upload image

Australia in the North Russia Relief 1919

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1918 to 1919
Location: North Russiamap
Surnames/tags: australia military_and_war
Profile manager: Kenneth Evans private message [send private message]
This page has been accessed 78 times.


An Allied expeditionary force, the North Russian Expeditionary Force (NREF), including some Australian volunteers, was landed at Murmansk in March 1918 to support the weakening Russian front against Germany. The front was reinforced by further landings at Archangel in August 1918. In supporting the White Russians, the force became involved in operations against the Bolsheviks (Red Russians). To extract the force after the Armistice and after the Russian winter, the British North Russia Relief Force (NRRF) was raised in the United Kingdom (UK), again including Australian volunteers, arriving in Murmansk, North Russia on 5th June 1919 aboard the SS Porto and SS Stephen. In order to join this body Australians had first to obtain their discharges from the Australian Imperial Force whilst in the UK. They were then enlisted in the British Army, and were allotted to the 45th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers and the 201st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps. Two companies within the 45th Battalion were composed of Australians. Thus, between 200 and 300 Australians accepted this further period of active service.

The Australians were prominent in several actions:

  1. The Australians' first action of major importance was on 23rd July when 150, under Major General Edmund Ironside, investigated a meeting of White Russian forces at Obozerskaya. They repulsed a Bolshevik attack on a railway in the area, surprising the enemy during a relief of their forward blockhouses, killed thirty with the bayonet, wounded many others and set fire to the blockhouses before withdrawing.
  2. Brigadier General Lionel Sadlier-Jackson launched an attack on the Dwina front on 10th August in which over 3,000 prisoners were taken and heavy losses inflicted. The objective of enveloping and destroying the enemy was attained, thus opening the way for the peaceful evacuation of British and Allied forces.
  3. Nineteen days later, 29th August, the two Australian companies were again employed in routing the Bolsheviks in a bayonet charge on the railway near Seleskoe.
  4. General Lord Rawlinson arrived in- country and, on 10th September, the evacuation of all Allied forces commenced with evacuation to Archangel. The troops embarked for Britain on 28th September.

Two Australians, both serving with the 45th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers, were awarded the Victoria Cross for actions in North Russia:

  1. Corporal Arthur Sullivan, on 10th August, for saving a group of drowning men while under fire; and,
  2. Sergeant Samuel Pearse, on 29th August, after cutting his way through barbed wire entanglements under heavy enemy fire, clearing a way for others to enter, and then charging blockhouses single-handedly with his Lewis gun, killing the occupants with bombs before being killed by machine-gun fire himself.

Australian officers included:

  • Captain Paul Francis Lohan (NREF), previously served with the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion. [1]
  • Captain Allan Brown (NREF), murdered by (Russian) men of the North Russian Rifles on 20th July when they mutinied and went over to the Bolsheviks. [2]
  • Sergeant Robert Louis Graham (NREF), previously served with the 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion; was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in North Russia. [3]
  • Major Harry Harcourt DSO & Bar MC (NRRF), although a British Army officer at the time, he later migrated to Australia, joined the Australian Army and commanded a commando squadron at Papua and Borneo during the Second World War.


  1. Australian War Memorial nominal roll: Captain Paul Frances Lohan; accessed 31 May 2020
  2. Australian War Memorial nominal roll: Captain Allan Brown; accessed 31 May 2020
  3. Australian War Memorial nominal roll: Second Lieutenant Robert Louis Graham; accessed 31 May 2020

See also

  • Login to edit this profile and add images.
  • Private Messages: Send a private message to the Profile Manager. (Best when privacy is an issue.)
  • Public Comments: Login to post. (Best for messages specifically directed to those editing this profile. Limit 20 per day.)

Leave a message for others who see this profile.
There are no comments yet.
Login to post a comment.