Posts Tagged ‘1918’

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21

November 6, 2010 3 comments

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II-Chapter 21

General Graves and More Troops Arrive in Vladivostok

General Graves arrived on the THOMAS. It was a beautiful sunny day. The officers already in Vladivostok had arisen at four in the morning to greet the General aboard the transport. Graves was more than pleased with the warm welcome but had to part company at 11 am for a scheduled breakfast aboard the BROOKLYN.
His first official visit into he city was to call on General Otani in order to set straight the question as to whether the American soldiers would march under a Japanese flag. Graves told Otani: “I did not and in fact my orders were of such a nature that I could not relinquish control of United States troops.”
Graves told Otani it was, however, his desire to cooperate in every way possible with the Japanese and that he felt assured they could accomplish the same objective because Grave felt the desires of the Japanese Government and the American Government were the same. “I also told him,” Grave wrote, “that in view of the limitations placed upon me as to the use of American troops I must insist upon being informed where troops were to be transferred and for what purpose before they were moved.”[i]
Graves also verbally told Colonel Styer, who had preceded him in command in Siberia, as to those limitations and requested him to act accordingly. “The Japanese Headquarters apparently thoroughly understood the situation and there has been no friction and conflict in the operations here.”[ii]
Later that first day problems were forgotten in one great social event arranged by General Otani. After the officers dressed for the occasion cars awaited their pleasure to take them to the affair. High ranking officers of all nations were on hand. One American said his head was whirling with the realization of how many really important military men from a great variety of countries were there shaking hands, bowing, eating and drinking with each other.
The food was spread out on tables as if there was no such thing as famine, as though there were no hungry peasants. It seemed ironic to some that the monarchy had been overthrown for just such dining and drinking while the peasants had cried for bread. Yet in Vladivostok the Allied officials were that night emulating such festivities while the peasants were starving in the hills. It did not set well with some of our men. It was too much like Moscow again with its banquet tables, high dress, drinks and social intercourse. One man wondered if a bread riot might not follow and had to admit he would not much blame the peasants if they broke down the doors in protest. But nothing happened. The affair was carried off with finesse as the military greats drank vodka and champagne and ate the finest of caviar and other delicacies. It was probably just as well that the hungry American soldiers who had been marching back and forth through the town knew nothing of that gala affair.
The day after arrival was a warm pleasant one. The officers were beginning to wonder just where they would live. “We will probably live in Headquarters,” Eichelberger wrote, as he sat in his pajamas in a stateroom on the THOMAS that early September morning.
He ( ???? check book illegible ) ything less beautiful. He wrote in his office in town that he was in “a house of cockroaches. They are here ( ???? check book illegible )y the million.” However, their own rooms were fairly clean and he told his wife he managed to draw a mattress and also to get a spring cot “like the one at Camp Fremont.”
While some of the men were seeing the cockroaches, Graves was busy with communiques that were piling up on his desk. He began to realize the complexities of the problems that were to face him in the days ahead. Not only was Russia in a chaotic state but the aims of some of the allies were questionable. The Commanding General was keen enough to foresee problems with the aggressive Japanese. On the diplomatic front he had to concern himself with General Alfred Knox of the British army who had no use for Russian peasants. Graves disagreed violently with Knox’s opinion and did not appreciate the latter’s determined effort to set up a reactionary regime in Siberia by building up the image of Kolchak, a former Admiral of the White Russian fleet.
As the days passed Graves was cognizant of the fact that most of the Allies who were ready and willing to fight the Bolsheviks had anticipated that the Americans would join the Allies. It was impossible for Graves to carry out the President’s wishes and cooperate with such aims. Furthermore, Graves was not amendable to making Kolchak the Supreme Commander of the White Russians, in spite of the wishes of the other Allies. Washington itself had given its nod of approval to this matter. Our General knew that Kolchak’s henchmen were raiding villages to impress men into the Kolchak army. He abhorred the tactics they used and felt that Washington was not apprised of the situation as it existed. If a village did not cooperate, the leaders of a town would be hauled off to be whipped or shot. Worse still, they were sometimes dipped into frigid waters until they became human icicles. Such reports worried Graves who stated, “I have often thought that it was unfortunate I did not know more of the conditions in Siberia than I did when I was pitchforked into the melee at Vladivostok. At other times I have thought that ignorance was not only bliss in such a situation but was advisable.”[iii]
Regarding the piled supplies which could be seen everywhere near the wharf, Graves did not need any communique. A panorama
spread before him or arms and ammunition lying around on wharfs or sidings or on vacant lots. Some material was in crates, some unprotected, some covered with huge canvas tarpaulins. Cotton was found thrown on the ground with no covering and nothing beneath it to protect it from dampness. Piles of rubber, so desperately needed by the Allies, were in evidence. There were automobiles that had never been uncrated. If this lifeline of supplies fell into the hands of enemy factions it would be disastrous. Guards were detailed to safeguard the supplies.
Then thee was the problem of the Czecho-Slovaks. By a strange twist of fate these men who the Americans had come to help were now fighting their own battles admirably.
“I was being disillusioned very fast,” Graves said. He reread his orders again and again and throughout his service in Siberia he refused to be forced by political or military groups to aide with one faction against the other. It seemed as though there was nothing left for our troops to do but carry out the part of the instructions relating to the guarding of military stores which might subsequently be needed by Russian forces.
However, the term “Russian forces” had to be defined before any steps could be taken to render aid referred to in the policy. In his book Graves wrote that the decision could not be made in Washington. Conditions were such in Siberia that one could not render any assistance to a Russian without discarding the policy of non-intervention in internal affairs. The General stated: “I could not give a Russian a shirt without being subject to trying to help the side to which the recipient of the shirt belonged.”
In addition to attempting to determine which of the Russians constituted ‘Russian forces,’ Graves also wondered about which element should be considered ‘the enemy.’
Throughout the intervention Graves’ neutral position represented views of the Chief of Staff, Secretary of War and the President himself. At first it was also the view of the State Department. Later, however, the War and State Departments differed. This added to Graves’ concern.
As though the situation in Russia itself was not enough to give any man a migraine, Graves was faced with the question of barracks and storage facilities for his American men. Satisfying the question of which army would occupy which barracks was a task of great magnitude, especially as those representatives of those nations having the fewest troops were often the hardest to satisfy.”[iv]
The General stated: “It was an almost impossible task to convince the Japanese or Chinese or Italian forces that on account of our sanitary regulations we can only put 150 men into a building. . .(one) into which they would put 300-500. They would not admit that our soldiers were deserving of any more consideration than their own.”[v]
Such questions had to be handled with tact and diplomacy.
As though there were not enough problems at hand, General Otani asked each of the Allies to designate officers to sit on nine different committees: Material, Barracks and Quarters, Finance, POW, Inter-Allied Railway, Sanitary and Tariff and Marital Law. This would take more time. In addition, Allied representatives were at first scheduled to meet twice a week, then once a week to discuss matters of common interest. No committee decision was final, but when policies were not violated the majority opinion was usually adopted.[vi]
Later General Graves was to report: “. . .Personal and official relations with Japanese Headquarters have left nothing to be desired except that the Japanese have simply been following a different policy. They have resorted to bribery and trickery in every way. The Japanese Chief of Staff has stated that they have already spent one hundred million yen in Siberia on their army. They spend money in a way and follow methods that Americans cannot and must not follow. However, condemn these methods as much as we do, the fact remains that conditions are such here and the Russian people are such, that. . .I doubt very much whether it is possible for us in the face of such obstacles to realize the American ideals of honesty, liberty and justice in Siberia for years and years to come.”[vii]

The doughboys were not as busy as was General Graves and his staff upon arrival, but they were eager to get off the transport and into town for a firsthand look at the city itself.
First, however, they were required to eat breakfast on board. Then they received permission to debark.
Food on the transports was cooked in copper kettles by steam. Under ordinary circumstances the kettles were emptied after each meal, and scalding steam was used to cleanse them thoroughly. In this way, they were completely sterilized before the next meal. This method of cooking aboard army transports has long since been abandoned, but in September, 1918, that was the method used.
When the men received their dinner Labor Day night in 1918, they knew they would be eating their breakfast on the transport as well. The cooks also knew this. Henry Fry reports, “Those damn cooks must have had it figured out in advance that if they cooked more slum for dinner than the men could eat there would be some left over for breakfast. So they did just that, and then, not being military, they were permitted to go to town. Thus, when the slum cooled, and remember it had been sitting in those copper kettles all night, it was just reheated and served again. The effect was ptomaine poisoning.”[viii]
The result of that morning meal was catastrophic. After seventeen days on the water nearly every man was sick upon arrival. It has been reported that anywhere from 250 to 1,700 men were stricken a few hours after the meal was served. A survey showed that the men were indeed in the throes of ptomaine.
Stephen Chadwick records that they had no medical men assigned to them. That in itself was disastrous. Chadwick communicated with headquarters immediately, explaining the gravity of the situation, and requested that id be sent on the double.
An officer present at headquarters confided to Chadwick later that the Expedition Surgeon passed the petition for aid off with the remark that some of the men had doubtless had too much vodka. No assistance arrived.
At five o’clock most of the doughboys were too sick to leave their beds. Chadwick called again. An hour later a hospital corpsman with a bag of medicine appeared. He was unable to cope with the situation which existed. So Chadwick and a few others organized the well men into a sort of hospital corps and assisted, as far as they could, those unable to take care of themselves.
“At seven o’clock,” he recalls, “to my great relief, two young doctors drifted in. Seeing the situation and fully appreciating it, they immediately raided the so called Base Hospital and returned with two bottles of CC pills and one bottle of castor oil. The latter was said to be the only bottle with the expedition! The pills were given to those able to walk, the oil was soon exhausted on those unable to leave their beds,” Chadwick reports, and adds, “To those two doctors, Lieutenants Ehlers and Baronodisk, the men of the transport owe a real debt, for with me they waited and worked throughout the night. I hope the Expedition Surgeon slept soundly.”
Other men recalled that some of the sick were put in a field hospital which was set up in Russian quarters. “The doctors and pill rollers gave each of us either salts or castor oil to try to ease the onslaught of the pain,” said one man.

In time most of the men managed to overcome the ptomaine onslaught and began to look around them. Many were surprised to see that Siberia was not vastly different from the States. The climate was about the same and the people were similar to people one might meet anywhere in a cosmopolitan city except that most of the inhabitants were wretchedly clothed. But, all in all, it did not seem nearly as bad as it had sounded back home. There were troops from many countries and prisoners of war everywhere. Before them lay a beautiful harbor sight. A Japanese fleet with banners flying, the British KENT (a destroyer), and the American cruiser BROOKLYN were in full view. There were also two obsolete Russian destroyers.
But that first day it rained and rained. It was only a drizzling rain but the kind that soaks into a man’s body. Those that had been sick with ptomaine were weak and disgusted. Drizzling rain can knock a weak soldier out. Nevertheless, the AEFers had been ordered to get out with full packs and fall in. After that it was a repetition of orders to fall in and to fall out so many times that the men were worn to a frazzle before they finally received their marching orders. With full packs they were paraded from what was later known as American Base, through Vladivostok, all the way to the far end of Svetlanskaya Street.
To this day the men do not know the purpose of that tram, tramp, tramp. One said it was mismanagement from the top. Another said that “the Brass wanted to make a show to the natives.” But most of the men concluded that they looked too awful to be making any kind of a good impression.
“In all my years of service, sometimes marching all day, I have never suffered so much,” said Fry. “My shoulder straps from my pack cut into my shoulders. Our morale was not improved by seeing out buddies along the side of the street. I think our detachment must have lost about fifty percent of its effectiveness that day.” The “buddies along the street” were the men who had fallen out. After some two hours in the rain those who were able were still marching and the weaker ones simply gave up. Every half block or so another doughboy would just stop and sit down on the side of the road.
They saw by the bewilderment of the officers that they were without any forceful leadership. Graves had not had time to take command of the situation and apparently no arrangements had been made before their arrival. It is that sort of realization that makes for demoralization. The men were cursing and weeping at the same time. They were so hopelessly disordered and dismayed and without any guidance that it was a shock to their sense of discipline. The rain continued its incessant drizzling, but it did not help to wash away the annoyance each man felt.
When some of the men first arrived they cleaned off areas on the floor, spread their blankets and went to sleep. One man says he will never forget that first night. “In this building there was a poor starving family, they had no home, no nothing, and all their worldly possessions were the rags on their backs. They began to make signs indicating that they wanted food. We had nothing to give them as our mess set-up was in another place and we had had our supper. As we had to have a space to sleep our Lieutenant in command had to run those poor people out so that we could clear a spot to bed down on the floor. Of course it was raining, cold rain, as this was early in September and it was already getting chilly at night.[ix]
After the men became organized and got the buildings cleaned, new doors and windows were installed. Cots were issued, and mattress covers which they filled with straw.
Some of the men bought sheets from a Russian woman and managed to get extra blankets to make themselves fairly comfortable.
Henry Fry said his sleeping accommodations were subsequently not too bad as the Russian army bakeries were pretty well set up and sleeping quarters were provided for, according to the number of bakers they had. The higher ranking non-commissioned officers had small sleeping rooms. The officers’ quarters were habitable after they were cleaned. The soldiers were thankful that they had arrived in moderately cold weather rather than in the freezing weather of winter. “If we had arrived in Siberia two months later than we did, I doubt if we ever could have made it. When I think back of what we did have to go through I know we couldn’t have made it if it had been better cold.”[x]
One man recalled that when he arrived his group had been taken to a low field and told to pitch pup tents. “We had two blankets and thin clothing, he said, “and we about froze the night for we had been in the Philippine Islands where it was hot. A lot of the boys caught cold and some even died of exposure so we were pretty disgusted.”[xi]
Another man also recalls that camp. He reports, “all of the 31st Infantry was located in pyramidal wall tents until about the end of September. The days were quite comfortable but the nights were very cold. At least it seemed cold to us who had come from the Philippine Islands with only khaki uniforms and very thin underwear. As a result about fifty percent of the men in the regiment became ill with colds or flu. We had small cone type stoves in each tent. There were eight men to a tent. At night we would each take a one hour shift to keep the stove hot because we lacked sufficient blankets or heavy clothing to keep warm. We had to stay in those tents to give the laborers time to clean and repair the barracks we were to occupy. You just would not believe the tons of dirt, excrement and dead flies that were taken out of each of these barracks before we were able to occupy them in late September.”[xii]
Some of the troops had taken over one of the Baldwin Locomotive sheds upon arrival. They remained for a day, having mess on the transport. Then they were informed that messing from the transport had to end. These men were equipped as casuals, without kitchen equipment, so feeding became quite a problem. Beef was issued in half and other rations in similar proportions. The men took the only way out. They raided the Quartermaster Warehouse for sufficient supplies to feed themselves. Altogether, there were 1,250 men, formerly of the Eighth, quartered in the Baldwin sheds. They were located about three miles out from the center of the city, and from expedition headquarters.[xiii]
Joe Longuevan was lucky when he joined Company C, 31st; it was already comfortably ensconced in the brick barracks on the Churkin-Dio [1] Joseph B. Longuevan, Co. C, 31st Inf.
[i]Grave’s book
[ii]Gen. Graves’ official report #2 dated 6/30/19, WDNA
[iii]Graves’ book
re[prt dated 6/30/19, WDNA
[v]Graves’ Final Report, WDNA
[vi]Graves’ Final Report, WDNA
[vii]Graves’ Report, September 25, 1919 to Adjutant General of the Army, WDNA
[viii]Henry C. Fry, Quartermaster Corps.
[ix]Henry C. Fry
[x]Henry C. Fry
[xi]Alphia Wilber Goreham, Co. D, 31st Inf.
[xii]Lester William Reed, Co. K, 31st Inf.
[xiii]Stephen F. Chadwick, Lt. Co. D, 27th Inf., 1st Bn. Adjutant, Regimental Personnel Adjutant

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 19

November 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 19

The Battle of Kraevski

The Allies had occupied positions on the line for the purpose of protecting the concentration of the Oi Division between Sviyagino and Spasskoe. The English and French battalions, some Czecho-Slovak troops and Kalmikov’s detachment were under the command of French Lt. Colonel Pichon. The enemy, 5000 strong, gradually had advanced toward these Allied first lines. Kalmikov’s unit, which had been on the right wing on the 20th, was surrounded by the enemy. After a great effort, the Cossacks managed an escape in the direction of the railway. The enemy, encouraged by this drive, came closer to the Allied lines. Again they managed to drive the Allies back.

During the predicament Pichon told Ward: “It is bad. Kalmikov and the Cossacks are in the high point in touch with us. The Czecho-Slovak 5th Battalion is on the right guarding the road to Sviyagino yet we do not know where the enemy is lurking.”
When Pichon learned that numbers of the enemy had penetrated the wide spaces between the sentries, he realized it must have taken a concentrated effort to perform this feat. While most of the Allied troops slept in camps the usual sentries had been posted but they were too widely spaced to note that the “slippery” Bolsheviks were sneaking between them through the grass in the dead of night. When the alarm finally been sounded Kalmikov discovered that about thirty of his men were already dead or wounded. The intruders had also captured his machine guns.
When this new reached General Oi, the latter decided to go to Pichon’s assistance without waiting for a planned concentration of the troops at Sviyangino. He gave orders for the advance of the battalion to the first line. Colonel Inagaki took command at that location.
The Combat of Kraeviski, as it was officially designated by the Japanese, began on August 23, 1918._ On that day, at 12:30 pm, Otani sent a secret message to Styer. It stated that the army would commence its movements on August 27th and would attack the enemy on the 28th. It was then that the commanding officer of the AEFS was directed to have the American troops arrive at Sviyagino no later than the morning of the 26th to familiarize themselves with the terrain before the battle of the 28th started. Colonel Morrow was asked to consult with Otani that afternoon at 4 pm regarding railroad cars and other matters. Styer went to work on the arrangements. On the afternoon of the 23rd he made this memorandum: “We have at present 24 cars and still need 82. . .three passenger cars, two second class and three locomotives. The Station Master at Vladivostok has already received the order for 82 cars, but up to now we have not received them. The Regiment will be entirely ready to leave when the cars, passenger coaches and locomotives mentioned above shall have been received.”
That same night Otani received another secret message from Oi and advised Styer that the Commander of the Japanese division at the front had given him a resume of the situation regarding the enemy. The 12th Division was to move with a large force. Oi was to remain in Vladivostok. Only General Inagaki and his aids-de-camp Colonel Hyari and Major Hasinuma were to leave at 10 pm that day “to transport the American Army we will try to send quickly tomorrow if you agree. The Commander-in-Chief regrets exceedingly that this battle will be so soon, contrary to our plans. The Commander-in-Chief is very sorry. Consequently, the Commander-in-Chief believes you will understand our reason for changing our plan.”
It was in accordance with these Japanese instructions that the American Command prepared to move three trains requested. In addition, the following were made ready: ten day’s additional field rations, 5,000,000 of small ammunition (in addition to that carried by the soldiers), combat wagons and a field bakery with personnel. Detachments guarding the railway were directed to join the regiment for duty.
Because of the change in plans, the Japanese requested that the Americans go to the front at once. Thus it was that the part of the 27th Infantry not already on its way to Sviyagino entrained and left Vladivostok with Morrow on the evening of the 24th. General Oi also ordered the detachments from Spasskoe to go to Sviyangino. These various forces reached the front after the Combat of Kraevski was over and the enemy was in retreat northward.
When one considers the fact that Styer was informed shortly after noon on the 23rd and Ward was not notified until late that night one must conclude that the Japanese had full intention of attacking before the other Allies could reach their appointed destination. However, the British Colonel was unaware of this. Upon receipt of word from Oi he had set his watch for 1 am. Inagaki was due at 2 am and the Japanese were supposed to start the attack at 3 am. Dukoveskoie was the site this attack. It was but four miles away. The British were destined to be among those in reserve.
Back at camp Colonel Ward began to pace the field at precisely 1 am. He was and heard no activity. At 1:45 he deemed it necessary to rouse the Japanese who were to meet him at 2 am before the attack for 3 am. The Japanese officers seemed unmoved. He explained the impossibility of rousing all the detachments and completing a four mile march in the night in a matter of minutes. The Czecho-Slovaks were asleep and the Cossacks were curled up with their horses, deaf to any words of warning. In spite of his tensions, Ward felt the incredibility of it all. “What a lunatic war this is.”
But to Ward orders were orders. He assembled his men and Captain Clark had the 25th Middlesex, transport and all, ready to march twenty-five minutes after orders were given. The British advanced along the railway. A mile and a half alo remonition concerning the Japanese had been well founded. He recalled Balsaar’s warnings. Still it was galling after getting the British troops out to learn that they were not to take part in the battle. But the situation might change. Ward instructed Capt. Bath to move forward and to support him if necessary.
Other troops had been issued directives. The Japanese field and heavy artillery and the mountain guns of the Czecho-Slovaks near the railroad bridge of Dukoveskoie were to prepare to attack. The second company of engineers accompanied this artillery as did a Czecho-Slovak battalion which had been guarding the railroad station at Sviyagino and also the 5th Czech Regiment, less one battalion. This left the remaining British, French and Japanese troops and Kalmikov’s detachment to constitute the general reserve which had been ordered to assemble at 3 am.
To the north of Dukoveskoie the three battalions of the Japanese infantry under Brigadier Commander Mihara had constituted the main early attacking force on the first line. After the infantry attack began the enemy was pushed back to the stream east of Dukoveskoie. This occurred at dawn at a time when all of the Allied forces were advancing. The river was crossed north of Dukoveskoie and a hand-to-hand engagement took place.
The Japanese reported: “The Japanese troops rushed forward without loss of time and drove back the enemy. . .with the help of hand grenades. At this moment Captain Consmi met a glorious death, being hit by an enemy grenade.”
At the spot where the British had been ordered to meet for a rendezvous, Ward was busy or heard but Ward gave the order to his men to load and to be prepared for action. At that moment one of his men discharged his rifle.
Padley recalled the incident well. “It was before daybreak and we were at the outskirts of the village of Dukoveskoie when the rifle was discharged. In his book Ward reports a second shot but I know positively there was no second shot. It was just that one. The Colonel who had a pretty good platform voice could have been heard a half mile away, ‘Who’s the B…….. foot that did that?’ “
Within half a minute the night calm was broken by the firing of hundreds of rifles. The battle had begun. The enemy attacked Dukoveskoie from the west side of the tracks.
During a lull, Ward took his bearings. His area had been plowed by shells from end to end. The first one had piched just under a peasant’s cottage. The cottage and its occupants were destroyed. A heavy purple pall hung over everything. Had the British been on that particular spot they would have suffered a similar fate.
In the growing light, with the aid of his glasses, Ward was able to make out the scheme of advance. He saw a continuous line from one mile on the left of the railway extending for some miles to the right. A space of about 100 yards on each side of the line was unoccupied.
It is doubtful if the Bolsheviks were aware that such an Allied army was now in Siberia. There was much fear among the partisans and not too much resistance. Those who could, simply made off. When the attack was mounted the Bolshevik armored train came into view. There was some machine gun fire from the Allied side.
The British had heard that the Japanese took no prisoners. The latter had bayoneted the engine driver, who, rumor had it, had been pressed into service.
By 8 am some of the first line troops had reached the hill to the south of Kraevski and were assembled. “The troops of the Japanese infantry company sent to cut the retreat from Kraevski suffered under a violent fire from an armored train while they were crossing marshy ground. Forty men were put out of action, but the company pressed on and cut the railroad, capturing two armored trains. The enemy, thus broken, retired. The Allied armies took up the pursuit of them which was pressed on the 25th.”
Padley remarked that he felt Ward’s description in the latter’s book read more like a comic opera than a true account of the battle. The Colonel described how he went prancing along the track taking a pot shot “with Lance-Corporal’s rifle.” The lieutenant recalled that Ward had several hundred men moving en masse down a railroad track. “We made a pretty good target, however poor the gunnery,” he stated.
“Therefore Dwight and I took it upon ourselves to put the men in extended order on either side of the track. We knew it was much safer that way although moving through the muskeg retarded our speed. The Colonel with a few bold spirits, including Captain Clark, who should have known better, continued on down the track. The next day we were reprimanded for re-forming the men. Perhaps we should have taken the high road and let the enemy gunners get their bag.”_
“There, at the side of the road,” Padley recalled, “was a man with a coil of wire, telephone wire perhaps, turned around his arm. He was prone on the track in his blood soaked shirt. Around the armored truck were a dozen other corpses, dead some ten hours. Their glassy eyes stared into the sun. The whole thing was beastly. I wish I could erase it from my memory.”
A resume of the battle indicated that the enemy had 8,000 men. He left 300 dead on the battlefield. The total dead and wounded of the Japanese forces was estimated at 150. Losses of the Allied troops were not high but no detailed report of them had been received just after the battle. The principal booty consisted of two armored trains, two field guns, four machine guns, ten kilometers of telegraph wire plus a quantity of rifles, ammunition, etc.
By the evening of the 26th the Allies reached their objective – the hill. The enemy was retreating toward Ussuri Station. The Allied troops in the vicinity of the railway also proceeded toward Ussuri.
Later a communique from Gen. Nakajima to General Headquarters in Vladivostok stated that the Japanese had obtained information from prisoners. “Among three of them, two were farmers from around Ussuri Station and the third one was on his way. All three had been forcibly drafted. During the combat at Kraevski they deserted as soon as they saw Japanese troops. The following is their statement: (a) The draft of men between 18 and 20 was carried out in the Ussuri region on the 1st of August. These men were enlisted under the threat of death if they refused. (b) Equipment – the Bolsheviki sent them to Iman and gave them arms, etc. These prisoners were enrolled in the 1st Company of the 6th Peasant Battalion. Every man in this company had a Russian rifle and from 100 to 120 rounds of ammunition. (c) Re the Combat of Kraevski – the commander-in-chief of the Maritime Province is Sakovitch. The troops around Kraevski were under the command of a Czech named Rinder. The troops which participated in this action consisted of seven or eight battalions, each company having a machine gun. The battalion to which these prisoners belonged was stationed at Antonovka; it had four pieces of artillery. The Bolsheviki were said to have eight armored trains, five of which had been seen by these prisoners; two trains have been captured by the Japanese. They saw one or two aeroplanes over Ussuri Station. (d) The monthly pay of the soldier according to rule is 150 rubles per month, but they received on 17 rubles. The drafted men are forced to fight under threat of death. The rumor regarding the arrival of Allied troops which had been current for a long time was verified only after the Combat of Kraevski.”

Railroad employees along the line were interrogated as to the strength of the retreating enemy. On August 26th they reported that there were some 4,000 infantry, two squadrons of cavalry and 19 pieces of artillery. There were also some armored trains and ammunition cars. During his retreat the enemy was said to be destroying the railroad and pillaging widely. He continued retreating until the 27th. On that date the Japanese infantry entered Ussuri Station where it immediately occupied the railway bridge which was not yet destroyed. The railway bridges that were destroyed by the enemy included one north of Kraevski, one north of Shmakovka and the Kaoul bridge. It was estimated that the work of repairing these bridges would require several days.

According to a Russian who had talked to the enemy, the latter had no information until August 27th of the existence of a Japanese army at the front. He stated that “The Bolsheviks were greatly surprised by the attack of the Allied army and his retreat was carried out in indescribable disorder.”
Toward the end of August there was a great deal of activity all along the line. Echelon No. 1 of the Chinese troops arrived at Nikolsk on the 25th and left for Evguenievka on the 26th. Echelon No. 2 was expected to follow a day later. Echelon No. 3 had arrived at Harbin by the 26th and Nos. 4 and 5 were en route thereto. The Allied commander was expected to give the Chinese echelons necessary orders at the Nikolsk Station.
Two American echelons, two Japanese and two of Czecho-Slovaks with automobiles had left Vladivostok on the 25th. There were also orders to send four additional Japanese echelons.
At Evaguenievka there were four locomotives. One was said to be filled with Kalmikov troops, two with Japanese and one with Americans.
Although there was no unusual delay with regard to trains, there was considerable concern to keep them moving. Part of this concern was caused by a strike at one of the mines. The reserve supply of coal for the railroad was 1,800,000 poods_ as of August 26th. As the requirements were estimated at 30,000 poods per day, there was some concern as to the duration of the strike.
More sidings were deemed necessary at various stations so that war material could be adequately handled.
It seemed to observers that the whole of Russia’s people was anxious to use the railroads in all directions.
Appendix #21, translated for General Headquarters, Vladivostok

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 18

November 6, 2010 1 comment

The Siberian Sojourn Volume II- Chapter 18

– The British –

While the Americans were fighting with guerillas and bandits and working their way to Sviyagino, the British had been active in the field. The latter were proud to have been the first of the Allied troops to arrive in Vladivostok (on August 3, 1918) and never missed an opportunity to call attention to that fact. Almost at once, the British had been shuttled out of the city to the Ussuri front.

However, a number of the British Contingent had been hospitalized. These troops had already fought intensively in Europe and suffered from war fatigue. They were rated B-1, unfit for service in a theater of war. The Tommies called themselves “Members of the Hernia Battalion.”
The official name of the British contingent was The British Military Mission. It was headed by Major General Alfred W. Knox, a former attache in Petrograd.
General Knox had been attached to the British Embassy at Petrograd and had escaped to England at the start of the Revolution in 1917. His knowledge of the Russian language made him a good choice to be sent to Vladivostok to take charge of the British troops. “He was a tall, distinguished person.”
General Graves felt that Knox had considerable influence in shaping the British policy in Russia. “He spoke Russian and was personally known to many of the former Czarist officials; he was naturally autocratic and could not, if he had desired to do so, give sympathetic consideration to the aspirations of the peasant class in Russia whom he characterized as swine.” The White Russians, Graves thought, “convinced General Knox, and I think he was honest in his views, that if the Allies would arm, equip, pay, clothe and feed a Russian force, the Eastern Front could be formed of Russian volunteers. This Eastern Army was to be commanded by Allied and Russian officers, and General Knox though only a few Allied officers would be necessary.”
The British Military Mission consisted of the 9th Battalion, the Hampshire Regiment and the 25th Middlesex Regiment. It was the latter regiment which arrived August 3, 1918, 800 strong. These men had been moved from Singapore and Hong Kong. Many came from the Western Front of Europe and were not too pleased to be again sent into field service. The Hampshires did not leave India until October of 1918. The latter, therefore, landed in Vladivostok after the Americans. The Middlesex and the Hampshire regiments wintered at Omsk and Krasnoyarsk.
Colonel John Ward, commander of the Middlesex Regiment, had the best of his men on the way to Spasskoe by August 5th. The Colonel records that they left to the cheers of the multitude. Those cheers continued to ring in his ears for some time. A battalion of Czecho-Slovaks and a guard of honor from H.M.S. SUFFOLK hailed them and when they marched into town the soldiers, sailors and marines of many nations waved and cheered.
A reference book on the subject, however, reports that the British and Japanese were received in silence while the French and American troops were those who were cheered by the crowds.
It was upon arrival that Ward was directed to move his troops to the Ussuri front. As Commander of Operations, the Colonel had under his charge a small group of his B-1 soldiers. He estimated that some 18,000 enemies would oppose him.
As he marched out of Vladivostok, Ward returned the salutes of groups all along the road. He was a pompous sort of man who had been a Member of Parliament from Stroke-on-Trent. He had also been the secretary of the largest trade union in England. When the war broke out Ward did much recruiting for Kitchener, the propagandist whose posters aimed at stirring the hearts of men and women. Such posters titled “My Daddy had gone to war, has yours?” are today memorabilia of the early war years. Ward’s activity in recruiting men gained his commission for him. He was promoted to colonel and given command of the 25th Middlesex which he began to train on Salisbury Plain. Subsequently he was sent abroad for garrison duty. Two of his companies were left at Singapore and the other two proceeded to Hong Kong.
One of the men serving under Ward was Lt. A.C. Padley. The latter’s diary indicates that he had left Singapore on the SS LAMA and proceeded to Hong Kong where the PING SUEY carried him to Vladivostok. According to Padley, one unidentified man was too sick to face another tour of service. He jumped overboard before the vessel reached Singapore. This caused consternation and sadness. The Lieutenant was saddened at the wanton loss of another man who had done his best.
Padley was born on July 20, 1889 at Dent-de-Lion, Westgate-on-sea, Kent, England. He had grown up on a farm, rented by his father, which had derived its name from Westgate Towers, built in King John’s reign. It was some 800 years old and in good state of preservation. “Almost as good as Westgate Towers in Canterbury,” commented the lieutenant.
In 1914 Padley enlisted in the Royal Engineers at Rugby and was commissioned to the 4th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1915. A colorful military career followed.
“I was one of the lucky 11 who escaped with two bullets from the Somme Salient in France in 1916. The 9th Dublin Fusiliers had 11 officers in the morning and at nightfall there were but two! That was some blood bath. Afterwards I could peep through the port hole on a hospital ship as she lay at anchor and see the green fields of Old England. I had a brief spell at Somerville, Oxford, which served as a hospital; it had been a ladies’ college before the war. I was booked for India and left with a convoy of eight from Plymouth on May 4, 1917. Rumors said that the Germans knew all about us and were waiting. Incidentally, 55 ships had been sunk the previous week.”
Padley had some fond memories of that trip. He recalled: “The tub went west and still further west for days on end and headed for Freetown for coal. Although the WARMER CASTLE carried chiefly British troops, there were a few civilians among them including Espanoza, a well-known actor at the turn of the century. He accompanied a group on a South African tour. Another was an actress famous for her part in the Chocolate Soldier when it first appeared. She sang bits of it at evening concerts on shipboard.
“Table Mountain — a day or two ashore. Then the Cape. As that time I thought the strip of water separating Holyhead from Dubli
n to be the dirtiest strip known to man, but I had not yet seen the Cape of Good Hope at the ‘right time’ of year! Something of a monsoon awaited us at Durban. We packed sodden baggage in already sodden tents but kind people came out into the rain and invited us indoors. The next day the sun shone and we saw South Africa in all its glory. Durban once seen, is never forgotten. White rollers roaring up the beach for some of the finest surf bathing in the world. Blue mystic shore line of Pietermaritsburg. The whiteness and luxury of the costly buildings; the blue sea and bluer sky and green everywhere. Spent a little time on a Cunarder. . .not built for the tropics. It carried us away.
The EMDEN was around and everyone was scared stiff. Portholes were blinded; not a match for a gasper on deck. Go below and could not sleep; nearly all dying with the heat. Boer tobacco goes rancid in the hold. Bombay and bustle and then we disperse. Some go as far north as the Himalayas. We reach Ambala in the Punjab. . .we travel south to Bangalore; a brief stop at Agra to the Taj Mahal, drill and listen to lectures. Saunter through the sunlit glades of suburban Bangalore when the day’s work is done. Then Singapore with its odoriferous mango swamps, rickshaws, chotta pegs, tiffin club, chatter in the evenings, raffles, etc. Singapore is cocky and complacent and sublimely unconscious of what the morrow may bring forth.”
Padley finally reached Siberia where he continued to report the highlights and experiences of his sojourn there. Usually the meager notations were jotted down with the stubs of the poorest type of lead pencil and were often written in the dark or by candlelight. His 1918 diary was purchased in Mandalay and is today but a burnt and untidy reminder of his activities of so long ago.
The Lieutenant went with Ward on the first trip to Spasskoe along with 500 other men and a machine gun section of 43 men with four heavy type guns. When they arrived at Nilolsk on August 6th there was evidence that a battle had been fought between the Czecho-Slovaks and the Bolsheviks. The men viewed gruesome sights of horribly mutilated Czech soldiers who had fallen into the hands of what Ward termed “the terrorists.” Ward swore with indignation.
Once at the platform of the station at Nikolsk-Ussuri, Ward saw a Japanese rush forward and jam the butt of his rifle into the back of a Russian officer. The sentry grinned when the officer dropped to the ground and writhed with pain. The soldier was so pleased with this act that he was about to repeat it on the Russian woman. Ward drew his pistol to stop him. When the Colonel reported the incident to Japanese headquarters he was scathingly asked why he took the part of a Russian. Although Ward became an opponent of American policy in Siberia, he could not tolerate the Japanese attitude.
At about the time the British arrived, the Bolsheviks (when leaving Baikal Station) had placed guns on two car ferries. They shelled the Czecho-Slovak forces daily. This, however, did not hinder the latter’s progress. Continual artillery action to the east of the tunnel had lasted until about 10:30 August 2nd, and then less frequently. Czecho-Slovak and Russian forces continued to move over the hill.
Gaida was reported to have passed the tunnel to the front on August 2nd and on the morning of the 4th Colonel Kadlets moved his headquarters to the front.
In Vladivostok information was received that the boldness of the enemy made it imperative that the tunnel be completed in order to permit an armored train to pass through the hill no later than August 6th. (Previously we have seen that the RRSC was alerted to this deadline and was working full force.) The British had been directed to move from Vladivostok to the front. Everything was done to prepare the tunnel for passage but rain hindered the work.
By Saturday night, August 10th, the tunnel had been prepared so that eight echelons of Czecho-Slovaks were able to go through. Further movement was again interrupted by a slide and falling rocks which had derailed a train.
During this activity, the British had become firmly convinced that the Allies should have greater forces. This was no new concept, for the British reply delivered to the United States State Department on July 30, 1918 had revealed a clear difference of opinion between Washington and London.
Although approving aid to the Czecho-Slovaks, the British War Cabinet feared that the proposed force was inadequate. Conveying his opinion of the American Aide Memoire to Lord Reading Balfour had written:
“On the other hand we cannot pretend to ourselves nor ought we convey to them that we regard (the) size of the American-Japanese force as in any way adequate to the necessities of the case. To us it seems almost certain that either (the) Allied expedition will fail or that it will have to be largely reinforced; we hope the latter. But these are hopes you can hardly convey to (the) President.”
Ward, now in Siberia, proceeded to Spasskoe where he and some of his men dined with the Czecho-Slovak officer. Lt. Padley made this notation in his diary on August 6th: “We were glad to have arrived somewhere. We relaxed a bit, had an interesting dinner and went to a picture show afterwards, my first cinema in Siberia.”
On the 7th Ward was busy with plans and surveys. According to the Colonel, the British troops were happily received everywhere. He noted that they went to Sviyagino “which was the last fair sized town before the place called Kraevski.” Actually the latter was merely a station without a town but it became a busy spot within range of enemy artillery. At Sviyagino Ward again took tea with the Czecho-Slovaks and discussed the situation. Then he went to Spasskoe and decided that that would be his forward base. The British troops went into quarters wondering what the morrow would bring.
Ward’s interpreter was Lt. Bolsaar of the Imperial Polish Army. The latter accompanied Ward for a long consultation with Ataman Kalmikov, the Cossack leader who was in the good graces of the Allies at that time. His cruel nature which was later to strike fear everywhere he appeared was not yet revealed.
As the war progressed to Kalmikov engaged brutal members of his own clan and ordered wholesale murders of people. One of these henchmen was named Julienk, a member of the Ataman’s “Military Legal Department” which was in charge of carrying out murders. Julienk carried out such notorious deeds as robbing and murdering the Swedish Red Cross agents Hedblom (Swedish) and Opachang (Norwegian). But y rolled into the Amur to the Devil’s Mother.”
A Russian school teacher named A.N. Laremenko became one of the partisans. He reported the incident. Laremenko left an unusually fine account of his experiences and tells of his meeting Julienk in a Vladivostok jail, describing him as a striking example of the really criminal, sadistic type characteristic of those who followed Kalmikov.
Among the Czecho-Slovak commanders who were consulted on the situation were Captains Pomerenshiv and Stefanek who commanded the 8th Czecho-Slovak Battalion. Stefanek had been a brewer in Prague before the war, had been captured by the Russians and had been liberated after the Revolution. He had made quite a name for himself in Siberia and later was to become a General and the War Minister of Czecho-Slovakia. After the war he was killed in a plane crash while on his way home.
The British left Kraevski on the 9th. On the 10th they went on bivouac. Kalmikov was in action at this time.
Until that time the British had been billeted in railway coaches. The Czecho-Slovaks, who always seemed to have a preference for wooded areas as a site for defensive works, now selected one on the left bank of the road and insisted that it would be an ideal site for a British encampment. Riding about on his horse with wanted pomposity, Ward felt that the selection should have been his to make. He rejected the site chosen by the Czecho-Slovaks. He ordered that another site be prepared on the left flank of the woods. It was only 200 yards in front of the suggested site and was at a point where the roads crossed at a hollow spot on the ground. Ward claimed that he would feel more secure in that location pointing to the added protection of tall marsh grass which would serve to hide his position from observation by the enemy.
Men were immediately assigned to dig trenches. The Tommies grumbled at this; they were not in France where they had dug many “bloody” trenches. “France” commented a Tommie, “I wish to God I was there; we might have had Huns and lice, but I bet a free trip to Brighton they don’t have these damned mosquitoes there.” The British were becoming acquainted with the mosquitoes which had plagued the Yanks in another area. The enormous black mosquitoes were furiously attacking everyone. They called them the Siberian Monsters, just as had the Americans. Even in the tropics, there had been no similar insects. The flying black creatures were of an incredible size and ferociousness. Perhaps the only man who derived a modicum of satisfaction was the Colonel himself; he recalled that back in Hong Kong he had innocently inquired if it would be necessary to requisition mosquito netting for his men. He had met with the utter scorn of the Chief of Staff.
“Who ever heard of mosquitoes in Siberia?” the chief remarked reproachfully, “you know, Ward, you are not going to the South Pacific, you are going north.”
Ward smarted under the scorn.
The 25th Middlesex had known with some degree of revulsion the tropical breed of mosquitoes; such were dangerous chiefly as malaria carriers. Ward realized that doubtlessly the C.O. had been right on that day in Hong Kong. Now in Siberia, the coldest of all places he could imagine, Ward wished that the Chief would stop by for a visit and see the huge ugly winged mosquitoes which would suck a man’s blood through a thick blanket as readily as if they attacked his bare skin.
Ward himself reported: “They would find a place in the hair just below the cap and would raise swollen ridges of the head that would become so painful that it became almost impossible to wear any headgear.”
No one had to describe them to the men digging the trenches. One man’s wrists were puffed out level with his hands. Another’s eyes were nearly shut after an onslaught of the insects that had attacked him the night before as he slept.
Nevertheless, the men continued digging; many a thought must have turned to a quiet, peaceful English countryside with gardens and with English cats. At about dawn the trenches were finally completed. The men took pride in the works. According to Padley, on August 13th the British made camp at the perimeter of the woods.
Meanwhile, the Czecho-Slovaks had skillfully constructed a bower hut of tree branches. This was intended for the use of the Command. A hearty laugh went up when the men saw it. The quaint structure seemed completely out of place near their newly dug trenches. One man was reminded of a fairytale in which at any moment Hansel and Gretel would appear. He would have preferred to see their trail of bread crumbs rather than Bolshevik shells.
Still the hut was a serviceable affair and was a good hideaway for the officers or so it was thought, until the rains came. Then the British found it necessary to leave the sanctuary and repair to an old abandoned hut with a wild and yet appealing abandoned garden. One officer with a British fondness for flowers was reminded of his own garden so many miles away. While inspecting the profusion of varieties in this charming uncared-for field, he was suddenly shocked back to reality by discovering a shell which had apparently been left there by the Bolsheviki. Excitement followed and the area was immediately deemed unsafe. The men again returned to the mosquito-infested edge of the dark woods.
Nerves had become taut. An attack was expected at any time. Finding of the shell had made things uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it was generally hoped and believed that although the enemy had complete mastery of the opposite side that he would be easily sighted as he came over the river and into the range of the British rifles.
For what seemed an endless time, nothing happened. The quiet and peacefulness tended to calm some fears. The silence had become a subject for conversation among the men. Apparently, there were no revolutionists in the area. All might have gone along quietly until a ragged old tramp came wandering up the road.
An officer gave the order to detain and inspect the ragamuffin. The latter showed passports which seemed to be in order. The sentries were instructed to allow the man to pass but to direct him so that he could not see the British trenches. In the light of future developments, either the trenches had been seen or the tramp had sensed their location. Wherever his destination led him, the traveller must have reported the presence of the British in that area. Apparently this had been done with such accuracy that by daybreak the enemy artillery began spraying the woods with shrapnel and shells.
“We were at breakfast when one of those damned things dropped within 20 yards of us. It pitched just under a tree and lifted it wierdly into the air,” an officer reported.
Ward cursed the tramp and regretted not having had him shot. After sizing up the situation, the Colonel anticipated that things would worsen. The enemy had expended such a number of shells (some of German manufacture) that the indication was that they had an abundant supply of ammunition. The British had practically nothing to send back and were relieved when the enemy fire finally died down. The respite was short-lived. By darkness the shelling began again. The unequal duel lasted until about 2 am.
Via field telephone communication it was learned that the Czecho-Slovaks were retiring across their front and Kalmikov’s Cossacks were retiring over the river lower down and were taking up a position at Antonovka at the extreme right of the British rear.
The British realized that their position had become dangerous. The next move by the enemy could place the latter near the British line of communications.
“Where in hell are the Japs?” one Tommy asked. The absence of the Japanese resulted in indignation on the part of the British. Lt. Bolsaar, who had remained in the background, now advised: “Don’t trust the Japanese, I know them. They say they will march, but they will not come.”
Many a man was to recall that statement in the months ahead. Colonel Ward was assailed by doubts concerning the Japanese.
Although the British soldier had a reputation of being indomitable in unfavorable situations, some of the men in Siberia were disturbed. “The Fairy Godmother must be with us,” one man remarked, “or we would have been deader than doornails by now.”
Colonel Ward had sent an SOS to the Navy. Until two days before, the British had been able to give an occasional shot in return, but the Bolshevik gunners had found their mark on the two guns which were supposed to prevent any advance attack along the railway. As a result the only two field guns of the British had to be called in to fill that gap. This left the infantry without any artillery protection. It was then that Ward decided to call upon the Navy. He wired Commodore Payne, R.N. of H.M.S. SUFFOLK, lying at Vladivostok, of the untenable position in which the 25th Middlesex found itself. The message stated: “Send artillery assistance at once.”
Payne received the urgent message and, in an incredibly short time, he had fitted up an armored train with two 12-pounder naval guns and two machine guns. A similar train followed behind. The whole was under the command of Captain Bath, R.N., L.I.
Later Ward was to say of this aid: “It was scarcely possible to describe the feeling of relief with which our exhausted and attenuated forces welcomed this timely aid from our ever ready Navy.”
As the armored train came within sight of the Tommies, it did not take them long to place the 12-pounders into action. A memorable sight ensued. One shot ladened directly on the leading enemy engine. Volumes of steam burst from its dies and when the vapor subsided the scene evoked a cheer from the men in the trenches.
This result enabled the British to bring the two Czech guns into position to keep down the fire of the enemy. It also gave the Tommies a sense of security. Their rear was now safe in case they were forced to retire.
Lt. Padley recorded: “When the artificers from the H.M.S. SUFFOLK came up in that armored train and pulled up at the points at Kraevski to forestall an enemy advance it was certainly a welcome sight. This may help to explain why, when anything went wrong in the trenches, a weary soldier could be heard to exclaim; ‘Thank God we have a Navy!’ “
The Bolsheviks were obviously taken by surprise by they appearance of the British train. Later the Bolsheviks began to spray shrapnel but were not able to locate the British guns.
The Navy had given the soldier a new sense of security. The small party in the advance lookout was practically surrounded. Under Petty Officer Moffat they managed to escape, but the enemy was at their heels. It was left to a marine named Mitchell to save them. Seeing Moffat in difficulty, he turned on his knee and faced the pursuers. Their fire was erratic but his was cool and accurate.
As the enemy train advanced to a point near the British defensive works, havoc might have ensued. However, the British 12-pounders were too smartly handled to allow any liberties to be taken.
The Bolsheviks remained silent the next day, but at night they again began to shell the British, this time from a new vantage point. This consisted in the occupation of an Orthodox Church set high upon a hill; the Church tower was used as an observation post. This aroused the indignation of the British, but no orders came to blast the church. As the men waited, an enemy armored train moved up at 9:30 am. four other such trains followed. However, when a flank fire was directed at Ward’s new position the shells fell far short. His remaining gun changed position and by skillful maneuvering it was placed sufficiently near the enemy to put every shot near its mark. One shell was planted directly into the observation tower which caught fire at once and burned to the ground. As the tower burned the Tommies were sorry to see a lovely old church go up in flames; but they realized that lives had been saved by eliminating that observation point.
The veteran Czecho-Slovaks whose gunners were with the British then fired four shots so rapidly that the enemy was deceived into believing that four guns were in action against them. After about two hours the Bolsheviks retired with two guns out of action.
These had not been an easy few days for the British so newly arrived on the Siberian scene; this was also true for the Czecho-Slovaks and the French who had assisted. Yet back in Valdivostok the Japanese official had reported to American Headquarters that merely “some slight operations” had occurred from August 18th to August 23rd in the vicinity of Ussuri. Nothing was divulged as to the strength or location of the Japanese troops. The enemy was said to have been repulsed by machine guns furnished by the French. On August 2nd Japanese Headquarters had announced that the Kalmikov forces had occupied the position of Antonovka and had been attacked on the 20th from the rear but had effected a retreat in the direction of Kraevski situated about five versts distant.
The situation was considered difficult by the Japanese who stated that the village had been defended “under the energetic command of Colonel Pichon.” According to the communique, 8000 men were at Khabarovsk, not too far distant. Five thousand of these were said to be Austro-German and 3000 Bolsheviki. A majority of the inhabitants of that city were considered hostile to the Allies.
The officials in Vladivostok regarded the situation ominous. Nothing had been mentioned about the British who had left the city earlier in the month to cope with the outbreak on the Ussuri line. The Allied commanders considered the Japanese reports distorted. Questions were raised as to what the British, French and Czecho-Slovaks were doing. All that the communiques seemed to mention was the great success of the “glorious Japanese army.”
In the field word had reached the Bolsheviks that the Allied armies were assembling in Vladivostok with the intention  of marching forward to wipe them out. At first the Bolsheviks had not bee impressed by such rumors considering such merely as a ruse; when they saw the British and the Czecho-Slovaks returning their fire, the strong attack of the Naval train and heard reports that the Americans were also on the move, they began to reconsider the validity of the rumors.
The Bolsheviks began to use tactics to confuse the peasants who were already petrified at the sight of so many strangers in their areas. As the Bolsheviks retreated they murdered local residents and pillaged villages. They also warned ignorant inhabitants that foreign soldiers were coming to torture them.
Meanwhile, Col. Ward’s forces continued activity and artillery action in his sector in the woods. Lt. Balsaar continued advising Ward not to rely on the possibility of the Japanese making a flanking move as had been promised.
Ward arose early one morning to see a weary sentry walking his post. In a beautiful, serene Siberian sky the Colonel tried to picture what the coming day would hold in store. The sentry soon aroused the bugler who might have been disturbed in a dream of home to suddenly find himself back in a distant and alien country. After reveille was sounded, the camp was quickly bursting with activity and ready for another endless day.
A phone buzzed. The Czech operator answered; a serious expression appeared on his face. Returning the receiver to its hook on a large tree which served as part of the communication system, he turned to Balsaar.
“Major Pichon wants to see Colonel Ward at once at headquarters. It seems to be very serious,” he reported. Nero, Ward’s splendid horse was brought around at once and the Colonel soon was on his way.
Expressions of anxiety were heard in the ranks. Making his way to headquarters, Ward learned of the gravity of the situation. Pichon informed Ward that large numbers of the enemy had infiltrated between the sentries. The situation required immediate action to prevent annihilation of the Allied forces.
In camp the men had been warned to shoot any stranger on sight. When some men were sighted coming along the road, rifles were leveled.
Suddenly the voice of Percy Dwight was heard. “Wait! Don’s shoot! I think those troops are Czechs.” And so they were. They had become detached from their unit and were searching for the Allied lines.
Ward and Pinchon meanwhile had decided that a withdrawal was the only alternative to envelopment. Orders were drawn up so that a retreat would be both methodical and efficient. The Czecho-Slovaks were to retire first past Ward’s lines and entrain at Kraevski; the British and the French were to bring up the rear. The latter, in turn, were to be covered by an English armored train assisted by a machine gun company of the Middlesex Regiment under Lt. King. “So the evacuation of our splendid position regretfully began.”
The 12th Division had moved up from Sviyagino to deploy the Japanese troops immediately behind the new line. They pushed their right flank out far beyond the Bolshevik positions; early in the evening the Japanese began to envelop the enemy left with their usual wide turning movement. The Japanese units now acted as a reserve and were in position before sunset. The British were ordered to move the observation post of their armored trains 600 yards ahead. Lt. King, Ward’s machine gun officer, was directed to move forward with a reduced company of Czecho-Slovak infantry to protect his advanced post.
Considerable action had taken place on the night of August 22nd. There were constant skirmishes between the British and the enemy. About 8:30 on the morning of the 23rd the British found that the Japanese patrols had quietly retired without giving notice. It was also noted that the enemy was in position on the plain for an attack and had alrea of the enemy. He arrived in time to see a duel between one of the British armored trains and a “rather spirited fellow of the same sort from the other side.”
Shells were falling to the right of the British train on the very road on which the officers were riding. They dismounted and sent the horses out of range. They then boarded the British train and observed the contest.
The situation grew tense. One of the 12-pounders faulted and the British had to retire. They could not go too far back as it was obvious that the terrorists would follow and wreak havoc upon the British infantry in the trenches near the railroad. Capt. Bath was aware of this danger and steamed forward firing rapidly. Shells burst about his target and so bewildered the enemy that the latter retired to safety.
By 7 pm a few sharp rifle cracks were heard. These sounds soon became mixed with the staccato chatter of machine guns. The rolling sound of conflict spread from the center along the entire right front. Until then it had been exclusively a small arms fight. At this point the Bolshevik artillery opened up; the Japanese and Czecho-Slovak batteries followed.
The weather was beautiful and it might well have been another splendid Siberian summer night. Instead, all hell broke loose and the area became a flashing inferno. Ward described it thus: “The silent tree-clad mountains to right and left vibrated with the music of battle, while shell and shrapnel screeched like frightened ghouls over the valley below, where white and yellow men were proving that there is no color bar to bravery. This din lasted about two hours and then died away almost as rapidly as it began.”
It had been a long and hard day. Ward turned into his wagon for the night and started the nightly ritual of fighting mosquitoes. The trains steamed slowly back to Sviyagino and all was silent again.
Ward had not been asleep long when a staff captain from Japanese Headquarters awakened him to deliver an urgent message. It was the order of the day and read: “To Colonel Ward. Officer Commanding Reserves. Operation Order by Lieut.-General S. Oie, Commanding 12th Division, Svagena August 23, 1918.”
“1. All enemy attacks were driven back today. We gained two machine guns and five captives.
“2. The Allied troops will attack the enemy, inflicting upon them an annihilating disaster, tomorrow; August 24.
“3. The Japanese troops will attack the enemy, starting the present line, at 3 o’clock, the 24th, morning.
“4. The reserve British, French, Kalmakoff’s forces, and a few Japanese companies will be under the command of Japanese. Colonel Inagaki will arrive at the north-western side of Dukoveskoie at 2 o’clock tomorrow morning.
“(Signed) S. Oie
“Commanding 12th Division.”
Harry LeMoine Ruggles, Royal Canadian Artillery attached to British Railway Mission
Graves’ book
With the “Die-Hards” in Siberia by Col. John Ward
America’s Siberian Expedition 1918-1920 by Betty Miller Unterberger
Padley’s papers
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Colonel George H. Emerson’s Report of the American Railroad Engineers with the Czecho-Slovaks, May 5 – September 1918, WDNA
Emerson’s report
Unterberger’s book quoting Balfour to Reading, Wiseman papers
Padley’s papers
John Albert White’s book
Ward’s book; Graves’ book
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Ward’s book; Padley’s papers
Ward’s book; Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Padley’s papers; Ward’s book; other reports
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Padley’s papers
Packard’s report; report from various veterans
Padley’s papers; Ward’s book
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Padley’s papers
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
Ward’s book
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