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.


September Advance

In September 1919, the future British generals, Brian Horrocks and Eric Hayes were attached to General Diterikhs’ White Army in Siberia when it recovered nearly 100 miles of territory east of the Ural mountains.  This widely-reported success gave the people of Omsk a false sense of security.  They did not realise that the Red Army was consolidating its forces before an autumn advance.

I am looking forward to giving a talk at the wonderful Haslemere Bookshop at the beginning of October, but before then I will be supporting The Soldiers’ Charity by signing books at the Early Early Christmas Fair evening reception at Tedworth Park, Tidworth  SP97AH on Tuesday 24th September at 6 pm.


Waterstone’s Book Talk

On Thursday 5th September, I will be giving a book talk at Waterstone’s in the Brooks Centre, Winchester at 6.30 pm.

The are many connections to Winchester in Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners.  The Commanding Officer of the Hampshire battalion went to school there, before he went on to become the President of the Oxford Union and the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint when he was knighted twice. 

Several soldiers lived in Winchester in houses that still exist today, including Ranelagh Road, Victoria Road, St Swithun Street, Tower Street, Middlebrook Street and Western Road.

These soldiers all returned to England with the battalion in December 1919, but they left behind a few of their friends, such as Sergeant Bob Lillington, who fell in love with 24 year old Ludmilla Martinova and married her in Omsk on 31 August 1919.  Little did he know then that as a result of missing the boat home, he would become one of the last prisoners of war in World War I.


Churchill War Rooms

I am looking forward to meeting visitors and signing books at the Churchill War Rooms in London on Friday 23 August.

I will explain the Great Man’s role, as Secretary of State for War and Air, in rescuing the fifteen British soldiers abandoned by the army in Omsk in November 1919.  They became the last British prisoners-of-war and were not released by the Bolsheviks to return to England until two years after the Armistice.




National Army Museum Lecture

There was a poignant coincidence at the brilliant War and Peace Festival in Kent last week.  I was revealing the story of Lieutenant General Sir Brian Horrocks’ typhus ordeal in Krasnoyarsk, when a fellow author, Jeff Haward MM, told me about the time when he was Horrocks’ orderly sergeant in World War II.  Happy 100th Birthday, Jeff!

My next public event will be on 9th August at the National Army Museum.  After the free talk, which starts at 11.30, I will be signing copies of Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners.

Further details and tickets are available at:


Topping Talk in Bath 29 July

On Monday 29 July, I will be giving a book talk at the exquisite Topping Bookshop in Bath.  Doors open at 7.45 pm at The Bookshop, The Paragon, Bath BA1 5LS.  Early bird tickets, which are redeemable against a signed copy of the book, are available on their website:


Alternatively, I will be telling audiences about how the last British prisoners of World War I coped in their lice-infested cells at the War and Peace Festival in Kent during the previous week (23-27 July) and speaking at the National Army Museum in London, on Friday 9 August at 11.30 am.



Typhus Louse Poster

Tajoura Air Strike

The strike on the Detention Centre today was not the first air attack at the Tajoura base.  In 2011, the Libyan Navy kept all its stores in the large hangars, which were completely destroyed in an Air Strike.

Attacks on civilians are heinous crimes, but don’t be deceived by old photographs doctored by the media.

11b Tejura Logistics Base

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