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Nicholas A. Beketov – Russian Naval Officer & Marine Agent
by John M. MacFarlane 2012
Nicholas Beketov was born about 1890 in Kharkov Russia. He was commissioned as a Sub–Lieutenant in the Imperial Russian Navy. As an officer this indicates that he came from a superior social standing in the class–ridden Russia of the Czars. He must have attended a Naval Academy prior to his commissioning. He is noted as having served in both the Atlantic and Pacific stations of the Russian Navy prior to the outbreak of the First World War.
After the First World War he served with the White Russian forces (supporting Alexander Kerensky) in Asiatic Russia and European Russia. He had been appointed as a Lieutenant. In 1917 he was sent from Archangel Russia to New York to pick up some yachts being converted to Armed Yachts for the White Russian naval forces. He was attached to the Cyprus (as Gunnery Officer) being refitted at Robin’s Dry Dock in Brooklyn NY. This vessel took convoy duties escorting ships assembling at Sydney NS. The ship sank in Sydney Harbour NS. (At the end of the War he was demobilized.)
I have, so far, been unable to find out many details of Beketov’s life. It is thought that he was living in the United States when he basically become a stateless person after the defeat of the White Russian forces at the end of the Russian Revolution. He married Katherine Collison. He was apparently living in Toronto in 1931 when his daughter Barbara Anna Beketov was born. His son Paul was born in Nanaimo BC.
In 1942 he was living in Victoria BC. He was commissioned in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Lieutenant (Temp.) RCNVR. He was appointed as an A/Lieutenant–Commander (SB) (Temp.) RCNVR. He served in HMCS Givenchy on Staff of Staff Officer Intelligence to the Commanding Officer Pacific Coast in 1945. No doubt his experience with Communists during the Russian Revolution (and perhaps afterwards) made him valuable as an Intelligence Officer. (At the end of the War he was demobilized.)
In 1945 he was made a member of the Thermopylae Club, in Victoria BC. He receives attention in both of writer Ursula Jupp’s books on the Thermopylae Club and she devotes many pages to summarizing a talk he made on his adventures in the White Russian Navy during the Russian Navy.
He was appointed as the Marine Agent for the Canada Department of Transport, responsible for Northern British Columbia, based in Prince Rupert BC. This was a prestigious and powerful position which made him the manager of lighthouses, ships and personnel of the Department of Transport at a time when such a regional manager held almost dictatorial powers over budgets and policy within their area.
No doubt he was chosen for his leadership and management capabilities. He had a wide range of life experiences coupled with his ship-borne qualifications and experiences. This equipped him to cope with the wide range of issues and problems which faced him from day-to-day. In his book Lights of the Inside Passage light keeper Donald Graham painted a picture of a manager he labelled as the "Admiral" and incorrectly concluded that he actually was an Admiral in the Russian Navy. In other observations in the book he is somewhat dismissive of his abilities, but these may only be the grumblings of staff who are irked by the decisions being made or unaware of political currents driving management decisions. It was not uncommon in those days for regional managers to take on imperious airs or to use bullying tactics to encourage staff to meet their instructions.
Beketov donated several ship models to the collection of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. He lived in Prince Rupert BC where he worked for the Canada Department of Transport as the Marine Agent. In retirement he lived in Victoria BC where he was a volunteer with Gideon International. He died in Vancouver on April 2nd, 1964.
- Graham, Donald (1986) Lights of the Inside Passage. Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing Ltd.
- Jupp, Ursula (Ed.) (1967) Home Port Victoria. Published in Victoria BC by Ursula Jupp.
- Jupp, Ursula (1971) Deep Sea Stories From the Thermopylae Club. Published in Victoria BC by Ursula Jupp.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to reader John MacDonald, Surrey BC for correcting the original version with the date and place of death.
To quote from this article please cite:
MacFarlane, John M. (2012) Nicholas A. Beketov – Russian Naval Officer and Marine Agent. Nauticapedia.ca 2012. http://nauticapedia.ca/Gallery/Beketov_Nicholas.php
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