Within a month, the last prisoners-of-war to return from Russia had scattered around the world, but before they departed to Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, Ireland and the USA, they submitted claims for their stolen property to the Russian Claims Department at the Board of Trade in Stamford Street. They also held a farewell dinner at the Cafe Royal when they were joined by Hector Boon and other members of the Siberia Mission. The prisoners signed the back of a photo that was taken on HMS Delhi and all of them acknowledged the part played by their inspirational leader, Leonard Vining who lost none of the soldiers during the year of their extraordinary ordeal.
Brian Horrocks (who was awarded an immediate DSO at El Alamein and commanded three different British Corps in the Second World War) knew something about leadership and wrote in his memoir “Thanks to [Vining] our morale had always been high and discipline in our strangely assorted party had withstood the strain of all those months of captivity. On his shoulders had rested the ultimate responsibility and now he had brought the whole party safely out of the darkness of Bolshevik Russia into the light of the free world again.” However, the only recognition he received for his outstanding leadership was a brief letter of thanks from a civil servant.
In the run up to Christmas, I will provide an update on what happened to the main characters in Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners.