11th August 1919 Monday

“Rawly” Arrives

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“About this time strong rumours of the British evacuation shortly of Archangel and district were going about. I heard that all British civilians had been ordered, or advised to leave within a month. Several British families, including the Carrs, (of Steuart’s timber yards) left on the 11th August.

I heard about this time too some details of the Bolo success at Onega, which village on the White Sea was taken from us recently. The Bolo success was, as usual, due to the fact that our gallant Russian Allies deserted us at the critical moment. Some of these deserters were being brought to Archangel on the ‘Walton Belle’ when they mutinied, and killed the British sergeant in charge, and wounded others of the escort. H.M.S. ‘Fox’ luckily arrived on the scene, and the O.C. sent an armed party aboard. They saw red, and not one of these Russian traitors lived to tell the tale.

On Monday August 11th General Rawlinson and his staff arrived on board the ‘Czaritza’. He has come out to superintend the safe evacuation of the British forces – so rumour has it. At our Hospital we have closed down most of the wards, and have stared packing up some of the equipment.

Another paddle steamer brought to cope with the shallow waters of the Dwina was the Walton Belle, a smaller boat than the London Belle that we dealt with on the 2nd August. London Belle had been fitted with 165 beds and less were fitted into the Walton Belle. The diary of seaman Ethelbert Daish  http://ethelbertsdiary.co.uk/?page=home confirms that paddle steamers had to make the journey out in short hops, clearly to take on supplies, water and fuel in order to make such a long trip. I heartily advise readers to visit the online diary to further their experience and knowledge of the North Russian expedition. Ethelbert tells us further of unrest and mutiny. Thank you to our Archangel correspondent Dmitry Bychiknin for alerting us to this diary.

HMS Fox was mentioned on the 15th May and Czaritza on the 26th/27th May.

The arrival of General Rawlinson saw one of Britain’s top military men come to oversee the withdrawal of the allied forces. It’s difficult to understand why it was necessary to send for a hero of the Boer War, Neuve Chapelle, The Somme and many other battles throughout the conflict on the Western Front the most experienced and battle hardened General the British army possessed when the operation in northern Russia was coming to a close. However, it must have been a boost to moral to have one of Britain’s most experienced Generals arriving to take over operations.

Known as Rawly to his confidents, General Sir Henry Seymour Rawlinson now simply Lord Rawlinson had excelled in his duties during the Second Boer War and worked his way steadily through the ranks. By the beginning of the Great War he had achieved the rank of Major General although this was by the usual British method of promotion, temporary and Brevet ranks. This was the British army’s normal way of promotion by giving an honorary position which came with the power of rank, but not the pay grade. Only permanent gazetted promotion to a rank ensured that the appropriate pay accompanied the title. So it wasn’t until 1917 that he was given the permanent rank of General, following all his successes and failures over the course of the war.

1918, however brought most of his military successes with his victories at the Battle of Amiens. By now General Hubert Gough had been relieved of his command and Haig had given Rawlinson almost complete command of the allied forces in France. Lessons of the Somme and Passchendael had been learned, but German moral at this time was at a very low ebb. The German commander Ludendorff described Amiens as a “Black day for the German Army”.

So the arrival of Rawlinson, one of the most famous men of WW1 would have been seen by the men remaining in Russia as a high point and resulted in a lifting of spirits.

British Army General Henry Rawlinson at his Fourth Army headquarters at Querrieu Chateau. (Q 4032) © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125115

British Army General Henry Rawlinson at his Fourth Army headquarters at Querrieu Chateau.
(Q 4032) © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125115

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