Wednesday, 30 December 2009

OOPS!!! Escaped British POW's arrested on their return to England in 1919

Sometimes I get sidetracked as I look for  information  relating to  British Naval Operations in the Baltic   and  I go off on a completely different path to the one I'd planned but that's one of the reasons why I so enjoy this hobby as you never know where it will take you!

On this occasion I was looking for information about the poor morale  amongst the  so called "volunteers" out in the Baltic and somehow I stumbled on this ......

Sir THOMAS BRAMSDON asked the Secretary for War whether the three soldiers recently released from captivity in Moscow were arrested by a military policeman on their arrival in Hull; whether they were confined for the night in cells in the police station; whether they were refused newspapers and their freedom; and, if so, what is the reason for this treatment, and will these men be set at liberty?

Mr. CHURCHILL I will answer at the same time two private notice questions on the same subject. I regret that a mistake should have been committed in this case owing to a misunderstanding of the expression "escaped prisoners" which occurred in the telegram received from Helsingfors about these men, and was repeated in the War Office message. Orders were, of course, issued at the earliest moment to send these men on leave to their homes.

[The Private Notice Questions were:
Mr. LUNN To ask the Prime Minister whether Privates Richards, pickard and Davison, ex-prisoners from Russia, on arrival at Hull on 29th November, were handed over to the
military police; whether they were then kept over the week end in military cells at the
police station; whether for two days they were allowed no papers, were fed on Army rations, and were not allowed to smoke, or to see their friends and relations; whether these men are now detained in hospital, and for what reason; and whether the arrest and detention of these men represents the considered policy of His Majesty's Government towards returned prisoners of war, or was it the act of an irresponsible official; and what steps is it proposed to take in this matter?
Mr. HAROLD BRIGGS To ask the Secretary of State for War if he has knowledge that the three Privates, Davidson, Pickard and Richards, who have recently been released by the Bolshevists and handed over to the British authorities by Mr. Litvinoff, have been detained by tine Military Police, and are not permitted either to see or communicate with their relatives, and does he consider such action is justifiable or lawful?]

Sir C. KNLOCH-COOKE Is it possible for a. Minister to answer a private notice question at the same time as a starred question? Is it not the rule that private notice questions cannot be given on a subject covered by a question on the Paper?
Mr. SPEAKER Private notice was given of two questions with regard to a matter already on the Paper. I do not see anything improper in it.
Mr. W. THORNE Has an apology been sent to the men in question?
Mr. CLYNES Will any consideration be given to these men in the form of some recompense?
Mr. CHURCHILL I am not prepared to give any undertaking. I share my right hon. Friend's feelings of regret that men returning from hard service and misfortune abroad should have met with so unceremonious and chilling a welcome on their arrival in their native land.
Mr. HOGGE Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what actually happened?
Mr. CHURCHILL I have done so. By mistake they were detained in Hull by the police and
authorities, but as soon as the mistake was known and telegrams could be sent
stating the facts, they were released on leave and sent to their homes.
Mr. ROSE Are any steps being taken to punish the people who made this mistake?
Mr. CHURCHILL I do not quite understand how the hon. Member can at one moment be so fall of sympathy for these men, and so full of malevolence towards people who may unwittingly have made a mistake.
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY If these men were escaped prisoners from Russia, what reason was there for arresting them and putting them in the cells?
Mr. CHURCHILL If they had been described as escaped prisoners of war escaping from the enemy, no doubt the mistake would not have arisen; but they were described as escaped prisoners.
Mr. DEVLIN Was not the whole thing caused by the belief that these men were in Ireland?

I love it that these documents are now online and it's a bonus that  Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY has taken an interest. 
HC Deb 03 December 1919 vol 122 cc396-8 396

Friday, 18 December 2009

Memorial event for HMS "Dragon" on the eve of the Remembrance Day (17/11/2009)

I've recently noticed this on the British Embassy in Riga website. The website also contains  photographs of the ceremony itself.

"Today we salute and honour bravery. The bravery of those men who died in the defence of the freedom and integrity of an independent Latvia. Not only sons of Latvia but also foreign friends who made common cause with them - including from Britain and France. We remember them all." 

Deputy Head of Mission, Daniel Grzenda 

Thank you to Yury Melkonov for this photograph.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

John Stephen Stroud 1881-1919

My Great-Grandfather John Stroud was born on the 5th May 1881 in Southwark, London. During his childhood  he lived in Rotherhithe close  to the River Thames and the busy Docks and later he was employed as a Blacksmith's Boy, at least that was his occupation on joining the Royal Navy aged 17.

After his training (HMS Northampton) between April and September 1899 he  served on the cruiser HMS Calliope before being based at HMS Pembroke at Chatham.

I haven't even started to look into John's Naval career between 1899 and World War 2 as I've been so fascinated with the mysterious turn of events which leading up to his death,  in 1919. I know from his records that he served on many ships including HMS Monarch (3 Nov 1899-31 Dec 1899) and HMS Terrible  (1 Jan 1900-21 Mar 00) during the 2nd Boer war and literally saw the world during his time at sea.

His daughter, my Great Aunt told me that he loved the Navy and used to bring back presents from faraway places including China.  Though only young at the time she had memories of being picked up by her father and being fascinated by the  shiny buttons on his uniform. My Aunt also remembers the letter arriving informing her that John had been killed in action, her Mum's distress  and the journey by tram to see John's parents. So Elizabeth his wife was like so many of that generation became a widow and  the 2 girls grew up without a father. Elizabeth did not remarry and later warned  her daughters not to fall in love with a sailor as it would break their heart.

I don't remember seeing photos of John or hearing of him as I was growing up,  and it was only a chance conversation with my Nan towards the end of her life when she mentioned that her father,  having survived 20 years in the Navy, including service during war conditions and WW1 had died while on a "secret" rescue mission  in Russia when he  was 38. My Nan said that the family were not  told about the mission as it was all so secretive and unfortunately she died before information became more easily available and travel to  the now  Independant Latvia was possible. I think she would have been so interested in the Remembrance events that take place each year in Riga and so pleased that the men killed in action during this campaign have not been forgotten.

Mr Charles Edward Coles R.N. Gunner

Mr Charles Edward Coles R.N. Gunner was at his action station in after control when an enemy shell burst on deck in rear of No 5 Gun killing 9 men and severely wounding 1 officer and 3 men, also setting alight the charge which was just being loaded into gun. Mr Coles at once went to the spot and took prompt action personally removing the wounded clear of the burning cordite and extinguishing the burning clothing of the wounded men.

There are 2 others singled out for praise,  Lieutenant The Hon. Trevor Tempest Parker R.N. Gunnery Officer and Engineer Commander Walter Robert Fendick R.N. and the name  Lt. Comdr. Harvey and "The Senior Naval Officer" appears at the bottom of the page. 

Unfortunately,  I can no longer see the reference for this document.  

HMS Dragon log for Saturday 18th October 1919 at Riga

Occasionally, I see something in the records that seems out of place and quite unrelated to what I am looking for but is nevertheless quite fascinating as it gives an insight into life in the Navy at this time.

This entry in the log,  dated the 18th October 1919, appears to have been written only hours after the 9 men/ boys had been killed and as their bodies were being prepared for burial by other probably traumatised  young  seamen. Elsewhere, 4  wounded seamen were probably having their wounds tended  and  repairs were taking place on board the ship....I would imagine it was a scene of chaos!!!!!

"The following articles were found missing after H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and Staff disembarked from Dragon for "Renown". Towels,two. Sheets Linen, three. Pillows feather, one" 

well I wonder what happened to them and if they have ever been found or if they will ever just turn up on ebay.  I would imagine that the pillows would have been difficult to hide.......I've heard about towels going missing in hotels but...  

Next to this was another quite "random" entry 

" I had occasion on this day to reprimand ...(name indistinct) Gunner(?), W. Roberts, Shipwright and W.Skelton Gunner  for having during the month of September exceeded the amounts allowed by King's regulations for Warrant Officers Wine Bills" I had to read this a few times but I'm pretty sure that's what it says.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


"Bermondt, who has been trying to take Riga (middle of October) with
, a force described as Russian but r e a l l y consisting largely of
troops from von der Goltz's corps, is said to be a Cossack Colonel
of some military experience, who organised a volunteer force
against the Bolsheviks at Kieff in 1918. On the withdrawal of
the Germans from the Ukraine he was arrested and sentenced to
death but escaped. His wife is said to have been killed by the
Bolsheviks at Petrograd. His r e a l name is Prince Avalov-
Bermondt, and he  is described, as a wealthy landowner of Finland
("Morning Post", "Stockholm Telegram", October 16th, 1919)"

I found this quote hidden in some documents that I had downloaded on the National Archives website and I found the photo on google  images. It seems to be used on alot of other websites. I've no idea when  and why it was taken.

I will try to locate a reference for the quote later if anyone needs it. It's amazing how many records are now online compared with the early 1990's when I got hooked on this hobby! 

Chatham War Memorial

Chatham War Memorial

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Chatham War Memorial

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Chatham War Memorial

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Chatham War Memorial

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