The 11th Battalion The Royal Sussex Regiment in Russia 1918-1919

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Background

The 11th Battalion’s War Diaries give little information as to what was actually happening in Russia. Daily occurrences are reported but are very repetitive and generally only refer to “carrying out the usual work or duties”. There are little or no reports of any operational commitments, but this might be because such duties seem to have been carried out by a company on detachment, and thus away from Battalion Headquarters, where the war diary was compiled.

Sergeant Chessum’s diary, The Aftermath, (RSR. MSS. 7/61) is a good read but is more involved with describing the weather and scenery, and says little about the operational situation.

War Diaries

The 11th Battalion had absorbed the remnants of the 12th and 13th Battalions; it was withdrawn from France, reformed and based at Mytchett Camp, Farnborough. The Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A.E. Andrews. After re-equipping and training, the Battalion was inspected by the GOC 25th Division on 11th September 1918 and again by the Commander-in-Chief on the 13th (Quebec Day), when it paraded in Full Marching Order.

On 17th September, the Battalion (34 officers and 943 ORs) entrained at Aldershot and travelled to Leith in Scotland. It embarked on HMT Leicestershire at 5 pm on the 18th and sailed at 1 pm on the 19th, although it anchored at dusk in the Firth of Forth.

Leaving on the 20th the voyage took 6 days to reach Murmansk, arriving at 9.30 pm on 26th September.

On 27th/28th September, the Battalion disembarked and B and C Companies were sent by train to Kola. The remainder of the Battalion re-embarked on the SS Cameron and sailed to Petchenga, and as there was no accommodation available, the troops had to spend the night on the top deck – it was wet and cold and proved a most uncomfortable voyage. They disembarked at Petchenga at 2 pm on the 29th and were billeted in the town.

Thereafter, from 4th October to end-February 1919, the Battalion appears to have been on Guards and Duties, and on what is described in the War Diary as “usual working parties” with the Royal Engineers (presumably constructing and improving defensive works). They also carried out small arms training, drill and exercises, including ski-ing classes. The temperature in February was 13º F below freezing.

On 5th March, the Mobile Company, consisting of 6 officers and 164 ORs, moved to Kola on reindeer sledges, accompanied by the Commanding Officer. On 9th March, Battalion Headquarters and Details (a military expression for troops detailed off for duties!), comprising 3 officers and 122 ORs, embarked on SS Zoshimar and sailed to Murmansk, through floating ice, and arrived on the 10th. They then moved by rail to join the Mobile Company at Kola.

From 11th to 20th March the Mobile Company devoted the whole period to training. It then moved to Kandalaksha on 29th March, where from 1st April it was, as described in the War Diary, as “taking precautions against disturbances with the Finns”?

From 30th April until 30th June, work was carried out on improving the camp. The War Diary refers to this daily occurrence as “carrying out the usual work in camp”.

Having research conducted by Mr Neil R Martin, it has been discovered that nine(9) member of the Battalion were lost, several were killed in action defenfing the Murman railway line. You can find some details of those who lost their lives by clicking here, this document is in no way complete and is still work in progress, but it does give an insight of those who lost their lives during this period.

Apparently there were 30,000 Allied troops in Russia of which, 14,000 were British.

On 26th August 1919, the 11th Battalion embarked on the SS Taloa and arrived in the Clyde on 31st August. It then moved by train to England were it was subsequently disbanded.

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