Last week, Operation Keelhaul again came to my attention. 44 years have passed since I placed a paperback novel related to the subject on my school desk. The book was spotted by our history teacher, I could never have guessed what would unfold.
Before becoming a history teacher, John Greig reached the rank of Major in the British Army. I never discovered whether he quit in the 1950’s or 60’s. By the time I met him in the mid 1970’s he was one of the more unique school teachers of the time, unlikely there will be any comparable today. He was about, 5ft6, 167cm, silver hair parted and swept back, ruddy complexion, always wore a light grey three-piece suit and brown suede shoes. There was a gold watch and chain in the waist coat pocket and half-rimmed glasses hung around his neck. He used a beautiful cologne I had never smelt before or since. His car was a Reliant Scimitar and he kept pedigree Saluki dogs.
In 1945 he was a Lieutenant in the 46th Reconnaissance Regiment that had fought its way up through Italy after initially being part of the allied invasion of Sicily. One of his favourite stories for the school kids was the exploding Algerians. After a spell of fighting, one of John’s less pleasant jobs was back tracking to sort through the dead bodies of all nationalities. The greatest care was required handling dead Algerians because unlike any other nationality, their bodies were swollen, had turned purple, and exploded very easily. John assumed it was something in their diet. Needless to say, this was a most unpleasant job in the scorching heat of an Italian summer. Children of course found this very funny. Incredibly that experience was almost a joy compared to what was literally just over the horizon.
It would be wrong of me to say he was shaken or became in any way emotional at the sight of the book. He immediately began to reveal that at the end of WWII in Europe his army unit was assigned to guarding a large group of Cossacks that had surrendered in Austria to the British. The location was the upper Drau valley near the towns of Lienz and Spittal. It wasn’t just officers and men that were in custody but literally they travelled with everything they owned in a train of covered wagons transporting wives, children and Cossack priests.
These were predominantly Don Cossacks. Many of them had never set foot in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and certainly hadn’t been born there. Their parents had fled from the Soviet Union after the 1917 Revolution and subsequent Civil War resulted in the Wall Street financed Bolsheviks taking control. Then began the bloodbath that was the ‘Red Terror‘ when millions of Orthodox Christians and other ethnic minorities including Cossacks were murdered. These acts were largely concealed from western public attention by the press and certain intellectuals, manipulated by the same establishment that predominates today.
During WWII exiled Cossacks speculated that defeat of the Soviet Union might present an opportunity for them to regain their former territories. To that end they were willing to gamble on an alliance with Hitler’s Germany. It’s not entirely clear how the associations were formed. After fleeing from the Bolsheviks, a large number of Cossacks settled in the Balkans and it was mainly those who allied themselves with Nazi Germany.
It seems they were not deployed in Soviet territory to prevent them imagining the possibility that their previous lands might be easily returned to them in the event of a Soviet defeat. Reports indicate that most of their active duty was in the area that became Yugoslavia where it is alleged they were ruthless on occasion. By May 1945 they had wandered into Austria where they surrendered to the British Army.
According to John the common denominator between his regiment and the Cossacks and one of the main reasons for their assignment was that they were both mounted units. He made it quite clear that Cossack horseback skills were way beyond the ability of the British. There was much mutual respect as the Cossacks viewed the British as people of great integrity. They considered the word of honour of a British officer to be unbreakable. However, from the moment of their internment the Cossacks constantly questioned the British officers over their eventual intentions and in particular the possibility that they might be ‘handed over’ to the Soviet authorities. They were adamant in that eventuality, few of them would survive. John and his fellow officers assured them that the British would never do such a thing.
During 1978-79, my last year at high school, in history class we studied the period commencing with the 1917 Revolution until the 1962 Cuba missile crisis as it specifically affected the area that was initially the Russian Empire, but rapidly mutated into the USSR. The curriculum included a 5000-word dissertation on a topic from that period. John agreed to assist me as an eye-witness to specific incidents during a series of events that occurred from 1944-47 involving the USSR and ‘western allies’, under the United States codename Operation Keelhaul.
In 1975 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) produced a documentary entitled, Operation Keelhaul, which used a number of eye-witness accounts and information that had become available in 1974 with publication of Nicholas Bethell’s book optimistically entitled, ‘The Last Secret’. John Grieg was among the eye-witnesses who agreed to take part. His first appearance is around 5 minutes into the programme.
The documentary reveals cooperation between the United States (USA), Great Britain (GB) and the USSR formalised at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. The USA and GB guaranteed the USSR that all those in their custody at the end of WWII hostilities even suspected of links to the USSR or its historical territories, would be deported to the USSR by force if necessary and regardless of any evidence that might support a contrary conclusion. The word repatriation is used in all of the text relating to this subject and creates a flavour of return as opposed to the term deportation which implies much less agreement over the issue.
This affair encapsulates all of the offences to human decency relating to the globalist Soviet conspiracy. In the 1970’s when Professor Antony C Sutton published ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ it finally became apparent that the revolution had nothing to do with malnourished peasants. This thirteen-minute interview with Sutton from the 1980’s includes many warnings and is hugely definitive of events since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Watch here.
In terms of numbers the Don Cossacks in the Drau Valley were a small percentage of all those forcibly deported to the USSR from 1945-47. The Wikipedia article entitled ‘Operation Keelhaul’ does not even attempt to estimate the number and diversity of peoples deported to the Soviet Union in the wake of WWII. One eye-witness account in the documentary states that the people were from everywhere, even China. None of the deportees were under any illusion of the fate that awaited them. This was barely 20 years after the Red Terror. Bolshevik/NKVD methods were well known to those with any knowledge of life in the USSR.
There were allegedly those who had been forced to cooperate by the Germans, sent to work in factories but we shouldn’t be too easily mislead here. Since WWII Nazi Germany has been continually used to define the epitome of evil when investigation reveals them numerically way behind the USSR and communist China in terms of persecution and mass murder. While there may have been a few coerced I suspect that the majority of those who threw in their lot with the Germans would have been delighted had the USSR been defeated. As it was, the moment the outcome of WWII was certain the main concern of all those formerly associated with the Soviet Union in custody of the western allies was whether or not they would soon find themselves in the hands of the NKVD.
Near Lienz at the end of May 1945 Rusty Davies, the British commanding officer was literally blackmailed by his superiors to deceive the 1500 Cossack officers into Soviet captivity by telling them they were being taken to a conference to plan their future. On June 1st 1945, just 23 days after the surrender of Nazi Germany, British soldiers required extreme force to load those remaining troops, women and children into cattle trucks. A warning precedes the BBC documentary on You Tube. There are eye-witness accounts of mothers killing their own children before committing suicide. The range of methods used to commit suicide described in the documentary are particularly distressing. This was not what the soldiers had enlisted for. An awareness of these events for any young man or woman intending on a career in the military reveals the fragility of honourable intentions.
At 10am on February 11th 2015 I was at Livadia palace. It was the 70th anniversary of the Yalta Conference that facilitated Operation Keelhaul.
From April 2004 to November 2016 I lived less than 20 miles away from Livadia, as the crow flies. Such is the topography that by road the journey is around 90 minutes. On 10th February when I decided to make the trip the weather was beautiful, quite typical of the Crimea Mountains at that time of year. Also typical was the change that occurred by departure time the following morning. Here are a few images from a memorable day.
On reflection I have some sorrow for being insufficiently mature to ask John more questions of greater depth. You can see from the documentary that those men who were forced by their circumstances as military operatives to act contrary to their standard of human decency, were in some cases severely traumatised by the experience. Not only were they traumatised by the suffering they witnessed and that they facilitated but the illusion that they had been fighting for something better was shattered beyond repair.
Over a decade ago while in Crimea I made a search for John Greig and the Cossack repatriation. I was delighted to find a report quoting John Grieg as the only officer who assisted Cossacks to escape. At this time I have been unable to find the document. It wasn’t a surprise to me John acted that way, he despised hypocrisy, do unto others. Today I visited his local churchyard to look for a stone. I attended his funeral service but not a burial. I can’t recall, he might have been cremated. It resonates more to feel his ashes scattered to the four winds where he can touch us all. That would have made him laugh!
BBC documentary Operation Keelhaul
7 thoughts on “A SCOTTISH COSSACK”
Thank you so much. Downloaded and shared. As a relatively new student of this era, this article has been a master class of awakening for me. Just superb. Delighted to have found your site.
Julius, thank for the comment. It was a joy to have some time with John again. There have been a few communications with ex pupils since the article was published. John was one of the most popular teachers in our school at that time.
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One of my favourite teachers. He brought his subject alive. You forgot the hair oil! (haha!)
LOL, you’re right
Wonderful photographs and a very interesting read.
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