• Si Biggs

Royal Marines Stopping the Fins in Russia

Updated: May 4

HMS Glory was a pre-dreadnought battleship of the British Royal Navy and a member of the Canopus class. Intended for service in Asia, Glory and her sister ships were smaller and faster than the preceding Majestic-class battleships, but retained the same battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns. She also carried thinner armour, but incorporated new Krupp steel, which was more effective than the Harvey armour used in the Majestics. Glory was laid down in December 1896, launched in March 1899, and commissioned into the fleet in November 1900.


HM Glory in Murmansk (http://www.xiwex.me.uk/arctic.html)

After a refit in Portsmouth Glory was recommissioned on 1 August 1916 to serve as the flagship for Rear-Admiral Thomas Kemp, British North Russia Squadron, along with the protected cruiser HMS Vindictive and six minesweepers. She had some of her guns removed to increase accommodation space for more Royal Marines.


In this duty, she was based at Archangel to protect supplies that arrived there for the Russian Army. The squadron's mission evolved after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 into preventing the supplies that had been delivered from falling into the hands of the Red Army. Nevertheless, Kemp maintained good relations with the local communist leadership; on 6 March 1918, Kemp reached an agreement with the authorities in Murmansk to send ashore a party of 130 marines from Glory to help defend the city from a feared invasion by neighbouring Finland.


Murmansk, originally known as Romanov-on-the-Murman, was founded on October 4, 1916. The city is the only ice-free port in the Russian Arctic and was built as a terminus for the railway line supplying the Eastern Front during the First World War. The city was renamed Murmansk after the February Revolution in 1917.


During the North Russia campaign the Allies used Murmansk as a stopping point for troops on their way to Archangel.


Glory sent further men to reinforce the marines, along with Lewis guns and a 12-pounder gun, the latter from the armoured cruiser Cochrane. Finnish forces attempted to seize nearby Pechenga as a first step toward advancing on Murmansk, but the attack broke down after Cochrane contributed marines and gunfire support to its defence.


Finnish forces no longer threatened Murmansk.


From the General Officer Commanding, Murmansk, to the War Office. (Paraphrase.) [1] 31st March, 1919.

I have received absolutely reliable information that Finnish Legion intends to revolt and join against us with Bolsheviks ; proposed day of rising is Sunday, 6th April. They have lately been carrying out active propaganda amongst Karelinn Regiment, and a large number of Karelians are expected to join them.


They plan either to move south, attack in conjunction with Karelians our forward troops in rear, and join hands with Bolsheviks, or to move north against Murmansk simultaneously with a Bolshevik rising here. They propose if they move south to destroy Kovda Bridge, 35 miles south of Kandalaksha, and if they move north Niva Bridge, 16 miles north-east of Kandalaksha, to prevent arrival of reinforcements from north and south respectively. A more South in my opinion is far the more probable, as after destruction of Kovda Bridge they could traverse Karelia collecting Karelian adherers, whilst they would be unlikely to get Karelians to move north of Kandalaksha, and Karelians siding without them would have to act against us independently.


Though far from being panic stricken it is useless to disguise fact that critical situation may arise at once. My British troops have been so reduced by reinforcements to Archangel that I am left with an exceedingly small force on which I can rely.


I am trying to bring over two platoons from Pechenga, and am asking Admiral to land party of marines, but in view of fact that Finnish Legion numbers 1,400, and they night get anything up to 2,000 Karelians to join them, apart from help from Russian Bolsheviks, these are very small reinforcement. I therefore urge very strongly that one or more men-of- war, with landing parties of at least 400, be at once sent here.


Weather is much warmer, and full Arctic equipment is not essential. I hope this request may be granted, otherwise we shall be incurring needless risk. I shall probably go down the line to-morrow myself to endeavour to arrest l'innish leaders. This may put the fat in the fire, but it appears to me that this is only action which has any chance of stopping the revolt.


I am taking all possible military precautions.

Repeated to Archangel


[1] The evacuation of north Russia, 1919 - War Office Papers


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