When Britain invaded Russia’ was one of the more interesting of the BBCs output about the Russian Revolution. It covers the allied invasion of Russia during the Civil War. Not just Britain but 14 nations invaded joining the counter-revolution.
Two things struck me about the programme, both the utter desperation that seemed to fill the imperialist powers as they rushed to get war-weary troops to take up positions across Russian territory. The British advanced from Arkhangelsk alongside French troops. Their equipment was severely lacking, they weren’t able to light fires to stop them drawing attention to their positions and many of them died or lost limbs to frostbite. The morale of troops was very low, thanks to Bolshevik propaganda that both called on them to stop fighting in the name of international working class solidarity, and spelt out what would happen if they did not.
The veteran George Green describes the chaos of being given no briefings and not being aware who he was being sent to fight. He knew of the revolution but did not know what it was for but assumed it was somehow pro-German. Of course there was widespread support among workers for the revolution with Hands off Russia debates and marches happening in major cities across the UK and within Parliament and the labour movement. In the end the allied powers could not sustain their fight, or even feed themselves and after months of starving and torturing Bolshevik prisoners with little results General Ironside withdrew his troops from Arkhangelsk in September 1919. The Russian Whites were left to continue the battle, a battle they to would go on to lose.