Sunday, 6 October 2013

"The Russian as Officer" - a characterization by a British war correspondent in 1904

The Daily Express's war correspondent Douglas Story and his servant,
photographed in Manchuria in 1905.

The famous British war correspondent Douglas Story was "embedded" with the Imperial Russian Army in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 - 1905. On August 4, 1904, the Hobart newspaper The Merchant published the article "The Russian as Officer" by Story.

Judged by what he wrote, Story seemed to have a rather positive view of Imperial Russian officers:

"As a student, the Russian staff officer is a gentleman and a soldier of rare intellectual attainment. He has been allowed to follow his beat, has been stimulated in the study of tongues, has been encouraged to investigate the psychology of the peoples dwelling upon the borders of the Czar's domains"

"A born linguist, among the French he is a Frenchman, among the Germans a German, even among the  Chinese a Chinaman. I have met Russian officers who in appearance, in accent, and in manner were as British as myself."

"The adaptability of the Russian is amazing, the result of a wide humanity, a ready sympathy. Strangely enough, he draws most naturally to the British and the American. The French, despite of all treaties and alliances, of all European nations is the least compatible with the Russian character."

"One's general impression is that the officers are a good set of great-bodied, big-hearted, good-natured schoolboys, sadly pestered by the stone-throwing of the small boys from a neighbouring inferior but rival academy. I have not hear in all these weeks one ungenerous   word of their enemy from a Russian."

"There is something that is very captivating about the manners of the well-bred Russian officer and his easy camaraderie. One is sitting in a restaurant, where there enters a stranger. He strides straight over to the senior officer present, of whatever rank, salutes, clicks his heels together, bows, and shakes hands, announcing his name the while - Alexandrovitch. And so all around the table - salute, bow, click, shake hands, Alexandrovitch. In a minute, duly accredited, properly introduced Alexandrovitch is one of the party, and the conversation is general."

Story may have geen right in his characterization of the Russian officer, but, as we all know, the war did not go well from a Russian viewpoint.

Russian officers in Harbin during the Russo-Japanese War.

Douglas Story later published a book, "The Campaign with Kuropatkin", in which he was very critical of the yellow press:

"Those of us who take our functions seriously, who realize that war correspondence is as much a profession as that of the soldier or the engineer, resent the intrusion of the callous sensation mongers vomited from a hundred yellow journals."

Douglas Story had a rather sad end, at the age of 48. On July 11, 1921, the Montreal Gazette reported:

"Douglas Story Dead
Famous War Correspondent Found Dead in Train in India."

The brief article does not give any further information on what had happened on the train in Kotah.

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