Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

by shepherds in Hampshire when I was a boy. The entrance was guarded all
night by a number of dogs, and curled up in a special nook was the
herdsman, with a gun of a kind long since discarded in Europe. Such are
the conditions under which these people live half the year, but they
make up for this underground life when in April they start their cattle
on the move by first allowing them to eat their shelters.

Near the edge of this plain we began to encounter a few sand dunes with
outcrops, very similar to those on the coast line of our own country.
Over these we gently ran day after day until we could see vast fields of
sand and scrub that it must have taken thousands of years of gale and
hurricane to deposit in the quaint pyramidal fashion in which they stand
to-day. Even yet they are not fixed; occasionally a tree falls exposing
the naked sand to the action of the wind, which swirls around the hole
and moves the sand into a spiral whirlpool, lifting and carrying it away
to be deposited again on the lea side of a distant valley, choking the
pines and silver birch and sometimes destroying large woods and forests.
It is surprising that though we travelled for hundreds of miles along
the edge of this huge sand plateau we did not see a single rivulet or
stream coming from its direction, though there were the traces of a
river far out on the plain. Sunset on these sand-hills was quite
entrancing. The occasional break in these conical formations, when the
sun was low down, gave one the impression of a vast collection of human
habitations, with gable ends to the highest of the buildings. The fact
is, however, that, so far as we saw or could make out, no human
habitation exists over the whole face of this sea of sand, though men
live quite calmly around the craters of volcanoes and other equally
dangerous and impossible places. The fear created by legends of human
disaster attaching to the local history of these sands is of such a
character that even the daring of the Tartar is for once mastered. The
sands themselves when on the move are dangerous enough, but their
cup-like formation would hide armies until the traveller was in their
midst, when retreat would be impossible. The same applies with greater
force to the banditti or beasts of the desert; hence the gloomy history
and legends of the Mongolian sands.

We arrived at Hazelar on a Saturday evening, and collected our echelons
during the night. On Sunday morning I made application to the priest for
permission to hold our parade service in the grounds of the Greek
church. This was granted, and the parade was a huge success. The
spectacle of the padre (Captain Roberts) in his surplice conducting the
English service under the shadow of the church our help had rescued
from the violence of the Terrorists was very impressive. The service was
watched with intense interest by hundreds of Russian men and women and
by crowds of Chinese, Korean and Tartar plainsmen. Some of the Russian
ladies joined in the responses, and many women's voices joined in the
old English hymns. These were the first religious services that had been
held for a year, and seemed to give assurance to the people that their
troubles were nearly over, that peace had come again. The huge padlock
and chain upon the church door had been removed, and general
thankfulness seemed to be the predominant feeling. The scene was
doubtless very strange to those unaccustomed to united worship by both
priest and people. In these small matters I was extremely punctilious,
as I saw what an impressionable people I had to deal with. I further
calculated that once we had joined in public service together the edge
of hostility would lose its sharpness. I did not leave it at this, but
entered the markets without a guard and held conferences with both
peasant and workman, stating our reasons for coming and the friendly
service we wished to perform. It was clear from the beginning that my
safety depended upon our securing the confidence of the majority of the
people. A mere military parade would have failed, but with a thorough
understanding of our object in entering so far into their country we
gained their confidence and enlisted their help. On the other hand,
there is a small proportion of disgruntled and abnormal people in all
communities who cannot be controlled by reason, and for whom force is
the only argument, and for these we also made ample provision.

There was not much interest in the remainder of the Manchurian and
Mongolian part of the journey until we arrived at Manchulli. This was
occupied by the Japanese Division under the command of General Fugi.
Here it was necessary to get a supply of fresh bread and exercise the
transport. I paid my respects to the Chinese general, who had just lost
part of his barracks, forcibly taken from him for the occupation of
Japanese troops. I also paid an official visit to General Fugi and Staff
and the Russian commandant of the station.



It was at Manchulli that an incident happened which was much talked
about at the time and was given many strange versions. It is quite
easily explained when all the facts are known. It was impossible to
secure proper travelling accommodation for my officers, either at
Spascoe or Nikolsk, but I was informed that such would be provided at
Harbin. In company with the British Consul (Mr. Sly) I called upon the
manager of the railway at Harbin to secure such accommodation. He was
very polite and promised to do all he could to help, but next morning
informed me that no carriage was available, but if I could find one
empty I could take it. I failed, and reported the fact to him. He could
do nothing, but said there were plenty at Manchulli held up by Colonel
Semianoff and the Japanese, who laid hold of every carriage that tried
to get through this station, and that Colonel Semianoff collected a
great revenue by refusing to part with these carriages unless the user
was prepared to pay very high prices for the same. If I was prepared to
take the risk, and would use force if necessary to secure carriages, I
should be able to get them there, and so far as the railway authorities
at Harbin were concerned, I could take any two empty carriages I might

The weather was beginning to get very cold, and each mile added to our
discomfort, and the only accommodation for officers on two of the three
trains were cattle trucks. After my official visit I made request for
two carriages. The station commandant pretended to consult the Russian
and Japanese officials, and then informed me that there was not one
available. I told him it was untrue. He agreed that if I could point out
any carriages unoccupied I could have them. He went with his register to
the carriages I indicated, and he admitted they were idle and empty and
I would be allowed to take them. I put a guard on the carriages and
thought the incident settled, but nothing is settled for long in the Far
East. I made request for these carriages to be shunted on to my trains,
and after a two hours' wait went to the station about the shunting and
was calmly informed that they knew nothing about the carriages. The
commandant, with whom I arranged the matter, had gone home (an old
dodge!), and would not be on duty till to-morrow, and that nothing else
could be done.

It was reported to me that the reason the carriages could not be secured
was that the railway officials of a certain Power had given instructions
that no "class" carriages were to be provided for British officers, as
it was necessary that the population along the route should understand
that we were not considered representatives of a first-class Power.
Englishmen who have not travelled much in the Far East will scarcely
understand the working of the Oriental mind in these matters. An officer
of any Power who travels in a cattle truck will not only lose the
respect of the Oriental for his own person, but will lower the standard
of the country he represents, irrespective of its position in the comity
of nations. The representative of the Isle of Man, if he travelled in
the best style, would stand before the representative of His Majesty the
King if his means of transit were that of a coolie. It is doubtless very
stupid, but it is true. Your means of locomotion fixes your place in the
estimation of the East, because it is visible to them, while your
credentials are not.

I there and then made up my mind to act, and if necessary go "the whole
hog." I informed the authorities that nothing should be shunted in that
station until those two carriages were joined to my trains, and
proceeded to occupy the whole station. Up to this point I had neither
seen nor heard anything of the Japanese in relation to this matter, but
they now came on the scene, and I soon discovered that it was they who
had engineered the whole opposition to the British officers getting
suitable accommodation, and had spirited away the old commandant who had
registered the carriages to me. At first they did not know the correct
line to adopt, but made a request that the guard should be taken off the
station. My answer was, "Yes, instantly, if it is understood that these
carriages are to be shunted to my trains." They agreed to this, and my
guards were taken off, having held the station for twenty-three minutes.
I had my evening meal, and was expecting to start when I was informed
that the Japanese had now placed guards upon my carriages and refused
to allow them to be shunted on to my train. I thought this was just
about the limit, and before taking action decided I had better discover
the reason, if any, for what seemed a definite breach of faith. I
visited the Japanese station officer, and he said that they had just
discovered that these two carriages were set aside to convey General
Fugi to Harbin a few days hence. I refused to believe that such a
discovery could have only just been made, and I would take the carriages
by force if necessary.

It looked very awkward, and a Japanese Staff officer was sent for. I
sent my liaison officer (Colonel Frank) to find the absent station
commandant who had allocated the cars to me. The Japanese Staff officer
was expressing his sorrow for my not being able to get any carriages for
my officers and pointing out how impossible it would be for the train of
General Fugi to be broken up by the loss of the two carriages I had
claimed, when in stalked the old Russian commandant and blew these
apologies sky high by declaring that these carriages had nothing to do
with General Fugi's train; that they were unemployed, and they were
mine. I decided to strengthen the guard to eighteen men on each
carriage, and offered protection to the railwaymen who shunted them to
my train. The Japanese soldiers followed the carriages on to my train,
so that we had the strange sight of a row of Tommies with fixed bayonets
on the cars, and a row of Japanese soldiers on the ground guarding the
same carriages. No officer came to give them open instructions, but the
Jap soldiers disappeared one at a time until the Tommies were left in
undisputed possession.

We returned to my car to find it guarded by Chinese soldiers. I asked
the reason, and was informed that at an earlier stage of this incident a
Chinese officer had been to my car with a note to inform me that the
great friendship which the Chinese always bore to the great English
nation made it impossible for them to stand by and allow their friends
to be attacked while passing through Chinese territory. I thanked them
for their friendship, and suggested that Englishmen were always capable
of protecting themselves in any part of the world, wherever their duty
took them; but they would listen to nothing, and remained on guard until
my train moved out of the station.

I do not suppose there was at any time real danger of a collision
between the different forces at Manchulli, but it had the appearance of
a very ugly episode that might have developed into one of international
importance. I took my stand for the sole purpose of maintaining the
dignity of the British Army. Other incidents connected with this small
dispute about officer accommodation, yet having nothing to do with it,
made me determined to carry my point.

During these proceedings I noticed my liaison officer in angry dispute
with two Japanese officers against a truck carrying the Union Jack as an
indication of the nationality of the train. They were pointing to the
flag in such a manner that I saw at once the dispute was about this
offending emblem. When the Japanese officers had moved away I called
Colonel Frank to me and inquired the cause of dispute. He said: "I can
understand the contempt of the Japanese for our Russia; she is down and
is sick, but why they should wish to insult their Ally, England, I
cannot understand. The Japanese officers who have just left me inquired
where the English commander got his authority to carry an English flag
on his train. I answered it was an English train carrying an English
battalion to Omsk, and no authority was necessary. The Japanese officers
replied that they considered the flying of any other flag than theirs in
Manchuria or Siberia an insult to Japan. I told them they were fools,
that if the English commander had heard their conversation (they both
spoke in Russian) he would demand an apology. At which they grinned and
departed." We tried every means to find the two officers, but were
unable to do so. This was the atmosphere in which we discussed the
smaller subject, and may explain the obstinacy of both sides; at any
rate, it had something to do with my determination.

We arrived at Chita without further incident of importance. Bread and
horse exercise delayed us one whole day, and inability to secure engines
part of another, until in desperation I went with a squad of men to the
sheds and forced an engine-driver to take out his engine, I myself
riding on the tender, where I nearly lost my sight with hot debris from
the funnel, while Major Browne, who stood sentinel beside the driver,
had holes scorched in his uniform. This act of violence secured not only
an engine for my train, but for the others also.

I had broken my glasses, and it was necessary to secure others. I walked
to the town and called at the shop of a jeweller and optician, with whom
we conversed. Other customers joined in the talk, and we were here
informed of the murder of the present owner's mother during the
Bolshevik occupation of the town. The Soviet Commisar, with Red
soldiers, visited the shop one day to loot the stock. The mother, an old
lady over sixty years of age who was then looking after the business,
protested against the robbery of her property. The commisar ordered one
of the Red Guard to bayonet her, which he did. They then proceeded to
remove everything of value, locked up the premises with the dead woman
still lying on the shop floor, and for several days refused permission
to her neighbours to give her decent burial on the plea that she was a
counter-revolutionist. It was evident from the appearance of the place
that the Red soldiers were pretty expert at this sort of business; but
stories like this are so numerous that it is nauseating to repeat them.

The next point of interest was Lake Baikal, or as it is more correctly
described by the Russians, the "Baikal Sea." We approached this famous
lake on a very cold Sunday evening, and long before we reached its
shores the clear cold depths of the water gave evidence of its presence
in the changed atmosphere. A furious gale was blowing across the lake
from the west, which lashed huge waves into fury and foam as they beat
in endless confusion on the rockbound shore. Blinding snow mixed with
the spray gave the inky blackness of the night a weird and sombre
appearance. Our Cossack attendant, Marca, droned a folk-song about the
wonders of the Baikal, which, when interpreted by my liaison officer,
fitted the scene to a fraction. We put up the double windows, listed the
doors and turned in for the night. I was fearful that we should leave
the lake before morning and so fail to get a daylight view of this most
interesting part of our journey. We all awoke early to find the scene so
changed as to appear almost miraculous.

The strange light of these northern zones was gently stealing over an
immense sea of clear, perfectly calm, glassy water, which enabled us to
locate the whiter coloured rocks at enormous depths. A fleecy line of
cloud hung lazily over the snow-capped mountains. The Great Bear nearly
stood on his head, and the Pole Star seemed to be almost over us. The
other stars shone with icy cold brilliance and refused to vanish, though
the sun had begun to rise. And such a rising! We could not see that
welcome giver of warmth and life, but the beautiful orange and purple
halo embraced half the world. From its centre shot upwards huge, long
yellow streamers which penetrated the darkness surrounding the stars and
passed beyond into never-ending space. Gradually these streamers took a
more slanting angle until they touched the highest peaks and drove the
cloud lower and lower down the side of the mountains. I have been on
the Rigi under similar conditions, but there is nothing in the world
like an autumn sunrise on Lake Baikal. I stopped the train ostensibly to
allow water to be obtained for breakfast, but really to allow the men to
enjoy what was in my opinion the greatest sight in the world. Some of
the men were as entranced as myself, while others (including officers)
saw nothing but plenty of clean fresh water for the morning ablutions.
We all have our several tastes even in His Majesty's Army.

Rumour says there are exactly the same fish to be found in Lake Baikal
as in the sea, with other varieties which represent ordinary fresh-water
types. I do not believe there is any authority for these statements. Sea
gulls of every known category are certainly to be found there, and wild
duck in variety and numbers to satisfy the most exacting sportsman.

Passing along this wonderful panorama for some hours we arrived at
Baikal. The maps supplied to me show the railway as making a bee line
from the south of the lake to Irkutsk. This is not so; the line does not
deviate an inch from the western shores of the lake until it touches the
station. Baikal is reached nearly opposite the point at which the
railway strikes the lake on the eastern side. The lake is fed by the
River Selengha, which drains the northern mountains and plains of
Mongolia. No river of importance enters it on the north except the
short, high Anghara; in fact, the rivers Armur and Lenha start from
quite near its northern and eastern extremities. It is drained on the
west by the famous River Anghara, which rises near Baikal, and enters
the Polar Sea at a spot so far north as to be uninhabitable, except for
the white bears who fight for the possession of icebergs.

Baikal had been the scene of a titanic struggle between the
Czecho-Slovak forces and the Bolsheviks, who had in case of defeat
planned the complete and effective destruction of the line by blowing up
the numerous tunnels alongside the lake, which it must have taken at
least two years to repair. The Czechs moved so rapidly, however, that
the enemy were obliged to concentrate at Baikal for the defence of their
own line of communication. Before they had made up their minds that they
were already defeated a lucky Czech shot struck their store of dynamite
and blew the station, their trains, and about three hundred of their men
to smithereens. The remainder retreated off the line in a southerly
direction, and after many days' pursuit were lost in the forests which
form the chief barrier between Siberia and Mongolia, to emerge later on
an important point on the railway near Omsk.

We stopped at Baikal for water and fuel, and examined the damage done by
the explosion. The great iron steamer which used to be employed to
convey the train from one side of the lake to the other was almost
destroyed, its funnels and upper works being wrenched and twisted beyond
repair. But out from every crevice of her hull and from every broken
carriage came German and Austrian prisoners of war dressed in every
conceivable style of uniform. There was no guard of any description, but
they all appeared to be under the direction of a young German officer,
who saluted very stiffly as we passed. No doubt existed amongst these
Germans (so I heard from our men later) that we were tramping towards
Germany and certain death. Not one would believe but that Germany would
win the war, and destroy not only England, but also America. They had no
feelings about France, nor would they consider her as other than an
already half-digested morsel. Quartermaster-Captain Boulton put it to
one prisoner: "But suppose Germany were defeated?" "Then," said the
prisoner, "I would never return to Germany again." We fell in with
thousands of German prisoners who all held a most perplexing view of
ourselves. They described us as the only real and bitter enemy of their
country. But the same men would volunteer to work for us rather than for
any other Ally, because they said we treated them fairly and behaved to
them like men, and listened to their grievances. That is something at
any rate.



From Baikal to Irkutsk is a short run down the left bank of the Anghara.
We arrived at Irkutsk about the same time as a small detachment of
Japanese troops, who were acting as a guard to their traders and their
stores, who usually travel with the army. The Japs have very pretty
bugle calls for different military purposes, mostly in the same key,
with a sort of Morse code for the different orders, but a Japanese bugle
band is the most terrible thing in the world of sound. It makes one
either swear or laugh, according to one's taste. They gave us an
exhibition in moving off from the station, which everyone who heard will
never forget. I was rather surprised to find that the Jap traders had
established themselves at Irkutsk, as their headquarters were at Chita,
which was also the centre of their agent, Semianoff. Why they came to
Irkutsk at all is a problem. It was generally understood that some of
the Allies were prepared to concede them only the fairest part of
Siberia up to Lake Baikal. Perhaps they had heard whispers of the
mineral wealth of the Urals.

Irkutsk, situated on the right bank of the Anghara, is a rather fine old
town for Siberia. Its Greek cathedral has a commanding position, and
contests successfully with the Cadet School for supremacy as the
outstanding architectural feature first to catch the eye. The town is
approached by a quaint, low wooden bridge which spans the swiftly
running river. When we saw it the battered remnants of human society
were grimly collecting themselves together after some months of
Bolshevik anarchy and murder. Whole streets were merely blackened ruins,
and trade, which had been at a complete standstill, was just beginning
to show a return to life. Putting out its feelers, it had taken upon
itself a precarious life not yet free from danger. The 25th Battalion
Middlesex Regiment was the only British unit in the country; it had
spread itself out in a remarkable manner, and shown the flag on a front
of 5,000 miles. In spite of its category it had brought confidence and
hope to a helpless people out of all proportion to its strength or

A public banquet (the first since the Revolution) was held ostensibly to
welcome Volagodsky, the Social Revolutionary President of the Siberian
Council, but really to welcome the first British regiment that had ever
entered and fought in Siberia. It was a great occasion, and the first
real evidence I had seen of possible national regeneration. Even here it
was decidedly Separatist, and therefore Japanese in character; a
glorification of Siberia and Siberian efforts, completely ignoring the
efforts of other Russians in the different parts of their Empire.
Evanoff Renoff, the Cossack Ataman, led the panegyric of Siberia, and
the President and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a long, watery-eyed
young man, joined in the chorus. They were doubtless all well pleased
with themselves, and thoroughly enjoying a partial return to the old
conditions. Colonel Frank translated in a whisper all that was said, so
that I got a good hang to the mental atmosphere of this unique
gathering. The toast of their Ally, Great Britain, was the occasion
which brought me to my feet. The band played "Rule Britannia" as a
substitute for "God Save the King," for the simple reason that though
mostly Social Revolutionaries they dared not play a Royalist hymn until
they had tested the feelings of their audience. This gave me my cue. I
laughed at their fears, and informed them that whatever happened, our
anthem, which for the time represented the unity of our race, would be
played by my band at the ceremonial to-morrow, and all the Bolsheviks in
Russia would not be powerful enough to prevent it. From this I led to
the flag, another great emblem of racial unity. I called attention to
the entire absence of a Russian flag from Vladivostok to Irkutsk, and
asked, "Is this the country of the once great and mighty Russia that a
stranger travels over without knowing what country it is?" I suggested
that though we had twenty revolutions I could never imagine Englishmen
being ashamed of the English flag or afraid to call themselves
Englishmen. The translation of my remarks ended in a wonderful ovation,
and I thought the band would never play anything else but the National
Anthem, which it repeated again and again.

My list of telegrams and messages of every kind and character from every
part of Russia and the outside world, together with constant repetition
of the speech in the Press, indicates plainly that from this day began
the resurrection of the Russian soul. Another sign of renewed vigour and
life was the fact that from that day the Russian flag (minus the Crown)
flew from the flagpost over every big station we passed, and on all
public buildings. The Russians are extremely emotional, and I had
managed to strike the right chord the first time.

The day following we marched to the square space surrounding the
cathedral, and I inspected the newly-formed units of the army. Splendid
men with good physique, but slow and stilted in movement. The remnant of
the cadets who had escaped the general massacre was there, a wonderfully
smart set of beautiful boys, who at a distance, looking at their faces
only, I took for girls, much to the disgust of the colonel in charge. It
was altogether a fine and impressive sight, with big crowds and the fine
cathedral as a background. With the "Present" and "The King" at the end,
every man present uncovered, and an old Russian lady knelt and kissed my
adjutant's hand and blessed us as "saviours," while the commandant asked
for cheers for "the only country which came to our help without
conditions." I wonder how that will pan out?

We were entertained at the British Consul's, followed by a concert at
night. It was terribly cold, and no droshkies were to be had. We had to
walk to the theatre in a blinding snowstorm. At 2 A.M. we started on our
last lap.

The sentiments of the people changed completely every few hundred
miles. After leaving Irkutsk we soon discovered that we were in enemy
territory, and the few weeks, and in some cases days, that had elapsed
since the retirement of the Bolshevik Commissars had left the country
the prey of the desperado. Let there be no mistake, Bolshevism lived by
the grace of the old regime. The peasant had his land, but the Russian
workman had nothing. Not one in a thousand could tell one letter of the
alphabet from another. He was entirely neglected by the State; there was
not a single effective State law dealing with the labour conditions or
the life of the worker in the whole Russian code. His condition was, and
will remain, in spite of the Revolution, utterly neglected and hopeless.
He has not the power to think or act for himself, and is consequently
the prey of every faddist scamp who can string a dozen words together
intelligently. There are no trade unions, because there is no one
amongst them sufficiently intelligent either to organise or manage them.
All the alleged representatives of Labour who have from time to time
visited England pretending to represent the Russian workmen are so many
deputational frauds. There cannot be such a delegate from the very
nature of things, as will be seen if the facts are studied on the spot.
The lower middle classes, especially the professional teacher class,
have invented the figment of organised Russian labour for their own

The condition of the Russian workman is such that he can only formulate
his grievances by employing others to do it for him. Hence there has
come into existence numerous professional councils, who for a
consideration visit the workers in their homes and wherever they
congregate, and compile their complaints and grievances. But these
professionals always point out that the rectification of small points
like rates of wages and working hours are a waste of time and energy;
that the real work is to leave the conditions so bad that, in sheer
despair, the worker will rise and destroy capitalism in a night, and
have a perfect millennium made ready for the next morning.

The poor, ignorant, uneducated, neglected Russian workman is perfect and
well-prepared soil for such propaganda. He found himself bound hand and
foot in the meshes of this professional element, who did not belong to
his class and, except in theory, knew nothing of his difficulties. When
this professional element had misled, bamboozled and deserted him, in a
frenzy of despair he determined to destroy this thing called education,
and made the ability to read and write one of the proofs of enmity to
his class on the same principle that our uneducated workmen of the first
half of the nineteenth century destroyed machinery and other progressive
innovations, whose purpose they did not understand. There would be less
chatter about revolution if our people could only understand what it
means to go through the horrors that have destroyed Russia and her
people more effectively than the most ruthless invasion.

We stopped at a station near a mining village largely peopled with
emigrant Chinese workmen. We removed the Bolshevik flag from the
flag-post, and insisted upon the Russian flag being run up in its stead.
A Russian woman told us to go back, and when we asked her why, she said,
"Well, it does not matter; our men will soon find enough earth to bury
you." But another Russian woman thanked us for coming, and hoped we were
not too late to save a country that was sick unto death.

That night we ran into Zema station, where we came to a sudden stop. I
sent my liaison officer to find the cause, and he informed me that a
body of men were beside the engine and threatening to shoot the driver
if he moved another foot. I ordered the "Alarm" to be sounded, and
instantly 400 British soldiers tumbled out of the trucks. Taking their
prearranged positions, they fixed bayonets and awaited orders. My
carriage was the last vehicle of the train. I walked forward to find the
cause of our enforced stoppage, and was just in time to see in the
darkness a squad of armed men leaving the station. I took possession of
the station and telegraphs, and then heard from the officials that
Bolshevik agents had come to the town and had persuaded the workmen to
leave work, to take arms and cut the line to prevent the Allies moving
forward, and await the arrival of the Bolshevik force which had retired
from Baikal. This force had worked its way along the Mongolian frontier,
and was now feeling its way towards the line to destroy the bridge which
carries the railway over the River Ocka at a point about three versts
from Zema. I placed guards around and in the railway works, engine
sheds, and approaches, and discovering telegrams still passing between
the Bolsheviks and the inhabitants, I occupied by force the post and
telegraph office in the town. Orders were issued that all men must
pledge themselves not to interfere with the trains, and return to work
by 6 A.M., or they would be dealt with under martial law. Two hours
elapsed, during which time my other trains arrived, with machine-gun
section complete, and the whole force were disposed to receive attack.

The troops surrounded the house of the leader of the movement, but the
bird had flown. I found some Bolshevik literature advocating the
wholesale destruction of the _bourgeoisie_ and _intelligenzia_ (I forget
which they put first), also 3,600 roubles, which I gave back to the
wife, saying, "That is a gift from me to you." This act disgusted the
local chief of the gendarmerie, who assured me that it was German money
and ought to be confiscated. I had no doubt it was, but then I was
English, and a Hampshire man at that. Then the usual teacher arrived and
asked if he would be allowed to speak to the "Anglisky Polkovnika."
Receiving an affirmative, he entered and began the conversation. He
naively confessed that if he had known it was an "Anglisky" train he
would have allowed it to pass. They had read my order as to their pledge
to return to work, and wanted to know what I proposed to do if they did
not do so. I answered that after having taken up arms against us they
could expect no mercy, and that if they did not obey my orders every
leader I could find I would shoot. The teacher inquired if I would
allow the men to be called together for consultation by their
prearranged signal at the works. I agreed, if they came without arms.
Soon after, the most awful sound came from a huge buzzer. It was now
midnight, and the air was rent by a wailing sound that grew in volume,
to die away into a world sob. Every Britisher there was affected in some
peculiar fashion; to myself it was like nothing so much as a mighty
groan from a nation in distress. Colonel Frank, my Russian guide,
philosopher and friend, ran from the table when the sound began, and
paced the car in evident anguish, and as it died away exclaimed, "Poor
Russia!" and I had felt the same thought running through my mind. All my
men expressed themselves in similar sentiments and as never wanting to
hear it again.

My business was to get out of the place as quickly as possible, but to
leave the line safe. The small militia force was quite inadequate to
deal with a population fully armed. Hence I ordered the surrender of all
arms by the inhabitants, and allowed twelve hours in which this was to
be done.

Six A.M. arrived, and my officers reported all men at work except eight,
and these reported later and asked forgiveness, which was readily
granted. I then informed the management that I intended to call a
meeting of the men and hear their grievances. The management tried to
dissuade me from my purpose, but I at once ordered their attendance in
the headquarters of the works at 10 A.M., when I would hear the men's
complaints. Promptly to time the work finished, and the men crowded to
the spot selected. A British sentry with fixed bayonet and loaded rifle
stood on either side as I sat at the table, while others were placed in
selected positions about the building. I called the managers and heads
of all the departments first, and warned them that I had been forced to
take this trouble into my own hands, that I intended to settle it, and
that if they interfered with the men in any way, either by harsh
measures or victimisation, I would place them under court-martial just
the same as I would any workman who prevented the smooth working of the
railway; in fact, they being presumably more intelligent, would find no
mercy. This information caused quite a commotion amongst all concerned.
I asked the men to state their grievances. The first workman said he had
no economic grievance; his was political. He had been told the Allies
were counter-revolutionists, and as such should be destroyed. Two or
three protested against this, and said they came out on economic
grounds. They said their objection was to piece-work. I tried to get a
statement from them that their wages were low, but they would not
consent to this, admitting that their pay for the same work was five
times what it was in 1917.

I came to the conclusion that it was more of a military movement on the
part of the Bolshevik leaders than a strike such as we understand it in
England. I gave my decision that the men's leaders were to be tried by
General Field Court-Martial. The men's committee then said that they had
never had the chance to meet anyone in authority before, that they were
anxious not to appear as enemies to the great English people, that if I
would carry out no further repressive action against them, they would
continue to work until the end of the war. They heard that Bolsheviks
were approaching their town, and knew the tortures in store for them if
they were found continuing to help the Allies in their advance to the
Urals. If I would secure protection for them they would sign an
agreement never to strike until the war in Russia had ended. I believed
them, and the agreement was signed, but I insisted upon disarmament.

That evening the time limit in which the arms were to be handed in
expired. We were informed by the local militia that some arms were
handed in voluntarily, but many more remained.

The following morning a train with General Knox and his Staff pulled
into the station. I reported the whole occurrence to the general, and
how I had received and sent forward notice of his coming and the object
of his journey. It was here that he informed me of the outrage which the
Japanese officers had perpetrated upon him, in spite of the fact that a
big Union Jack was painted on the side of each carriage of his train.

The inhabitants of Zema were just congratulating themselves on having
got rid of the "Anglisky" when they suddenly found machine guns in
position ready to spray all their main thoroughfares with lead should
the occasion arise. Sections of the town were searched, house by house,
until the piles of arms necessitated transport to remove them. Real
sporting guns which could be used for no other purpose, and the owner
of which was guaranteed by the local police, were returned. In some
houses dumps of looted fabrics from other towns were taken possession
of, and altogether work for the courts was found for the next two

The echo of Zema travelled far and wide, and gave the authorities an
object-lesson how to tackle a cancer as deadly as it was devilish. When
Kerensky destroyed the old Russian army sixteen million ignorant and
uneducated soldiers took their rifles and ammunition home. This was the
insoluble problem of every attempt to re-establish order in the Russian
dominions. The Middlesex Regiment made the first plunge at Zema, and
others soon followed along the path indicated. We re-armed the local
militia, and we took the remainder of the confiscated arms to Omsk,
where they were taken over by the Russian authorities for the new
Russian army. I wired to Irkutsk for reinforcements for the local
militia, as I did not think them strong enough to deal with the
possibilities of the situation. The commandant at Irkutsk wired that he
had information which proved there was no truth in the rumoured approach
of Bolshevik forces, which reply I knew from the experience I had gained
in Russian ways merely indicated his determination not to weaken his own

At midnight I started on my further journey. About a fortnight later I
received a despairing message from the local militia chief at Zema for
help; he said he was nearly surrounded by the Baikal Bolshevik
contingent, which had suddenly appeared. I took the message to Russian
Headquarters at Omsk, and called attention to my wire to Irkutsk and the
refusal to protect this part of the line. Later I received a report from
the commander of the Russian force sent to deal with the situation. He
said that the Bolshevik leader had come into Zema expecting to receive
material and military help from the people. He found them disarmed and
unfriendly, and determined to take no part in further outrages against
established order. He wreaked vengeance upon some of his false friends,
and was then surprised by Government troops, who dispersed his forces,
killing 180 and capturing 800, together with ten machine guns and 150

As a rule, Bolshevik contingents were easily disposed of in a town. They
usually looted everything and everybody. Officers were elected from day
to day, with the result that such a thing as discipline did not exist.
Still, had that party arrived when I was in Zema we should have had a
pitched battle worth a lifetime, for as it turned out they had many
machine guns, while we had only four; but there would never have been
any doubt about the result, for though we were only a "garrison
battalion," the steadiness of my men under fire had hitherto been

We had been passing through hundreds of miles of wonderful virgin
forests for the last two weeks, with only an occasional opening for
village cultivation and an occasional log town of more or less
importance. The hills and valleys as we approached Krasnoyarsk, covered
with pine trees and frozen rivers, looked like a huge never-ending
Christmas card. At last we arrived at Krasnoyarsk, a large, straggling
town of great importance on the River Yenisei. As we approached we
passed miles of derelict war material--tractors, wagons, guns of every
kind and calibre all cast aside as useless, there being no place where
minor defects could be repaired. Some had no apparent defects, but there
they lay, useful and useless, a monument to the entire absence of
organisation in everything Russian.

I had suffered a slight indisposition, so Major Browne deputised for me,
and inspected the Russian and Czech guards of honour drawn up to welcome
the troops on their arrival. I found the town in a very disturbed
condition, and as it was necessary to guard the great bridge, I accepted
the suggestion to quarter a company under the command of Captain
Eastman, O.B.E., in the excellent barracks which had been prepared for
my unit. This place had been originally fixed upon as the station for
the whole battalion, but important events were happening in Omsk. Our
High Commissioner, Sir Charles Eliot, and the Chief of the British
Military Mission, General Knox, had already arrived there, and required
a guard, hence I was ordered to proceed with the remainder of my
battalion. We remained in Krasnoyarsk for two days, and marched through
the town and saluted the British Consulate. On the last evening the
usual banquet was held in our honour, and is worth a few words because
of an incident which created great interest at the time. The guests were
made up of many officers and others in uniform, and also civilian
representatives of the Town Council, the district Zemstvo, and other
public organisations. The usual fraternal speeches and toasts were
given, and not more than the usual six speakers attempted to deliver an
address at one time. A number of dark-featured, glowering civilians sat
at a table almost opposite to myself, men who by their attire and sombre
looks appeared to be unsuited to the banquet atmosphere, and out of
place amongst the gorgeous uniforms of Cossack Atamans and Russian
generals. They seemed to take not the slightest interest in the
proceedings except for a few moments when certain of my words were being
translated. All seemed bent on the business of the evening and a good
dinner, indicating a return to normal conditions. A Social Revolutionary
representative of the town delivered a furious tirade, which I could get
my officer to translate only in part, but even that part showed me the
world-wide division of opinion amongst my Russian hosts.

The orchestra, composed of German and Austrian prisoners, discoursed
sweet music during the evening, alternately listening to the fiery
eloquence of Cossack and Tartar. A Cossack officer, who had drunk a
little vodka, rose and gave an order to the band, but the prisoners only
got out about three notes. What was in those notes, Heaven only knows!
Instantly the whole banqueting hall was a scene of indescribable
confusion. Tartar and Cossack shouted with glee; older Russian officers
ordered the band to stop, and vainly tried to silence the disorder. The
dark-visaged and apparently unemotional civilians threw off their
armour of unconcern, and hurled epithets and shook clenched fists and
defiance at their military fellow-countrymen. Then they all rushed out
of the building in a body, hissing and spluttering like a badly
constructed fuse in a powder trail. It was like the explosion of a small
magazine. I had no idea what had happened, but took in the full
significance of the scene I had witnessed when told that the notes which
had acted like a bomb formed the first bar of "God Save the Tsar." A few
miles farther on the Autocrat of All the Russias had already met an
ignominious death by being thrown down a disused pit near the line
dividing Asia and Europe. In death, as in life, he remained the divider
of his people.

The trains started off during the night, and on the evening of the next
day we arrived at Hachinsk, where a Russian guard did the usual military
honours, and a sad-faced, deep-eyed priest presented me with bread and
salt, as becomes a Tartar who welcomes a friend. It was lucky for me
that I had some little training in public speaking, and that "Polkovnika
Franka" could make such excellent translations, or we might not have
made such a good impression as I flatter myself we did on some

At last we arrived at Omsk, the end of our journey, having passed in a
zigzag direction almost round the world. A few miles to the Urals and
Europe again--so near and yet so far!



As Omsk, unlike so many other towns of Siberia, did not care to pay the
usual toll demanded by the railway prospectors, it is situated several
versts from the main trunk line. To overcome this inconvenience a branch
line was afterwards run up to the town itself. The date of our arrival
was October 18, and a right royal welcome awaited us. The station was
decorated with the flags of all nations, the Russian for the first time
predominating. We were met by General Matkofsky, the commander of the
district, and his Staff, who welcomed us on behalf of the new Russian
army, by M. Golovaehoff, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the
representatives of the municipal authorities and the co-operative
societies. The women of Russia presented us with bread and salt, and,
generally speaking, the people of Omsk gave us a real Russian welcome.
The ceremonial over, the men were taken to the Cadet School for tea and
entertainment, while the Russian officers regaled the Middlesex officers
at a feast in the Officers' Club. We were introduced to all and sundry,
and began to mix wonderfully well. If we had laid ourselves out for it,
we might have visited every decent Russian home in Omsk. As it was, we
soon became so much in demand that most of us had in a short time
formed lasting friendships with a very charming set of people. Their
welcome was doubtless tinged with relief at the security afforded by the
presence of well-disciplined troops. The wife of a Russian general told
me that she felt as though for the first time she could sleep peacefully
in her bed. The little cadet son of another officer gave permission for
his loaded rifle to be taken from the side of his bed, where it had
rested every night since the Bolshevik Revolution and the cadet
massacres had commenced. If I understand the Russian character denials
of this may be expected, but it is a fact that the presence of those 800
English soldiers gave a sense of confidence and security to the people
of Omsk that was pathetic in its simplicity and warmth. However
suspicious of each other as a rule the Russians may be, there is no
question that when their confidence is given, it is given generously and
without reservation. As to its lasting qualities, that has to be proved,
but at the time it is something real and tangible, and no amount of
trouble taken for one's comfort is too great.

On the date of arrival I had only a few moments for conversation with
Sir Charles Eliot, our High Commissioner, on the political situation. I
gathered from him and his Staff that a desperate effort was being made
to join the forces of the Directorate of Five, which stood as the
All-Russian Government and received its authority from the Constituent
Assembly at Ufa--largely Social Revolutionary in character--and the
Siberian Government, the outcome of the Siberian Districts Duma, which
met at Tomsk and was largely reactionary, with a small mixture of
Socialist opinion. The English and French representatives were genuinely
anxious that a workable compromise should be made between these two
groups and a Cabinet formed that would give confidence to moderate
Russian opinion, and so command Allied recognition with reasonable
prospects of success. This very desirable ambition of the Allied
"politicals" had the sympathy of every friend of Russia, but advice is
one thing, accomplishment another. It was impossible to expect that the
effects of hundreds of years of tyranny and bad government could be
swept away by the waving of a diplomatic wand. The Siberian Government
was largely composed of the "old gang," Revolutionary and Royalist, and
derived its support almost exclusively from the desire of the people to
escape further bloodshed; it was guarded by the Royalist Cossack clans,
as lawless as they are brave. The Ufa Directorate derived its authority
from the moderate Social Revolutionary party composed of the
"Intelligenzia"--republican, visionary, and impractical. Kerensky was,
from all accounts, a perfect representative of this class, verbose and
useless so far as practical reconstructive work was concerned. This
class blamed the unswerving loyalty of the Cossacks and the old army
officers for all the crimes of which the Tsars were guilty, and had
hunted them like rats in cellars and streets during the worst days of
the Second Revolution. The officer and Cossack class cursed Kerensky and
the Social Revolutionaries for destroying the old army and letting free
the forces of anarchy and Bolshevism, which had destroyed the State and
had massacred the manhood of Russia in an orgy of violence and hate.

There should be no mistake made as to the apportionment of blame.
Kerensky is considered by all classes of Russian society as the cause of
all their calamities. They think, rightly or wrongly, that at the
supreme moment when the destiny of his race and country was placed in
his hands he proved traitor to the trust; that had he possessed
one-tenth of the courage of either Lenin or Trotsky millions of Russians
would have been saved from worse than death.

To combine these hostile and divergent elements into a united party for
the resurrection of Russia seemed impossible to me, as it did to one
other Britisher, Mr. David Frazer, the _Times_ Pekin correspondent; but
the "politicals" thought otherwise. That they were guided by the highest
motives and that they gave of their very best in the interest of the
Russian people no one who has the slightest knowledge of the high
personal character of our representatives could doubt for a moment, but
they tried to accomplish the unattainable. The most that could be said
of their policy is that it was worth attempting. Try they did, and under
the influence of the Bolshevik guns booming along the Urals and of
Royalist conspiracies at Chita a piece of paper was produced with a
number of names upon it which seemed to bear the resemblance of a
working arrangement between these two opposites.

I am writing this within three weeks of the occurrence, and may modify
my views later, but for the life of me I cannot understand the
satisfaction of our "politicals" with their work. They "downed tools" at
once and disappeared from the scene of their triumph as though the few
names on a piece of paper had solved the whole problem of the future of
Russia. It would be mighty interesting to know the nature of their
communications to their respective Governments. One thing, however, had
been done which was fated to have important after-effects. Vice-Admiral
Koltchak had been brought into the new Council of Ministers with the
title of Minister for War. I had never met the officer, and knew nothing
about him or his reputation, and merely lumped him in with the rest as
an additional unit in an overcrowded menagerie. Frazer and I had many
talks about these events, but we could fasten on to nothing real in the
situation except danger.

On November 6, 1918, we were all invited to a banquet in honour of this
new All-Russian Government. It was to be the climax of all our efforts
and a tangible evidence of the successful accomplishment of a great
diplomatic task. I was rather late, and the ante-rooms were already
filled with soldiers and diplomats in grand uniforms with glittering
swords and decorations.

I watched this peculiar and intensely highly-strung crowd with the
greatest interest, and except for one figure--a sort of cross between a
Methodist parson and a Plymouth Brother--was struck by the complete
absence of personality amongst the people present. The parsonified
person referred to turned out to be the Social Revolutionary,
Volagodsky, President of the Siberian Council, who had now transferred
his love from Siberia to the whole of Russia. But as my liaison officer
was repeating the names of those present a smart little energetic figure
entered the room. With eagle eyes he took in the whole scene at a
glance. The other officers had bowed gracefully to all their friends and
gallantly kissed the ladies' hands, while around them buzzed the
conversation. For an instant the buzz ceased, during which the brown
figure with the dark, clear-cut face shook hands with an officer friend
and departed. The impression on my mind was that I had seen a small,
vagrant, lonely, troubled soul without a friend enter unbidden to a

The new President of the Council of Ministers, Avkzentieff, presided at
the banquet, and as we sat down I found myself at the end of the head
table, which gave me a good view of the stranger I had seen in the
vestibule sitting second round the corner. The dinner was good, the
vodka gave warmth to the blood and made a very pleasant contrast to the
"60 below" outside. Avkzentieff led the speeches. Immediately my mind
flew to Hyde Park Corner, and then to the Lyceum stage with Irving in
"The Bells." He spoke with assumed sincerity, cutting the air with his
hands in the manner that a Cossack sweeps off a head with his blade. He
sank his voice and hissed his words in a hoarse stage whisper, while
pointing to the ceiling with a dramatic forefinger. In other words, he
was the best actor it had been my pleasure to see for a long time--a
second edition of his more famous colleague, the futile Kerensky.
Little did I dream that within a few days I would beg for this man's
life and that the Middlesex Regiment would shield him from eternity.

Then followed a speech by General Knox (Chief of the British Military
Mission), who implored all classes of Russian thought to pull together
to establish an Army and a Government capable of supporting law and
public order, a speech full of patriotism and very much to the point.
Then came General Bolderoff, Commander-in-Chief of the new Russian army
and military member of the Ufa Directorate. He had the appearance of a
big, brave, blundering Russian officer. Not too much brain, cunning, but
not clever. I should, however, give him credit for more than ordinary
honesty. Later Admiral Koltchak spoke--just a few short definite
sentences. Very few cheers or shouts greeted this orator. He seemed more
lonely than ever, but presented a personality that dominated the whole
gathering. There was the usual passing round and signing of menus. I
sent mine direct to the admiral for his signature, and when he
automatically passed it to General Bolderoff I said "Neat," and it was
returned with the solitary name of this solitary man. I was now
absolutely satisfied that the new Government was a combination that
refused to mix, and took the most stringent precautions to see that my
unit did not become involved in its impending overthrow. I, however,
made an important discovery at this congratulatory banquet, namely, that
Russia still had one man who was able to rescue her from anarchy.

The business of Omsk went on much as usual, but Omsk society became
more subdued in its whisperings. Clique countered clique, and
conspirators undermined conspirators, while a peculiar tension hung over

During the negotiations connected with the formation of this Government
a very serious hitch occurred which at one time threatened the whole
project with disaster. General Bolderoff was known as a Social
Revolutionary in politics. Through him the Social Revolutionaries had
practically supreme control of the new army. Avkzentieff and Co., aiming
at Social Revolutionary control of all the forces of the new Government,
demanded that a Social Revolutionary should also control the
newly-organised militia, which were to act as a sort of military police
under the new regime. This was resented by the more moderate members of
both groups, as it would have practically placed all power in the hands
of one group, and that not distinguished for administrative ability or
caution. In addition to which, the very claim made the moderates
suspicious as to the use for which such power was to be employed. The
presence of the Allies and the determination to form some sort of
administration overcame these suspicions, and the moderates gave way and
left both forces under the command of the Social Revolutionary group.

The Allies were pushing forward supplies intended for the new armies
facing the Terrorists along the Ural front, but it was soon discovered
that such arms were being deflected from their proper destination. The
front line was kept denuded of arms and equipment of which it was in
greatest need, while the militia in the rear, and under the Social
Revolutionary control, were being regimented and fitted out with
everything they required. The appeals of the front-line generals to
Bolderoff, the Social Revolutionary Commander-in-Chief, fell on deaf
ears, and things were getting into a serious condition. Admiral
Koltchak, as Minister for War, presented the appeals to General
Bolderoff, and backed them in a very determined manner. Bolderoff was
equally outspoken, declaring that the appeals from the front were
fictitious, and concluded one of these wrangles by informing the admiral
that it was not his business; that the Social Revolutionary group had
been forced by one of the Allies to accept the admiral as a member of
the Government; that they had done so merely to secure Allied support
and recognition, but he would remain a member of the Government only so
long as he did not interfere in business from which, by a resolution of
the Directorate, he was expressly excluded. Admiral Koltchak thereupon
tendered his resignation, but was later prevailed upon to withdraw it so
as to keep up a resemblance of harmony before the Allied Powers. He,
however, insisted upon making a personal inspection of the front, for
which permission was granted, as much to get him out of Omsk as for the
proper performance of his ministerial duties.



On November 4 I received a telegram from Mr. Preston, British Consul at
Ekaterinburg, asking that a detachment might be sent to attend on
November 9 at the inauguration of Czech national life and the ceremonial
presentation of colours to four Czech battalions of the Czech National
Army. I consulted General Knox, and he having received a similar request
from General Gaida, commanding at Ekaterinburg, that a detachment should
visit the several fronts over the Urals for the purpose of giving moral
support to the war-weary veterans of our Allies, it was decided that I
should take the regimental band and a guard of one hundred picked men
for this purpose. Both Czech and Russian were sad at the long weary wait
between the promised help of England and the appearance of the first
khaki-clad soldier on the scene.

All preparations had been made for my journey, and I was timed to start
from Omsk at 3 P.M. on Friday. Early on Friday I was informed that
Admiral Koltchak, the Minister for War, was also travelling to the Czech
ceremony, and, as engines were very scarce, would I allow his carriage
to be attached to my train? I readily consented. About midday a further
note informed me that the admiral's own car was found to be full of the
wives and children of his old naval officers, that there were no other
cars, but they hoped to be able to get another by 7 P.M. The result was
that we did not turn out of the town station till that hour. We had only
got to the lower station, less than a mile on our journey, when the
officials informed me that something had broken on the admiral's
carriage which would take two hours to repair. I felt there was a
deliberate attempt being made by someone to prevent either the admiral
or myself from performing our journey. At 11 P.M. I walked out to the
workshops where the repairs were being effected, and sat on an anvil
until 4 A.M., through a horrible Siberian night, while a good-tempered
"Russky" blacksmith accomplished his part of the task.

No Russian official would dream of doing a straight thing if a crooked
one would accomplish his purpose. So "Polkovnika" Frank telegraphed in
my name to all the railway section commandants ordering them under pain
of summary execution to clear their part of the line and prepare express
engines at each stopping-place ready to haul on to the admiral's train
the moment it came in. We bribed an old Russian _provodnik_ to get us a
Russian flag to fasten on the admiral's carriage, which he did, and we
became the first Russian train that had dared to carry a Russian flag
for nearly a year. We also had two Union Jacks, and altogether the
Russian officials became suspicious that here at any rate was a
combination of colour to which the greatest respect must be paid.

The result was that we finally started on our journey at 7 A.M. instead
of 7 P.M., just twelve hours late, and arrived at our destination one
hour in front of time. Guards of honour awaited us, and breakfast of a
more or less scanty character. A presentation of bread and salt, on a
fine wooden dish on which the ladies had painted a picture of the old
monastery under whose walls the great Czech national ceremony was to
take place. We marched past the building in which the Tsar Nicholas II
and his family had been imprisoned and from which they were taken to
die. I am anxious not to believe the untold horrors alleged to have been
inflicted on the female members of his family, but they are told
categorically. It is best to believe nothing one hears in Russia, and
what one actually sees is not always what it seems.

We saluted the flag at the Consulate, where our great good comrade and
fellow-countryman, Consul Preston, gave warmth and good cheer to man and
beast. Suddenly we turned to the right and entered a huge square,
already surrounded by Czech troops, infantry, artillery and cavalry. It
was indeed a great sight. On the highest corner of the square a platform
was erected, on the right of which we were given the post of honour, and
for some strange reason which I could not understand were asked to play
the British National Anthem, when the whole Czech Army came to the
"Present!" as General Gaida and his Staff, with the colours, entered the
square. I felt that we were celebrating the birth of a nation. The scene
had that peculiar solemnity about it that makes the moment feel
pregnant with world events. One of the units was my old Ussurie
battalion, and our old chum, Captain (now Colonel) Stephan, was the
proudest man there, as he bore from the hands of the priest the
newly-consecrated colours of his country. What quantities of beer we
shall drink together if I ever see him in his dear Prague, thinking of
our thirsty days in Eastern Siberia!

It was my first introduction to the dashing young Czech officer, General
Gaida, who by sheer pluck had played such an important part in cutting a
way for his army from west to east. We had the usual banquet, at which
Admiral Koltchak delivered the first important speech since his
appointment as Minister for War. I gave expression to the delight of my
own country at the birth of new nations and the resurrection of freedom
amongst the subject people of the world. I also gave expression to my
pleasure that the first act of the new Russian Minister for War was to
visit his army at the front and make himself personally acquainted with
the conditions of the Russian soldiers who were so gallantly fighting to
protect the people and the State from violence and anarchy.

The ceremony over, we started at once for the Kunghure front, and the
early morning found us sliding rapidly down the European side of the
Urals. Huge forests, all loaded with snow, covered the mountain sides,
and there was a temperature quite impossible for British military
operations. We arrived about 11 A.M. at the headquarters of the army
under the command of General Count Galitzin. We held long conferences
and then lunched in his mess, which was quartered in an eight-wheeled
American truck. An occasional shell exploded first to right and then to
left, but none came very near, and by 2 P.M. the firing died away
altogether. It was decided to march to the advanced outpost and take the
band to give both friend and foe an opportunity to judge a sample of
British music. We got to the extreme point near which a cutting in the
railway gave excellent protection for the band, while the admiral's
Staff and my Middlesex guard went forward to have a look at the enemy.
The band started "Colonel Bogey," then went on to something which I do
not remember, but while we were groping about through machine-gun pits,
etc., the band behind began "Tipperary." That just put the finishing
touch to Bolshevik patience! This famous war tune got on their gunners'
nerves and they began to shell the tune for all they were worth.
Needless to say not a single shell went anywhere near the mark. All
shrieked over our heads and exploded harmlessly among the forest trees;
one, however, dropped near the railway bridge and went off like a
Hampstead squib on a wet bonfire night. It shows an utter lack of
culture among the Bolshevik officers that they could not appreciate good
music after we had taken so much trouble to bring it within their reach.
The band finished and the shelling ended. I expect they fancied they had
frightened my bandsmen, but the fact was they enjoyed the unique
experience immensely.

General Count Galitzin is a very fine type of the officer of the old
regime; an aristocrat to his finger tips, but a fine leader of men, born
to command. I should think there is a big strain of Tartar blood in his
make-up, but he is altogether the sort of man one would prefer to meet
as friend rather than foe. We discussed the possibility of an offensive
in the direction of Perm, from where I humorously suggested we might be
able to rescue the forces of General Poole, which had gone into winter
quarters somewhere in the direction of Archangel. We returned to
Ekaterinburg, and without stopping, proceeded towards the Lisvin front
to meet General Pepelaieff.

We arrived on the Lisvin front about 10 A.M. next day, but did not see
the enemy or hear his guns. This army had been compelled to retire some
60 versts the very day we were discussing an advance on Perm, and its
present position was none too secure. Pepelaieff is a young general, not
more than thirty, but looked a real hard-working soldier. His uniform
was as dirty and worn, though not quite so dilapidated, as the majority
of his soldiers. He had absolute confidence that he could beat the enemy
if his men had rifles and ammunition, which many had not. Half his men
were waiting for the rifles of comrades who might be killed or frozen in
the snow. The conferences were quite businesslike, and Admiral
Koltchak's presence seemed to galvanise the whole army into life and
energy. The "Russky soldat," whose boots had long since disappeared and
whose feet were bound up in bags to protect them from the snow, felt
almost certain that proper boots and clothes would follow from the War
Minister's visit. Pepelaieff came back in my carriage to meet General
Gaida, and the admiral also relished a British soldier's ration as we
discussed things generally, including the proposed advance and the
necessary measures to make it into a victory.

We were to have gone next to the extreme right, where General Verzbitsky
operated on the flank, but the admiral said the condition of the
soldiers was very sad, and his immediate business was to organise the
rear and so secure the means by which the soldier at the front could do
his duty. We saw the ceremonial of the presentation of colours to the
11th Siberian Rifles, a fine proceeding greatly enhanced by the fact
that three officers of the regiment had rescued the colours (originally
presented by Peter the Great) from the Bolshevik Revolutionaries, and as
pedlars and peasants had tramped for months through the Bolshevik lines
and brought them safely to the new regiment.

It was necessary for the admiral to see General Surovey and General
Detriks and their Staffs at Chilliyabinsk, and also to have a look at
the Ufa front. Travelling all night, we arrived at Chilliyabinsk next
morning, and after quite a formal inspection of guards, we adjourned for
lunch. The date I do not remember, but my old friend Colonel Pichon
burst through all etiquette to inform me of the terms of armistice
between Germany and the Entente, and brought out a bottle of champagne
he had preserved for the occasion; we swore by all the powers above and
below that we were the greatest people the world had ever seen in all
its ages and intended to remain so.

Lunch over, I left the admiral to his generals and walked a little
through this straggling, snow-swept town, firmly believing that we were
about to start for Ufa. At 5 P.M. I was informed that the conferences
were over and there were urgent reasons for an immediate return to Omsk.
I did not object as I was not anxious to see more of this army of
ill-fed, half-clad soldiers struggling to save the State under
intolerable conditions. We started on our return journey and travelled
till 11 A.M. next day, by which time we had arrived at Petropalovsk.
Here the station commandant informed us that General Bolderoff wished
our train to wait for his, as it was most essential that he should have
a conference with the Minister for War. This was the first intimation I
had received that General Bolderoff had left Omsk and was on his way to
visit the Ufa front. The admiral invited me to his carriage and
explained the critical situation at Omsk, but could give no reason for
the sudden decision of the Commander-in-Chief to leave Omsk and meet him
on the way. I had my suspicions that the two groups of the Government
had come to grips, and that each had decided to destroy the other; that
Admiral Koltchak was to be sounded as to which of these groups had his
favour, and that his life, and perhaps that of his British escort, would
depend upon his answer. Bolderoff and the people at Omsk were unaware of
the presence of the British escort or its numbers, and while they may
have discovered our joint appearance at the Ekaterinburg function, there
had been no original decision to accompany the admiral to Chilliyabinsk.
That was only arranged the previous day. In revolutions you can never be
too careful, hence I gave orders to my men to load and be ready for
instant action if necessary. Orders were also issued to patrol the
platform and allow no people, uniformed or otherwise, to collect near
the trains, and in no circumstances were the two soldiers who were to
accompany the admiral to lose sight of him for one instant without
reporting it to me. Two others stood guard at the entrance to General
Bolderoff's carriage. When I saw the look on the face of the
Commander-in-Chief's attendants I was satisfied that my precautions were
no more than necessary.

The general's train drew into the station and Admiral Koltchak entered
Bolderoff's carriage at exactly 12 noon on November 6, 1918. I asked my
servant, Moorman, to take a "snap" of the two trains, as I felt that
this conference was full of big events for Russia. While taking the snap
a returned emigrant workman spoke to Moorman in good English. He asked
who all these officers were and what they were all talking about, and
when my servant informed him he did not know, the emigrant said: "It is
all right so long as they do not want to bring back the old regime, but
if that is their object I can tell them that Russia will never submit to
live under the old regime again." I thought, and think now, that in that
workman's words I heard the voice of Russia. The conference between the
admiral and the general broke up at five o'clock; it had lasted five

The admiral was hungry and came into my carriage for something to eat;
his servants had nothing ready as it is the Russian custom never to
begin to prepare a meal till you are ready to eat it. After the meal we
talked, and from the conversation I gathered the nature of the questions
discussed at his conference with the Commander-in-Chief. He asked me
whether in England our Minister for War had any responsibilities placed
upon him for the supply of clothing, equipment and general condition of
the British Army? I replied that in England the Minister for War was
responsible to the Cabinet and, through Parliament, to the country for
the general efficiency of the British Army in every detail. He answered:
"What would you think in England if the Commander-in-Chief told the
Minister for War that these matters had nothing to do with him, that he
would be allowed to keep a small office with two clerks but no staff, as
it was the Minister for War's name only that was of any use to the
Directorate (or in your case Cabinet), and the less he interfered with
the affairs of his department the better for all concerned?" I answered:
"If I were the Minister I should claim to have absolute control of my
department, or resign." He thought a minute and said: "That is what I
have done," or "what I intend to do," I forget which. From what followed
I think it must have been the former, because I asked him what General
Bolderoff said in answer to his claim, to which he replied: "General
Bolderoff is a very good man, and though he does not see everything as
I wish, I think he understands the situation, and will himself ask that
greater power should be given to enable me to save the new Russian army,
that it may be able to resurrect the Russian State." I well remember
that word "resurrect"; it was so pregnant with truth. The State _was_
dead, Russia was no more; resurrection was necessary.

We arrived at Omsk town station at 5.30 on the evening of November 17,
1918. The admiral thanked me for my help and my guard and for the
kindness and protection I had afforded him. I promised him my continued
help and sympathy in his patriotic attempt to revive the spirit of his
people. He went straight to his lodgings and remained there.

The _Times_ correspondent in a message to his newspaper has suggested
that the admiral had prior knowledge of what was to happen that night in
Omsk. I do not think that was the case. He may have guessed that
something very unpleasant was in the wind--the least sensitive amongst
those behind the scenes knew that--but what it was, from which direction
it would come or on whom it would fall was a secret known to but very
few, and I am convinced that the admiral, except in a second degree, was
not one of them. Colonel (soon to be General) Lebediff could tell the
whole story, though his name was not even mentioned during the _coup
d'etat_. A young and able Cossack officer, he was on the Staff of
Korniloff when Kerensky invited the great Cossack general to march his
army to Petrograd to save the newly-elected National Assembly. It is
well known how, when Korniloff obeyed Kerensky's order, he
treacherously turned and rent to pieces the only force which was moving
at his own request and could have saved Russia. He, in turn, became the
victim of the ghouls who urged him to this act of destruction. Lebediff
escaped, but one can be certain that he retained a lasting hate towards
the Social Revolutionaries who had betrayed his great leader.

The comrades of Kerensky, and in some cases the actual betrayers, had
found refuge in the Directorate of Five and the Council of Ministers,
and were continuing to play the same double game which had brought ruin
on the first National Assembly and disaster upon the Russian people.
They were members of the same futile crowd of useless charlatans who by
their pusillanimity had made their country a byword and the Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk possible. I was in a position to judge. I was certain that
this young man was the wrong sort to allow the execution of his chief to
pass without attempting punishment.

He had drifted down to Southern Russia and joined General Denikin in his
first efforts against the Bolsheviks. Sent from Denikin with dispatches
to Omsk, he became the centre of a group of desperadoes who were in want
of a cool brain to make them formidable. The state of Omsk at this time
was simply indescribable. Every night as soon as darkness set in rifle
and revolver shots and shouts could be heard in all directions. The
morning sanitary carts picked up from five to twenty dead officers.
There were no police, no courts, no law, no anything. In desperation
the officers grouped themselves together and hit back indiscriminately
at the people they thought responsible for the murder of their comrades.
So a fair proportion of civilian bodies became mixed up with those
wearing uniforms. That the officers got home at last on the right people
is proved by the fact that these nightly murders became fewer and then
practically ceased altogether.

It was into this scene of blood that we were hurled, and this was the
condition which had become quite normal in the capital under the rule of
the five-pointed Directorate. Its members were the most unmitigated
failures that even poor distracted Russia had so far produced, and the
people waited, hoping and longing, for their speedy removal. I was not
at all surprised when, next morning, my liaison officer, Colonel Frank,
returned from the Russian Headquarters in great perturbation and with
great excitement informed me that Russia was doomed never to rise out of
her troubles. I asked why. He answered that during the night some
villains had arrested the Social Revolutionary members of the
Directorate and Government, that no one at Headquarters knew the persons
who had again upset the whole government of the country, and he had no
doubt that the members of the late Government were already murdered. I
took the necessary precautions for the safety of my command and awaited
developments. I knew that the telegraph to the east was cut and that a
_coup d'etat_ was in course of execution.



At 11 A.M. on November 18 I was officially informed that the Council of
Ministers had met at 9 A.M., and were now in session, having met to
consider the situation produced by the arrest of the Directorate. They
had already asked Admiral Koltchak to accept supreme authority, that he
had refused, but the Ministers had great hope that for the sake of
Russia the admiral could be prevailed upon to take the burden of
Government upon himself, as it appeared to be the only means of getting
the country out of her desperate situation. The wildest rumours were in
circulation: that my carriage would be attacked by bombs, that the
British would at any time be obliged to fight for their lives. I told my
informants that they need not worry about us; we were well able to take
care of ourselves. They could not understand our indifference. The fact
was that not a man or officer in my battalion had the slightest inkling
of the position. Then the tune changed. Would I defend the Ministers who
were still in session if they were attacked? My answer was that any
political refugee who sought asylum in my lines would be protected, but
he must give up every idea of again taking any part in Russian affairs.
"But what would you do if the Russian troops revolted and sought to
murder those who had come into your lines. Would you give them up?"
"Never!" "What if the Czech commanders made the demand?" "Still never;
besides which the Czechs are too honourable ever to make a demand such
as no soldier could accept." The last question was the most important of
all, and was doubtless the kernel of the whole series, the others being
mere camouflage.

The Czechs had just inaugurated their National Republican Government,
and were naturally obsessed with the usual "Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity" business, and could not be expected to view the
establishment of a Dictatorship within their sphere of operations with
entire unconcern or without serious misgivings. The hostile attitude of
the Russian branch of their National Council at Ekaterinburg and
Chilliyabinsk, directly they heard of Koltchak's acceptance of the
supreme authority, is proof of the danger which might evolve from that

The Council of Ministers, and perhaps Koltchak himself, were unable to
take the final plunge until they had a thorough understanding of the
British attitude. The position of the Czech forces at Omsk made it
impossible for them to approach the place where the Ministers were in
session without passing the British, and my machine guns commanded every
avenue leading to or from the Russian Headquarters.

Things were now in such a state of tension that for the safety of my
command I informed both the Russian and Czech authorities that I should
not allow bodies of troops or citizens either to approach or collect
near my cantonment; that such approach or collection would be treated as
hostile, and dealt with accordingly. That these arrangements gave the
Ministers greater confidence to proceed with their policy I have no
doubt. That was one of the inevitable consequences of the preparations
for our own defence, but not the inspiration of their policy, which was
entirely their own; but it did steady the situation.

I place these facts on record that those who are interested may be able
to give them their proper order of value and importance. I afterwards
learnt that more than one highly-placed official's wife had all
preparations made for a rapid descent upon the Middlesex quarters.

About 2.30 P.M., November 18, I was informed that Admiral Koltchak had
assumed absolute power under the title of "Supreme Governor," with a
Council of Ministers who would be responsible to him for the proper
performance of their duties; that he proposed to call on the French
representative, Monsieur Renault, to present himself in the evening;
that he would then call on me, as the senior British officer in Omsk,
and in my case he would answer any questions I chose to put to him. He
called, and it is as well to place here the report I made upon the
subject at the time:

From Lieutenant-Colonel John Ward, M.P., C.M.G., Omsk, Siberia.

To G.O.C. China Command. Through B.M.M. H.Q.

Headquarters B.M.M., Vladivostok.

SIR,--For State reasons I deem it necessary to give the following
information that it may be forwarded home to the proper authorities.

About 2.30 P.M. on November 18, 1918, my liaison officer (Colonel Frank,
of the Russian Army) informed me that at a meeting of the Council of
Ministers, just held, the Council had offered to place supreme sovereign
power in the hands of Admiral Alexander Koltchak. The admiral had first
refused to accept, but that such pressure had been applied to force him
to accept that he had at last reluctantly consented.

Further, that Admiral Koltchak had assumed the title of "Supreme
Governor of all Russia," and was calling upon the French Ambassador in
the evening, after which he would call on me as the Senior British
Officer holding official position in Omsk.

About 9 P.M. Admiral Koltchak called at my headquarters. The following
gentlemen were present to receive him: Lieutenant-Colonel J.F. Neilson,
Captain Stephani, Colonel R. Frank (Russian Army), and Mr. Frazer
(_Times_ correspondent). He wore the full dress of a Russian admiral.

The admiral, who speaks fair English, informed me of the circumstances
and reasons for his assumption of supreme authority in all Russia.

An attempt had been made to combine all parties in the Government of
the country to reduce it to a state of order, so that the people might
be able to decide the future Government of Russia. The Council chosen by
the Ufa Assembly had tried to work together for this purpose, but had
failed. The final dissolution had been brought about by a proclamation
issued by the Central Committee of the Social Revolutionary party, which
was intended to produce in the new army the same conditions that had
destroyed the old army. The proclamation had been signed by the Social
Revolutionary President, Chernoff, and when it was proposed to take
action against those who were destroying the discipline of the army, two
Social Revolutionary members of the Council, Avkzentieff and Zenzinoff,
could see nothing wrong in Chernoff's subversive propaganda. It later
transpired that both were members of the Social Revolutionary Committee
which had issued the literature in question, and refused to either leave
the Social Revolutionary Committee or repudiate the anti-discipline
propaganda of their friends.

This brought the new Government to a complete standstill, and, faced
with absolute anarchy, the Council of Ministers had no alternative but
to dissolve the old Directorate of Five and centre the supreme power in
one person, to whom the Council of Ministers would be responsible for
the administration of their several departments.

I answered that the reasons, coupled with my own knowledge, appeared to
justify the action, but I had heard that the Social Revolutionary
members of the Directorate and others had been arrested, and that if
this action supposed their execution it would make the whole proceeding
look like an attempt on the part of the old army officers to destroy the
present arrangements in favour of a return to the old regime. Further,
if the people of England thought this was the policy of the admiral and
his friends, they would not only lose the friendly sympathy of the
English people but also of America and France.

Admiral Koltchak replied that at the moment he did not know the
whereabouts of the prisoners, but he would make inquiries and inform me
later. That his sole object in burdening himself with the overwhelming
responsibilities of Supreme Governor of Russia in this sad hour of her
history was to prevent the extremists on either side continuing the
anarchy which made the establishment of a free constitution impossible.
That if his action at any future time was not in harmony with the
establishment of free political institutions as understood by the
Democracy of England, he would be convinced that he had failed.

I thanked him for his good opinion of my country, and called his
attention to the letter of His Majesty the King to President Wilson,
received at Omsk on November 14, 1918, in which the principles of
democracy and freedom were exalted, and warned him that the free peoples
of the world would resist any attempt to force the Russian people back
under a system of tyranny and despair.

Admiral Koltchak replied that he had read the letter of His Majesty the
King of England, and his one hope was that soon Russia might enjoy the
blessing of equally free institutions.

Omsk, Siberia, _November_, 20, 1918.

From Lieutenant-Colonel John Ward, M.P., C.M.G., Omsk, Siberia.

To G.O.C. China Command. Through B.M.M.

Headquarters B.M.M., Vladivostok.

_Further Report on Political Crisis in Russia_.

Following my report of the assumption by Admiral Koltchak of the supreme
Governorship of Russia, I wish to add:

As I was unable to secure any official information relative to the
whereabouts of the members of the Directorate who had been made
prisoners during the night of November 17, I wrote to the Russian
authorities (through Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. Neilson) on the night of
the 18th requesting information upon the subject. On November 19, in the
absence of information, I sent the following letter direct to Admiral
Koltchak, the Supreme Governor:

OMSK, 19.11.18. 3 P.M.

From Colonel Ward.
To Admiral Koltchak.

After our interview last evening I sent you a note (through
Lieutenant-Colonel J. F. Neilson) asking for information and some
guarantee for the imprisoned members of the Council.

So far I have received no information upon the subject.

I have already told you that I am sure my country would look with grave
concern upon any injury inflicted without proper trial upon these
prisoners of State, and I should esteem it as a favour if you can supply
me with information upon this subject.--Yours sincerely,

(Signed) JOHN WARD (Lt.-Col.).

Colonel Frank, my liaison officer, took the letter to Russian
Headquarters, and on his return informed me that the admiral thanked me
for my letter and that he was pleased to be able to allay my fears.

Three officers, named Lieutenant-Colonel Krasilnikoff, Colonel Volkov,
and Lieutenant-Colonel Katanaev, had presented themselves at
Headquarters and reported that they took upon themselves the entire
responsibility for the arrest of the members of the old Russian
Government, that they had not injured them in any way, that they were
prepared to hand their prisoners over to the authorities, together with
several millions of roubles, believed to be loot, and papers which they
had found in their possession. That the admiral had placed the prisoners
under a strong guard of his own, and had placed the three officers under
arrest to be tried by court-martial.

He further promised that no harm should come to them, and that he
proposed to convey them out of the country at the earliest opportunity.

_November 20_. 1 P.M.

Admiral Koltchak, hearing that a supply guard of my battalion was
returning to Vladivostok, has made request that I would allow the
railway cars conveying the State prisoners to some unknown point on the
Chinese frontier to be attached to my train for purposes of secrecy and
additional safety. I have consented, and have strengthened the guard for
this purpose.

Omsk, Siberia, _November_, 21, 1918.


From Second-Lieutenant P.C. Cornish-Bowden, 25th Battalion Middlesex

To The Adjutant, 25th Battalion Middlesex Regiment.

Sir,--I have the honour to report for the information of the Commanding

1. The train conveying the four Russian political exiles (Messrs.
Avkzentieff, Argunoff, Rogovsky, and Zenzinoff) and the Russian guard,
together with a detachment of British troops under my command, left Omsk
about 2 A.M. on November 21, and arrived at Harbin on November 27. The
journey was quiet. Most of the larger towns, where trouble was
anticipated, were passed at night.

2. I have since been informed by the officer commanding the Russian
guard that all traffic between Irkutsk and Chita was stopped by order of
General Semianoff, and that the trains were searched for the exiles
after we had passed, but I have no evidence in support of this.

3. The exiles expressed the greatest possible gratitude for the presence
of British troops, and said that they mistrusted their own Russian
guard, though I saw nothing whatever at any time to lead me to believe
their suspicions were well founded.

4. On arrival at Harbin the exiles strongly petitioned me to accompany
the train to Chang-Chun, and the officers in charge of the Russian guard
being quite willing, I decided to accompany the train to the
Chinese-Manchurian frontier. We reached Chang-Chun about 2 A.M. on
November 28, and the exiles left that place by themselves by train on
the evening of the same day.

5. We reached Harbin again on the 29th inst., where I parted company
with the Russian guard. We reached Vladivostok on the morning of
December 2. I immediately reported to the O.C. Detachment, and I
reported the before-mentioned facts verbally to General Knox.

6. The conduct of the N.C.O. and men of my detachment on the journey was
very good, and no increase of sickness took place amongst them.--I have
the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Vladivostok, Siberia, _December_ 2, 1918.

I had already gained enough experience of revolutions to know that if I
did not press my point vigorously Avkzentieff and Co. were as dead as
mutton. I also knew that my countrymen have a rooted dread of
dictatorships, and that if Admiral Koltchak's assumption of power was
either connected with or promoted by the execution of his opponents
without trial, assistance or eventual recognition by the British
Government would be made almost impossible. My own agents had discovered
the place where the prisoners were detained, also that they were to be
quietly bayoneted in the night, as shooting would attract attention. I
was also certain that Koltchak knew nothing about this. The whole
business was in the hands of an Officers' Revenge Society, a body who
had sworn an oath to kill just the number of Bolshevik Revolutionaries
as there had been officers murdered by Trotsky's and Avkzentieff's
people. Both parties had similar combinations which left the marks of
their foul deeds on the streets every night.

The state of affairs was such that only by a dictatorship could the most
rudimentary order be maintained. I, a democrat, believing in government
of the people by the people, thought I saw in the dictator the one hope
of saving the remnants of Russian civilisation and culture. Words and
names have never frightened me. If circumstances force on me a problem
for solution, I never allow preconceived notions and ideas formed in the
abstract, without the experience of the actual then existing facts, to
warp my judgment in deciding the issue; and I am vain enough to believe
that, had the same situation presented itself to Englishmen generally,
nine out of ten would act as I did. I merely "carried on." The
traditions of our race and country did the rest.

Having, in my talk with the admiral and the report I made, accepted his
position of Supreme Governor, I did not mean that he should be left to
fight his way unaided against the enemies who surrounded him. In other
words, while outwardly remaining neutral, I constantly made
representations and gave advice, when asked, about everything, both
internal and external; and here it may be interesting to our own people
to know some of the problems which confronted the Supreme Governor. The
Japanese question was the first. General Rosanoff was Bolderoff's Chief
of Staff, and it was important to the Supreme Governor that he should
get the hang of outstanding matters and also make himself fairly
acquainted with the policy of the deposed Directorate. He interviewed
General Rosanoff and the Staff generally, and discovered that after the
fall of Samara the Bolshevik army moved rapidly towards Ufa, and the
Directorate became so alarmed that they demanded some definite policy
from the Commander-in-Chief as to how he proposed to deal with this
menace. Bolderoff never thought of effectively organising the new
Russian army, but suggested that things were so critical, and that
England, France, and America were so slow, that the only alternative was
to invite the Japanese to push their army forward to the Urals. This was
exactly what Japan wanted, but the Japanese Staff demanded as a _quid
pro quo_ to their advance to Ekaterinburg and Chilliyabinsk that they
should be placed in absolute possession of the railway and telegraph
lines to those points. Bolderoff and the Directorate boggled at this for
a time, but as the Bolsheviks began to get close to Ufa, and also
concentrated an army of about one hundred thousand men for an offensive
towards Ekaterinburg, the situation became so pressing that the
Directorate gave way, and a few days before the _coup d'etat_ Bolderoff
had sent word to the Japanese that their terms were accepted.

The Japanese had made all preparations to move when Koltchak took the
reins in his own hands. He asked my advice. I advised him to say to the
Japanese that the change of Government had also involved a change of
policy, and that it would be inadvisable for the Japanese to advance
beyond their position at Chita until the subject had been further
discussed. They made him many tempting offers of help, both arms and
money, but he refused them all, and they were unable to move him from
the position he had taken up.

A subject that led to unfortunate bickerings between Admiral Koltchak
and the French was the appointment by the Allied Council of Paris of
General Ganin as the Commander of the Allied and Russian Forces in

It is too important an item in the general failure of Allied policy to
pass over without mention. From the very nature of the case the main
Allied effort was the formation and organisation of a new Russian army.
Our policy was not to prop Russia on her feet, but to enable her to
stand by herself. Major-General Knox had been sent out by the War
Office to accomplish this purpose, and no more able or competent officer
could have been appointed for the task.

General Knox had hardly begun to perform this duty when the French
agents in Siberia became alarmed for their own position. Cables were
dispatched to Europe pointing out the danger to French prestige which
General Knox's mission entailed. If the English were to be made
responsible for the reorganisation of the Russian Army, and were
successful, this would tend to make New Russia rely more upon the
English than the French, as had been the case hitherto; that it would be
better to leave Russia without an army than have it organised under such
influence. These senseless fears of our French friends found willing
listeners in Paris. General Knox had already made some selections of
officers and the business was well under way when a message from the
Allied Council in Paris put an extinguisher on all his work. His orders
were cancelled, and he was told to do nothing until a French commander
had been appointed, whose name would be forwarded later.

By this uninformed Allied interference a well-thought-out scheme of army
reorganisation was hung up for four of the most precious months to
Russia. By the time General Ganin arrived the time for the project had
passed and the whole business had been taken out of Allied hands.

The Russian situation at that time was such that four days' delay would
have been fatal, and if nothing had been done for four months we should
have been hunted out of the country.

Finding Allied jealousy so great as to render all their efforts
impotent, first General Bolderoff and then his successor, the Supreme
Governor, began to organise armies on their own for the protection of
the people and their property. These armies were ill-equipped and badly
disciplined--not the kind of armies which would have been raised had
General Knox's plans been allowed to develop--but they performed their
duty, they captured Perm, and had increased to over 200,000 before
General Ganin appeared on the scene.

When General Ganin reported himself to the Supreme Governor with the
Allied Council's orders to take over the command of the Allied and
Russian forces in Siberia, he was met with a blank refusal from the Omsk

I was consulted upon the question, and I am therefore able to give the
reasons for their objection. The Omsk Government's position was a very
simple one: "Had General Knox or any other Allied commander organised,
paid, and equipped the new Russian army he would have naturally
controlled it until such time as a Russian Government could have been
established strong enough to have taken over the responsibility. The
French would not allow this to be done, and we ourselves therefore
undertook the duty. Having formed our own army in our own country, it is
an unheard of proposal that we should be forced to place it under the
command of a non-Russian officer. It would be derogatory to the
influence and dignity of the Russian Government and lower the Government
in the estimation of the people."

From this position they never retreated, but Allied bungling had landed
General Ganin, who is himself an able and excellent officer, in a not
very dignified position.

Bolderoff, as I have stated, was at the Ufa front when Koltchak assumed
supreme power. He remained there in consultation with the Czech National
Council and the members of the old Constituent Assembly for five or six
days without a word as to his intentions. It was a critical position for
Koltchak, who did not know what he was doing or intended to do.
Hot-heads advised immediate action, but I suggested caution. The
subject-matter of Bolderoff's conferences or whether he had any we do
not know, but we do know this: General Dutoff, who commanded the Russian
armies south of Ufa, had some proposals from Ufa put before him, and
replied advising caution, as he had it on unimpeachable authority that
the English were behind Admiral Koltchak. This statement, I was told,
fell like a bombshell among the conspirators at Ufa, and soon after
General Bolderoff returned to Omsk. There he interviewed Koltchak as
Supreme Governor, and made satisfactory statement relative to his
absence. He was offered a post, which he refused, stating that he wished
to leave the country, as he did not believe that a dictatorship could
help Russia out of her difficulties. His request was granted, and so
ended a very different interview between these two men from that at
Petropalovsk a few days before.

Some time after this the Japanese representative at Omsk made a request
to be informed whether General Bolderoff had been forced to leave the
country, or had left voluntarily. This was answered in a definite way in
accordance with the facts. In the same note the Japanese also demanded
to be informed whether the British Army had supplied the train and guard
which had taken the exiled Social Revolutionary Members of the
Directorate to Chang-Chun, on the Chinese frontier. This question was
not answered quite so definitely, but the interest of the Japanese in
these men shows how far the _coup d'etat_ had upset their plans relative
to the occupation of the Urals.

The Supreme Governor issued definite orders to the different isolated
sections of the Russian forces. All commanders obeyed these orders more
or less except one, General Semianoff, whose headquarters were alongside
that of the Japanese at Chita, from which he sent insolent refusals to
recognise Koltchak's authority. Koltchak prepared to deal with this
mutinous and buccaneering officer. The Japanese at once plainly informed
the Omsk Government that General Semianoff was under their protection,
and they would not allow the Russian Government to interfere with him.

Under Japanese protection this fellow continued to carry out
indiscriminate executions and flogging of workmen until the whole
district became depopulated, and the Allies were forced to demand an
explanation from Japan for their extraordinary conduct. So fearful were
they that their tool was about to be dealt with, that when the 1/9th
Battalion of the Hampshire Territorial Regiment started from
Vladivostok, the Japanese asked the Omsk Government whether these
British troops were coming forward to attack General Semianoff. The
answer we gave was that all movements of British troops were conducted
by the British Military Mission, to whom they must apply for
information. I never heard any more of their inquiries.

About this time a party of Cossacks, with a high officer at their head,
called at the prison one night and produced to the governor an alleged
order for the release of nine political prisoners. The [perhaps]
unsuspecting governor handed his prisoners over; they were taken away,
and next morning their friends found them shot. Someone ought to have
been hanged, but Koltchak could find no one to hang. His Chief of Staff
must have discovered some facts about the crime, but he refused to act.
In fact, he did not acquaint the admiral about the crime until four days
later when it had become public property. Koltchak was quite overcome,
first with rage at the crime itself, and secondly at his impotence in
being unable to prevent it. But Omsk went on the even tenor of its way:
it is remarkable what horrors people can face without a tremor when they
get used to them, as they must in revolutions.



The _coup d'etat_ had thrown the proposed Perm offensive completely into
the background. The Czechs, under the influence of their Political
Council, who had joined the Social Revolutionary Committee, and their
leader Chernoff, retired to the rear. Each unit elected a committee and
established a Soldiers' Council on the strictest Bolshevik plan, and
ceased to be of further use either to the Russians or their own cause.
The officers of the new Russian army became greatly concerned for the
integrity of their own young troops with such a shocking example of lack
of discipline before their eyes, and begged Admiral Koltchak to order
these hostile political bodies out of Ekaterinburg. The admiral offered
them a town in the rear where they might discuss politics to their
hearts' content, without danger to his army. This, however, did not suit
their plans, for their obvious object was to destroy the integrity of
the new Russian army. Admiral Koltchak in desperation ordered the
leaders to be arrested and the conspiracy to be broken up. General
Gaida, though a Czech officer, put the admiral's order into effect, and
handed the prisoners over to the Commander-in-Chief, General Surovey, at
Chilliyabinsk. General Surovey, under pressure of the Czech Council and
Chernoff's Committee, released the prisoners, and began to hunt the
famous young General Gaida out of their hitherto equally famous army. To
save himself from disgrace at the hands of his political enemies, the
general resigned his commission in the Czech Army, and by joining the
Russian Army was instantly re-established in his position as Commander
of the Russian armies on the right. Thus fell the glorious Czech legions
from their high pinnacle of fame, killed as all armies must be the
moment they join in party strife.

From the point of view of purely Russian tactics, it was necessary to
strike south from Ufa, with the object of effecting a junction with the
Orenburg Cossacks under General Dutoff, and if possible linking up with
the forces of General Denikin in South Russia. But no exact or reliable
information could be secured as to the strength and equipment of Dutoff
or Denikin.

On the other hand, it was known that an Anglo-American force had landed
at Archangel, which it was presumed would be well supplied with winter
equipment, and if once a junction could be effected with this force, a
channel for European supplies could soon be opened. Every cartridge,
gun, rifle, and article of clothing had now to be shipped almost round
the world, and brought over about six thousand miles of more or less
disorganised railway communication. Koltchak had men, but no means for
making them into fighters unless supplied from outside. It was felt
certain that if his armies could smash their way through to Perm, and
hold a point somewhere between there and Vatka, the junction of the
Archangel and Petrograd Railway, the slightest movement of the Archangel
expedition would result in a combination which could and would move
straight forward to Petrograd, and free north Russia from the

Originally I was to have operated in the centre with a detachment of the
25th Middlesex Battalion and four machine guns, and authority had been
given for my part in the advance. The complete defection of the Czechs,
however, threw the time-table out of joint, and not even the restless
energy of the Supreme Governor could make up this loss for nearly four
weeks. In the meantime the cold became so intense that the British
contingent, being only B1 men, had to drop out. General Gaida, with his
divisional generals, Galitzin, Pepelaieff, and Verzbitzky, pressed
forward their preparations, and after a splendid series of movements
captured Perm with 31,000 prisoners and an enormous booty of war
material. The losses of the Russians were about 6,000 killed, of the
Bolsheviks about 16,000. There were practically no wounded, for any man
who sank in the snow was dead in an hour. Thus did the admiral
consolidate the power that had been entrusted to him.

The Terrorists were completely demoralised, so that the army advanced to
Glasoff, 80 miles east of Vatka and 60 miles south of Koltass. We were
now only about 300 miles east of Petrograd, and there we waited for
seven months for the Archangel move, which never came off. For some
time the country was so absolutely clear of enemy forces that small
parties of men passed unmolested from Glasoff to Archangel and from
Archangel to Glasoff. Eventually the Terrorists got the correct measure
of this Northern expedition, contained it with a slight screen, and
concentrated huge forces to press us back over the Urals once more.



The tenure of a dictator's office is very uncertain. He issues his
orders, but if the army chiefs can escape from executing them they do
so, on one pretext or another. The Russian character is most peculiar in
this respect. It will obey one thing only--force. Patriotism and public
spirit, as we know them, do not exist to any great extent. Every man
looks at every order from the personal point of view--"How will this
affect me?"--rarely, if ever, "How will it affect the country?"

It is remarkable how much Koltchak had already accomplished, but it
seemed that his career might end at any moment, in spite of every
precaution of his friends. Of these he had not many; no real dictator
should expect to have any. No man will have many friends in Russia who
puts personal questions second to the public welfare.

The preparations for the Perm offensive were well under way, when a
dispatch came from General Dutoff, stating, "That in view of the
pressure by our forces on their left the Bolshevik leaders had decided
to, what they called, 'organise their enemies' rear.' That seventy of
their best propagandist and most capable agents and officers had passed
between his columns and were now distributed somewhere in our midst."
All we could do was to wait, and see where this treacherous movement
would show itself first.

The fact that Koltchak had declared for the calling of a National
Assembly, elected by universal suffrage, to decide the future government
of Russia, so soon as order was restored, had shattered completely the
vision of the old army officers of a quick return to absolutism. His
declaration against extremists on either side had driven Bolshevik and
Tsarist into practically one camp. He was well known as a student of
English customs and institutions and a pre-revolution advocate of
constitutionalism. The Tsarist section hoped that his assumption of
supreme authority was proof that he had discarded his democratic
principles, but gradually his official declarations to the
representative of the British Government leaked out and spread
consternation in the ranks of both sections of the Absolutists. The
Bolshevik leaders have never made any bones about their fear and dread
of democracy as understood in England, and have declared they would
prefer a return to the old regime rather than have a Constitution like
that of England or America forced upon them. Hence there is no real
difference of principle between the Bolshevik and the supporters of the
old regime, only a difference as to who should wield the power. For the
moment they let this minor point slip into the background, and combined
for the destruction of the man who was the enemy of both.

About midnight, December 23, Russian Headquarters gave me the alarm.
Shots were being fired in all directions, and a spent bullet struck my
carriage while I was getting into my clothes. Horsemen in little groups
were surrounding the Staffka without much sign of order. Having
inspected my battalion at their emergency quarters, I called for a
personal guard to escort me to Headquarters. I regret there was no
impressionist artist with us to record the weird procession my guard
made. When sheepskin coats were provided for my men for use in a cold,
snowbound country, it is a real English touch that they should have been
black in colour, making my men a perfect target both night and day.
Their fur caps were a dark brown of the well-known Nansen type, the
half-moon peak making the head of the wearer a good mark at midnight up
to 300 yards. The cap is pointed, and has much the appearance at night
of a small mitre. What with huge fur boots, black pointed caps, and long
black coats, there was nothing to indicate the British Tommy in the line
of black monks that moved silently forward over the frozen snow. The
temperature was such that as the slight wind brought the water to one's
eyes the drops froze to hard white spots of ice at the corners. Breath
from the nostrils froze before it could leave the nose, and from each
nostril hung icicles, in some cases 2 inches long, which again froze to
the moustache. The eyebrows and eyelashes and the protruding fur edge
which enclosed the faces of the men carried a wonderful display of hoar
frost, and gave the appearance of white lace frills, such as are seen on
"granny's" caps.

As we entered the Russian Headquarters, which were crowded with more or
less excited officers and men, my guard lined up on each side of the
vestibule, and without a word proceeded to unsling rifles and fix
bayonets. The Russians, who were even now debating on which side they
were going to slide down, looked at my soldier monks, and at once
themselves fell into line. There was no longer any hesitation. "Anglisky
soldats" were in possession of Russian Headquarters, and the reputation
of English soldiers in emergencies like this is known all over the
world. I interviewed the Chief-of-Staff, General Lebediff, as to his
orders for suppressing the revolters and went downstairs to find the
vestibule empty except for my "monks." No one who was not there could
believe the absolute transformation that the mere presence of a few
English soldiers had on this critical situation. In revolutions every
rule and safeguard of society is uprooted; the people feel as in an
earthquake, nothing is secure, everyone doubts his neighbour. If those
who are prepared to support authority can only discover at the right
moment one little group round whom they can rally, and who they know
will think nothing of death in performance of duty, the danger is over
at once. Hesitancy disappears, and the normal is instantly produced. We
filed out to find the infantry in their ranks, and the horsemen mounted
in line, under their officers, awaiting orders.

I proceeded through the town to the residence of the Supreme Governor.
On our way we passed parties of soldiers and Cossacks hurrying to their
posts, who eyed us suspiciously, but on seeing me at the head in the
uniform of a British officer, ejaculated loudly to their command the
magic word "Anglisky," until like a talisman the word passed from sentry
to sentry and street to street, and "Anglisky" became the password which
held the whole town for law and order. We passed towards the admiral's
house without challenge until the Cossack and Serbian guard at the
actual entrance called us to halt pending the governor's orders. The
order soon came for us to enter. The admiral was ill, very ill with
inflammation of the lungs, but as brave as ever. My "monks" lined up in
the vestibule in the same manner as at Headquarters, and even the
personal Serbian guard had to make way for these queer-looking visitors.
I got the information required. The revolt was very serious, but I was
able to inform the admiral that effective measures had now been taken to
provide for all eventualities. I begged leave to depart, which was
granted, but not before my men had been given food and a taste of
Russian vodka, which appears to be the only effective antidote to the
cold of a real Siberian winter. I returned, to find that the fact that
the English soldiers were out was known in every house in Omsk, and
numerous requests from the highest to the lowest for protection had been
received on the telephone. I give no names, but the fact shows what a
remarkable influence the presence of a few British soldiers had in
steadying the situation.

My orders were to take no part in the internal affairs of Russia, but it
is the duty of every commanding officer to take all possible means to
protect his command. If I had remained in my quarters and made no sign
until these Royalist and Bolshevik enemies had obtained possession of
the town, I should have presented a dainty morsel which they could have
masticated at leisure. I had to show my hand early enough to make sure
it did not go against me. It turned out that I marched from my barracks
just when news had been brought of the mutiny, under Royalist and
Bolshevik leadership, of two companies of the 8th Regiment of the new
Russian army. A body of Bolsheviks at Koulomsino, on the other side of
the river, had taken up arms and were bent on the destruction of the
bridge over the Irtish, which formed the means of communication with the
armoured trains of H.M.S. _Suffolk_, and our naval detachments at Ufa.
The Czechs (our Allies), who had the same orders as myself, on learning
that the Tsarists were also in the conspiracy, frustrated this scheme by
instantly moving forward a company for the protection of the bridge,
which arrived just in the nick of time. Had we acted strictly to orders,
Heaven only knows what the result would have been. British and Czech
both had to act on our own judgment, and while, technically, we
disobeyed orders, we fulfilled the policy of each country and protected
our commands.

It cost nearly a thousand lives to restore order, but the lawless
elements, top and bottom, were taught a lesson they are not likely to
forget. This happened in the middle of the Perm offensive. It did
nothing to assist the Bolshevik cause, but it did much to embitter the



The foregoing incidents gave place to more personal matters. About

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest