Freeing the Baltic 1918-1920

First published as “Cowan’sWar” in 1964, then as “Freeing the Baltic” in 2002, this new edition includes new material from the author’s son. – The author’s son has edited the original text and added new material to a book that covers very important, if sadly neglected, recent history – Much Recommended.

NAME: Freeing the Baltic 1918-1920
FILE: R2549
AUTHOR: Geoffrey Bennett
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES:  263
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Royal Navy, destroyers, cruisers, Baltic, Russian Revolution, 
Baltic States, independence, Germany, Knight of the Sword, Latvia, 
Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Soviet Union

ISBN: 1-47389-307-0

IMAGE: B2549.jpg
DESCRIPTION: First published as “Cowan'sWar” in 1964, then as 
“Freeing the Baltic” in 2002, this new edition includes new material 
from the author's son.  - The author's son has edited the original 
text and added new material to a book that covers very important, if 
sadly neglected, recent history  – Much Recommended.

For whatever reasons, Baltic history has been sadly neglected in 
English-language history books, despite the importance of the Baltic 
to Great Britain and Europe. Out of the Baltic and Scandinavia came 
the Vikings to make an indelible mark on the history of Europe and 
set the basis for an outward looking Britain that forged the greatest 
Empire. Trade between Britain and the Baltic was important from the 
Medieval period and Elizabeth I granted monopolies for trade to 
Russia and the other Baltic States. Scots fought for the Swedish 
Kings in the 17th Century in Germany and George II was the last 
British monarch to lead troops in battle during his campaigns in 
Germany as part of British interests in Germany and the Baltic. The 
Royal Navy helped von Hohenlau's Prussian Division escape the French 
by lifting them off the Baltic beach and getting them to the 
temporary Prussian capitol. During the Napoleonic wars, the Baltic 
trade was vital to Britain, prompting the British to invade neutral 
Denmark and make off with the Danish warships to prevent them 
falling into French hands and to maintain access to the Baltic. 
Then, the fall of Germany in 1918, and the Russian Revolution 
created the opportunities for the Baltic States to break free of 
Russian oppression and avoid incorporation into the newly formed 
Soviet Union. Britain sent a naval force to help the Baltic States 
in their struggle for independence, preventing the Baltic becoming 
a Soviet lake, and yet this important campaign has almost totally 
escaped historians writing for English-language publication.

The author was a naval officer, who was also a writer and a play 
write, and served as a naval attaché posted to the British Embassy 
in Moscow. After retirement from the Royal Navy he became a 
successful historian and was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical 
Society. This uniquely placed him to write a history of the British 
naval force that was commanded by Rear Admiral Sir Walter Cowan and 
sent to aid the Baltic States in their fight for freedom from 
Russia. He grasped the opportunity and wrote the first published 
account of Cowan's War. This new edition has been read and edited by 
his son, also a naval officer, and new material has been added with 
a very helpful Preface by Rodney M Bennett.

Remarkably little has been written of the British intervention forces 
that were sent into Russia and into the Baltic following the Russian 
Revolution. There are many reasons for this, other than just the 
well-established lack of attention to the Baltic by historians. In 
1918, there was an overwhelming relief in Britain and the Commonwealth 
that the terrible trials of those fighting trench warfare had ended. 
Euphoria often follows victory, but a tired Britain was mainly 
relieved. There was a great desire to party and the Roaring Twenties 
are best remembered as a time of hedonistic partying. It was only in 
the 1930s, that Britons realized that the botched peace treaty ending 
WWI was giving way to a new threat from Germany to the peace and 
prosperity of Europe. In that atmosphere there was no great appetite 
to think of lingering war. What happened in and around Russia was 
best ignored.

There were also practical reasons for the British involvement in the 
Russian Revolution to receive little publicity at the time and little 
historical interest later. There were a number of covert actions, 
some activity was deliberately not recorded, and some information was 
treated as highly sensitive and classified information. As a result, 
the actions of British servicemen, fighting inside Russia and working 
to help the White Russians against the Bolsheviks, came close to 
halting the Russian Revolution at several points, and the 
determination and courage of Cowan, his ships and sailors, achieved 
far more than could be reasonably hoped and was instrumental in 
assisting the Baltic States to break free from servitude to Russia 
and Germany. Although this campaign was not to receive the recognition 
it deserved, it was appreciated and has been remembered by the people 
of the Baltic States. As British declares its own independence from 
rule by the EUSSR, it may be necessary to help old friends and 
comrades in the Baltic to break free once more.

Cowan performed brilliantly and outmanoeuvred the Germans, White 
Russians and Soviets with a tiny naval force and performed one of 
the most daring raids in Royal Navy history. Its exciting reading 
and an important part in the events of the 20th Century that continue 
to make their mark today. The author tells the story with clarity 
and authority but he starts by providing probably the best brief 
history of the Baltic States. This introduction is essential to 
developing a sound understanding of what happened next and how it 
continues to affect European history today.