Part 1 – “B” Squadron RNWMP



All Force members are familiar with the RCMP’s Guidon – the Regimental Banner displaying all the Force’s battle honours.

In basic training, each member was told about each battle honour and what Force members contributed.  However, the  “Siberia 1918-1919” seemed like a mystery because little information had been provided.

To understand the circumstances justifying this battle honour, I commenced my research on this topic back in the early 1980s.  In so doing, I was able to locate and interview the few surviving Veterans from “B” Squadron RNWMP (Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force).  Each of these original members provided their stories, photographs, and badges for the purpose of eventually having their story told.

To provide a comprehensive reporting of the creation, deployment, activities, challenges and return to Canada, their story is being broken down into six parts:

Part 1 – How the Force Got Involved in Going to Siberia

To understand the circumstances under which the Force was drawn into the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force, a brief summary of the activities of World War I are outlined below.


On June 28, 1914, World War I started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.  The assassination took place at Sarajevo which was the capital of Bosnia – a province which Austria annexed in 1908.

The assassin was an alleged agent for the Serbian secret society.  In retaliation for the assassin, Austria intended to crush the ‘Greater Serbia’ movement and gave Serbia only 48 hours to accept a harsh ultimatum.  The Serbian government appealed to Russia, France and Britain for support.  Likewise, Austria sought support from Germany.  When the Austrian demands were not met, war was declared on July 28, 1914.




On July 30, 1914, Czar Nicholas II ordered a general mobilization as did other countries which escalated into what is now known as World War I.






By the spring of 1917, the Russians had lost many battles against the Austrian-Hungarian and German armies as well as suffered enormous losses.  For example in ‘The Offensive of 1916’ resulted in 5,000,000 casualties.  Decay began to set into the army with insubordination, desertion and fraternization with the enemy.  In the summer of 1917, 700,000 soldiers deserted.  Since the beginning of the war, an estimated 4 million Russian had been captured by Austrian-Hungarian and German forces.

With the shortage of food, runaway inflation and the continual disappointments of Russia’s losses and defeats in battle, the people of Russia turned against the autocracy and the ruling regime.  The Russian parliament, Duma, protested at the neglect of the Russian armies and led for a call for Czar Nicholas II to abdicate which he did willingly.  He and his family were relocated to Ekaterinburg where they would later be executed on July 17, 1918 by the Bolsheviks.

The power and control of Russia was passed to the Duma.  A new Provisional Government was formed by the Constitutional Democrats and one Social Revolutionary – Alexander Kerensky who later become the President of this Provisional Government.  This government remained committed to continue its participation in World War I.

In an effort to promote revolution in Russia and have the country pull out of World War I, Germany used its underground network to contact Russian revolutionaries living in exile in Switzerland.  Vladimir Lenin agreed to the German propose to return to Russia to commence a Communist revolution.  To accommodate this undertaking, the Germans have Lenin  travel through Germany in a sealed railway car.  Upon hearing of this undertaking, the Allies felt that Lenin and the Communist movement in Russia was sympathetiic to Germany.


On November 7, 1917, the ‘coup d’etat’ led by Lenin was successful in overthrowing the Provisional Government in Petrograd.  Their slogan of ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ was an appealing approach to many Russians.

One of Lenin’s first moves was to remove Russia from the war.  On December 2, 1917, Lenin directed the hostilities with Austria-Hungary and Germany to be suspended.  On that day, the Russian Generals Kornilov, Alexeiev and Denikin raised a counter-revolutionary standard of the ‘White Russians’ and consequently the ‘Russian Revolution’ began.

On March 3 1918, the Bolsheviks delegation, led by Leon Trotsky, made peace with the Central Powers (Austria-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, and Germany) at Brest-Vitovsk.  In so doing, the Russian delegation agreed to the German terms to surrender a quarter of the Russian European land: 1,000,000 square miles of territory containing 60 million people and immense natural resources and industrial capabilities.  This included: the grainaries of the Ukraine; oil of the Caspian region and millions of people to fill the ranks of the Austrian-Hungarian and German armies.


As this treaty was being signed, the Central Powers were shifting 40 military division from the Eastern to the Western Front.

The remaining 30 military divisions would be used to occupy and control the newly acquired territories.  The same agreement called for the repatriation of 1.6 million Central Power prisoners of war who were in captivity in Russian prison camps spread throughout Siberia.

After the Bolsheviks took power, many Russians decided to join the White Russians because of:

  • the humiliating peace treaty;
  • the methods used by the Bolsheviks to seize power; and
  • the Bolsheviks’ brutal treatment of their rivals.

Between January and the fall of 1918, the Bolshevik grew in strength and battled with the White Russian forces.  The White armies were widely dispersed and had no common allegiance nor a single dynamic leader.

The withdrawal of the Russians from the Eastern Front could not have come at a worst time.  In the Spring of 1918, France was still trying to recover from the mass mutinies of 1917.  To cover the weakening French flank on the Western Front, British troops were over extended in ceaseless offensives from Arras to Passchendaele.  Both France and Britain were heavily depending on supplementary troops coming from their colonies around the world.

The Americans had not yet arrived in sufficient numbers to make a difference.  With the withdrawal of the Russians, the Allied strategists felt that there would be a real likelihood of an Allied defeat in 1918 or the war would be dragging on into 1919 or 1920.

Between March 21 and April 5, 1918, the Germans made significant gains on the Western Front.  The German gain was 20 miles inside the Allied line resulting in 240,000 Allied and 235,000 German casualties.  After these battles, it was believed that the Germans were growing in strength while the Allies were growing weaker and another major offensive was imminent.  As outlined in the map below, the Germans were only a distance of 30 miles from Paris.  Some Allies felt that if Paris fell then the war would be over.


Between 1914 and March 1918, France, Britain and the United States were  supplying munitions to Russian on a gigantic scale.  These munitions had been purchased by Russia upon loans.  More than 600,000 tons of military material, apart from an equal quantity of coal, had been landed at Archangel and Murmansk.  A similar situation obtained at Vladivostok, where enormous importations had been made by the Americans and Japanese.

With the Bolsheviks now signing a peace treaty with the Central Powers, the Allies were concerned that these provided munitions would be turned over to their enemies and spell defeat for the Allies in the Western Front.

Before the Russian Revolution, the Central Power prisoners of war were distributed to over 1,000 camps situation in close proximity to the Trans-Siberian Railway.  After the Revolution, the guards were relaxed or almost non-existent and it would have been relatively a simple matter for them to have organized themselves and seized munitions.

On December 23, 1917, the Allies decided to do whatever they could to support any Russian groups that would assist in re-opening the conflicts on the Eastern Front and thereby reduce the potential threats on the Western Front.

With France running short of soldiers, it accepted an offer of assistance from the Czech Legion in Russia to fill the ranks of the French army.  This offer of assistance was based on the condition that France would support the creation of an independent Czechoslovak state after the war.

Between 1916 and early 1917, 70,000 Czechs deserted from the ranks of the Austrian-Hungarian army to join the Russian army and became known as the ‘Czech Legion.’  The Czechs were welcomed with open arms by the Russians because the Czechs were Slavic kinsmen of the Russians and shared the same language.  In June 1917, the Czech Legion won a strategic battle against the Austrians which resulted in the capture of 100,000 prisoners.  The Czech Legion  was one of the few successes that the Russian army had in 1917.

With the signing of the Brest-Vitovsk treaty, the Czech Legion were anxious to avoid being captured by the Central Powers moving to annex their new Russian territority.

The French government representatives negotiated with the Bolshevik government to permit the evacuation of the Czech Legion.  It was collectively agreed that the Czech Legion would board the Trans-Siberian Railway trains at Kiev and be transported to Vladivostok.  From Vladivostok, the Czech Legion would board Allied ships and be transported to the United States then onto France.

On March 26, 1918, Joseph Stalin signed the order to permit the evacuation of the Czech Legion.  Initially, the Bolshevik government sympathized with the Czech who they viewed as oppressed nationality group.

In the spring of 1918, the Bolsheviks were loadings west bound Trans-Siberian Railway trains with Central Power prisoners of war being repatriated and the returning east bound trains were filled with Czech Legion members.  It was the initial intent of the Bolsheviks to rid their country of all foreign troops.

An incident on May 14, 1918 at a train station at Chelyabinsk changed the Bolshevik  government’s support for the Czechs in Russia.   On this date, the eastbound train contained members of the 6th Regiment of the First Czechoslovak Army Corp was coming to a stop.  A second westbound train just slowly leaving the station contained Central Power prisoners of war.  One of the Hungarian soldiers threw a broken cast-iron portion of a stove out the window and killed a Czech soldier in the other train.

Members of the Czech regiment quickly exited their train and over powered the westbound train.  The responsible Hungarian was identified and was immediately hung by the Czechs.  Local Bolsheviks arrested the responsible Czech soldiers and placed them in the local jail waiting for instructions from Moscow.

On May 25, 1918, Leon Trotsky ordered the Bolsheviks to immediately disarm the Czech Legion.  An extract from his order stated:

Ever armed Czechoslovak found on the railway is to be shot on the spot; every train in which even one armed man is found shall be unloaded, and its soldiers shall be interned in a war prisoners’ camp.  Local war commissars must proceed at once to carry out this order;  every delay will be considered treason and will bring the offender severe punishment.”

Trotsky’s message was intercepted by members of the Czech regiment.  Based on this intelligence, members of the Czech regiment overpowered the Bolsheviks and seized weapons, ammunition, several trains and released all arrested Czech soldiers.  At the time, the Soviet Red Army was no match against the well organized and disciplined Czech Legion.

With the threat of being executed, the Czech Legion were anxious to ensure a quick and secure evacuation of all their 70,000 members to Vladivostok Siberia.  To do so, they  they took control of Trans-Siberian Railway trains and headed east from Chelyabinsk to Vladivostok Siberia.  To ensure they had continual control of the railway, they seized and controlled all towns and cities as they moved eastward.  To accomplish this mass migration eastward, they seized and used over 60 trains to assist with their evacuation and control of Siberia.

What must be realized is that at the time, the primary mode of transportation was the Tran-Siberian Railway.  Consequently, whoever controlled the railway control the surrounding country side.

By June 29, 1918, the advance party of 15,000 Czech Legion members reached Vladivostok and seized the city within 24 hours.  As the advance party was taking control of Vladivostok, the rearguard of the Czech Legion was still trying to board east bound trains at Kiev with the Central Power armies in close proximity.

Consequently from the summer of 1918 to the summer of 1919, the Czech Legion control 4,000 miles of the Trans-Siberian Railway from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of being evacuated to France, the Allies felt that the Czech Legion’s had a strategic importance.  It was the actions of the Czech Legion which demonstrated to the Allies how fragile the conditions were in Russia.  Therefore, it was felt that an Allied intervention forces should be sent to Russia to support the White Russians.

The White Russians sought Allied support to overthrow the Bolsheviks.  After the Bolsheviks had been overthrown, the White Russians agreed to re-establish the Eastern Front against the Central Powers.


All Allied countries were asked to send troops to Siberia and included: Australia, Britain, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Rumania, Serbia and the United States of America.

Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden agreed that Canadian troops would be deployed to Vladivostok.  On August 12, 1918, the Canadian government announced the justification in sending Canadian troops to Siberia by stating:

a small but thorough effective force in terms of helping the Czechoslovaks and the Russian people of Siberia, who are courageously battling against German’s effort to dominate and control Siberia, as she already dominates and controls western Russia.”

The deployment was undertaken on the assumption that the war would continue into 1919 and possibly 1920.

The Canadian government agreed that a new brigade would be created and would be commanded by Canadian Major-General Elmsley.  This brigade was to be know as the 16th Infantry Brigade or commonly referred to as the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force (CSEF).  The Brigade would consist of the British 25th Battalion of Middlesex Regiment (previously stationed in from Hong Kong), the Hampshire Regiment (previously stationed in India) and various Canadian units as outlined below:

It was the original intention of the Allied High Command was to have “B” Squadron – RNWMP deployed to Vladivostok and a short time thereafter to be boarded onto a  Trans-Siberian Railway heading to Omsk, Russia.  In July 1918, Omsk had been established as the White Russian Army headquarters opposing the Bolshevik forces.

Other Canadian and Allied Forces in the Caspian Sea area could potentially link up if required or when required.

On August 17, 1918, The RNWMP Controller wrote to Commissioner A. B. Perry authorizing him to “furnish a squadron for service as a cavalry unit in Siberia.  The war establishment of a squadron consists of:

  •  Officers – 6;
  • Other Ranks – 154
  • Horses – 181 (riding & draught)

 The unit will mobilize at Regina and you will please hold the matter of selection of officers in abeyance until further advised.”

Based on the Controller’s message, the Commissioner authorized the posting of recruiting posters similar to the illustrated below.

Based on these advertisements, newspapers commenced publishing news articles about the progress of the recruiting process.  The following are extracts which were contained in the Edmonton newspapers.

To read more about “B” Squadron, check out  –

 Part 2 – From Recruitment to Embarking on SS Monteagle