The Info List - British Campaign In The Baltic 1918–1919

The British Campaign in the Baltic 1918–19 was a part of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. The codename of the Royal Navy campaign was "Operation Red Trek".[5] The intervention played a key role in enabling the establishment of the independent states of Estonia
and Latvia[6] but failed to secure the control of Petrograd
by White Russian forces, which was one of the main goals of the campaign.[1]


1 Context 2 Naval forces involved

2.1 Soviet forces 2.2 British forces 2.3 Main actions

3 Casualties and losses

3.1 British 3.2 Estonian 3.3 Soviet

4 See also 5 Notes 6 References

Context[edit] Launched in the wake of the Russian collapse and revolution of 1917, the purposes of Operation Red Trek were to stop the rise of Bolshevism, to protect Britain's interests, and to extend the freedom of the seas. The situation in the Baltic states in the aftermath of World War I was chaotic. The Russian Empire
Russian Empire
had collapsed and Bolshevik Red Army, pro-independence, and pro-German forces were fighting across the region. Riga
had been occupied by the German army in 1917 and German Freikorps and Baltic-German
Landeswehr units were still active in the area. Estonia
had established a national army with the support of Finnish volunteers and were defending against the 7th Red Army's attack.[2] Naval forces involved[edit] Soviet forces[edit] The Russian Baltic Fleet
Baltic Fleet
was the key naval force available to the Bolsheviks and essential to the protection of Petrograd. The fleet was severely depleted after the First World War and Russian revolution but still formed a significant force. At least one Gangut-class battleship, as well as several pre-dreadnought battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines were available. Many of the officer corps were on the White Russian side in the Civil War or had been murdered, but some competent leaders remained. British forces[edit] A Royal Navy
Royal Navy
squadron was sent under Rear-Admiral
Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair. This force consisted of modern C-class cruisers and V- and W-class destroyers. In December 1918, Sinclair sallied into Estonian and Latvian ports, sending in troops and supplies, and promising to attack the Bolsheviks "as far as my guns can reach". In January 1919, he was succeeded in command by Rear-Admiral
Walter Cowan. Main actions[edit]

A plane ditched alongside HMS Vindictive after returning from air raid, Baltic Sea, 1919

British forces denied the Bolsheviks the ability to move by sea, Royal Navy ships bombarded the Bolsheviks on land in support of Estonian and Latvian troops, and provided supplies. On the night of 4 December, the cruiser HMS Cassandra struck a German-laid mine while on patrol duties north of Liepāja, and sank with the loss of 11 of her crew. On 26 December, British warships captured the Bolshevik destroyers Avtroil and Spartak,[7] which at the time were shelling the port of Tallinn. Both units were presented to the Estonian Provisional Government and, as Lennuk and Vambola, formed the nucleus of the Estonian Navy. Forty Bolshevik prisoners of war were executed by the Estonian government on Naissaar
in February 1919 despite British protests.[8] The new Commissar
of the Baltic Fleet—Fedor Raskolnikov—was captured onboard Spartak. He was exchanged on 27 May 1919 for 17 British officers captured by the Soviets and later appointed Commissar
of the Caspian Flotilla
Caspian Flotilla
by Trotsky.[9] In the Baltic, Raskolnikov was replaced by Nikolai Kuzmin.

British sailors in Liepāja

British ships in Liepāja

British cruisers in Liepāja

British ships on the way to Tallinn

In April 1919, Latvian President Kārlis Ulmanis
Kārlis Ulmanis
was forced to seek refuge on board the Saratov under the protection of British ships. In the summer of 1919, the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
bottled up the Red fleet in Kronstadt. Several sharp skirmishes were fought near Kotlin Island. In the course of one of these clashes, on 31 May, during a Bolshevik probing action to the west, the battleship Petropavlovsk scored two hits on the destroyer HMS Walker[10] from a distance of 14,000 yards (12,802 m), when a flotilla of British destroyers attempted to catch the outgunned Bolshevik destroyer Azard. Walker, which acted as a lure, suffered some damage and two of her crew were wounded, while the other British destroyers eventually disengaged when they came too close to Bolshevik coastal artillery and minefields.[11] Admiral Cowan soon realised that Tallinn
was not an ideal base of operations and sought a base closer to Kronstadt. On 5 June Cowan and his naval units arrived at the new anchorage at Björkö Sound, which proved ideal for actions against Kronstadt. However, on 9 June the Red fleet's destroyers Gavril and Azard raided the location,[12] and the Royal Navy submarine HMS L55 was sunk with all hands in the aftermath, apparently after being cornered in a British minefield by the Soviet warships.[13] The action prompted the British to lay obstacles and minefields to protect the anchorage.[12] Cowan also requested that Finland allocate a squadron of ships to provide additional protection for the anchorage as well as to take part in the security and patrol duties in the area. The Finnish Navy
Finnish Navy
complied and sent several gun and torpedo boats as well as motor minesweepers to Björkö.[14] A flotilla of British Coastal Motor Boats
Coastal Motor Boats
under the command of Lieutenant Augustus Agar
Augustus Agar
raided Kronstadt
Harbour twice, sinking the cruiser Oleg and the depot ship Pamiat Azova on 17 June as well as damaging the battleships Petropavlovsk and Andrei Pervozvanny in August, at the cost of three CMBs in the last attack.[15][16][17][18] The British claim that the motor boats damaged the Petropavlosk is dismissed by Soviet records.[19] The first raid was intended to support a significant mutiny at the Krasnaya Gorka fort
Krasnaya Gorka fort
which was eventually suppressed by the 12 in (300 mm) guns of the Bolshevik battleships.[20] In early July the British received reinforcements which included the aircraft carrier HMS Vindictive whose aircraft carried out bombing and strafing runs against gun and searchlight installations at Kronstadt.[12]

Fore turret of the battleship Petropavlovsk (1925)

In the autumn of 1919, British forces—including the monitor HMS Erebus—provided gunfire support to General Nikolai Yudenich's White Russian Northwestern army in its offensive against Petrograd. The Russians tried to disrupt these bombardments by laying mines using the Orfey-class destroyers, Azard, Gavril, Konstantin, and Svoboda. The latter three ships were sunk in a British minefield on 21 October 1919, during an attempt to defect to Estonia. The White army's offensive failed to capture Petrograd
and on 2 February 1920, the Republic of Estonia
and Bolshevist Russia
signed the Peace Treaty of Tartu which recognised Estonian independence. This resulted in the withdrawal of the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
from the Baltic. The prolonged British presence at Björkö Sound and Cowan's demands to the Finnish government that the small Finnish squadron patrolling the area stay until the British withdrawal from the sound in December 1919 cost the Finnish Navy
Finnish Navy
three torpedo boats which sank when ice crushed their weak hulls. The loss of the three vessels meant that the newly independent Finland's small navy lost 20% of its heavier ships in a single stroke.[14][21] Significant unrest took place among British sailors in the Baltic.[6] This included small-scale mutinies amongst the crews of HMS Vindictive, Delhi—the latter due in part to the behaviour of Admiral Cowan—and other ships stationed in Björkö Sound. The causes were a general war-weariness (many of the crews had fought in World War I), poor food and accommodation, a lack of leave, and the effects of Bolshevik propaganda.[6] Casualties and losses[edit] British[edit]

Light cruiser HMS Cassandra – mined, 5 December 1918 V-class destroyers:

HMS Verulam – mined, 4 September 1919 HMS Vittoria – torpedoed by Bolshevik submarine Pantera, 31 August 1919

Submarine HMS L55 – surface action against Bolshevik destroyers, 9 June 1919 Arabis-class sloop: HMS Gentian and Myrtle – both mined, 16 Jul 1919. Coastal Motor Boats: CMB-24, CMB-62 and CMB-79 – surface action against Bolshevik Fleet at anchor CMB-67 – stranded, all on 18 August 1919.

The 112 deaths of British servicemen—107 RN personnel and five RAF personnel from HMS Vindictive —are commemorated on a memorial plaque, which was unveiled in 2005 at Portsmouth Cathedral
Portsmouth Cathedral
[3] in England, with similar memorials in the Church of the Holy Ghost, Tallinn
and in St Saviour's Church, Riga. Estonian[edit]

Icebreaker tug Hector – struck a rock Coastal patrol boat Gorodenko – beached by storm


Cruiser Oleg – torpedoed by CMBs Depot ship Pamiat Azova – torpedoed by CMBs Destroyers Spartak and Avtroil – captured by the Royal Navy Destroyers Gavril, Konstantin and Svoboda – mined Trawler Kitoboi – defected to White movement Ships of the Peipus flotilla – captured by Estonia

No figures for Soviet casualties are available. See also[edit]

North Russia
Campaign British submarine flotilla in the Baltic HMS Dragon Latvian War of Independence Estonian War of Independence West Russian Volunteer Army Defence Forces Cemetery of Tallinn Augustus Agar Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis Claude Congreve Dobson Hubert Gough John Alfred Moreton Gordon Charles Steele


^ a b Kinvig, Churchill's Crusade, pp. 271–90 ^ a b c Jaan Maide (1933) Ülevaade Eesti vabadussõjast. Estonian Defence League, Tallinn ^ a b "Baltic Memorial in Portsmouth with names of the Fallen".  ^ a b Mati Õun; Hannes Walter; Peedu Sammalsoo. Võitlused Läänemerel 1918–1919) (Fighting in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
1918–1919) (in Estonian).  ^ Churchill and the Baltic, Part I: 1918-1931 Archived 2010-07-03 at the Wayback Machine., by Richard M. Langworth ^ a b c Kinvig, Churchill's Crusade ^ Raskolnikov, Fedor. "Tales of Sub-Lieutenant Ilyin".  ^ Jackson, Battle of the Baltic, page 9 ^ "Raskolnikov biography" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 26 June 2007. В конце 1918 назначен зам. командующего 7-й армией по морской части и член РВС Балтийского флота. Поставлен во главе крупного отряда (линкор, крейсер, 2 миноносца), который должен был противодействовать английскому флоту. Проявил себя бездарным командиром и в начале 1919 был бзят в плен на миноносце "Спартак". 27.5.1919 был обменян на 17 пленных английских офицеров. В 1919–20 командовал Астраханско-Каспийской (затем Волжско-Каспийской) военной.  ^ Kettle, Churchill and the Archangel Fiasco, p. 461 ^ Head, Michael (2009). "The Baltic Campaign, 1918–1920, Pts. I, II". Warship International. Toledo, OH: International Naval Research Organization. XLVI (2–3): 149. ISSN 0043-0374.  ^ a b c Kijanen, Kalervo (1968). Suomen Laivasto 1918–1968 I. Helsinki: Meriupseeriyhdistys/Otava. pp. 101–102.  ^ Kettle, Michael (1992). Russia
and the Allies, 1917–1920. Routledge, p. 469. ISBN 0-415-08286-2 ^ a b Kijanen, Kalervo (1968). Suomen Laivasto 1918–1968 I. Helsinki: Meriupseeriyhdistys/Otava. pp. 106–108.  ^ "Baltic and North Russia
1919". Retrieved 4 December 2014.  ^ "Winkleigh Devon its Sons & Heroes - History of the Village part 5 - Medals of honour, the Victoria Cross, Captain Gordon Steele, Lieutenant Henry Hartnol- Photographs, stories". Retrieved 4 December 2014.  ^ Dreadnought Petropavlovsk Archived 1 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. ^ Pre-Dreadnought Andrei Pervozvanny ^ Erikson, Rolf (1974). "Letter to the Editor". Warship International. Toledo, OH: International Naval Research Organization. XI (1): 16. ISSN 0043-0374.  ^ "warandgame". Retrieved 4 December 2014.  ^ Auvinen, Visa (1983). Leijonalippu merellä. Pori: Satakunnan Kirjateollisuus Oy. pp. 23–24. ISBN 951-95781-1-0. 


Bennett, Geoffrey (1964). Cowan's war: the story of British naval operations in the Baltic, 1918–1920. London: Collins. OCLC 51700397. 

Republished (2001) as: Freeing the Baltic. Edinburgh: Birlinn. ISBN 1-84341-001-X

Jackson, Robert (2007). Battle of the Baltic. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Maritime. ISBN 978-1-84415-422-7.  Kinvig, Clifford (2006). Churchill's Crusade: The British Invasion of Russia
1918–1920. Hambledon Continuum. ISBN 1-85285-477-4.  Kettle, Michael (1992). Churchill and the Archangel Fiasco. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-415-08286-2.  "British-Bolshevik Navy Actions". Naval History.net.  External link in publisher= (help) Ben Nimmo. "The forgotten fleet: the British navy and Baltic independence". The Baltic Times. Retrieved 2009-05-16.  Walter Cowan. "Report by Walter Cowan
Walter Cowan
(link to the 1st page)". Supplement to the London Gazette.  Fletcher, William A. (Summer 1976). "The British navy in the Baltic, 1918–1920: Its contribution to the independence of the Baltic nations". Journal of Baltic Studies. 7 (2): 134–144. doi:10.1080/016297776000