NCRA NewsMail

15 June 2018 


Henry Wells and the Russian Revolution 
by Sylvia Malt.

Although the First World War officially ended on 11th November 1918, it did not end for one of North Cray's residents - Henry Wells.

Henry, a North Cray gardener, was over 40 years-of -age and a married man with three young children when he decided in September 1916 to enlist with the Army. Travelling down by warrant to the army barracks at Maidstone, he first had to undergo the usual medical examination. However, he was given a B1 classification, meaning he was not considered fit enough to take part in combat.

Henry was then allocated to the 25th Middlesex Regiment, commanded by Col. John Ward, an elected Member of Parliament and experienced army officer. After serving in India, the Regiment was posted to the British protectorate of Hong Kong Where they undertook basic garrison duties. However, all this was to change in the summer of 1918.

The Russian Revolution began in 1917 and the huge Russian continent was in chaos. Winston Churchill, as a member of the British Government, thought it could help the 'White' Russians (those fighting against the 'Red' communists) if they could be supported by British troops. A recruitment poster was distributed encouraging former soldiers to rejoin specially for a 'Relief Force for Russia'. When this did not bring in enough recruits, it was decided to ask Col. Ward to take his B1 soldiers out to Russia.

In August 1918, Col. Ward and his rather bewildered Regiment, (which included Private Henry Wells), landed at the Russian port of Vladivostok still dressed in their Warm summer uniforms, and embarked on the notorious trans-Siberian railway.

You can read the full story of what happened to Henry, as well as those other casualties whose names are on the two memorials of Foots Cray and North Cray, in the book : 

'Side- by-Side' a copy of which can be ordered from the Secretary of North Cray Residents Association, at a special price of £8.00.