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!
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“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!”
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