October Escape

On 31st October 1919, the Soviet Government announced that it had captured Petropavlovsk, an important trading town on the river Ishim.  In doing so, they cut off two British officers serving with Ataman Dutov’s Cossacks, Captain Phelps Hodges MC and Lieutenant Paul Moss, from their railway route to safety.

The only way of escape was to cross the infamous Gobi Desert by horse and camel.  It took them over four months, but eventually they reached the British mission in China and from there, returned to England.  Writing about his experiences, Phelps Hodges claimed: “No phase in history is more full of material for the historian or novelist than those four years of bitter civil war in Russia”.

Phelps Hodges in the Gobi Desert.jpgCaptain Phelps Hodges MC of the Royal Field Artillery, crossing the Gobi Desert in 1919

October Centenary

On 12th October 1919, the future WWII hero, Captain Brian Horrocks of the Middlesex Regiment was fighting with the White Army on the front line in Siberia when he met Major Leonard Vining of the British Railway Mission at Lebedyja.

Vining had been tasked to ascertain the damage to a bridge that was only 15 yards from the front line.  He came under fire whilst taking photographs in a biplane, but survived the ordeal and returned to Omsk before the Red Army broke through the following week.

I am looking forward to talking about these exploits at Horrocks’ old school, Uppingham, one hundred years on.