Civil Wars: From Dublin to South Russia…Pages 24 – 26

These days, between December 19th 1919 and early Jauary 1923, were the most fraught time of granddad’s time on expedition which lasted, with travelling and prolonged stays in Constantinople and Egypt, just under eight months in total.

On January 5th 1920, as the train paused after high stakes run from Taganrog on New Years day, he saw Bolshevik Propagandists hung at Rostov. One was shot – perhaps out of mercy – as he was hung . Granddad’s thumbnail sketch of this episode standing in for what must have been the most horrific of train journeys. Marion Aten’s Last Train Over Rostov Bridge, while it’s embellishment with a fictional love story and some dodgy dates – in fairness not difficult to do given the Russians and British used different calendars – has seen it somewhat discredited, describes the scenes vividly and I have included some in the book.

The misery I had seen aboard the trains, heart-rending though it was nothing compared to that of the road. Singly and together scores of refugees lay dying and dead from the cold, starvation, typhus, smallpox or all of them combined. I passed a mother with two children huddled up against her like animals, for the last warmth she could give; some passerby, taking pity, had tossed an oriental rug over them and then gone on his way…

Shortly after the train’s departure, too late for the hanged men, the town with the Red Army bearing down, turned Bolshevik. This day 103 years ago, granddad was somewhere between Rostov and Ekaterodinar where they would arrive on January 12th, a journey of 277km covered in seven days.

Below is my illustration from the book inspired by the Rostov incident.

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