- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Dec 1915, p. 20-29
- Utgoff, Lieut. V.V., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's leaving of Russia about three months ago, crossing the whole of European Russia in a train, wherein Russian military officers related to him the position of the war. Not understanding why the Germans began to fight the Russians. Ways in which this war is good for Russia, allowing its people to understand which is the best way to civilization. Expected changes after the war with regard to liberty for the Russian people. Hoping for less German influence over the Czar. Germany as an old enemy of the Russian people. Why the Russian-Japanese war was not successful for Russia; not a war the people wanted. The speaker's intention to happily relate, back in Russia, what he has seen here in Canada. Thanks extended to the Lord Bishop, who helps the Russians who are living in Toronto. Comments on the Black Sea operation. The story of one of the Russian navy officers who was the first during this war to get the St. George Cross. A story of one of the Russian aviators, Captain Nesereff, his destruction of an Austrian aeroplane and the Captain's subsequent death. Stories of German cruelty. The story of Lieut. Utgoff is related.
- Date of Original
- 9 Dec 1915
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- RUSSIA: BRITAIN'S ALLY
AN ADDRESS BY LIEUT. V. V. UTGOFF, RUSSIAN NAVAL AVIATION CORPS.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto December 9, 1915
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,-I left Russia about three months ago, and in coming to the United Staand which is the best way to civilization; and I think that when the war will stop, our people will be together with all civilized countries of this world, and they will be much better arranged than before the war. Our Government is willing now to give more liberty to our people; and even the Czar Nicholas, he is making also steps to help our people, to give them more liberty. Our Czar was, as all our Governments, under very big German influence before the war; and certainly now, since the war began, all the Germans were wiped out from our Government. Our Czar himself is a very good man, only he has not very much strength to himself, and now that the Germans are away he makes many very good things. I have heard his command is also very successful, and he does his work as a simple soldier.
When Kaiser Wilhelm began this war, I think that was only his own wish, and not the wish of his people; and when Russia began the war, that was not the wish of our Government, but that was the wish of our people. Germany is our old enemy. Our grandfathers taught us to hate Germans, and I think it is the best dream of every simple Russian peasant to fix up some time his wrong with Germany and pay them for those many bad things they have made for us. For example, the Russian-Japanese war was not successful because that was the war of our Government but not of our people. Our Government wanted to get some more land--I don't know what for, we have so much--and we lost that war only because our people did not wish it. And now we say that during this war we do not need no little piece of land, we have so much land besides; we need only to be free from all bad influences which had made such a large pressure on our lives, on the lives of our people; and perhaps ten or fifteen years later, when the history will be written, I think you will see also that because our people did not have liberties so long time, we must look for this fault in Germany. I think that this German influence has destroyed the wishes of our people, and when our first revolution began Germany had made very many things to destroy our first revolution; and certainly now things will change.
I am quite sure that even if we had not had very much successes during this war, we will have them, and we will be equal with the Germans; and every Russian soldier, every Russian officer, when he thinks that he has friends so far from Russia, as in Canada, he has friends in England and in France, it makes him much braver.
Kaiser Wilhelm wanted very much to put a quarrel among the Allies, and I think this is sure, that Kaiser Wilhelm will never be able to do that.
When I return back to Russia I will be very happy to relate to them what I have seen here in Canada. I will be very happy to relate to them that even you have a volunteer army here, but your women do not like the young men who do not wish to go, and what the women wish, God wishes. Then I am quite sure that Canada will suppy the Allies' arms as good as all the other countries tries, in spite of the fact that the army here is a volunteer army.
To finish my bad speech, I would like to thank my Lord Bishop, as I have heard here he helps very much the Russians which are living in Toronto, and I am very glad and very proud here in your presence to give my best thanks to my Lord Bishop, and I hope that he will permit me to give him a shake of the hand.
I hear that some of you want to know how I got my cross. It is too difficult for me. I related this story to many people which are here, for example, to Mr. McLean and Mr. Shervinan, and perhaps some of them will take this and relate it to you, because it is too difficult to me. All right, I can say only about the Black Sea operation. In the beginning of the war the position there was very dangerous for us, because our fleet was not strong enough; we have had very few good ships, and the ships were very old, and when the cruiser Goeben went to Constantinople with those navy officers who understand well, who can calculate the changes better than the private people, we thought we would never beat the Goeben because the Goeben was too strong for us; but with the help of God we have done it, and in the first fight when Goeben met us, he could continue the fight only twelve minutes, and after twelve minutes a big fire began on board of this cruiser and he ran away. We could not catch him, because this cruiser can go three times quicker than our ship. But our torpedo boats afterwards they have very successful mines in Bosphorus, and when Goeben went out for the next fleet he exploded. It took him about five months before we saw Goeben again. Now in our Black Sea we have two dreadnoughts which are made in Russia, and certainly now we have no reason to fear even if the Goeben will be repaired. In the Black Sea the position is very well now, and I think when it will be possible for us to prepare that good army we will begin our invasion in the Bosphorus, and then from both sides, perhaps in Constantinople, we will shake hands with the English army, and I hope that there I will meet some of the Toronto citizens.
Now I will relate also about one of our navy officers who was the first during this war which got the St. George Cross. He died, and he got the St. George Cross after his death. When the Turks started war with Russia, they did not declare war. The Goeben came to Sebastapol about five o'clock in the morning and began bombardment of this City, and on this morning one of our military transports which had not one cannon returned from Yolka, about 90 kilometers from Sebastapol, and when the Goeben met the ship he began to shoot; they didn't have nothing to do more than sink this transport. One of our officers went down below deck and opened the hatches. That ship could not sink very quick. Then he put in a mine and exploded this mine, and exploded himself also together with the ship, but the Turks could not get our flag.
Gentlemen, I must finish. Perhaps I will relate you a story about one of our aviators-about Captain Nesereff, a military aviator. Before the war, when he was a pupil, he related very often that it is possible to destroy an enemy's seaplane by hitting it with the wheels of his own machine. Then when war started he was the commander of an aeronautical squadron, and his work was in Carpathia against Austrians. Austrians had had a very good aeroplane for four men, very powerful, and every day they came to Russian troops and caused inconvenience by dropping bombs, and so on. One of our Russian generals told to Captain Nesereff, Was it possible to destroy this aeroplane? He answered, "Yes, it is possible; I will try to do it"; and he told his soldiers to let him know when this Austrian machine will come. One morning very early he was in bed, and one of the soldiers came to him and told him, "The Austrian machine is here." He did not have time to dress himself, because he was in bed; he came to the aeroplane and started to fly. When he was about to the enemy it began to make a very steep volplane, and the wheels of his machine hit the enemy machine, which turned over and began to fall. Our troops, which had seen the whole of this thing began to shout "Hurrah!" and the aeroplane of this officer began to make a spiral volplane, but when the machine was about 300 meters high she turned over and fell in a swamp, and when the people approached to this machine they have seen that the aviator has had a broken spine. As I told you, he did not have time enough, and he was not strapped on the seat, and when he hit the enemy machine the hit was so strong that he broke his spine on the back of his seat, and he died in the machine, but the machine made by itself the spiral volplane. After this, all the German aviators, when they see one of the Russian machines, they run away immediately. They told that the Russians are "too foolish" for them. Three months later they began to be braver, and then another time the same thing happened; one of our officers did it also to a German Taube, and turned it over, and returned back himself successfully. Our soldiers and officers now are much braver than at the beginning of the war; and do you know who helped in this? Germans, because they are so rough with the prisoners that nobody now will be a prisoner; everybody prefers to die than to be in the hands of Germans. I read very much newspapers and the newspaper stories certainly it is impossible to believe them, because they relate that the Germans are rough, they relate also that the Russians are rough, and everybody; but I spoke to many of the wounded people, and the story of one of our wounded officers, I think, I will never forget in my life. That was a cavalry officer, and he was sent once for reconnoitering. He met some Germans and began a little fight. He was wounded and fell to the ground and our soldiers retreated, and when he was lying on the ground one of the German soldiers approached to him, took his own pistol, and asked the German officer which was also near to him, "May I kill him?" and the officer answered, "I don't see what you will do," and turned his back and went away. Then this soldier began to shoot at the officer, but he would not kill him at once; he shoot him in the hands, in the legs, and our officer turned over with pain and showed, on his hands, to finish at once; but the German soldier did not kill him, and when all the cartridges were out from the pistol he threw away the pistol and also went away. About four or five hours later our troops returned back, and they saw that this officer is not killed, and I have seen this officer in hospital and now he is quite all right, and he told me that when he will meet with German officer certainly he will never forget his face, and if he will meet him in his time he will kill him. I have heard many of such stories; and all these stories, what do they make? They make that our people now will never stop the war before they will have paid them. Even if we should remain quite alone we would not stop the war till the last soldier or officer will be killed. But certainly, as I told you in the beginning, I am quite sure that we will win this war, and we will speak about peace in that time when our allies will wish it, but not Kaiser Wilhelm. Now I must thank you very much, gentlemen, for your kindness that you heard me and not laughed very much about my language. (Loud applause and voices-" Tell us your story.") I beg your pardon, gentlemen; I am too tired.
The story is as follows:
When 17 years old, Lieut. Utgoff entered the Russian Navy, and three years ago he went to his Admiral in the Black Sea and asked permission to join the aviation fleet, but was refused. According to their laws, such a request must not be made again for three months, but at the end of that period he came and asked again, but was again refused. The next day Lieut. Utgoff went and asked the Admiral if he could see him privately in his own home in a private capacity. This was granted, and then Lieut. Utgoff asked the Admiral his reason for refusing his request. The Admiral's reply was, "You are a young man; we need you in our navy, and those foolish things that fly up in the air will be liable to kill you, and you will be living longer if you are in the navy." Mr. Utgoff replied, "I have lost my interest at the present time in life, and might as well lose it in going up in an aeroplane." The admiral said he was sorry, but he could not give his consent. Utgoff, putting his hand on the table, looked at the Admiral and said, "Sir, if you send your personal Secretary over to my apartments tomorrow morning by nine o'clock, you will find me dead in my room; I will just as soon die today if I cannot go with the aeroplane fleet." The Admiral asked, "Are you crazy, man? " He replied, "No, I am not crazy, but that is just how I feel about it." The Admiral replied, "Well, if that is the way you feel, if you are going to shoot yourself, you might as well go in an aeroplane, and I will let you go." So Utgoff was ready to go and when the Turks made war on Russia he was the commander of the aeroplane squadron under the Admiral in the Black Sea, and he received orders to go out with his ship that was specially prepared with seven or eight aeroplanes aboard, and then to fly from the ship. They heard that the Goeben was at the Dardanelles, and it behooved them not to come too close, as they did not know where the Goeben was, so it had to be done with aeroplanes directing them. Lieut. Utgoff started out the first day over the Bosphorus and over the forts, and as they were flying low, not expecting any enemy, a company of soldiers ran out and started shooting, and quite a few bullets hit the machine, but his Lieutenant beside him saw the company under him and he dropped a bomb and it was lucky enough to strike in the centre of the company, and not a man got away as far as they could see; the five Russian machines that followed him could see that they were all killed. For weeks afterwards, whenever the Turks saw that they were coming, they always ran away and hid. Then they started touring around to find where the big forts and guns were concealed, but the big guns would not open up, so they got the Admiral to put in smaller ships that could go nearer shore, and leave his bigger ships out at sea. They tried to find where the Goeben was, and they took several photographs. The shrapnel shots quite often burst near the aeroplane, and they had to zig-zag around to get through, and on the second day coming out they flew around several times, but could not see the Goeben because that ship was further into the Bosphorus. Just then a mist settled down between the Russian fleet and the Bosphorus, but the aviators were over the mist and were able to see the Goeben coming out; therefore they were going to come in under the shield of the mist and sink all those ships that were waiting outside the Bosphorus. Lieut. Utgoff was the last man with his aeroplane that was circling over the Goeben, and he saw it and circled over it, but two torpedo boats had preceded the Goeben and dropped several bombs, but they did not hit anything. He determined to ask the Admiral to bring up the big ships, but as he was leaving the Goeben his motor stopped, and he started volplaning right down to the Bosphorus, and the two torpedo boats started chasing him, and he was not away more than two and a half yards at this time when the mechanical man was fixing the carburettors, and just the last chance they had the operator pulled the wire that had to do with the carburettor and they started, and the Turks were right behind them and started to shoot at them with their machine guns, but they did not want to shoot before because they wanted to capture the aeroplane. Utgoff got away and told the Admiral, who brought up the full line of battleships, and each soldier stood ready, and as the Goeben came out to sea, the whole Russian fleet was there and immediately went in, and as they went back they put mines in the channel. When the Goeben came out the next time it struck two mines and blew part of it up. The next day they started out to one of the Turkish towns where they have mines and where the Turks got all the supplies of coal, and the power station is situated over a big hill and a big ravine, and the Russian Admiral wished to destroy that, but his gun would not reach from the sea to this ravine. Therefore, he sent his aeroplane squadron, and Lieut. Outgun went over and dropped a lucky bomb which struck this big plant covering acres, and it happened to strike the gasoline storage tank and immediately exploded it. There were explosions in three or four places with the gasoline tanks, and it started to burn, and the whole place was set on fire. Just as he was flying away the last time to drop several more bombs, and had just made up his mind to fly away from this ravine, a terrific explosion occurred and the steam boilers exploded and the steam rose so fast that it caught the back part of his aeroplane and turned it right straight down, and he started to fall down right straight to the nose, but he was not so far up but what he could right himself and go away. If he had been farther away he would have turned completely over, and very likely perished; but he came home, and this place burned for the next eight hours, and consequently it absolutely crippled the mining and transporting of coal for months. From what he tells me, that place cannot be used during the time of war, for a coal supply for manoeuvering the navy and big ships, and the Turks are short of coal and will not be able to operate it.
The vote of thanks was proposed by Dr. Albert Ham, and seconded by Mr. J. B. Perry.