WW1 Diary

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8th November 1918 Friday

Tour of Inspection

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 Friday, the 8th, I had a long day chasing around with Col. Carroll, the O.C., L. of C.,* and Major Turner, the Camp Commandant. We were accompanied by two other officers, and Sgt. Lofthouse, the new Sanitary Sergeant. We went via the aerodrome to the village of Malaturka on the lake in the heart of the forest about 2 miles from Obozerskaya. This lake is a lovely sheet of water – 3 miles long by about ½ mile broad – and the small village of about thirty houses lies on the north side. On the south side is a large fish-curing factory, where work has ceased since the Revolution. We crossed the lake on a raft, and selected sites for billets etc. for troops. We then walked across the fields to the Forestry Village, and then back to Obozerskaya. There was a railway smash up the line at night. The annexe train ran into another train, killing one man, and injuring two others.”

* O.C. Officer Commanding, L of C. Lines of Communication.

Colonel Jock Carroll an old campaigner recently in charge of a brigade in France and now posted by General Ironside to the Dwina front.

(c) OpenStreetMap contributors

(c) OpenStreetMap contributors

Modern map showing the lake and Oberserskaya. There is no sign of the defunct fish factory these days, the southern shore is completely given over to forest right up to the shoreline.

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

6th November 1918 Wednesday

Hope for The End of The War in Europe?

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 Wednesday night, Nov. 6th, we heard per wireless that Turkey and Austria were out of the war, and that Germany was breaking. We were all greatly cheered up over this as we hope to get out of this hole as soon as Peace is signed). (What a hope we had!)”

After over 4 years of relentless fighting with millions dead all over the world but especially in Europe, protagonists were looking for an end. Russia on the side of the Allies had withdrawn in 1917, now Austria and Turkey had pulled out three days previoulsy. This was the break-up of the Central Powers with Austria the original perpetrators now giving in.

Germany although now with a population starving and demoralised was seeking a dignified withdrawal, but certainly not surrender. German politicians and senior military personnel were trying to negotiate a ceasefire, but on their own terms, but so far the allies were having none of it and an occupation of Germany was certainly on the cards.

Austria’s cessation of hostilities on November 3rdsparked the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the centuries long Hapsburg dynasty domination of Europe came to an effective end. Turkey’s Ottoman Empire was also about to be broken up. It ceased in 1921/22 when Turkey entered into a new phase of its history eventually led by Mustapha Kemel as he re-organised Turkey into a modern republic that would begin new dialogue with the west.

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

5th November 1918 Tuesday

The Assistant Director Medical Services Drops In

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 I had a surprise visit from the A.D.M.S. and Kennedy. They spent the day with me, and I showed them all the sights, including the Forestry Village. The A.D.M.S. did not approve of my idea of a hospital in the Forestry Village, as it was too far (1 mile) from the railway. He was disgusted with the sanitation of the place, and ticked off the camp commandant for not helping me to improve matters. The A.D.M.S. returned to Archangel at night, but Kennedy stayed on for a couple of days making notes of all the sanitary requirements.”

Colonel McDermott ADMS see 19th October entry

Captain Kennedy DADMS (Sanitation) attended Douglas’s old school George Watson’s College, Edinburgh.

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

4th November 1918 Monday

Enter Commandant Lucas

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“On November 4thI had an interview with Col. Lucas, a French officer, who has command of the Force now. The same afternoon the Bolsheviks attacked us. They were seven hundred (700) strong, according to the American story, but were very easily repulsed. Our casualties were 1 man killed, and 2 wounded. The Bolos lost heavily. We took 10 prisoners and many were killed and wounded.”

The French Commandant Lucas was brought in by General Ironside on November 3rd to command the railway front following the refusal of the American Colonel Stewart to take on a combat role. This refusal had Ironside wondering how it was possible for any military man to refuse the chance of swapping an administrational command for that of a combative one. Lucas had no such hesitation and accepted immediately. He had much experience after lengthy commands in the French Colonial Service, choosing a Major Aarchen as his staff officer. He would convince his French troops that the Americans would not be able to fight without the French by their side, so boosting the fighting morale of his men.

Lucas is second from the left

Lucas is second from the left (c) https://www.archives.gov/

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

2nd November 1918 Saturday

Wily Monsters

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 day or two I was busy interviewing Colonels, Majors etc. and urging upon them the need for proper sanitation for the troops. It was a job getting them to make a move at all. On the 2ndNovember I ‘flitted’ into a room in the yellow house. The place had previously been occupied by American troops, and was crawling with bugs. I had the room sprayed with cresol, but this didn’t seem to have much effect on the wily monsters.”

Cresol was and is an organic compound that can be extracted from coal tar or can be produced synthetically. It was commonly found in creosote and is the source of the coal tarry smell associated with the now discredited creosote products for the damaging effects on health and the environment. The European Union has restricted its use and it is no longer available to preserve your wooden fences.

The list of side effects from inhaling, ingesting or applying high levels of cresols to the skin is warning enough not to go near them. These include skin burning and irritation, vomiting, damage to internal organs, facial paralysis, coma and even death. The long list of case reports on this website is scary reading too https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+250

One might wonder what the longer term effects on the people exposed to the Cresol solution may have been. Sadly the bugs Douglas speaks about seemed impervious, at least in the short term, to it.

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

29th October 1918 Tuesday

Off to Archangel Again

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“On Tuesday evening, 29th Oct., I travelled down the line in the Ambulance Train on my way to Archangel to see the A.D.M.S. on business. The train pulled up at Isako Gorka at some unearthly hour in the morning but I slept on till nearly 8 o’clock. I caught the 9 o’clock passenger train to Bakharitza, and at the station met Steuart who is M.O. at Isako Gorka. I think he said that he had about twenty soldiers to look after, and was having a grand time with dances nearly every night! When I eventually reached the A.D.M.S.’s office, I found him rather scared over a telegram which he had just received from H.Q. at home. He had the ‘wind-up’ properly! My conference with him was successful, as he gave me a free hand to do what I liked ‘up the line’! On the way back to Obozerskaya I dined with Steuart at Isako Gorka.”

Map University of Michigan digital archive

Map University of Michigan digital archive https://quod.lib.umich.edu

A huge convoy loading up with provisions etc for the British force at Seletskoe about fifty miles off

A huge convoy loading up with provisions etc for the British force at Seletskoe about fifty miles off

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

28th October 1918 Monday

Captain Page Rides the Footplate!

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 28th I had a trip up the line to the forward positions at Verst 455. I travelled on an engine – the usual way of getting about! It was very bumpy, and hot. The engine fire was stoked with huge billets of wood. The country we passed through was very bleak and uninteresting – forest and swamp. When I arrived at Verst 455 I found no M.O. there as I had expected, so returned by engine to Verst 466 where I met an American doctor, named Collins – a good sort. I remained with him quite a while, and returned to Obozerskaya by the evening train.

The Flying Corps mess at Obozerskaya was a great place. Like most of the other messes it was housed in a railway carriage. The walls were decorated with pictures distinctly Parisian, and the food served up was always wonderfully good, although it did not touch the efforts of the French chef at H.Q. Mess. The Officers were nearly all Canadians, and a right merry bunch they were too. Many a jolly evening I spent with them. In return for their kindness to me I was able to ‘wangle’ for them a gramophone, and numerous records from the Red Cross Stores!”

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

27th October 1918 Sunday

Douglas Spies a Hospital in the Woods

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“On Sunday 27th I had a walk over to the ‘Forestry Village’ about a mile from Obozerskaya with the Sanitary Sergeant. This little settlement is a group of about half-a-dozen houses surrounding a large school-house. Here, in pre-war days, the Russian Government trained some of their many forest rangers. I found it to be a delightful little spot, and had a look through the school with a view to acquiring it as a hospital. To my mind it should make an ideal little hospital, with billets for the staff in the adjoining houses.”

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

26th October 1918 Saturday

Elusive Russian Elephants

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“Everything now is covered with a thick mantle of snow, as it has been snowing hard without ceasing for the last few days. The winds are bitterly cold too. On the 26th Oct. I met Capt. Hughes, M.C. who is in charge of the Ambulance Train, and Lt. Commander Young, who commands the armoured train up here. He lost his right arm at Zeebrugge. Capt. Rosenfeldt went out into the forest in the afternoon on a shooting expedition, but didn’t bag anything. He brought back, however, great tales of all the bears, wolves, elephants etc. that he had encountered!”

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

25th October 1918 Friday

Resemblance to an Executed Diplomat

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 Friday 25th Oct. I met the Camp Commandant, Major Turner, and had a long talk with him about the sanitation of the place etc. He was nick-named – Major Casement – being not unlike that worthy! He was a very heavy drinker, and was in many an escapade whilst I was on the Railway Front. The sanitation of this part of the front I found to be hopeless. There were no proper latrines, and no facilities for the men washing.”

The mention of Major Casement is a clear reference to Roger Casement executed in 1916 for his part in the Easter Uprising in Ireland. We can assume Major Turner bore more than a passing resemblance to the former British diplomat.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/6188264610/

NLI Ref.: CAS1A https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/6188264610/

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

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