Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners: The British Soldiers Deceived in the Russian Civil War

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A lecture by Rupert Wieloch, author and former British Army officer.

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When Winston Churchill took over as Secretary of State for War in January 1919, his top priority was the overthrow of the Bolshevik government in Moscow. His greatest military commitment lay in the Arctic Circle where 10,000 British and American soldiers fought an ultimately futile campaign in the snow and ice. However, this was a mere distraction to Trotsky and Lenin who, in Central Russia, were forging the Red Army into the most feared force in the World. Their main concern was on the other side of the Urals, where Admiral Alexander Kolchak, assisted by over 100,000 Allied troops, established the only viable alternative government at Omsk.

The British contribution to the Siberian land campaign comprised: two infantry battalions; a Royal Marine detachment that fought from two river boats 4,000 miles from their mother ship in Vladivostok; a vast quantity of war materiel valued by David Lloyd George at over 100 million pounds and a technical team that helped operate the Trans-Siberian Railway. One of the officers wrote: ‘No phase in history is richer in material for the historian and the novelist than those four years of bitter civil war in Russia’ and yet the numerous tactical, operational and strategic lessons were either ignored, or suppressed. 

Drawing on material from his latest book, ‘Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners: The British Soldiers Deceived in the Russian Civil War’, Rupert highlights forgotten British and American military and political lessons that are highly pertinent to the current Anglo-Russian relationship.

 Speaker Biography

Rupert Wieloch was commissioned into the 17th/21st Lancers in the same month that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. After the Cold War, he hosted senior Russian military officers under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and worked on the Partnership for Peace programme in Poland. He was the last Director of Defence Studies in the British Army before the post was cut in the Strategic Defence and Security Review and deployed to Libya as the Senior British Military Commander in 2011. Since leaving the Army, he has run a dangerous sport in Switzerland and now writes books in Hampshire.

Rupert will be on hand to sign copies of his latest book, which will be on sale.

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Refreshments will be served from 1215.

To attend this event, please register online using the "Register Now" button above. If you have any queries please contact Annalinda Riley, at or call +44 (0)20 7747 2600.


Continuing Professional Development

This event has been certified for CPD purposes by the CPD Certification Service.

To obtain a CPD Certificate of Attendance please register with RUSI at the end of the event attended, and a certificate will be dispatched within 28 days. If an attendee fails to register with RUSI then it will not be possible to issue a certificate.

For more information please contact Jack Haines,

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