Mr Drake goes to Siberia, Part 2: From Vladivostock to Omsk

“Bridge destroyed by Bolsheviks”.  This is the caption which Mr Drake gives to a photo in his album and which heads up this article.  The photo shows the destruction of the bridge over the River Ob in the city of Novonikolayevsk. This bridge had carried the Trans-Siberian Railway.  We also have a photo of one of the trains of the time.

Novonikolayevsk was founded in 1893 and named in honour of both Saint Nicholas and the then reigning Tsar Nicholas II.  The frontier settlement developed rapidly, becoming one of the largest commercial and industrial centres in Siberia. The city changed hand several times during the Russian Civil War, the Red Army finally taking the city in 1919. The city was given its present name Novosibirsk in 1926. The 1/9th Hampshires Battalion passed through city having travelled onwards from Vladivostock with the intention of relieving the 25th Middlesex.

They 25th Middlesex were the first Allied land force to reach Vladivostok in the effort to assist the White Russian forces against the Bolshevik Red Army in the Russian Civil War. They saw action at Dukhovskaya in Siberia under Colonel Ward (who was also a Liberal MP). The victorious Colonel commanded a force consisting of one of his own companies and a machine gun section, one battalion of Czech troops, one company of Japanese infantry, 600 cossack cavalry and a Royal Navy gun detachment of four twelve-pounders on two armoured trains.

Novonikolayevsk was one of many places that the 1/9th Hampshires Battalion passed through on their long journey to Omsk.  The journey had started by travelling north from Vladivostock along the border with China before turning west to travel across Siberia. The journey of over 4,000 miles in cattle trucks (which had been roofed in) took 23 days, the 1/9th Hampshires arriving at the railway station in Omsk (see photo) on the 7 January 1919.  The Battalion had an extended stay in Omsk and this is the subject of the next part of the story.

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