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Lecture | Sevastopol: Forgotten City of the First World War

Lecture | Sevastopol: Forgotten City of the First World War

Wed, Jun. 26, 2019 6:30pm — 8:00pm

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Major General Mungo Melvin, author of Sevastopol’s Wars; Crimea from Potemkin to Putin, will reveal this largely forgotten episode of world history, which continues to have many echoes today.  The Black Sea port and naval base of Sevastopol came briefly into the international news in early 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.  The longstanding historical significance of the place, however, was rarely highlighted in this reportage.  If remembered at all, the siege of Sevastopol (1854-55) features in accounts of the Crimean War.  Yet Sevastopol also played an important role in both the First World War and the overlapping Russian Civil War.  Had it not been for the German bombardment of the port in October 1914 under an Ottoman flag, a deliberate provocation, it is doubtful whether Russia would have declared war on Turkey.  The result was the closure of the Dardanelles and the ensuing Allied Gallipoli operation to open them – resulting in a heroic but complete failure. 

German forces occupied Sevastopol in May 1918, but at the war’s end were required to withdraw under the terms of the Armistice of 11 November 1918.  British and French forces then arrived as much to prevent a Bolshevik takeover, so entering the Russian Civil War on the side of the losing White cause.  Securing the Black Sea Fleet and the associated port infrastructure was common to both the German and Entente interventions. Eventually the Bolsheviks won the war against the Whites in a final, bitterly contested, campaign on the Crimean peninsula. It ended in November 1920 with an evacuation protected by French and United States ships. By then the British government, and hence the Royal Navy, had withdrawn support to a lost cause.

Major General Mungo Melvin CB OBE retired from the Army in 2011. He is a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Defence Committee, a Senior Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute and a Senior Visiting Research Fellow of King’s College London. He is the President of the British Commission of Military History. His biography, Manstein: Hitler’s Greatest General, was published to critical acclaim in 2010, and was awarded as the best military biography of the year by the United States Society for Military History in 2012. Mungo Melvin’s next major work, Sevastopol’s Wars: Crimea from Potemkin to Putin was published in early 2017.  He has also edited the British Army’s Battlefield Guide to the Western Front of the First World War.

6:30pm drinks reception (drink included in ticket price), 7:00pm lecture commences
£10 non-members | £8 Friends | reservation recommended | 01738 638152 Option 1