Diary in Russia - 1915
2nd January 1915. PETROGRAD.
A Russian whom I met at the French Embassy was very complimentary me telling me that the Russians looked upon to me as a sincere friend, and that the Emperor talked much about me.
Friday, 8th January 1915.
To-day I was asked if I Would like to visit the armies on the Warsaw side, and of course I gladly accepted. Trains all anyhow owing to heavy snow, and though we were due to have left at 5 P.m. we remained to dinner, and did not get off till 9. General Oba, of Japan, and Colonel Moukhanoff, our Russian staff Officer, accompanied us, with La Guiche and Captain Langlois, the French officer sent over by General Joffre, making up the party. The Belgians preferred to remain quietly here.
Got off at 11 P.M., and next morning woke up in a regular Canadian blizzard. Langlois yesterday morning ordered a Russian uniform from a Jew tailor in the village at 10 o'clock, and it was ready at 5 - so one can imagine what it looked like.
We arrived at Warsaw at 12 noon in slush and sleet, and went straight to the Hotel Bristol, where I found a wire from Headquarters asking if I would object to taking with us on our trip Mr Stanley Washburn, The Times representative.
Then at 7.30 we dined at the Polish club, the Club des Chasseurs, and I sat next my old friend, M. -. He has lived a good deal in Germany - thinks that the G.'s will make a long and stubborn defence, but that political-economical disturbances - want of supplies - the gradual realisation of an impossible military situation, and the terrible losses sustained by the army - may cause a collapse at any time. He told me the Russians were very short of munitions and that the Minister for War had paid a visit to Warsaw a month or more ago to see what he could do with the factories there in the way of increasing the 'output,' and that the answer was: "If you find the coal we'll find the work"; but the Germans having burned many of the coal stores put an end to the proposal!
We remained till late and I walked back with my French comrades and Oba.
Sunday, l0th January 1915. WARSAW.
We were up early on the morning of the 10th, and just before we were due to start I received a telegram from England with regard to the spreading of the news of the Russian Caucasus success among the Turks and communicated it to the Grand Duke on my return.
Arrangements casual as usual-and having been told that we were off for two or three days had the necessary kit packed and came downstairs, when I heard we were to be back here to-night. So left Kay and my kit behind-as did the others.
We had a special train to Groditz. Reached G. at 10 A.M. - My third visit to that place - and found Headquarters of 2nd Army (General Smirnoff ) located at the same 'Ladies' Rest Cure' establishment as before. Smirnoff's command consists of 3 A.C.'s - viz. 2nd Siberian, 4th A.C. and 1st A.C.
Got two motors and started off in a perfect N.E. blizzard of snow and sleet, Moukhanoff and the two Frenchmen in one car and the Japanese General, Washburn and I in the other. Usual bad roads in a biting wind which blew 'flurries' of snow across a wide expanse of flat prairie. We lunched en route, mostly off garlic.
Arrived at the Headquarters of the 1st Corps, and delayed some time, as we were told we could see nothing unless we stopped the night - which of course we decided to dothough we had no kit, not even a tooth-brush. I had my maps and a shilling novel - neither of which are useful to sleep in or to brush one's teeth with.
A very pleasant old general in command, and a comfortable house, full of engravings of Napoleon and his battles, which one finds in many of the houses hereabouts.
We were anxious on this trip to get nearer to the advanced artillery positions than we had been allowed to go previously. The general himself, who shows age and weight, seemed more inclined to remain at home and direct the operations of his cook than to accompany us, but told off his chief of staff to take his place, and provided us with horses and a Cossack escort - with the proviso that we should not go to the farthest batteries till after dark.
After lunch got on Cossack ponies and rode off to the Headquarters of the Division, the blizzard continuing-but I had a nice corky little horse and managed to keep warm. Heavy firing was going on in the distance, and we jogged along at a good pace - glad of a chance of getting some more active exercise than "motoring.'
We arrived at the Artillery Headquarters at 4, where we were told we couldn't proceed till it got a bit darker, as the Germans - as we could hear - were busy shelling our road. However, we eventually got started, and reached the nearest battery while it was still light. Here the C.O. was very anxious to fire a few shots for our benefit, but as there was a distinct doubt as to the practical advantage of firing, and La Guiche and I both held more economical views as to the expenditure of Russian ammunition than they seem to hold themselves - we persuaded him to leave out this' bit of the programme.' So we went on in the gathering darkness, till our escort halted and we were all told to dismount and walk. It was dark enough then. We proceeded through a long, thick pine wood, passing several batteries en route -batteries very well located and said to be doing good work - till we reached a line of infantry trenches about 5 ft. 6 in. deepsandy soil and easy to dig. Here we all went 'to ground" like rabbits.
All this time the firing was slackeningand the silence was only broken by an occasional Russian rifle shot. The latter became so regular that I inquired if these shots were fired for any special purpose-to let the Germans know the Russians were still awake, or something of the kind! - but I was assured they were only 'nerve shots' - i.e. firing by individuals who in the long strain of the 'night watches " fancied they saw someone advancing on the trenches. I am almost inclined to doubt my informants, as the regularity of intervals of shots became so striking - still, the bitter cold of a very dark night may have had that effect.
Scurried along to the sound of shells and sniping till we reached the advanced lines, where we got into an officer's dug-out where he had made himself very snug - had a clock and a glass window. Moved about a bit more through the trenches so as to get the lie of the land. We spent some time here
talking, and I asked whether the Germans had made any attempt at a definite attack, and was told they had shown no signs of it at all - that the fighting hereabout had resolved itself practically into a 'duel of artillery' - I fear more ammunition being expended by Russians than by Germans, without much effect. Counting as nearly as one could, it seemed to me that the Russians fired about ten rounds to the German one. Unless the G.'s are moving off and only fighting a sort of rearguard action to cover their move, I am afraid they have shown the more practical view of the situation - and not being able to locate the well-concealed Russian batteries, are determined not to waste shots at night anyhow. On this line supplies are coming in well, the men are in good health, and the losses are relatively small at the period of which I write.
We crept back in the darkness along the trenches quite silently. Suddenly at the end of the wood we found our Cossacks and horses-on the blackest, darkest night I can remember in India, Africa, Egypt, Burma, Canada or anywhere else-not a glimmer even of a star to light up a patch of snow. My Cossack horse-holder discovered me somehow, and we had to feel for our horses' heads to know which end of the saddle we should climb on to!
Once landed in our saddles, the horses all instinctively held together, and we moved along, a bunch of officers and Cossack guides, more like a covey of partridges than the rabbits whose movements we copied along the trenches.
For about 2 miles our Cossacks led us without a mistake - the only sign I could get of whereabouts being a fire lit in a deep pit on the 'off' side of the road, and which I remembered before was burning in a sort of triangle. After another mile or two even the Cossacks - who have eyes like Red Indians-were puzzled, and we waited at a turn in the path, where a friendly 'picket' lent us a candle in a lantern, and our leading Cossack, fastening it to his stirrup iron, again led the way, and so by candle-light (as in Sherman's night march on Atlanta) we solemnly threaded our way along the forest track. Every now and then a horse would slip on the patches of ice which had got greasy with the half thaw, and the sound of an occasional shell would break the silence.
We finally found ourselves landed at the hospitable doors of the old general - dinner, and early to bed - the Japanese General, Washburn and I in the drawing-room, where they had fixed up some little camp beds for us - quite warm on the top, but very cold below.
Breakfast at 7, and off to the headquarters of an infantry regiment - an old chateau, with a Red Cross nurse in charge.
From here we walked off to the artillery positions, where there was a regular duel of guns. We crept through the woods to keep under cover in scattered groups, and finally reached the ridge which overlooked the valley of the Ravka river. Our guns were pretty brisk all along the line. We could see the German position well, and every now and then the shriek of their shrapnel came whistling over. I could not observe any movement of enemy's infantry, but the artillery officer in command of the battery at which I was standing told me he had seen a strong column of infantry moving N.E. the day before-possibly towards Skiernivice, which is again occupied, by the Germans.
Tuesday, 12th January 1915. WARSAW.
A real 'Russian' start to-day. We were told to be up quite early for a long day to visit the advanced lines in another direction. Down at 8 A.M., and hung about till 11, when there was no sign of cars. We waited patiently till 11.30, at which time our staff officer suggested breakfast.
Finally we got off at 12 - much too late. A cold thaw had set in, but the sun came out and we trekked along in oceans of mud to the Headquarters of the G.O.C. We were landed in a lake of mire, and had to send a message to get a permit to go on. While we waited we watched the Russians shooting at a German aeroplane high up in the sky above us, but we could only see the little white puffs of smoke from the shrapnel and the German aeroplane sailing away, I am sorry to say, unhurt.
A staff officer joined us, and we walked on to get to the next battery. Neither he nor his map seemed of much use, so we worked our way by the sound of the gunsacross a wood and some fields to a farm-house where a shell had burned the barn and stables, and the bodies of twenty or thirty horses were laid out, the latter evidently having been caught as they were tied up in their lines.
Meanwhile the artillery fire became brisker - a sort of final salute before darkness set in, when both sides generally ease off a bit for supper - some machine-gun fire and a little infantry fire, and then silence: while in the distance you could see the glow of the burning houses in the town beyond. The Germans always direct a shot or two at night so as to worry the infantry who are there, and get a chance at them.
Stopped again for some time at one of the batteries where the men were resting after a day's work. As the darkness thickened you could see more fires blazing in the distance. It was now getting late, and as we had a long trek home we waded along through seas of mud for about a mile and a half with the motors, and so back to Warsaw and on to Headquarters, which we reached late on the night of the 13th.
(The above is an illustration of the trips we used to make from Headquarters.)
13th January 1915.
Our line of inspection on the 10th was from Groditz to Wola Pekosene and thence to Jerusal-Paplin; and on the 11th to Ossa - where after visiting the artillery positions above mentioned we moved on to the supporting infantry. here the colonel had been shelled out of his first quarters and moved into a smaller cottage-the shell had come through another cottage, killing two men and ending its career in his house.
Very nice country here, more broken and well wooded. From here the Russian line of defence takes a swing round to the S.E. towards Noveniasto.
Then on to the headquarters of the army at Groditz, where we talked to some German prisoners, who said they belonged to the 18th Regiment of 20th Reserve A.C., and had been serving since middle of August-were quite confident they would reach Warsaw - and though looking thin and miserable, appeared to be perfectly happy as to future success of their army. Their appearance, however, and ready answers gave one the idea that a warning had been given to men - in case of capture-to be careful how they talked.
Got an engine for our car and ran into Warsaw about 9 P.m.
24th January 1915.
The question of Russian co-operation over the Dardanelles business came up again and I had a long interview with the Grand Duke and Prince Koudacheff.
The former told me that the position in the Caucasus had been considerably eased by Russian successes, and he laid stress on the fact that he had made no suggestion as to the methods we should employ in rendering assistance to draw off the Turks from that theatre, and had never guaranteed any Russian co-operation, glad as they would of course be to give it should opportunity occur.
The Russian General Staff pointed out that their Black Sea Fleet, in view of the delay in building of their dreadnoughts, of the scarcity of their destroyers, and of lack of 'up-to-date' submarines, was only the equal of the Turkish Fleet (including, of course, Goeben and Breslau). Even, they added, that equality would only be reached when all the units could work together, and the absence of one or two of them would at once place the balance -in favour of the Turks. The construction of their ships was such that they could only carry a four days' supply of coal. Coaling at sea was rendered extremely difficult by bad weather and the heavy seas which are met with in winter in the Black Sea. The nearest coaling base was 24 hours' sail from the entrance to the Bosphorus.
However much they wished to co-operate with the British Fleet, their hands were tied.
The strength of Turkish batteries covering the Bosphorus, given the number and calibre of their guns as compared with those of the Russian Fleet, was such as to give very little hope of success for the latter.
The question of military co-operation by Russia, which would be the most efficacious help she could render to the Allied forcesafter the forcing of the Dardanelles - was one she could only undertake at the expense of her forces employed on the principal theatre of war, by the deprival from that theatre of at least two army corps.
Regarding the Caucasus - the absolute defeat of Turkey could not be accomplished there; even the taking of Erzeroum would not effect this.
An improvement in the Black Sea naval forces by the addition of the dreadnought Imperatritza Marie and up-to-date destroyers and submarines could only be effected by the coming month of May.
The Grand Duke laid great emphasis on the importance to the Allied cause of action against Turkey, as the crippling of that country would, of course, have a most telling effect in the Balkans.
He could not promise support, either naval or military, but would naturally use every endeavour, should opportunity present itself, to strengthen the hands of the Allies.
(N.B. - Eventually, of course, it was found that Russia, owing to a conglomeration of difficulties, could give no help in this theatre.)
7th February 1915. G.H.Q.
Lunched with the Emperor, who had arrived at our Headquarters, and he was anxious to hear all about the arrival of our troops in France, very pleased about Admiral Beatty's success, he having been in Russia in the summer before the war, and made a great impression on the Emperor.
He also wanted to know all about my last trip to the front, and about Stanley Washburn, The Times correspondent, of whom I could, of course, give a good account as most friendly to the Russians.
He referred to Garibaldi's saying that if ever there was really a great war the first six months would decide the issue and the next finish the war. But he feared Garibaldi was a wrong prophet in this case.
He is inclined to believe the intelligence reports which say that the Germans have decided to send all their submarines (110 in number? - if they have got such a large number, which he doubts) into British territorial waters to sink all the ships they can. A big attack by zeppelins on our fleet is also projected.
15th March 1915.
I met the Emperor on one of his long walks at Headquarters, and as usual got off the road so as to be out of his way, for which he called me over the coals at lunch.
He is a tremendous walker, fairly walks his staff off their legs, and said I must walk where I liked, and not mind meeting him and his retinue, which is a pretty large one, as there are mounted police scouring about all the time.
The Emperor spoke of an article in the Contemporary on the terms of peace when the time comes. He said that the only right terms would be the conditions of the Allies - i.e. that the naval and military power of Germany should be wiped out, carrying with them, of course, the disappearance from power of the Kaiser, who is the factor that keeps matters going as they are.
He inquired after my family, and later on sent me all the English papers, illustrated and others, which he kindly continued to do all the time I was at Headquarters. He is looking very well, and as attractive and goodtempered as ever.
18th March 1915.
Spoke to H.M. on the subject of a letter I had just received from Stanley Washburn, who says: 'I think it is a great mistake for the Russians to stifle all publicity to such an extent. When they fare badly (as in East Prussia) all the Press (especially American) is flooded with German accounts of alleged prisoners captured. When we do well only the very curt official communiqués come out, with the result that the best part of the Russian news only comes out in the briefest way. The general result is a bit discouraging on British public opinion. The Russians so discourage all publicity of a legitimate sort that this unprecedented opportunity for the world to read about her armies and her new spirit is being utterly lost. It seems a great pity.,
The secrecy here is, of course, overdone in that way, and it all arises from the fear of news passing through too many hands and the Russian contempt for any cipher except their own.
I am afraid, however, that it is going to be a difficult job, because though the Emperor sees the point he will not interfere with present arrangements. It is a difficult post in these ways and it is comforting to get a letter from our ever kind Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, who says: 'I have already in my correspondence with the Foreign Office called attention to your good work and told them how much you are appreciated and liked at Headquarters by both the Emperor and the Grand Duke.'
19th March 1915.
At lunch with the Emperor, who had been much amused by the cinema show here, one scene in which, evidently taken on the Riviera, showed a lady bathing and attacked by a lobster from which she was rescued by a very stout-looking gentleman like an operatic singer.
H.M. asked me if I had been taking General Nakajima, the Japanese general who has succeeded Oba here, out walking. This was to draw me, as N. had been invited by me to take 'une petite promenade,' and had answered: 'Excusez moi, Excellence, mais General Oba m'a déja parlé de vos petites promenades et mes pieds sont tres courtes.'
He referred to a day when I walked Oba absolutely stiff.
20th March 1915.
The Emperor told me there was good news from France, and that the Germans show .signs of being a bit rattled, but none has been vouchsafed to me.
Later on he sent me news of our trouble in the Dardanelles.
22nd March 1915.
Heard of the fall of Przemysl, and we had champagne for the first time at the Emperor's lunch, he being naturally very pleased with the good news.
27th March 1915.
Received from the Emperor, who is at Petrograd, The Times containing Lord Kitchener's speech in the House of Lords with which he is very interested.
I hope it will tend to stir up the munitions question here.
19th April 1915.
At dinner I had to tell the Emperor all about my recent trip to the Carpathians.
19th May 1915.
Received telegrams of congratulation to the Russian armies from Lord Kitchener and Sir John French, which gave great pleasure to the Emperor, who spoke most enthusiastically about both the senders.
The Emperor spoke of questions of retaliation, agreeing that the right line was to keep our heads on these matters now and punish after the war.
'Let the others have the discredit of brutality if they wish,' he said,, 'we must come out of the war with our hands clean regarding such matters.'
20th and 21st May 1915.
With the Emperor on both these days. He suddenly turned round to me at lunch and said: 'I do like people who look you straight in the face, and no one would accuse you of doing otherwise.' He then talked of the trip he once made to India and that Lord Roberts wanted him to go to Quetta, though the 'diplomats' didn't approve.
I told him that I had marched through the Bolan Pass to Quetta in 1885 on the way to meet the Russian trouble about Penjdeh, and we laughed over the old song, 'We don't want to fight, but by Jingo if we do... the Russians shall not have Constantinople.'
He then talked of Egypt, and told me he had seen the graves of our men at Tel-el-Kebir (at which fight I had been present).
The heat and stuffiness of the car were awful, and he always knew I noticed it and had more windows opened for me.
23rd May 1915.
H.M. was glad to hear that on the night of the 21st the Chief of the General Staff, Yanushkevich, had assembled us Allied representatives and that we had signed the military agreement with Italy. I again called his attention to the interminable delays about munition orders. The Grand Duke ought to be better served in this matter.
A letter from England tells me that the French on 8th May fired 276 rounds a gun from their '75's' for the whole of their attacking force of 12 divisions. When shall we reach that here?
28th June 1915.
Returned from the front to Headquarters, and the Emperor took me off after lunch for a talk, and informed me of the manifesto he was going to issue to his people next day. He was much pleased with the' Lloyd George munition arrangements,' and expressed his confidence in the future of the munition supply.
He was very distressed to hear of the sad loss which had fallen upon Lord and Lady Stamfordham by the death of their son in action.
At this time there were rumours of the change of command from the Grand Duke Nicholas to the Emperor.
7th July 1915.
Had a talk alone with the Emperor after dinner at Headquarters. He is quite confident, notwithstanding munition and other difficulties, and absolutely determined to see matters through to the end.
15th July 1915.
I told the Emperor of the stories going about that we had annexed munitions or guns intended for Russia, one of the many yarns which help to make mischief. He laughed over it, and said he would take care to contradict it.
The idea of sending a British admiral here seems to give much pleasure, and our work in the Dardanelles, whatever may be the result, has evidently impressed - on some of our Russian friends anyhow - the service it has rendered to Russia by drawing off a large number of Turks who might otherwise be opposed to the Russian forces in the Caucasus.
4th August 1915.
Warsaw has fallen, and though the Emperor was fully prepared to hear of the fall, it will, I feel sure, be a great blow to him. The Grand Duke is undismayed, but it is very hard on him, after all he had done and would have done, to be let in by the lack of the one thing needful.
The Germans, however, have failed in their great objective-to destroy the Russian armies by dividing them.
Alexeieff told me that he had all his positions ready for the retreat and safeguarding of Petrograd-the nerve-centre of Russia.
18th August 1915. PETROGRAD.
There is talk of revolution and of a separate peace with Germany. The Emperor is said to be firm and strong in his decisions when with the headquarters of the armies, but to weaken directly he gets under other influences. However, from my knowledge of him, he will remain loyal throughout to the cause of the Allies.
Looking at the situation here calmly and dispassionately, I am convinced of certain points:
1. There is a great deal of criticism, if not worse, of what is called the delay of the Allies' offensive in France.
2. People here, whose nerves have already been highly tried by reverses, are irritated by what appears to them likely to be a serious disaster to Russia, and are looking about for someone to hang.
3. That they do not realise that it is their own fault that the munition supply has broken down.
4. That the Press is not playing up as it might.
All these are danger signals which you cannot afford to ignore, and though I have tried to sift a good deal of what is the gossip of alarmists from what is really the truth, there is no doubt that the country is much alarmed and disturbed, and that if some action is not taken soon, matters will drift from bad to worse.
Our Headquarters are to be moved in view of the situation at the front.
6th September 1915.
The Emperor takes command of the armies in the field to-day, and the Grand Duke Nicholas goes to the Caucasus as GovernorGeneral and C.-in-C. - a great break-up.
At 10 A.M. we attended a service in the cathedral to celebrate the arrival of his Imperial Majesty. It was short but impressive, rows of ecclesiastical dignitaries in golden mitres and robes, which were lit up by the black dress of the others.
The Emperor stood out in front, alone; we all in rows behind the Grand Duke, with whom I had been since August 1914, who leaves to-morrow. Meanwhile the air is full of rumours and intrigues. As the Tsar has taken over the command of the armies, he takes great responsibilities with it, and has great powers if he chooses to exercise them, and if he can see personally that his wishes are carried out, in opposition to the difficult obstacles which constantly arise in this country.
He has already been very kind and open in his talks to me on many occasions, and his excellent knowledge of English and of our institutions makes our interviews easy.
A message arrived inviting me to dine in the Emperor's train. We had a pleasant and small party, the Emperor joining in all the talk and seeming in good spirits.
After dinner he sent for me to see him in his little study. He told me that he had intended from the commencement of the war to take personal command of the armies, but that the pressure of Government and diplomatic matters at Petrograd had delayed him.
He felt, however, that the moment had now come, that it was his duty to be near his soldiers at this difficult time, and that he had in General Alexeieff a loyal and excellent Chief of the Staff and military adviser.
I then asked him as to our relations and how I was to put matters before him should occasion arise (not, of course, as Emperor, but as C.-in-C.). He said I must always treat him in the same way as I had the Grand Duke.
'You can ask to see me whenever you like and I shall be delighted to talk things over. Have you anything on your mind now ?'
I represented two matters of urgency, the state of affairs at the port of Archangel and the question of the new proposed railway from Alexandrovsk (the Murman railway).
Of the latter he said: 'I take the greatest interest in it, because it was my father's idea originally, and I am specially anxious, for all reasons, to see it pushed on.'
I then told him how the Grand Duke Nicholas had said to me at parting that he felt sure I would be the same to the Emperor that I had been to him, and of his high opinion of Alexeieff.
He was, I think, much pleased to hear of the way the G.D. had spoken. 'Did the Grand Duke say that to you?' he said, and I was glad in these days of malicious gossip to show the Emperor what loyal support, in face of the mischievous talk, he had from his predecessor in command.
We talked a bit more, and as I was taking my leave he added: 'You know what my powers are here. I can give any order I like and have it carried out, remember that.'
9th September 1915.
The Emperor takes up his quarters at Government House, Mohileff, the headquarters of the armies now.
12th September 1915.
We chiefs of Allied military missions lunch and dine daily with the Emperor.
16th September 1915.
Last night was next to the Emperor at dinner. It was a sort of Vanity Fair hard case: 'What should you do when you are sitting next to an Emperor at dinner, have a bad cold in the head and have forgotten your handkerchief?' I fear I only solved it by 'sniffs' when he wasn't looking.
We talked on every conceivable subject, from the Shah of Persia to questions of shyness. On the latter he told me that when young he went on a state visit to Berlin, and being very shy did not utter a word to either of his neighbours at a state banquet, so to put him quite at his ease the Duke of Cambridge, who was sitting opposite him, called out at the top of his voice, 'Your neighbour is very deaf, you had better speak out very loud to him,' with not at all a reassuring effect.
19th September 1915.
The change in command seems to be passing in more or less smooth waters, but the waves may kick up at any moment.
20th September 1915.
I had a conversation with the Emperor on various matters which I had been asked to represent by Sir George Buchanan: 1. Shortage of food and fuel at Petrograd, difficulties of the winter, inrush of refugees, and effect on military situation if riots broke out. Goremykin's position was a pretty difficult one. 2. Importance of organisation of Russian ports for dealing with supplies, especially in winter. The difficulties in the Emperor's way are the utter absence of any method in which what is true is separated from what is false. There is a clash now in Russia, as indeed there has been before, between the methods of 100 or 1000 years ago and those of the present day, but if they can pull through this war under their system of autocratic govern ment there will be a fight between two systems after it is over. However, we have got to win the war first.
Task in France not hastened by the locking up in Gallipoli of 11 of our divisions and 2 of the French.
Probably have compulsory service at home ere long, when our strength at front will be considerably increased.
25th September 1915.
The Emperor, to whom I had shown a memo on the munitions question, told me he was again taking the matter up with the W.O. at Petrograd. Altogether a satisfactory talk, H.I.M. finishing with the words: 'I am absolutely determined to push this war through till we conquer Germany.' He was most emphatic on this and as kind as usual.
28th September 1915.
The murder of Miss Cavell has caused a lot of indignation here, and one officer said to me: 'This will bring in that Mr Wilson of the United States, I expect.'
29th September 1915.
The Emperor sent a message of congratulation to the British armies on Monday night, and the answer came at 3 P.M. on Tuesday - quick work in these days-and he expressed great pleasure about it.
30th September 1915.
Even Ministers are not spared from casual arrangements when travelling in this country. A Council of Ministers arrived yesterday, and the dining-car had been forgotten, so they all arrived famishing and joined old Goremykin, who had already arrived, probably not in the best of tempers.
A neighbour who sat next me at dinner, looking at the Premier, said: 'Look at that old fox. I should dearly like to twist his tail for him.' Evidently the poor old gentleman is not very popular. The Emperor has a pretty busy time with these visits after his usual morning reports from the C.I.G.S.
One of the Ministers spoke of the anxiety of the King of Bulgaria regarding his property in Austria and Germany, a situation which is much more likely to influence him in regard to the choice of the side of the fence off which he is to fall than any high ideals as to the justice of either cause.
He then addressed this sovereign by a variety of names, beginning with a dog and ending with a pig, which I fear would have shocked the sovereign concerned, and in any case would have decided the question of his alliance. The courtesy and kindness of Russians is extraordinary, but they have a fine repertoire for use if they wish to enforce an expression of dislike or disagreement. He ended his remarks by saying: 'He is what your Mr Gladstone called "a Bulgarian atrocity." '
2nd October 1915.
About 2000 Siberian recruits were inspected by the Emperor - a short, sturdy lot of country boys who marched well and looked well.
We followed H.I.M. down the line, after which they marched past and went off singing, and after dinner he told me that they had sung a good many uncomplimentary things about the enemy. I read him my daughter's account of the last zeppelin raid, in which he was much interested.
The Bulgarians, he said, were mobilising rapidly.
4th October 1915.
At dinner last night H.I.M. told me that he had motored up the river-side for some way this afternoon, hired a boat and had a jolly good row till he was too hot to go on any more, and told the boatman, who didn't know who he was, to put him ashore at a certain spot where he knew he could rejoin his car. The boatman argued and objected, wishing to select his own landing-place. Finally it was explained to him who his crew were, and he nearly fell overboard with shock.
The Emperor told me that he was leaving for a visit to Petrograd, and that if I was up there I was to get into touch with him at Tsarskoye Selo. He laid stress upon my seeing him personally whenever occasion should arise.
I spoke to him about the lack of guns and he quite grasped the need for them in large numbers and also for plenty of notice of their requirements, but the delays continue after he has raised the questions of all these requirements.
The Emperor spoke to me of his children. He is evidently very devoted to them, and said that sometimes he forgot he was their father, as he enjoyed everything so much with them that he felt more like an elder brother to them. He rarely refers to the Tsarevitch's health, but to-night I could see that he was anxious about him. I suppose he recognises the fact that the boy's health can never be satisfactory, and no doubt wonders what will happen if he lives to succeed to the throne. Anyhow, he is doing all he possibly can to train him on for what, if he ever succeeds, will be a very heavy task. He wishes very much that he may be able to travel about and see something of the world, and gain experiences from other countries which will be of use to him in Russia, with all the complications, as he put it to me, of this enormous Empire.
I wondered if he felt any doubts as to the prospects of autocracy, as he so often says when questions crop up regarding some action which one would imagine an autocrat could take: 'You see what it is to be supposed to be an autocrat.'
The real trouble is that if anything is going wrong, and I happen to have to represent it to him, though action is nearly always immediately taken, it is carried out in such a way by those to whom it is entrusted that it becomes a report apparently satisfactory to him and is left at that. Things are not sufficiently followed up and worked out.
Catherine was a wonderful ruler of Russia, but these are not the days of Catherine.
17th October 1915.
A parade of the Cossacks of the Guard, attended by the Tsar and Tsarevitch, and next day a service in the church for the name day of the latter, after which we lunched with the Emperor, Stanley Washburn of The Times being of the party. An album of photographs had been prepared by Mr Mews, who accompanies W., and I had the presenting of it to the Tsarevitch, after which I talked Vladivostock Railway matters with the Emperor.
29th October 1915.
Sat next the Empress at dinner, she having come here for a short visit.
The Empress asked me about my family again this evening, and I told her that to-day was the birthday of my father, who, if he were still alive, would be 116 to-day, as he was born in 1799.
The Empress spoke to me of her indignation at the delay caused to the Empress Mother in her journey to Russia by the German authorities, and of her own determination in those anxious days just before the outbreak of war that the cause of Russia and the Allies was a just one. That she dreaded the horrors of war which must follow there is no doubt, but she stood loyally for Russia throughout.
Her relief when she heard that Great Britain was to be one of the Allies was great. She had always loved our country, and had faith that never wavered of our determination and support.
How far it was her influence that persuaded the Emperor to take personal command of the troops in the field is a vexed question.
I give the account of the Emperor himself to me personally on his decision, and there was no particular call for his telling me the facts as clearly as he did.
(NOTE: Count Fredericks, who was a very constant friend of mine, and naturally closely in the confidence of the Emperor, never, so far as I remember, discussed it with me. He was never an intriguer, and frequently, I imagine, expressed his opinions frankly to his Imperial master, as he told me on various occasions of his regret at his advice not being taken, and before the Revolution, evidently in anxiety at the turn of events, told me that he thought G.H.Q. ought to be moved to Petrograd, or the Emperor's absence from the capital be less frequent.)
1st November 1915.
The Emperor left yesterday, anxious about the report of an accident to King George when riding in France, but luckily the news is reassuring. He told me he was very sorry to leave Headquarters, as he liked soldiering much better than politics.
H.I.M. is very pleased with the arrival of our Admiral, Phillimore, whom he much likes.
Sir George Lloyd (now Governor of Bombay) has also been on a visit and made a most excellent impression on H.I.M. and others.
11th November 1915.
Prince Galitzin writes me from Tiflis:
'One realises the distance we are one from the other by the long time the letters take to come. The Grand Duke (Nicholas) hopes that as you have seen all the fronts of our western armies you may perhaps wish to see the Caucasus front and in that case tells me to say how delighted he will be to see you.
'We have been to Kars and farther towards our front in that direction, and the troops we saw were simply splendid, and it was so interesting to me to see all the places I had not seen since 1877 (Turkish war). We also went to Batoum, which I knew before, but was immensely struck by the splendour of the landscape and the wonderful vegetation.
'Tiflis, which I had not seen for 16 years, has much grown, but is no longer the gay place it used to be, maybe because of the war and that so many of my old friends are no longer of this world.'
(N.B.: The writer distinguished himself in '77.)
14th November 1915.
Having been on a visit to the armies, had to give the Emperor a report of what I bad seen, and he told me of a visit he had paid to our submarines, how well he was received and what admirable work they were doing.
As I was talking the little Tsarevitch, who is full of fun and mischief, came and grabbed my coattails, somewhat upsetting the dignity of the business with his father, to whom he is devoted.
Count Fredericks, the Maitre de la Cour, asked me to go to his room after dinner
to-night as he had something special to tell me. I went and sat with him after dinner, and he led off by saying that our friendship was so firm now that he wished to make the following communication to me.
He said that he had received a communication from Count Eulenburg, the Prussian Court Chamberlain (a similar post to that held by Fredericks in Russia), in which he said that the Kaiser was so anxious to find some means of bringing the Russian Emperor and himself into the old standing of friendship again. It was regrettable that they should be at war, etc.; endeavouring, in fact, to induce Russia to come to terms with Germany.
The communication, he said, had been laid before his Imperial master, and the end of the matter was that the Emperor said the letter could be thrown into the fire, and that any similar letters would be treated in the same way.
'That,' said the Emperor, 'is my answer to any communications of the kind from the Kaiser.'
Fredericks added: 'I wished to tell you this personally, as we have established such happy relations together, and I know how much attached, you are to the Emperor.'
I thanked him for his confidence in me, and added that I never for a moment thought that the Emperor would communicate with our enemies, but that I was very glad that he should honour me by keeping me au fait of these underground workings of theirs.
(N.B.: I communicated the above to my superior authority in England, and heard nothing more of the matter again, but it was curious that in July 1918 the Gaulois published a letter from M. Frederic Masson to the effect that he had received a document, from a most reliable source, proving that the Emperor Nicholas II. was absolutely loyal to his Allies.
'In November 1915 Count Eulenburg, the Prussian Court Chamberlain, sent a letter to Count Fredericks, Minister of the Imperial Court of Russia, expressing a wish to see their old-time friendship re-established between the two Emperors.
'The Tsar entrusted the drafting of the reply to M. Sazonoff, his Foreign Minister, who submitted this reply to the Emperor:
'"Get the Kaiser to send a collective peace proposal to all the Allies of Russia."
'The Tsar thought this reply perfect, but added that after reflection he would prefer that Count Eulenburg's letter should remain unanswered. He wrote on the margin of the letter :
"'The friendship is dead, it must never be mentioned again." '
Reuter telegraphed above account to the Press in England in July 1918.)
15th November 1915.
To-night we talked fishing, etc., and the Emperor told me of his English tutor who taught him how to throw a fly, then shooting and sport generally.
We had talked business in the morning and it was well to drift on to other things.
A great discussion on the subject of talk, gossip, etc., and whom one should trust most, politicians, diplomatists or soldiers. Possibly the surroundings settled the question, for it ended easily in favour of the last-named. He is so keen for a good feeling between the two countries, and certainly, so far as he is concerned anyhow, our relations could not be better. As the Grand Duke Nicholas had sent me a message inviting me to pay a visit to the Caucasus, I informed the Emperor of this, but the situation does not admit of my going as yet.
16th November 1915.
H.M. referred to the reports in the Press of mischief to the Bethlehem (U.S.A.) works, where they have a big contract for Russia, and I told him that was one of the difficulties anticipated when the question of orders arose, and pointed to the necessity of not limiting their orders and amounts so much as they had.
He told me that on his visit to Petrograd he was taking all these matters up, and also the question of Riga, where the moment the ice breaks up the mines will break out to sea and the German ships may try to force an entry before these are replaced. He had spoken about the latter business during his last visit to Riga, and of the necessity of driving the German land forces out of that neighbourhood before the spring.
He has a heavy weight on his shoulders as, besides his naval and military business, the additional work of government and diplomatic affairs is too much for one man.
29th November 1915.
Last night H.I.M. told me that according to his information the Alexandrovsk Railway would be ready by February, or possibly January. I hope it will, though I fear it is an optimistic estimate. He also told me that he was bearing in mind what I had said to him about the Vladivostock line, and the corruption existing among railway officials, and was specially going up to Petrograd to try and push matters through.
He is so keen, if he were well supported.
12th December 1915.
I had intended to go to Kieff, but the C.G.S. wished me to stop here, and I was enabled to speak to H.I.M. about the idea of a visit of some General Officer from England to keep up the liaison, and give us all verbal information from that side. He is quite keen about it, and only said: 'I make one condition: that is that you do not leave us and will stay on here.'
14th December 1915.
Talked of superstitions, of which the Russians are full, and of the excitement caused by a hare running across the road in front of one, of which I had an illustration when driving in a car one night, the officer with me denying at once that it was a hare.
Then the question was raised whether Russia's bad railway system had not really proved a blessing in disguise, considering the material that would have been at the disposal of the Germans in their rapid advance this year had a better system existed. He had sent a wire to Archangel to tell the authorities there to take all possible steps to free the ships in the ice.
16th December 1915.
From a discussion on Salonika matters the Emperor told me how he got the last telegram from the Kaiser before the war, which was sent after the German Army was mobilised. He had made up his mind and was dog-tired when he went to bed. Had done some of the ciphering himself, and that the Empress had been the greatest help to him throughout those anxious days and nights, working with him at the ciphers and as indignant as he was with the Germans.
After I had left the Headquarters for my own quarters I got a message from old Count Fredericks to say he wanted to see me, and back I went about 11 P.M. He wanted to talk over one or two matters, and, he said, 'to be assured that if a British general comes over here you will not leave us.' I told him I certainly would not. 'Well then,' he answered, 'I may assure my august master that you have no intention of leaving.'
17th December 1915.
The following telegram was sent by the Emperor to the admiral at Archangel:
'The Emperor orders you to take all the measures in your power to discharge and free from the ice the British steamers whose return to England is essential on account of the shortness of transports. Telegraph to Headquarters the state of affairs, having taken, I repeat, exceptional measures for the fulfilment of the task laid upon you as this is demanded in the interests of the army.'
An answer was received from the admiral saying he would do all possible, but it is evident that he has not enough ice-breakers, I fear.
I am always at the question of the Archangel and Vladivostock routes, and it is difficult to continue speaking to the Emperor about it, as he ought not to be troubled with these details, but he has so often laid stress upon the importance of it all in conversation with me that I feel all risks must be taken, even if I am thought interfering, to push these matters along.
On the occasion of the New Year, 1916, the Emperor received the news of his appointment as a Field-Marshal of the British Army, which gave him real satisfaction and pleasure. He has been moving about among his troops a good deal, and as I had once spoken to him laughingly on these being the days of 'publicity,' and he had said how much he hated advertising himself, when we met again after his last visit to the troops he remarked that he had 'been doing a bit more of the publicity and photography business.'
At the New Year I was in Petrograd and was sent for one day by Count Fredericks, the Maitre de la Cour, and he told me he was much perturbed by malign influences which were being exercised here to make trouble between our respective countries, and on my return to my hotel I found a message from Tsarskoye Selo to say the Emperor wished to see me there.
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