Part #4 – “B” Squadron RNWMP

The activities of “B” Squadron RNWMP and their activities are provided below and includes of members who were there.  The history of the Squadron is provided in this comprehensive historical account of the Squadron’s  creation, deployment, activities, challenges and return to Canada, their story is being broken down into six parts:

Barrack Life & Activities

After disembarking from the SS Monteagle on December 17, 1918, the Squadron was temporary quartered at the Russian East Barracks where make shift stables were constructed of galvanized iron.  This arrangement provided barrack space was comfortable and a welcome improvement over sleeping conditions on the ship.

It took three full days to upload the Squadron supplies from the SS Monteagle and arranged for Chinese teamsters to help with the transportation of supplies to the Gornostai Bay Barracks which was 7 miles farther east of Vladivostok.

Gornostai Bay Barracks

Major George Worsely described the Gornostai Bay Barrack as “a series of Barracks on the slopes of small hills overlooking an extensive valley.  They were well built and could accommodate ten thousand. 

We found the (British) Hampshire Regiment here, also the Advance Party, as had been busy preparing for us, the Russians and Bolshevists having left everything in a disgracefully dirty state. 

The Barracks were of stone and brick, well constructed, and suitable, their weakness being their lack of sanitation.  As for bathing, there are at all these Barracks large wash houses where fifty or one hundred men can be bathed at a time and in some of them vapor baths are provided.


The weather on our arrival in December was fairly cold, although, nothing like the cold of the Canadian prairies.  The stables were of stone, well ventilated, but with poor floors and no drainage.  The water was obtained from deep wells and was of good quality.

Trooper John Stewart outlined – “the barracks near Vladivostok were very well built by prisoner labour in the years after 1905.” 

 

Our first duties on arrival was the preparation of the Barracks for the Canadian Infantry Brigade, which arrived about one month after we had been in Siberia.  This gave us a lot of hard fatigues and troop up much time. 

We started training again in mounted work, patrols and route marches, sketching, sword drill, marching, skirmishing over the rough country and in otherwise rapidly preparing ourselves for proceeding up country, as were informed we should be the first to go.[1]” 

 

According to Trooper Randolph Holding – “We cavalry men spent the winter of 1919 training hard, and riding on mounted patrols through the hills about thirty miles from Vladivostok.[2]” 

Trooper John Stewart also described his experiences – “At Gornosti Bay Barracks, we had no cook.  For the first night, we were fed at a nearby English regiment mess.  The meal consisted of piece of cheese and bread and a cup of tea.  As we had only a snack in the morning, we were hungry.  As a result of complaints, the meal was reinforced. 

The following day, the troops were lined up.  I was in Troop #1 and close to the cookhouse.  The Sergeant Major (Charles Wilcox Reg. #4314) went up to Troop #1 and had the first 6 men right turn and pointed to the cook house door and told them to fall out and get busy with the stoves and kitchen equipment that lay nearby in crates. 

The Sergeant Major told the six members to select a cook who would be in charge.  As it happened Trooper John Treasdale (Reg. #7033) was a previously a Butcher and was made the head cook.  He must have had some idea about cooking as he was our cook for some time.

There was generally a shortage of food for the civilian people in and around Vladivostok  Children were permitted to hang around some messes but they were more or less scavengers. Soon, they learned to say ‘Mr. chocolate bar’.  Children would hang around the barrack area and shouting ;’Mr. chocolate bar’ in many instances the expression could get you a woman .[3]

 

 

Corporal John Stinson outlined that the barrack rooms at both Gornosti Bay Barracks and Second River Barracks were identical.  Each barrack sleep area were “heated with coal heaters and were situated every six feet.  It was the job of the Night Guard to stoke and keeping the fires burning.  We occupied the 2nd floor (Second River Barracks).  In the same barrack space we occupied, the Japanese housed 3,000 soldiers.[4]

Trooper John Stewart recalls that  “Corporal George Bridget (Reg. #4657) was the Orderly.  Each night before ‘lights-out’ he would come through the barracks and read out the orders for the following day or other relevant information.

 

The office and wash rooms were situated at the left end where there was a common entrance.  The Orderly Room was just inside the door wehre a guard was generally posted.[5]

Faced with the mammoth task of moving equipment and supplies from Vladivostok harbor to Gornosti Bay, the Squadron sought the contract services of local Chinese teamsters.  These same teamsters were also used for the move from Gornosti Bay Barracks to Second Rivers.

Trooper John Stewart recalls these teamsters. – “There were a large number of Chinese workers and the seemed to do all the work.  That is hard labor but they seemed to have a working agreement for pay.  They would meet the boats and load up piles of luggage, trunks and supplies.  Some had horses drawn wagons which they loaded and bound to prevent the load falling off.  It was very interesting to stand back and observe them in action. 


Four wheels under a bed shaped like a wheel barrow to fit between the four wheels.  The driver could pile the load high without regard to the ability of his poor scrawny horses but he had a big whip which he beat the horses unmercifully.  The hit was not divided evenly but that made no difference to the driver.  Horses were small and very thin.  Most had been blinded intentionally to prevent horse stealing and it was said that they army was always on the lookout for horses with eyesight.  They (White Russian Army) did not buy anything.  They took what they fancied.

We got our coal from a mine known as Suschan.  The Russians had dismantled the mine but it was re-activated and operated by the U.S. Army Engineers with the aid of experienced Russian miners.   There was a lot of guerrilla warfare in the Suschan area.  There was shooting from time to time.  Typical thinking by the radical Russians led them to believe that Vladivostok would suffer badly without coal which was barged down to the bay and beached where needed at high tide.

 The barges for the Gornosti Bay and Second River Barracks were unloaded by Chinese teamsters.  They were hard workers.  They loved chocolate bars.  In fact, I think some of the Russian folks would have sold their souls for a bar.”

Despite the assistance of these Chinese teamsters, the Squadron members were also delegated to transport some of the more sensitive equipment and ammunition.

 

To provide a break from the continual training and offset the boredom, Squadron member were delegated to: assist the local laborers in hauling coal; extracting water from local wells and hauling to the barracks; and supervising the removal and disposal of barrack sewage.

To support the daily routines of maintaining the Squadron and minimize the impacts on training, the Squadron Officers arranged to have 18 prisoners-of-war assisting in general labour work and were paid by the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force..  These prisoners were seconded from a local Russian prisoner-of-war camp.  Each prisoner was paid for their services by the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force.  These prisoners were:

  •  Molmet Ahmgt (Turkish)
  • Gerhardt Gollgkom (German)
  • Hugo Gotzo (German)
  • Sait Halil (Turkish)
  • Ibragin Hamdy (Turkish)
  • Gustav Hanke (German)
  • Ahmat Hasan (Turkish)
  • Amir Hansa (Turkish)
  • Rudolph Hugor (Austrian)
  • Ali Ibragim (Turkish)
  • Johan Koflor (Austrian)
  • Mustafia Mamot (Turkish)
  • Bela Novak (Austrian)
  • Ahmat Omar (Turkish)
  • Asic Rashty (Turkish)
  • Jacob Schutz (German)
  • Frano Simonnoit (German)
  • Fredrich Volger (German)

 

 

Trooper John Stewart outlined that “there was a large number of Austrian and Turkish prisoners-of-war in the surrounding area of Vladivostok.  They were all confined to camps but did a lot of fatigues such as sanitation and cleaning up of the parade rounds and they all seemed to be content with their lot.  They all spoke of returning to their homes when things were finally settled.” 

Trooper William Rowland spent many hours guarding and working with prisoners-of-war who did most of the hard labour. He outlined –  “I was on the water carrier duty – used teams travelling several miles to get the water for the barracks.  The prisoners lived in nearby old cabin.  When I asked one of the prisoners – ‘Why don’t you run away?’  His response was ‘we are warm and comfortable why should we?[6]

Mule Transport Incident

One noteable incident which occurred while the Squadron was based at the Gornostai Barracks.

Major George Worsley described this incident in his report to Commissioner Bowen Perry –  “On the 1st of January (1918) two troops proceeded in the face of an awful blizzard to bring 140 mules from Vladivostok to Gornostai.  They rode in through the storm and a very large number men were frozen rather badly, including both officers, Captain Duffus and Inspector Caulkin.  The mules did not arrive for several days, when they were brought out and trained by us for transport purposes.  On arrival, we continued to do most of the transport work by means of these mules.

 

Trooper John Stewart was a member of this dedication.  He provided supplementary details on this fatigue duty  – On New Year’s day 1919, 40 of us rode into Vladivostok through a blizzard to take over a ship load of donkeys that had been shipped up the coast from the interior of Manchuria.  The storm was so bad that the ship stayed at anchor in the harbour until the next day which for a change was nice.  When we arrived in Vladivostok during the storm, which was so bad that the sentries at the US Army HQ had been allowed to come inside and watch out the winter.  The US Army officer of the day thought that us Canadians were insane to come out in that weather.  We mooched something to eat and returned to Gornosti camp where rum rations had been issued to the men that had been left in Barracks.  We missed the ration.

On January 2nd 1919, we were up and away to Vladivostok again.  The boat had docked and the unloading of the animals commenced.  It was dangerous to get near the animal’s back end as they were real kickers.  The animals were all down in the hold so it was necessary for someone to go down and put a sling on the animal so that it could be hoisted out and to the dock where other members caught the animal, removed the sling and sent it back for another animal so the operation was very slow.  When 4 or 5 animals were on the dock, we tried their heads together with rope halters.  In my instance, I took 5 of the animals and mounted my horse and started east along Svetlanska Street trying to lead my charge but they did not want to be driven.  So, I removed the 2nd rein from my bridle which had buckles on it.  I used the reins as a whip and managed to get them moving.  With the help of my horse pushing them and the rein I managed to drive them back to camp arriving at 7 PM.  Some of the stragglers did not arrive until midnight.”

Trooper Melville Anthony recalled his experience on retrieve the mule duty – “January 1st, 1919 – This was a day that many will never forget.  The Canadian Army had purchased a number of what could probably be correctly described as burros from the Chinese and shipped them to Vladivostok, later to be used by the Army Transport Corps.  They arrived, I believe, on December 31st 1918 and some forty of the so-called better horsemen – this included myself – were detailed to arrive from our post to Vladivostok, unload these animals and herd or lead them to our barracks.  The patrol was to commence at 6 a.m.  I experienced in my life time many blizzards but this day started with one of the worst.  In fact, many of us considered – we would only go through the formalities of saddling up and the trip would be cancelled.  Such, however, was not the case.  The wind was so strong, with snow and sand, that as we turned the first corner after leaving the barracks, two horses with their riders, were blown off the road – the horses falling with the force of the wind.  The two men were fortunate inasmuch as they were able to walk back to the barracks.  The remainder continued, arriving at the docks were it was obvious that no mules could be un-loaded neither could a ship be anchored at a dock.  With a pause of a moment or two, we were ordered to return.  En-route we stopped at another establishment where we were able to feed our horses and permit the snow to melt from around our fur coats but that particular army camp had no rations to feed Mounted Policemen. We continued our return trip, choosing another route through one of the valleys which led over and around a range of hills where the wind had beet sweep. As  I recall, we got back about 6 p.m. and I think that there were no members who did not suffer frost bite on some part of their anatomy, most in a rather sensitive area.  For the first time in our experience, those in authority decided to issue a rum ration, which was greatly appreciated.[7]

An article appeared in the Canadian Military newspaper in Vladivostok  – “The Siberian Sapper” edition dated January 25, 1919 made a reference to this fatigue duty by the Squadron –  “Many explanations have been given, as to how the mules cane to the RNWMP Barracks, among them the following: – Rumour has it that on New Year’s Eve a number of officers of the different units were engaged in a little ‘game’ in the city.  In this game one of our allied friends had the misfortune to lose over 100 mules, and the lucky winner lost no time in sending his men to the following morning to bring them home.  We cannot say if this is how we came to have our long-eared friends with us, but certainly there are here in stables at Gornostoi Barracks.”

The retrieval of the mules by the Squadron was also noted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces’ Headquarters Summary Diary:

On January 15, 1919, the Squadron members who recovered from the Spanish Influenza  arrived in Vladivostok on board SS Protesilaus.  These members were:

  • Lieutenant F.H. French
  • Trooper J.C. Cochran (Reg. #7509)
  • Trooper L.L. Danielson (Reg. #7416)
  • Trooper E. Douglas (Reg. #7319)
  • Trooper A.W. Johnson (Reg. #7425)
  • Trooper W.H. Kelf (Reg. #7356)
  • Trooper A.H. Nord (Reg. #7463)
  • Trooper E.H. Reid (Reg. #7397)
  • Trooper L. Tyrell  (Reg. #7529)

Later in January 1919, the Squadron members participated in a memorial service in Vladivostok.  “The Canadians organized an elaborate memorial service following the death of Prince John, British King George V’s epileptic youngest son.  The RNWMP “B” Squadron provided a mounted guard of honour for the ceremony, which was officiated by Canadian chaplain Major H. McCausland and attended by generals Horvath and Otani and other high-ranking White Russian and Allied officials.[8]

 

 

In mid January 1919, the five pointed star badge was officially issued to the Squadron.  When minor tailoring was required (Trooper John Stewart (June 9, 1983) According to Trooper Stewart – “Trooper Bennie Steen (Reg.#7411) did most of the minor clothing alternations for the Squadron.  He would sew on rank badges and our five pointed star cloth badge.   Major alternations were done by the Canadian Military tailors.  Bennie Steen would receive various items for his work like pocket watches and other interesting stuff.” 

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND RIVER BARRACKS

On February 21, 1919, the Squadron left Gornostai Barracks and move their entire operation to Second Rivers which was on the other side of the peninsula.  According to George Worsley, we “were very pleased with the change, as the country was far more open and suitable for Cavalry.

 The stables and Barracks were better than those at Gornostai, and we had the use of large piece of open ground, which had been formerly an aviation field, for our training.”

 

According to Trooper Randolph Holding – “Our horses were well housed.  On barn was one hundred feet long by sixty feet wide.  The roof was made of slate.  The great weight of this material, plus the usually great width, presented a fantastic load for the beams.  They were of wood and two feet square.  The walls were of stone and mortar and over four feet thick.  It was high enough to hold all our horses.”

Corporal John Stinson described the Second River Barracks and stables as being  “better in quality that what we had back at Depot. The windows and doors actually stopped the snow from coming in.”

 

Trooper John Stewart also commented on the quality of the Russian barrack buildings  “They were very well built – almost fire proof.  The floors were mostly of an asphalt material and easily kept.  There were large windows which opened easily for ventilation.  Each barrack were built to house 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers.  They were located on terraces in rows on the slopes of hill for good drainage. 

Squadron members were billeted and messed in the same barrack building but in separate rooms.  Two troops to each floor as there was ample room.  Cold water wash rooms at each end of the building.  The toilets were also adjacent to the wash rooms and the stools were situated above large tanks that were drained regularly by horse drawn tanks.  It was crude but I have experience worse facilities in camps here in Canada.”

All senior NCOs stayed in the same barrack building as the Troopers and junior NCOs.  However, the senior NCO sleeping area was segregated from everyone else.

The Squadron officer stayed in a separate room from the rest of the Squadron.   Their barrack building was situated close to the Squadron’s barrack building.  The ir barracks building illustrated below and marked with an ‘X.’  Other Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force officers shared the same barrack building.

At Second Rivers Barracks, the weekly routines of Squadron members were as follows:

  • 7 AM – Morning Stables
  • 9:30 to 10:30 AM – Exercising the horses
  • 11 to Noon – Fatigues
  • 4:30 PM – Evening Stables
  • Sunday – Church parade at 11 AM.

Each Saturday, Major Worsley, Troop Officers and Sergeant Major Wilcox would inspect all the barrack rooms while the troopers were at morning stables.

Major Worsley outlined the necessity for continually training Squadron members.  “About this time, several Russians were murdered at First River and their bodies mutilated and a number of arrests were made.  We continued with our training and had several classes in the Hotchkiss Machine Gun, of which four were issued to us.  We found them a very satisfactory gun.

We continued vigorous training all the time we were at Second River.  The going was good all over this and enabled us to carry out our training in dismounted action work with better results.”

 

 

 According to John Stewart “Life became very dull (at Second River Barracks).  Daily routine consisted of doing foot and mounted drill.  History tells us the reason that the troops were located strategically.  We were doing this for about $1.50 per diem.”  

According to Major Worsley –  “The French troops were on one side of us and the Japanese on the other and across the valley of Second River about half a mile away were a battalion of Serbians.  Second River was situated on the Great Siberian Railway and on Ussuri Bay.  It had a number of fortifications and a number of tunnels connecting with Vladivostok and Gornostai.”

 

According to John Stewart – “The hills surrounding Vladivostok had open gun emplacements not viable from downtown and the barracks were built to house the troops that would man the fortifications.  The gun placements were connected by tunnels leading back down the hills to magazines, offices, etc… We walked through one of these tunnels.  There was a Russian soldier living there.  He did not ask our business.” 

While at Second Rivers Barrack, Trooper Randolph Holding stated – “Hostilities began on April 11(1919).  A party of Bolsheviks attacked a White Russian army post at Shkotovo, an important railway town.  They were thrown back but not before they had achieved an astonishing degree of success.  At a village only twelve miles away they gathered strength for a bigger attack. 

Badly frightened, the Whites (Russians) sent an urgent call for help to General Otani,  the Japanese supreme commander of all the Allied armies in Siberia.  What was different about this operation was that the Reds set up a headquarters with a Communist red banner flying over it.  Hitherto there had been only quick raids or noisy riots.  Here was something for (General) Otani to attack.  He marched on the Red village on the morning of the 19th.  However, he had taken so long to get ready that the Bolsheviks were able to predict his movements, and were able to disperse.  The allies could find no enemies to fight. 

The Troop of which I was a part did not go to Shkotovo.  A British force made a landing from the sea timed to coincide with the advance of the Bolshevik headquarters.  We rode along the coast to screen the landing against possible armed interference.  No enemy showed up. 

The British were supported by a fairly large Royal Navy warship, the “Kent.”  She could bring as many as nine six-inch guns to bear on the shore.  There was no sight but she fired fifty shells into the hills for moral effect.  We men of the Squadron “B” could see the shells passing over our heads.  The first shell sounded like a freight train.  We and all the other Canadians returned to Vladivostok on April 20 very disappointed.”

Major Worsley provided additional details on this Bolshevist action – “About the 17th of April, 23 received orders to hold ourselves ready for an expected rising of Bolshevists in Vladivostok and instructed to hold one troop in readiness night and day to proceed to the General Headquarters, the balance to wait for orders.  At the same time, I was requested to make out a scheme of defense in conjunction with the French and Japanese, who were in adjoining Barracks to us, and also increase our sentries at night.  We had a connecting line of sentries cover the whole area we occupied.”

Corporal John Stinson outlined that “our horse patrols into the country side would usually be a distance of 10 miles. We never met any resistance from the Bolshevists.”

 

On the horse patrols, Squadron members were provided with military rations.  Corporal John Stinson described these rations – “most of us had difficulty with the food rations.  They were British rations which came from Australia and consisted of rabbit food.  Our Troopers from Alberta didn’t appreciate this type of food. We continually made our complaints know to Major Worsley and the Sergeant Major.”

The following is a photograph of the Officers and NCOs of “B” Squadron RNWMP taken at Second Rivers Barrack taken in late April 1919.

 

 

The next Part 5 of this series of articles about the “B” Squadron will provide details on the actions of two ‘Up-Country’ action to Omsk and the daily duties and off-time activities of Squadron members.

CHECK OUT – Part 5 – “B” Squadron RNWMP – Further Adventures in Siberia



[1] George Worsley – Report to Commissioner on “B” Squadron RNWMP – dated October 15, 1919.

[2] Randolph Holding (Reg. #7389) – interview July 6, 1983 – Tompkins, Saskatchewan.

[3] John Stewart (Reg. #7417) – interview January 18, 1983) – Edmonton, Alberta.

[4] John Stinson (Reg. #6256) – interviewed February 1981 – Vancouver, B.C.

[5] John Stewart Reg. #7417) – interviewed February 8, 1982 – Edmonton, Alberta.

[6] William Rowland (Reg. #7433) interviewed January 13, 1969 – Calgary Alberta.

[7] Meville Anthony (Reg. #7351) – letter dated June 18, 1964.

[8] Benjamin Isitt – “From Victoria To Vladivostok: Canada’s Siberian Expedition, 1917-1919 – UBC Press 2010 (page 119)

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