MALCOLM C. GROW
Formerly Lieut.-Colonel Imperial Russian Army Medical Corps
WITH TWENTY-SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS FROM
PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY THE AUTHOR
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
THE HONORABLE RAY BAKER
FORMERLY SECRETARY TO THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA
NOW DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES MINT
COLONEL A. E. KALPASCHNECOFF
GENERAL MICHAEL PLESCHCOFF
MY OTHER RUSSIAN FRIENDS
Fig. 1. Surgeon Grow in a Russian trench. Note the trench's overhang, built as a protection against shrapnell.
One hot July day in 1917, on a road a couple of miles back of the Russian trenches, I witnessed an incident which was to me one of the most significant in all my Russian experience.
It was just when the Russian offensive, the plan of which was conceived and carried out by the Kerensky government, was beginning to break down. The revolutionary soldiers had gone forward in their attacks when ordered to do so, but their morale was bad and when the Germans counter-attacked, the line gave way at a certain point. Wild rumors were circulated by pro-German tools who were in the Russian ranks. They cried out that the German cavalry was surrounding them, and caused a panic among the Russians, who turned and fled.
I was standing by the roadside talking to a British officer who was about to bring up his armored cars to get into action against the Germans. Several of these armored car sections had been sent by the British to Russia to give what help they could. The officer had ridden ahead of his motors to investigate the condition of the roads. As we stood talking the roll of drums, crackles of rifles and machine-gun fire could be heard from our position.
Suddenly the British officer grasped my arm and pointing down the road in the direction of the trenches, exclaimed, "My word, old chap, what is raising that cloud of dust?"
A great yellow cloud rose in the air, sweeping towards us rapidly. I thought of artillery limbers coming back for more shells, but the volume of that cloud was too great. As it rolled nearer we made out a great straggling disorganized mob of soldiers, running for their lives, apparently. Many were without hats or coats and some had thrown their rifles away.
They were a panic-stricken mob bent only on putting as much space between themselves and the Germans as possible. Their grimy faces were streaked with sweat, their eyes glared wildly like the eyes of a stampeding herd of steers, as they bore down upon us.
When they were about a hundred feet from us the dapper little English lieutenant stepped into the middle of the road, raised his walking stick aloft with his left hand and held out his right hand with the gesture of a traffic-policeman stopping a runaway horse.
The frightened soldiers in the foremost ranks of the fleeing mob checked their pace, those in the rear crowded on. I expected to see them sweep that little khaki-clad figure aside like a straw, or trample him under foot. There were no Russian officers in sight. I thought they might have murdered any officers who had tried to stop their fight and I expected to see the Englishman go down with a bullet or a bayonet in his chest. Strange to say the entire crowd of nearly 500 men stopped before that dapper little figure with the outstretched arms. They stood stock still, their great burly chests heaving, their brown faces shining with moisture.
There was a strange silence for a moment, the thunder of pounding boots on hard earth had ceased and only the deep roll of artillery reached my ears. Then a clear, almost boyish voice began speaking in very bad Russian. The little officer told those Russians what he thought of them, what cowards they were to be running away, and ordered them to return and fight. It was not a very grammatical speech but it was forceful and liberally interspersed with good English "cuss words." The mob stood silently listening, many with a shame-faced expression. They crowded up nearer to hear, they forgot their panic of a moment before. When he finished speaking a scattered cheer which soon grew into a lusty roar from 500 throats boomed out. Several under-officers and, soldiers said a few words and in a trice they had formed into an orderly body in columns of eight and were marching back toward the battlefield. Those who had thrown their rifles away picked them up again and returned and fought like demons.
Had that officer been a Russian he would have been killed in an instant, but the mere fact that he was a foreigner saved the situation. The Russian soldier has a great respect for the French, the English and the American. Especially is the American looked up to, and it is astonishing the influence that can be wielded by one of our countrymen. The Russian is a simple-minded, childlike individual, but he is also an idealist and at heart he loves his fellowmen. Being primitive, his passions, either of love or hate, admiration or scorn, are naturally colossal. He is also sensitive to extraneous influences, as witness the effect of German propaganda.
He is, and will be in the future, just as susceptible to the sympathy or criticism of the American people. At this time he needs help, he needs sympathy and above all he needs understanding. We will gain nothing by adverse criticism, but should reap much benefit both now at this very critical time in our national existence and in after years if we pursue the proper course toward Russia.
I have given a few lectures on Russia in the United States and have been struck by the division of feeling towards the Russian soldier. One attitude is of distinct and decided contempt; the other is a real appreciation of what he has done in the past for the Allies, and of the great sacrifice he has made for our cause, with a warm expression of sympathy for his present helpless and pitiable condition.
The book I have written contains no argument. I have tried to tell the simple story of what I saw, to relate my own experiences and impressions in a purely narrative style, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions. My earnest desire is to bring plainly before the American people the heroic fight these peasant soldiers put up while suffering under most adverse conditions in the field and while many baneful influences were at work in the rear, undermining the organization of the Russian government and military machine.
Not only does Russia need our help at this time but I think all will agree that we need Russia's help.
Surely there should be a bond of sympathy between this the oldest, and Russia the youngest democracy, and a united front against Prussian autocracy and militarism.
M. C. G.
MEDIA, Pa., March 22, 1918.
Chapter One: I go to Russia