From St Neots to Siberia
Commemorating British soldiers who served in Siberia (and other parts of Russia) during the First World War.

Photo credit; Vadim TLS Adrianov
What links St Neots, a small Cambridgeshire market town to the vast steppes and forests of Russian Siberia?
On the face of it very little. But history teachers from Longsands Academy (a local secondary school awarded the Silver Quality Mark by the Historical Association in 2016) became intrigued by the locally recruited soldiers of the Bedfordshire regiment who had not perished on the Western Front. Some of those commemorated were buried not in France or Belgium but in the remote and icebound port of Archangel in the Russian Arctic. Their graves were a legacy of the long neglected Allied intervention in support of White forces against the Bolshevik Reds during the bitter and complex civil war which convulsed Russia after the 1917 revolutions (British forces were also active in the Baltic, the Caucasus and Siberia). But what lead presumably war weary local men to volunteer for further military service beyond the
Archangelsk today - Photo credit; Hans Olav Lien
armistice of November 1918 in a remote foreign conflict which ultimately cost 9 million lives? And why 100 years on was the service of these men largely forgotten while the current Russian government lavishes money building brand-new memorials to their 1914- 1917 war dead?

To answer some of these questions and to extend their community outreach Longsands history department successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to run a local history project with the title "From Saint Neots to Siberia; commemorating local soldiers who fought in Siberia (and other parts of Russia)in the First World War".

The HLF funding supported Longsands Academy in;
Commissioning consultant Andrew Wrenn (an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association) to research the involvement of local soldiers in the Allied intervention
To view a timeline of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War written by Andrew Wrenn click here
To access an Historical Association podcast by Dr Beryl Williams on Lenin`s objectives and the civil war see
(available to members of the HA)
To view the three winning montages in detail
click on their names
Charlie Churms  Darcy Button  Gracie Yelland

The Bedfordshire Regiment badge (1914-1918)
Photo credit; Dormskirk
Longsands history teachers converting this research into a five lesson enquiry taught to you all mixed ability Year Nine classes in the school and its sister academy in St Neots, Ernulf Academy.
Staging a Year Nine competition to create montages commemorating the service of British soldiers in the Russian Civil War
Disseminating the project through local and national CPD
Holding community events attended by local people with input from Longsands Sixth Formers studying Russian history at A-level To view a film of one of the community presentations click here
Producing banners for an exhibition about the project displayed at Saint Neots Museum, Longsands Academy and the Bedford branch of the Royal British Legion
Establishing a Skype link with a Russian school for pupils to exchange experience about how the First World War is being commemorated at local and national level in Britain and Russia.
Each enquiry question below is supported by a lesson plan with resources.
 Lesson One - What led Harry Driver to Russia in 1919?

The lesson gradually reveals and analyses evidence of the service of a local soldier Captain Harry Driver who is buried in Archangel Cemetery and listed on the St Neots War Memorial. Beginning with the hook of a local story the lesson examines the push and pull factors that led him to volunteer for service in the North Russia Relief Force, including the controversial role of War Secretary Winston Churchill who was intent on crushing Bolshevism.

Lesson Plan

 Lesson Two - Why did the Allies intervene in Russia?

The lesson casts pupils as decision makers, representative of four Allied powers (Great Britain, France, the USA and Japan). As the First World War ended and the Russian Civil War opened, pupils are introduced to the shifting motivations of the different powers and drip fed information about landmark events which influenced Allied intervention. Tensions within the British cabinet between Prime Minister David Lloyd George and War Secretary Winston Churchill are also exposed.

Lesson Plan

Resources 1

Resources 2
 Lesson Three - How did the Bolsheviks use propaganda to turn Allied soldiers against their leaders?

In this lesson pupils analyse rarely studied Bolshevik propaganda aimed at encouraging mutiny among British soldiers supporting the Whites and identify different themes exploited by the Reds. The lesson concludes with a letter from Churchill to Lenin, the Russian Bolshevik leader denouncing his cause.

Lesson Plan

 Lesson Four - How close to success did the Allies come?

Pupils follow the complex ebbs and flows of both sides in the Russian Civil War between 1918 and 1921, weighing up how close to success the Allied intervention came. They also consider why the Bolsheviks (the Reds) won and the whites lost.

Lesson Plan

 Lesson Five - How should British soldiers who served in the Allied intervention be remembered?

Pupils consider criteria for a "successful" war memorial, contrasting British memorials on the Western Front, war cemeteries in Russia and recent First World War memorials erected by the present Russian government. In doing so pupils explore possible reasons why so much effort has been taken to highlight the British war dead of the Western Front, so little effort to remember those who died during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and why the present Russian government of Vladimir Putin might wish to cast Russian involvement in the First World War in a positive light one hundred years on. All this feeds into the culmination of the enquiry, designing a montage commemorating the service of British soldiers. In this way the concluding lesson of the enquiry returns from a global to a local theme.

Lesson Plan

Longsands Academy would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for its generous funding of this project, the Churchill Archive, Churchill College, University of Cambridge for permission to reproduce copyright material from their collections, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for permission to display photographs and documents from their excellent website, the Historical Association for hosting online resources and St Neots Museum and the Bedford branch of the Royal British Legion for hosting the exhibition.