Soldier Nicholas Shevel - Soviet Forces

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by gmyles, Jun 7, 2017.

  1. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi everyone

    Soldier Nicholas Shevel of the Soviet Forces was probably killed in Athens on 26th December 1944.There is a strong possibility that he was part of the Soviet Military Mission, under the command of Colonel Grigori Popov.

    He appears to be the only Soldier of the Soviet Army who died during the Greek Communist Insurgency.

    As I've never researched the Russian side of things is there anyway I could find out more information about this soldier, how he died and whether he was part of the Soviet Military Mission at the time of his death.

    He was laid to rest at the Allied War Memorial at Phaleron, south of Athens. His grave was visited recently by representatives of the Russian Embassy in Greece.




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  2. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Not turned up anything concrete but I will ask on another forum where some Russian posters frequent and see if they can provide anything.
    As to a possible cause of death I found this diary of a RE unit that was in Greece at the time:
    So it sounds like on the 26th the Athens area was subjected to heavy shellfire which may have been his cause of death. Just speculation of course.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
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  3. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Hi Orwell1984

    A lot of casualties during the December troubles in Athens were as a result of ELAS Artillery and Mortar fire. ELAS artillery was both inaccurate and indiscriminate.

    There were nearly 2000 allied casualties sustained whilst fighting ELAS. Some of the more unexpected casualties include some US airmen (ATC) who were wounded and 2 Australian soldiers of a Grave Registration Unit who were killed.

    Most of these casualties were probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time and I am pretty certain that Soldier Shevell was the same.

    But it would be nice if we knew what really happened.

  4. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Yes I would say that he was with the Soviet Representatives.

    Stalin had given Greece to the British and they took occupation in October 1944.

    Churchill went to Athens on December 25 to preside over a conference, in which Soviet representatives also participated, to bring about a settlement.

    HMS Ajax Dec 44.

    December Deployed at Piraeus.

    21st Bombarded Communist (ELAS) positions near Piraeus.

    25th Prime Minister and Mr Anthony Eden (Foreign Secretary) on board at Malta.

    Ship used for meetings in preparation for Yalta conference.

    Four British soldiers were also killed that day all different regiments so could be five different incidents.






    All in the same cemetery. Nicholas Shevel, no age or regiment on headstone.
  5. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    .Here's the post I made in the forum. So far one Russian member has responded and I'll quote his response below:
    Nicholas Shevel Soviet Forces Killed 26/12/1944 buried in Athens - Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History

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  6. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    The problem with that answer is that there is no definite proof that that is the case.
    or answers the question why he was buried in a CWGC cemetery?
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  7. Orwell1984

    Orwell1984 Senior Member

    Agreed and I hope to get some further information from other posters and will update here if I do.
    Nicholas Shevel ( - 1944) - Find A Grave Memorial

    My guess he was buried there for want of somewhere else to bury him. It's noted in the link above that:
    There's precedence as some Soviet casualties are buried in CWGC cemetaries in France.

    Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery - Wikipedia

    which lists seven Soviet burials including:

  8. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    Maybe thinking too literally here, but if this chap was effectively fighting for the other side, how did he end up in an Allied Military Cemetery?

    I also have to assume that ELAS had arranged places to bury their own casualties. They certainly lost enough.

  9. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    I have emailed the CWGC asking if they have any more info. I should get a reply sometime in the next couple of weeks.
    I have emailed the Russian Embassy in Athens asking the same. But I am not getting my hopes up.

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  10. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Your speculation does not provide any greater proof nor better answer how he got there either.

    Moreover, I would speculate that an official representative of the Soviet Mission in Greece would have had his body repatriated to Mother Russia or, at the very least, have a official burial by the Soviet Mission and thus have a headstone in Russian containing his rank etc...

    The 'fact' that the unfortunate soul finds himself in a CWGC plot with nothing but his name inscribed suggests he has been 'disowned' by the Soviet Union. Why would they do that to an official member of an official mission?

    Returning Soviet POWs did not receive a warm welcome back home. At best, after managing to survive Nazi internment, they were treated as leppers. The assumption being that they had dishonoured their country and people for not fighting to the death and choosing to take the 'easy' option of surrender. A Soviet POW finding himself 'free' in the Balkans would not have been welcome in official Soviet circles.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  11. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Markn Yes they are points to bring up and I had considered them.

    I made no speculation but said.
    Then supplied the evidence which supported that thought. ie the Soviet representatives were in the area at the time.
    Then has been nothing said that he was an official representative of the Soviets, only he was in the Russian army. which implies that he could have been a guard, admin or general gofer.

    Repatriation: I don't know how the Soviet system worked, but I can't see them sending a lowly soldier home.
    In the UK this was only considered in the1960s.
    In 2003, government policy officially changed in the UK. From that date all servicemen killed in the line of action were to be repatriated to the UK at the government's expense.
    The British Empire, Imperialism, Colonialism, Colonies

    POWs/Rebels: Now if Nicholas knew how he would be treated by his country, the question must be asked why he kept his Russian identity?

    So it's back to the drawing board until another clue turns up.:)
  12. DaveB

    DaveB Very Senior Member

    Not moving the story along much - but these couple of snippets from the newspapers of the day mention the Soviet mission in Athens in December 1944

    Attached Files:

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  13. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    Here's all I know about the Soviet Military Mission in Greece at the time.

    They all arrived in Greece 27/28 July 1944.

    8 Officers were:

    Lt-Colonel Gregori Popoff (Popov) Comanding Officer
    Lt-Colonel Nikolai P. Chernichev (Tzernikov) Deputy Commanding Officer/Political Advisor
    Lt-Colonel Vasili Troyan
    Major Ivanoff (Ivanov)
    Major Romanoff (Romanov)
    1st Lieutenant Turin Engineer
    1st Lieutenant Ivasikov Engineer
    2nd Lieutenant Crasin (Krasin)
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2017
  14. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    Been looking at a few CWGC cemeteries and all the headstones of non –commonwealth graves have only the same basics on them as Nichols have. This would seem to be CWGC policy whether friend or foe. I.e. Russian, Poles, Dutch, all the same as German ones.

    L/Cp E J Williams. 2/4, Hampshire’s.

    In December 1944, the Battalion was flown to Greece in the bomb-bays of Wellington and Liberator bombers in response to the outbreak of the Greek Civil War, arriving on 12 December. The E.L.A.S. Army, armed and trained by the British, was trying to overthrow the Greek Government. On arrival, the 2/4th Battalion was split up, primarily defending the airfield, then clearing E.L.A.S. forces from Athens. This did involve some fighting, and the 2/4th Battalion lost three men killed. The 2/4th Battalion then settled down to peace-keeping duties. In May 1945, the Battalion was moved to Crete to take charge of the Germans, who had surrendered, and they ended the war there

    Pvt, E Hawthorne. Black watch, 6Bn with 4th Division.

    By Christmas a route into the centre of Athens had been cleared by the division, and the battalion’s task from then was the clearing of areas to the west and north, and helping the civilian population.

    Now if any Russians had been caught up in these skirmishes or another mistake like DaveB has pointed out happened on the 26th in which Nicholas was killed. It would be perfectly logical for him to be buried in the CWGC cemetery.

    So it is possible that CWGC may be able to supply more info.
  15. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    If all of the troops who died that day had all been killed as a result of a artillery attack somewhere near the Grand Bretagne Hotel (HQ 3 Corps), and where the majority of the Soviet Military Mission were under the protection of the British. Only then could we have hedged our bets that Soldier Shevel was there too. But those who died that day were all killed during completely different engagements.

    Lt Watson (77 Fd Regt RA but part of A Company, RA Infantry Battalion) was killed at 2315, whilst defending their Coy RA area at Kalamaki Airfield against a night attack of 500 ELAS. 2 ORs of 3rd Platoon, 'A' Coy RA, also wounded.
    Pte Hawthorne (6 BW) was killed at 0150 by SA fire during ELAS attack on their Coy area. Ptes McLarty & Montgomery also wounded.
    Pte Williams (2/4 Hamps) Died of Wounds. Nothing in the diaries, or any material I have about 2/4 Hamps states when he was wounded.
    Pte West (1/6 East Surrey Regiment) was killed in NEA SMIRNI, whilst on night patrol by 4 x ELAS firing MGs from the basement door of a house. Ptes Field and Langmead wounded.

    DaveB has raised an interesting point however with the newspaper clip.

    Troops of the Greek National Guard (GNG) were used primarily for mopping up operations but also guarded VPs. Their relative inexperience however made them somewhat trigger happy and a few casualties were from being shot at by a guard at a checkpoint. Some had been in the GNG for as little as a week when put on stag.

    As an example, on 21 Dec 44, Sgt GD Tebbutt (50 RTR), the 23rd Armoured Brigade Signals Sgt, was accidentally shot by a Greek guard outside the Telegraph Office whilst leading a line party. He failed to answer when challenged.

    There were also cases of casualties put down to Drivers of jeeps not hearing the challenges and being fired upon by both British forces and GNG.

    Another example. On 14 Jan 45, Major McCartney (1st KDG) working with HQ Land Forces and Military Liason in Greece (HQ & ML (G)) was returning to Athens when challenged by road guard of 22 Fld Regt, RA near PSYCHIKO. When he refused to stop his vehicle was fired on, killing him instantly. The resulting inquiry exonerated the guard.

    Last edited: Jun 9, 2017
  16. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    CWGC have replied to my email.

    According to their records and original documentation Nicholas Shevel was a Russian POW at the time of his death. Unfortunately, as their Foreign National documentation is quite scarce, they have no records to show whether Nicholas was serving with ELAS at the time as an ally or any unit/regiment he may have been a part of prior to becoming a POW.

    Nicholas was originally buried in the 97th General Hospital grounds near Psikhiko, Athens and then concentrated into Phaleron War Cemetery on the 19th February 1945.

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  17. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

    97th BGH Athens Nov 44 to Jan 46.
    Hospitals WW2 - Scarlet Finders
  18. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member

    97th British General Hospital, Psychico, AThens

    Date Beds Occupied Admitted Discharged
    26/12/1944 678 304 2 0
  19. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The existence of the Soviet mission in Athens is not evidence of anything. Suggesting that the poor soul was part of that mission was/is pure speculation.

    Good to have the chap's origins confirmed so quickly. Well done gmyles and the CWGC. :)

    However, returning to the Soviet mission for a moment, what may be of tangental interest is that the existence of the mission - whilst confirming an official Soviet presence in the area - also confirmed the unofficial presence of yet further Soviets: namely POWs. How?

    Well, after the Soviets had initially parachuted in a 'liaison' team to support the Communist uprising, they recognised they also needed an official presence which could go about the country more freely. However, to have an 'official' presence they would need approval from the Greek authorities that they were determined not to recognise. So they approached the British for permission to set up a mission in Athens with the specific task of seeking out stray Soviet POWs and repatriating them back to the Soviet Union. In otherwords, the existence of the mission 'proves' the existence of POWs in the country too. Of course, its principle role as a repatriation mission was merely cover for the individuals to travel freely round the country gathering intel for the Communist insurgents so the repatriation efforts were far from stellar. OSS operatives in Greece at the time reported back that the Soviets were making up stories of Soviet POW in location X, Y and Z etc in order to justify investigation. One report notes a complaint that a Soviet POW (Gurskii) had been murdered in Salonika by Greek Fascists. Later investigation by the British established that Gurskii had been murdered by fellow Soviet POWs. Whilst the Mission seemed to attach great importance to the event - they didn't bother to send anybody to the funeral. His death was not something to mourn but to exploit. They had no interest in the loose POWs other than as an excuse for intelligence gathering. See Moscow and Greek Communism, 1944-1949, by Peter J. Stavrakis
  20. gmyles

    gmyles Senior Member


    Found in the 4th Parachute Battalion SITREP for 23rd December 1944.


    As there were only a tiny handful of Russian troops in Athens at the time, this can't be a co-incidence.

    This would suggest that Soldier Shevel was one of these unfortunate Russians and was wounded during an ELAS mortar stonk on Rouf Barracks on the 23rd December. He died of his wounds at 97th BGH just three days later.

    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019

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