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With the "Die-Hards" in Siberia by John Ward

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With the "Die-Hards" in Siberia

By Col. John Ward
C.B., C.M.G., M.P.

With Eight Plates



18th, 19th, 25th AND 26th BATTALIONS OF

who, on sea and land, in sunshine and snow, so
worthily upheld the traditional gallantry and
honour of their people and country


Originally written for the private use of my sons in case I did not
return, this narrative of events connected with the expedition to
Siberia must of necessity lack many of the necessary elements which go
to make a history. I wrote of things as they occurred, and recorded the
reasons and motives which prompted the participants. Many things have
happened since which seem to show that we were not always right in our
estimate of the forces at work around us. Things are not always what
they seem, and this is probably more evident in the domain of Russian
affairs than in any other. It would have been comparatively easy to
alter the text and square it with the results, but that would have
destroyed the main value of the story.

The statesman and the soldier rarely write history; it is their
misfortune to make it. It is quite easy to be a prophet when you know
the result. You can, as a rule, judge what a certain set of people will
do in a certain set of circumstances, but where you deal with State
policy which may be influenced by events and circumstances which have
not the remotest connection with the question involved, it is impossible
to give any forecast of their conduct on even the most elementary

The recent tragic events played out in the vast domain of Siberia are a
case in point. It is certain that Admiral Koltchak would never have gone
to Siberia, nor have become the head of the constitutional movement and
government of Russia, if he had not been advised and even urged to do so
by the Allies. He received the most categorical promises of
whole-hearted support and early Allied recognition before he agreed to
take up the dangerous duty of head of the Omsk Government. Had these
urgings and promises been ungrudgingly performed a Constituent Assembly
would be now sitting at Moscow hammering out the details of a Federal
Constitution for a mighty Russian Republic or a parliamentary system
similar to our own.

On the declaration of the Koltchak Government, General Denikin, General
Dutoff, General Hovart, and the North Russian Governments made over
their authority to Omsk. There was at once a clear issue--the Terrorist
at Moscow, the Constitutionalist at Omsk. Had the Allies at this
juncture translated their promises into acts, from what untold suffering
Russia and Europe might have been saved!

The mere act of recognition would have created a wonderful impression on
the Russian mind, in addition to giving the Allies a lever by which they
could have guided the course of events and stabilised the Baltic. It
would have given security to Russian finance, and enabled trade
relations to have commenced with the wealthiest part of the Russian

The reconstruction of Russia, about which the Allies talk so glibly,
would have gone forward with a bound by natural means, which not even
Allied bungling could have prevented. The Omsk Government could have got
money on better terms than any of the Allies, because, accepted within
the comity of nations, it could have given better security than any of
them, even including America. Europe would have been fed, Russia would
have been clothed, and the world would have been saved from its greatest
tragedies. All this and more would have naturally followed from the
barest performance of our promises.

We did worse than this. Breach of promise is only a negative crime. The
Allies went to the other extreme; their help took the form of positive
wilful obstruction. The Japanese, by bolstering up Semianoff and
Kalmakoff, and the Americans, by protecting and organising enemies, made
it practically impossible for the Omsk Government to maintain its
authority or existence. The most that could be expected was that both
would see the danger of their policy in time to avert disaster. One did;
the other left when the evils created had got beyond control. Koltchak
has not been destroyed so much by the acts of his enemies as by the
stupidity and neglect of his Allied friends.

As the Bolshevik rabble again sweeps over Siberia in a septic flood we
hear again the question: "How can they do so unless they have a majority
of the people behind them?" I answer that by asking: "How did a one-man
government exist in Russia from 'Ivan the Terrible' to Nicholas II?"
Both systems are autocratic; both exist by the same means--"Terror."
There is, however, this difference. The autocracy of the Tsars was a
natural product from an early form of human society. The Bolshevik
autocracy is an unnatural product, and therefore carries within itself
the seed of its own destruction. It is an abortion, and unless it
rapidly changes its character cannot hope to exist as a permanent form
of organised society. It is a disease which, if we cannot attack, we can
isolate until convalescence sets in. There is, however, the possibility
that the patient during the progress of the malady may become delirious
and run amok; for these more dangerous symptoms it would be well for his
neighbours to keep watch and guard. This madness can only be temporary.
This great people are bound to recover, and become all the stronger for
their present trials.


February, 1920.





COL. JOHN WARD, C.B., C.M.G., M.P. _Frontispiece_














The 25th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment had already such a record
of travel and remarkable experiences to its credit that it was in quite
a matter-of-fact way I answered a summons from Headquarters at
Hong-Kong, one morning in November, 1917, and received the instruction
to hold myself and my battalion in readiness to proceed to a destination
unknown. Further conferences between the heads of departments under the
presidency of the G.O.C., Major-General F. Ventris, revealed that the
operations of the battalion were to be conducted in a very cold climate,
and a private resident at tiffin that day at the Hong-Kong Club simply
asked me "at what date I expected to leave for Vladivostok?"

The preparations were practically completed when orders to cease them
were received from the War Office at home, followed by a cable (some
time in January, 1918) to cancel all orders relating to the proposed
expedition. So we again settled down in Far Eastern home quietly to
await the end of the war, when we hoped to return to the Great Old
Country and resume the normal life of its citizens.

Things remained in this condition until June, 1918, when we were
suddenly startled by an order to call upon the half of my battalion
stationed at Singapore to embark on the first ship available and join me
at Hong-Kong. This seemed to suggest that the truly wonderful thing
called "Allied Diplomacy" had at last made up its mind to do something.
After a great deal of bustle and quite unnecessary fuss the whole
battalion embarked on the _Ping Suie_ on a Saturday in July, 1918.

It should be remembered that my men were what were called "B one-ers,"
and were equipped for the duty of that grade; but, after our arrival at
Hong-Kong, Headquarters had called in most of our war material to
replenish the dwindling supplies of this most distant outpost of the
British Empire. Very little information could be gathered as to the kind
of duty we might expect to be called upon to perform, and the ignorance
of the Staff as to the nature of the country through which we were to
operate was simply sublime. Added to this, most of the new material with
which we were fitted was quite useless for our purpose. Those things
which had been collected on the first notice of movement in 1917 had
been dispersed, and the difficulty of securing others at short notice
was quite insurmountable.

The voyage was not remarkable except that one typhoon crossed our track
not ten miles astern, and for eighteen miles we travelled alongside
another, the heavy seas striking the ship nearly abeam, and causing her
to roll in a very alarming manner. The troops had a very uncomfortable
time, and were glad to sight the coast of Korea and the calm waters of
the Sea of Japan.

At Hong-Kong many of the men, including myself, had suffered much from
prickly heat, which had developed in many cases into huge heat boils. It
was very strange how rapidly these irruptions cured themselves directly
we reached the cool, clear atmosphere of the coast of Japan.

Elaborate preparations had been made for our reception, insomuch that we
were the first contingent of Allied troops to arrive at Vladivostok. Two
Japanese destroyers were to have acted as our escort from the lighthouse
outside, but they were so busy charting the whole coastline for future
possibilities that they forgot all about us until we had arrived near
the inner harbour, when they calmly asked for our name and business.
Early next morning, August 3, they remembered their orders and escorted
us to our station at the wharf, past the warships of the Allied nations
gaily decorated for the occasion.

At 10 A.M. a battalion of Czech troops, with band and a guard of honour
from H.M.S. _Suffolk_, with Commodore Payne, R.N., Mr. Hodgson, the
British Consul, the President of the Zemstrov Prava, and Russian and
Allied officials, were assembled on the quay to receive me. As I
descended the gangway ladder the Czech band struck up the National
Anthem, and a petty officer of the _Suffolk_ unfurled the Union Jack,
while some of the armed forces came to the present and others saluted.
It made quite a pretty, interesting and immensely impressive scene. The
battalion at once disembarked, and led by the Czech band and our
splendid sailors from the _Suffolk_, and accompanied by a tremendous
crowd of people, marched through the town to a saluting point opposite
the Czech Headquarters, where parties of Czech, Cossack and Russian
troops, Japanese, American and Russian sailors were drawn up, all of
whom (except the Japanese) came to the present as we passed, while
Commodore Payne took the salute for the Allied commanders, who were all

Our barracks were outside the town at Niloy-ugol; they were very dirty,
with sanitary arrangements of the most primitive character, though I
believe the local British authorities had spent both time and money in
trying to make them habitable. The officers' accommodation was no
better, I and my Staff having to sleep on very dirty and smelly floors.
A little later, however, even this would have been a treat to a weary
old soldier.

On August 5 I attended the Allied commanders' council. There were many
matters of high policy discussed at this meeting, but one subject was of
intense interest. General Detriks, the G.O.C. of the Czech troops, gave
in reports as to the military situation on the Manchurian and Ussurie
fronts. The conditions on the Manchurian front were none too good, but
those on the Ussurie front could only be described as critical, and
unless immediate help could be given a further retirement would be
forced upon the commander, who had great difficulty with his small
forces in holding any position. The Ussurie force had recently
consisted of some 3,000 indifferently armed Czechs and Cossacks. The day
I landed a battle had been fought, which had proved disastrous, and
resulted in a hurried retirement to twelve versts to the rear of
Kraevesk. The Allied force, now reduced to about 2,000 men, could not
hope to hold up for long a combined Bolshevik, German and Magyar force
of from 18,000 to 20,000 men. The Bolshevik method of military
organisation,--namely, of "Battle Committees," which decided what
superior commands should be carried out or rejected--had been swept away
and replaced by the disciplined methods of the German and Austrian
officers, who had now assumed command. Should another retirement be
forced upon the Ussurie forces, it could be carried out only with great
loss, both of men and material. The next position would be behind
Spascoe, with Lake Hanka as a protection on the left flank and the
forest on the right. If this could not be held, then the railway
junction at Nikolsk would be endangered, with the possibility of the
communications being cut with other forces operating along the
Transbaikal Railway and at Irkutsk. Under these circumstances the
council decided that there was nothing left but to ask for authority
from the War Office to send my battalion forward at once to the Ussurie
front to render what assistance was possible. I naturally pointed out
that my battalion was composed of B1 men, most of whom had already done
their "bit" on other fronts, and that a few weeks before I had had about
250 General Service men in my ranks, but on a blundering suggestion of
the G.O.C. at Singapore they had been taken from my unit and transferred
to others doing garrison duty in India. I had protested against this at
the time, but had been over-ruled by London, so that my command was
reduced to men of the lowest category. However, after making this
statement I informed the council that in view of the desperate
circumstances in which the Ussurie force was placed I would render every
assistance in my power.

About 2 P.M. Commodore Payne, R.N., came to my quarters and showed me a
paraphrased cable he had received from the War Office. The cable
authorised the immediate dispatch of half my battalion to the front,
subject to the approval of the commanding officer. It seems to me they
might have plucked up courage enough to decide the matter for
themselves, instead of putting the responsibility upon the local
commander. As it was left to me, however, I gave the necessary orders at
once. That very night, August 5, I marched through Vladivostok to
entrain my detachment. It consisted of 500 fully equipped infantry and a
machine-gun section of forty-three men with four heavy-type maxims.
Leaving my second in command, Major F.J. Browne, in charge of the Base,
I marched with the men with full pack. The four miles, over heavy, dirty
roads, were covered in fair time, though many of the men became very
exhausted, and at the end of the march I found myself carrying four
rifles, while other officers carried packs in addition to their own kit.

The train was composed of the usual hopeless-looking Russian
cattle-trucks for the men, with tiers of planks for resting and sleeping
on. A dirty second-class car was provided for the Commanding Officer and
his Staff, and a well-lighted first-class bogey car of eight
compartments for the British Military Representative, who was merely
travelling up to see the sights. When I got to the front I found a
first-class car retained by every little officer who commanded a dozen
Cossacks, but I proudly raised the Union Jack, to denote the British
Headquarters, on the dirtiest and most dilapidated second-class
contraption that could be found on the line. But of course we meant
business; we were not out for pleasure.

I was advised before I started from Vladivostok that Nikolsk, the
junction of the Manchurian and Central Siberian Railways, was the most
important strategical point on the South Siberian end of the line, and
that though the position on the Ussurie was pretty hopeless and
retirement might take place at any moment, we were not in any
circumstances to retire below Nikolsk. The place to which we were to
retire and take up a new position had been already decided--a line just
below Spascoe, with Lake Hanka on the left and a line of forest-covered
mountains on the right.

We arrived at Nikolsk in the early morning, but the platform was crowded
with inhabitants and two guards of honour, Czech and Cossack, with band,
which mistook "Rule Britannia" for the National Anthem. I was introduced
to all the officers, the British Vice-Consul, Mr. Ledwards, and his
energetic wife. Breakfast was served to the men by the other corps, and
my officers received the hospitality of the good Consul and Mrs.
Ledwards. Then a march through the town, to show the inhabitants that
the long-sought-for Allied assistance had really arrived at last.

It appears that a very sanguine French officer had travelled over the
line some months previously and had made lavish promises of Allied
support, which accounts, perhaps, for my previous orders received at
Hong-Kong towards the end of 1917. The Allies had decided to make a much
earlier effort to reconstruct the Russian line against their German
enemies, but, like all Allied efforts, their effective action had been
frustrated by divided counsels and stupid national jealousy.

It was the prospect of Falkenhayn, with the huge army of half a million
men, flushed with its recent easy victory over Rumania, being freed for
employment on the French front, that caused our hurried over-late
expedition to Siberia. If the effort had been made at the right time the
Russian people and soldiery would not have become so demoralised and
hopeless as they had when I arrived, and millions of lives would have
been saved from untold tortures. A famous statesman once sternly
admonished his colleagues for their fatal policy of doing nothing until
it was too late; in this case he himself is open to the same censure.

At Nikolsk had recently been fought an important battle between the
Czechs and the Terrorists, and we were shown a series of photographs of
horribly mutilated Czech soldiers who had fallen into the hands of the
Bolshevik army as prisoners of war. By a section of people at home the
Bolsheviks are thought to be a party of political and democratic
idealists, but when one is brought face to face with their work they are
then proved to be a disgusting gang of cut-throats, whose sole business
in life appears to be to terrorise and rob the peasant and worker and
make orderly government impossible.

We received equally warm welcomes at many other stations, and at length
we arrived at Svagena, which is the last fairly large town before
Kraevesk, the station without a town, and very near the range of hostile
artillery. Here quite a full-dress programme was gone through by the
Czech band and the Czech and Cossack soldiers, ending with a short march
past, and speeches by the English and Russian commanders. My speech was
made along the lines of my instructions, which were mostly to this
effect: We Britishers had entered the territory of Holy Russia not as
conquerors, but as friends. The Bolshevik power had made a corrupt and
dishonourable compact with their German masters, by which the
territories of their Motherland, Russia, had been torn from her side,
and a huge indemnity wrung from her people. Under German pressure the
Bolshevik Soviet power had armed the released German and Austrian
prisoners of war, and by means of this alien force was terrorising the
Russian people and destroying the country. The Allies looked upon the
Bolshevik power as a mere hireling branch of the autocratic German
menace, and as such the enemies of British and Russian democracy alike.
We came to help, resurrect and reconstruct the orderly elements of
Russian life, and promised that if they would join us in this crusade,
we would never cease our efforts till both our enemies were utterly
defeated. And here the soldiers of the two nations made their pact, and
though it was not an official utterance it had official sanction. My
troops retired to quarters at Spascoe, which I had made my forward base.

Next morning, August 7, with my interpreter, Lieutenant Bolsaar, I
visited Kraevesk, and had a long consultation with the commander at the
front, Captain Pomerensiv. I personally examined the line right up to
the outposts, and eventually it was decided that I would send forward
243 men with four maxims to take up a position towards what I considered
to be the threatened part of our right flank. As I was senior officer,
Captain Pomerensiv handed the command of this front over to me,
promising all help.

Once in the saddle I asked for intelligence reports from all directions,
and found it impossible for the enemy to make a frontal attack down the
narrow space of the railway, flanked as it was on both sides by
impassable marshes. The enemy centre was at Shmakovka, the place from
which the Czechs had been forced to retire: that day, however, he had
been observed moving a company of about 180 men with three machine guns
along the road towards Uspenkie, a small town situated on our extreme
right front. After consultation with Captain Stephan, Czech commander,
and Ataman Kalmakoff, commanding the Cossacks, I decided to take the
necessary steps to destroy this recently formed outpost. Ataman
Kalmakoff had that morning announced to me his intention to leave my
front and make a wide detour on the right behind the hills, and join his
Cossack friends at Iman. I discovered that he was dissatisfied with the
lack of enterprise hitherto shown on this front, and had decided to make
a raid "on his own" on the rear of the enemy. But the moment I stated my
intention to mop up Uspenkie he fell into line, and forgot all about his
previous ill-humour. He took up an advanced position at Olhanka,
reconnoitred the Uspenkie position the next day, and unmasked the
Bolshevik formation, with a loss of two horses and a Cossack badly
wounded. I formed my plans on his observations.

My scheme was to advance one company of Czech troops from Khamerovka to
Olhanka, the Ataman's most forward post on my right front, where they
were to prepare a small entrenched camp. I would also advance 200
infantry with two machine guns the first night from Kraevesk to

The next day I ordered 200 men to entrain from Spascoe to Kraevesk to
act as a reserve. They were to night march to Khamerovka, and occupy the
place of my forward party, who would advance by night and join the
Cossacks and Czech troops at Olhanka. I would be with the advanced group
and make a daylight examination of the post to be attacked, and be
joined at night by my second detachment from Khamerovka. By this means I
should have had 400 British rifles, a machine-gun section of forty-three
men with four maxims, a company of Czech infantry of about 200 men, and
last, but by no means least, Ataman Kalmakoff with about 400 Cossack
cavalry--a total of about 1,000 men. I ordered the two roads along which
any reinforcements for the enemy post must pass to be patrolled at night
and also closely observed during the day.

I had drawn up my plan of attack and the first stage of the operation
had actually been executed, when I was brought to a sudden standstill by
a piece of fussy interference.

There was no linguist in my battalion capable of speaking Russian
sufficiently well for my purpose, hence I had to seek the services of an
agent of the British Military Representative at "Vlady." This agent
returned to "Vlady" directly the necessary arrangements for the attack
had been completed. I ought to have compelled him to remain with me, but
as he appeared to favour the proposed forward movement I did not scent
any danger to my purely defensive policy. He did not wait until he had
reported to the Military Representative, but when only half way
telegraphed from Nikolsk warning me that in his opinion this forward
movement should not take place, as he had already received important
information which altered the entire situation. I ignored this
interference of an understraper, but a few hours later received definite
instructions from the Political Representative, that I was to stand
purely on the defensive, and not move an inch beyond my position. I was
compelled to accept the instruction, but was disgusted with the
decision. It proved to me in a forcible way what I had never realised
before, how impossible it is for a man at a distance, however clever he
may be, to decide a military problem, limited in locality and isolated,
as was this case, from questions of public policy. When the one purpose
of a force is the protection or maintenance of a limited front, only the
man on the spot can be the judge of what is necessary to accomplish that

My actual plan of operations was very simple. Having assembled my force
at Olhanka, I should at dusk have occupied the roads leading from
Shmakovka to Uspenkie, and from Uspenkie to the monastery by cavalry,
thus making it impossible for enemy reinforcements to reach the post to
be attacked under the cover of night. My own troops, together with the
Czech company, would have approached the position from the south, and
during the hours of darkness have taken up a line within rifle- and
machine-gun range. At daybreak fire would have been opened from such
cover as could be obtained, and while our eight machine-gunners barraged
the post, the infantry would have advanced rapidly on the south front at
the same time as the Cossacks charged in from the rear. The result would
have been as certain as anything in war could be, and, as since then I
have met the Bolsheviks in open fight, I am convinced that this small
effort might have had decisive political and military influence in
Eastern Siberia. But the "politicals" in uniform are not always noted
for daring, and in this case were very timid indeed, and our position
grew worse from day to day.

I made the best dispositions possible in view of my cautious
instructions, and soon every man, British, Czech and Cossack, was imbued
with a determination to baulk the enemy's eastward ambitions at all
costs. The numbers I had brought to their assistance were nothing
compared to the influence of the sight of the poor, frayed and dirty
Union Jack that floated from my Headquarters, and the songs of the
Tommies round the mosquito fires in the bivouac at night. These two
factors together changed the whole atmosphere surrounding the valiant,
ill-fed and ill-equipped Czech soldiers.

The day following the night I had fixed for the destruction of the enemy
outpost two companies of enemy infantry and three guns marched out of
Shmakovka as a reinforcement to the debatable position. I watched
through my binoculars their slow movement along the dusty road. I judged
what the enemy's intentions were, and knew also that I was powerless to
prevent them. He quickly placed his guns in position, and the following
day sent a few trial shots at Kalmakoff's position at Olhanka; after
getting the range he ceased fire. About 11 P.M. the flash of guns was
observed on our right, which continued until midnight. At 12.30 the
field telephone informed me that the Czech company I had pushed forward,
together with Kalmakoff's Cossacks, had been shelled out of their
positions at Olhanka and were retreating along the Khamerovka and
Runovka roads. I disregarded the imperative instructions I had received
from "Vlady" not to move, and advanced my detachment by a midnight march
to occupy a position where I could protect the bridges and cover the
retreat of our friends. Had I failed to perform this simple soldierly
duty we should have placed ourselves in a ridiculous position in the
eyes of our Russian and Czech comrades. But though I acted against
orders, I think in the circumstances I was fully justified in doing so.

The Czech company retired safely behind the river at Khamerovka, and
Kalmakoff's Cossacks took up a new position at Runovka, where he could
still hang on to the skirts of the enemy and keep constant observation
upon his movements. I retired to a bivouac of branches and marsh grass
behind "Lookout Hill," where for a fortnight I carried on constant
warfare against infected waters and millions of mosquitoes, without
transport, tents, nets, or any of the ordinary equipment required by
such an expedition. I admit that my ignorance of the conditions which
might be expected to prevail in Siberia was colossal, but so also was
that of those whose duty it was to have made themselves acquainted with
the situation.

At Hong-Kong I had suggested that we might find tents useful, but the
proposal was turned down, either because there was none or because they
were considered quite unnecessary. I asked timidly whether I should
require mosquito nets, and well remember the scorn with which the Chief
of Staff greeted my question. "Who ever heard of mosquitoes in Siberia?"
Well, the fact is that while there are a few in the tropics, there are
swarms of these pests all over Siberia. In the tropics their size
prevents them from doing much damage, except as malaria carriers. In
Siberia they take the shape of big, ugly winged spiders, which will suck
your blood through a thick blanket as easily as if you had nothing on.
They have a knack of fixing themselves in one's hair below the cap and
raising swollen ridges round one's head until it is painful to wear any
headgear at all. In my case my wrists were puffed out level with my
hands. After sleeping, one woke unable to open one's eyes. The absence
of any protection wore out the patience and nerves of the men, and the
searching Bolshevik shells were accepted as a welcome diversion.

No blame was attached to my chiefs; I was fully equipped as a B1
Garrison battalion, and as such I was dispatched to Vladivostok. I was
sent there to perform a certain duty, but on arrival was at once called
upon to perform another of quite a different character. I had to carry
out the duties of a first-line service battalion with the personnel and
equipment of second grade garrison troops. Whether those with whom the
order originated in London were aware of the nature of the duty I was
expected to perform I do not know; but it is obviously dangerous to send
British troops of any category to an actual scene of operations and
expect them to stand idle, uninterested spectators of the struggles of
their friends. They should either be kept away or sent ready for all



The outflanking movement by the enemy which I had anticipated from the
day I first took over the command, and which I had made my plans to
counteract, was now in full swing, but so far no damage to our main
position had been effected.

General Detriks visited the front and informed me that the Allied
Council had chosen Major Pichon, of the French detachment which was
timed to arrive next day, to take over the command of this front. After
a personal inspection he expressed himself as satisfied with my
dispositions and suggested that I should still retain the command, and
that he would see that the decision relating to Major Pichon's
appointment was reconsidered in view of the changed conditions he now
found. But I could see that a revision of the Allied Council's
resolution might affect French _amour propre_, and place both Council
and commander in an anomalous position. I therefore requested General
Detriks to take no steps to alter the resolution of the Allied Council,
and stated that I would gladly serve under Major Pichon or any other
commander elected by the Council. British prestige, I added, was too
well established for such trifles to be considered when the only reason
for our presence was to help our Czech and Russian friends. He,
however, pointed out that it was impossible to allow a British colonel
to serve under a French major, and that my command must be considered
quite an independent one.

Major Pichon arrived on August 18, 1918, and I formally handed over the
command. He asked me to consider myself as jointly responsible for the
operations on that front, and said that we would from time to time
consult together as to any action that might be necessary. I found him
both polite and considerate and most anxious to meet the wishes of the
several parts of his command; in fact, he was a gentleman whom it was a
pleasure to meet and work with. His battalion-commander, Major Malley,
was equally urbane, and together I think we made a very happy

The great outstanding personality of this front was Captain Stephan, the
commander of the 8th Czech Battalion. Originally a brewer of Prague, he
had been compelled on the outbreak of war to join the Austrian Army. He
had done his duty as a soldier of that effete Monarchy, been captured by
the Russians, and while a prisoner of war had been liberated by the
Revolution; he was one of the men who had organised their fellow exiles
and offered their services to France and the Allied cause, believing
that in the success of England's arms was to be found the liberation of
their beloved Bohemia. I asked him why he had offered his services to
France, and his answer and his compatriots' answer was always the same:
"It is to great England we always look to as our saviour, but the German
armies are in France, and to meet our enemies on the field of battle
was, and always will be, the first ambition of every Czech soldier, for
if England says we are a nation, we know we shall be."

I must say I felt flattered by the almost childlike confidence which
Pole, Czech and Russian had in the name and honour of England. We were
undoubtedly the only nation represented on this front and in Siberia
generally against whom not one word of suspicion was directed. I
naturally expected that the prestige of France, in view of her pre-war
alliance with Russia, would be very great, but from the closest
observation of all ranks of Russian society I think it would be
impossible to say which was most suspected in the Russian mind, France,
America or Japan. The presence, however, of French soldiers, and the
politeness of the French officers, may do much to generate a warmer
feeling in Russia towards France. The presence of the soldiers of the
Rising Sun, and the manners and general attitude of her officers towards
the Siberian population, will, if persisted in, certainly result in
changing fear to universal hate.

On the afternoon of his arrival an important movement of enemy forces on
our right front caused Major Pichon to ride through my bivouac, when he
was formally introduced to the officers and men under my command. Later
he informed me that he did not consider the movement sufficiently
important to make any change in our dispositions necessary. Towards dusk
Captain Stephan, accompanied by his adjutant, rode up and reported an
important movement of enemy forces towards Runovka, our solitary
remaining position on the opposite side of the river, which formed the
natural defence and limit of our right flank. Again I was asked to move
forward to render such assistance as might be necessary in case our
right were forced to retire across the river. We marched forward in the
darkness with the flash of the Bolshevik guns lighting up the way, but
as their attention was entirely directed to our outpost at Runovka, we
were as safe as if we had been in Hyde Park. The Czechs have a fatal
preference for woods as a site for defensive works, and they selected a
wood on the left flank of the road for my position. I rejected their
plan, and chose a position about two hundred yards in front of the wood
at a point where the roads cross, and a fold in the ground, aided by the
tall marsh grass, almost entirely hid us from the observation-post of
the enemy. Millions of mosquitoes, against which we had no protection
whatever, attacked us as we began to entrench, but officers and men all
worked with a will, and by dawn we had almost completed what was
probably the best system of field-works so far constructed on this
front. How we wished we might see the enemy advance over the river and
attempt to deploy within range of our rifles! He had by vigorous
artillery fire driven our remaining Czech company across the river, and
so had become complete master of the other side.

It was here that a second chance came to deal effectively with this
attempt to outflank our entire position. A sudden dash across the bend
of the river in the north-eastern corner at Khamerovka on to the
unprotected line of enemy communications would have resulted in a
complete frustration of the enemy plans, with a fair prospect of his
decisive defeat. I even suggested this, but had to confess that I had
moved forward twice, contrary to my imperative orders, and that unless I
chose to run the risk of court-martial, if not dismissal, I could not
join in the attack, though I would come to the rescue. This was too
ambiguous for the other leaders, and the opportunity was allowed to

Shortly after, I met an old tramp with his pack, and handed him over to
my liaison officer. We could not very well detain him as he had already
in his possession a Czech and a French passport, but afterwards I much
regretted that I had not perforated his papers with a bullet as they
rested in his breast pocket. He tramped along the road, and my sentries
deflected his course away from the trenches, but he saw my men scattered
about in the wood behind, and at daybreak the enemy artillery began to
spatter the wood with a plentiful supply of shrapnel and shells. One
dropped within twenty yards of myself and officers whilst at breakfast;
pitching just under a tree, it lifted it into the air in a truly
surprising manner. The number of shells--some of which were German
make--the enemy wasted on that wood proclaimed an abundant supply of
ammunition. To this persistent shelling we had nothing to reply, and at
last from sheer exhaustion the enemy fire died down. With darkness he
began again, and the feeble reply of three small mountain guns, which
we knew were with the Runovka Cossack outpost, indicated that an attack
was developing in that direction.

The unequal duel continued intermittently until 2 A.M., when a field
telephone message informed me that Runovka had been abandoned, that the
Czech company was retiring across our front, and that Kalmakoff's
Cossacks were retiring over the river lower down and taking up a
position at Antonovka on our extreme right rear. This meant that our
whole defensive positions were completely turned, and the next enemy
move would place him near our lines of communication.

This, however, was not our only difficulty. Until two days previous we
had been able to give an occasional shot in return for the many sent
towards us; then the Bolshevik gunners found the mark on the two guns
whose duty it was to prevent an advance along the railway, and our two
and only field guns were called in to fill the gap, leaving the infantry
without any artillery protection. I cabled to Commodore Payne, R.N., who
commanded H.M.S. _Suffolk_, at Vladivostok, informing him of our
critical position and asked him to send such artillery assistance as was
possible. The commodore was as prompt as is expected of the Navy. In an
incredibly short space of time he fitted up an armoured train with two
12-pounder Naval guns and two machine guns, and dispatched it at express
speed to my assistance, with a second similar train following behind,
the whole being under the command of Captain Bath, R.M.L.I. It is
scarcely possible to describe the feeling of relief with which our
exhausted and attenuated forces welcomed this timely aid from our
ever-ready Navy. It enabled us to bring the two Czech guns into position
to keep down the fire of the enemy, and gave us a sense of security in
that our rear was safe in case retirement should be forced upon us. It
put new heart into the men, though they never showed the slightest sign
of depression in spite of their many discomforts. The British soldier
certainly offers the most stolid indifference to the most unfavourable

The Bolshevik leaders were not long in showing their hand. They remained
silent during the following day, but at night they began to shell us
from their new position in Runovka itself, selecting as the site for
their two batteries the hill on which the Orthodox church stood, and
using the Greek tower as their post of observation.

About 9.30 A.M. an enemy armoured train moved slowly forward from
Shmakovka, followed by four others, which directed a flank fire at my
position. The shells all plunked into the marsh about four hundred yards
short, affording much amusement and causing many caustic Cockney
comments. Next came a troop train which gave us great hopes of a real
attack developing on our front, but our Naval 12-pounders on the
_Suffolk's_ armoured train began to do good practice, and a shot
registered on the front enemy engine caused volumes of steam to burst
from her sides, and great consternation suddenly appeared amongst the
trains' personnel. The Naval gunners did not seem inclined to lose the
mark, and so the whole attempt fizzled out, and the trains steamed back
to shelter.

The two old Czech field guns, which had been repaired by H.M.S.
_Suffolk's_ artificers at "Vlady," wheeled into position behind a fold
in the ground on our right rear and began a duel with the two enemy
batteries at Runovka. This duel was most entertaining. The enemy
artillery searched our wood and works, and the line of trees occupied by
the French was plentifully sprayed with shrapnel, but they failed to
locate our guns, or get anywhere near them, or indeed to cause a single
casualty either to man or horse. During the night a peasant gave the
guns' position away, and in the early morning exchanges one gun came to
grief. The remaining gun changed position, and the duel became still
more interesting. By skilful manoeuvring the gun was got much nearer,
and at once the range was obtained to a nicety. Every shot was placed so
near the mark as to rouse the infantry's obvious excitement to fever
heat, and finally a shell was planted right into the enemy observation
tower, setting it on fire and burning it to the ground. By placing four
shells near to hand, and working like Trojans, the Czech gunners fired
four shots so rapidly as to deceive the enemy into the belief that four
guns were now opposing them, and after about two hours of this relay
work the enemy batteries were beaten to a frazzle, and retired from the
unequal contest with two guns out of action. It was simply magnificent
as a display of real efficient gunnery. There is no doubt the enemy had
intended to make an effort to cross the river at Runovka and that his
artillery had been placed with a view to protecting the passage of his
troops. The young Czech gunnery lieutenant by his stratagem with one
solitary field-piece had made this plan appear impossible to the enemy
commander. Never was deception more complete.

Having felt our right flank and found it too strong, the enemy continued
his movement towards our right rear. He could only do this with safety
by correctly anticipating our strategy. He took our measure to a
military fraction. He saw that, though he offered the most tempting
bait, we made no effort to move forward to snap it up, and doubtless
came to the conclusion that we were chained to our positions by either
dearth of numbers or military incapacity. In the last stage of his
movement his communications stretched for twenty-three miles along our
flank, with three posts of just over one hundred men to protect his
supply trains. If the commander of that force is still alive he probably
has a poor opinion of the ability of his opponents. We were ready to
deal him a death-blow at any moment from the day he occupied Uspenkie
until he crossed the river before Antonovka. He and his column were only
saved by orders from Vladivostok.

For two days no movement was observable in the enemy lines, and it began
to look as though he would or could not take full advantage of his
extremely favourable position.

I had waged an unequal contest with millions of mosquitoes while trying
to sleep in a field telephone hut made of rough branches and marsh
grass. The Czech soldier who acted as operator had helped me as much as
possible, but at last in desperation I got up and walked about until the
wonderful colouring in the East heralded another glorious Siberian
summer day. The bluey-purple pall had given place to a beautiful
orange-tinted yellow such as I had never seen before. The sentry prodded
a sleeping Tommy who had a huge black frog sitting on the highest point
of his damp, dewy blanket, and a bugle glistening by his side. The
sleeper awoke, and after washing his lips at the tank, sounded the
soldiers' clarion call, the "Reveille." Instantly the whole bivouac was
alive, but scarcely had the bugle notes died away when the telephone
buzzer began to give forth a series of sharp, staccato sounds. The Czech
operator gave a sharp ejaculation, like "Dar! Dar! Dar!" looking more
serious as the sounds proceeded. He then calmly hung up the
speaking-tube on the tree that supported our home and began to explain
to my interpreter, Lieutenant Bolsaar, the message just received. It was
that Major Pichon wished to see me at his headquarters at once in
reference to the serious position of Antonovka. I mounted my horse,
"Nero," which was a beautiful present from Captain Pomerensiv on handing
over his command, and soon arrived at Kraevesk and heard the full story
of the surprise at Antonovka.

From Major Pichon I gathered that Ataman Kalmakoff with his Cossacks had
taken up a position on the high ground in the village of Antonovka,
keeping touch with the French on his left, and a company of the 5th
Battalion of Czechs on his right, who guarded the road to Svagena, and
that though he posted sentries in the usual way during the night, the
enemy in large numbers crept between them, and when the alarm was given
and Kalmakoff mounted his horse he found some thirty of his men already
wounded or dead and his machine guns in enemy hands. Most of his troops
were in a cul-de-sac, and had to charge a high fence and by the sheer
weight of their horses break a way out. Kalmakoff with a few Cossacks
tried to retake the guns with a superb charge, but though he got through
himself he lost more men, amongst whom was a splendid fellow, his second
in command, named Berwkoff, who was greatly loved by us all. A Magyar
soldier seeing Kalmakoff with his Ataman banner borne by his side, took
a point-blank shot at his head, but he forgot the high trajectory of the
old Russian rifle, and the bullet merely grazed the top of the Cossack
leader's head and sent his _papaha_ into the mud. His banner-bearer
could not see his leader's cap so left, and jumped off his horse to
rescue it. Raising the cap from the ground, he found himself challenged
with the bayonet by the same Magyar soldier. He had no time to draw, but
with a mighty sweep, sword in scabbard, he felled the Magyar to the
ground; he had no time to dispatch him, and was barely able to get away.

The Czech company was retiring slowly towards Svagena, and the Cossacks,
while keeping in touch with the enemy, were retiring towards the railway
on our rear. This was a very startling situation, and required immediate
action if we were not to be caught in a trap.

We both decided that a retirement was the only alternative to being
completely surrounded.

We there and then drew up the orders necessary to secure that the
retreat should be both methodical and orderly. The Czechs were to retire
first, past my lines, and entrain at Kraevesk, followed by the English
and the French, who were to bring up the rear, which was to be covered
by the English armoured train, assisted by the machine-gun section of
the Middlesex Regiment under Lieutenant King. So the evacuation of our
splendid position regretfully began.



It should be remembered that directly it was decided by the Paris
Council that a diversion through Russia was the surest way of relieving
pressure on the French front, the English apparently decided to be first
in. Though Japan was unquestionably in the most favourable position to
send help quickly, she was known to have German commitments of such a
character as precluded her from taking the lead in what was, at that
time, more an anti-Teutonic than pro-Russian expedition. Her Press was,
and had been all through the war, violently pro-German, and however much
the Tokio Cabinet might wish to remain true to the Anglo-Japanese
Treaty, it was forced to make a seeming obeisance to popular feeling in
Japan. If it had been only an English expedition, Japan's hand would not
have been forced; but the American cables began to describe the rapid
organisation by the U.S.A. of a powerful Siberian expedition, which gave
the Japanese Government ample justification--even in the eyes of her
pro-German propagandists--to prepare a still larger force to enable her
to shadow the Americans, and do a bit of business on her own. Several
months earlier Japanese suspicions had been aroused by the dispatch to
Siberia of an alleged civilian railway engineering force to help Russia
reorganise her railways, and the immense benefit that this force had
admittedly conferred on the Far Eastern populations was acknowledged on
all sides. But the very success of American enterprise in this
beneficent direction had created in the minds of the Japanese a doubt as
to the wisdom of allowing free play to American penetration.

Japan consequently hurried forward her preparations, and a few days
after I had taken over the Ussurie command her 12th Division, under the
command of General Oie, landed at Vladivostok. He at once established
his headquarters at Nikolsk, and his Chief of Staff, General Kanaka,
took up his position behind our lines at Svagena, using us as a screen
for the deployment of his command, which had already begun.

Major Pichon informed me that he had telephoned the Japanese general at
Nikolsk describing the new situation on our front, and asking him to
move up sufficient forces from Svagena to protect our right. I went to
my wagon to get breakfast. A little later Major Pichon informed me that
the Japanese commander had asked us to suspend our retirement as he was
moving up from Svagena a battery of artillery and one battalion of
infantry, who would re-establish the position at Antonovka on our right
rear, from which we need not fear any further danger. In consequence of
this message I ordered my men to re-occupy their old positions, and by
9.30 we had carried out the orders of the Japanese commander.

Having got back into our old position, we inquired the direction of the
Japanese advance that we might, if necessary, co-operate with their
movement, and to our utter consternation were informed that the Japanese
had not started, had no intention of doing so, and that we must take
what steps were necessary for our own safety, but if we retired at all
we were to fall back behind their lines and, we suppose, take no further
part in the operations.

The first promise of help and its countermanding had placed us in an
extremely dangerous situation. We had left our positions once, and
nothing but the lack of vigilance on the part of the enemy had enabled
us to reoccupy them without fighting. Our movements must have been seen,
and though he had not understood them till too late to take full
advantage the first time, that he would allow us to get away so easily
again seemed to us to be very unlikely. In fact, it appeared as though
we had been sacrificed to give a clear field for some manoeuvre or
purpose which we could not understand.

Our conference was a very urgent one, and for a time Major Pichon
thought it best to hang on to our positions and trust to someone making
an effort for our relief. Had British or American troops been collecting
in our rear, we would not have hesitated a moment to remain, for we
should have been certain of immediate help.

We knew that a battalion of Czech infantry had been moved up from
Svagena towards Antonovka to threaten the enemy's outflanking columns,
and that this battalion had made it a dangerous proceeding for the enemy
to close in on our rear. Hence we decided to withdraw certain units to
Svagena, and for the remainder to retire to a position at Dukoveskoie
and make a new line from the railway through that village, thus linking
up with the Czech troops who had marched to our assistance; they would
thus become the extreme right of our new line.

This movement would enable the Japanese 12th Division at Svagena to
continue their deployment behind our screen, and if the enemy continued
his outflanking tactics would involve the Japanese in the fighting
whether they willed it or not.

The retirement was carried out as arranged in perfect order, with the
loss of very little material and not more than a dozen men taken
prisoners. The French were the last to entrain. The whole movement was
covered by the two armoured trains under the command of Captain Bath,
R.M.L.I. Before retiring the bluejackets blew up the bridge on our front
and otherwise destroyed the line in a very workmanlike manner. If we had
been supported, the retirement would have been quite unnecessary; it was
the result of lack of confidence in our Allies after the first let-down.

The new line was held as follows: On the left of the railway one company
of Czech infantry; the two British armoured trains occupied the railway,
and a Middlesex machine-gun battery of four maxims occupied the right,
while the wooded slope leading to Dukoveskoie was held by the French,
and a battalion of Japanese infantry extended beyond the village. The
right of the village was very sparsely held by a reduced battalion of
the 5th Czech Regiment and Kalmakoff's Cossacks. The whole force was
under the personal command of Major Pichon.

The enemy quickly repaired the bridges and the line, and within
forty-eight hours his armoured trains were observed moving cautiously
into Kraevesk, my old headquarters. Simultaneously his patrols advanced
from Antonovka and came into touch with Kalmakoff's scouts on the right,
and three days from our retirement his advanced elements were testing
our line from end to end.

On the morning of August 22 the Japanese 12th Division began to move up
from Svagena to Dukoveskoie and deploy immediately behind the new line.
As is usual in all Japanese tactics, they pushed their right out far
beyond the enemy positions, and early in the evening began to envelop
his left with their usual wide turning movement. Their right was
supported by two heavy batteries, and from the centre, near Dukoveskoie
church, their units, now acting as a reserve, were in position before
sunset. Large bodies of Japanese troops were in bivouac immediately
behind the centre of the village near their headquarters ready to deploy
in either direction.

On the evening of August 22 orders were received to push forward the
observation post of our armoured trains to a spot indicated, which
proved to be six hundred yards ahead of our positions and near enough to
be easily raided from the enemy lines. Lieutenant T.E. King, my
machine-gun officer, was at the same time ordered to move forward two
maxims, with a reduced company of Czech infantry in support to protect
this advanced post. The night was enlivened by constant skirmishes
between British and Terrorist patrols until about 8.30 A.M., when it was
observed that the Japanese patrols on the right had quietly retired
without giving any notice of their intention, and that the enemy were in
position on the plain for an attack and had already advanced along a
ridge to within a hundred yards of the outpost. The movements of the
enemy were observable only from the main look-out, from which orders
were already on the way gradually to withdraw the party to a position
nearer the lines. Before the order could be delivered the enemy
attacked. Lieutenant King proceeded to withdraw the guns alternately,
working the foremost gun himself, but defective ammunition frustrated
his effort. He gallantly tried to restart the gun, but the enemy were
now upon him, and he had no alternative but to retire without the gun.
The small Naval party in the advanced look-out were practically
surrounded, but under Petty Officer Moffat, who was in charge, they
managed to get out, with the enemy on their heels. This party was saved
by a marine named Mitchel, who, seeing Petty Officer Moffat in
difficulties, turned on his knee and faced his pursuers. Their fire was
erratic, but his was cool and accurate, and after three or four rounds
the Magyars kept their heads well down in the long marsh grass, which
permitted the party to escape. The result of this skirmish, however,
allowed the enemy armoured train to advance to a point dangerously near
our defensive works, which, with a little more enterprise and
determination, he might easily have enfiladed. But though the enemy
train had mounted a 6-inch gun our 12-pounder Navals were too smartly
handled to allow any liberties to be taken. This was the situation on
the morning that the Japanese 12th Division began to deploy behind the
new Allied line at Dukoveskoie.

About 3 P.M. on August 23 I asked my liaison officer, Colonel R.
Antonivitch Frank, of the Russian Army, to accompany me towards the
front line, as I had heard rumours of large concentrations of the enemy,
who, elated with this small initial success, seemed determined to
dispute our possession of the village of Dukoveskoie. I arrived in time
to witness a duel between one of our armoured trains and a rather
spirited fellow of the same sort on the other side. The Bolshevik shells
would persist in dropping to the right of our train on a road on which
Colonel Frank and I were sitting our horses, so we decided to dismount
and send the animals out of range, while we boarded the train and
enjoyed the contest. One of our 12-pounders went groggy and obliged us
to retire slightly, but we dared not go back far, as the Terrorist train
had all the appearance of following, and would soon have made short work
of our infantry, which were occupying very indifferent trenches near the
railway, Captain Bath saw the danger and steamed forward, firing
rapidly; shells burst all round his target, and so bewildered his
opponent that he soon turned tail and retired to safety. I applied to
the Japanese commander, General Oie, through Major Pichon that our
trains, directly it was dark, might be allowed to return to Svagena to
shunt the injured gun to the rear train. About 7 P.M., while preparing
to return for this purpose, a few sharp rifle-cracks were heard near the
centre of the line. These reports grew rapidly in volume, and now became
mixed up with the bass "pop-pop" of machine guns. The rolling sound of
conflict spread from the centre along the whole right front. Till now it
had been exclusively a small-arm fight. At this point the Bolshevik
artillery began to chime in, followed by the Japanese and Czech
batteries. The lovely Siberian summer night became one huge booming,
flashing inferno, terrible but intensely attractive. The silent
tree-clad mountains to right and left vibrated with the music of battle,
while shell and shrapnel screeched like frightened ghouls over the
valley below, where white and yellow men were proving that there is no
colour bar to bravery. This din lasted about two hours, and then died
away almost as rapidly as it began.

Our trains which had remained to take a hand in the business if
necessary steamed slowly back to Svagena, and I turned into my wagon for
the night. After the usual battle with the mosquitoes, I fell asleep,
but it seemed as though I had only slept a few minutes, when a banging
at the door announced a visitor, who turned out to be a Staff captain
from the Japanese Headquarters with an urgent message for the Commander
of the Reserves at Svagena, who with great ceremony handed me the
following order of the day:

Officer Commanding Reserves.
Operation Order by
Commanding 12th Division,

"_August 23, 1918._

"1. All enemy attacks were driven back to-day. We gained two
machine guns and five captives.

"2. The Allied troops will attack the enemy, inflicting upon
them an annihilating disaster, to-morrow, August 24.

"3. The Japanese troops will attack the enemy, starting the
present line, at 3 o'clock, the 24th, morning.

"4. The reserve British, French, Kalmakoff's forces, and a few
Japanese companies will be under the command of Japanese. Colonel
Inagaki will arrive at the north-western side of Dukoveskoie at
2 o'clock to-morrow morning.

"(Signed) S. OIE,
Commanding 12th Division."



I Looked at my watch, and called the Japanese officer's attention to the
fact that the time was 1.45 A.M., and that Dukoveskoie was four miles
distant. Although he could speak perfect English, he held out his hand
and with a profound bow pretended not to understand the point of my
observation. It was in point of time simply impossible to arouse the
British, Czech, Cossack and Japanese detachments and march four miles in
the middle of the night in fifteen minutes; but I had lived long enough
in the East to know that the Oriental never sets a European impossible
tasks without a good reason from his own point of view. I dispatched
orderlies to each detachment with definite instructions to be ready to
move at once. The Japanese refused to move or even get out of their
tents. The Czechs were enjoying a much-needed rest, and refused to
budge, while Kalmakoff's Cossacks remained asleep beside their horses.
Ataman Kalmakoff was at Vladivostok, and his second in command was
dismissed on his return for refusing to obey my orders, as the Ataman
was most anxious that his men should be always in the fighting line
wherever it might be. Captain Clark, M.C., reported the 25th Middlesex
as ready to march, transport and all complete, twenty-five minutes
after receiving the order.

To make doubly sure there was no mistake, I called personally upon the
Japanese officer, who point-blank refused either to arouse or move his
men in accordance with his own Headquarters' order. I am bound to admit
that from that moment I had a suspicion that the order of General Oie
was so much Japanese camouflage, and that it was not intended that we
should take any part in the immediate operations. I also determined to
frustrate this attempt to exclude the Allies from participation, and
gave the order to my own men to move.

Our road for about two miles lay alongside the railway, after which the
soddened nature of the ground and the danger of losing direction in the
darkness forced me to take to the railway. About a mile and a half along
the track brought us to our armoured trains, where we were to pick up
our Machine-Gun Section, which was to act with us if necessary, or
remain as a reserve or rallying-point in case of need. Except for the
sentries, the train crews were asleep, and almost within rifle range of
our place of assembly. I halted my men and roused Captain Bath to
inquire if he had received instructions as to his part in the coming
battle. He informed me that he had received a telephone message from
General Oie (through Major Pichon) which he could not understand and had
asked for it to be repeated. He thereupon produced the message, which
was to the effect that a battle would commence at 3 A.M., but that the
British armoured trains and the British troops were not to be allowed
to take any part in the impending engagement. On the production of the
actual message I began to understand why the order of battle had been
given to me too late for me to be at the rendezvous with Colonel
Inagaki, and the refusal of the units of my command to march with me.
These instructions to Captain Bath from the Japanese Headquarters
explained the riddle. I gave Captain Bath instructions to move forward
in my support in case of need and to watch the proceedings generally, to
render aid to any Allied detachment which might be in difficulties, and
otherwise to obey General Oie's orders. This duty he performed with
complete satisfaction to the commanders of the French and Czech

Having arranged my rear, the men of the 25th were ordered to move
forward in file on each side of the railway track to the point selected
for our rendezvous. The time was now 3.25 A.M., the dull light of
dawning day enabling us to distinguish moving objects four hundred yards
away. A scout came back to report the presence of cavalry on the left,
but in the early morning haze we could not make out whether it was
friendly or enemy. I moved my troops to the opposite side of the railway
embankment and prepared to receive their charge. I then dispatched my
liaison officer, Colonel Frank, forward to discover their strength and
character. He quickly returned with the information that the cavalry was
Japanese, moving into position on our extreme left. I re-formed my men
and advanced towards my position as ordered, ninety minutes behind
time. I halted and examined the ground, but saw nothing of Colonel
Inagaki or any of the detachments on the spot selected for our assembly.
Standing on the line, I saw the foremost enemy armoured train about four
hundred yards ahead, and their outpost giving the alarm. No shot had so
far been fired, but I gave the order to load. At this stage an incident
happened which put an end to the hitherto silent advance of the
attacking army. In the act of loading a rifle went off accidentally. The
soldier to whom it belonged was standing just behind me, and I ordered
Captain Browne to examine and report. In doing so the rifle again went
off; it saved the man from punishment, but it began the battle. There
was a puff of white smoke, and an instant later a 5-inch shell burst
over our heads. The men opened out into the corn and scrub, and I
dismounted while the advance continued. Taking my servant's rifle, I led
the way.

The enemy must have anticipated our rendezvous, for the place was
ploughed with shells from end to end. The first pitched just under the
centre of a peasant's cottage, and in a moment cottage and peasant were
no more. The heavy purple pall hung on the ground, and had we been on
the spot selected, this description would have been written by other
hands than mine. By the increasing light and the aid of my glasses I was
able to make out the entire scheme of the advance, which was a
continuous line from one mile on the left of the railway, extending to
about ten miles on our right. A space of about one hundred yards on each
side of the line was unoccupied--for the reason, as I afterwards
learnt, that it was considered too exposed and dangerous for the purpose
of an advance. Unable to find anyone to direct my movements, on my own
initiative I decided to fill this vacant space, so making the line
continuous, and move forward with the Japanese to the attack. Disposing
my men in the shelter of the scrub on either side of the railway, I
directed their movements from the centre of the track. There was an ugly
moment when a maxim situated in a cornfield began to fire point-blank at
a range of one hundred yards, but a Czech outpost entrenched quite near
made it so hot for the gunner that after firing about 150 rounds he
scooted, leaving a well-placed gun and 5,000 rounds, all belted, behind.
We now advanced over the Czech and French trenches, for these forces,
like our armoured trains, had been ordered to take no part in the
advance. It was while near these trenches that a grey-coated Magyar,
four hundred yards away, took deliberate standing aim at myself. It was
a most difficult shot, and I felt quite safe, but though the Magyar
missed me, he killed a Czech soldier five yards to the left, the bullet
entering the centre of his forehead just over the nose. About sixty
shots answered his, and he sank across the rails. When we reached him he
lay, with many others, quite dead. Captain Clark picked up his rifle and
bandolier, and used it with good effect upon the retreating enemy.

There is no doubt that if we had failed to get into position under the
cover of darkness we should have had the greatest difficulty in making
any headway along the railway except with very heavy casualties. As I
have stated previously, the end car of the enemy armoured train had a
6-inch gun, but it was mounted so high that the whole platform could be
swept with rifle-fire. The reason for the high mounting was to enable
two machine guns to be worked along the track from the bed of the car
under the heavy gun. If our advance had been observed the enemy would
easily have smashed it, but we got within 400 yards before they knew we
were there. By concentrating all our fire on the end of the car we swept
the platform clear, perforated the body underneath with a hail of
bullets so that nothing could live, and put every gun which could be
brought to bear along the track out of action. By this means the
apparently most dangerous point of our advancing line became the safest,
and we accomplished our purpose without a single casualty. Five enemy
armoured trains were on the line disputing every inch of the way, but
their shrapnel was either too high or exploded so far behind the front
line that, though it made havoc amongst the laggards, it had but little
effect upon those who kept well to the front. The battle was now joined
at all points and reaching the decisive moment.

In the centre by skilful manoeuvring, a Japanese 5-inch battery had
taken up a position actually in front of the general infantry advance.
Such daring deserved to succeed, and in this case it did so beyond all
expectations. The point selected was a thin group of trees, which gave a
view of the railway from the left, across the plain to Kraevesk, and
enabled the leading enemy trains to be shelled almost from the flank.
The infantry, while still going methodically forward, were receiving far
too much attention to feel comfortable, and Japanese soldiers were
putting tufts of grass and leaves in front of their caps to hide the red
band, which made an excellent target for riflemen and machine-gunners.
Occasionally one would rub a handful of mud around the tell-tale band;
experience soon taught the Japanese soldiers the dangers of a little
colour. It was just ding-dong open fighting, wonderfully spectacular in
character. Then a shell burst plunk under the line behind the two
foremost enemy trains, which made retreat for them impossible. Desperate
efforts were made to repair the line, but well-directed rifle and light
machine-gun fire made this impracticable. Another well-placed shell
dropped just under the gunners' quarters on the front train, and
instantly the car was enveloped in flames. In turn the fire spread to
the gun-carriage, which had become untenable from rifle-fire. This
proved a complete catastrophe for the enemy, who from positions on our
extreme left and centre had a full view of the slaughter around the
doomed trains. Their nerves were completely shattered, their fire became
spasmodic and erratic, and then among the trees on a hill to the left
appeared a white flag.

That flag was too late. The Japanese cavalry shot out in file as a
straight extension of our left. Having come parallel with the farthest
group of resistance, they right turned, and instantly swept up the slope
in a beautiful line and forward over all resistance, white flag and
all. They took no prisoners.

My men were only "B one-ers," and the pace was beginning to tell; still
they were leading, owing to the fact that our advance was along the
railway and the usual tracks at the side, while the Japanese had to
contend with the marshes and woods farther away. I therefore ordered a
rally, and advanced only with such troops as could be reasonably
expected to keep the line. This party numbered about sixty, and included
Captain Clark, the Padre (Captain Roberts), Lieutenant Buckley, my Czech
interpreter (Vladimir), Regimental Sergt.-Major Gordon, Sergeant Webb
(who, I am sorry to say, died a few days later at Spascoe), Colonel
Frank (my liaison officer), and rank and file. With this party we
advanced within fifty yards of part of the burning train, amid a shower
of debris from the exploding shells stored in its magazine. The second
train looked quite deserted, and therefore, beyond examining the
ammunition cart of a 5-inch gun left derelict on the road and counting
ten rounds of unfired ammunition, we passed without molestation up the
railway embankment on the way to Kraevesk.

We had passed the trains and left them about two hundred yards in our
rear when we were startled by rapid rifle-fire behind us. On looking
round, we were astonished to see spiteful jets of rifle-fire issuing
from both sides of the uninjured train directed against thick bunches of
Japanese troops who were passing along the track over which we had just
advanced. Even the Eastern temperament has limits to its serenity. For
a moment the Japs were completely off their guard, but they soon
recovered, and dropping flat in the grass, they opened a brisk
fusillade. The Magyars were protected by the plated sides of their
wagons, and were making sad havoc amongst the soldiers of the Rising
Sun. Taking in the situation at a glance, a Japanese officer gave the
order to charge. Every man instantly bounded forward, and, like a
disturbed nest of ants, they swarmed all over the train, stabbing,
clubbing and bayoneting every Bolshevik they could get at, tossing their
dead enemies out of the carriages off their bayonets with the same
motion as if they were shovelling coal. Then they posted a sentry on the
highest part of each train, and the gun in the road, and called them
their "trophies of war." My great regret was that no Bolshevik was left
alive to tell us the reason why they allowed about sixty English
officers and soldiers to pass unmolested at point-blank range of about
forty yards, and only began to fire when the Japanese soldiers came
under their rifles. Many explanations were given at the time, none of
which seemed to be quite satisfactory, so the mystery remains.

It was here that a polite request was made that the British detachment
should not keep so far ahead of the other troops, but I was anxious to
keep well ahead for an important reason. The Bolsheviks had ravaged and
tortured both young and old, rich and poor, male and female throughout
the country till their very name stank in the nostrils of the common
people. Their blood lust had been so great that when they had no
Russian peasant to torture they fell back on the poor unfortunate Czech
soldiers who had fallen into their hands as prisoners of war. Many
authentic cases of this kind are so revolting in character that it is
better to keep them in the dark rather than advertise how fiendishly
cruel men can be to one another. I knew that the Czechs had threatened
to retaliate. The incident of the white flag previously recorded may
have had something to do with the same sentiment, though I can scarcely
think it had. I decided, however, that the more humane rules of war
should apply so far as I was concerned, and I soon had a chance of
making a demonstration of my views before the whole army. A fugitive
Bolshevik soldier had escaped from the Japanese cavalry, and started to
make his way across our left front in an attempt to join the retreating
Bolshevik trains. Exhausted by the heavy going of the marsh, he had
dropped for cover and rest. The Japanese line was fast approaching the
spot where he had taken shelter, so he raised himself from the grass and
began to run. I levelled my servant's rifle, but misjudged the distance,
and he took no notice. I took aim at a point over his head, and he
dropped in the grass so suddenly that Colonel Frank thought I had killed
him. As we approached the spot his black hair showed up above the green,
and I took aim again, but did not fire. I informed Colonel Frank I
wanted the man, if he would surrender, to be an example of how a
prisoner of war should be treated. Colonel Frank shouted to the man to
surrender. The man shouted back that the Japanese killed all prisoners.
He was then informed that I was an English officer, and if he would
surrender I guaranteed his life unless he had committed some greater
crime than merely fighting as a Bolshevik soldier. He made no further
parley, but almost ran to me as for protection. I was standing on the
embankment, in full view for miles, and it was easy for the whole
incident to be seen. I took his rifle, with fixed bayonet, and bandolier
and fifty rounds from him. His papers showed him to be a demobilised
Russian soldier. I placed him under a guard of two men with orders to
see him safely to the rear. Time after time demands were made to his
guards to allow the murder of the prisoner. But those two British
bayonets made his life as safe as though he had been in Trafalgar
Square. I could tell by the atmosphere which the incident created that
our Allies thought this regular conduct wholly out of place on a
battlefield, but it fulfilled its purpose, and surrenders were accepted
during the further operations.

Our progress was now very rapid, and except for a few bursts of shrapnel
which continued to fly harmlessly over the front ranks and injure such
as were far behind, we approached our old station, Kraevesk, easily. As
to the method from the military point of view of approaching this place,
the less said about it the better. A single company of British troops
would have held up the whole show and inflicted losses on the attackers
out of all proportion to the object gained. The stuffing, however, was
completely knocked out of the Bolshevik army, and the advance took more
the form of beaters driving big game. Having previously reconnoitred the
whole ground, I again chose the railway for my party. The Japanese
swarmed up through the wooded slope on the right. I chose the railway
because I knew the shallow cutting had a slight curve which would give a
safe line of approach to the station, situated about three hundred yards
behind this low-lying hill. The Japs advanced through the wood in
masses, huge bunches of men without regular formation. On rounding the
curve, I saw an enemy armoured train about four hundred yards distant. A
Bolshevik officer walked leisurely out of our old headquarters and put
one foot on the step of the engine, looking straight at myself standing
on the line. I drew a bead on him with Lance-Corporal's Moorman's rifle.
I do not believe I hit him, but I was near enough to make him skip
quickly into the engine shelter. A flash from the leading gun, and a
2-inch shell passed so close to my head that I fell into the four-foot
way, and felt the top of my skull to find out if it was still there.
This shell exploded about one hundred yards behind me and mortally
wounded two Japanese and injured several others. The machine guns on the
train now swept the wood, where the Japs were advancing, with such
effect that for a few moments there was a regular stampede back over the
brow of the hill. My party had taken cover in the scrub on the left, and
I crawled on hands and knees in their direction. I found a deep dyke at
the foot of the cutting covered with high weeds, and into this I rolled.
Gradually raising my head over the thistles, I potted rapidly at the
gunner, and my party did the same.

The Japs by this time had recovered from their first shock, and began to
open fire on the train, which steamed slowly back to the far end of the
station, when it came to a standstill and pumped shrapnel along our
front. We had got far ahead of our artillery, so it became a contest of
rifle versus armoured train. On the left of the station was a thick log
store, and keeping that between ourselves and the armoured train, we
crept into the station and began to fire at close range at the gunners,
whose heads appeared above the sides of the armoured carriages. The
Japanese used a red brick cottage for a similar purpose on the other
side, while others tried to outflank the train and cut off its retreat.
The officer in charge detected this manoeuvre, and, using all his guns,
he retired behind the hill, and later was reported as steaming towards
Shmakovka. We took possession of the station, and near our old
headquarters found a hut in which was the Bolshevik officers' breakfast,
with potatoes cooked to a nicety on the fire. These were looted by
Colonel Frank and Sergeant-Major Gordon. The sun was very hot--the time
was about 8.30 A.M.--we had fought over very difficult country for
twelve miles, and as we sat on the crossing of the railway the potatoes
were very good. By some hopeless blunder the Japanese cavalry had been
ordered to close in from the flank on this station instead of the next,
so we lost the huge bag of prisoners which was waiting to be captured.
The Jap cavalry commander sat down and sampled my potatoes, but he lost
the culminating stroke of the whole movement. This small minor action
proved to be one of the most decisive of the war, as it destroyed the
whole Terrorist army east of the Urals.

I was ordered by General Otani to remain in reserve, and returned to my
base at Svagena to find the proverbial luck of my battalion had been
maintained. The Japs had over six hundred casualties, some of which
occurred close to my men, but not a man of the 25th was hit. We had many
cases of complete prostration, but, in view of the category of my unit,
not more than was to be expected considering the strenuous month's work
they had undergone. One and all behaved like Englishmen--the highest
eulogy that can be passed upon the conduct of men.

General Oie sent a letter of special thanks to the Commanding Officer of
the British unit for their great services in the engagement. At 4.25
P.M., August 28, I received the following communication from the General

"1. On August 26 the Division had occupied the heights situated at the
north of Shmakovka. The inhabitants reported the enemy had left there
between nine and twelve on the night of August 24 by eleven trains,
strength of which was about 5,000 men; 2,000 men retired by road from
Uspenkie. The Division bivouacked at Shmakovka.

"2. On the 27th the enemy continued their retreat to the north of the
River Ussurie, and no enemy could be seen to the south of it, though
nine railway bridges out of ten between Shmakovka and Ussurie had been
destroyed. Damage done is some ten metres each, and a few days would be
required to repair them. The Ussurie railway bridge is not damaged, and
on the night of the 26th, after a small detachment had occupied it, one
company of infantry reinforced. Against the enemy on Lake Hanka, which
was known to have gone down the river with gunboats, one company of
infantry has been dispatched to the right bank of Ussurie east of

"3. The Division remains at the present position, and prepares to move
forward on the 28th."

This completed the Ussurie operations, for the battle was absolutely
decisive. The enemy were entirely demoralised, and never made another
stand east of Lake Baikal.



The Japanese, for their own peculiar reasons, as will have already
appeared, had decided in the early stages of the operations that the
maritime provinces were their special preserve. They looked with the
greatest suspicion upon the forces and efforts of the other Allies,
especially British and American, and by their orders tried deliberately
to exclude them from their counsels and as far as possible from the
administration of the territory recovered from the Terrorists. The 27th
Battalion of American Infantry had landed at Vladivostok a few days
before the battle of Dukoveskoie, and promises were made that they
should be hurried forward to take a share in the fighting; but the
Japanese, who controlled the railway, saw to it that they arrived a day
late. Instead of pushing them ahead, they were detrained at Svagena, and
then entrained again from day to day, always about fifty versts behind
the Japanese front. In addition the Japanese never trusted their Allies.
No order to the Japanese Army was ever given to the Allied commanders
until the operation had been carried out or had got to such a stage as
to make it impossible for them to take part or offer suggestions.

Captain Stephan (now Major), of the Czech Army, and myself knew every
road and track from Shmakovka to Svagena, and were certain that with
proper care the whole enemy force on the Ussurie front could have been
destroyed or captured. The Japanese would neither consult nor inform any
of their Allies about any movement until it had taken place. They
treated the Czech commanders with the most scant courtesy; the English
officers' carriages were invaded by their private soldiers, who would
insolently ask what business we had in Siberia and when did we propose
to go home; but they reserved their most supreme contempt for the
Russian people. These poor wretches they drove off the railway
platforms, using the butts of their rifles upon the women as well as the
men, just as though they were dealing with a tribe of conquered
Hottentots. I did not understand this behaviour on the part of our
Eastern Ally, and felt it could only be the irresponsible bullying of a
few individual men and officers. Later on I found it to be the general
policy of the Japanese Army to treat everybody as inferior to
themselves; they had learnt this Hun lesson to a nicety.

I give two instances which are neither glaring nor isolated, but of
which no doubt official record remains. I was standing on Nikolsk
platform waiting for a train; there was a crowd of Russian people, and a
Japanese sentry was standing near. This man quite suddenly darted
forward and jammed the butt of his rifle in the centre of a Russian
officer's back; the force of the blow knocked him flat on the floor in
such pain that he rolled about for a few minutes, while the Jap,
grinning, held his bayonet at the "On guard!" Though there were many
standing near, not one Russian had the pluck to shoot him, and not
wishing to mix myself up in the affair, I took no action, but watched
further developments. Ten minutes later another Jap sentry repeated the
performance, but this time the victim was a well-dressed Russian lady.
So cowed were the Russian people that even her friends were afraid to
help her. I stepped forward to offer assistance, with the Jap standing
over me; when, however, he saw my revolver he put up his bayonet, but
continued to laugh as though it was a huge joke. A few Tommies were
attracted to the spot, and the Jap saw that things were beginning to
take a serious turn. I proceeded to the Japanese Headquarters, situated
in a carriage near by, and reported the occurrence. The officer seemed
astonished that I should interfere on behalf of mere Russians, who he
said may have been Bolsheviks for all he knew, and inquired whether the
sentry had ever treated me so. I answered that "the first Japanese that
touches an English officer or soldier in my presence will be a dead
man." This seemed to surprise the Japanese officer, who pointed out that
the Japanese were in occupation of Siberia, and were entitled to do what
they liked. I had to inform him that the Japanese were acting in
alliance with the other Powers, including Russia; that we were here as
the friends of the Russian people, and not as their conquerors. This he
would or could not understand. I ended the interview by warning him that
if his sentries were not instructed to behave a little less like
savages, there would be an end to those sentries' careers. I later
heard that the interview did good, but could not in the case of Japanese
troops do more than slightly mitigate their behaviour to the defenceless
Russian inhabitants.

That is merely a type of their conduct towards ordinary people. There
is, however, one excuse for them: given the right circumstances, they
treat all alike. A battalion commander was not quite the sort of
material to operate upon, for the simple reason that he was usually
surrounded with sufficient force to secure proper respect, but a general
without a powerful escort was always fair sport for their gentle
attentions. Not even the chief of the British Military Mission could
hope to escape from the most insulting behaviour. An incident placed my
unit in charge of a part of the telegraph system, which enabled me to
handle personally the sort of message which entered the Japanese
Headquarters relative to a special train that was approaching their
station. I handled the message myself. It ran as follows:

"A special train, No. ........., will enter your section at .........
time; it conveys the chief of the British Military Mission, General
........., and Staff from Vladivostok to Ufa for important conference
with General Surovey, the Commander-in-Chief of the Czech and Russian
Armies. You will please give 'line clear' throughout the journey." Did
the Japanese give "line clear" throughout? That will never be the way
that this highly efficient and interesting little people will do
anything, if their army is a sample of the whole. They stopped the
train, and boarded it with a squad of men with fixed bayonets. They
insulted the chief of the British Mission by placing him and his Staff
under arrest, and then proceeded to make elaborate inquiries to find out
whether they were not German emissaries in disguise. The impudence of
the whole proceeding was so remarkable and yet characteristic that when
the Staff of the General reported the occurrence to me I did not for a
moment know whether I should die with rage or laughter.

I went to Siberia entirely biassed in favour of this admittedly
wonderful people. I took care to instruct my soldiers to salute every
Japanese officer and to be most polite to every Japanese soldier, and
they carried out my instructions to the letter; but my attention was
called to the fact that only on rare occasions did a Japanese officer
take the trouble to return the salute of my men, and still more rarely
did a Japanese soldier salute an English officer. He was much more
likely to give an insulting grimace. I say quite frankly that I admire
the workmanlike way the Japanese go about their soldierly duties, but it
is impossible to ignore their stupidly studied arrogance towards those
who are anxious to be on terms of peace and amity with them. It is
unfortunately true that they were misled into believing that Germany was
ordained to dominate the world, and, believing this, they shaped their
conduct upon this awful example. They quite openly boast that they are
the Germans of the East. Let us hope that they will read aright the
recent lesson of history.

During my stay in the maritime provinces I never saw or heard of a
single act or order from the Japanese Headquarters which would help in
the slightest degree in the administrative reorganisation of the
country. On the contrary I saw many things which convinced me that the
Land of the Rising Sun was at that time more concerned in maintaining
disorder as the surest way of fostering her own ambitious designs.

At this stage the other Allies were without a Far-Eastern policy. Their
sole object was to push back as far as possible the German-Magyar
forces, which were carrying out the sinister policy of Teutonic
penetration under the guise of Bolshevism. Bolshevism in the Far East at
this date was an attempt to reduce to a system the operations of the
Chinese robber bands of the Mongolian border. Mixed with and led by
released German and Magyar prisoners of war, they became a formidable
force for destroying all attempts at order in Russia and resisting the
possible reconstruction of the Russian front against the Central Powers.
Previous to the Bolshevist regime these Chinese bands had lived by
murder and loot; it was their trade, though hitherto considered illegal,
and sometimes severely punished. No wonder they joined the Soviet
crusade when it declared robbery and murder to be the basis upon which
the new Russian democracy must rest. This German-Magyar-Chinese
combination was bound to meet with remarkable initial success. The
Chinese got his blood and loot in a legal way without much danger, and
the German prisoner played an important part in the defence of the
Fatherland and the destruction of its enemies.

If Germany lost on the Western Front, and by means of this unnatural
combination still retained her hold upon the potential wealth of the
late Tsar's dominions, she had indeed won the war. This was the reason
for our presence in Siberia, but it was not the reason for the presence
of Japan.



Shortly after the incidents referred to in Chapter IV, I received
General Otani's orders to take over the command of the railway and the
districts for fifty versts on either side, from Spascoe to Ussurie
inclusive. My duty was to guard the railway and administer the district,
taking all measures necessary to keep open this section of the line of
communications. I was instructed to fix my headquarters at Spascoe, and
make all arrangements to winter there. In accordance therewith I
proceeded to get into touch with what remained of the old Russian
authorities, civil and military, and the new ones wherever such had been
created. So far as the men's comfort was concerned, new roads were
constructed and old ones repaired, broken windows and dilapidated walls
and woodwork were either replaced or renovated. Electrical appliances
were discovered and fixed, and what had previously been a dull, dark
block of brickwork suddenly blossomed out into a brilliantly lighted
building and became at night a landmark for miles around.

We also began painfully to piece together the broken structure of human
society. For over a year no law but force had been known in these
regions, and many old wrongs and private wounds demanded liquidation. I
made many journeys to outlandish villages and settlements, with a small
personal escort, fixed a table in the centre of the street, and with the
aid of the parish priest and the president of the local council, heard
and decided disputes, public and private, from threats and injury to the
person to the possession and occupation of a farm. There was no
appeal--the stolid Tommies who stood behind me with fixed bayonets put
my judgments beyond question. I remitted one or two points of property
law to legal decision, but all parties in each case protested that they
would have preferred my instant judgment. Three murderers I remitted to
a court which I called together with an old Russian officer to preside,
but he was so terrified at the prospect of having to order their
execution for fear they might be Bolsheviks--whose name was a terror to
everybody--that I had to send them to another district to enable the law
to be carried out. The report of these proceedings spread with such
rapidity that it became quite embarrassing, if not impossible, to deal
effectively and thoroughly with the daily increasing number of
litigants. I began to understand the reason why in more civilised
communities legal proceedings are made so expensive. Either the Russian
peasant is a most litigious person, or else he mistook a free system of
justice as a healthy English pastime which he thoroughly enjoyed.

It was extremely flattering to be told that these people preferred that
the "Anglisky Polkovnika Boorpg" should decide their disputes than that
they should be reserved for a Russian tribunal. It was the most
interesting work I had so far done in the country. The trial of even the
simplest case gave me many insights to Russian institutions and
character that only years of book study could otherwise have
accomplished. I learnt the difference between the right of the peasant
holder as compared with that of the Cossack circle. The law of the
forest afforded an education in itself. The intimate relationship of
Russian family life, from the highest to the lowest, was constantly laid
bare before me with all its romance and mediaeval trappings and its
sordid substratum of violence and superstition. In fact, I became so
interested in this work that it was with the greatest regret that I
relinquished it for a more urgent and important call.

The Allied forces in the Transbaikal had now accomplished their task of
dispersing the forces of lawlessness, and had made some progress in the
work of administration, but if this work was to be consolidated and made
of permanent value it must be given a centre, other than the Allied
command, around which it could rally and to which it might reasonably
look for guidance and support. The Siberian Government had been
established by the alive elements of the old regime and the more showy
members of the Social Revolutionary party, but their authority was
ignored and their orders were not often conspicuous for their wisdom.
This great people can do almost anything, but even they cannot live
without a head, and the question was, how was some sort of head to be
provided? The Allies had taken control of the far-eastern provinces,
but, if their object was to be carried through and German designs
frustrated, it was necessary to push at once their control to the Urals
and, if possible, beyond. The brilliant feats of the Czechs had
temporarily thrown the Terrorist forces into confusion, but with
wealthy, helpless Russia as their prize cupidity alone would be
sufficient to excite them to renewed effort. To be effective, Allied
help and activity must be transferred nearer to the scene of actual
conflict, and Ekaterinburg or Omsk appeared to be the only possible
centres which could provide the proper accommodation and surroundings
for this next step in the Allied programme. This much as a general
proposition was conceded by all, but everybody held differing views as
to the way in which it should be carried out.

Japan, having firmly planted her feet in the much-coveted maritime
provinces, did not look with enthusiasm upon the suggestion that she
should leave what she most wanted in order to lessen the pressure upon a
front in which she had no interest. That Paris should fall under German
blows was of no importance compared with American control of the Chinese
Eastern Railway or the presence of the _Brooklyn_ at Vladivostok.

America had not exactly made up her mind what particular part of the Far
East was most precious in her eyes, but wished to be friendly with
everybody and get as much as possible out of all. Her armies were on the
Western front, but her eyes were on the Eastern Pacific, and was it not
better after all to remain where you could keep an eye on the other

Who would think of taking a military force over six thousand miles from
its base through a partially hostile country? Would it get through the
many dangers and difficulties it was certain to encounter on the way?
And if it did, who could guarantee a friendly reception? and if not, how
could a ghastly disaster be avoided? These were some of the problems
which called for decision, and once decided could never be recalled.

The Americans and the Japanese were otherwise occupied and therefore not
available, and though it may seem mere national egotism to make such a
statement, there was only one force in which moderate Russians of all
parties had absolute confidence--without which anything might happen.
All eyes turned to the old "Die-Hard" Battalion which had now proved its
mettle on land and sea.

Russian society had been ripped up by the roots, and the whole country
reduced to a huge human jungle. Human life was at a discount, in fact
was the cheapest thing in the country. If a centre of order was to be
created anywhere, force must be provided for its initial protection.
Statecraft cannot work with violence ever threatening its very life. The
risks were great, a big force would create suspicion, a small force must
rely upon something more than mere bayonets for its safety. It was with
due regard to its dangers, but with a certainty that it was worth it,
that I accepted the task which the fates had forced upon me.

We had settled down for a winter in Spascoe, when I received the
necessary orders to proceed to Omsk, with the suggestion that before
executing them I had better visit Headquarters at Vladivostok for a
conference with General Knox. I tried to get a carriage suitable for the
journey for my Staff from the railway authorities, but failed, and ended
by purloining a cattle-truck. In this contraption we got as far as
Nikolsk, where our truck was to have been hung on to the Harbin Express;
but the station-master, the best type of Russian public official,
thought it a disgrace that the Commander and Staff of their most trusted
Ally should travel so. He placed his private car at my disposal on my
promise to return the same if and when I could find another. We arrived
at "Vlady," and in four days had completed the arrangements for the move
and secured verbal and documentary instructions as to the general policy
to be pursued. The means to be employed to worm my way towards the Urals
were left entirely to myself.

I had already formed a very high opinion of the Russian character. Much
can be done by sympathy and persuasion, but if they fail, then the "big
stick" of Peter the Great, used sparingly, is the only method which is
certain to secure obedience to orders.

On the return journey I was hung up at Nikolsk for several days. Heavy
rains had caused the valleys and marshes to become flooded, and a
haystack which had been carried off its bed by the water had lodged
against the temporary sleeper buttress and swept the bridge away. The
hay had held the torrent back till it became so high that it rushed
over about two miles of the railway, destroying that also. The Japs
would not repair the damage, nor for some time would they give a chance
for the Russians to do so. I managed to get orders through to Major
Browne so that no time was actually lost. It was estimated that it would
take seven days to get on the move, but by a general hustle all round in
three days we began our 5,000 miles journey. Starting from Spascoe we
travelled to Nikolsk, and then turned back up the Manchurian-Chinese
Eastern Railway. On arriving at Nikolsk we were informed that the French
Tonquin Battalion had also received orders to move west some seven days
prior to us, but were not yet ready, nor were they likely to be for two
or three days. We had arrived at "Vlady," and gone thence to the Ussurie
front before the French; so now again we led the way towards the sinking

This French unit was under the command of Major Malley, who from his
appearance ought never to have dropped the "O" before his surname. He
and his officers were some of the best; but the atmosphere of South
China had robbed them of some of their native energy. He informed me
that his destination was a point on the railway near the borders of
North-West Manchuria, and by consulting my own instructions I guessed
the object of his move. In case of need I should at least have the
border open. In addition to which the move was an indication that so far
as this venture was concerned English and French policy ran parallel.

The first part of the journey was through hundreds of miles of uncarted
corn. As far as the eye could see, to right or left, one vast sea of
derelict corn, left uncared for on the land to rot in the Siberian
winter. The entire absence of labour, and the complete breakdown of
internal administration and communication had produced stark want in the
presence of plenty. It made one feel quite sad to look day after day
upon this waste of human food and remember the food rations and
regulations at home. All along the line there was a continuous stream of
refugees of all nations and races--poor, hunted creatures who had
horrible stories to tell of the ravages of the Bulgar and the atrocities
of the Bolsheviki. At one place the Serbian women and children got the
breakfast of my men, the Tommies refusing to eat until the kiddies had
been satisfied. And the pathetic homage they paid to our flag when they
discovered it was the flag of England! I shall never forget some of the
scenes which showed us also the wonderful trust the struggling
nationalities of the world have in the power, humanity and honour of our
country. It is a priceless possession for the world which Englishmen
must for ever jealously guard.

Through apparently never-ending uplands we entered the great range which
forms the natural boundary between China and Siberia. On and on, through
mountain gorge and fertile valley, we broke at length out on to the wide
open plains of Manchuria. Perhaps it could be best described as a
combination of all the most wonderful scenery in the world. It is
somewhat difficult to keep three huge trains of over forty trucks each
together on a single line. This, however, had to be done, first for
purposes of safety, and secondly for defence in the then lawless state
of the country. The next difficulty was transport. Horses had to be
watered, and if they were to be ready for use the train must stop and
the animals be exercised every fourth day. Hence much scheming and
management had to be exercised for the journey to be successfully
carried through.

I saw much about the "hidden hand" in the newspapers we received from
home, but our experiences of the same character were sometimes amusing
and sometimes serious. The railway was under a sort of joint control,
Russian, American and Japanese, and it soon became clear that one or the
other of these groups was unfriendly to our western advance. It may have
been all, but of that I have no proof. The first incident was a stop of
four hours. After the first two hours a train passed us that had been
following behind; after another two hours, when slightly more vigorous
inquiries were being made as to the cause of delay, we were quite
naively informed that the station-master did not think we ought to risk
going farther. We soon informed him to the contrary, and again started
forward. The next stop of this character was at a fairly big station
about twenty hours from Harbin. This station-master held us up for seven
hours. This I thought the limit. At last he showed my interpreter a
telegram asking him to prevent us going any farther. It was not signed,
and when I demanded that we should be allowed to proceed, he said that
there were no engines. I had seen two standing idle outside. I rushed
on to the platform just in time to prevent the engines disappearing.
While the station-master had been parleying with me he had ordered the
engines to put on steam. I gave orders for my guard to form up across
the line at each end of the station and either bayonet or shoot anyone
who tried to take the engines away. I then forced the operator to tell
me if the line ahead was clear, and threatened to take the
station-master under military arrest for trial at Harbin unless he
announced my intention to start in that direction and cleared the way
ahead. I put a soldier with fixed bayonet on the footplate to see that
the driver held to his post and did not play tricks with the train, and
started on our journey. We made every inquiry possible, but no one could
give us the slightest reason for our stoppage, but seemed to think that
there was something wrong with the works which had allowed us to get so
far. From then on I took no risks.

There are no special features about Harbin. It is just a conglomeration
of houses of a more or less Chinese character thrown together in three
heaps, the first two attempts of the thrower not getting quite near
enough to the target, which was the junction of the Chinese Eastern
Railway. Elaborate preparations had been made by an Allied Committee for
our reception, and when we drew into the station about 4 P.M. it was
crowded with about as cosmopolitan a crowd of Far Eastern races as we
had so far met with--the Mayor, the Chinese Governor and all the
notabilities, foremost amongst them being the British Consul, Mr. Sly;
but most important of all was General Plisshkoff, the commander of the
local forces known as "Hovart's Army." Speeches were delivered, and a
reply given which elicited from a Cossack band the most astounding
rendering of the British National Anthem that was ever heard around the
seven seas. The gem of the proceedings was a presentation of two lovely
bouquets by the English ladies of Harbin. I never felt so much the
necessity for adopting the Eastern custom of kissing all the ladies you
are introduced to as at this one supreme moment of the journey; it was a
real test of the power of restraint. But the ladies' husbands were
there, and everything passed off quietly, even though some wretched
fellows took snapshots of the presentation for home production. I
inspected the several guards of honour, and General Plisshkoff returned
the compliment, while the famous "25th" band discoursed what was
declared to be the sweetest music that had been heard in Harbin since
its history began. Tea was served in a specially decorated marquee on
the platform and all the men were given presents of one sort or another,
and the town gave itself over to tumultuous enjoyment, happy in the
thought that at last one of the Allies had appeared on the scene, a
faint indication that a desperate effort was about to be made by the
oldest and most trusted nation in Europe to conjure order out of chaos.
The officers were entertained by the British Consul, and preparations
were made for a ceremonial march through the town next day. This turned
out a great success and greatly impressed the inhabitants.

The day following we were entertained by the Chinese Governor, a very
courtly old gentleman, and the local Chinese general at the headquarters
of the Chinese administration. The band was in attendance, and during
the meal dealt with some of the British military choruses which have
spread themselves round the world. Of course we all joined in, as only
Englishmen can, and this became so infectious that even the staid
mandarins unbent and added their quota to the noise. It is surprising to
note the resemblance between the solemn Chinese and the self-centred
Englishmen. The solemnity of the one reacts upon the other, and both
become what neither is in reality nor can be separately. After our hard
work and harder fare on the Ussurie this gorgeous banquet was equal to a
month's leave, and we let go with a vengeance. What the Chinamen thought
about it next morning I do not know; for myself, I only remembered the
kindness of this act of friendship and the _camaraderie_ of the whole
affair. How strange that we should feel more at home with these pukka
Chinamen than with others we have met who are supposed to have much
closer affinity.

Immediately after leaving Harbin we crossed the finest bridge of the
whole journey to Omsk. It carries the railway over the River Sungary,
which meanders about over the enormous yet fairly well cultivated plains
of Northern Manchuria. It is not my intention to describe either the
peoples or the countries through which we passed, but no study of the
blending and dovetailing of totally different races into the different
types that we particularise under the names of Chinese, Mongol, Tartar
and Russian, would be complete without a journey along the Siberian and
Eastern Chinese Railway. The same remark applies to their dress,
habitations and customs. It is an education in itself, especially if,
like us, one had to stop occasionally to drive bargains, negotiate help,
and have the closest and most intimate intercourse with the common
people. None of them had even seen the British flag, few of them had the
slightest idea where the "Anglisky" lived, and one old Kirghis explained
to his wondering tribemen that we were a strange tribe that had broken
away from "Americanski" and gone to live on a great island in the middle
of the lakes, where no one could touch us unless they risked their lives
on great wooden rafts. I thought the amount of inverted truth in this
charming description very pleasing if not very flattering to our
national vanity.

After climbing the great Hinghan Range the plains of Mongolia came as a
wonder to me. Imagine if you can a perfectly flat land through which
your train glides hour after hour, day after day. The whole is covered
with rough grass and a growth somewhat like a huge horse daisy or
marguerite. At the time we passed these plants had dried, and a terrific
wind sweeping over the plains had broken countless numbers of the dry
herb off near the ground. They fell on their round sides. Directly the
plants had lost their anchorage away they bounded like catherine wheels
over the plains. It does not require much imagination to picture
hundreds of thousands of these rounded tufts of dried grass bounding
along over immense distances. It is quite a fascinating pastime to
select a few of the larger and better formed ones coming over the
horizon and calculate how long they take to arrive opposite your
position. Calculations made in this way convinced me that a small
coloured message properly fastened to these moving objects might have
been carried five hundred miles in twenty-four hours. If, instead of
looking at one, you look at the whole, the impression is of the solid
earth passing rapidly from west to east. There are occasional
obstructions in the shape of a huge flock of sheep which would cover
half of Rutlandshire. These are herded by quaintly dressed Mongolian
Tartars, on wonderful shaggy-haired horses, who ride at a furious pace
around their flocks and guard them from attack by the wolves which
infest this part of the world. It is worth recording how they do so. The
wolf is a very cunning animal who has numerous methods of attack, and,
like a hare, is very difficult to locate if in his form and practically
level with the ground. But his very cunning is often his undoing. On no
account will the wolf allow a string on which there are little coloured
rags fluttering to pass over him, nor will he willingly get near it. The
Tartar herdsmen go forward in line over the plain in the direction their
flocks are feeding with a small strong string with little coloured flags
fluttering along it, fastened from horse to horse. This effectively
sweeps the whole space as the trawler sweeps the sea. No wolf can hope
to escape the trained eye of the Tartar near the horse where the strain
of the line lifts it high off the ground, and no wolf will allow the
line to pass near him, hence the herdsman gets both sport and profit
out of his occupation. Having fed off the grass and herbs in one place,
the whole Tartar tribe moves forward at regular periods on what appears
to be an endless crawl across the world, but what is really an appointed
round, settled and definite, within the territorial lands of the race to
which it belongs. Their women and children journey with them and hunt
and ride with the men, free as the plains over which they travel. In
spite of this community of interests the men seem to place but very
little value upon their women except as a sort of communist coolie
attachment for carrying the camp from one place to another, for
preparing the rude meals, and for the care of the boys, of whom the
tribe is very proud.

Over this featureless wilderness we progressed day after day, each
stopping-place marked by a few aspen trees mixed up with a few others
that look very much like mountain ash but are not. The winter houses of
the people are single-roomed, square, wooden structures, very strangely
built, with flat roofs consisting of about two feet of earth. Against
and over these structures in winter the frozen snow piles itself until
they have the appearance of mere mounds, impossible to locate except for
the smoke which escapes from a few long crevices left open under the
eaves of what is intended to be the front of the house. These
smoke-escapes perform the double duty of chimneys and also keep clear
the way by which the inhabitants go in and out. Their herds are either
disposed of before the winter begins or are housed in grass-covered
dug-outs, which in winter, when the snow is piled over them, take the
form of immense underground caverns, and are quite warm and habitable by
both man and beast. The one I entered had over two hundred beautiful
little foals housed in it, and others similar in character had cows and
sheep and poultry all as snug as you please. The entrance was lighted
with a quaint old shepherd's lantern, not unlike those I had seen used

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