Ray

30th March 1919 Sunday

Fine Singing and Chopped off Fingers

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 March 30th I went to a concert in the Duma. It was given by a huge choir (Russian) of mixed voices, and was very excellent. There was no accompaniment of any sort. The sole tenor was in excellent form. The hall was crowded, and very hot.

During all these days I was kept busy in my wards. Wounded and sick men were continually being admitted, and my wards were always full. Sometimes I had to pack as many as 40 patients into one ward. Many cases of frost-bite came in for treatment. Some were very bad, necessitating amputation of toes, or fingers. Major Jamieson, our surgeon, was kept busy in the operating theatre. He appointed me his assistant, and occasionally I was given a minor operation to perform.”

Major Jamieson, surgeon, 85th General Hospital

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26th March 1919 Wednesday

Portraits and Curfew

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, another officer and myself, had our photographs taken by a Russian photographer in Archangel. The photographer looked like a prize-fighter, and demanded 75 roubles from each of us, before he would risk his camera on us! Major Baxter of the Medical Stores told me that we were all going home in June. I hope the news comes true. Notices were posted over Archangel warning all civilians to be indoors by 10 p.m.”

Photograph of Dr Page as mentioned in the text

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25th March 1919 Tuesday

Kennedy on the Khalyan and Disconcerting News

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“On Tuesday March 25th many alarming pieces of news came to my ears, and I seriously began to wonder whether I would ever see ‘Blighty’ again. I paid a visit to the hospital ship in the afternoon to see Kennedy. Now he is a brother Scot and I thought that he might cheer me up a bit with his conversation, belonging, as he does, like myself, to Auld Reekie. Instead of cheering me up, he put the ‘wind up’ me properly. He told me that a party of over 1000 Bolsheviks were marching on Solombola from the direction of Murmansk with 5000 rifles and 17 machine guns. Some of them he said, were already in Solombola, and on a given date, they were to blot out all British and Russian officers, and then invite the troops to revolt. He also told me that our great attack on the Bolsheviks on the Railway Front had failed completely, and that we had lost four officers killed, and 400 other ranks killed and wounded. Ten shots, he said, had been fired on British monitors at Solombola last night (I heard them), and three civilians had been murdered in the Archangel streets by Bolos. last night. Needless to say, I was most depressed when I left the hospital ship, but the arrival of a small mail from Blighty at night brightened matters up again considerably.”

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

24th March 1919 Monday

Commander Richardson appears again

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“Whilst in Archangel I met Lt. Commander Richardson, who was in hospital at the same time as myself. His language was as choice as ever, and some of his yarns very tall. He told me about a certain standard ship which was on her way out here loaded up with stores. She was held up by the ice in the White Sea, and was taking in four feet of water per hour. Ice-breakers had been rushed out to her relief, but it looks very like a hopeless business. Richardson tried to cheer me up by telling me that affairs at home were much worse than in Archangel! What a life!”

Commander Richardson

Edward Henry Richardson

Master's Certificate for Richardson

For more information on Commander Richardson please visit the entry for 16thDecember 1918 or click here

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

23rd March 1919 Sunday

Archangel Gets Jittery

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

“The following day was ‘Windy Sunday’. Another officer and myself took a walk along to Archangel in the afternoon, and had tea at the Officers’ Club. On the way we saw a lot of the Civil Guard and cadets at drill. The Russians in Archangel who are loyal to the British fear an uprising of the Bolshevik element at any moment. We were informed that yesterday two hundred Bolos had been rounded up and arrested in Archangel. One of those arrested was the leader of the Duma – the local Lord Provost! Many machine-guns and lots of ammunition were found in various houses. We saw a big crowd gathered outside the Duma buildings, where the election of a new leader was going on. We were also told that the Russians are tired of having the British in Archangel, and want us to clear out, and let them manage their own affairs. That’s what I feel like too, for the whole lot of them are just a collection of dirty, diseased Bolsheviks – a two-faced lot, who eat our food, and say nice things to us at present, but who would denounce us to the enemy without thinking twice about it.

The Assistant Provost Marshall of Archangel, who dined with us at night, told us some thrilling stories of his adventures with the Bolos. He has been fired at nine times now at night, and seems to lead a charmed life. On the last occasion he was stepping on to the gangway of the hospital ship “Khalyan” where he was going to dinner, when he was shot at.

Towards eight o’clock things got more alarming and the ‘wind rose’. Some of our men came in with tales of shooting going on in Archangel. The A.P.M. departed in haste armed to the teeth, and we posted an armed sentry (R.A.M.C.) outside the mess door. The British Naval Units in Solombola ‘stood to’ all night, but nothing very alarming happened.”

Bolshevik prisoner working party

Bolshevik prisoner working party

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

22nd March 1919 Saturday

Flag Day!

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 Saturday March 22nd there was a Flag Day in Archangel and Solombola. A flag-day of all things! I thought all that sort of thing had been left behind in Blighty. Anyhow I was touched for three roubles! What the flag-day was for I know not. I hope it was in aid of the Society for Cutting and Cleaning the Hair and Beards of Russian Priests!”

Sample of a 1919 3 Ruble banknote.

Sample of a 1919 3 Ruble banknote.

This was a period of hyper Inflation and put in context for the period of March 1919 £1 would get you about 400 rubles. 3 rubles was worth about 2d or 1p in modern UK money. It is impossible to give an exact rate of exchange as the rate was changing daily. Wages were often paid in kind with a sort of barter currency worth more than the paper money.

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

19th March 1919 Wednesday

A Chat with Ironside

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“On the following day General Ironsides (sic) inspected our Hospital and was very pleased with everything. He had quite a long conversation with me regarding Edinburgh and Elie. One of his staff officers had a beautiful fur coat on. One could not help wondering how many bottles of whisky he had given for it!”

General Ironside

At this time although things must have been fairly relaxed for Douglas on Solombola Island, few recent entries in the diary might have indicated that not a lot was happening. General Ironside however was kept busy. March was spent with what for the General must have been a plate spinning time with trouble on the Pinega Front and also on the Railway Front. Rumours were rife that Seletskoe and Yametskoe had fallen which turned out to be mere gossip with no foundation.

Colonel Lucas the French Commandant whom Douglas first mentioned on the 4th of November 1918 and again on the 17th and 19th of that month, had his command ended on the 17th March. Ironside tells the story best in his account, (not always accurate as we’ve seen earlier).

“…On the 17thMarch he made an effort to visit his right column. It was the first time he had ventured to leave the railway. On his return he ran into an enemy attack which was being launched on the French post at Bolshoe Ozerky. His driver took fright and tipped him out in the snow. He wandered about for twenty-four hours in the forest, until he was happily picked up by a patrol and brought into the railway. Both his hands were badly frost-bitten and he had to report sick. I gave his staff officer Major Aarchen, two days in command but he proved himself incapable of taking charge. On a personal wire from a British staff officer I then decided to take over the command myself.”

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18th March 1919 Tuesday

A Freezing Cold Fire!

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“There was a big blaze out our way on the night of March 18th. The Training Centre Officers’ Mess went on fire, and was gutted. The local fire-brigade, reinforced from Archangel, was early on the scene but could do nothing to quell the blaze with primitive hand-pumps and barrels of water! Luckily the officers were able to save their kits. We took ten of them in until other quarters were found for them. Although a strong wind was blowing, the fire did not spread at all. It was very cold – 25 degrees below zero.”

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17th March 1919 Monday

Partying with Nurses on St Paddy’s Day

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“On Monday, March 17th, one of our Russian sisters – Sister Cheebanova – invited three of us along to her house for supper and music. Some of the other sisters were present also, and we had a great evening. Anybody might have thought that we had not seen food for months, to look at the heap of food which was put down in front of us as soon as we arrived. The food, which consisted mainly of fish, and jam pastries (sickening affairs), was washed down by copious draughts of weak, dish-watery tea. Not having starved exactly for months previously, I refrained from partaking too much of these delicacies. Afterwards we had music and dancing. I banged on the piano whilst the others threw themselves about like young elephants.”

Myself with three of our Russian nursing sisters at 85th General Hospital

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12th March 1919 Wednesday

A Meeting on HMHS Khalyan

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“On Wednesday, 12th March, there was a meeting of the Allied Medical Society on the Hospital Ship ‘Khalyan’. A big crowd of medical officers of all nationalities attended, and some very interesting cases were shown. The sisters gave us a delightful tea afterwards, and I was able to see Kennedy for a few minutes. He is now convalescing from a very severe attack of typhoid fever. His case was considered hopeless at one time, but he is now very cheery, I’m glad to say. I also saw Gilmour, our eye specialist, who is ill with pleurisy.”

Captain Gilmour the eye specialist, pictured later in the year so he must have recovered from pleurisy. (Diary

Captain Gilmour the eye specialist, pictured later in the year so he must have recovered from pleurisy. (Diary)

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