Belgian Expeditionary Corps in Russia

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Belgian Expeditionary Corps in Russia
Belgian corps in Russia.jpg
Mors armoured car of the Belgian Expeditionary Corps in Russia, c. January 1916
Active 1915–1918
Country  Belgium
Allegiance  Russian Empire (1915–17)
Russian Empire Russian Provisional Government (1917)
Branch Imperial Russian Army
Type Mechanised
Role Mobile reconnaissance
Size 444 men (total)[1]
Garrison/HQ Peterhof, Saint Petersburg (1915)
Equipment Minerva and Lanchester armoured cars
Engagements Galicia, Eastern Front.
Disbanded July 1918[1]

The Belgian Expeditionary Corps of Armoured Cars in Russia (French: Corps Expeditionnaire des Autos-Canons-Mitrailleuses Belges en Russie) was a Belgian military formation during the First World War which was sent to Russia to fight the German Army on the Eastern Front. Between late 1915 and 1918, 444 Belgian soldiers served with the unit of whom 16 were killed in action.[1]

History[edit]

Items of uniform worn by members of the Expeditionary Force

As the front line in the west stabilized following the Battle of the Yser, the Belgian army was left with a number of armoured cars produced by Minerva, a motor company based in Antwerp, which could not be used in the static trench warfare which had emerged along the Belgian-held Yser Front. In early 1915, Tsar Nicholas II formally requested military support from King Albert I and the redundant armoured cars were deployed as superfluous to Belgium's own requirements. As Belgium was not officially an ally of the Russian Empire but a neutral power, the Belgian soldiers in the unit were officially considered as volunteers in the Imperial Russian Army itself.

A British armoured car unit of a similar size, known as the British Armoured Car Expeditionary Force (or ACEF) also served in Russia.[2]

The first contingent of the Belgian Expeditionary Corps (333 volunteers equipped with Minerva Armoured Cars) arrived in Archangel in October 1915.[1] The unit fought with distinction in Galicia and was mentioned in the Order of the Day five times.[3]

After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the Belgian force remained in Russia until the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk withdrew Russia from the war. After the ceasefire, the unit found itself in hostile territory. As the route north to Murmansk was blocked, the soldiers destroyed their armoured cars to prevent their capture by Bolshevik forces.[3] The unit finally reached the United States through China and the Trans-Siberian railway in June 1918.[1]

Members[edit]

Map depicting the unit's operations in Galicia

The unit was never particularly numerous, but included some notable personnel:

Commemoration[edit]

From 1931, soldiers who had served with the unit were awarded the 1914–1918 Commemorative War Medal with a bar (reading 1916-R-1917) denoting service in Russia.[4] The last veteran of the unit died in 1992.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Belgian Armoured Cars in Russia". www.greatwardifferent.com. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "Foreign Armoured Units in Russia during WWI". www.wio.ru. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "WWI – Belgium Armoured Car Division in Russia". www.philatelicdatabase.com. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "The Russia-bar "1916-R-1917"". Retrieved 21 December 2012. 

External links[edit]

  • "WWI – Belgium Armoured Car Division in Russia". www.philatelicdatabase.com. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  • "'Opérations des Auto-canons-mitrailleuses Belges en Russie" (in French). Touring Club de Belgique (1918).