At last we arrived at Omsk, the end of our journey, having passed in a zigzag direction almost round the world. A few miles to the Urals and Europe again—so near and yet so far!
As Omsk, unlike so many other towns of Siberia, did not care to pay the usual toll demanded by the railway prospectors, it is situated several versts from the main trunk line. To overcome this inconvenience a branch line was afterwards run up to the town itself. The date of our arrival was October 18, and a right royal welcome awaited us. The station was decorated with the flags of all nations, the Russian for the first time predominating. We were met by General Matkofsky, the commander of the district, and his Staff, who welcomed us on behalf of the new Russian army, by M. Golovaehoff, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the representatives of the municipal authorities and the co-operative societies. The women of Russia presented us with bread and salt, and, generally speaking, the people of Omsk gave us a real Russian welcome. The ceremonial over, the men were taken to the Cadet School for tea and entertainment, while the Russian officers regaled the Middlesex officers at a feast in the Officers’ Club. We were introduced to all and sundry, and began to mix wonderfully well. If we had laid ourselves out for it, we might have visited every decent Russian home in Omsk. As it was, we soon became so much in demand that most of us had in a short time formed lasting friendships with a very charming set of people. Their welcome was doubtless tinged with relief at the security afforded by the presence of well-disciplined troops. The wife of a Russian general told me that she felt as though for the first time she could sleep peacefully in her bed. The little cadet son of another officer gave permission for his loaded rifle to be taken from the side of his bed, where it had rested every night since the Bolshevik Revolution and the cadet massacres had commenced. If I understand the Russian character denials of this may be expected, but it is a fact that the presence of those 800 English soldiers gave a sense of confidence and security to the people of Omsk that was pathetic in its simplicity and warmth. However suspicious of each other as a rule the Russians may be, there is no question that when their confidence is given, it is given generously and without reservation. As to its lasting qualities, that has to be proved, but at the time it is something real and tangible, and no amount of trouble taken for one’s comfort is too great.