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British, US & French Marines Storm the 'Askold' in Murmansk

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Murmansk, Kola Bay

Period/ Conflict: World War I

Year: 1918

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.

Askold (Russian Protected Cruiser) In commission from 1900 to circa 1920. Photographed at Murmansk in 1918. This ship was seized by the British later in 1918 and renamed Glory IV. (NH 94796)

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.

US Landing party ashore at Murmansk, Russia, in July 1918. NHHC photograph NH 43271

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.

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