Tuesday, 2 November 2010


From time to time I find some really interesting and relevant item described online that relate to to to the Allied intervention in the Baltic  and especially HMS Dragon but due to lack of time I will often save details of the page for later.

In some cases diaries and journals have come up for auction which I would love to take a peek at.....problem is that I only find out about these items after the sale (not that I could afford to bid!) and now I find that I can no longer find the original entry using google!

I have tried the Imperial War Museum which has some diaries and audio tapes in which seamen describe their experiences but not this one.

"journal kept throughout the Great War and during the subsequent Russian Civil War, from 21 July 1914 to 3 January 1920, recording service on board the Acheron Class destroyer HMS Amphion, serving with the 3rd Division of the 1st Destroyer Flotilla, from 31 July 1914, and participating in the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 38 August; transferring with the rest of the crew of the Ferret to the M Class destroyer HMS Nepean on 5 April 1916, serving on her until the end of the war; transferring to the D Class cruiser HMS Dragon on 8 October 1918 ("with 2 Russian Officers & one British") and recording the Dragon'sservice in the Baltic during the civil war, arriving at Riga on 13 October 1919, where they "Found German General & his troops who had been guarding Riga had turned Bolshevists & were attacking Rig"...Sat 8th Nov. Received signal from C in C to hold Riga & Libau at all costs. Mon 10th Nov. We opened fire on Cement Factory occupied by Germans at 6.30 a.m. At 2.45 we started to fire at an armoured train which was shelling the town of Riga. The Germans were using Gas shells & were killing many of the civil population. At 8.30 we again started to bombard the Cement Factory while the Letts surrounded it & at 10.0 PM they took it at the point of the bayonet..."), the journal ending with the Dragon's return to Sheerness on 3 January 1920, some 150 pages, in a notebook, canvas-backed naval chart wrappers, postcard of the Dragon pasted over opening text, minor staining and signs of wear, 4to, 1914-1920 

Sold for £576 inclusive of Buyer's Premium

Statement of Henry Elijah Baker HMS Wryneck 18th October 1919

The subject of food or rather the lack of adequate suppies for Seamen being sent out to the Baltic during 1919 is a common theme when looking through some of the documents in the National archives.
Henry's statement, which was taken following his arrest shows that the shortage of food caused consideable discontent and unrest amongst the crew resulting in a group of seamen leaving their ships and travelling to London by train.

"in London several upon seeing the Police broke from the party. The Inspector was informed we wanted to go to Whitehall. We formed fours by common consent and marched to the police station. I had the petition on arrival at the Police station, and also on arrival here on Tuesday. We left on on Wednesday and I gave it to someone else in our party. No civilian has at any time been on board to address a meeting on bolshevism or has any attempt been made to cause us to refuse duty. None of us would have left the ship had we been sure of better food conditions in the Baltic. I refuse to give the names of the other men in the party with it now or who have left it"
 signed Henry Elijah Baker Cell 69

ADM 1/8570/291

OOH LA LA!! UK-France Military co-operation 2010

I noticed that the papers today are full of dramatic headlines and articles about plans for Anglo-French co-operation on military matters.

Of course, many people like me who have a personal interest in the British Navy's role in the Latvian War of Independence know that the concept of Anglo-French co-operation is not new even if previously it was on a much smaller scale.

My Great-Grandfather John Stephen Stroud and 8 other seamen (some of them boys aged 17) where killed when their ship HMS Dragon, which was sent to help defend Riga was shelled by Russio-German forces under the command of Bermondt Avalov during October 1919 .

HMS Dragon was  under the command of Commodore  Jean Joseph Brisson of the French Navy and he in turn had orders from the British Admiral Sir Walter Henry Cowan.

The London Gazette of Tuesday 6th of April 1920 contains a record of  the action at Riga:

"Owing to the situation in the Gulf of Finland and the necessity of supporting the advnce of the Estonians on the left flank of the Russian Army, I was unable to leave those waters myself and so requested Commodore Brisson, the French Senior Naval Officer, who had by then proceeded to Riga , to take charge of the operations there, and to open fire on all positions within range on the left bank of the Dvina River, at the expiration of the time given in my ultimatum to Prince Avaloff Bermont , who was ostensibly in command of the troops occupying those positions and attacking Riga.

This Commodore Brisson most faithfully and effectively did at noon on the 15th October, apparently much to the surprise of Bermont, who had , in reply to my ultimatum, stated that he was friendly to the Allies and was only resisting Bolshevism, and disowned all connection with the Germans, and whose forces were in position and in little shelter, in some places less than one thousand yards from ours and the French ships"
Remembrance Ceremonies take place  in Riga and flowers are laid at memorials on land and at sea to remember those who lost their lives during this time and to also reflect on the contribution of the British and French Navy  in helping  Latvia to achieve its Independence.

French Naval Ship Commemorates Captain Brison of the Freedom Battles Latvijas armijas 90. gadadienas mājas lapa

Monday, 23 August 2010

HMS Cassandra, HMS Myrtle and HMS Gentian found off Estonian coast

Thank you to John for spotting this article  by Martin Wainswright on the Guardian  News Website. I hope there will be more news about this in the coming weeks.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

HMS Princess Margaret at Riga December 1918-January 1919

I've mentioned that I'm really interested in HMS Princess Margaret and her role in the campaign, as not only was she in the thick of it, when HMS Dragon was shelled, but also earlier in January 1919 .

Thanks to google I found this entry on a medal auction website (Dix Noonan Webb)

"H.M.S. PRINCESS MARGARET berthed at Riga on 19 December 1918, where she landed her marines on the 27th who, accompanied by an armed party from H.M.S. CERES, marched through the town. The following day frightened British subjects began to arrive on board. On the 29th it was heard that a Lettish Regiment had mutinied, and arrangements were made for the defence of the approaches to H.M. vessels by the aid of search lights, and the use of star and lyddite shells. Even more refugees joined PRINCESS MARGARET that night, bringing the total on board to 392 souls, 143 men, 169 women and 80 children. From 30 December to 3 January 1919 armed parties were constantly landed to police the town and so ward off menacing parties"........read more here

The internet is such a wonderful thing isn't it. I must have googled HMS Princess Margaret several times but then every now and again something brilliant appears....of course it's given me lots of new areas for my "research" ..........landing parties?.......HMS Ceres?

Monday, 3 May 2010

" Britishers killed by the Reds" New York Times Nov 2 1919

"Baron and Baroness Woerman and J.T. Armitstead slain in Riga.

LONDON, Nov 1.-Baron and Baroness Woerman, nephew and niece of the late Lord Armitstead, were murdered by the Bolsheviki on Riga last May, according to news reaching the Armitstead family at Dundee, Scotland.

The advices add that a grand nephew Lord Armitstead, John Cecil Armitstead, was shot in March after having been in prison three months"

New York Times Nov 2 1919

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Obituary: Nicolas Worthing (Nicolai Wasilevich Worobjeff) 1913-2002

I've been interested in finding out more about the Russian Refugees and Colonels that came aboard HMS Dragon and were transferred to the Princess Margaret in the midst of the naval action in Riga during October 1919. It hasn't been easy to discover names as none were recorded in the Ship's log. I know that Russians were taken aboard British ships during 1918-1919  but I'm not sure how this was arranged at a time when Riga was obviously a dangerous place to be.

A special thank you, therefore,  to B who contacted me through this blog and directed me to the website for the Exmouth and Rolle College Chess Club where this  fascinating obituary can be found for Nicolas Worthing, a former member of their Club, who died aged 88 having "lived the life of a retired English gentleman that belied an extraordinary life story... 

He was born in 1913 in St. Petersburg and christened Nicolai Wasilevich Worobjeff (pronounced Vorobioff), son of a rich businessman and aristocratic mother.  During the civil unrest leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, his father, fearing for the family’s safety, moved them back to his home town of Rybinsk, north of Moscow. One evening, while walking along the riverbank that ran through his estate there, he overheard two men discussing whether they should "put Worobjeff in a sack and throw him in the Volga". Realising from this the way things were going in Russia, he decided the family had to leave the country, and plans were made, involving forged papers and a risky trip by train, in a horse wagon, heading for Pskov, on the border with German-occupied Latvia, in scenes reminiscent of the film Dr. Zhivago. Here, their ruse was uncovered by the Bolshevik passport Commisar, who accepted a large bribe to let them through, and they made their way to Riga. However, at the end of the Great War the German forces in Latvia were simply replaced by the Bolsheviks, and the family had to move on. They enlisted the help of Captain Smyth of HMS Princess Margaret, then stationed off Riga to resist the Russian advance. The Captain took pity on them and took them to Leith, near Edinburgh" .....

The rest of the obituary is equally fascinating  and I was keen to learn more about him.  He's definately someone I would love to have met!

I wonder if Nicolas might have been one of the group of  "Russian refugees" mentioned in the ship's log for HMS Princess Margaret and Dragon and whether there was any link between his family and the medal commemorating the deliverance of the passengers of Princess Margaret from the Bolsheviks.

I've also discovered that he was mentioned in dispatches for service during WW2. The record of this is held at the National archives WO 373/88 and is available online.

Captain (acting Lieutenant) Worobjeff who has been in charge of a Light Aid Detachment RAOC for the past 21 months has proved himself to be an officer of  outstanding ability and merit....."

Unfortunately, my emails to members of the Chess club have been returned undelivered, no doubt the email addresses are out of date (I notice that the Obituary was published possibly  in 2004)  and so I will keep trying.

It's a great story I think. I'm sure there must be many more.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Medal commemorating the deliverance of the passengers of the 'Princess Margaret' from the Bolsheviks, 1919

I recently took a trip to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich where I had arranged a viewing of the medal as  I had hoped that there might be additional  information   but unfortunately this was not the case.

It is a nice medal and the museum was a really interesting place to visit. With cheap parking next to Greenwich Park and free entrance into the museum it wasn't a wasted trip.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

“Lacplesa Diena” Bear Slayer Day

General von der Goltz was forced to return to Germany by the British, but the remaining German forces concentrated, regrouped and rearmed around Jelgava. Now, they formally joined the “West Russian Volunteer Army” led by Russian General Pavel Bermont who also called himself Prince Avalov as he claimed he was descended from the Georgian princely family of Avalishvili (Avalov) on his mother's side. In October 1919, they moved on Riga. Now the Latvian National Government was confronted by a two front war. The Latvians call this part of the war the “Bermontiade”.

For a while the new front stabilized on the Daugava River, where it ran right through the center of Riga. Then, on the 11th of November, the Latvian forces supported by gunfire from the American heavy cruiser USS Pittsburgh and several Royal Navy and French ships, crossed the Daugava in boats near its estuary hitting the Bermontiade in the left flank. With that their morale, which had never been the best, collapsed, as the German rank and file were by now quite weary of an endless war which they understood the Allied Forces whose ships stood offshore, would never allow them to win. General, Prince Bermont abandoned his men and the Lithuanians destroyed the last of their military capacity at Radvilskis as they tried to retreat through Lithuania. For the Latvians, the victory brought a bounty of heavy weapons, as the Germans abandoned their artillery, armored cars and aircraft. 11 November is celebrated in Latvia as “Lacplesa Diena”, the Latvian Armed Forces Day.

Reference : www.emilija-benjamin.com

Read more

While I knew about the contribution of the British and French Navy  this is the first time I have read about there being the American heavy cruiser USS Pittsburgh in the vicinity.