Amazing story of Sheffield miner who fought in north Russia 100 years ago against Bolsheviks

A Sheffield miner was called up for military service at the end of World War One – and found himself fighting the Bolsheviks who took power in the Russian Revolution.

By Julia Armstrong
Wednesday, 17 April, 2019, 11:52
Archibald Goodall with the Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment in Archangel, Russia. It's not known where he is on this picture submitted by Margaret Howard

His daughter has told his amazing story and wants to see men who served in the conflict given similar recognition to other British troops.

Margaret Howard said that her late father Archibald Goodall, from Intake in Sheffield, was born in 1897. When he left school aged 14, he worked at Nunnery colliery in Handsworth, so during World War One he had a reserved occupation.

Archibald Goodall serving in Murmansk, Russia in 1918 submitted by Margaret Howard

The Russian Revolution ended the war in Europe and Britain was among one of many allied power countries that sent in troops to support the counter-revolutionary forces of the White Army.

So it was that young Archibald, who tried to enlist in 1916 at the city’s Somme Barracks, found himself conscripted to fight in north Russia in July 1918.

He was first called up on April 20, 1918 and was demobbed in October 1919.

Margaret said: “He did put his mind to everything he did, he didn’t do it piecemeal. The only rifle he’d fired was to kill rabbits and he’d never been skiing. He became the top marksman in the regiment and won £25.”

Founder of Soviet Russia, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, addresses soldiers of the new Soviet Army in Red Square in Moscow on May 25, 1919 (AP Photo/TASS)

After training the recruits were sent to Catterick in north Yorkshire, unaware where they were being sent. 

Archibald knew it was serious when he was handed a 4ft Lee Enfield rifle and collected his kit.

It included a fur hat, a waterproof suit, a fur-lined, floor-length greatcoat, snow boots based on those worn by Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, a pair of snow shoes and a pair of skis.

They were told to muster in Dundee and boarded a ship called the Tras-Os-Montes.

Russian Czar Nicholas II, left, and his son Prince Alexei sawing wood to heat the dwelling in Siberia where they were held during the Russian Revolution

Margaret said her dad told her it was “worse than a pig sty” and conditions were so bad they caused a stand-off with the officers. The ship was listing badly and boats had to be sent out to get the troops off.

Archibald and his fellow troops found themselves in the Orkney capital of Kirkwall, being treated like VIPs by the locals.

They were told by someone to visit Scapa Flow as something significant was happening and saw seven ships from the German fleet being scuttled there.

Later they took ship on the SS Huntsend and landed in Murmansk.    

Archibald Goodall's son Ron Goodall, who served in the army in Egypt and Dunkirk in World War Two submitted by Margaret Howard

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They encountered friendly locals including Inuits and at one point had to travel 300 miles by reindeer sledge.

Although the men were told their duties were mainly guarding equipment, within three weeks Archibald fought in his first skirmish. The Bolsheviks were skilled at using dense forests they knew well.   

He also worked as a field telephone operator, setting up lines close to villages where they believed the Bolshevik Red Army were based, working in freezing conditions.

Margaret said that when her father was sent home and landed in Leith in Scotland, it took about five months before he was finally demobbed in Richmond.

She said: “He was given his pay and had to make his own way back home and the transport were all on strike. He had to take a taxi and it cost him five shillings.”

He did jobs including night soil man on his return to Sheffield and married a young woman he had known before. He had two sons, Tom and Ron, with his first wife, who died when she was 32. He later remarried and had Margaret and her sister Judy.

Archibald Goodall's son Tom Goodall, who served in RAF Bomber Command ground crew in WW2 submitted by Margaret Howard

They later had the King’s Head in Poole Road, Darnall

Both served during World War Two, Ron as a soldier who saw service in Egypt and Dunkirk, and Tom, who was in ground crew with RAF Bomber Command.

Eventually, Archibald became a publican working for Duncan Gilmour. He ran the Newmarket Hotel near Sheffield markets and Margaret remembers many of the characters she met as a child.

He also worked for Preston’s chemists. Archibald died, aged 93, having lived in Crookes and Darnall.

Margaret wants to see more recognition of the North Russia campaign.

She said: “We know about Scapa Flow and we know that the Russian Tsar was murdered. There were 226,000 men killed in Russia from all over the world.

“I think it should be on the Cenotaph. When everybody is walking past, there should be some mention of the North Russia campaign. They were still fighting.

I think it’s very bad that no-one ever mentions it, it’s just not good enough. I’m compos mentis enough to do something about it.”

As well as telling her father’s story, Margaret will meet a descendant of the Tsar’s family on June 28 when she and husband Glyn are guests at the opening of an exhibition in the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, North Yorkshire on the North Russia campaign.

Archibald served with the Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment that later became the Green Howards.

Archibald Goodall at a meeting of the Green Howards Association, aged about 85 submitted by Margaret Howard