OUR ALLIES, FRENCH, BRITISH AND RUSSIANS
OUR ALLIES, FRENCH, BRITISH AND RUSSIANS
Kaleidoscopic Picture And Chop Suey Talk In Archangel--Poilu Comrades--Captain Boyer--Dupayet, Reval And Major Alabernarde--"Ze French Sarzhont, She Say"--Scots And British Marines Fine Soldiers--Canadians Popular--Yorks Stand Shoulder To Shoulder--Tribute To General Ironside--Daredevil "Bob" Graham Of "Australian Light Horse"--Commander Young Of Armored Train--Slavo-British Allied Legion--French Legion--White Guards--Archangel Regiments--Chinese--Deliktorsky, Mozalevski, Akutin.
What a kaleidoscopic recollection of uniforms and faces we have when one asks us about our allies in North Russia. What a mixture of voices, of gutturals and spluttering and yeekings and chatterings, combined with pursing of lips, eyebrow-twistings, bugging eyes, whiskers and long hair, and common hand signs of distress or delight or urgency or decisiveness: Nitchevo, bonny braw, tres bien, khorashaw, finish, oi soiy, beaucoup, cheerio, spitzka, mozhnya barishna, c'mon kid, parlezvous, douse th' glim, yah ocean, dobra czechinski, amia spigetam, ei geh ha wa yang wa, lubloo, howse th' chow, pardonne, pawrdun, scuse, eesveneets,--all these and more too, strike the ear of memory as we tread again the board sidewalks of far off smelly Archangel.
What antics we witnessed, good humored miscues and errors of form in meeting our friends of different lands all gathered there in the strange potpourri. Soldiers and "civies" of high and low rank, cultured and ignorant, and rich and poor, hearty and well, and halting and lame, mingled in Archangel, the half-shabby, half-neat, half-modern, half-ancient, summer-time port on the far northern sea. Rags and red herrings, and broadcloth and books, and O. D. and Khaki, and horizon blue, crowded the dinky ding-ding tramway and counted out kopecs to the woman conductor.
And many are the anecdotes that are told of men and occasions in North Russia where some one of our allies or bunch of them figures prominently, either in deed of daring, or deviltry, or simply good humor. Chiefly of our own buddies we recall such stories to be sure, but in justice to the memory of some of the many fine men of other lands who served with us we print a page or two of anecdotes about them. And we hope that some day we may show them Detroit or some other good old American burg, or honk-honk them cross country through farm lands we now better appreciate than before we saw Europe, by woods, lake and stream to camp in the warm summer, or spend winter nights in a land with us as hosts, a land where life is really worth living.
Those "mah-sheen" gunners in blue on the railroad who stroked their field pets with pride and poured steady lines of fire into the pine woods where lay the Reds who were encircling the Americans with rifle and machine gun fire. How the Yankee soldiers liked them. And many a pleasant draught they had from the big pinaud canteen that always came fresh from the huge cask. How courteously they taught the doughboy machine gunner the little arts of digging in and rejoiced at the rapid progress of the American.
How now, Paul, my poilu comrade, bon ami, why don't you add the house itself to the pack on your back? Sure, you'll scramble along somehow to the rest of the camp in the rear, and on your way you will pass bright remarks that we non compree but enjoy just the same, for we know you are wishing the doughboy good luck. How droll your antics when hard luck surprises. We swear and you grimace or paw wildly the air. And we share a common dislike for the asperity shown by the untactful, inefficient, bulldozing old Jack.
Here is a good story that "Buck" Carlson used to tell in his inimitable way. Scene is laid in the headquarters of the British Colonel who is having a little difficulty with his mixed command that contains soldiers of America, France, Poland, China, where not, but very few from England at that time. A French sergeant with an interpreter enters the room and salutes are exchanged. The sergeant then orders his comrade to convey his request to the colonel.
"Ker-nell, par-don," says the little interpreter after a snappy French salute which is recognized by a slight motion of the colonel's thumb in the general direction of his ear. "Ze sarzhont, she say, zat ze French man will please to have ze tobak, ze masheen gun am-mu-nish-own and ze soap."
"But, my man," says the colonel reddening, "I told you to tell the sergeant he should go on as ordered and these things will come later, I have none of these things now to give him, but they will soon arrive and he shall be supplied. But now he must hurry out with his detachment of machine gunners to help the Americans. Go, my man." More salutes and another conversation between the two French soldiers with arms and spit flying furiously.
"Ker-nell, sir, par-don, again, but ze sar-zhont, she say, zat wiz-out ze to-bak, ze am-mu-nish-own and ze soap, he weel not go, par-don, ker-nell!"
This time the colonel was angered to popping point and he smote the table with a thump that woke every bedbug and cockroach in the building and the poor French interpreter looked wildly from the angry British colonel to his tough old French sergeant who now leaped quickly to his side and barked Celtic rejoinder to the colonel's fist thumping language. No type could tell the story of the critical next moment. Suffice it to say that after the storm had cleared the colonel was heard reporting the disobedience to a French officer miles in the rear. The officer had evidently heard quickly from his sergeant and was inclined to back him up, for in substance he said to the offended British officer: "Wee, pardon, mon ker-nell, it eez bad," meaning I am sorry, "but will ze gallant ker-nell please to remember zat consequently zare eez no French offitzair wiz ze French de-tach-mont, ze sar-zhont will be treated wiz ze courtesy due to ze offitzair."
And it was true that the sergeant, backed up by his French officer, refused to go as ordered till his men had been supplied with the necessary ammunition and "ze to-bak and ze soap." The incident illustrates the fact that the French officer's relation to his enlisted men is one of cordial sympathy. He sees no great gulf between officer and enlisted man which the British service persists to set up between officers and enlisted men.
Hop to it, now Frenchie, you surely can sling 'em. We need a whole lot from your 75's. We are guarding your guns, do not fear for the flanks. Just send that barrage to the Yanks at the front. And how they do send it. And we remember that the French artillery officers taught the Russians how to handle the guns well and imbued them with the same spirit of service to the infantry. And many a Red raid in force and well-planned attack was discouraged by the prompt and well-put shrapnel from our French artillery.
And there was Boyer. First we saw him mud-spattered and grimy crawling from a dugout at Obozerskaya, day after his men had won the "po-zee-shown." His animation he seems to communicate to his leg-wearied men who crowd round him to hear that the Yanks are come to relieve them. With great show of fun but serious intent, too, he "marries the squads" of Americans and Frenchies as they amalgamate for the joint attack. "Kat-tsank-awn-tsank" comes to mean 455 as he talks first in French to his poilus and then through our Detroit doughboy French interpreter to the doughboys. Captain he is of a Colonial regiment, veteran of Africa and every front in Europe, with palm-leafed war cross, highest his country can give him, Boyer. He relies on his soldiers and they on him. "Fires on your outposts, captain?" "Oui, oui, nitchevo, not ever mind, oui, comrade," he said laughingly. His soldiers built the fires so as to show the Reds where they dare not come. Truth was he knew his men must dry their socks and have a warm spot to sit by and clean their rifles. He trusted to their good sense in concealing the fire and to know when to run it very low with only the glowing coals, to which the resting soldier might present the soles of his snoozing shoes. Captain Boyer, to you, and to your men.
It is not easy to pass over the names of Dupayet and Reval and Alebernarde. For dynamic energy the first one stands. For linguistic aid the second. How friendly and clear his interpretation of the orders of the French command, given written or oral. Soldier of many climes he. With songs of nations on his lips and the sparkle of mirth in his eye. "God Save the King," he uttered to the guard as password when he supposed the outguard to be a post of Tommies, and laughingly repeated to the American officer the quick response of the Yank sentry man who said: "To hell with any king, but pass on French lieutenant, we know you are a friend."
And Alabernarde, sad-faced old Major du Battalion, often we see you passing among the French and American soldiers along with Major Nichols. Your eyes are crow-tracked with experiences on a hundred fields and your bronzed cheek hollowed from consuming service in the World War. We see the affectionate glances of poilus that leap out at sight of you. You hastened the equipment of American soldiers with the automatics they so much needed and helped them to French ordnance stores generously. Fate treated you cruelly that winter and left you in a wretched dilemma with your men in March on the railroad. We would forget that episode in which your men figured, and remember rather the comradery of the fall days with them and the inspiration of your soldierly excellence. To you, Major Alabernarde.
On the various fronts in the fall the doughboy's acquaintance with the British allies was limited quite largely, and quite unfortunately we might say, to the shoulder strappers. And all too many of those out-ranked and seemed to lord it over the doughboy's own officers, much to his disgust and indignation. What few units of Scots and English Marines and Liverpools got into action with the Americans soon won the respect and regard of the doughboys in spite of their natural antipathy, which was edged by their prejudice against the whole show which was commonly thought to be one of British conception. Tommie and Scot were often found at Kodish and Toulgas and on the Onega sharing privations and meagre luxuries of tobacco and food with their recently made friends among the Yanks.
And in the winter the Yorks at several places stood shoulder to shoulder with doughboys on hard-fought lines. Friendships were started between Yanks and Yorks as in the fall they had grown between Frenchies and Americans, Scots and Yanks, and Liverpools and Detroiters. Bitter fighting on a back-to-the-wall defense had brought the English and American officers together also. Arrogance and antipathy had both dissolved largely in the months of joint military operations and better judgment and kinder feelings prevailed. Grievances there are many to be recalled. And they were not all on one side. But except as they form part of the military narrative with its exposure of causes and effects in the fall and winter and spring campaigns, those grievances may mostly be buried. Rather may we remember the not infrequent incidents of comradeship on the field or in lonely garrison that brightened the relationships between Scots and Yorks and Marines and Liverpools in Khaki on the one hand and the O. D. cousins from over the sea who were after all not so bad a lot, and were willing to acknowledge merit in the British cousin.
It must be said that Canadians, Scots, Yorks and Tommies stood in about this order in the affections of the Yankee soldiers. The boys who fought with support of the Canadian artillery up the rivers know them for hard fighters and true comrades. And on the railroad detachment American doughboys one day in November were glad to give the Canadian officer complimentary present-arms when he received his ribbon on his chest, evidence of his election to the D. S. O., for gallantry in action. Loyally on many a field the Canadians stood to their guns till they were exhausted, but kept working them because they knew their Yankee comrades needed their support.
One of the pictures in this volume shows a Yank and a Scot together standing guard over a bunch of Bolshevik prisoners at a point up the Dvina River. American doughboys risked their lives in rescuing wounded Scots and the writer has a vivid remembrance of seeing a fine expression of comradeship between Yanks and Scots and American sailors starting off on a long, dangerous march.
Mention has been made in another connection of the friendship and admiration of the American soldiers for the men of the battalion of Yorks. In the three day's battle at Verst 18 a York sergeant over and over assured the American officer that he would at all times have a responsible York standing beside the Russki machine gunner and prevent the green soldiers from firing wildly without order in case the Bolshevik should gain some slight advantage and a necessary shift of American soldiers might be interpreted by the green Russian machine gunners as a movement of the enemy. And those machine guns which were stationed at a second line, in rear of the Americans, never went off. The Yorks were on the job. And after the crisis was past an American corporal asked his company commander to report favorably upon the gallant conduct of a York corporal who had stood by him with six men all through the fight.
Of the King's Liverpools and other Tommies mention has been made in these pages. Sometimes we have to fight ourselves into favor with one another. Really there is more in common between Yank and Tommie than there is of divergence. Hardship and danger, tolerance and observation, these brought the somewhat hostile and easily irritated Yank and Tommie together. Down underneath the rough slams and cutting sarcasm there exists after all a real feeling of respect for the other.
This volume would not be complete without some mention of that man who acted as commanding general of the Allied expedition, William Edmund Ironside. He was every inch a soldier and a man. American soldiers will remember their first sight of him. They had heard that a big man up at Archangel who had taken Gen. Poole's job was cleaning house among the incompetents and the "John Walkerites" that had surrounded G. H. Q. in Poole's time. He was putting pep into G. H. Q. and reorganizing the various departments.
When he came, he more than came up to promises. Six foot-four and built accordingly, with a bluff, open countenance and a blue eye that spoke honesty and demanded truth. Hearty of voice and breathing cheer and optimism, General Ironside inspired confidence in the American troops who had become very much disgruntled. He was seen on every front at some time and often seen at certain points. By boat or sledge or plane he made his way through. He was the soldier's type of commanding officer. Never dependent on an interpreter whether with Russian, Pole, or French, or Serbian, or Italian, he travelled light and never was seen with a pistol, even for protection. Master of fourteen languages it was said of him, holder of an Iron Cross bestowed on him by the Kaiser in an African war when he acted as an ox driver but in fact was observing for the British artillery, on whose staff he had been a captain though he was only a youth, he was a giant intellectually as well as physically.
When British fighting troops could not be spared from the Western Front in the fall of 1918 and the British War Office gambled on sending category B men to Archangel--men not considered fit to undergo active warfare, a good healthy general had to be found. Ironside, lover of forlorn hopes, master of the Russian language, a good mixer, and experienced in dealing with amalgamated forces, was the obvious man. Of course, there were some British officers who bemoaned the fact, in range of American ears too, that some titled high ranking officers were passed over to reach out to this Major of Artillery to act as Major-General. And he was on the youthful side of forty, too.
Edmund Ironside ought to have been born in the days of Drake, Raleigh, and Cromwell. He would have a bust in Westminster and his picture in the history books. But in his twenty years of army life he has done some big things and it can be imagined with what gusto he received his orders to relieve Poole and undertook to redeem the expedition, to make something of the perilous, forlorn hope under the Arctic winter skies.
In The American Sentinel issue of December 10th, which was the first issue of our soldier paper, we read:
"It is a great honor for me to be able to address the first words in the first Archangel paper for American soldiers. I have now served in close contact with the U. S. Army for eighteen months and I am proud to have a regiment of the U. S. Army under my command in Russia.
"I wish all the American soldiers the best wishes for the coming Christmas and New Year and I want them to understand that the Allied High Command takes the very greatest interest in their welfare at all times." EDMUND IRONSIDE, Major-General.
Without doubt the General was sincere in his efforts to bring about harmony and put punch and strength into the high command sections as well as into the line troops. But what a bag Poole left him to hold. Vexed to death must that big man's heart have been to spend so much time setting Allies to rights who had come to cross purposes with one another and were blinded to their own best interests. British thought he was too lenient with the willful Americans. Americans thought he was pampering the French. British, French and Americans thought he was letting the Russkis slip something over on the whole Allied expedition. Green-eyed jealousy, provincial jealousy, just plain foolish jealousy tormented the man who was soon disillusioned as to the glories to be won in that forlorn expedition but who never exhibited anything but an undaunted optimistic spirit. He was human. When he was among the soldiers and talking to them it was not hard for them to believe the tale that after all he was an American himself, a Western Canadian who had started his career as a military man with the Northwest Mounted Police.
An American corporal for several weeks had been in the field hospital near the famous Kodish Front. One day General Ironside leaned over his bunk and said: "What's the trouble, corporal?" The reply was, "Rheumatism, sir." At which the British hospital surgeon asserted that he thought the rheumatism was a matter of the American soldier's imagination. But he regretted the remark, for the general, looking sternly at the officer, said: "Don't talk to me that way about a soldier. I know, if you do not, that many a young man, with less exposure than these men have had in these swamps, contracts rheumatism. Do not confuse the aged man's gout with the young man's muscular rheumatism." Then he turned his back on the surgeon and said heartily to the corporal: "You look like a man with lots of grit. Cheer up, maybe the worst is over and you will be up and around soon. I hope so."
And there was many a British officer who went out there to Russia who won the warm friendship of Americans. Of course, those were short friendships. But men live a lot in a small space in war. One day a young second lieutenant--and those were rare in the British uniforms, for the British War Office had given the commanding general generous leeway in adding local rank to the under officers--had come out to a distant sector to estimate the actual needs in signal equipment. He rode a Russian horse to visit the outpost line of the city. He rode in a reindeer sled to the lines which the Russian partisan forces were holding. He sat down in the evening to that old Russian merchant trader's piano, in our headquarters, and rambled from chords and airs to humoresque and rhapsodies. And the American and Russian officers and the orderlies and batmen each in his own place in the spacious rooms melted into a tender hearing that feared to move lest the spell be broken and the artist leave the instrument. Men who did not know how lonesome they had been and who had missed the refinements of home more than they knew, blessed the player with their pensive listening, thanked fortune they were still alive and had chances of fighting through to get home again. And after playing ceased the British officer talked quietly of his home and the home folks and Americans thought and talked of theirs. And it was good. It was an event.
In sharp contrast is the vivid memory of that picturesque Lt. Bob Graham of the Australian Light Horse. He could have had anything the doughboy had in camp and they would have risked their lives for him, too, after the day he ran his Russian lone engine across the bridge at Verst 458 into No Man's Land and leaped from the engine into a marsh covered by the Bolo machine guns and brought out in his own arms an American doughboy. Starting merely a daredevil ride into No Man's Land, his roving eye had spied the doughboy delirious and nearly dead flopping feebly in the swamp.
Hero of Gallipoli's ill-fated attempt, scarred with more than a score of wounds; with a dead man's shin bone in the place of his left upper arm bone that a Hun shell carried off; with a silver plate in his head-shell; victim of as tragic an occurrence as might befall any man, when as a sergeant in the Flying Squadron in France he saw a young officer's head blown off in a trench, and it was his own son, Bob Graham, "Australian Force" on the Railroad Detachment, was missed by the doughboys when he was ordered to report to Archangel.
There the heroic Bob went to the bad. He participated in the shooting out of all the lights in the Paris cafe of the city in regular wild western style; he was sent up the river for his health; he fell in with an American corporal whose acquaintance he had made in a sunnier clime, when the American doughboy had been one of the Marines in Panama and Bob Graham was an agent of the United Fruit Company. They stole the British officer's bottled goods and trafficked unlawfully with the natives for fowls and vegetables to take to the American hospital, rounded up a dangerous band of seven spies operating behind our lines, but made such nuisances of themselves, especially the wild Australian "second looie," that he was ordered back to Archangel. There the old general, who knew of his wonderful fighting record, at last brought him on to the big carpet. And the conversation was something like this:
"Graham, what is the matter? You have gone mad. I had the order to strip you of your rank as an officer to see if that would sober you. But an order from the King today by cable raises you one rank and now no one but the King himself can change your rank. You deserved the promotion but as you are going now it is no good to you. All I can do is to send you back to England. But I do not mean it as a disgrace to you. I could wish that you would give me your word that you would stop this madness of yours." And the general looked kindly at Bob.
"Sir, you have been white with me. You have a right to know why I have been misbehaving these last weeks. Here, sir, is a letter that came to me the day I helped shoot up the cafe. In Belgium I married an American Red Cross nurse. This is a picture of her and the new-born son come to take the place of the grown-up son who fell mortally wounded in my arms in France. To her and the baby I was bound to go if I had to drink Russia dry of all the shipped-in Scotch and get myself reduced to the ranks for insubordination and deviltry. Sir, I'm fed up on war. I thank you for sending me back to England."
And Corporal Aldrich tells us that his old friend Bob Graham's present address is First National Bank, Mobile, Alabama. His father, an immigrant via Canada from old Dundee in Scotland, was elected governor of Alabama on the dry issue. And officers and doughboys who knew the wild Australian in North Russia know that his father might have had some help if Bob were at home. With a genial word for every man, with a tender heart that winced to see a child cry, with a nimble wit and a brilliant daring, Lt. Bob Graham won a place in the hearts of Americans that memory keeps warm.
And other British officers might be mentioned. There was, for example, the grizzled naval officer, Commander Young, whose left sleeve had been emptied at Zeebrugge, running our first armored train. We missed his cheery countenance and courteous way of meeting American soldiers and officers when he left us to return to England to take a seat in Parliament which the Socialists had elected him to. We can see him again in memory with his Polish gunners, his Russian Lewis gun men, standing in his car surrounded by sand bags and barbed wire, knocking hot wood cinders from his neck, which the Russki locomotive floated back to him. And many a time we were moved to bless him when his guns far in our rear spoke cheeringly to our ears as they sent whining shells curving over us to fall upon the enemy. It is no discredit to say that many a time the doughboy's eye was filled with a glistening drop of emotion when his own artillery had sprung to action and sent that first booming retort. And some of those moments are bound in memory with the blue-coated figure of the gallant Commander Young.
The Russian Army of the North was non-existent when the Allies landed. All the soldiery previously in evidence had moved southward with the last of the lootings of Archangel and joined the armies of the soviet at Vologda, or were forming up the rear guard to dispute the entrance of the Allies to North Russia. The Allied Supreme Command in North Russia, true to its dream of raising over night a million men opened recruiting offices in Archangel and various outlying points, thinking that the population would rally to the banners (and the ration carts) in droves. But the large number of British officers waited in vain for months and months for the pupils to arrive to learn all over the arts of war. At last after six months two thousand five hundred recruits had been assembled by dint of advertising and coaxing and pressure. They were called the Slavo-British Allied Legion, S. B. A. L. for short.
These Slavo-Brits as they were called never distinguished themselves except in the slow goose step--much admired by Colonel Stewart, who pointed them out to one of his captains as wonders of precision, and also distinguished themselves in eating. They failed several times under fire, once they caused a riffle of real excitement in Archangel when they started a mutiny, and finally they were used chiefly as labor units and as valets and batmen for officers and horses. They were charged with having a mutinous spirit and with plotting to go over to the Bolsheviks. They did in small numbers at times. It is interesting to note that they were trained under British officers who enlisted them from among renegades, prisoners and deserters from ranks of the Bolsheviks, refugees and hungry willies, and, that once enlisted they were not fed the standard British ration of food or tobacco, the which they held as a grievance. It never made the American soldier feel comfortable to see the prisoners he had taken in action parading later in the S, B. A. L. uniform, and especially in the case of Russians who came over from the Bolo lines and gave up with suspiciously strong protestations of dislike for their late commanders.
The Russians who were recruited and trained by the French in the so-called French Legion, under the leadership of the old veteran Boyer who is mentioned elsewhere were found usually with a better record. The Courier du Bois on skiis in white clothing did remarkably valuable scouting and patrolling work and at times as at Kodish and Bolsheozerki hung off on the flanks of the encircling Bolo hordes and worried the attackers with great effectiveness.
The French also had better luck in training the Russian artillery officers and personnel than did the British although some of the latter units did good work. It seemed to be a better class of Russian recruit that chose the artillery. Doughboys who were caught on an isolated road like rats in a trap will remember with favor the Russian artillery men who with their five field pieces on that isolated road ate, slept and shivered around their guns for eight days without relief, springing to action in a few seconds at any call. By their effective action they contributed quite largely to the defense, active fighting of which fell upon two hundred Yanks facing more than ten times the number. Why should it surprise one to find an occasional Yank returned from Archangel who will say a good word for a Russian soldier. There were cordial relations between Americans and more than a few Russian units.
In certain localities in the interior where the peasants had organized to resist the rapacious Red Guard looters, there were little companies of good fighters, in their own way. These were usually referred to as Partisans or White Guards depending upon the degree to which they were authorized and organized by the local county governments. They always at first strongly co-operated with the Allied troops, which they looked upon as friends sent in to help them against the Bolsheviki. Toward the Americans they maintained their cordial relations throughout, but after the first months seemed to cool toward the other Allied troops. This sounds conceited, and possibly is, but the explanation seems to be that the Russian understood American candor and cordial democracy, the actual sympathetic assistance offered by the doughboy to the Russian soldier or laborer and took it at par value.
Further explanation of the cooling of the ardor of the local partisans toward the British in particular may be found in the fact that the British field commanders often found it convenient and really necessary to send the local troops far distant from their own areas. There they lost the urge of defending their firesides and their families. They were in districts which they quite simply and honestly thought should themselves be aiding the British to keep off the Bolsheviki. They could not understand the military necessities that had perhaps called these local partisans off to some other part of the fighting line on those long forest fronts. He lacked the broader sense of nationality or even of sectionalism. And as demands for military action repeatedly came to him the justice of which he saw only darkly he became a poorer and poorer source of dependence. He would not put his spirit into fighting, he was quite likely to hit through the woods for home.
When the Allies early in the fall found they could not forge through to the south, rolling up a bigger and bigger Russian force to crush the Bolsheviki, who were apparently, as told us, fighting up to keep us from going a thousand miles or so to hit the Germans a belt--a fly-weight buffet as it were--and when we heard of the Armistice and began digging in on a real defensive in the late fall and early winter, the Provisional Government at Archangel under Tchaikowsky had already made some progress in assembling an army. In the winter small units of this Archangel army began co-operating in various places, and as the winter wore on, began to take over small portions of the line, as at Toulgas, Shred Mekrenga, Bolsheozerki, usually however with a few British officers and some Allied soldiers to stiffen them. Although many of these men had been drafted by the Archangel government and as we have seen by such local county governments as Pinega, they were fairly well trained under old Russian officers who crept out to serve when they saw the new government meant business. And many capable young officers came from the British-Russian officers' school at Bakaritsa.
[Illustration: Nine soldiers working an artillery piece.] RED CROSS PHOTO Canadian Artillery--Americans Were Strong for Them
[Illustration: A woman kneading dough on a flat rock in front of a low pile of rocks forming the oven. Two women and a man are observing. The oven is outdoors, near a tree, with a river or lake in the background.] ROZANSKEY Making "Khleba"--Black Bread
[Illustration: Three soldiers in front of a reinforced log shed, covered with snow.] WAGNER Stout Defense of Kitsa
Needless to say, these troops were at their best when they were in active work on the lines. Rest camp and security from attack quickly reduced their morale. And the next time they were sent up to the forward posts they were likely to prove undependable.
In doing the ordinary drudgery of camp life the Russian soldier as the doughboy saw him was very unsatisfactory. Many a Yank has itched to get his hands on the Russian Archangelite soldier, especially some of our hard old sergeants who wanted to put them on police and scavenger details to see them work. In this reluctance to work, their refusal sometimes even when the doughboy pitched into the hateful job and set them a good example, they were only like the civilian males whose aversion to certain kinds of work has been mentioned before. When some extensive piece of work had to be done for the Allies like policing a town, that is, cleaning it up for sake of health of the soldiers or smoothing off a landing place for airplanes, it was a problem to get the labor.
In the erection of large buildings or bridges the Russian man's axe and saw and mallet and plane worked swiftly and skillfully and unceasingly and willingly. Those tools were to him as playthings. Not so with an American-made long-handled shovel in his hands. Then it was necessary to hire both women and men. The men thought they themselves were earning their pay, but as the women in Russia do most of the back-breaking, stooping work anyway, they just caught on to those American shovels and to the astonishment of the American doughboy who superintended the work they did twice as much as the men for just half the pay and with half the bossing.
It is not a matter of false pride on the part of the Slavic male that keeps him from vying with his better half in doing praiseworthy work. It is lack of education. He has never learned. He is so constituted that he cannot learn quickly. He will work himself to exhaustion day after day in raising a house, cradling grain, playing an accordeon, or performing a folk dance. His earliest known ancestors did those things with fervor and it is doubtful if the modus operandi has changed much since the beginning, since Adam was a Russian.
The "H" Company boys could tell you stories of the Chinese outfit of S. B. A. L. under the British officer, the likable Capt. Card, who later lost his life in the forlorn hope drive on Karpogora in March. One day he was approached by a Chinese soldier who begged the loan of a machine gun for a little while. It seems that the Chinese had gotten into argument with a company of Russian S. B. A. L. men as to the relative staying qualities of Russians and Chinese under fire. And they had agreed upon a machine gun duel as a fair test. The writer one night at four in the morning woke when his Russian sleigh stopped in a village and rubbed his sleepy eyes open to find himself looking up into the questioning face of a burly sentry of the Chinese race. And he obeyed the sentry's directions with alacrity. He was not taking any chances on a misunderstanding that might arise out of an attempted explanation in a three-cornered Russo-Chino-English conversation.
Captain Odjard's men might tell stories about the redoubtable Russian Colonel Deliktorsky, who was in the push up the rivers in September. Impetuous to a fault he flung himself and his men into the offensive movement. "In twelve minutes we take Toulgas," was his simple battle order to the Americans. No matter to him that ammunition reserves were not ordered up. Sufficient to him that he showed his men the place to be battled for. And he was a favorite.
On the railroad in the fall a young Bolshevik officer surrendered his men to the French. Next time the American officer saw him he was reporting in American headquarters at Pinega that he had conducted his men to safety and dug in. Afterwards Bolshevik assassins or spies shot him in ambush and succeeded only in angering him and he went into battle two days later with a bandage covering three wounds in his neck and scalp. "G" and "M" Company men will remember this fiery Mozalevski.
Then there was the studious Capt. Akutin, a three-year veteran of a Russian machine gun battalion, a graduate student of science in a Russian university, a man of new army and political ideals in keeping with the principles of the Russian Revolution. His great success with the Pinega Valley volunteers and drafted men was due quite largely to his strength of character, his adherence to his principles. The people did not fear the restoration of the old monarchist regime even though he was an officer of the Czar's old army. American soldiers in Pinega gained a genuine respect and admiration for this Russian officer, Capt. Akutin, and he once expressed great pleasure in the fact that they exchanged salutes with him cordially.*****
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