Australian Contribution To The Allied Intervention in Russia 1918–1919 - North Russia Relief Force (NRRF), 1919

North Russia Relief Force (NRRF), 1919

Recruiting for the relief force began immediately in England on a voluntary basis and would ultimately include men from every regiment of the British Army, as well as all the dominions. The North Russian Relief Force (NRRF) subsequently formed two brigades—one under the command of Brigadier General Lionel Sadlier-Jackson, and the other under Brigadier General G.W. Grogan, and both under the overall command of Major General Edmund Ironside. Sadlier-Jackson's brigade included over 4,000 men, including the 45th and 46th Battalions, the Royal Fusiliers, supporting machine gunners from the 201st Machine Gun Battalion, as well as artillery, signallers and engineers. Grogan’s brigade was primarily drawn from battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment.

Due to the high regard held for dominion troops as a result of their exploits in France during the war they were specifically targeted for recruitment. Indeed some 400 to 500 men of the AIF—who were in England awaiting repatriation to Australia following the end of the war—initially indicated a willingness to join, but nowhere near as many actually enlisted. All Australians who volunteered were discharged from the AIF and re-enlisted in the British army as private soldiers for a period of one year. This was necessary because the dominions had already indicated that they were not interested in providing forces for the intervention. Ultimately about 150 Australians enlisted to serve in the NRRF, most of them recruited by Major Harry Harcourt. The Australians mainly served in the 45th Battalion and the 201st Machine Gun Battalion under Sadlier-Jackson, although some may also have served in the 46th Battalion. Despite being enlisted in the British Army the Australians wore uniforms of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and were formed into two mainly Australian companies in the 45th Battalion.

The AIF relinquished control over the men and responsibility for them while they were part of the NRRF, but undertook to repatriate them to Australia after they returned from Russia. Their motivations for joining were diverse, although few seemed have been political. Some had arrived in Britain as reinforcements too late to see any fighting during the war, and wanted to experience active service before returning to Australia. Others were decorated veterans and may have been motivated by a desire to see Russia, whilst some may have been unable to settle down after their wartime experiences, and could have viewed service as a means of postponing their return to civilian life.

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