The oldest of Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners, Warrant Officer Fred Walters, spent a forlorn 50th birthday, on 17th November 1919, stuck in a train at Barabinski, looking after British women and children fleeing from the Red Terror.
Walters was born in Birmingham and emigrated with his wife, Emily, to Canada where they parented eight children. In 1916, he volunteered to join the Army and ended up in the British Railway Mission in Siberia in 1919. He was famed for his “ramrod straight bearing” and was an important father figure to the younger soldiers, worried about what would happen to them.
Uncle Charlie, as he was known, is standing on the left in the photograph below.
On 8th November 1919, the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, revealed that the British Government had sent one hundred million pounds worth of military equipment to support the White Government in Siberia. Knowing that the last British battalion had sailed from Vladivostok on 1st November, he told the Guildhall audience: “We cannot of course, afford to continue so costly an intervention in an interminable civil war”.
At the time, the Prime Minister did not realise that a group of British soldiers ordered to “remain to the last” in Omsk, would extend British involvement in the Russian civil war for a further 12 months. See page 80 of Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners for this story.