A Collection of Medals for the Russian Intervention 1918-20

Date of Auction: 27th February 2019

Sold for £4,000

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A rare 1918 Russian Allied Naval Brigade D.S.M. group of five awarded to Colour Sergeant E. C. White, Royal Marine Light Infantry, who took part in the amphibious invasion and occupation of Archangel and was awarded the D.S.M. for service ashore with the Royal Marines Field Force North Russia during the advance down the Dvina River

Distinguished Service Medal, G.V.R. (PO/13348. Sergt. E. C. White, R.M.L.I. Russian Allied Nl. Bde. Sep.-Nov. 1918); 1914-15 Star (PO.13348, Sgt. E. C. White, R.M.L.I.); British War and Victory Medals (PO.13348 Sgt. E. C. White. R.M.L.I.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 1st issue (PO/13348. E. C. White, Sergt. R.M.L.I.) edge bruising to third and fifth, traces of lacquer, nearly extremely fine (5) £1,800-£2,200


Provenance: Captain K. J. Douglas-Morris Collection, Dix Noonan Webb, February 1997.

D.S.M. London Gazette 22 April 1919.

Edward Charles White was born in Burzledon, Southampton, on 10 December 1883, and joined the Royal Marine Depot at Deal as a Private on 22 February 1904 aged 20 years. Posted to ‘B’ Company on 17 November 1904, he embarked aboard his first ship H.M.S. Amethyst in July 1906. He disembarked to the Portsmouth Depot in March 1908 and was promoted to Corporal in ‘D’ Company on 14 December 1909. He subsequently served in H.M.S. Roxburgh from June 1910; H.M.S. Cornwallis from August 1910; H.M.S. Egmont from July 1912; H.M.S. Hermione from August 1912; H.M.S. Bulwark from August 1913; H.M.S. Irresistible from July 1914; and H.M.S. King Alfred from August 1914. He served during the Great War in the Cruiser H.M.S. Leviathan from November 1914, firstly in the 1st Cruiser Squadron Grand Fleet 1914-15, and secondly when the ship was attached to the North America & West Indies Squadron 1915-1918. Whilst in Leviathan he was promoted to Sergeant on 16 July 1915.

In May 1918 he transferred to H.M.S. Glory III for service with the Royal Marine Field Force North Russia. The Royal Marines Field Force North Russia was formed in early May 1918 for service ashore in North Russia and consisted of a field battery drawn from the Royal Marines Artillery (4 x naval 12 pounders) and a company of Royal Marines Light Infantry with a platoon each drawn from the four Royal Marine divisions (Portsmouth, Plymouth, Deal and Chatham) and a machine gun section. The force was assembled at Eastney barracks and sailed two weeks later on SS Porto from Newcastle, arriving at Murmansk on 29 May 1918. In July 1918 two officers and 94 men of the Royal Marines Field Force were detached from Murmansk for the amphibious invasion and capture of the Bolshevik held White Sea port city of Archangel. For his services ashore with the ‘Russian Allied Naval Brigade’, formed from British marines and Russian sailors, during the British advance chasing the Red Army south down the Dvina River from Archangel from September to November 1918 White was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

In January 1919 the Marines were transferred to Army command and the short lived Russian Allied Naval Brigade was disbanded. White transferred to H.M.S. M.25 (Monitor) that month and served with the Altham Flotilla on the Dvina River until June 1919 when he was posted to H.M.S. Fox for service with the North Russia Expeditionary Force. He returned to England and the Portsmouth Division in July 1919 and served on shore for 12 months until he embarked in H.M.S. Barham in August 1920 and whilst in this ship was promoted to Colour Sergeant on 12 August 1920. He was awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in September 1919 whilst serving in North Russia and was pensioned ashore on 12 June 1922 after 18 years’ service. He died on 9 July 1943 aged 60 years.

A full account of the Royal Marine Field Force in North Russia will be found in Britain’s Sea Soldiers 1914-1919 by H. E. Blumberg. It is interesting to note that due to the intense cold of the Arctic winter, Sir Ernest Shackleton went to Murmansk to advise the force based on his experiences in the Antarctic. Before leaving Murmansk each man was issued with an Arctic kit designed by Shackleton consisting of four sets of Wolseley underclothing, one Burberry suit, one large woollen lined overcoat, 12 pairs of socks, one pair of Shackleton boots, one Arctic cap, special gloves, one pair of blizzard goggles, one pair of skis and sticks, and one Westinghouse rifle made in the U.S.A. The company was also equipped with small axes, sleighs as used in Shackleton’s expedition, sleeping bags, Stockholm tar, and specially prepared food. The Marines had served in North Russia from May 1918 – July 1919, the longest period of continuous service of any British unit which served in North Russia.