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‘Deliverance from the Bolsheviks’ Medal - H.M.S. Princess Margaret, 1919
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‘Deliverance from the Bolsheviks’ Medal - H.M.S. Princess Margaret, 1919

Measurements: Overall: 37cm (14.5in) x 52cm (20.5in)



Watercolour port side view of the First World War minelayer H.M.S. Princess Margaret mounted together with a silver medal by Spink & Son, London awarded to the ship’s company following the evacuation of British citizens, Europeans neutrals, and a sprinkling of Russian aristrocrats fleeing Riga ahead of the Red Army in 1919. Complete with recipient’s ‘parchment’ (rating's Service Certificate).

The present medal was awarded to Officers’ Steward 2nd Class John Bernard William Gould, a London clerk in civilian life who signed up for the duration. He first served at H.M.S. Victory I, a land based accounting establishment at Portsmouth, before being transferred to the Princess Margaret - a Canadian Pacific passenger ship requisitioned to bolster the Royal Navy’s minelaying capability. During the First World War she laid some 25,000 mines in the North Sea and English Channel - more, it is thought, than any other Royal Navy ship.

In November 1918, she was deployed to the Baltic during the British intervention in the Russian Civil War (1918-20) - her first mission being the delivery of 5000 rifles to the newly formed Estonian army. It was the belief of Winston Churchill and others that in the face of what he called 'the foul baboonery of Bolshevism’, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should take control of their destinies and form independent nations. Lenin, however, had other ideas. With German forces withdrawing on the Eastern Front he ordered Bolshevik forces to follow and crush the aspirations of an independent Latvia by propping up a Moscow controlled Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic under the lie of a global proletarian revolution. Baron Alexander Meyendorff, a former vice president of the Duma was among those awaiting evacuation in the Princess Margaret.

On 19 December 1918 H.M.S. Princess Margaret together with the cruiser Ceres and two destroyers steamed into reached Riga and found the Latvian capital in a state panic with Bolshevik forces only 25 miles distant. H.M.S. Princess Margaret landed her marines who, accompanied by an armed party from Ceres, made a show of strength through the town against the German military presence and local malcontents. The following day as British subjects and other evacuees began to arrive onboard Princess Margaret, a Latvian rifle regiment mutinied against the provisional government, and arrangements were made for the defence of the approaches to Royal Navy ships by the aid of searchlights, and the use of star and lyddite shells. More refugees joined Princess Margaret that night, bringing the total on board to 392 souls, 143 men, 169 women and 80 children. Also taken on board were four injured sailors from H.M.S. Dragon wounded by German shellfire. On the 3 January the Princess Margaret sailed for Copenhagen, where two days later she landed some of the refugees prior to her passage to the United Kingdom where the remainder were disembarked at Rosyth.

In recognition of the H.M.S. Princess Margaret’s timely arrival at Riga, a group of grateful evacueees later commemorated their escape from Reds, by commissionining the present medal from Royal Warrant holder Spink & Son - viz: obverse, a foul anchor encircled by a life-belt, bearing the embossed inscription Princess Margaret; reverse, ‘Riga - London, 3rd Jany. 1919, 17th Jany. 1919, From the Grateful Passengers in Remembrance of their Deliverance from the Bolsheviks.’