Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines
Location: Murmansk, Kola Bay
Period/ Conflict: World War I
Date/s: 12 July 1918
In Murmansk there was also the problem of rampant criminality. According to USS Olympia’s war diary, the crew of a Russian protected cruiser, Askold (Аскольд), had taken to robbing and terrorizing the shore population. The ship’s 200 or so sailors of uncertain allegiance were a “very bad, dangerous lot of men” because of their “habit of going ashore and taking anything they might desire.”
Resistance to these robberies, even by local authorities, resulted in the sailors returning later “en masse” and using their guns “in browbeating the people into submission.” With the Allies in charge of policing the town, Askold’s crew almost inevitably came into conflict with Olympia’s shore detachment.
On 12 July 1918, Askold’s crew mutinied. It all began at sunrise, when crewmembers, according to reports, tried to assassinate a Russian naval captain resident in Murmansk. They threw two bombs though his bedroom window, one of which exploded, yet the captain survived unharmed.
Olympia’s shore detail, along with British troops, immediately searched all the houses in the vicinity, confiscated what guns and ammunition they could find, and arrested as many Russian sailors as could be caught.
Meanwhile, British troops trained a hail of Lewis gunfire on a rowboat and then two motorboats as their crews, Askold’s mutineers, tried to make the trip from ship to shore. They all turned back.
Eventually, 50 Royal Marines, 50 French marines, and 50 U.S. Marines managed to board Askold, overpower her crew, and gain control of the ship. For good measure, they immobilized the guns by removing all breechblocks and sights. Next, a Royal Navy officer claimed the ship for the king and recommissioned her HMS Glory IV.
Naval History and Heritage Command - USS Olympia and the Russian Civil War: The Allied Intervention at Archangel and Murmansk in 1918