Ray

31st January 1919 Friday

Dear Mrs…. Things Are Very Busy Here

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“After this things got busy in our hospital, and every day fresh cases arrived until we were full up. As we were understaffed, it meant that the non-administrative officers, like myself, got a great deal of extra work to do. For instance, at one time, another officer and myself, had to look after all the patients in hospital between ourselves. There were over 400 patients in the hospital at the time. The registrar sat in his office writing letters to his wife, no matter whether we had 400 or 4 patients to attend to.”

Captain Grant outside the entrance to the officers and Sgts. messes & men’s quarter, 85th General Hospital

Captain Grant outside the entrance to the officers’ and Sgts’. messes
& men’s quarter, 85th General Hospital.

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

30th January 1919 Thursday

Open for Business

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“On Wednesday, January 30th*, our famous hospital opened its doors, and patients streamed in from near and far. I was put in charge of four wards – two surgical and two medical – and had fifty odd patients dumped on me during the afternoon. It was a great game getting them all sorted out. They were nearly all transfers from No. 53 Stationary Hospital in Archangel, and the amount of literature they brought with them in the way of case sheets, medical histories etc just about gave me a fit when I started to unravel it all. My patients consisted of Britishers and Russians, but there was one Chinaman amongst them. I was working till late at night getting things put straight in my wards, but was very glad to be at work again.”

The main entrance to the hospital

The main entrance to the hospital

*In 1919 30th January was a Thursday.

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

24th and 25th January 1919 Friday and Saturday

Nothing much happened … except

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

“During the next few days nothing very startling happened. The ‘Canada’ sailed on the 24th for Blighty with a lot of sick and wounded aboard. On the 25th two other officers and myself sat on two Courts of Enquiry. The first was to investigate the loss of two army shirts (value 3/6), and the second to probe the mystery (?) of a burst radiator. On the same day the matron and four sisters arrived from the hospital ship ‘Kalyan’. Needless to say, we were all on our best behaviour and enjoyed the ladies’ visit immensely. That night we had a Burns celebration. It was a grand night. Kennedy came along from Archangel, and he and I danced a Highland Fling together after dinner. The Count de Campello proposed the ‘Immortal Memory’ very dramatically, and most of us made a speech, or speeches afterwards.”

We haven’t been able to clarify exactly which ship Douglas is referring to but the SS Canada in the picture below is our best guess. If we do find clarification we will update this post.

SS Canada

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19th January 1919 Sunday

No Boogie for Dougie

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“Along with some other officers I went to a Russian dance in the Duma on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 19th. The tickets were 60 roubles each and all the Archangel aristocracy were there. The ballroom was very prettily decorated, and two very excellent bands supplied lovely Russian music. It was a brilliant spectacle. There were many British, French, American and Russian Army and Naval officers present in uniform, and the ladies’ dresses were very gorgeous. I didn’t dance at all as I had no dancing pumps, and left about 1 am. Some of the dances were very intricate, and amusing in a way. Refreshments were to be had, but at a terrible price. One of us had a bottle of whisky, and some biscuits in his overcoat pocket in the cloak-room. Thither we repaired for a little ‘moral support’ when the need arose! I met Little, the Yankee doctor, there, and we had a long yarn together. He had been awarded the Military Cross for good work done at Seletskoe, and I’m sure he deserved the recognition.”

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

13th January 1919 to 18th January 1919

Coming to Terms with the Cold

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“Jan. 13th was a bitterly cold day, and 63 degrees of frost were registered. One’s eyebrows, eyelashes and nostrils froze as soon as one went outside, and it was very painful to breathe. Men with beards and moustaches had icicles hanging from them!

I started to learn ski-ing too. It was great fun, and I came some awful croppers in the snow. It was hard work too to begin with, and one’s thigh muscles felt the strain especially.

One day I witnessed a Russian burial in the cemetery about a mile from the hospital. A small boy was being buried, and many children were present at the grave side. The wailing that went on was very weird. Before the grave was filled in rice was thrown on the coffin.”

63 degrees of frost! -63 degrees Fahrenheit or -52 degrees Celsius, however you want to call it, it adds up to exactly the same thing. Extremely bloody cold! There is no exact definition of how long a human being can survive in extreme cold, it depends on how used to it you are. However, if you have never experienced it the risks are deceptively severe. The native Russians looked upon their foreign guests with both disdain and wonderment at how they coped with the severe cold.

Having been in the city centre of Moscow in -32 cel. I can tell you from experience that if you attempt to go outside with your head uncovered for instance you are stared at with incredulity. The cold is not the damp, chilling affair that we experience with a couple of degrees of frost that we get in the UK. It is a deceptive, dry cold. Deceptive because if you’re not used to it you can succumb to it very quickly. The first thing the inexperienced traveller arriving in ice bound country does is rush to throw snowballs at their colleagues, this simply doesn’t happen. The snow is so cold it is like dry powder making it impossible to form into a ball. Leaving parts of your skin exposed can be very dangerous and susceptible to frostbite. The natives know this and deal with it in their stride, making them able to live with the conditions far easier than feeble foreigners. It seems Captain Page was coping with it admirably.

Myself on the frozen Dwina

Myself on the frozen Dwina

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

4th January 1919 Saturday

Not Quite Fit but a Quiet Time at Work

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 was discharged from hospital classed B iii  on Saturday January 4th and returned to 85 General Hospital, at Solombola. My hip still troubled me, but as there was no work to be done at Solombola, I was able to rest it when I wanted to. The days were spent in walks into Archangel, and along the riverside, and bridge.”

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

2nd January 1919 Thursday

Mysterious Death on an Ambulance Train

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“On January 2nd came the news that Lt. M——- R.A.M.C. in charge of the ambulance train on the railway front, had committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor in the train. He had been worrying about his practice at home, it seems. He was only 39, and a big, strapping Scot.”

Investigations into the episode mentioned here are ongoing. The victim’s name has been withheld until a clearer picture regarding the circumstances of the death on the train has emerged, with deference to surviving family members. It may or may not be possible to prove or disprove the facts, but we are working to establish the facts surrounding the event.

At the moment the evidence we have is enough to at least cast some doubt on a verdict of suicide.

When we feel we have enough we may present the facts as we find them and ask the reader to decide for themselves what they believe to be the truth.

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

Hogmanay 1918/1919

Happy New Year Everyone, Except Bolos

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 waited up to see the New Year in. It was a beautifully clear and frosty night. At midnight all the church bells rang, and ships’ sirens, and engine whistles blew. Somewhere a few rockets were sent up. After I had got into bed the night sergeant came in with two bottles of beer, and Richardson and I drank in the New Year.”

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

30th December 1918 Monday

Fortnight Old News Gets to Archangel

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 paid another visit to Solombola on the 30thwhen I learned that Col. Richmond had been sent up to Obozerskaya to take over from Harrison the job that I had. I also heard the result of the elections at home, and was pleased to hear of Asquith’s defeat by Col. Sprot.”

News had now reached Archangel of the election at home on December 14th. Herbert “Squiffy” Asquith, a barrister who as Prime Minister in August 1914 led Gt. Britain into what became The Great War. Asquith like many Prime Ministers including the man that succeeded him David Lloyd George, was a controversial character.

The public had their say on his performance in the election of December.

Still leader of the non-coalition Liberal Party, Asquith assumed his parliamentary seat of East Fife was safe. He only made a couple of brief visits to his constituency despite a concerted effort of campaigning against him by local women, some of whom now had the vote for the first time

Herbert Henry Asquith. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-23315 http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.23315/

Herbert Henry Asquith. Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-23315 http://loc.gov/pictures/resource/ggbain.23315/

The local Scottish Unionist Party put forward a candidate Colonel Sir Alexander Sprot. Against the odds Sprot polled 8996 votes to Asquith’s 6994. He returned to parliament via a by-election in Paisley during 1921, but Sprot only lasted one term being defeated in 1922 and again in 1923.

Sir Alexander Sprot. Dundee Evening Telegraph 8th February 1929. Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Col. Sir Alexander Sprot MP. From Dundee Evening Telegraph 8th February 1929 (his death). Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

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

Boxing Day 1918

On the Mend!

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“I had my first outing next day, when I went along to 85 General Hospital, where the sergeants were having their Christmas dinner. They did things in great style. I had a drink with them, and got back to my bed about 5 p.m.”

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