VLADIVOSTOK TO VANCOUVER

Submitted by starosta on Tue, 12/04/2018 - 01:43
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By April, 1920, the numbers of the Canadian component had been reduced to 9,000 as it proved more practical to ship most of the men home via the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean through Italy using direct steamers. Only three ships were bound for Canada, the Ixion, the Protesilaus and the M.S. Dollar.


The Blue Funnel Liner Ixion left Vladivostok on May 23, 1920 with 131 officers, 2,774 men and four Russian bears on board. It arrived at the Evans, Coleman and Evans dock in Vancouver at two p.m. on Sunday June 6. The Bears, mascots of the different regiments, were very tame and

Ňavrat Československých Legií

 

playful, one even getting its fifteen minutes of fame with a picture in the Vancouver Sun on June 8, 1920. The men were entertained aboard ship by the bears, supplementing the formal lectures by the officers and impromptu regimental band concerts and programs coordinated by Y.M.C.A. volunteers.

Vojenska hodba
Regimental Band on Board. Photo courtesy of Návrat Československých Legií

 

Under the command of 28 year old Colonel B.P. Vuchterle, the troops consisted of a detachment of Engineers, a horse Battery, the seventh Regiment and the Storming (Assault) Battalion. The seventh Regiment was composed mostly of Slovak soldiers and presumably these were the soldiers pictured in the original postcard showing Slovak troops passing Cochrane Ontario. Only a few dignitaries and local Bohemians greeted the ship as the date of arrival was uncertain and not well publicized but the Red Cross and other charitable organizations were on hand with cigarettes, chocolates, oranges and other refreshments for the visitors.


The officers were smartly dressed with curved swords at their sides. The well disciplined men, dressed in long great coats, many adorned with combat ribbons, ranged in age from early twenties to grizzled veterans of fifty plus. After their refreshments they formed up, carrying rifles and side-arms and wearing metal helmets, they marched through Vancouver to the Canadian National Railway station for the next phase of their round-the-world trip. The first of five trains, with fourteen cars in each, left the Vancouver station at eleven that night with the others following on one to two hour intervals.


Colonel Vuchterle said he was glad they were out of the turmoil in Russia and going home where they would not make war on any people but would defend their land.
The next day, June 7, 1920, the headline in the Vancouver Sun reported: “Vancouver People See Khaki-Clad Men Who Fought With Kolchak. First Contingent of Czechoslovak Troops Pass Through the City. Three Thousand Warriors From Battlefields of Asia Come and Go.”


The June 22, 1920 edition of the Vancouver Sun announced: “Second Contingent of Czechs Arrive. Nearly Three Thousand Pass Through City on Long Trip Home” They were delivered to the Great Northern Dock aboard another Blue Funnel Liner, the Protesilaus, which departed Vladivostok on June 8 and arrived in Vancouver at one p.m. on Monday, June 21. Commanded by Colonel Vaclav Petřík, it carried 159 officers and 2,569 members of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Artillery Regiment and 3rd Heavy Artillery Division. They were greeted by about forty members of the Bohemian National Alliance and other members of the public, as well as the Red Cross with their usual refreshments. The troops again marched through the city to the CNR station and boarded trains for their trip east. The first train left shortly before eight p.m. with three more at one hour intervals.


Y.M.C.A. volunteers, called secretaries, travelled with the ships. They had gramophones, movie projectors, cigarettes, chocolate bars, reading and writing materials and various games. They organized concerts with the regimental bands to help the men pass the time. Czech national J.K. Váleš was the secretary on board the Protesilaus and he was assisted by M. McLean, of Yorkton Saskatchewan. McLean had gone to Vladivostok with the Canadian Siberian Forces, taken his discharge and stayed to work with the Y.M.C.A for more than a year. At the end of the trip they presented souvenir post card photos of the ships to each traveller. This photo post card of the Protesilaus was presented to the men in Quebec on June 28, 1920 by J.K. Váleš. Y.M.C.A Secretary:

Protesilaus post card
Protesilaus post card from the author’s collection

The final contingent, largest of the three, had departed Vladivostok on June 6 aboard the steamer M.S. Dollar, and arrived at the Great Northern dock in Vancouver at one p.m. on Tuesday, June 22. The 3,429 passengers on board were composed of 137 officers, 3,154 troops, 2 women, 2 children, 134 mobilized labourers, as well as a Russian bear and a Siberian pony. The two children were orphaned Russian boys who had been adopted by family men. One, fourteen year old Dmitri Karpov, was left homeless when his parents were killed and his family scattered. The majority of the troops were members of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, First Infantry Regiment and the Engineering Company under the command of Colonel Novák. As reported on June 23 by the Vancouver Sun under the heading: “Fine Display by Czech Rearguard” they proceeded North on Hastings, along Granville, down Georgia, across the viaduct to Main, then on to the CN station. The procession took more than an hour to pass the corner of Granville and Hastings. Four regimental bands, one led by a huge Russian bear pulling a drum on a cart and another led by a Siberian pony enhanced the scene. Four battalions of infantry were commanded by Colonel Nošal, a former private in the Austrian army, while Major Kraichirik, a former private in the Russian army, led the cavalry. Though not mounted, the cavalry presented a splendid image in their red trousers and fur trimmed caps. They marched through the city and boarded six east bound trains, the first leaving at five that evening, the rest on hourly intervals.
The Y.M.C.A. secretary attached to the M.S. Dollar was J.F. Kabrna, another Czech. Both he and secretary Váleš from the Protesilaus returned with the troops to their homes in Bohemia.


Colonel Vuchterle, who was in command of the Czechoslovak movement across Canada, gave a lengthy interview to the Vancouver Sun, published on June 14, 1920 entitled ``Czecho-Slovak Commander Says Kolchak Responsible for Collapse in Siberia.`` His detailed account of the pre-history of Czechoslovakia through the years of oppression under the Hapsburg Empire, the attempts at Germanizing Bohemia and


Slovakia and their successful drive for independence must have been very educational for the readers of the day. He was also not very sympathetic to the plight of Russian Admiral Kolchak stating his reign of terror brought about his own demise.

Colonel Vuchterle reviewing troops at Valcartier. Photo courtesy of: Navrat Československých Legií ACROSS
Colonel Vuchterle reviewing troops at Valcartier. Photo courtesy of: Navrat Československých Legií

 

 

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