Memoir of John Robert Cowan Kelly, 1969

Accession Number RCDIG0001264
Collection number PR85/324
Collection type Digitised Collection
Record type File
Item count 1
Object type Memoir
Physical description 49 Image/s captured
Maker Kelly, John Robert Cowan
Date made 1969
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
North Russia, 1919
Copying Provisions Digital format and content protected by copyright.

Memoirs relating to the First World War service of Sergeant John Robert Cowan Kelly, “Elope” Force, North Russia Expeditionary Force. This memoir compiled by Kelly in 1969 covers: volunteering for “Elope” Force in early 1918; living in the Tower of London; preparations for the expedition to northern Russia; the composition of “Elope” Force and comments on “Syren” and “Develop” Forces; the secretive nature of the mission; the departure from England in June 1918; an outbreak of influenza on-board the transport ship “City of Versailles”; the mission to reorganise the Russian National Army (Whites), re-establish a front in the east against Germany, and capture strategic points in Russia before the Germans; the mission to support the Whites against the Bolshevik forces; the arrival at and occupation of Murmansk in June 1918; operations against Bolshevik forces; the capture of Arkhangelsk in August 1918; observations on the native and local peoples; the Arctic winter of 1918/1919; a photograph of Lance Sergeant Bertram Harold Perry in winter gear; photographs of various members of the expeditionary force; Sir Ernest Shackleton’s visit and his consultations on winter gear; the constantly bitter cold weather; the isolation the soldiers faced from the outside world; one fearful mission where Kelly was required to cross a frozen river in darkness; the threat from the Bolshevik forces; survival through the winter; the recruitment of soldiers and prisoners from various nationalities to fight; several mutinies; guerrilla tactics; the participation of the Americans and the French; proclamations by GHQ explaining the importance of fighting Bolshevism; descriptions of operations extending out from Archangelsk; the unwillingness of the Whites to fight; von Mueller and SMS Emden at Madras; the Russian cruiser “Askold” (the world’s only five funnel warship) renamed HMS Glory IV when captured by the British; the threat of Bolshevik sympathisers behind the line; comments on the colourful character Sergeant Robert Louis Graham; observations on the Russian people, weather, culture, various nationalities involved in the operation, British command and officers, and various campaigns and operations; notes on the currency and an example bill; the arrival of the North Russia Relief Force in May/June 1919 and a picture of their arrival; returning for England on 17 June 1919, exactly 12 months to the day since arriving; comments on the effectiveness of the expedition and the loss of life it incurred; Kelly learning the fate of his old battalion mates; notes on seaplanes and the British ships HMS Nairana and HMS Attentive; Kelly’s voyage back to Australia (via. the United States) and his arrival home in November 1919.

Kelly has also included a list of Australians that joined “Elope” Force that included: Captain Richard Thomas Tarrant Captain Paul Francis Lohan Captain Allan Brown; Sergeant (later Captain) Robert Louis Graham; Sergeant John Robert Cowan Kelly (himself), Sergeant (later Lance Sergeant) Bertram Harold Perry, Sergeant Arthur Frederick Von Dune, Sergeant Charles John Hickey and Sergeant Claude Howard Wyatt. At the very end of the memoir is a War Office map of northern Russia with annotations and notes explaining those annotations made by Kelly.