Ray

7th and 8th October 1918 Monday and Tuesday

Preparations for a Big Push

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 two days everybody was very busy preparing for the ‘push’ which is supposed to come off on Saturday. Telephone wires were laid across the river to Ripalova, and a wireless was put up in the village. Needless to say this caused a great sensation amongst the villagers. I busied myself getting reserve supplies of dressings cut up ready for use. Col. Henderson left for Archangel on the 7th – a good riddance too!”

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

6th October 1918 Sunday

Substandard Soldiers Inspected by Col. Gavin

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 morning of Sunday, October 6th, I attended the inspection of the Royal Scots by Colonels Gavin and Haselden. Col. Gavin spoke to each man, and I told him each man’s disability for which he had been categorised at home. In spite of the fact that they were such a poor lot physically, Col. Gavin told them that they would have to do their bit – and they were told at home that they were only coming out to garrison Archangel! In the afternoon they went off to Ripalova. The signal people got a telephone wire fixed up to Meijnovskaya by evening. There were nine admissions to hospital during the day – no serious cases.”

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

5th October 1918 Saturday

A Lovely Day, Northern Lights and a Big Bird

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.

“Saturday, the fifth, turned out to be a beautifully, warm, sunny day. At night it was very frosty, and there was a fine display of Aurora Borealis. In one of the larger houses near the hospital I established a convalescent hospital with accommodation for about thirty patients. I transferred six patients from the main hospital there in the forenoon.

In the afternoon several barges arrived bringing a company of Americans – D. Company. Col. Gavin, D.S.O., M.C. also arrived. He succeeds Col. Henderson. Col. Haselden of B. Force fame, and eight other British officers also arrived with signallers, wireless operators etc. All was bustle and stir getting the new arrivals settled down. Col. Haselden is going to take command of the left column on the other side of the Emtsa River.

Anderson and I had tea with Col. Shevtoff, and some tea it was too. I could hardly move after it all! We had soup followed by wild Gluhar (a big bird) and vegetables, rice and jam, and then tea and cakes!

At night Col. Gavin put a guard of Royal Scots on my hospital!”

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

3rd October 1918 to 4th October 1918

New HQ established and a Dirty Russian Dog

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 Thursday October 3rd Scott rode down to see us. Forward H.Q. is now established in Meijnovskaya, and one American company is out there resting whilst the other is in the line. I admitted seven more patients to hospital – all medical and not very bad. A big supply of rations came up at night, and Perrot was kept busy.

Two sick Russian soldiers were admitted to hospital on the 4th. One refused to have a bath – the dirty dog! I threatened to bring him up before the C.O. and he soon capitulated! I got the Royal Scot dispenser busy making up special mixtures, and taught another R. Scot massage. I also fixed up a fumigation chamber in an empty shed at the back of the hospital, and hoisted a red-cross flag made by the mother of one of my patients – the small boy with the abscess of leg. A big mail arrived at night, and I retired to bed perfectly happy.”

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

1st October 1918 (2) – 2nd October 1918

Colonel Henderson Drunk, Douglas Commandeers Supplies and a Sick Patrol

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.

1st October 1918 Part 2 – Read Part 1 here

“On the afternoon of October 1st two boat loads of rations came up from Yemetskoe, and the Colonel arrived down from ‘the line’. He was pretty well soaked with rum, and proceeded to ‘down’ some more which Perriot unfortunately let him have. The Colonel brought an R.A.F. officer with him who had crashed on the road near forward H.Q. He got a bullet through his engine, but wasn’t hurt himself.

About 9 p.m. the River Hospital Ship ‘Vologjanin’ arrived and I went down to meet her. Capt. Griffiths was in charge, and Sister Valentine was on board too. She was in Petrograd when the Bolos. started their tricks, and fled with her mother and sisters towards Archangel. She lost them on the way however, and hasn’t seen them since, or heard from them either. When the British arrived in Archangel she offered her services as a nurse and has done excellent work out here for which she was awarded the Military Medal. She is a bright, cheery girl, her only fault being that she talks too much and too loudly. I had an excellent dinner aboard the lugger consisting of soup, fresh meat and vegetables, rice and red currants, bread, butter, and tea. It was the first real feed I had had since coming off the ‘City of Cairo’. I managed to persuade Griffiths to let me have a lot of medical stores. He had brought up none for me in spite of the fact that I had been insisting for them for weeks past! The stores he had were for the new Advanced Depot of Medical Stores at Beresniki. I got most of them! I also got a supply of stretchers, palliasses and medical comforts, so that now I would be able to run my hospital in fairly decent style.

The General arrived late at night and caught Col. Henderson as drunk as he possibly could be! I don’t know what happened at the interview but I believe that Col. H. got a good ticking off!

2nd October 1918

I was up early on the morning of the 2nd, and got all my stores unloaded with the help of ten Royal Scots, and a dozen carts. The ‘Vologjanin’ left about 7.30 a.m. I was going to have breakfast, consisting of porridge, bacon and eggs and coffee, on board but Griffiths said he couldn’t wait any longer – much to my disappointment. I got the hospital fixed up during the forenoon, and it looked quite decent by the afternoon. All the patients had a bottle of stout for dinner. I never saw a cheerier crowd in all my life before! I also gave them an extra ration of forty cigarettes.

Lt. Anderson returned with his men about noon. They were all absolutely done up, but I don’t think Anderson tried very hard to pull them together. He isn’t much of a sticker himself. He sent me a very pathetic note yesterday stating that all his men were sick, and what was he to do. So I told him to come back, and informed Scott as to what I had done. Five more cases came down at night, but they weren’t very bad. They were all medical cases.”

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

1st October 1918 Tuesday (1)

Busy Hospital Work, Abscess, TB, Influenza and Gifts

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.

1st October 1918 Part 1

At seven o’clock in the morning of Tuesday October 1st Anderson and his men with the Russians set off. It was very cold and raining hard.

I had a busy morning getting the hospital in order and attending to sick Russian civilians This was an awful job, as I had no interpreter. But I seemed to please them all right, and received many gifts of milk, eggs etc. I wouldn’t take any money but asked the people to bring eggs etc. for the patients. In this way I was able to feed the patients very well. I was called to see a little boy, who was lying seriously ill in a big house opposite Headquarters. He was very ill, and had a nasty T.B abscess of the right leg. With Turner’s assistance I gave him a whiff of chloroform, and opened up the abscess. To finish the story I may say that he soon got better. The good people didn’t know how much to thank me and showered all sorts of gifts on me – cakes, eggs, fowl etc. They were awfully decent. The little boy was a pretty little kiddie with lovely golden, curly hair, and I used to enjoy going in to dress his leg every day, and have a chat – at least as far as I was able to chat. When I eventually left Seletskoe these good people were greatly distressed, and gave me enough eatables to keep me going for a week! It was the same with all the Russians I went to see. They were a decent, hospitable lot, I found. I soon came to know almost everybody in the place, and got on awfully well with the kiddies. Many a time a cart would drive up to the hospital to take me to some house or other to see somebody who was sick. I remember one woman who arrived one morning in a terrible state of anxiety, and urged me to go off at once to see her husband who was very ill. When we got to the house, which consisted of two rooms, I found the husband lying on a filthy bed in the far room. Of course all the windows were shut tight, and the heat and smell in the place nearly choked me. I found the man to be in the last stages of consumption, and very nearly dead. There were seven children, and three of them were obviously consumptive. All were thin, haggard and half-starved. Poor little wretches! They were pretty little kids too. During the early part of October a terrible epidemic of influenza of a very severe type attacked the village. For one week the average number of deaths per day was six. It was awful, and I was kept pretty busy. Once the disease got a good grip on these poor half-starved creatures, it was hopeless to try and cure them.

Unfortunately owing to the amount of work to be done in the hospital I was often unable to attend to all sick calls, and in a few cases the people were dead before I got to the house. But I discovered a ‘felcher’ – a doctor’s assistant or dispenser – in the village, and put him on to doing most of the visits, only calling on me to see the serious ones. In this way everybody got more attention, and my work was lightened. Luckily I got a good supply of drugs up from Archangel on the first of the month, and with the help of a qualified dispenser whom I discovered in the ranks of the Royal Scots, was able to make up some effective mixtures, and put a stop to the epidemic, but not before about a hundred out of the two thousand odd inhabitants had succumbed to the foul disease.”

The so called Spanish Flu accounted for the deaths of anything up to 50 million people. It was called Spanish Flu not because it came from Spain, but because the first reports of the disease in this time of heavy censorship in the press came from English editions of Spanish newspapers not subject to the censorships of the British press. It may have originated in China.

The war itself is thought to have resulted in the deaths of over 16 million people, far fewer than the most virulent pandemic disease to ever hit mankind. All this on top of the war would re-shape human history for the world.

This article gives some background to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918/19. https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ 

1st October 1918 Part 2 is here

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

Seletskoe and River Dwina area

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.

A map showing some areas mentioned by Douglas. A lot of these villages have since disappeared and are not shown on modern maps.

Seletskoe and River Dwina area

© OpenStreetMap contributors

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

30th September 1918 Monday

Evacuating the Sick and Wounded and the Defence of Shenga

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 30th September I got four wounded and one sick man off to Archangel on a small river boat which McNair had sent up for me. It was an awful job getting the stretcher-cases aboard. We couldn’t get them down the hatchway into the cabin, and had to slide them in through the window after climbing up a narrow gangway from the river bank. The American with the leg off was wonderfully improved, and very cheery at the prospect of getting back to Archangel so quickly. After seeing them off I got a party of five sick Royal Scots on to cleaning out the school-house, which I had taken over as a hospital after consulting with the mayor of the village. It was a good place for a hospital There were two large rooms each capable of accommodating thirteen or fourteen beds, a good kitchen, and a big attic up above, which proved useful as a storeroom. I attended to a goodly number of Russian civilian sick in the forenoon. Two Americans with ‘trench’ feet, and an R.M.L.I. boy with a dislocated shoulder (reduced) came down the line after tea, and I accommodated them in my new hospital. Anderson turned up in the evening with all his men. They were absolutely beat, and in very low spirits. Capt. Metchieffsky also returned with his men, but they both received orders from Col. Henderson to hold on to Shenga at all costs, so I expect they will have to trudge back there to-morrow through the mud and swamps.”

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

29th September 1918

A Busy Day. Frozen then Soaked, Hacked off a Leg with a Folding Knife and Commandeered all the Rum

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.

“But when I woke up on the morning of Sunday, the 29th, I had frozen feet, and my head was covered with white frost.

During the day I evacuated eleven Americans to Seletskoe. All were sick, except one poor chap who had a nasty shrapnel wound through the right knee. I amputated his leg in the open with a jack-knife having first of all chloroformed him. He had lost a lot of blood before I saw him, and was in a very bad state. I never thought he would reach Seletskoe alive, but I saw him later in the day, and he was quite cheery then. (In December I visited this man in 53rd Stationary Hospital, Archangel. He was very fit, and pleased with life.)

In the forenoon the Americans again tried to cross the river on rafts, but failed. Colonel Henderson was after the rum all day as usual. I took all the headquarters’ supply of rum down to my aid-post, telling the Colonel I must have it for the sick and wounded, but really taking it there to get it out of his way.

One of our planes flew over about eleven a.m. and dropped four heavy bombs on Kadish. Our guns fired a lot during the day, but the Bolos. sent back four shells for every one of ours.

Little arrived about 4 p.m. and I left for Seletskoe about six o’clock, arriving there shortly after ten o’clock. It was a long, wearisome journey through the dark, gloomy forest, and over the weird, silent marshes. It rained heavily nearly all the way too, and I was dead beat, dirty, hungry and soaked to the skin when I got into Seletskoe. After paying a visit to the temporary hospital to see that all the patients were comfortable, I went along to our old headquarters where I found Perot in bed. I had some bully-beef and biscuits, and was soon fast asleep on a stretcher.”

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

28th September 1918 Saturday

Temporary HQ, the return of McNair and a Bolshevik Bombing

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 Saturday the 28th only three wounded passed through my hands. They weren’t badly hurt, and I got them sent off to Seletskoe comfortably in carts well filled with hay. I got an aid-post of sorts fixed up by the road-side by means of two tarpaulins and branches of fir-trees. It was quite a cosy spot by the time we had finished with it. Another tarpaulin acted as H.Q. In the morning the Americans twice attempted to cross the river on rafts, but were repulsed on both occasions by the very heavy enemy artillery and M.G. fire. But they couldn’t have tried very hard for they had no casualties on either occasion! McNair arrived in the forenoon, and told me that he had brought a small hospital boat up to Seletskoe, and got my wounded away all right. He also brought me a note from the A.D.M.S. telling me to establish a twenty-five bedded hospital at Seletskoe, and that all necessary equipment was on its way up. I therefore sent a message down to Little, the American doctor, telling him to come up and take my place whilst I superintended the forming of a hospital at Seletskoe. After tea I had a walk up to the advanced positions by the river-side to see the Americans and tell them where to send their wounded. Whilst I was on my way a Bolo. plane flew over, and dropped four bombs which were intended for our transport, but all of which fell in the woods some distance from the road. One was a ‘dud’. The last one I thought was coming bang on top of me, and I threw myself into the ditch by the road-side with the ‘wind-up’ properly. I got badly soaked, and the bomb exploded about a verst away from me! Scott got a small mail up in the afternoon, and I enjoyed reading the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch of August 26th date. Jerome joined us at night, his job at Seletskoe having been taken over by an A.S.C. officer -2 /Lt. Perott. A wireless section joined us also, but brought no aerials with them – so were wireless! I had a good sleep at night in front of our excellent log fire in spite of the fact that it froze hard.”

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