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The fourth side was the Dvina. was estimated to weigh 70
Into the square marched the sullen Russians. They were ordered to pile arms. Then they marched away straight on to a barge which took them down river, where they could do no harm. We were taking no chances with them this time.
The Navy had been extraordinarily busy sowing mines in the Dvina calculated to prevent the enemy's flotilla from interfering with the evacuation of the troops. It is of interest to note that the enemy had not swept the advanced lines of mines until 19th September, over a week after our evacuating Treitsa, With the mining of the river, the rise of water brought about by the late August rains ceased, and it was obvious that the psychologioal moment had come to get as many ships of the flotilla down river as possible. By the end of August all the ships had passed down except H.M. Monitors "25" and "27" and the yacht Kathleen, all three of which were of too deep draught. This had called for exceptional efforts, as it entailed removing heavy guns, mountings, stores, and even the main engines, to lighten the ships sufficiently. H.M.S. Humber succeeded in getting away after an operation, unprecedented, I believe, in the annals of the Navy. In this ship there was scope for ingenuity and resource. She was protected by a belt of 3-inch armour, running fore and aft, and projecting 3 feet above the water-line. It
tons. Under all the attendant circumstances, this deadweight was no mean item, and it was agreed to remove it. But how?
It is hardly necessary to observe that those who build ships are in the habit of seouring the plates by means of large screw belts passed through both the plating and the ship's side. So securely are these fixed that usually they may not be removed till the day when the vessel falls to pieces from old age or beneath the strokes of the shipbreakers. In H.M.8. Humber each armourplate weighed three tons and was secured by six bolts. In order to get at the bolt heads it was compulsory to enter the wing compartments, compartments, which were divided into spaces three by three by one and a half feet, just enough room for a small man to get in, but hardly enough to allow him to work with ease. The ship's company was assembled and the smallest men selected for the work. Special spanners of large dimensions were made, and with these and huge hammers the work of skinning the ship began.
Forty-eight hours' work sufficed to get the first plate off, and it fell into the Dvina with a mighty splash. After a few days at this new and diverting pastime, the men became experts at removing these bolts, and within a fortnight the whole of the seventy tons of armour-plating was resting on the bed of the river. And then the good ship Humber proceeded merrily down stream.
Bolo on Ivanovskaya, suoceeded in killing seventeen and capturing forty-five. This slight reverse had a similarly quietening effect on the enemy. The same evening the Intelligence branch reported the arrival of two more enemy battalions at Nijni Toima, a few miles behind the front line.
In thus wise began our evaeuation troubles.
The Intelligence branch now began to supply us with interesting news. Considerable reinforcements had been brought up by the Bolo, including the Finnish Red Guards (a particularly murderous lot of scoundrels) and the Foreign Legion, included in which-so rumeur had it-were many Englishmen. The plan of campaign was to drive all the "ginger Englishmen " into the White Sea in one mighty sweep. This alarmed no one. But at four o'clock on the afternoon of the 6th of September (the original date set for evacuation) two enemy battalions launched an attack against the outposts on both banks of the river. The Bolo flotilla assisted by putting down a barrage. On the left bank the conformation of the ground, and the ease with which the outposts could be outflanked, caused them to fall back fighting across the Kodema river-two men being wounded and two captured in this movement. The next ones. Mine-fields in the river morning at dawn the Bolo advanced and occupied Kodema village, though his oasualties must have been considerable, as a heavy shelling was direoted on the place by our guns. The bridge over the river had been destroyed at dawn. Then he rested, apparently being satisfied with this small advance.
Mounted fusiliers on the right bank, in counter-attacking a similar attack by the
Whatever had been our opinion of the Bolshevik troops in the past, it was clear from these late encounters that we were now being attacked by troops of no mean order. Their taotios were good, their determination was strong, and their leaders were capable. We were half their numbers, with very few guns and fewer ships. In face of these handicaps we were under orders to evacuate by river on the tenth, loading all stores and troops into barges from the respective piers of Troitsa and Yakolevekee. The hours and days were anxious
prevented the enemy frem advancing with his flotilla, but en land he had everything in his favour; and it was only the dogged brilliant resistance of a few British infantrymen that enabled the actual withdrawal to be carried out to plan.
With a few of the troops detailed to hold on to the last, a most successful harassing of the enemy began on the morning of the eighth. During the
oners, while we had lost but 1 man killed and 10 wounded. The ground he had gained on the left bank was of little account, for a river still impeded his progress. There was no bridge, and all the small eraft were in our
previous night two platoons of
Five hundred Red Guards were attacking Ivanovskaya, on the other bank, at the same time. Our resistance completely dismayed them, and they retreated, leaving thirty dead on the field and numerous wounded. In haste and confusion they commenced to entrench, only to be shelled out by a gun across the river. These combined attacks, lasting over three days, had proved of an expensive nature for the enemy. His total casualties had been 163 killed, 200 wounded, and 146 pris
Yet he was exceedingly determined. Despite his reverses and his casualties, the morning of the ninth saw another and an even larger attack launched. His flotilla commenced to shell Ivanovskaya heavily, and at eight o'clock two battalions of the Finnish Red Guards delivered a most violent assault on the village from the north, south, and west. A small outpost force of mounted men, not more than fifty, was holding the line. Desperate fighting ensued.
Our machine - guns caused hundreds of casualties, yet the Bolo continued to advance till he came to handto-hand fighting with the men in the outpost line. The officer who commanded the tiny force was himself the victor in a Titanio struggle with three huge Bolos. Having given the reserve force behind him sufficient warning, this officer decided to withdraw his men, if it were at all possible. At this time they were completely surrounded by the enemy, yet he succeeded in fighting his way back to the reserve line with his men, losing two killed and eight wounded and missing. This withdrawal of Green's Horse was one of the most stirring inoidents of the campaign, and Lieutenant Green
was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order for his conduct.
Further advances of the enemy were frustrated by the resistance offered by the reserves. One company of infantry, with several machineguns, kept the attacking Bolos at a respectful distance during the remainder of the day. Heavy shelling of all the villages on the left bank was begun by the enemy on the morning of the same day. He inflicted some loss on the civilian population of Sludka, but no infantry attack materialised.
While these events had been in progress, great efforts had been made with the embarkation of stores in the back areas. Loyal Russians from the vicinity had gathered in large numbers at the preesten, preferring to go down river, leaving their farms desolate, to suffering beneath the rule of the Soviet. Their future was a blank one. Perhaps they would start life again near Archangel. Perhaps they would seek their fortune in South Russia. So with their pathetic treasures, tied in faded 'kerchiefs, they left the land of their fathers. Eventually a great number of them left Archangel for the south.
The position in the Troitsa line was now a serious one. Two of H.M. Monitors, "25" and "27," in passing down the Dvina, had run on to sand-bars and remained fast, despite all efforts to refloat them. The troops holding the Dvina defences had been fighting hard
for three days. Preparations to evacuate at dawn on the 10th had been completed and orders had been issued. Imagine the astonishment and chagrin that was general when counter-orders were received from G.H.Q. extending the date for evacuation to the 15th. The Officer Commanding on the Dvina, however, reviewing the situation, decided to proceed with the evacuation from Troitsa as originally arranged, and establish a new line some miles down the Dvina—a line which gave ample protection to the twe grounded monitors. Desperate attempts were still being made to refloat them.
During the night therefore a silent withdrawal took place on both banks. The fatigued outposts held on till just before the early dawn, and then quietly retired with the fading night. The Bolo was completely ignorant of the proceedings. Specious wireless messages postponing the date of evacuation had been sent out, and we were aware that they had been picked up by the enemy's stations and transmitted to his junior commanders in the line. So they slept while we marohed away. Embarkation went on speedily, and before noon all troops had passed from the upper reaches of the Dvina, and Troitsa was No Man's Land. Bridges had been most effectively destroyed by the Navy and the Engineers, and the last act in the drama was the firing of the two preestens; and as we pulled out into the channel
the flames licked high into the clear morning air.
Our last memory of Troitsa was the white oross on the red sandstone heights, marking the lonely resting-place of our dead.
"For not in quiet English fields
Are these, our brothers, lain to rest, Where we might deck their broken shields
With all the flowers the dead love best."
In anticipation of the rapid advance of the Bolo, once he discovered our departure, plans were made to gather all transport in the villages from Troitsa as far back as the proposed new line. The small forces detailed for this task had a peculiarly unpleasant time. Storastas were not overjoyed at having to summon all transport, nor were the peasants particularly pleased at having to yield up their ponies and droshkies to the retiring British. The proBolshevik elements in these villages made their presence known, and occasional shots were fired at the droshky discoverers; in fact, on the right bank two men were wounded by these stray enemy sympathisers. The weary patrols with some hundreds of droshkies reached the new Pless - Shushega line soon after the infantry barges had arrived. New defensive positions had to be taken up, and this line was held till the 17th of September.
With considerable caution the Bolo commenced to move forward from his old line, miles beyond Troitsa. He shelled every village with such per
VOL. CCVII.-NO. MCCLIV.
sistence that he set each of them on fire. His rate of progression was slow, timidity being the governing faotor. After some days his patrols bumped into our line. As a result of that encounter he apparently realised that his project of driving the "ginger Englishmen" into the White Sea was likely to be too costly an operation, and that the wiser plan was to allow his enemies to withdraw in peace. So from the Bolshevik on the Dvina we had no further trouble, and we knew him no more. Not so on the Vaga river-but story.
that is a later
Finally, on the 17th the convoy recommenced the journey down the river, releasing thereby, to their great jubilation, the corralled Russian peasants with their ponies and country carts. They drove off in tremendous haste for their homes, probably to be remobilised by the Bolshevik,
Upon the evacuation of this line the Russian troops who were holding what we hoped Was to be their permanent front line, some miles in rear of Pless and Shushega, actually sent an urgent message begging us to hold on. This arrived just as the last of the troops were embarking. As the Russians had known of the proposed relief for over a fortnight, this final plea was unreasonable-to say the least.
The last company to leave Shushega underwent an amusing experience. As all means of withdrawal had been previously destroyed, it was ar