Difficulties Encountered Getting Troops to Siberia. . . Japanese Learned by Bitter Experience in the War With Russia of the Troubles of a Siberian Campaign
People have talked lightly of sending an army of half a million men or more to western Siberia to battle with bolshevism or for any other reason connected with this stupendous Russian problem. The Japanese learned by bitter experience in the war with Russia of the difficulties of a Siberian campaign and would ponder long before dispatching a mighty army to the Ural Mountains. The Associated Press correspondent, as a passenger on a special British military train bound for Omsk, the seat of the All-Russian government, is having a close opportunity to study the difficulties of transporting a great army.
We have on board a company of splendid British troops recently arrived from India—men of the famous Hampshire regiment—the territorials or militia of England who offered to go to India to replace the regulars and who served there for two years. Now the fortunes of war find them riding across the barren lands of Manchuria on their way to the hearts of the Siberian steppes where the temperature is 40 degrees below zero. Anxious as they are to return to their homes in England they fulfill this new task gladly and lightheartedly. They are traveling in plain rude box cars, grouped about stoves with all the discomforts that a journey of two or three weeks, and perhaps more, involves.
For the officers commanding the contingent, there is a third class Russian sleeping car with bare wooden shelves to hold their sleeping bags and blankets. In another British military train which precedes us there is no sleeping car and the officers are camping with their men in the box cars. We are fortunate in one respect. Lack of Russian equipment and facilities for cooking oblige the officers to eat the same rations as the men which, if plain, is wholesome and nourishing.
Lack of railroad cars is the most striking feature of life in Siberia today. There is deplorable disorganization. There is urgent need of central management and people who have the welfare of Siberia at heart earnestly hope that John F. Stevens, the American railroad expert, who is now here, will be given a chance to bring order from chaos.
It was a picturesque spectacle as the train stopped at station on the way from Vladivostok to Harbin. Tall Russians, Chinese and Koreans in bulky, tattered, filthy garments swarmed around the train offering doubtful looking eatables for sale. Hungry, long-haired dogs, wolfish in appearance, prowled about the cars, snapping and growling, gulping down anything that will stay death. In a band of a lonely area they would be formidable to any man. The weather was keen and cold, the wind biting. Long delays occurred at almost every station. Many freight cars were seen but few in movement. Disorganization reigned master.
The two lessons taught early in the journey were, first, the great material obstacles to be encountered in sending a big army into Siberia and the imperative need of central management of the Siberian railroads. The comfort and perhaps the lives of the people of Russia depend upon a prompt central control of the railroads.
(The story ended here, with no explanation of the second lesson.)