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company made to refloat the two vessels. Practically everything of any value had been removed by the morning of the 17th,
ranged that the should be conveyed by small rowing-boats to an island in the Dvina, to be picked up by fast-moving tugs, and thus to rejoin the main convoy. About five o'clock on the fateful morning the O.C. company decided to test the scheme by taking two non-commissioned officers over to the island in a boat belonging to the local storasta. The outward journey was accomplished, and after an inspection of the island the return began. So did the difficulties. After having been stuck fast in mid-stream for two hours on one of the inevitable sandbanks, the party, in disgust, decided to abandon the boat and walk home. This they did, the oynosure of all the eyes of the company. Every one enjoyed the position except the O.C. and his two companions, who were wading through icy-cold water which reached their waists. At nine o'clock the tug appeared with six small rowing-boats in tow, each boat containing a barishnya. The evacuation began, the maidens performing with the oars. At 10.15 the whole company, with the O.C. and his standard-bearer, had passed from the shore to the island and from the island to the tugs, and as the last of the troops embarked, three bridges on the mainland were blown sky-high. H M. Monitors "25" and "27" were also destroyed. Throughout the stay at Pless and Shushega, strenuous efforts had been
and huge explosive charges ended the lives of the sturdy vessels.
Another encounter with the Bolshevik awaited us a little farther down river, the enemy having broken through on the Vaga river front. The British forces on the Vaga had handed over to the Russians and had been evacuated in advance of the Dvina force. An attack by the Bolos succeeded, and a small force penetrated down the Vaga to its junction with the Dvina. Here they ambushed in the woods, and as the last vessels of the Dvina convoy passed, heavy machine-gun fire was opened. Fortunately we had an 18-pounder mounted on a specially constructed barge, and the gunners co-operated with a landing party of marines and the coastal motor-beats in dispersing the enemy. Three Bolos suffered death at the hands of the marines. We nearly lost General Sadleir Jackson on this occasion, for he arrived in a coastal motorboat and was greeted by a bullet which passed an inch or two above his head and shattered the glass screen of the tiny craft in which he was standing. Our casualties in this final attack numbered eleven, and the barges fired on were riddled with bullets. Altogether it was a warm halfhour.
The voyage of the ration barge "N.T. 252," and its subsequent abandonment, was the greatest event of the evacuation. It was a chapter of accidents from the commencement of the trip at Troitsa. Some thousands of pounds value in rations and rum were stored on the barge, and the personnel consisted of the D.A.D.S. and T. and his staff, two signallers, and a Russian bargee. A gale of wind was blowing when the good ship weighed anchor at Troitsa and passed a towrope to its particular tug. No sooner had the tug commenced to pant and puff most vigorously in an effort to tow, than it was taken completely in charge by the huge unwieldy barge, which in turn was under the control of the wind and the current. A second vessel, to escape being crushed against the preesten, manoeuvred into position between "N.T. 252" and the tug, and succeeded in getting the tow-rope fouled in its propeller-shaft. After orashing into the hospital ship, the ration barge finished up by colliding with the ammunition lighter, amidst the loud and prolonged ourses of British naval officers and Russian skippers.
the first occasion the tug was pulled half a mile out of its course, and then ran aground. By dint of terrific exertions on the part of its engines, the vessel and the sandbank finally parted company. On the other occasion the barge merely proceeded downstream broadside on, borne along by the swift current, collecting all the navigation lights in its journey, finally orashing into another ammunition barge before drifting into its right anchorage. The next few days were uneventful, ohiefly owing to the fact that the convoy was stationary. On the 15th "N.T. 252" started off again in company with a barge containing one of the infantry battalions. September the 17th was a glorious day. The convoy was passing the bar at Khoboritza. For some unknown reason the skipper of the infantry tug tried a new channel, and succeeded in running both tug and barge aground. Bearing down upon them was "N.T. 252." Frantic signals of danger were being made by the infantry, but no one on the ration barge was troubling to notice them, or if they did, merely imagined them as some new form of Swedish drill. A sudden jolt and a bump, and the ration barge was also aground with her tug. Meanwhile the remainder of the convoy passed merrily down the right channel. The bargee of "N.T. 252" had greatly On distinguished himself during
Two hours' hard work resulted in the freeing of the tow-rope, and progress was resumed. Similar evolutions occurred before many more miles had been covered.
the grounding episode. Seeing no hope of preventing the disaster, he promptly dropped the anchor before the weigh was off, with the result that the barge sat on it, and a foet of the anchor went through the side.
The usual "S.O.S." was sent out, but nothing happened, all and sundry being too busily engaged in getting down river. Water was coming in rapidly, so a coffer-dam was constructed and filled with lard. This had the effect of making the hold fairly water-tight, and with the continuous use of handpumps the water was kept down. Nothing further happened for two days, except that the infantry were taken off their barge in small tugs, and they too disappeared in the direction of Archangel and home. "N.T. 252" was left alone on the bar. About eight o'clock in the evening a voice was heard coming from a tug which had approached, informing the occupants of the stranded barge that a paddler would come alongside in the morning to pull them off. Eleven o'clock next morning, and there was no sign of a paddler. Then a tug appeared, but was unable to get alongside. More shouting ensued between the D.A.D.S. and T. and the N.T.O. on the tug, and after momentarily expecting the paddler, it arrived two hours late. It came slowly up-stream, but on reaching the lower end of the bar something went wrong, for, to the chagrin of the watchers, she turned completely round and then ran ashore. It after
wards transpired that she had, at this critical juncture, succeeded in dropping her rudder. So the tug went back and towed the helpless paddler into deep water about a mile away.
Towing two small boats, the tug reappeared alongside, or as near alongside the ration barge as possible, and the crew of the latter began to transfer all personal kit into the two rowing-boats, thence to the N.T.O.'s tug, thence to the paddler. Unfortunately the wind had increased mightily, and it was raining hard. The weather dismayed the Russian owners of the rowing - boats, for, after making one journey, they vanished entirely. This happened at the same time as the N.T.O.'s tug was blown on to the sandbank, so that further operations were impossible.
The morning of September the 20th dawned. The barge was still fast aground, and the gale and rain continued. Not a sign of life was visible on river or land, till at dusk a small boy was observed lighting the navigation lamps on the river. His attention was attracted by means of rifleshots, and he was ordered, under pain of death, to produce all available boats from the surrounding villages at dawn the following morning. Dawn arrived, with an increase in the velocity of the wind and the intensity of the rain. There was no sign of a boat, but about eight o'clock the weather cleared and four small rowingboats arrived. The transfer
ence of personal kit then orews lashed the two ships recommenced in real earnest. together and they went as This was & most tedious one. business, as the boats could only take a small load, and the journey comprised a trip to the island, the man-handling of the stores across the island, and thence across another stretch of river to where the paddler was lying. At last this loading of stores was
But the wretched occupants of the paddler were still unable to move, for although they could steam they could not steer, and the N.T.O.'s tug, which might have given them assistance, Was still hard aground. So they waited. A few hours later another tug proceeding up-river appeared, and on being hailed informed the stranded party that it would be returning in an hour and would then tow the paddler down stream. The Russian idea of an hour may be a day, or two days, or a week. In order to ensure its return a boarding party escorted the newly-found vessel to its destination and brought it back well within the hour. The tow-rope was fixed and the journey resumed.
Ten versts farther another tug, of stronger type, was encountered and a change was made. All went well after the change for a few hours till the main steam-pipe of the new vessel burst. There were
no casualties. The position now was that one vessel could steam but could not steer, and the other vessel could steer but could not steam. So the
On arrival at Ust Pinega, the N.T.O. appeared, and insisted on placing the skipper of the steamless tug under arrest for dereliction of duty. But after much argument he was convinced that it was necessary to proceed to Arohangel for repairs, and the skipper's presence was absolutely essential if that town was ever going to be reached. With the addition of another tug containing some eighty Bolshevik prisoners, the convoy eventually arrived at the base, after having been the complete rearguard to the Dvina force. I should like to have had Comrade Gidrassow's description of this action of the department of supplies, for he would have undoubtedly laid stress the incident I am about to relate, which occurred while the "N.T. 252" was aground.
All supplies had been handed over to the Russians, less a small amount of rum, which the D.A.D.S. and T. had been instructed to destroy if unable to oarry it away. In pursuance of his instructions, the Major was busy breaking the bottles on the side of the barge, and allowing the contents to fall into the river. Hearing yells of delight from below, he glanced over, to behold two natives in a small boat, catching the contents of the bottles in their mouths. The fact of broken glass descending with the spirit failed to deter them.
The actual departure from North Russia was delayed till the 27th of September by the necessity of despatching civilians and refugees from Archangel. To protect this embarkation another temporary outpost line was constituted about twenty miles from the port, the infantry being supported by two monitors which had re-armed at Archangel. Finally we did embark, firstly on river steamers and then on to the transports lying in the White Sea, while the guns of H.M.S. Fox, trained on Archangel, effeotively awed any Bolsheviks who might have desired a parting shot at the British. And so we came home across the grey seas and into the haven of Drake's Devon.
As I wrote down these last words, the newsboys were shouting of the fall of Archangel into
the hands of the Bolsheviks. To the God of all the Russias I winged a silent prayer for the brave men who had fought with us. I hope they escaped on the ice-breaker. were not many great Russians. But Posinykoff, the shipbuilder, and Kissilof, the scout, were two of the most courageous and simple men that ever fought for a righteous cause.
And it was a righteous cause to fight for Russia.
Some day we shall draw nearer to the great human heart that beats in that sad country. Purged by the fires of sacrifice, cleansed by the tears that have been shed, a great new land will arise.
Russia is only trying to work out her own destiny. She must arrive. Till she does, we, who fought for the soul of Russia in the days of her great tribulation, watch and pray.