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Battle in the Baltic (Hardback)

The Royal Navy and the Fight to Save Estonia and Latvia, 1918–1920

WWI Seaforth Naval 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918

By Steve R. Dunn
Seaforth Publishing
Pages: 304
Illustrations: 35
ISBN: 9781526742735
Published: 31st January 2020

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Though, for most participants, the First World War ended on 11 November 1918, the Royal Navy found itself, despite four years of slaughter and war weariness, fighting a fierce and brutal battle in the Baltic Sea against Bolshevik Russia in an attempt to protect the fragile independence of the newly liberated states of Estonia and Latvia.

This new book by Steve R Dunn describes the events of those two years when RN ships and men, under the command of Rear Admiral Walter Cowan, found themselves in a maelstrom of chaos and conflicting loyalties, and facing multiple opponents – the communist forces of the Red Army and Navy, led by Leon Trotsky; the gangs of freebooting German soldiers, the Freikorps, intent on keeping the Baltic states under German domination; and the White Russian forces, bent on retaking Petrograd and rebuilding the Russian Empire. During this hard-fought campaign there were successes on both sides. For example, the Royal Navy captured two destroyers that were given to the Estonians; but the submarine L-55 was sunk by Russian warships, lost with all hands. Seeking revenge in a daring sequence of attacks and using small coastal motor boats, the RN sank the cruiser Oleg and badly damaged two Russian battleships.

Today few people are aware of this exhausting campaign and the sacrifices made by Royal Navy sailors (three VCs were won), but the pages of this book retell their exciting but forgotten stories and, using much first-hand testimony, bring back to life the critical naval operations that prevented the retaking of the new Baltic countries that Churchill saw as an essential shield against the encroachment of the Bolsheviks into Europe. An uneasy peace prevailed until 1939.

'The author has produced an enthralling and inspirational account of how a small RN force was deployed so successfully by its commander and his officers and men to the greatest credit of the Royal Navy... Most Highly Recommended’

Fire Project (@Firetrench) 19 August 2020

‘…besides those with pure history interest, the book about the Baltic Campaign in 1918-20 is a good appetiser for those being deployed to the eastern Baltic Sea’

The Naval Review

This is a interesting account of this little known campaign (even by the standards of the British intervention in Russia!), and gives a good idea of just how complex the situation was this area in the aftermath of the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

History of War

'Overall, Dunn mixes politics and combat action well in an interesting narrative .....Dunn’s accounts of the fighting, and there was lots of it, are well written…. this is a valuable addition to the history of the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom’s role in the post-WWI world'

Robert Neil Smith, Naval Wargaming

This was an excellent book, very clear, precise and very well written by the author Steve Dunn who has written several naval books. What made this book good was that it was very readable for a beginner or for someone who had good knowledge of the subject. I found it astounding that this was a little written about subject and I do think it needs delving into more. I found this book a very good read and easy to get into, I would be happy to give it a 4 star rating.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

Overall, Dunn’s text is well-presented and most readers will not get “lost” in the tangled web that highlights the story of this intervention. While most people in the West have forgotten about this particular Royal Navy action, it is fitting that both of these Baltic countries have not. Thanks to Dunn, we have now also been reminded of this endeavour.

The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, (Vol. XXIX, No. 4, Fall 2019)

This is a well-written and very readable account of an important but little-known campaign that still has relevance today. It is interesting to reflect on just how many lessons about the application of force in limited war situations have been learnt and then forgotten. The author reminds us that intervention can lack value if the aim is not well defined or if forces are withdrawn before the aim has been achieved. Apart from its obvious interest to readers with an interest in naval history, this is a book that any naval professional or, dare I say, politician involved in foreign affairs should add to their reading list. I recommend it highly.

Read the full review here

Australian Naval Institute

This is a military campaign involving the British Navy that occurred after the end of the First World War, and it's a campaign I had no prior knowledge of. Pen and Sword regular author tells the tale of the RN's involvement in stopping the annexation of Estonia and Latvia by the Soviet Union.

Books Monthly

'Apart from its obvious interest to readers with an interest in naval history, this is a book that any naval professional or, dare I say, politician involved in foreign affairs should add to their reading list. I recommend it highly'.

The Australian Naval Institute

‘Battle in the Baltic is a fine tribute to those Briton’s who served in the Baltic between 1918 and 1920, especially the 128 servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice’

Warships International Fleet Review, April 2020

Article: Barnt Green author invited to Latvian Embassy to talk about war book – words by Michael Beardmore featured by

Bromsgrove Advertiser, Halesowen News, Hereford Times, Evesham Journal, Ludlow & Tenbury Wells Advertiser, Tewkesbury Admag, Redditch & Alcester Advertiser

Article: Devon war hero honoured in new book as featured by

Exeter Daily, 11th February 2020

Article: Bury author receives VIP invite to Latvian Embassy as featured by

Your Independent, 6th February 2020 - words by Daniel Almond

Featured in Worcester News here

Worcester News

Author article on History Hit

History Hit

As featured in Your Independent, Bury and Bolton here

Your Independent, Bury and Bolton

This is a very readable narrative of the events surrounding the extended workings after the Armistice in November 1918 that placed the Royal Navy in a constantly changing situation with respect to the Bolsheviks, the Germans and the inhabitants of the Baltic States whilst the Great Powers at Versailles chose to avoid and evade. Despite this the Baltic States eventually prevailed by expelling the Germans and the Bolsheviks to enjoy a short period of independence until the next German/Russian conflict. The involvement of the Navy in the campaign demonstrated the limited actions available and the limited outcomes in the absence of a determined strategy and this book combines the tactical and strategic context very well.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Steve R. Dunn

Steve R Dunn is an author with a special interest in the Royal Navy of the early 20th century and World War One. He has written nine books of naval history, the last six of which are published by Seaforth.

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