Farewell Dinner at the Cafe Royal

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.

Signatures of the last prisoners-of-war in World War One, including the future General Sir Brian Horrocks

2 thoughts on “Farewell Dinner at the Cafe Royal

  1. Rupert, do you have the date of the Café Royal gathering? Rex was in London around the end of the year, and I wonder if he joined them.
    I will miss these posts, now the story is told! Thank you for posting them as the 100 years anniversary unfolded.

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    1. Thanks for your support Stephanie. I am afraid I don’t know the exact date, but it would be good to think that Rex attended. Interestingly, only eleven of the Moscow prisoners signed the back of the photo in my possession, so I don’t believe the dinner took place immediately after they returned to London in November. I did find another copy in an archive at Leeds University, but it has no date. Emerson and Dallas married on Wednesday 8th December and my best guess is that he organised the dinner before the wedding, but it could quite easily have been a bit closer to Christmas. I will continue posting about the prisoners until the beginning of 2021, when I will switch to my new book.

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