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.