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Download Farewell to the Don epub

by H.N.H. Williamson

Download Farewell to the Don epub
ISBN: 0002111640
ISBN13: 978-0002111645
Category: History
Subcategory: Russia
Author: H.N.H. Williamson
Language: English
Publisher: HarperCollins Distribution Services; 1st Ed. edition (August 24, 1970)
Pages: 288 pages
ePUB size: 1329 kb
FB2 size: 1282 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 394
Other Formats: lrf lrf lit mbr

Knights from Bernin
A really good, if personal, insight into the rise of Leninist Russia at the end of the Great War - a turning point in both Russian and World history
The diary notes from which this memoir was written were made during and in the years after Captain (as he was then) Williamson spent 11 months in southern Russia as part of the British Mission supporting the White opposition to the Red Army following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Williamson was an artillery officer who had served on the Western Front throughout the First World War (and who went on to distinguish himself in the Second World War too). His role in Russia was to take a part in the distribution of British supplies of uniforms, medical supplies, and guns ranging in size from rifles to field guns; also to offer training in the use of the larger guns.

Williamson arrived in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk in late April 1919. For much of his stay he was based in Novocherkassk, 22 miles north-east of Rostov-on-Don. His arrival was well-timed for him to witness, even take part in, the White General Denikin’s triumphant push north that summer. Denikin got within 150 miles of Moscow, and there was talk of linking up with the White forces pushing from the North West (they got within 12 miles of Petrograd) and from Siberia (Denikin already held Tsaritsyn (Volgograd)). But it was not to be; by the end of the year the retreat had become a stampede, and in late March 1920 Williamson was one of the last to be evacuated from Novorossiysk, to which he had finally returned.

Williamson’s account tells us much about why the Whites were not able to make more of their apparent strategic advantage in summer 1919. Mixed and unclear objectives, lack of coordination, incompetence, inertia and corruption had much to do with it, with Typhus and Cholera following in their wake. Many of the troops had no heart for a fight, and would switch sides when the opportunity presented itself, even murdering their officers.

The book offers much local color and some interesting insights: ‘it wasn’t only the Reds who committed atrocities’; ‘the keenness, efficiency, and persistence in demanding help and advice displayed by the Jewish doctors’; ‘ many of [the refugees] would have been better off to have stayed put, because the Reds didn’t seem to worry about the people in the towns’; ‘I had found them [the Don Cossacks] a fascinating people with their strange spirit, full of beauty, melancholy, patience and simplicity, and a tragic people too …’ And there are some affectionate portraits of Williamson’s collaborators, Russian as well as British.

But when I turned to the book I was in search of insight into the interesting phenomenon of armored trains as a fighting force. I wasn’t disappointed.

‘There were dozens of armoured trains operating south of Moscow, some belonging to the Reds, some to the Whites, some to the Green Guards, who belonged to neither side and preyed on both, and a few to private and uncontrollable armies with very dubious loyalties. The railway staff stayed neutral for safety and dealt with the lot, working points and changing signals often at the point of a gun ….’

Additionally, there is information on the typical conformation of an armored train, and of some variants, and accounts of some armored train engagements that Williamson personally witnessed, and in one case had a part in – for which he was awarded a DSO.

But how could the vastnesses of southern Russia be conquered and controlled just from the sparsely scattered rail tracks?

‘operations were practically always confined to areas extending ten or 15 miles on each side of the railway system along which the groups of troops moved. The intervening spaces between were occupied and watched by small forces of cavalry living entirely on the country and, because of the distances, seldom in touch with similar enemy formations.’

For anyone with an interest in such matters, the book is a good read.
If you are interested in the the british military mission and role in the Russian Civil war in south Russia 1919, this book is a must! Williamson was a British military advisor for the white Russian troops and personally eyewitnessed many things recorded never before or since. The book is the actual transcript of his diary found by his son or great grand son and published in 1971. Very valuable.