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available barges were being loaded up with stores,
ammunition, and everything not immediately re-
quired by the defending force. The army from the
Dobrudsha had brought with them a large number
of sick and wounded, and it was fortunate for these
men that the nurses of the Scottish Women's Hos-
pital were at Galatz to receive them. There was also
a unit of the British Red Cross Society under Dr.
Clemow and Mr. Berry. The former is an English
doctor who has spent many years of his life at Con-
stantinople, and whose intimate knowledge of the
Near East and its inhabitants made him a very
valuable asset to the medical forces in Roumania.
All the nurses stoutly refused to leave Galatz until
the last possible moment, and the Russian staff, find-
ing that neither argument nor entreaty produced the
least impression, besought Commander Gregory to
intervene. He effected a compromise by persuading
them to transfer their hospital to a big barge, where
they could carry on with their work, and then shove
off at once when the first shells began to fall on the
town.

Here are a few extracts from letters received from
some of the nurses.

" Commander Gregory of the British Armoured
Car Corps sent down a message to say that in the
last resort he would see us out, so we were able
to work with quiet minds. We owe a great
debt to Mr. Scott, surgeon to the British Armoured
Car Corps, who asked us if he could be of any
use. I sent back a message to say that we
should be most grateful, and he worked with us
without a break until we evacuated. He has
just pointed out to me that we operated for



RETREAT FROM THE DOBRUDSHA 210

thirty-six hours on end the first day, with three
hours break in the early hours of the morning,
and, as we had been working twenty-four hours
before that — admitting patients, bathing, and
dressing them — you can imagine what a time
we had. Dr. Corbett has also been calculating,
and she says we worked sixty-five hours on end
with two breaks of three hours' sleep. We came
out of it very fit — thanks to the kitchen.

" A Roumanian officer talked to me about
Glasgow, where he had once been, and had been
' invited out to dinner, so he had seen the
English custims.' It was good to feel those
' English custims ' were still going quietly on,
whatever was happening here — breakfasts com-
ing regularly, and hot water for baths, and
everything as it should be. It was probably
absurd, Init it came like a great wave of comfort
to feel that England was there — quiet, strong,
and invincible behind everything and every-
body."

Yes, England was there, to stand by Roumania
in her hour of trial, even as she had stood by Serbia ;
even as she had shared in the retreat from Mons,
and more recently in the retreat from the Isonzo.
Since the war began England has always been there,
in every part of the world where fighting was to be
done — in the conquest of the Cameroons, of East
Africa, of South-West Africa, in the advance across
the plains of Mesopotamia, and over the hills of
Palestine. Sometimes alone and sometimes aided
by her Allies, wherever the guns have been fired in
anger, by sea or by land, England has been there.



CHAPTER XVI



THE BATTLE OF VIZIKUL



When Lieutenant Smiles left Reni on 21st December
1916, with a party of eight officers, five chief petty
officers, and thirty-seven petty officers, forming a
special service squadron of armoured cars to assist
the 4th Siberian Corps at Braila, the situation had
already become critical. Bucharest had fallen, and
the Russian Army in the Dobrudsha was being steadily
driven back by superior forces, while its right flank
was all the time exposed to attack from across the
Danube. In fact, it had alreadv been decided that
the Dobrudsha must be evacuated, and the next
problem was how to extricate the Russian troops on
the other side of the river, and bring them back to
the line of the Sereth, or any other line which it was
possible to hold. One of the virtues of the armoured
car is that it can be as serviceable for a retreat as
for an attack, its mobility enabling it to harass the
advancing enemy up to the last moment, and then
make good its escape.

Lieutenant Smiles is an Irishman by birth, and
has the Irish gift of quick intuition, which is invalu-
able to one whose responsibilities continually call for
promptness of decision. He had served with the
armoured cars in France, Belgium, and Persia, and
had just recovered from a wound received in the
Dobrudsha, but this did not deter him from volun-
teering to lead the special squadron, which was sent
ofl in a hurry to Braila upon receipt of a message

220



THE BATTLE OF VIZIRUL 221

from General Sirelius earnestly soliciting their assist-
ance, lie took with him two heavy cars and six
light Ford cars, as well as lorries for the transport
of ammunition and stores. These all proceeded by
barge to Braila, where they were unloaded and pre-
pared for immediate action. The force was then
divided into two sections, one going to Movila under
the command of Lieutenant Hunter and the other,
under Lieutenant Smiles, proceeding to Valea Canepei.
It was not long, however, before the squadron was
united again, for the roads in the direction of Movila
were found to be unfit for armoured cars, and
Lieutenant Hunter returned to Braila, proceeding
thence to Valea Canepei to rejoin the rest of the
squadron.

At Valea Canepei General Sirelius greeted the British
officers by inviting them all to lunch with him, for
he had a warm place in his heart for the armoured
cars. The next business was the inspection of the
front, which was carried out the same afternoon by
Lieutenant Smiles, in company with Lieutenant
Edwards and Chief Petty Officer MacFarlane. The
Huns must have scented trouble in store for them,
for they greeted the trio with an extra dose of shells.
Colonel Bolgramo, who was in command of the
brigade at that point, conducted the party and
showed them all the beauties of the place, including
the village of Roobla in the distance, where enemy
troops were said to be billeted in large numbers.
Lieutenant Smiles called to mind a similar scene
somewhere in France, and remembered how the
heavy cars there used to wander up towards the
enemy's trenches, blaze away with 3-pounder guns
at certain objects behind their lines, and then, when
the Hun artillery began to fmd the range of them,
used to dodge back to safety. He saw a glowing
prospect of playing the same kind of game on the
road to Roobla.



222 THE NAVY IN ROUMANIA

Next day at dawn, Lieutenant Lucas-Shadwell
went into action with the " Ulster" heavy car, and
started to demohsh the village of Roobla. On the
east side of the road the houses were stoutly built,
and it was said that the enemy had a battery there
hidden behind two of the houses, Lucas-Shadwell
found the range at 1,200 yards, and blew those two
houses into little chunks. Then he turned his atten-
tion to the west side of the road, where the houses
were more flimsy, and where the troops were sup-
posed to be billeted, and he felt his way systematic-
ally up and down the village, firing deliberately and
taking careful observation of the fall of the shells.
He spent just a quarter of an hour at it, and then,
according to orders, l)rought his car out of action.
It was not until he was on his way back that the Hun
artillery woke up and started to speed him on his
journey. The scouts at the advanced base reported
that he had done good execution.

Next morning another heavy car, a " London-
derry," commanded by Sub-Lieutenant Henderson,
went into action, while the "Ulster" was held in
reserve. The " Londonderry " is a bit top-heavy,
and consequently dillicult to steer. Lieutenant Smiles
anticipating that there might be trouble with it, came
up behind on an ordinary bicycle, which he had bor-
rowed from a Russian officer, and ordered the " Pierce
Arrow " lorry to stand by with a couple of tow-ropes
in case of accidents. His orders to Ilcnderson were
to bombard Roobla and the roads round about it,
not to remain in action more than fifteen minutes,
not to attempt to go beyond a certain shell-crater
in the road, and, if he got stuck, to fire three rifle-
shots in quick succession. The anticipation of trouble
was an intelligent one, for the " Londonderry" had
no sooner reached the Russian advance post than it
slid gracefully into a ditch. Smiles at once cycled
back to Vizirul for the " Pierce Arrow " lorry, at



THE BATTLE OF VIZIRUL 223

the same time ordering Sub-Lieutenant MacDowall
to take the " Ulster" into action.

Then came the job of pulling the " Londonderry "
out of the ditch. It was rather a long job, and it
was not rendered any easier by the enemy's artillery,
which always showed a marked partiality for a sta-
tionary target in the shape of an armoured car. It
should, however, be observed that the artillery was
very inferior to that brought against us in the Do-
brudsha. The truth of the matter was that the
enemy forces closing on Bucharest had moved so
rapidly that their heavier pieces were still many
miles to the rear. The tow-ropes were attached to
the stranded " Londonderry," and the " Pierce
Arrow " began to haul, but at first no visible impres-
sion was produced. Then various devices were tried
to ease the path of the sunken wheels. The workers
were so much absorbed in their task that they had
no time to look round towards the enemy's lines,
and worked on in blissful ignorance of the fact that
the Bulgarian troops had climbed over their parapet
and were advancing steadily towards them. At last,
with a squelching sound, as the wheels were drawn
out of the mud, the " Londonderry " began to move,
and in a few minutes was on her way along the road
towards Vizirul. Less than half an hour later the
enemy were in possession of the spot where she had
been lying.

The " Ulster" returned about the same time, and
Lieutenant Smiles called at Colonel Bolgramo's Head-
quarters for further orders.

" Do you see that long hne of infantry ? " said
the colonel, waving his hand towards the enemy.
" They are advancing on Vizirul, and, if they take it,
Heaven only knows how we shall extricate ourselves.
I want you to go at once to the general, and ask leave
to send all your cars up to the front lines, for I honestly
believe that is the only way of beating ofl the attack."



224 THE NAVY IN ROIIMANIA

To the general he went, and the order to send up
all the cars was confirmed. Henderson, MacDowall,
and Lucas-Shad well were sent off post-haste, and
Smiles himself followed in a Ford. On his way he
saw Colonel Bolgramo at the field telephone, and the
colonel signalled to him to stop.

" My fellows have lost terribly," he said. " They
cannot stand much more of it. I want you to go
right beyond our barbed wire, and do what you can
to check the advance."

The Ford car used by Lieutenant Smiles was in the
nature of an improvisation. The ordinary armoured
car had often proved too heavy for its purpose in dis-
tricts where the so-called roads were little more than
cart-tracks. When the force was in Persia they
found endless difficulties in getting over the ground
where dust a foot deep lay on the tracks, and it was
soon driven home to their minds that some lighter
form of car was essential in the East. They con-
ceived the idea of converting an ordinary Ford car
into an armoured car by rigging steel plates round it,
and mounting in it a maxim with a gun-shield. Thus
the Ford armoured car came into being, and proved
very useful for skirmishing, though of course it
could not take the same risks as a " Lanchester " or
any of the heavier cars. It was usually manned by
an officer, a driver, and a gunner — sometimes only by
driver and gunner, and the latter very often lay on
his back, so as to get shelter from the steel plates,
and worked his gun in that position.

Smiles found that he could not get his car to re-
verse, and therefore had to go into action forwards.
The disadvantage of this is that the car has to be
turned round in order to get back again, and on a
narrow road turning is not an easy process under
any circumstances, and is quite impossible if the car
refuses to reverse. There was, however, no choice
in the matter, so he went full steam ahead past the



THE BATTLE OF VIZIRUL 225

line of barbed wire, and was 500 yards beyond it
before he stopped. Then he opened fire with his
maxim at the advaneing liulgarians and played havoc
with them. It is a queer sensation to be stuek out
in the midst of No Man's Land, unsupported by
friends, and a conspicuous target for foes. It seems
that all the rifles, all the machine-guns, and all the
artillery the enemy can muster are directed at you
and no one else. You seem to be such a landmark
for miles round that you start wondering how the
Hun's big guns can possibly contrive to miss you.
At the same time you experience a kind of exhilaration
from the sense of fighting an army single-handed, and
the sight of enemy infantry dropping one after an-
other, accompanied by the sound of shells bursting
all round you, and the strident ha-ha-ha-ha of your
own machine-gun, has a curiously stimulating effect.
Life is so full of crowded moments then that you
lose count of the passage of time, or rather, you ex-
aggerate the count, and imagine that the space of a
few minutes has sent the clock round many hours,
for those few minutes contain as much excitement
as the majority of people find in a whole life-time.
All the same, the ofliecr in command of an armoured
car has little opportunity to study these psychological
effects, for he has sooner or later to make up his
mind upon the chances of receiving a direct hit by
a shell. When the artillery has crept up closer and
closer, so that the shells begin to straddle him, he
knows that the moment has come to get a move on.
Now Lieutenant Smiles had gone into action nose
forward because he could not get his car to reverse.
When he wanted to come out of action, he found that
the road was too narrow to turn in, and was bor-
dered on either side by a ditch. But hope springs
eternal in the human breast, and he had a vague
notion that the old car, which had thrown its hand
in when asked to reverse into action, would be so

15



226 THE NAVY IN ROtBIANIA

jolly glad to get out of it that it would not only
reverse, but would stand on its head if necessary.
So he told the driver to try the reversing gear. There
was a grunt, a groan, and a squeak ; and then silence.
The engine had stopped. The silence, of course, was
only inside the car ; outside it there was plenty of
noise, for bullets were whistling and shells were burst-
ing incessantly. Lieutenant Smiles, however, showed
no hesitation ; he jumped out of the car, seized the
handle, started up the engine, and jumped in again.

There was just a moment of extreme suspense,
when every one inside the car was wondering would
she go, or would she not, and then she began to
move, slowly and protestingly, but still she moved,
and moved backwards. For fifty yards she floun-
dered along the road, with about as much grace as
an old sow being pushed through the gate of its sty,
and then the engine again stopped dead. Smiles
was outside the car in a moment, and was turning
the handle vigorously ; but the engine made no re-
sponse to his efforts, and just as the unwelcome
truth dawned on him that the car had an unreason-
able prejudice against progressing backwards, a bullet
caught him in the leg just above the knee. He rolled
into the ditch by the side of the road to do a little
quiet thinking. Petty Officer Classey put his head
out and shouted to him :

" Shall I have a try, sir ? "

Leading Petty Ollicer Graham also put his head
out.

" I think I might be able to manage it, sir."

But Lieutenant Smiles was firm. It was quite
useless to start the engine up because it would only
stop again ; it had consistently refused to work
when the reversing gear was applied, and, being an
inanimate thing, it could not realise the extreme
necessity of overcoming its prejudice. In extenua-
tion of its behaviour it nuist be observed tliat all



THE BATTLE OF VI2IRUL 227

four tyres had been punctured by bullets, and conse-
quently the strain on the engine was considerable
even when the car was going forwards. The process
of quiet contemplation was not aided by the persis-
tent attentions of the enemy's artillery, which became
all the more persistent when it was realised that the
car was stuck.

" You fellows had better come and join me in the
ditch," said Lieutenant Smiles ; " they'll be scoring
a direct hit before long, if they have a decent gun-
layer among them."

The two men jumped out of the car and dropped
into the ditch,

" Look here, Graham," said the officer, " the
chances are that some of those Russian sportsmen
will be thinking of coming to the rescue. I want
you to crawl back along this ditch, get hold of their
commanding officer, and ask him, as a special favour,
not to let a single Russian soldier risk his life on our
account. Tell him that we are all right, and can
look out for ourselves."

So Graham started off towards the Russian lines,
keeping himself under cover as far as the depth of
the ditch would allow.

" As a matter of fact," said Smiles, " I see no rea-
son why we shouldn't get out of this mess after dark."

" If we could get space enough," said Classey, " to
turn round without reversing."

" There's only one way, and that is to run her off
the road across this ditch, turn round in the field,
and then run her back again on to the road."

" I don't see why we shouldn't be able to do it
after dark. But, bless my soul, sir, you're bleeding."

" So I am. I stopped one when I was trying to
start up the engine — just above the knee. For
Heaven's sake, man, keep your head down."

Petty Officer Classey was too busy rendering first
aid to worry about the bullets whistling over his



228 THE NAVY IN ROUMANIA

head, and Lieutenant Smiles had to remind him con-
stantly not to expose himself. But he made quite
a neat job of the bandage, and when he had finished
it the pair of them began a long weary wait for night-
fall.

The reaction after the excitement of the last
quarter of an hour was painful ; nothing to do but
wait all through the day, remaining in a cramped
position in order to secure the shelter of the ditch.
At times the artillery did their best to hit the aban-
doned car, but fortunately they never scored a direct
hit. While their efforts lasted, however, they made
life very uncomfortable for the two in the ditch, and
during the lulls it quite astonished them to find how
little a man heeds a perfect tornado of rifle and
machine-gun bullets, when he has successfully passed
through the ordeal of shell-fire. When darkness had
fallen they crawled out of the ditch and into the car,
Classey having started up the engine. She bounded
forward with a mighty jerk, as though eager to show
what she really could do when people did not play
silly tricks with the reversing gear. With a mighty
lunere she waddled across the ditch bv the side of the
road, took a short tour round the adjacent field, and
then tried to waddle back across the ditch on to the
road. The second waddle, however, was not so
successful, and it required a good deal of hard
shoving to help her up the slope of the ditch. Once
on the firm road she was off in a twinkling, and was
soon safely back in the village of Vizirul.

Meanwhile the other cars of the squadron had been
having little adventures all on their own. Lieu-
tenant Shadwell had experienced the same trouble
as his leader in getting his car to reverse, but he had
taken her right up to the enemy's barbed wire, and
done some good execution with his machine-gun.
Just as he was withdrawing, a bullet caught him in
the neck, causing a nasty wound, which put an end



THE BATTLE OF VIZIRUL 229

to his activities for the day. MacDowall with his
" Ulster " was one of the first to go into action in the
early morning, when there was a heavy mist, which
obscured his view of the enemy. Chief Petty Oflicer
MacFarlane and Petty OOieer Fear went up the road
as scouts, and presently came back with a report
that a body of Bulgarian infantry were creeping up
towards the car. The crew in the car waited until
the Bulgarians were about 150 yards off, and then
let drive at them with machine-gun and rifles. This
had the effect of thinning the ranks, but not of stop-
ping the rush, and it soon became obvious that they
intended to capture the car by storm. Possibly they
were not sufficiently conversant with the various
!)reeds of armoured car to know a heavy one from a
light one, for when MacFarlane and Fear dropped
their rifles and got to work with the 3-pounder, the
Bulgarians were completely dismayed. They turned
and fled, some of them dropping into a shell- crater
about 50 yards up the road from where the ear stood,
and here the 3-pounder dropped two or three shells
into them just to make sure that they w^ould try no
more of their storming tactics. The supply of shells
was then finished off on the village of Roobla, the
road leading to it, and finally into the trenches 1,000
yards away, and then the car came out of action,
having suffered no casualties.

After a short interval MacDowell went into action
again. The enemy were then advancing in rushes
against our advanced posts, and at times it looked
as though they stood an unpleasantly good chance
of breaking through the Russian lines. The car ran
up to within 700 yards of the advancing Bulgarians
and started pumping lead into them as hard as it
could, which had the effect of checking the advance
for the time being, and of compelling the enemy to
dig themselves in. Unfortunately it is not possible
for an armoured car to carry any large stock of



230 THE NAVY IN ROIBIANIA

3-poimder ammunition, and so it behoves its occu-
pants to use their shells sparingly, reserving fire until
they see a group of three or four of the enemy to-
gether. After two hours steady pummelling of the
Bulgarian infantry, the car had to withdraw for more
ammunition, but it went back into action almost
immediately and contrived to remain in action for
the next five hours until darkness began to fall. To
the enemy it must have been a constant source of
annoyance, for the troops had no inclination to
advance against shell-fire at point-blank range, and
wherever the armoured cars were operating the
enemy's offensive was completely held up.

Lieutenant Henderson had the "Londonderry"
car in which he took up his station near the entrance
to Vizirul village, and steadily shelled the enemy
from half-past nine in the morning until two o'clock
in the afternoon. He had some trouble with his
turret, which refused to budge until Chief Petty
Officer Common and Petty Officer Wildbore got out
of the car under heavy fire to swing the turret round
by means of the gun. Then the " Londonderry "
played its old trick of sliding into a ditch, where it
sat patiently for some time, and was finally rescued
by the " Ulster."

Just before nightfall the enemy drew off his in-
fantry and commenced another artillery bombard-
ment, which only ceased when darkness fell. That
night the Russian scouts were busy collecting rifles
from Bulgarians who had fallen in the fight. In one
spot, where the armoured cars had been busy, 380
rifles were collected. Colonel l^olgramo had many
appreciative words to offer Lieutenant Smiles upon
the work done by the armoured cars during the day.
The outstanding fact, which eclipsed all others, was
that at that point in the Russian line the enemy had
been com]ilctcly repulsed. Unfortimately, however,
it was the only j)oint of which this could be said,



THE BATTLE OF VIZIRUL 231

and before long there were messages coming through
showing that both flanks to right and left of Vizirul
had been driven baek.

The next morning dawned with the usual thiek
fog chnging to the valley of the Danube and the
marshes on either side. It was impossible to see
more than 100 yards ahead, and, though a fresh
attack was expected at any moment, it was not
likely to materialise under such conditions. At
eleven o'clock the fog had abated, and the scouts re-
ported that the Bulgarians were advancing in great
numbers on the road from Roobla to Vizirul. Lieu-
tenant Smiles at once went into action with the
*' Ulster " ; he was 300 yards beyond the Russian
trenches before he saw any sign of the enemy, and
then he was greeted by a storm of bullets from rifles


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