13th September 1918 Friday
Nothing much happened except …
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“Friday, September 13th. The only event of importance today was the arrival from Obozerskaya of a party of about two hundred Americans with seven officers, including a medical officer – Lt. Little – and a Russian officer, who was supposed to be an interpreter, but could talk neither English or French! They were all very tired after their three days’ trek. The C.C. – Capt. Donoghue was a red-headed Irish-American, and later on proved himself to be a great fighter, thus winning the D.S.O. Lt. Little, the doctor, was another of the best, and he and I soon became good friends. These two were two of the few ‘real’ Americans out here. The others were a mixture of Huns, Austrians, Poles, Russians etc. – the scum of the earth – full of Bolshevism, and hopeless as fighters. Time and again they let us down badly, not only the men, but the officers, by running away in the face of the enemy. If this had happened in the British Army the offenders would have been promptly shot, but the wonderful Americans ? of the N.R.E.F. were lavishly decorated with Military Crosses and military medals by a very soft and diplomatic British G.H.Q.
The American troops were the first, and always the worst offenders at selling canteen and Government stores. One caught them frequently in the market-place selling tobacco, jam etc. to the Russians, and making huge profits out of their transactions. I’m told that up on the railway they even went out to the Bolshevik lines at night and sold to the enemy canteen stores.
But they were by no means the only offenders in this respect. Our own R.A.M.C. men were very bad. In a month’s time only about 300 roubles was paid out to the men, yet at the end of the month there was a profit of 3000 roubles in the canteen!
The big ‘wigs’ at G.H.Q. were worse than anyone at one time. They used to barter whole cases of whisky for furs, and if one went into their offices on business, very little business was ever done – the whole talk seemed to be on bartering.
About this time the great canteen store scandal came to light. Several hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of stores were sent out here about the same time as we came out. They were all dumped on the quay at Bakharitza, with one officer – Major Lynch – and one N.C.O. to look after them! Russian guards were provided to look after them, and they, with the help of the dock-labourers, had a fine time especially amongst the whisky! Then American, British, and French guards were put on, but still the wholesale plundering went on, and practically every night when the guards were relieved they were found to be hopelessly drunk. This went on till about £500,000 worth of stores – mostly whisky – had been stolen. Then the remainder was moved into sheds surrounded by barbed wire, and the thieving on a large sale stopped. Of course the whole thing was the fault of the authorities for not sending out a proper staff to look after the stores. The result was that it was almost the end of October before we poor unfortunates ‘up the line’ got any canteen supplies at all. For seven long weeks we lived on ‘hard tack’ – bully beef, maconochie, biscuits (extra hard), jam (not very much), tea and sugar – nothing else, except what we were able to buy from the poor peasants in the way of an occasional egg, or bit of black, evil-smelling, and equally evil-tasting bread. In all that time we got no cigarettes or tobacco ration either. Luckily I had brought up with me a good supply of both, which managed to keep we four officers going, on short rations. But the men were reduced to smoking hay or moss in their pipes, or rolled up in a bit of any old newspaper! It was very hard luck on the men, for they had to endure great hardships, and we all know how a cigarette or pipe soothes one after a particularly strenuous time.”
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