The Forgotten Story of Midleton Man who fought in the Russian Civil War

By Seamus Whelehan


Even after the armistice was signed ending World War I, the British clashed with Russian forces 100 years ago.

Instead of returning home at the end of the First World War, thousands of British soldiers were sent to Northern Russia.

It was 1919, just twelve months after the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and the Imperial family.

The newly appointed UK War Secretary, Sir Winston Churchill, had sent the men to join a multi-national force tasked with turning the tide of revolution.

It was an unpopular order among the British public, and one that didn’t sit well with Prime Minister Lloyd George.

They called it “Churchill’s War,” “The Great Russian Gamble” and “Whitehall’s Folly.”

The conflict ran from June 1918 to October 1919, marking Churchill’s darkest moment, one that would be almost airbrushed out of history.

No official account was ever written on the mission, and no medals or stars struck, with the battle costing the British Exchequer £49,631,000.

Among some of those deployed to the Russian Artic was Midleton man, John Sexton.

A leading seaman on board HMS Fox, John was the son of Patrick and Nora Sexton nee Ahern from Templenacarriga.

HMS Fox was a depot ship based in Archangel to support a naval flotilla helping the Loyal Russians against the Bolsheviks.

Leading seaman Sexton was injured in a mine explosion when the vessel was operating on the Dvina River on 2 July 1919, and later died from his wounds.

The 23 year old was serving under Polar Explorer Tom Crean who was the ships coxswain, when he lost his life.

Three months previous on-board ship Crean, suffered a serious fall, causing a bad head injury, which would have a lasting effect on his eyesight.

Almost a year later, while serving on board the HMS Helca, Crean was declared medically unfit to serve because of his defective vision.

Sexton is remembered with honour on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Devon, his name inscribed on panel 33 of the monument.

The Plymouth Memorial records the names of 7,231 men killed in the Great War, with 6 men from HMS Fox who died at various times during the conflict.