Monthly Archives: October 2018

29th October 1918 Tuesday

Off to Archangel Again

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“On Tuesday evening, 29th Oct., I travelled down the line in the Ambulance Train on my way to Archangel to see the A.D.M.S. on business. The train pulled up at Isako Gorka at some unearthly hour in the morning but I slept on till nearly 8 o’clock. I caught the 9 o’clock passenger train to Bakharitza, and at the station met Steuart who is M.O. at Isako Gorka. I think he said that he had about twenty soldiers to look after, and was having a grand time with dances nearly every night! When I eventually reached the A.D.M.S.’s office, I found him rather scared over a telegram which he had just received from H.Q. at home. He had the ‘wind-up’ properly! My conference with him was successful, as he gave me a free hand to do what I liked ‘up the line’! On the way back to Obozerskaya I dined with Steuart at Isako Gorka.”

Map University of Michigan digital archive

Map University of Michigan digital archive https://quod.lib.umich.edu

A huge convoy loading up with provisions etc for the British force at Seletskoe about fifty miles off

A huge convoy loading up with provisions etc for the British force at Seletskoe about fifty miles off

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

28th October 1918 Monday

Captain Page Rides the Footplate!

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“On Monday 28th I had a trip up the line to the forward positions at Verst 455. I travelled on an engine – the usual way of getting about! It was very bumpy, and hot. The engine fire was stoked with huge billets of wood. The country we passed through was very bleak and uninteresting – forest and swamp. When I arrived at Verst 455 I found no M.O. there as I had expected, so returned by engine to Verst 466 where I met an American doctor, named Collins – a good sort. I remained with him quite a while, and returned to Obozerskaya by the evening train.

The Flying Corps mess at Obozerskaya was a great place. Like most of the other messes it was housed in a railway carriage. The walls were decorated with pictures distinctly Parisian, and the food served up was always wonderfully good, although it did not touch the efforts of the French chef at H.Q. Mess. The Officers were nearly all Canadians, and a right merry bunch they were too. Many a jolly evening I spent with them. In return for their kindness to me I was able to ‘wangle’ for them a gramophone, and numerous records from the Red Cross Stores!”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

27th October 1918 Sunday

Douglas Spies a Hospital in the Woods

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“On Sunday 27th I had a walk over to the ‘Forestry Village’ about a mile from Obozerskaya with the Sanitary Sergeant. This little settlement is a group of about half-a-dozen houses surrounding a large school-house. Here, in pre-war days, the Russian Government trained some of their many forest rangers. I found it to be a delightful little spot, and had a look through the school with a view to acquiring it as a hospital. To my mind it should make an ideal little hospital, with billets for the staff in the adjoining houses.”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

26th October 1918 Saturday

Elusive Russian Elephants

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“Everything now is covered with a thick mantle of snow, as it has been snowing hard without ceasing for the last few days. The winds are bitterly cold too. On the 26th Oct. I met Capt. Hughes, M.C. who is in charge of the Ambulance Train, and Lt. Commander Young, who commands the armoured train up here. He lost his right arm at Zeebrugge. Capt. Rosenfeldt went out into the forest in the afternoon on a shooting expedition, but didn’t bag anything. He brought back, however, great tales of all the bears, wolves, elephants etc. that he had encountered!”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

25th October 1918 Friday

Resemblance to an Executed Diplomat

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“On Friday 25th Oct. I met the Camp Commandant, Major Turner, and had a long talk with him about the sanitation of the place etc. He was nick-named – Major Casement – being not unlike that worthy! He was a very heavy drinker, and was in many an escapade whilst I was on the Railway Front. The sanitation of this part of the front I found to be hopeless. There were no proper latrines, and no facilities for the men washing.”

The mention of Major Casement is a clear reference to Roger Casement executed in 1916 for his part in the Easter Uprising in Ireland. We can assume Major Turner bore more than a passing resemblance to the former British diplomat.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/6188264610/

NLI Ref.: CAS1A https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/6188264610/

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

24th October 1918 Thursday

The Objectional Little Worm and Annoying Woodlice

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“On Tuesday 24th October I left Bakharitza by train at 9.30 a.m., and travelled quite comfortable in a 2nd Class carriage with a man Phillips, one of the Relief Food Commissioners, who was very interesting. Reached Obozerskaya about 3 p.m. which is considered good going for this line! The country we passed through was bleak and uninteresting – nothing but swamps and forests. I reported to the O.C. at H.Q., who turned out to be Col. Gavin, late of D. Force, my old boss. He was delighted to see me. I had a job finding a billet for the night, but eventually put up in an old truck used as part of the ambulance train. Most of the troops up here live in railway trucks. What a life! I met Capt. Black, our surgeon up here – a thin, hatchet-faced individual, an atheist and a pro-German. Later on I found out that he was the cause of all the trouble that had been going on up here, and that he was a most objectionable little worm. I also met Capt. Rosenfeldt, an American doctor, who is in charge of the hospital in the station house here. Rosenfeldt is an Austrian, and looks it, and he and Black turned out to be very friendly. Many a time they annoyed me with their Pro-Hunnish talk.

The hospital here consisted of two wards, and I never saw such a dirty place in all my life before. It was staffed by American orderlies, as well as two Russian nurses – awful looking hags. I noticed later that Black was paying a lot of attention to one of them, and used to have her into his operating car to tea! There was also a Russian doctor attached to the hospital. He did not do any work, however, but played a lot of draughts and chess with Black. At midnight I was present at an operation for acute appendicitis which Black did in his operating car. I gave the anaesthetic, and all went well. The operating car was a railway carriage converted into an operating theatre and was a beautiful little place. Black and his orderly had bunks in the same carriage, and another carriage served as a ward. I found it very cold in my new abode – the railway carriage – and wood lice annoyed me all night.”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

22nd October 1918 Tuesday

Episode Two of Douglas’s Russian Experience and the Death of Lt. Kenneth Croal

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“I set off on Tuesday 22nd October on the second part of my Russian adventure. I crossed by boat at one o’clock to Bakharitza on the other side of the Dwina, and proceeded to 82 Casualty Clearing Station where I put up for the night. All the next day I was busy buying stores – candles soap etc. – from the canteen. I heard that Kenneth Croall had been killed in the Railway Front. The news came as a great shock to me, as I was looking forward to seeing him again.”

“Lt. Kenneth Croall(sic.), 2/10th Royal Scots, was an Edinburgh boy whom I got to know very well on the voyage out here from England. He had only been up at the
front for a day on tour when an enemy shell landed in his dug-out, killing him instantaneously. He was buried in the lovely little military cemetery opposite the railway station at Oberzaskaya in the depths of the Russian forest. The
Royal Air Force officers were very kind & at my request made a cross made of an aeroplane propeller & erected it over Kenneth Croall’s grave”.

Kenneth Croal is mentioned by General Ironside in his account of the Russian Intervention, Archangel 1918-19 and now has a memorial in the Archangel Allied Cemetery in Archangelsk, North Russia.

Kenneth Croal is mentioned by General Ironside in his account of the Russian Intervention, Archangel 1918-19 and now has a memorial in the Archangel Allied Cemetery in Archangelsk, North Russia.

Although Douglas intimates that he met 2nd Lt. Kenneth Croal on the City of Cairo bringing them both to Archangel, Kenneth was in fact well known to friends of the Page family the Sturrocks of Leith. When I first read the mention of Lt. K Croal in General Edmund Ironside’s “Archangel 1918-1919”, I knew that it was a name familiar to me. Searching through family photographs we came across the picture that I knew we had. Fortunately, a contemporary relative had marked the backing paper of the picture identifying those in the group. The group consisted of Kenneth Croal then aged about 18; T.G.Gordon Sturrock (see this diary post for more details) Mrs. Annie Sturrock (Gordon and Douglas Sturrock’s Mother) and Douglas Sturrock.

Kenneth Croal and members of the Sturrock family

At a garden fete at Sir Richard Mackie’s (Provost of Leith) at Trinity. Kenneth Croal (killed in action), Gordon Sturrock (killed in action), Mrs Sturrock and Douglas Sturrock.

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

21st October 1918 Monday

Another Senior Medical Officer Posting

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“Next day – Monday 21st October, – I was summoned to the A.D.M.S. Office, and was told that I had been appointed S.M.O., Vologda Force with my headquarters at Obozerskaya on the Archangel-Petrograd Railway. It seemed to me to be a ticklish job that I was in for, as I had ten other M.O’s. (British, French, Russian and American) under me, as well as the supervision of an ambulance train, an operating centre, an hospital, baths, laundry etc. I had dinner with Cat. Kennedy, and Capt. Evans, the Sanitary Officer, who was with the 38th (Welsh) Division in France as a Sanitary Sergeant.”

Modern map showing the route of the Railway from Archangel to Obozerskaya. The line branching left to the North West towards Onega didn't exist at the time. © OpenStreetMap contributors

Modern map showing the route of the Railway from Archangel to Obozerskaya.
The line branching left to the North West towards Onega didn’t exist at the time. © OpenStreetMap contributors

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

20th October 1918 Sunday

First Heavy Snow and an Unfinished Hospital

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“We had our first taste of real snow, and Arctic blizzards on Sunday 20th. It snowed very heavily all day, and the high wind was bitterly cold. I had a look at our hospital site during the day. It is a huge 3-storeyed building built of wood. It was being built as an extension of the Russian Naval Barracks adjoining, but we took it over, and at present a large gang of workmen – carpenters, masons etc. are busy working on it. The place will not be ready for use for a good while yet.”

Douglas’s photo of the mess quarters of the 85th General Hospital on Solombola Island showing the officers’ mess on the top floor, sergeants’ on the middle floor and the canteen and men’s quarters on the ground floor.

Douglas’s photo of the mess quarters of the 85th General Hospital on Solombola Island showing the officers’ mess on the top floor, sergeants’ on the middle floor and the canteen and men’s quarters on the ground floor.

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here

19th October 1918 Saturday

A trip to the ADMS, Stinking Peasants, Britain teaches the Russians How to Queue and So That’s Where all the Booze Is!

All material produced or reproduced here and throughout this work is the sole copyright of the author and the family of Doctor D.C.M. Page MC.

“On the following day – Saturday 19th October – Major Richmond took me along to see the A.D.M.S. – Col. McDermott. We went via electric car crossing a branch of the Dwina on a long wooden bridge. This bridge is taken down each year when the ice forms on the river, and is built up again when the thaw comes. This means that the island of Solombola is cut off completely from Archangel for a few days each year, when the ice is forming, and again when it is breaking up. When the ice is properly formed the cars run on rails across the frozen river. One would have thought that it would have been cheaper in the end to have built a specially constructed permanent bridge. The car we travelled in was packed full, and more, with a seething, stinking mob of Russian peasants. I was nearly asphyxiated before we reached our destination. On these cars one gets in at one end, and out at the other. The seats are generally occupied by Russian males, whilst the women have to stand. Usually when a car draws up at the terminus there is a huge mob awaiting to board it, and when it comes to a standstill a regular battle ensues. The male Russians shove, and kick at the women and children, and a more disgraceful sight one never wishes to see. I’m glad to say that the British authorities instituted the queue, and ordered the Russian government to put a sentry at each terminus to see that a proper queue was maintained. This arrangement was a great boon to all users of the car, and the Russian bullies were subdued. The car conductors were women – most of them very fat, so that when they were collecting the fares from the densely packed mob inside the car, they fairly threw their weight about squeezing in and out amongst the people.

The A.D.M.S., the D.A.D.M.S. (Major Rooke), and the D.A.D.M.S. (Sanitation) – a Capt. Kennedy from Edinburgh and a Watsonian – were all very kind to me, but old McDermott didn’t pay much attention to me. He seemed to be very much taken up with his recent, or intended acquisition of some furs, for which he was to give in exchange a bottle of whisky! This form of bartering seemed to be all the rage amongst the be-tabbed ones at headquarters. ‘Up the line’ one wouldn’t get a drink for love or money, but at H.Q. the messes were swimming in it, and the brave, be-ribboned ones were sending home parcels of lovely furs – blue fox etc. – which were acquired dirt cheap!”

Find out about our connection with Dr Page and an introduction to his diary here