"Reached Ust Pinega at 5am on the 1st August. Stayed here till 2 o'clock. Heavy rains both yesterday and today. Flies, mosquitoes etc were exceedingly troublesome. Proceeded up the river at 2pm. Went ashore for wood at 5pm. The country here is beautiful, I wandered in the forest discovering some new specimens of ferns and flowers. This is certainly the most delightful spot among the many lovely places I've been in since arriving in North Russia.
"Tried our first steak pudding today and congratulated ourselves on a decided success. I also tried what to me was a new method of roasting meat that is to boil it in lard. This sounds paradoxical nevertheless it is certainly a splendid method of roasting meat. It takes less time, makes it more tender, preserves the flavour and retains the juice. The lard is not wasted it can be used again. We all enjoyed it immensely.
"There was a most glorious sunset tonight. It was far more exquisite than any painting. The colours, the reflection in the still waters of the wide river, the quaint houses with the dark forests on either side for a framework made a scene beautiful beyond description. Momentous developments are expected any day. Have just heard that a Ching is to be shot tonight for attempting to murder his officers.
"Reached the Glow-worm at 4.30am and put one rating aboard whom we picked up at Ust Pinega. Proceeded to X 170, which has been stranded for about 3 weeks. Got alongside at 5.30 am delivered some letters etc resuming our journey at 6am. We have about 75 miles in front of us before reaching Bereznik. There was heavy rain again today.
"Berthed alongside HC4 at 2am on August 3rd. When at Bereznik the previous week we were entertained every afternoon watching the performances of a Russian flying officer. He did some marvellous flying, looping the loop etc. During the war with Germany this officer had 50 German machines to his credit. We deeply regret to receive the news today that he has just been killed. His machine got out of control and crashed to the ground.
"During the evening I saw a most beautiful sight, the reflection of a very brilliant rainbow arching the river from bank to bank. It was reflected in the water making a complete circle. Those who appreciate beauty and colour had a rare treat.
"There was a very violent storm today. Our little sick bay and sleeping quarters were flooded. After the rain I spent a busy four hours nailing tin on the roof to cover the holes burnt by the sparks from the funnel. Cap covers, coats, shirts etc have suffered a similar fate from the red-hot cinders (of course we could not nail tin on them). Another flying machine accident occurred today. One machine crashed down into another that was just getting ready to fly. After smashing this it continued its work of destruction by finishing off another machine that fell a few days previously it then smashed itself to pieces.
"The sunset tonight was very exquisite. For a night and a day I've had a very bad attack of ptomaine poisoning. Many cases have come under my care for treatment suffering from this complaint but this is my first personal acquaintance with it. My sympathies go out to any one who has an attack. No pain accompanies it but the itching is simply awful. Rest is out of the question completely.
"The superstructure of our boat has been removed today to enable us to tow some barges up the river. We are taking one barge some distance up so that soldiers on another stranded barge may be taken off. We are then to proceed to Troitsa. Left Bereznik at 5pm.
"After a very wet uncomfortable night we reached Troitsa at 8am on August 9th and berthed along SS Courier. The Officers [?] and I were transferred to this boat and my mate remained on the Smaillie to look after the stores. Heavy rains. There is some prospect now of the bigger ships getting down. I believe we are evacuating Troitsa after a big stint either today or tomorrow.
"The forward movement was begun at 11am today (Sunday). Heavy bombardment of the Bolo positions by our monitors, these cooperated with the artillery ashore. Some of the 6in shells fell close to the barges. One struck just forward of 334 and another aft. They fell very thick around the monitors. But fortunately there were no casualties. One very heroic deed was performed by some sailors and PO in a small boat. A floating mine was coming down the river dead onto one of the hospital barges. These men in the boat got between it and the barge with the consequence that they were blown up. The lives of many sick and wounded were saved by this plucky act.
"During the afternoon the monitors went further up the river, the gunfire increasing in intensity. About 3 o'clock a big fire was started in the village of Selzo [Sel'tso]. I had a good view of the operation having to go close up to the firing line. At 7pm gunfire became much heavier and as the evening wore on assumed gigantic proportions. Latest reports state that all is going well. In spite of the high wind and continuous downpour of rain, which is quite tropical in character, our hydroplanes and airplanes are very busy returning again and again for further supplies of bombs. All the hospital barges are moored higher up the river to receive casualties, which are heavy. The fighting is very stiff. Most of it is amongst the swamps and forests. The church at Troitsa just opposite the Hyderabad, (where we are berthed) has been repeatedly struck by shells and bullets. On one tower the cross is only held in position by one stay. It is most remarkable seeing that all has been shot away.
"10pm - Firing has ceased for the time being. Seltzo is burning furiously. The army ashore is advancing rapidly. It has been quite an exciting day. A great number of 'reba' (fish), are floating down the river killed and stunned by the explosions of shells in the water.
"Excellent progress has been made by the troops. Several villages captured. Many prisoners are coming along the riverbanks, about 2000 reported up to 11am. Our casualties are numerous but nothing in comparison to the Bolo's. The British have been using gas shells and numbers of the enemy have come in blinded (temporarily). Prisoners are still coming in, amongst them some women wearing bandoliers and carrying rifles. A continuous line of droskies with wounded are coming along the banks. Two Bolo monitors have been captured by scooters and one sunk by gunfire. One of our minesweepers was sunk through striking a mine this afternoon. The British officer and crew were drowned. The rain today has been exceptionally heavy. We loaded up with wounded at 6pm. Many of them badly knocked about. Our troops have lost a lot killed. One company was cut up entirely, very few escaping. More prisoners are arriving. Among the wounded on board our packet is a little boy and a girl of about 16. Both hit by shrapnel in feet and legs. They are from Seltzo. Our boat reached Bereznik at 11pm, transferring the load of patients to NT 332, the Michigan and HC4. I was now sent for duty on 332.
"My last little boat, SS Smaillie came down the river today towing the hospital barge 345 which had on board 160 wounded. Amongst them were a number of Bolos. Much rain today. SS Volshannon took several of our patients to Archangel.
"More wounded brought aboard today several of them being Bolos (2 officers) very badly hurt. Talking with several of our fellows who were right in the firing line I learnt that the fighting was much more severe than was expected and the prisoners more numerous (several thousands). The wounded Bolos seemed very glad to be on our barge. They appear to be half starved and ragged and dirty. They are agreeably surprised at the kindly treatment given them. It was a treat too to have a comfortable bed to lie upon. The river is rising steadily in consequence of the heavy rains. Bolos have been driven back a considerable distance, about 50 miles.
"An aeroplane came over this morning very much damaged. One of its occupants was hanging over the side either killed or badly hurt. Several of our fellows were up before the commander this afternoon for firing rifles on the right bank of the river during the previous night causing some uneasiness and consternation among the inhabitants of a little village close handy. There was a deal of excitement also on the HC4. Two of their number had gone into this village and were arrested. They did not regain their liberty till a SBL officer appeared. In their rage they went over to the other side and obtained some Mills' bombs. It was their intention to return to the village and bomb the people. On the return journey they called at the HC4 to try and get some of the other fellows to go with them. Fortunately the captain got wind of this little expedition and he promptly stopped it. If their intention had been carried out things would have been very awkward for lots of the people are not too friendly as it is. NT barge Michigan cleared of patients preparatory to going down river. We evacuated 23 of our sick on to the Voligshannon.
"The HC4 is being lightened as much as possible. All the iron bedsteads have been taken down and fitted on our barge. As much of her superstructure and surplus stores etc have also been taken off. She draws 18ins less water. The river has also risen. Today a fresh job has been given to me. I'm put in charge of the wardroom and also have 4 officers to look after. The evacuation of Bereznik is proceeding rapidly.
"Heavy rains for two days. Nearly all the craft have gone down. Things that cannot be taken away are being burnt. There are large bonfires every day. Some of the Russian soldiers became very truculent threatening mutiny. They were all disarmed today.
"There have been some most exquisite rainbow scenes for 9 days in succession, very beautiful to see stretching from bank to bank of the wide river making a perfect archway and today the beauty was increased as one of our airman came flying down from Troitsa and passed beneath the centre of the gigantic arch. The rainbows were always in pairs.
"Today was devoid of incident till 11pm when the most disastrous event of the Northern campaign occurred. I was lying in my bunk reading when there came a terrible explosion apparently right over the barge. I thought the Bolos were firing 6-inch shells and had got the exact range. Getting dressed I had just reached the top deck when a louder explosion occurred and a rain of shrapnel fell on the roof. Then followed a terrific burst, the whole sky was lit up. Shrapnel fell like a mighty hailstorm and I saw an ammunition barge blown up and sink. All the windows on our port side were blown out and several on the starboard side. The full force of the disaster fell upon the monitor Glow-worm whose commander had taken his ship alongside the burning barge in an attempt to extinguish the blaze. He surely could not have known the nature of the cargo and yet he ought to have known. Close to the burning barge was a big iron lighter loaded with about 500 tons of cordite, lyddite, 6-inch shells and small arm ammunition. If this had blown up there would not have been left a ship in harbour, we should all have been wiped out. It was an anxious time. One 6-inch shell fell right into a case of cordite passed through singeing the cordite and yet did not explode it. Not till next day was it known how narrow had been our escape. As to the Glow-worm (which had only come up the day before to cover our retreat) she was simply riddled with shell and shrapnel. About 40 holes in the port side of her hull, the funnel was just like a huge sieve, her bridge and masts were shot away and her guns damaged. But the worst part of the business was the loss of life – 23 of her brave fellows were killed outright. The commander was wounded along with many others. As the Glow-worm drew off and came alongside her sister ship HMS Cockchafer she rammed her on the starboard side tearing a big rent below the water line and another larger one just above. The next morning a terrible sight met our gaze. Several of the men were simply torn to pieces and all were badly smashed. The doctor was killed and a flying corps captain. It was a sad sight to see them all lying side by side. A few hours before all were jolly and well and now out of a crew of 75 only 25 were left unhurt.