Vassily Prootkovsky was born in Russia on 28 July 1889 and was commissioned as an officer in the Imperial Russian Army in 1909. Early in the First World War Prootkovsky served with the 33rd Siberian Rifle Regiment, was wounded by bayonet in December 1914 near Warsaw and by a shell in February 1915 near Prasnich. Later he fought in France before taking on a role as a diplomatic courier between London, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
A bitter opponent of the Bolsheviks who seized power in Russia in 1917, Prootkovsky enlisted as a Private in the Slavo-British Legion. The Legion, led by British officers, was created by British authorities as a kind of ‘Foreign Legion’ to fight with White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War. Its aim was to defeat the Red Army and force the Bolsheviks from power. When British troops were evacuated from Russia in 1919, Prootkovsky transferred to the White Army under the command of the Baltic German Yevgeny Müller.
As a result of his contribution to the Slavo-British Legion, Prootkovsky was personally awarded the British Military Medal by General Edmund Ironside, who commanded the Allied intervention force in northern Russia. With the failure to overthrow the Bolsheviks, Prootkovsky eventually made his way via Norway, Sweden and Germany to the White Russian emigre community in Shanghai and worked mainly in the shipping trade. In 1926 he arrived in Australia, where after stints cutting cane and gardening he began working as a merchant seaman on coastal ships. During that time he maintained his hatred for the Soviet Union and continued to advocate for its overthrow as a leading member of the Russian National Revolutionary Party, which ran a magazine titled Fascist. In Prootkovsky’s own view, his commitment to his party in no way compromised his loyalty to Britain and its empire.
After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the Soviet Union joined the Allies in the war against Nazi Germany, Prootkovsky came to the attention of Australian military intelligence. Although he had been awarded a Military Medal and his loyalty to the British empire was not seriously questioned, it was decided to intern him. He was in Loveday from October 1942. In February 1944 he wrote from Loveday to the British High Commission:
Early in 1919, while visiting Archangel I was invited to the British Garrison Mess where General Ironside explained to me that I was decorated in the name of his Majesty King George V and that in future I would receive Great Britain’s protection in any part of the British Empire against the enemies whom I fought under the British flag … During my internment my teeth have been destroyed. I am on diet with duodenal ulcer. My eyesight has been destroyed and lately I developed heart trouble … I wish to protest before you, Sir, as the representative of Great Britain against such a treatment, which is in full contrast to the obligations made to me by Great Britain 25 years ago … as an ex-serviceman of the British Army I apply to you, Sir, for your assistance in my release and in the re-establishment of my good name.
Prootkovsky was released from Loveday in June 1944. After the war he settled in Sydney. He died in 1975 and was buried in an unmarked plot at the Russian Orthodox Cemetery in Rookwood.
Damien Wright, Churchill's Secret War with Lenin: British and Commonwealth Military Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918-20, Solihull: Helion & Co., 2017.
Damien Wright, ‘The Slavo-British Legion, North Russia 1918-19: The story of a Russian recipient of the Military Medal and his imprisonment in Australia during World War II’, Medal News (April 2009), 31-34; (May 2009), 27- 30.
NAA: MP508/1, 255/742/557, Vassily Alexandrovich PROOTKOVSKY - Detention Order
NAA: A435, 1945/4/4384, PROOTKOVSKY Vassily Alexandrovitch - born 28 July 1889 - Stateless [formerly Russian]
NAA: MP1103/1, N1678, Prisoner of War/Internee: Prootkovsky, Vassily Alexandrowich; Date of birth - 28 July 1889; Nationality - Russian
 Cited in Damien Wright, Churchill’s Secret War with Lenin, p. 296.