WITH WOUNDED AND SICK
WITH WOUNDED AND SICK
Lest We Forget S. O. L. Doughboy--Column In Battle And No Medical Supplies--Jack-Knife Amputation--Sewed Up With Needle And Thread From Red Cross Comfort Kit--Diary Of American Medical Officer--Account Is Choppy But Full Of Interest.
Some things the doughboy and officer from America will never have grace enough in his forgiving heart to ever forgive. Those were the outrageous things that happened to the wounded and sick in that North Russian campaign. Of course much was done and in fact everything was meant to be done possible for the comfort of the luckless wounded and the men who, from exposure and malnutrition, fell sick. But there were altogether too many things that might have been avoided. Lest we forget and go off again on some such strange campaign let us chronicle the story of the grief that came to the S. O. L. doughboy.
One American medical officer who went up with the first column of Americans in the Onega River Valley in the fall never got through cussing the British medical officer who sent him off with merely the handful of medical supplies that he, as a medical man, always carried for emergencies of camp. Story has already been told of the lack of medical supplies on the two "flu"-infected ships that took the soldiers to Russia. Never will the American doughboy forget how melancholy he felt when he saw the leaded shrouds go over the side of the sister ship where the poor Italians were suffering and dying. And the same ill-luck with medical supplies seemed to follow us to North Russia.
Dr. Nugent, of Milwaukee, writes after the first engagement on the Onega front he was obliged to use needle and thread from a doughboys' Red Cross comfort kit to take stitches in six wounded men.
Lieut. Lennon of "L" Company reports that during the first action of his Company on the Kodish Front in the fall, there was no medical officer with the unit in action. The American medical officer was miles in rear. Wounded men were bandaged on the field with first aid and carried back twenty-six versts. And he relates further that one man on the field suffered the amputation of his leg that day with a pocket knife. The officer further states that the American medical officer at Seletskoe was neglectful and severe with the doughboys. At one time there was no iodine, no bandages, no number 9's at Kodish Front. The medical officer under discussion was never on the front and gained the hearty dislike of the American doughboys for his conduct.
This matter of medical and surgical treatment is of such great importance that space is here accorded to the letter and diary notes of an American officer, Major J. Carl Hall, our gallant and efficient medical officer of the 339th Infantry, who from his home in Centralia, Illinois, August 6th, 1920, sends us a contribution as follows:
"Take what you can use from this diary. Thought I would avoid the English antagonism throughout but later have decided to add the following incident at Shenkursk, December 12, 1918. I was ordered by the British General, Finlayson, to take the duties of S. M. O. and sanitary officer of Vaga Column, that all medical and sanitary questions, including distribution of American personnel would be under the British S. M. O. Dvina forces--right at the time the American soldiers were needing medical attention most. This order absolutely contradicted my order from the American headquarters at Archangel, making me powerless to care for the American soldiers. I wired the British I could not obey it, unless sent from American headquarters. Col. Graham, British officer in charge of Shenkursk column, informed me that I was disobeying an order on an active front, for which the maximum punishment was death. I immediately told him I was ready to take any punishment they might administer and sooner or later the news would travel back to U. S. A. and the general public would awaken to the outrageous treatment given the American soldiers by the hands of the British. This affair was hushed and I received no punishment, for he knew that there would have to be too many American lives accounted for. I returned to the base at Archangel and was then placed in charge of the surgery of the American Red Cross Hospital.
"The Russian-English nurse story you know and also add that 75% of all medical stores obtained from the British on the river front, if not stolen by myself and men, were signed over to us with greatest reluctance, red tape, and delay. It was a question of fight, quarrel, steal and even threaten to kill in order to obtain those supplies justly due us.
"Would like very much to have given you a more satisfactory report--but right now am rushed for time--anyway, probably you can obtain most of the essential points.
"Yours very truly, (Signed) JOHN C. HALL."
This faithful and illuminating diary account of Major Hall's is typical of the story on the other four fronts, except that British medical officers dominated on the Railroad front and on the Onega front and at Kodish.
Upon arrival of 339th Infantry in Russia on Sept. 4th, 1918, as Regimental Surgeon, established an infirmary in Olga Barracks, Archangel. After taking over civilian hospital by American Red Cross, I then established a twenty bed military hospital and an infirmary at Solombola.
On Sept. 10th I was ordered to report to Major Rook, R. A. M. C, at Issakagorka, on railroad front, four miles south of Bakaritza, for instructions regarding medical arrangements on River and Railroad fronts.
On Sept. 11th I reported to Col. McDermott, R. A. M. C., A. D. M. S., North Russian Expeditionary Force, and there received instructions that I should leave immediately for Issakagorka.
Accompanied by my interpreter, Private Anton Russel, and Sgt. Paul Clark, boarded Russian launch for Bakaritza six miles up the Dvina and on the opposite bank of the river, where we transferred to train and proceeded to Issakagorka. Upon arrival there and reporting to Major Rook, R. A. M. C., I was informed that I should go armed night and day for they were having trouble with local Bolsheviks and expected an attack any time.
Issakagorka is a village located in a swamp with about 2,000 population, and every available room occupied. The overcrowded condition due to the presence of many refugees from Petrograd and Moscow and other Bolshevik territories. The streets deep. An odor of decaying animal matter, stagnant water and feces is to be had on the streets and in all the homes. At the house in which I was billeted, a fair example of practically all Russian homes, the toilet was inside.
On Sept. 14th I was ordered to railroad front to inspect medical arrangements. Arrived at Obozerskaya and found that Lieut. Ralph Powers had taken over the railroad station and had almost completed arrangements for a Detention Hospital of forty beds. He had just evacuated thirty sick and wounded. The first aid station being in a log hut, one-quarter mile west of station, in charge of Capt. Wymand Pyle, M. C. In this there were ten stretchers which they had used for temporary beds until cases could be evacuated to the rear.
Pits had been dug for latrines daily because the ground was so swampy the pit would fill with water by night. The Americans had been instructed to boil water before drinking, but after investigating I found it had been almost impossible for they had no way to boil it only by mess cup, and the officers found it difficult to get the men to strictly observe this order. The return trip from the front to Issakagorka was made on the ambulance train. This train consisted of five coaches, which had been used in the war against Germany, and all badly in need of repair. Two were nothing more than box cars fitted with stretchers. Two were a slight improvement over these, having double-decked framework for beds, which were fitted with mattresses and blankets. The other coach was divided into compartments. One an operating room, which was built on modern plans, and the other compartment was built on the style of the American Pullman, and occupied by the Russian doctor in charge of train, one felcher or assistant doctor (a sanitar), which is a Russian medical orderly, and two Russian female nurses.
Our sick and wounded were being evacuated by this train from the front to Bakaritza; there kept at the Field Hospital 337th or taken by boat to Archangel.
I reported to General Finlayson on Sept. 16 and was given 50,000 roubles to be delivered to Col. Joselyn, then in charge of river forces, and informed to leave for river front to make medical arrangements for the winter drive.
At noon Sept. 18th, with Lieut. Chappel and two platoons of infantrymen, boarded a box car, travelled to Bakaritza, where we transferred to a small, dirty Russian tug. The day was spent going south on Dvina River, toward Beresnik. At the same time Lieut. Chappel with the platoons of infantrymen boarded a small boat and proceeded up the river.
The tug on which we were had no sleeping accommodations and on account of the number aboard we had to sleep the first night sitting erect.
The cockroaches ran around in such large numbers that when we ate it was necessary to keep a very close watch, or one would get into the food. The following day the infantrymen were left at Siskoe and we went on to Beresnik. Lieut. Chappel was killed two days after leaving us.
Arrived at Beresnik, which is about one hundred and fifty miles from Archangel, after a thirty-eight-hour trip; reported to Major Coker, and then visited British Detention Hospital in charge of Capt. Watson, R. A. M. C. The hospital being a five-room log building with the toilet built adjoining the kitchen.
In this hospital there were twenty sick and wounded Americans and Royal Scots. The beds were stretchers placed on the floor about one and one-half feet apart. The food consisted of bully beef, M and V, hard tack, tea and sugar, as reported by the patients stationed there. The pneumonia patients, Spanish influenza and wounded were all fed alike.
It was here that I met Capt. Fortescue, R. A. M. C. A general improvement in sanitation was ordered and Capt. Watson instructed to give more attention to the feeding of patients. With Capt. Fortescue I visited civilian hospital two miles northwest of Beresnik; found Russian female doctor in charge, and, looking over buildings, decided to take same over for military hospital. Conditions of buildings fair; five in number, and would accommodate one hundred patients in an emergency. The equipment of the hospital was eight iron beds. Vermin of all kinds, and cockroaches so thick that they had to be scraped from the wall and shovelled into a container. The latrines were built in the buildings, as is Russian custom, and were full to overflowing. The four patients who were there were retained and cared for by the civilian doctor. While at Beresnik we stayed at the Detention Hospital.
The following morning, Sept. 21st, with Capt. Fortescue, boarded British motor launch. After travelling for about thirty versts we transferred on to several tugs and barges, and on Sept. 23rd boarded hospital boat "Vologjohnin," and left for front after hearing that there were eight or ten casualties, several having been killed, but unable to ascertain name of village where the wounded were.
After an hour slowly moving up stream, because of sand bars and mines, the tug was suddenly stranded in mid-stream. After trying for two hours the captain gave up in despair. We then arranged with engineers (a squad on board same tug) to make a raft with two barrels. When this was about completed two boats approached from opposite directions. We then transferred to the "Viatka" and proceeded to Troitza and there succeeded in commandeering twenty horses.
The following day with Capt. McCardle, American Engineer, Capt. Fortescue and Pvt. Russel, with our horses, we crossed the river by ferry and then proceeded to the front. Traveling very difficult on account of the swampy territory and lack of information from natives who seemed afraid of us. The horses sank in the mud and water above their knees. The Bolos had told natives that the Allies would burn their homes and take what little food they had.
Arrived at Zastrovia and saw American troops who informed us that the hospital was located in the next village. Lower Seltso about three miles farther. Upon arrival there we located the hospital, which was in a log hut, considered the best the village afforded, in charge of Capt. Van Home and Lieut. Katz with eight enlisted Medical detachment men. Lieut. Goodnight with twenty or thirty Ambulance men had just arrived at this place. Eight sick and wounded Americans were being treated in hospital. Arranged for two more rooms so capacity of hospital might be increased.
It was vitally important that these cases be evacuated at once, but there was no possible way except by river, which was heavily mined. Decided it best to attempt evacuation by rowboat. Sgt. Clair Petit volunteered to conduct convoy to hospital boat at Troitza. Convoy was arranged and patients safely placed on board hospital boat, where they were hurriedly carried to Archangel.
Returned to headquarters boat the following morning and all seemed to be suffering from enteritis, due to the water not being boiled. Sanitation in these villages almost an impossibility. Barn built in one end of home, with possibly a hallway between it and the kitchen. The hay loft is usually on a level with the kitchen floor, a hole in many houses is cut through this floor and used as a toilet. Or it quite often is nothing more than a two-inch board nailed over the sills. In the very best southern villagers' homes there may be a closed toilet in the hallway between the barn and kitchen. These are the billets used by the Allied troops on the river front in North Russia. The native seldom drinks raw water, but nearly always quenches his thirst by drinking tea. Wired Major Longley at base Sept. 22nd for one-half of 337th Field Hospital to be sent to Beresnik, to take over civilian hospital. Communication with the base was very poor. Unable to get any definite answer to my telegrams.
Another trip was made from Troitza to Beresnik with hospital boat "Currier." Sick and wounded Royal Scots taken to Field Hospital at Beresnik. After arrival they were loaded on two-wheeled carts and hauled two miles to the hospital.
Upon arrival at Beresnik found Capt. Martin, with one-half of Field Hospital 337th, had taken over civilian hospital.
On Sept. 28th it was decided to establish a detention hospital at Shenkursk, so Capt. Watson and twelve R. A. M. C. men with medical supplies for a twenty-bed hospital were placed on board hospital boat "Currier." After posting two guards with machine guns on the boat we started on the trip to Shenkursk. A distance of about ninety-five versts from Beresnik on the Vaga River.
All along the way the boat stopped to pick up wood and at each stop natives would come down to the river banks with vegetables and eggs, willing to trade most anything for a few cigarettes or a little tobacco.
Arrived at Shenkursk at 5:00 p. m., Sept. 29th, and about one-half hour later the American Headquarters boat docked next to the hospital boat. When the various boats docked at Shenkursk all the natives of the town came down to the banks of the river and were very curious as well as friendly. The village of Shenkursk is situated on a hill and surrounded by forest. One company of Americans and a detachment of Russians in control of town. It had been taken only a few days before.
Capt. Fortescue and I looked over civilian hospital and found it to be very filthy. Owing to the fact that it was so small and occupied to its full capacity, decided to look further. Directing our steps to the school, we found a very clean, desirable building, large enough to accommodate at least one hundred patients.
After consulting the town commandant, were given permission to take over building for military hospital. Capt. Watson and Capt. Daw, with equipment for thirty beds, were placed in charge. Stretchers were used as beds, until it was possible to make an improvement or procure some from base. Employed two Russian female nurses. Wired to Major Longley for one-half of Field Hospital 337th to take over this hospital, and in addition more medical officers and personnel, for Ambulance work. On Oct. 2nd Capt. Fortescue returned to Beresnik, which left me as A. D. A. D. M. S. river forces. The same day we took quarters with Russian professor and established an office in same building.
Upon investigation we found that the American troops had not been issued any tobacco or cigarettes for several weeks and were smoking tea leaves, straw or anything that would smoke. The paper used for these cigarettes was mostly news and toilet paper.
On Oct. 3rd, with Russian medical officer and six American enlisted medical men, we proceeded to Rovidentia, the advance front, about thirty-five miles from Shenkursk on Vaga River. Established a small detention hospital here of ten beds, leaving the Russian medical officer and six American enlisted medical men in charge. This village was occupied by two platoons of Americans and about one hundred Russians.
In comparison to previous villages I visited in Russia, Shenkursk was an improvement over most of them. Mainly because of its location, there being a natural drainage, and the water was much better, containing very little animal and vegetable matter.
On Oct. 7th with Pvts. Russel and Stihler again embarked on hospital boat "Vologjohnin," and the following morning at 8:00 a.m. proceeded to Beresnik with a few Russian wounded, arriving at 2:00 p.m. Made inspection of hospital. Capt. Martin with one-half of Field Hospital working overtime, making beds, cleaning wards and hospital grounds, and at the same time caring for thirty sick and wounded patients. Marked improvement over previous condition.
Left Beresnik Oct. 9th on hospital boat "Vologjohnin" with headquarters boat and small gunboat. Downpour of rain. Gunboat landed on sand bar and headquarters boat turned back, but the "Vologjohnin" kept on going until dark. Anchored opposite an island and at daybreak proceeded further, finally reaching the only boat, the "Yarrents," left on the river front.
Before leaving Beresnik three more men were placed on board the boat. The personnel aboard at this time consisted of Capt. Hall in charge, two Russian female nurses, five American medical men and two British.
Upon arrival at Toulgas I received word from Major Whittaker that sixteen wounded and six sick Royal Scots were located in the hospital at Seltso, but that Seltso had been under shell fire that day and would be too dangerous to bring hospital boat up. That night, under the cover of darkness with all lights extinguished, I ordered hospital boat to Seltso. We arrived at Seltso but the British troops who were stationed there stated they knew nothing of the sick and wounded Royal Scots, but that Royal Scots were stationed across the river. They stated that it would be very dangerous to attempt to go across the river, and no one on the hospital boat knew the exact location of the Royal Scots. After a while a British sergeant stated that he would go along and direct the way, but when the boat pulled out the sergeant was not to be found. But we went across the river. The barge directly opposite was empty, so we went to the next barge about two versts farther up. That one had been sunk, so we went a few more versts to the third barge which had been used by the Royal Scots but which had been evacuated by them that day. I decided that we had gone far enough, and we returned to Toulgas. On the way back we picked up two wounded officers of the Polish Legion, who had just come from the Borak front, in a small rowboat, and stated it was at that place that they had the sick and wounded Scots. It would be impossible to reach this place by boat, because they had quite a time in getting through with a small boat. They would not believe that we had come up the river so far, and made the remark that we had been within a few yards of the Bolshevik lines.
On Oct. 11th, after getting in touch with Major Whittaker, who stated that the Royal Scots would be placed on the left bank of the river opposite Seltso, I ordered the boat to Seltso to make another attempt to get the Royal Scots. Although we had the window well covered, the Bolsheviks must have seen the light from a candle which was used to light the cabin. They began firing, but could not get the range of the boat. We then returned without success.
On the afternoon of Oct. 12th, while Seltso was under shell fire, the "Vologjohnin" was docked about twenty-nine yards behind the Allied barge with the big naval gun, and did not leave until the shell fire became heavy. About 8:00 p.m., after transferring the sick troops and female nurses from the "Vologjohnin," another attempt was made, although the Russian crew refused to make another trip, and would not start until I insisted that the trip had to be made and placed several armed guards, American Medical men, on the boat. On this night the medical supplies were handed over to Capt. Griffiths, R. A. M. C, and casualties were safely placed on board. After returning to Toulgas the female nurses and sick troops who had been left there were again placed on board. The "Vologjohnin" proceeded to Beresnik where all casualties, totaling forty-three, were handed over to the 337th Field Hospital.
(The Major modestly omits to tell that he with his pistol compelled the crew to run the boat up to get the wounded men. General Pershing remembered Major Hall later with a citation. He repeated the deed two days later, that time for Americans instead of Scots.)
Left Beresnik Oct. 14th with hospital boat for Seltso and upon arrival there, the town was again under shell fire. All afternoon and evening the hospital boat was docked within twenty-five yards of the big gun. Received reports that several Americans had been wounded so I ordered the Russian crew and medical personnel of boat, with stretchers, to upper Seltso to get the wounded. The seriously wounded had to be carried on stretchers through mud almost knee deep, while the others were placed on two-wheeled carts and brought to the boat, a distance of two miles. After two hours they succeeded in getting six wounded Americans on board, one dying, another almost dead, and a third in a state of shock from a shrapnel wound in thigh. Necessary to ligate heavy bleeders. Bolo patrol followed along after bearers.
That night the Allies retreated on both sides of the river. British Commanding Officer taken aboard hospital boat. Remained over night anchored in mid-stream. Nothing could have prevented the Bolo boats from coming down stream and either sink our boat or take us prisoners, for our guns were left in the retreat. Several wounded on opposite bank but it was necessary for them to be evacuated overland for several versts under most extreme difficulties on two-wheeled carts through mud in many places to the horses' bellies. By moving up and down stream next day the wounded were found. It was necessary to have the boat personnel serve what extra tea and hard tack they had to the weary, mud-spattered Royal Scots.
Americans retreated to Toulgas on right bank of river where Lieut. Katz, M. C., with medical detachment men established a detention hospital.
On Oct. 16th thirty-five sick and wounded patients were transferred to Field Hospital 337th, Beresnik. Capt. Kinyon, M. C.., Lieut. Danziger, M. C., Lieut. Simmons, D. C., and one-half of Field Hospital 337th arrived at Beresnik from base, and placed on board hospital boat "Currier." Arranged to take personnel and supplies to Shenkursk and establish hospital there, at this time occupied by Capt. Watson and fourteen R. A. M. C. men. Pvt. Stihler transferred to British hospital barge "Michigan" to work in office of D. A. D. M. S. In addition to being used for the office of the D. A. D. M. S., the barge was also used for a convalescent hospital of forty beds, in charge of Capt. Walls, R. A. M. C.
Left Beresnik Oct. 18th with complete equipment and personnel for hospital of one hundred beds, also medical and Red Cross supplies. Many refugees and several prisoners on board. Placed guards from medical personnel over stores and prisoners. One prisoner tried to escape through window of boat but was caught before he could get away.
[Illustration: Several soldier standing in the snow with weapons.] RED CROSS PHOTO Trench Mortar Crew, Chekuevo--Hand Artillery
[Illustration: Several soldier standing in the snow, two with crutches.] U. S. OFFICIAL PHOTO Wounded and Sick--Over a Thousand in All
[Illustration: Dead soldier laying in the snow.] U S OFFICIAL PHOTO Bolo Killed in Action--For Russia or Trotsky?
[Illustration: Three buildings with towers reflected in foreground water.] ROULEAU Monastery at Pinega
[Illustration: Several soldier and horses with an artillery piece.] U. S. OFFICIAL PHOTO Russian 75's Bound for Pinega
[Illustration: Several soldiers with a horse and sleigh.] HILL "G" Men Near Pinega
[Illustration: Several soldier with a machine gun in front of a building protected by a log barricade.] HILL Lewis Gun Protects Mess Hall, Pinega
He was reported later as Bolshevik spy, another as a Lett officer. Travel by night is against the rules of Russian river boat crew. Had to use force to get them to continue moving. Arrived at Shenkursk Oct. 19th and delivered prisoners. Relieved Capt. Watson, R. A. M. C., and personnel from duty at detention hospital, and started Field Hospital 337. Returned to Beresnik and found that hospital now working about full capacity. After placing all seriously sick and wounded on board hospital ship "Currier" we proceeded to Archangel, and arrived there Oct. 22nd. Boat greatly in need of repairs.
Arranged with Major Longley to get Red Cross and medical supplies, and had them placed aboard. Among the Red Cross supplies were ten bags of sugar to be divided between the hospitals and used for the purpose of bartering natives for vegetables, eggs and chickens.
Oct. 25th, 1918, weather growing colder. Departed for Beresnik on hospital boat. The Russian crew did not want to travel at night but I insisted and we kept on going. Awakened by cooties. After lighting my candle found quite a number.
Oct. 26th, 1918, stopped for a short time to pick up wood. Awakened by rumbling and cracking noise against boat and upon looking out saw we were running through floating ice. This condition persisted for thirty-five versts until we reached Beresnik. Crew stopped boat and refused to go any farther. Necessary to use some moral "suasion." When we arrived at Beresnik found that one paddle was out of order and bow of boat dented in many places and almost punctured in one place.
Reported to General Finlayson, who ordered me to proceed with boat after unloading medical and Red Cross supplies, to Pianda, which is about twelve versts back up river on a tributary of the Dvina River, and report on the situation at Charastrovia for billets or building for convalescent hospital. Left Bereznik for Pianda Oct. 28th and had to run boat through two miles of almost solid ice, four inches thick. At the mouth of this tributary had to make three attempts before successfully penetrating ice enough to get into channel of stream.
The following day after leaving a few medical supplies with Canadian Artillery Headquarters and arranging transportation for myself and personnel, with a few cooking utensils and blankets, we started for Beresnik. Stopped at Charastrovia and looked over several buildings but nothing available worth while. Natives very unfriendly and suspicious. Arrived at Beresnik, reported to the General and spent the night at Field Hospital 337.
Oct. 30th left on tug "Archangel" for Kurgomin with dentist. Received report that several casualties were there to be evacuated. Reached Pless but found the river full of ice again. Captain of boat stated that he could not get to Kurgomin, but within about three miles of the place. Docked boat and walked through mud and water to my knees to Kurgomin. Found there had been a small detention hospital of fifteen beds established by Capt. Fortescue in charge of Capt. Watson, R. A. M. C. Good building at Pless for a hospital of fifty or seventy-five beds, which was necessary to be taken over and used as advance base evacuating hospital after Dvina froze. Sent dentist with equipment over to opposite bank to take care of men's teeth of Co. "B", then holding the front on the left bank. Getting his field equipment together and using cabin as his office, he was able to care for twenty men. All to be evacuated were walking cases. Very dark and mud twelve inches deep. Officially reported that Bolos were coming around the rear that night. We arrived tired, but safely, where the boat was waiting and returned eight miles through ice. Waited until morning before going farther and at daybreak started for Chamova. Stopped there while dentist cared for several Co. "D" men. Finally reached Beresnik after being stuck on sand bars many times, as river was very shallow at that time of the year and channel variable. Handed patients over and spent night at Field Hospital 337.
Following day found it necessary to be deloused. We had nothing but Serbian barrels for clothing disinfectors at that time. Reported that a thresh delouser had been started for Beresnik. Sanitation greatly improved.
After a few days' rest and arranging with engineers to make ambulance sled, started again on tug "Archangel" for Dvina front. On the way only one hour when boat ran aground, and after two hours' work (pushing with poles by all on board) we succeeded getting into channel and anchored for the night.
Started again at daybreak and stopped at Chamova. "D" Company 339th Infantry at that place with one medical enlisted man, who had taken three years in medicine. The only man with medical knowledge available. He had established an aid station with two stretchers for beds. Place comfortable and clean. General sanitation and billeting the same as in all other Russian villages.
Reached Pless and left some medical stores with Capt. Watson, then proceeded to Toulgas with medical and Red Cross supplies. On way to headquarters a few stray shots were fired by snipers, but no harm done.
Left medical and Red Cross supplies at Lower Toulgas and took aboard eight sick and wounded troops. Started for Beresnik. Stopped at Chamova to pick up one sick and one wounded American.
Arrived at Beresnik Nov. 8th. With medical and Red Cross supplies left for Shenkursk on hospital ship "Currier." Natives very friendly along the Vaga River and anxious to barter. Arrived at Shenkursk Nov. 11th.
Over one hundred patients in hospital. Officers had taken over an additional building for contagious ward which was full of "flu" and pneumonia cases. With every caution against the spread of the disease, the epidemic was growing. Russian soldier seems to have no resistance, probably due to the lack of proper kind of food for the last four years. Seven at hospital morgue at one time, before we could get coffins made. People were dying by hundreds in the neighboring villages. Found it necessary to try and organize medical assistance in order to combat the epidemic. Funerals of three or four passed wailing through the streets every few hours.
The Russian funeral at Shenkursk was as follows: Corpse is carried out in the open on the lid of the coffin, face exposed, and a yellow robe (used for every funeral) is thrown over the body. The body is then carried to the church where there is little or no ventilation except when the doors are opened. Here during the chants every member of the funeral party, at different times during the service, proceeds to kiss the same spot on an image, held by the priest. It is their belief that during a religious service it is impossible to contract disease.
Visited civilian hospitals Nov. 16th, which were in a most horrible state. No ventilation and practically all with Spanish influenza and, in addition, many with gangrenous wounds. Tried to enlighten the Russian doctor in charge with the fact that fresh air would be beneficial to his cases. But he seemed to think I was entirely out of my sphere and ignored what I said. I reported the situation to British headquarters and thereafter he reluctantly did as I suggested. Then arranged with headquarters to send Russian medical officer and felchers with American medical officers out to villages where assistance was needed most, instructing each to impress on the natives the necessity of fresh air and proper hygiene. They found there was such a shortage of the proper kind of food that the people had no resistance against disease, and were dying by the hundreds. In the meantime established annex to civilian hospital in a school building. Had wooden beds made and placed felchers in charge.
Tried to segregate cases in Shenkursk and immediate vicinity as much as possible. After getting everything in working order I found a shortage of doctors. So I proceeded to villages not yet reached by others. Report from Ust Padenga that Lieut. Cuff and fourteen enlisted men killed or missing on patrol Nov. 29th; some of the bodies recovered.
Weather growing colder. Twenty degrees below zero, with snow four inches deep. Evacuated sick and wounded from Ust Padenga eighteen versts beyond Shenkursk in sleds filled with hay and blankets necessary for warmth. Shakleton shoes had not arrived at that time. Most cases coming back in good condition, but pneumonia cases would not stand the exposure. Condition at Ust Padenga very uncertain. Lieut. Powers and Lieut. Taufanoff in charge of ten-bed detention hospital. Advised them to keep their hospital clear for an emergency.
Action reported on Dvina and hospital captured; later retaken. Slight action every day or so at Ust Padenga. Lieut. Powers caring for all civilians in and around that place. Visited one home where I found the father sick and in adjoining room the corpse of his wife and two children. In another village I found twenty-four sick in four families; eight of which were pneumonia cases. In one peasant home, six in family, all sick with a child of eight years running a fever, but trying to care for others. All sleeping in the same room; three on the floor and balance together in a loft made by laying boards between the sills. They informed me that no food had been cooked for them for three days. The child eight years old was then trying to make some tea. This same room was used as a dining room and kitchen. It had double windows, all sealed air-tight.
Russian troops very difficult to discipline along sanitary or hygienic lines and have no idea of cleanliness. A guard on the latrine was an absolute necessity. I adopted this plan in hospital, but impossible to get their officers to follow this rule at their barracks latrines. Reported it to British headquarters but they stated that they could not do anything.
Dec. 8th, 1918. Left by sled for Ust Padenga to inspect hospital. Arrived at 11:00 a.m. Very cold day. General conditions very good considering circumstances. Using pits out in open for latrines. Men living in double-decker beds, and as comfortable as possible in the available billets. Hospital consisted of two rooms in a log hut, but light, dry and comfortable. Beds improvised with stretchers laid across wooden horses. Had three casualties which they were evacuating that day.
Started for Shenkursk at 3:00 p.m. Began snowing and my driver proceeded in circles leaving the horse go as he chose. A Russian custom when they lose their bearings. I got somewhat anxious and had been trying to inquire with the few Russian terms I had been forced to learn. Driver stated that he did not know the way, and we ran into snow drifts, into gullies, over bluffs, through bushes, and after floundering around in the snow for six hours I heard the bugle from Shenkursk which was just across the river. I then started the direction which I thought was up the river and by good luck, ran into the road that led across the Vaga to Shenkursk.
December 12th, 1918. Hospital inspected by Major Fitzpatrick of American Red Cross.
December 14th, 1918. Left Shenkursk for Shegovari where Lieut. Goodnight and 337th Ambulance men were running a detention hospital of eight beds and infirmary for American platoon, stationed at that place which is forty versts down Vaga river from Shenkursk toward Beresnik, where we arrived at 6:00 p.m. Looked over his hospital and continued on to Kitsa. Remained over night and left at daylight December 15th, going across Vaga through woods to Chamova, arriving at noon. Very cold day.
Here given a team of horses and proceeded to Toulgas, the farthest Dvina front. Found small hospital with several sick at Lower Toulgas in charge of British medical officer. Stayed over night at headquarters two versts further up the river. The following day some artillery firing. Proceeded to front line dressing station in charge of Lieut. Christie and ten 337th Ambulance men. One from advance headquarters on left bank, British holding front. One company of Americans and one of Scots on right bank. Stopped at Shushuga on return, eight versts from Toulgas. Across the river from this place is Pless where an evacuation hospital was conducted by Capt. Watson, R. A. M. C., with fourteen British and one American Ambulance man, used as a cook and interpreter. Stretchers used for beds. Casualties held here for two or three days and evacuated by sled to Beresnik about fifty versts to the rear. At Shushuga there were two Ambulance men conducting a first aid station. Village held by one platoon of Americans.
Returned to Beresnik making a change of horses at Chamova and Ust Vaga. The latter place held by twenty-eight American engineers and about one hundred Russians. First aid given by a Russian felcher.
Inspected wards, kitchen, food, etc. Found there was no complaint as to treatment received. December 16th, 1918. With rations for five days left for Archangel by sleigh, making a change of horses about every twenty versts. Arrived at Archangel at 2:00 p.m., December 23, 1918.*****
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