Believing the unbelievable: the myth of Russians 'with snow on their boots' in the United Kingdom, 1914
Cultural and Social History
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
In the opening months of the First World War, a rumour spread across the United Kingdom that Russian soldiers – identified by the ‘snow on their boots’ – had landed in Scotland en route to the Western Front. Despite being relegated to history’s footnotes as a comical but meaningless episode, this article takes the rumour seriously. Unconcerned with questions of ‘truth’ (the rumour was dismissed as fantastical by late October 1914), I will argue that the real value of this story is in what it reveals about British society at the outbreak of war. The rumour emerged as the British Expeditionary Force entered its first big test of the Great War – the battle of Mons – which would result in Germany’s first great victory and resulting in thousands of casualties. As such the rumour can be interpreted as a form of ‘secular apparition’ bringing consolation to many. It was one of the ways ordinary people made sense of their newly threatening world.
“This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cultural and Social History on1 May 2015, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/ 10.2752/147800414X13802176314528.”
Vol. 11, pp. 69 - 88