Ancient history?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Britain’s involvement in the Russian Civil War is something hidden in the dim and distant past.

The events of 100 years ago are indeed less well known as other, much more famous, events from the First World War, but our special exhibition is proving connections to this complex period are not actually buried too far from the surface.

Rob Lister’s parents visited the museum recently, and joined us for our exhibition talk.  They wanted to see Hostile Environment as Rob’s grandfather had served with the Yorkshire Regiment (as The Green Howards were known at the time) in Russia.  Soon after, Rob arrived from the US for a family visit and as the ‘internet research arm’ of the Lister family, spent a happy afternoon with us, sharing information and anecdotes.

Museum visitor Rob Lister with existing Hostile Environment personnel files.

Francis Lister served with the 13th Battalion.  Along with 1300 other soldiers from the regiment, he was part of Operations Syren and Elope, which saw British troops involved in Russia’s bitter Civil War between 1918 and 1920, long after the famous 11th of November armistice had ended hostilities elsewhere.

The experiences of the individual soldiers who took part in those operations are featured prominently in the exhibition.  Their stories are told through objects and information in the display cases, but also in our specially created personnel files.

“These folders allow us to give even more information and insight about events in Russia to our visitors,” explains the museum’s Learning Officer, Carl Watts.  “You can pick up a profile card of a soldier, then find their personnel file to read their specific story.  The files show what can be revealed through research, but also give us the opportunity to give this exhibition a life of its own, by adding to the files as families hear about our exhibition and share their own stories.

We have the sad tale of the Newcastle bootmaker murdered in Murmansk, the linen weaver from Northallerton awarded the Imperial Russian George Cross, the officer court-martialled for daring to question Churchill’s methods, and the story of the very last Yorkshire Regiment soldier to die in the First World War; who fell from the train on his way to catch the boat home.”

Now Rob and his family have agreed to add Francis Lister to our collection of personnel files, which will form part of the exhibition in due course.