- Corporate body
The 260th Battalion was one of two Infantry Battalions within the 16th Canadian Infantry Brigade, Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force (C.S.E.F.), formed by Order of Council 12 August 1918. They were part of an Allied Force of more than 120,000 men commanded by General Kikuzo Otani of Japan. The Allied Force was originally united to protect Allied war materials stockpiled in Russia and to reopen the Eastern Front. This priority later changed to that of rescuing the Czechoslovakian Legion, which was stranded in Siberia by the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. The Russian Revolution of 1917 necessitated the withdrawal of the Tsar's Army from the Eastern Front. This increased pressure on the already exhausted Allies in the West and put military stores at Archangel in the North and Vladivostok in the South at risk. The Czech Brigade, formed by patriotic deserters from the Austro-Hungarian Army, was no longer able to fight from Russian soil. Following the signing of the Brest- Livotsk Treaty between the Bolsheviks and the Central Powers in March 1918, the Czech Legion, now 60,000 strong and composed of pardoned POWs, displaced Serbs, Italians, Rumanians and Poles, found themselves essentially behind enemy lines. With the Provisional Government's blessing, the Legion's initial aim was to cross Siberia by rail to Vladivostok where they would sail to North America and then to France to resume the fight for an independent homeland. Following an incident involving the Czechs and repatriated Hungarian prisoners, the Bolsheviks decreed that any armed Legionnaire found along the railway would be shot on the spot. The Legion was reluctantly drawn into the Russian Civil War and forced to side with the "White" Russians. By late summer 1918 they controlled the Trans-Siberian Railway from Omsk to Vladivostok. This prompted the Allies to consider a possible Bolshevik defeat. The Canadian Government, hoping to establish favorable post-war trading opportunities with the Far East, agreed to be part of a "Mixed Brigade" to support the "White" Russians. This was the first independent military expedition that Canada was to undertake. The Armistice of 11 November 1918 clouded the issues. The Canadian people were reluctant to become involved in further offensive operations, especially in the East. This meant that the C.S.E.F. would serve only as a "stabilizing element". The 260th Battalion was composed of 42 Officers and 984 Other Ranks, 520 of which were drafted under the Military Service Act of 1917. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Jamieson of Edmonton, the Battalion trained at Willows Camp in Victoria from October through December 1918. The Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/19 landed 180 men in hospital and delayed departure. The Battalion finally embarked on the SS Protesliaus at Gordon Head on 26 December 1918, arriving in Vladivostok 15 January 1919. The Battalion was stationed at Gournestai Barracks (10 miles east of Vladivostok), with guards posted at East and Second River Barracks. During the 14 weeks in theatre no shots were fired in anger and, except for small parties of railway guards, the Battalion never moved east. A month after the arrival of the C.S.E.F., plans were underway to bring them home. Many of the men of the 260th were among the first to leave, departing Vladivostok on the SS Monteagle 22 April 1919. When they arrived in Vancouver on the 22nd of June, the wharf that 6 months ago was packed with a cheering populace was now deserted. In 1997 the PPCLI agreed to perpetuate the 260th Battalion and become the official "safekeeper" of the Battalion's heritage. Perpetuation is a uniquely Canadian system that insures, when possible, the deeds and sacrifices of disbanded combat units that have gained an honour or distinction in the field are remembered. The PPCLI will now carry the Battle Honour "Siberia 1918-1919".