Ray

1 4 5 6 7 8 35

24th October 1918 Thursday

The Objectional Little Worm and Annoying Woodlice

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 Tuesday 24th October I left Bakharitza by train at 9.30 a.m., and travelled quite comfortable in a 2nd Class carriage with a man Phillips, one of the Relief Food Commissioners, who was very interesting. Reached Obozerskaya about 3 p.m. which is considered good going for this line! The country we passed through was bleak and uninteresting – nothing but swamps and forests. I reported to the O.C. at H.Q., who turned out to be Col. Gavin, late of D. Force, my old boss. He was delighted to see me. I had a job finding a billet for the night, but eventually put up in an old truck used as part of the ambulance train. Most of the troops up here live in railway trucks. What a life! I met Capt. Black, our surgeon up here – a thin, hatchet-faced individual, an atheist and a pro-German. Later on I found out that he was the cause of all the trouble that had been going on up here, and that he was a most objectionable little worm. I also met Capt. Rosenfeldt, an American doctor, who is in charge of the hospital in the station house here. Rosenfeldt is an Austrian, and looks it, and he and Black turned out to be very friendly. Many a time they annoyed me with their Pro-Hunnish talk.

The hospital here consisted of two wards, and I never saw such a dirty place in all my life before. It was staffed by American orderlies, as well as two Russian nurses – awful looking hags. I noticed later that Black was paying a lot of attention to one of them, and used to have her into his operating car to tea! There was also a Russian doctor attached to the hospital. He did not do any work, however, but played a lot of draughts and chess with Black. At midnight I was present at an operation for acute appendicitis which Black did in his operating car. I gave the anaesthetic, and all went well. The operating car was a railway carriage converted into an operating theatre and was a beautiful little place. Black and his orderly had bunks in the same carriage, and another carriage served as a ward. I found it very cold in my new abode – the railway carriage – and wood lice annoyed me all night.”

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

22nd October 1918 Tuesday

Episode Two of Douglas’s Russian Experience and the Death of Lt. Kenneth Croal

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 set off on Tuesday 22nd October on the second part of my Russian adventure. I crossed by boat at one o’clock to Bakharitza on the other side of the Dwina, and proceeded to 82 Casualty Clearing Station where I put up for the night. All the next day I was busy buying stores – candles soap etc. – from the canteen. I heard that Kenneth Croall had been killed in the Railway Front. The news came as a great shock to me, as I was looking forward to seeing him again.”

“Lt. Kenneth Croall(sic.), 2/10th Royal Scots, was an Edinburgh boy whom I got to know very well on the voyage out here from England. He had only been up at the
front for a day on tour when an enemy shell landed in his dug-out, killing him instantaneously. He was buried in the lovely little military cemetery opposite the railway station at Oberzaskaya in the depths of the Russian forest. The
Royal Air Force officers were very kind & at my request made a cross made of an aeroplane propeller & erected it over Kenneth Croall’s grave”.

Kenneth Croal is mentioned by General Ironside in his account of the Russian Intervention, Archangel 1918-19 and now has a memorial in the Archangel Allied Cemetery in Archangelsk, North Russia.

Kenneth Croal is mentioned by General Ironside in his account of the Russian Intervention, Archangel 1918-19 and now has a memorial in the Archangel Allied Cemetery in Archangelsk, North Russia.

Although Douglas intimates that he met 2nd Lt. Kenneth Croal on the City of Cairo bringing them both to Archangel, Kenneth was in fact well known to friends of the Page family the Sturrocks of Leith. When I first read the mention of Lt. K Croal in General Edmund Ironside’s “Archangel 1918-1919”, I knew that it was a name familiar to me. Searching through family photographs we came across the picture that I knew we had. Fortunately, a contemporary relative had marked the backing paper of the picture identifying those in the group. The group consisted of Kenneth Croal then aged about 18; T.G.Gordon Sturrock (see this diary post for more details) Mrs. Annie Sturrock (Gordon and Douglas Sturrock’s Mother) and Douglas Sturrock.

Kenneth Croal and members of the Sturrock family

At a garden fete at Sir Richard Mackie’s (Provost of Leith) at Trinity. Kenneth Croal (killed in action), Gordon Sturrock (killed in action), Mrs Sturrock and Douglas Sturrock.

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

21st October 1918 Monday

Another Senior Medical Officer Posting

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 – Monday 21st October, – I was summoned to the A.D.M.S. Office, and was told that I had been appointed S.M.O., Vologda Force with my headquarters at Obozerskaya on the Archangel-Petrograd Railway. It seemed to me to be a ticklish job that I was in for, as I had ten other M.O’s. (British, French, Russian and American) under me, as well as the supervision of an ambulance train, an operating centre, an hospital, baths, laundry etc. I had dinner with Capt. Kennedy, and Capt. Evans, the Sanitary Officer, who was with the 38th (Welsh) Division in France as a Sanitary Sergeant.”

Modern map showing the route of the Railway from Archangel to Obozerskaya. The line branching left to the North West towards Onega didn't exist at the time. © OpenStreetMap contributors

Modern map showing the route of the Railway from Archangel to Obozerskaya.
The line branching left to the North West towards Onega didn’t exist at the time. © OpenStreetMap contributors

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

20th October 1918 Sunday

First Heavy Snow and an Unfinished Hospital

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.

“We had our first taste of real snow, and Arctic blizzards on Sunday 20th. It snowed very heavily all day, and the high wind was bitterly cold. I had a look at our hospital site during the day. It is a huge 3-storeyed building built of wood. It was being built as an extension of the Russian Naval Barracks adjoining, but we took it over, and at present a large gang of workmen – carpenters, masons etc. are busy working on it. The place will not be ready for use for a good while yet.”

Douglas’s photo of the mess quarters of the 85th General Hospital on Solombola Island showing the officers’ mess on the top floor, sergeants’ on the middle floor and the canteen and men’s quarters on the ground floor.

Douglas’s photo of the mess quarters of the 85th General Hospital on Solombola Island showing the officers’ mess on the top floor, sergeants’ on the middle floor and the canteen and men’s quarters on the ground floor.

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

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!

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 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!”

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

18th October 1918 Friday

After confusion in Archangel Douglas arrives on Solombola Island

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.

“After a very dismal and cold journey down the Dwina we eventually reached Archangel about 6 p.m. on the 18th. On reaching the wharf I had to hunt about for a hospital to take the wounded to, for there wasn’t a soul meeting the boat. At last I manged to be directed alright to 53rd Stationary Hospital, and after a lot of unnecessary fussing about, and delay about an ambulance, I saw the last of my eleven patients at about 10 p.m. Then I boarded the lugger once more and journeyed further downstream to the island of Solombola where is stationed the nucleus of 85th General Hospital. After a lot of splashing about in mud and water I found the mess, and received a homely Scots welcome from Major Richmond and Capt. Grant. I was dead beat. So ended the first part of my Russian Adventure.”

Map shows the Journey from Yemetskoe in the south To Solombola Island in the north © OpenStreetMap contributors

Map shows the journey from Yemetskoe in the south to Solombola Island in the north © OpenStreetMap contributors

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

17th October 1918 Thursday

Tea in Yemetskoe and Bugs on Board

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 left Seletskoe on Thursday October 17th, and was very, very sorry to go. If I had only known that when I got back to Archangel, and found that the 85th General Hospital wasn’t ready for opening, and that I was to be pushed off on another job altogether, I should have remained on in Seletskoe as S.M.O. for I was in my element there. I was hundreds of miles away from all the red, blue and green tabbed gentlemen, and had a most excellent friend and colleague in Lt. Little of the U.S. Army. The first snow of the winter fell to-day, but didn’t lie long. I left Seletskoe about noon on the hospital boat ‘Sanitary’, and took eleven stretcher cases (wounded) with me. I received many small gifts from some of my Russian patients in the place, and had a rousing send off. Turner came with me. We reached Yemetskoe about 4 o’clock (p.m.) after a very pleasant, though cold, trip down the river. At Yemetskoe I met Lt. Heath, Royal Scots, who was commandant, or some such thing, there.

He gave me a very nice tea, and afterwards took me round to meet Lt. Bradbury at the hospital, which proved to be a very cosy little place. Yemetskoe turned out to be quite a large town on the banks of the Dwina. I noticed several large store buildings. We left at 5 o’clock (p.m.) but anchored at dusk as it was very foggy and the captain wasn’t feeling well. The chief engineer very gallantly offered me the use of his cabin for the voyage, which I accepted. I didn’t sleep at all, however, as the bugs were many, and decidedly active!”

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

16th October 1918 Wednesday

Sanitary Supplies

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.

“Wednesday morning, the 16th, saw me busy at an early hour. The Hospital Boat, ‘Sanitary’ had arrived up late last night with lots of stores for me. These had to be unloaded first thing. Then I had to dress fifteen wounded whom I sent off to Yemetskoe on the hospital boat. Amongst the stores received were 2 gramophones and numerous records, boxes of books, games, tobacco etc. I wish they had arrived sooner. Capt. Prall arrived from Ripalova in the afternoon, and I handed over the duties of S.M.O. to him. He seems to me to be a queer sort of customer, and I don’t think things will go very smoothly with him. However, Little is in charge of the hospital, so that the sick and wounded will not suffer.  A large mail arrived at night for me – 22 letters, and umpteen parcels and papers!”

The H.S. “Sanitary”, one of the small boats used for bringing the sick and wounded down to the Base Hospitals at Archangel from up river

The H.S. “Sanitary”, one of the small boats
used for bringing the sick and wounded
down to the Base Hospitals at Archangel
from up river

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

15th October 1918 Tuesday

School Teacher Out of 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.

“On Tuesday October 15th Little arrived down from the Right Front in great form. He brought some more wounded with him. The young school-mistress paid me a visit at the hospital. She has been on holiday in Archangel, and wanted to know when school would re-open. I told her – when the war was over. She wanted a job in the hospital, but I told her very politely that there was nothing doing. I told her, however, that she might come in in the afternoon, and try to cheer up the Russian patients, who seemed to be a dismal lot of fellows.”

My second and larger hospital in the school at Seletskoe, complete with staff.

My second and larger hospital in the school at Seletskoe, complete with staff.

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

14th October 1918 Monday

A Dead Red Unceremoniously Dumped in the River

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 14th nine wounded arrived at the hospital including three Bolos. The latter were in a miserable condition. The 3 Bolos., and 4 other wounded arrived down from Ripalova about 11 p.m. It was a wet, pitch-dark night, and it was very difficult work getting the wounded out of the wobbly canoes, and on to stretchers. We took them up to hospital on carts, and to make things worse the back wheels came off one of the carts, and the wounded were precipitated into about 2 feet of mud. There was a dead Bolo. in one of the canoes. I refused to have him removed to my hospital, and as nobody else would have anything to do with him, the canoe was tilted up, and the unfortunate Bolo. disappeared downstream! At night I received a wire from Headquarters ordering me to report back at 85th General Hospital, Archangel at once. I ordered Capt. Prall to return from Ripalova and take over from me.”

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

1 4 5 6 7 8 35