I found a photo in a copy of The Graphic dated the 17th Aug 1916 which set me off on search which sadly I haven’t been able to complete. It was of two British soldiers with a Russian soldier. It has led me to an interesting search for information about the Eastern Front in World War One.
The two British soldiers in the photo are Thomas Henry Beavins And Arthur Wilfred Pitman. Thomas Beavins was born on the 18th April 1889 in Fulham, London. He was the eldest son of Thomas and Norah Beavin and worked as a Municipal Clerk. In August 1913 he married Mabel Rose Dunningham at St Paul’s Hammersmith. The young newly weds could have no idea the turbulent years that lay ahead. Arthur Pitman was born on the 19th June 1890 in Bethnal Green, London. He was the son of Charles William and Clara Julia Pitman and was the youngest of five children. Arthur worked as a chauffeur.
Both young men enlisted in The British Royal Naval Armoured Division, both held the rank of Petty Officer Mechanic and went to Russia on H.M.S. President II. The British Armoured Car Expeditionary Force (ACEF) was a British military unit sent to Russia during the First World War to fight alongside the Russian Empire on the Eastern Front from June 1916. The unit consisted of 566 men who fought alongside the Imperial Russian Army in Galicia, Romania and the Caucasus Mountains until the Bolshevik coup of 1917, when the ACEF was withdrawn from Russia. This newspaper cutting, and several other newspaper photos I have come across, show the close bond that could develop between the soldiers from Britain and Russia.
The Machine Gun Corps absorbed the Motor Machine Gun Section and the Royal Navy’s armoured cars to form its third branch, known as the Motor Branch, which initially operated cars and motorcycles. A Heavy Section was formed within that branch in March 1916, becoming a branch of its own eight months later. This operated the first tanks, before splitting from the MGC in July 1917 to form the Tank Corps (later the Royal Tank Regiment). Arthur and Thomas served in this section in 1918 and were promoted to sergeants. They survived the war and were discharged in 1919. Both men were awarded the extra medal of The Silver Breast Medal With St Stanislas Ribbon.
Thomas and Arthur remained in London after the war. Thomas lived at 31 Monks Drive, Acton with his wife, working as a registrar of births, deaths and marriages until he died in Hammersmith Hospital on the 20th Oct 1958. Arthur married Eliza Bunn and the couple lived at 46 Leicester Road, Finchley with their two children, Arthur worked as motor mechanic and engine fitter. He died in Oct 1959. The two men only lived nine miles apart.
I have been unable though to find out what happened to Vladamir Artzishevsky. I love to think he survived the war too and managed to keep in touch with his friends. Did he keep the photo for ever and do his family still have this photo somewhere in Russia. It certainly reminds us at this time of conflict again, that there is certainly more that unites us than we realise.