Treaty of Versailles Centenary Anniversary 28 June 1919…

…But there was no fanfare in Siberia when it was signed.  The official diary of the British Military Mission fails to mention the event, merely recording that Private Lucas was suffering from venereal disease and the US hospital was unwilling to help.

Four days earlier, Emerson had joined the other British Army volunteers in Omsk, to help repair and maintain the Trans-Siberian Railway and was pleased to receive an additional half a crown a day “in view of the extra hardship and inconvenience of operations in Siberia”.  



June 1919, The Pivotal Month In The Russian Civil War.

After the Red Army recaptured Ufa on the River Kama, the fight moved to the passes over the Ural Mountains and a stalemate ensued.  Trotsky intended to switch to the south, but was over-ruled by Lenin in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Emerson MacMillan arrived at Omsk six days before the Treaty of Versailles was signed and started work sorting out the chaos on the railway network.

He met the Cossack who took command of the train derailment at Vladivostok and discovered he was Lieutenant General Kortzov, the former Chief of Intelligence in the Caucasus, who had been educated by an English nanny as a child.

Emerson wrote in a letter home on Sunday 22 June 1919:  “The General spoke in very complementary terms of the help Great Britain is giving Russia  in her efforts to restore order… I feel sure that Winston should like to have him speak in the House in support of his Russian policy”.Omsk (640x427)

The British Army’s Accommodation in Omsk in 1919

On 8th June 1919…

Emerson MacMillan boarded the Express de Lux in Vladivostok on its ten-day journey to join the British Railway Mission at Omsk.  His train was ambushed on a horse shoe bend above a 40 foot precipice and he was lucky to get out alive as the “sleeping cars were held up by faith alone”.

A grizzled old Cossack general asked him to guard the flank while he wired for assistance and Emerson patrolled the railway track with a French major before an American company took over the guard a few hours later.

He wrote about this episode in one of 21 unpublished letters, which form the spine of Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners: The British Soldiers Deceived in the Russian Civil War.

IMG_2741British Soldiers On The Trans-Siberian Railway in 1919