steel-Maitland's protection.28 Young's attempts to expose the propaganda were counteracted by those who were acting as its spokesmen. The former military representative at Archangel, 29 Captain Proctor, who claimed that "vast stores" were stranded there, was one of the loudest of the "experts" but unfortunately for his argument, Captain Proctor was no longer actually at Archangel and was reporting on a situation with which he was no longer immediately familiar. He also seems to have been less than highly esteemed by those men who were still reporting directly from North Russia. In contrast to the grandiose "vast stores" arguments, a civilian agent named Harrison who was still on the scene 30 was able to account for a total of only 195,000 tons of miscellaneous cargo at Archangel: about 40,000 of departmental artillery; 30,000 of metals; 1,000 belonging to the Admiralty; 11,300 belonging to the French Mission presumably to be transported by the HBC under their contracts; and 4,500 agricultural. The remainder, said Mr. Harrison, was owned by private consignees. In contrast, in September 1916 the HBC was contracted to move some "12,000,000 poods" or 216,000 tons of wheat alone and held some 20,000 tons of storage as a reserve supply for the end of the navigation when the transport on the river would be closed by ice." In 1916, the Company was handling about "1,500 tons per day, which have immediately been absorbed by the tonnage at our disposal," a pattern which was disrupted only when colliers allotted by the Royal Navy proved slow to discharge their stocks.31
In light of these figures, which were, according to HBC, consistent throughout the war, the fact that 195,000 tons were on the docks at Archangel when Harrison reported was entirely normal. On 25 March Harrison wired Poole that, only a small percentage of the goods here are of urgent need to Germany who should soon have the whole of Russia to draw on for war materials... only a relatively small proportion is of such importance to us as to justify use of tonnage to convey them to England...[H]ow ever grand the plans for such despatch may have been despatch of war material from Archangel has been and is on a negligible scale. [T]here is no evidence that any of the goods already despatched will not be absorbed and used in Russia. Most of the despatches have been sent to Moscow...
Harrison went farther; the Mission's economic concerns should be at the forefront of all involved. He pointed out that if a military force was sent, the consequences, should be clearly envisaged. It is unwise at the instance of mad hatters of the Proctor type to adopt local policies. On the assumption that information given us in Petrograd is correct and that Germany intends in the first place to assume civil control of Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev and Odessa and secondly to await an excuse to convert civil into military control a suitable provocation would be supplied by an occupation of Archangel by us. Of course an excuse may have been found sooner in the Japanese action in the East but if not... the initiative may be unwise."32
This memorandum received an unusually wide distribution. Copies were sent to Sir Ronald Graham (who had been acting as liaison between the Bay and Balfour and looking after Mr. Armitstead's position at Archangel in November 1917);33 to Mr. Gregory; to the DMI (who received four copies for internal distribution); to the DNI's representative, Captain Collard; to Mr. Kemball Cook (who had received reports from HBC about commercial relations at Petrograd as part of an informational round-robin from Armitstead 34; to Mr. Dudley Ward; and to Mr, Mitchell Thompson and Colonel Skene of the Russian Committee on Supplies.35 Everyone concerned now knew that the stores were moving in and out in a reasonably efficient manner and that whatever treat their use might be to the Allies.
Sir George Clerk, Mr. Gregory, the Overseas Trade Department, Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, the DMI, Mr. Dudley Ward and Colonel Skene) and specifically directed to Poole and to other members of the Russian Supply Committee showed how integrated intelligence deceptions and governmental objectives had become, "In addition to the simultaneous application of policy No. 3 Allied military occupation of Vladivostok, Murmansk and Archangel on the pretext of alleviating tonnage and transport difficulties."36
It was a risky game, but the chaos in Russia led to some very uncharacteristic behavior on the part of usually detached British governmental officials. Even such a calm soul as Lord Robert Cecil, faced with the prospects of the withdrawal of all Russian forces from action, was led to exclaim that "we must be prepared in the desperate position...to take risks."37 Piled on top of an only marginally existing threat was the justification which drew on an almost mystical and entirely uncharacteristically sentimental Imperial obligation to the Czechoslovaks, and most particularly on that single strategic element which had been used to persuade the Whitehall Western Front proponents of the value of the entire military intelligence operations action:
It was also realized [sic] that any threat of force at the Northern Ports through Siberia would render the Germans nervous and would tend to prevent their moving more troops from East to West. This threat very effectively achieved its objective for while the number of German divisions on the Eastern front decreased from 52 at the beginning of March 1918 to 33 on June 23rd 1918 when we landed at Murmansk, three months later the figure stood at 34 divisions.38
Every subsequent justification for the military presence at the northern site depended from this systematically skewed logic; the threat to shipping, the "vast stores" unremoved and piling up on the docks and vulnerable to German theft, the convenience of the port and area as an objective for the valourous Czechoslovak troops and as a training site to support local forces, the consequent need for re-enforcement unwittingly caused when the countryside came under Imperial protection and finally, the appeal that while
It is not our intention to initiate any general offensive against the Bolsheviks with our North Russian forces, ... we are pledged to remain until such time as these local forces are sufficiently trained and organized to take over their own defence. Russian officers and soldiers who had helped our troops and who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks have been found hanging from trees with their bowels cut open. British honour does not permit of our abandoning the peoples of whole provinces to a like fate.39
Only two months before Milner's remarkable paean to intervention the General Staff was meditating that "if we are going to continue to support the local Government and Forces large quantities of military stores and food will have to be shipped to Archangel before the port closes. But in this case there is some hope that the evacuation will not be interfered with by the enemy or as the result of local risings."40
All the arguments could have been disputed by the Canadians of the HBC. But acting as they were as an integral part of the war effort, there was no reason for them to do so. Instead, as part of their commercial and wartime responsibilities, they provided the very detailed knowledge of the patterns and possibilities offered by Archangel which served as an impetus for military intervention, and which were neatly reversed to serve as camouflage for the intelligence presence.
Archangel, like Vladivostok and Baku, offered additional advantages to those who chose to notice. It was not only a commercial nexus but one of the few information centers still accessible to the Allies. Imperial intelligence chose to notice. In February 1918, HBC representatives Charles Sale and Henry Armitstead 41 were asked to confer with Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Browning, the deputy chief of MI1 (c) and notable bon vivant and director of the Savoy Hotel.42 When Armitstead and his associate, Jonas Lied arrived in London on 3 March 1918, Colonel Browning ensured that they were put in touch with a number of high-ranking government officials, including "Arthur Balfour, Lord Robert Cecil and Ernest Shackleton." According to Lied's diary, both he and Armitstead dined on at least one occasion with Admiral Reginald Hall, Director of Naval Intelligence. As a result of these meetings, Armitstead joined the Lindley Special Trade Mission to Vologda,43 which left England in the early part of May, 1918.44 In this secondment, Armitstead, with the full endorsement of the Bay, was sponsored by MI1 (c). MI1 (c) 's chief, Mansfield Smith-Cumming took the trouble to clarify the financial arrangements that the temporary work would cause, writing to the HBC that since Armitstead had, with the "kind permission" of HBC "temporarily placed his services at my disposal for a journey through Russia" he, as MI1 (c) executive, would refund to the HBC" all Mr. Armitstead's expenses on the journey from the time of leaving London until his return to this town."45
The regions which Imperial Russia had once dominated or influenced were now open and available, along with all the trade within the Russian regions previously controlled by Germany. In short, the entire trading nexus of a now- vanished Russo-German market could be re-directed to other, more reliable, trading partners. Carefully applied external pressure by both the Senior Dominion and by the central Imperial government to re-align these markets, along with equally measured internal pressure made the prospects for Imperial success even greater.46 There were still hazards, of course. Imperial opinion during the war predicted that, although Germany would "presumably endeavour to recoup herself for her political and economic losses, and to find means, through trade...with which to pay her vast war indemnities. The only outlet for her endeavours in this sense is to the East, in Russia and Siberia."47 To this end, Milner, as well as Curzon for other reasons, were prepared to support proposals to extend Imperial economic control. The problem of how to eliminate the international opprobrium such a politically unilateral and clearly Imperialist action was likely to provoke was to be moderated by encouraging the Senior Dominion's participation. It was to be solved by the third intervention at Vladivostok.
The Russia Supplies Committee
As has been analyzed by Iaroslav Golubinov in 2017, the British military supply mission led by General Poole in 1917- early 1918 had to verify, in the first place, the proper use of weapons and ammunition from the United Kingdom and, in the second, had to help in establishing closer contacts between industrial businessmen of the two states. General Poole and his team observed work of the artillery parks and aviation workshops as well as the defense facilities. According to the British officers all of them suffered from common problems. Revolutionizing of the masses diverted many people from work, contributed to the fall of the discipline and was accompanied by the reluctance of the military and civilian officials to do anything for normalizing the situation. Thus both tasks of the mission failed. The first reason was the gradual collapse of the front and army work in the rear, and the second was the Bolshevist pursuit to conclude the peace with Germany. General Poole and Colonel Byrne were both skeptical about Russiaï¿½s ability to continue the war.
Major A.E. Sturdy, an original member of the Russian Committee on Supplies, described his recollection of how the Poole Mission, primarily intent on economic expansion and on smoothing out the administrative intricacies involved in supplying Russian equipment requirements, changed its nature to support MIO plans for Imperial paramountcy on the cheap. It started, he said, with Code names - Archangel "ELOPE", Murmansk "DEVELOP" subsequently changed to "SYREN" to avoid confusion. We of the Russian Supply Committee knew all about destination and plans as we were really the nucleus of the North Russian Expeditionary Force. GOC Major-General Poole, Reserve of Officers RA, who had been the Committee's representative in Petrograd (?Moscow [sic]), L 1 to Poole-Major Notcutt (a Temporary Officer) to be GSO 2, and myself. Probably also Lieutenant-Colonel Thornhill Indian Army who had been with Poole in Russia, spoke Russian fluently and who was GSO 1 (intelligence). I believe whole idea of NREF probably originated by Poole.48
Perhaps not the whole idea. The commercial mission's presence had however spurred intelligence consideration of North Russia, offering the prime advantage of a good cover which was already in place. According to Colonel Byrne, The Committee on Russian Supplies was organised by Lord Milner about a year ago to deal with all supplies to Russia. They have an organisation working in Russia and under their direction, in charge of General Poole, with whom they have been in direct telegraphic correspondence. Since the suspension of supplies to Russia at the beginning of December, the C.R.S. have been principally occupied with the question of safeguarding stores already lying in Russia, and have thus become in effect a Blockade Committee. Lord Milner has now agreed that they should be brought within the scope of the Ministry of Blockade and it is proposed to incorporate them in the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Department.
[page 2] Telegrams to or from General Poole except those on purely military questions handled by the D.M.I., should pass through the Foreign Office. Telegrams to him sent by the rest of Enemies Supplies Department being referred to and if necessary examined before despatch by the Russian Committee to ensure that they are in accordance with the general Russian policy as defined by that Committee.49
Poole's Mission was reconstituted, and Poole was appointed "head of a special Supply Mission in Russia under the direction of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs."50 According to his secret instructions, which everyone involved finally agreed on, and which were issued by the CIGS General Wilson, on 18 May Poole was appointed "British Military Representative in Russia," to be responsible to and communicate with the War Office only, although at some time he might find himself "under general authority of co-ordinating diplomatic officer in Russia." Until such an officer was appointed, he was to be 'in communication with Mr. Lockhart. "But,
As regards Intelligence, Lt.-Colonel Thornhill will, as your Chief Intelligence Officer, arrange for such intelligence services as are necessary. . . Colonel Thornhill will . . . be responsible for the co-ordination of all military intelligence organisation in Russia, reporting directly to the DMI. ... It is essential that Lieut-Colonel Thornhill be given as free a hand as possible. ... all communications other than intelligence go to War Office. As regards intelligence, restriction of enemy supplies and economic questions you will address the Director of Military Intelligence direction (telegraphic address- DIRMELINT). The DMI will be responsible for the circulation of all such reports to the Government Departments concerned.51
By January 1918, with confirmation in May, the Poole Mission was certified as the primary agent in North Russia.
The coincidental Murmansk landing
As for the ensuing military campaign in Russia, not of little importance is that on 1 March 1918, the Murmansk government informed Petrograd that they were setting up a self-defense force for the region and asked whether they should accept the Allied offer to assist in the defense of the city.52 The telegram arrived at the same time as Trotsky received word from Brest-Litovsk that the peace talks appeared to have broken down.
The Bolshevist delegation had gone to Brest-Litovsk to capitulate, but the Germans, worried that the Russians would spread propaganda, had isolated them while preparing the paperwork. Lev M. Karakhan of the Bolshevik delegation wrote two telegrams for Petrograd, one in code indicating that the peace agreement was imminent and one in plain language asking for a guarded train for the delegation's return journey. The Germans sent the plain-language telegram immediately but delayed sending the coded message until they could decipher it. Lenin received the message asking for the train without the coded message explaining the situation. He believed the train request meant that the Germans had refused the peace and would continue the war. This was Lenin's first error. Consequently, he broadcast to his nation that the country must prepare for immediate attack.53 That was his second mistake.
It was in this atmosphere that Trotsky received the Murmansk Collegium's telegram. Trotsky immediately wired back that peace talks had broken down and the Murmansk officials were to do everything necessary to defend the city and the railway, even accepting Allied help.54
Trotsky had given permission to cooperate with the Allies to defend the city. But adding to the chaos, soon after Trotsky had sent his telegram, Lenin received word that the peace agreement was still in effect. He immediately broadcast this news but ordered the country to remain on guard against German treachery.55 However, it was too late for Murmansk. The Soviets there acted on Trotsky's telegram immediately. On 2 March, the Murman Russians placed regional military authority into the hands of a council controlled by Allied officers. Defense of the port passed to the Allied forces with Russian cooperation. On 6 March, marines from HMS Glory landed in Murmansk. Yet also on 10 March that same year Georgy Chicherin who served as People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs told the British representative in Moskau that the Bolsheviks were not concerned with Allied actions in North Russia and would try to expel the Allies from Murmansk.56
This attitude changed following when on 7 June news of a German-backed enemy force approaching the railway junction at Kem reached Murmansk. The Murmansk government then acted on its own and authorized the Allies to proceed against the enemy. On 23 June over a thousand British troops commanded by General Maynard, arrived at the port, but as agreed at a War Cabinet meeting, the men remained aboard ship, for the moment. But when Chicherin protested, on 28 June the Murmansk Presidium voted to ignore Moscow's orders, and two days later officially broke with Moscow. And thus by now the intelligence-operations which were meant to guarantee and safeguard communications capability became a military incursion.
Allied intervention in Russia now with the Murmansk acceptance of an Allied defense, became a reality.
Thus Ian Moffat concluded that as for the ensuing military campaign: "Ironically it was Bolshevik confusion that actually sparked intervention and, with equal confusion in the Allied camp, it would gain momentum."57 The intervention had begun more by accident than design." And from there on "military chaos prevented a clear understanding of the situation and Allied leaders argued over policy and actions."58
But that was not all, another strange incidence occurred.
The Czechs fought side by side with the Bolsheviks
In March 1918, during the German advance into the Ukraine in response to the landing of Royal Marines at Murmansk, the Czechs fought side by side with the Bolshevik forces earning praise from their Soviet commander: "The Revolutionary Armies of South Russia will never forget the brotherly aid which was granted by the Czech Corps in the struggle of the toiling people against the hordes of base imperialism."59 Soon after this glowing praise had been penned, the Bolsheviks revoked their support of the Czechs going to Vladivostok. Lenin's primary concern was that once the Czechs got to Siberia they would join the White Russian forces of Admiral Kolchak and that the Bolsheviks would next see the Czechs coming in the opposite direction. On 26 March 1918 Joseph Stalin, the People's Commissar for Nationalities agreed to let the Czechs travel to Vladivostok but as citizens and not soldiers. Each trainload was allowed to carry 168 men armed with rifles and one machine gun. All other weapons were to be handed over to the Bolshevik authorities.
The British and French disagreed on where best to use the Czechs. The French wanted them for the Western Front whereas the British did not think it was productive to transfer 70,000 men from Vladivostok to France, a massive logistical undertaking when they could be more effectively utilized in Russia itself. The desires of the Czechs themselves were entirely disregarded by the powers determining their fate. Britain and France eventually decided to split the Czech forces, half to go north to Archangel and be shipped to France through the Arctic Circle and the other half sent to Vladivostok to make their way to Europe via North America. The Czechs themselves had no wish to be further split, they were already separated across many thousands of miles of the Trans-Siberian Railway from the Volga River to Vladivostok and were not willing to be further separated.
On 5 April 1918, a large force of Japanese troops landed at Vladivostok on Russiaï¿½s Pacific coast. The Bolsheviks took this to be a sure sign of invasion by the Allies and the Czech trains were stopped midway across Russia. Frustration grew amongst the Czechs to whom it appeared that the Bolsheviks neither wanted them to stay nor to leave. The Czechs decided to hand over no more weapons and also to recover those already surrendered.
In an incident at Chelyabinsk railway station in the eastern Ural Mountains on 14 May 1918, some railcars carrying Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war halted next to a train carrying Czech soldiers. There was a traditional animosity between the two nationalities, and as the two trains were about to leave an argument broke out and a Hungarian threw a piece of iron, striking a Czech. The Czechs were infuriated and all their frustrations over the previous months came to a head: they halted the prisoner of war train and lynched the assailant. The local soviet intervened and interned some of the Czechs as perpetrators. When Czech representatives came to the jail demanding the release of their comrades they too were imprisoned. Upon receiving word of what had happened, two Czech battalions marched into town, disarmed the Red Guards, freed their comrades and seized arms and stores, in the process taking control of the railway station.
To Lenin in Moscow this looked like unprovoked Czech nationalist aggression, confirming his suspicions of Czech intentions to join the Whites. Consequently, a telegram was sent down the line to Chelyabinsk ordering that all Czechs be disarmed and pressganged into labor battalions of the Red Army. The Czechs were controlling the railway station and intercepted the telegram, and on 23 May decided that if necessary they would shoot their way through to Vladivostok and the Allied ships they believed would be waiting there to take them to France. Armed clashes broke out between Czechs and Bolsheviks all along the line. This spark set off a chain of offensives by White Russian factions and within two weeks vast areas of Russia and Siberia were wrestled from the Bolsheviks. The Czechs found themselves unwittingly supporting the Whites by default and becoming further and further entangled in a civil war in which they had no desire to take part.
On 25 June, some 15,000 Czechs who had already arrived in Vladivostok decided to turn back towards western Siberia to reunite with their comrades. On 29 June, with the Allies' approval, Czech soldiers ejected the local soviet from Vladivostok and took over the city. On 6 July, the Czechs declared that they had taken all of Vladivostok and surrounding area under protection. They believed that their conflict against the Bolsheviks had Allied support, whilst the Allies still believed that half the Legion was on its way to Archangel to be shipped to the Western Front. The Czechoslovak Legion's only ambition was to leave Russia with their compatriots and fight in France. It was to be two years before they were finally able to leave.
When Spies invaded Russia p.1: British Spies from Persia to North and South and Eastern Russia.
When Spies invaded Russia p.2: To mold irregular warfare into a method which honored the Imperial myth.
When Spies invaded Russia p.4: How North Russia evolved into its military phase.
1. PRO, WO 161/5, Appendix B, 23 December 1917, p. 11. The text of the agreement read in part:
H. Le General Alexieff, k Novo-Tcherkask, ayant propose Pexeeution d’un programme visant: 1’organisation d’une armee destinee a tenir tete aux ennemis et ce programme ayant ete adopte par la France, qui a allaufi a cet effet un credit de cent et prescrit 1’organisation d’un control^ inter-allie, i! y aura lieu de continuer 1’execution dudit programme jusq’a ce que de nouvelles dispositions soient arrettes de concert avec 1’Angleterre.
III. Cette reserve admise, les zones d’inftuences affectuees & chacun des Gouverne- ments seround les suivantes: Zone anglaise: territoires cossaques, territoire du Cau- case Armenie, Georgie, Kurdistan. Zone franqaise: Bessarabie, Ukraine, Crimee.
IV: Les depense seraient mises en commun et reglees par un organe centralisateur inter-allie.
2. A.M. Gollin, Proconsul in Politics; A Study of Lord Milner in Opposition and In Power,1964 pp. 554-557.
3. Public Record Office, Kew (PRO), WO 161/5.
4. Gollin, Proconsul in Politics: A Study of Lord Milner in Oppoï¿½sition and In Power, p. 557. Lindley had the benefit of having Sidney Reilly reporting to him. While he was at Vologda, Reilly, writing from the "British Intelligence Section, attached Head Quarters Russian Staff, Petrograd, telephone 2-56-05," was asking his advice on matters concerning the Russian internal political situation. PRO, FO 175/6, 23 July 1918. Reilly was also reporting to Bruce Lockhart, of course, and, as well through him to MI1 (c) and to Steel at MIO(a). Steel at this time was responsible for liaising with the White generals- see Bentwich and Kisch, Brigadier Frederick Kisch: Soldier and Zionist,1966, p. 42.
5. British Library, Keys Collection, Add Mss Eur F131/12(a) p. 16, see also National Archives, FO371/3283, British British Ambassador in Russia George Buchanan to Foreign Office 28 December 1918.
6. PRO, FO 317/3314/#14183 26 January 1918, a draft from Russia Committee, p. 283.
7. Ibid, stamped 14183, January 23, 1918, Foreign Office, January 15, 1918 "Draft to Lord Urquahart" [sic] no signature or initials:
(1) The geographical limits of your activity cover all Russian and Turkish territory south of the main chain of the Caucasus over which the Provincial Government at Tiflis claims control,
(2) Within those limits you would be asked to act as financial and political agent to General Dunsterville, the head of the British Mission. I should point out that as the essence of our activity in Tiflis and the South Caucasus is to establish the Armenian, Georgian and Russian volunteers in place of the evacuated Russian forces as a bar to any further Turkish advance, thereby preventing a junction between the Turks and the Moslem elements in the Caucasus and to the East of the Caspian, our problem is essentially a military one, and His Majesty's Government have therefore decided that general control must remain in the hands of their military representative at Tiflis, General Dunsterville. Your reports would be transmitted by General Dunsterville direct to His Majesty's Government but he at the same time be authorised to accompany them with such comments as he thought necessary or advisable...,
(4) General Dunsterville's reports are communicated to the Director of Military Intelligence and considered by the Russia Committee and then referred to His Majesty's Government, and in order to prevent confusion and overlapping it would be best to adhere to this system in the case of your reports.
8. PRO, CAB 27/189/20 #2b, 16 January 1918, 'Minute of Conference at Foreign Office/Russian Supplies,' to Colonel Byrne.
11. Sir William Schooling, The Hudson's Bay' Company, 1670, (London, 1920), p. 121.
12. Ibid., p. 122.
14. Ibid., pps. 122-123.
15. Ibid., p. 125.
16. Ibid. p. 126.
17. Anne Morton, 'The French Government Business, ' Newsletter of the Maritime Economic History Group, vol. 2, No. 1, March 1988, p. 14.
18. PRO, PRO 30/30/15, Milner papers, 'Memoranda and Telegrams August-October, * #l-undated, unsigned, three pages, memo, including the note in Milner's hand-' Group of papers used at important Cabinets of 24th and 25th September (1919) at which we determined our policy towards the Baltic States, (initialed) M. 25.9. '
19. Winston Churchill, to House of Commons, 29 July 1919, cited in Andrew Soutar, With Ironside in North Russia, (New York, Arno Press, 1970), p. xiii.
20. National Archives of Canada (NAC), RG9 III, Vol.362, File A3, SEF #115 p. 13, Elmsley/ Knox, labelled 'Secret,' 'Notes on the Present Military Situation Siber,' 27 November 1918, Knox to Elmsley.
21. PRO, FO 371/3350.
22. Department of National Defence/Directorate of History, War Ofï¿½fice Library, Daily Chronicle, 6-7 May 1919, File 73/ 989.
23. Bruce Lockhart, Memoirs of a British Agent, p. 266.
24. PRO, FO 175/14 G.T.3927, 5/3/18, A.W.F. Knox, 'Possibilities of Guerrilla Warfare in Russia, 5 March 1918, to CIGS, p. 1.
26. PRO, FO 371/3350, #213731.
29. Michael Kettle, The Road to Intervention, (London, Routledge, 1988), p. 7.
30. PRO, CAB 27/189/18, #43, despatched 15 March 1918, received 21 March 1918, #29, 2 March 1918. Harrison wrote to assure all concerned that he was in no danger since his presence 'as an inconspicuous civilian is in any case beneath general interest….'
31. HBC, AFG26/H5,23, 5 September 1916.
32. PRO, CAB 27/189/18, despatched 25 March 1918, received 27 March 1918, BRITSUPLY, Archangel to RUSPLY Charles, 2 pps.
33. Hudson's Bay Company Archives (HBC), AFG5/1948, FO 23, Nov 1917, #221350/30/W, Ronald Graham.
34. HBC, AFG5/988, Armitstead to Governor and Committee, HBC, Petrograd, 27, 10 May 1916.
35. PRO, CAB 27/189/18, despatched 25 March 1918, received 27 March 1918, BRITSUPLY, Archangel to RUSPLY Charles, 2 pos.
36. PRO, CAB 27/189/18 25 #94: Secret: Received 9.5.18 From: BRITSUP Petersburg To: RUSPLYCOM, CHARLES.
37. PRO FO/800/214/GT 3243.47, p. 54.
38. PRO, PRO 30/30/15. Milner papers, 'Memoranda and Teleï¿½grams,' August-October #1, undated, unsigned, three pages.
40. PRO, WO 106/1179: 15 July 1919, SECRET General Staff, p.l.
41. Armitage was HBC's Archangel representative during 1917. His family had long resided in Russia, and his father, George, had served as mayor of Riga from 1901 until 1912.
42. Andrew, Her Majesty's Secret Service, p. 222.
43. The Lindley trade mission included Lord Urquhart and the ubiquitous William Peters.
44. Henry Armitstead, My Baltic Childhood, unpublished ms., pps. 145-146, Chapter XV, 'Aftermath,' added by his daughter, Mrs. M. Radcliffe, no date, HBC Archives.
45. HBC, AFG5/103, Mansfield Smith-Cumming to C.V. Sale, Hudson's Bay Company, 21 May 1918, and PRO, FO 175/6, 23 July 1918.#4556. NAC, Borden to Cabinet, 6 August 1918, MG 27-11.D13, Vol. 17, File 7.1, 'Russia-Siberia 1918-1919. ' Certainly, within the confines of Canadian society it was not unusual to discover individuals with strong family attachments to all three elements honouring commitments to one or another of the other callings; for example, General Hugh French MacDonald, who counselled the OMFC to reject the Imperial plea for more troops, was, besides a gallant officer of great bravery, son of the last Chief Factor of the HBC.
46. PRO, CAB 24/45/656421 /G.T.3905/p. 16, 13 March 1918, Secret.
47. PRO, ADM 137/3038 Anglo-Russian Economic Relations.
48. IWM, Colonel A.E. Sturdy papers, 73/9/2, letter from Sturdy, 2 September 1973, to Mr. Suddaby.
49. Ibid., and IWM, Colonel A.E. Sturdy papers, 73/9/2, File 1973 'Reflections on North Russia 1918-19,' p. 18. The dispute about whether the troops assigned were truly unfit for service was addressed by Sturdy. Sturdy explained that the 'B2' designation meant fit for Base duty abroad, while 'B3' meant fit for sedentary duty abroad. According to Colonel Sturdy, all the original members of Syren and Elope were one or the other (Letter from Colonel A.E. Sturdy, 2 September 1973 to 'Mr. Suddaby,' 73/9/2, IWM).
50. PRO, CAB 27/1S9/20 #13d.
51. PRO, WO 106/1161 1918 May-August, General Poole Conference and Mission.
52. Ian C.D. Moffat, The Allied Intervention in Russia, 1918-1920: The Diplomacy of Chaos, 2015, p.28
53. Richard, K. Debo, Revolution and Survival: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia 1917-18,1979, pp.153-4.
54. Trotsky to Murmansk Soviet, telegram, Petrograd, IMarch 1918 (14 March 1918 in western calendar), as printed in Kennan, The Decision to Intervene, 46. Italic emphasis was added by the original Soviet author Kedrov, when this message was first published.
55. Debo, Revolution and Survival, pp.154-5.
56. Bruce Lockhart to Foreign Office, Telegram 15, Moscow, 10 March 1918 Public Records Office FO 371/3290/45119.
57. Ian C.D. Moffat, The Allied Intervention in Russia, 1918-1920: The Diplomacy of Chaos, 2015, p.28
58. Moffat, The Allied Intervention, p.29
59. John Silverlight, The Victors' Dilemma: Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War 1917-20, 1970, p. 33