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Messages - griffh

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I was thinking over the recent content of my thread.

Knowing that the majority of material I have researched on the Empress is completely new, I should have proceeded with more humility and care in the thread.

So I wanted to apologize for my pride and egotism.

Just to say that I allowed my pride to flair when James pointed out the correction about Verdun.

Instead of simply accepting the correction with gratitude, as I did with the correction about Anna V., I allowed my ego to rebel. 

Had I kept my humility, I would not have allowed my temper to erupt when I was questioned about the accuracy of my archival research on the bombing of the Empress's trains.

Just to say, I will remove the reference to Verdun in my book, double check my other references to battles and will add a detailed footnote about the bombing of the Empress's trains....




James, just to say I have found two links, WarChron which has detailed, day by day accounts of the battles on the Eastern Front, as well as Mark Conrad's Home page on the Russian Army Corps that lists all five of Alix's Honorary Commands. 

From all you have so generously shared, I realized that I need to create a new thematic file, "Alix and the Eastern Front," where I will garner out of my thematic file "Alix and officer's," all the references that relate to her regiments, battles, and Generals and cross reference them with my GARF files and the collate them with the material in WarChron and Mark's home page and his other publications. Again, James, thank you so much for pointing out this area of research that I needed to strengthen.

And just to say two days ago I received word from a publisher that had expressed interest in my book several months ago, and he had finally had the time to sit down and read my first two articles on the Empress's war relief work and as a result emailed me to say that he would publish my book!!!

I am hoping to entitle my book, Wartime Empress: The Untold Story of Alexandra Feodorovna 1914-1916.



It could be the medal note on the site they have a section on WWI medals there is also a book "The Medals,Decorations, and Orders of the great War 1914-1918"

errata after doing a google search its the Zelinsky-Kummant gas mask and found pictures of it. The mask looks like the sort of old Soviet masks I have pictures of in an 1980s US army manual. Also the battle where the College of mines masks failed was at Smorgon on 19-20 July 1916

I made a posting of Alexandra's regiments on this site awhile back. it lists them and has a bit on where they served.

Thank you so much James for sharing all this information. 


Besides my thematic organization of the Empress's wartime correspondence, another tool that has been so helpful in sorting out the many accusations brought against Alexandra has been the development of chronologies that I continually add to as I read new books and memoirs.

They start in January 1914 and go, month by month, to August 1917.

As I have continued to build these strictly chronological files, so many interesting relationships occur that impact ones understanding of primary events.

The chronologies are and were incredibly important to me when I first started including dates of the Empress's war work. Why? Because they chronicled Alexandra's amazing accomplishments 30 days prior to her first wartime letter was written on 19 September 1914.

Additionally, there are no editorial notes in a single publication of the Empress's war correspondence describing the missing 30 days of her accomplishments, which included, the continual expansion of her national network of skladi, her growing fleet of hospital and supply trains, the growing number of hospitals coming under her supervision in the greater Tsarskoe Selo District which stretched from Gathina to Luga and in Moscow, the development of her front line ambulance and motor squads, or the establishment of her Supreme Council (11 August 1914). When there are footnotes which refer to her war relief work, some of the individuals she mentions, such as the head of her national skaldi headquarters, von Mekk, is described as on her Ella's officials.

In Sir Bernard Pares 43 page introduction in the 1923 Duckworth publication of the Empress's war correspondence (1914-1916), which contain no editorial note, Pares devotes exactly three sentences to the Alix's war work.

"The Empress with her four daughters went through a thorough course of training in nursing; and when we realize that she had a very weak heart which constantly gave her trouble, we must be astonished at the enormous amount of work which she did for the wounded. This was not mere official patronizing of Red Cross organizations. She herself took a frequent part in the most disagreeable details of dressing and nursing, and travelled from one part to another to promote the work of the Red Cross." (p. xxiv.)

Of course we know the information is flawed, as only two daughters had earned their RC nursing certification and Alix did not travel about promoting the her mother-in-law's Red Cross relief organizations, but her own war relief agencies.

Three sentences, that was it.

When Joseph Fuhrmann published The Complete Correspondence of the Tsar and Empress, (1999) which remains an outstanding accomplishment and the definitive work on the Tsar and Empress's wartime correspondence, sadly, detailed information on the Empress's war work was not available.

As a result when Alexandra tell her husband in her letter of 20 September 1914 that "The girls worked in the stores (2). at 4 1/2 Tatiana and I received [A. B.] Neidhardt about her committee(3), editorial (2) describes "stores" as "places where wealthy, charitable Russians accumulated goods to be distributed (free) to the troops."  Yet the "stores" Alexandra was referring was her Winter Palace sklad which she had opened just four days after the Declaration of War Ceremony in the Winter Palace. And while footnote (3) accurately attributes the committee mentioned as Tatiana's committee, it does not indicate the Empress's connection to the creation of the committee.  Again this is not a criticism of Joe's incredible book of correspondence, in 1999 there was no published material on the timing or extent of Alix's war relief work and the material that was available was distorted information written by a generation of embittered emigre population, who credited Alexandra with Russia's collapse.       


Alexandra Feodorovna / Re: Alexandra's Religious Character
« on: August 27, 2014, 10:54:50 AM »
Though the last post on Bob's thread was 4 months ago, I still wanted to share another example of Alix's love of the Mother and Child Icon.

In my upcoming article on Alix, I review her earlier work for the betterment of the Russian people and one of her earliest accomplishments was the creation of her Orthopedic Institute in St. Petersburg which was opened in 1906. It included a chapel which was decorated with an Icon by Kuzma Sergeevich Petrov-Vodkin who at the time, had been "discovered" by the architect R. F. Meltzer in of the Art Nouveau style. Petrov-Vodkin was studying at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and was studying under Valentin Serov, Isaak Levitan and Konstantin Korovin. He had just returned from Munich where he had studies with Anton Ažbe who died in 1905 and was one of his last students. Ažbe had trained the "big four" Slovenian impressionists (Rihard Jakopič, Ivan Grohar, Matej Sternen, Matija Jama) and a whole generation of Russian painters (Ivan Bilibin, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Igor Grabar, Wassily Kandinsky, and Dmitry Kardovsky.  Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin remained in Russia after the Revolution and after his death in 1939 was forgotten by the Soviets until the 1960's and is now considered one of Russian's painter, yet not one of the websites on his work credits the Icon he created for Empress Alexandra's Orthopedic Institute. As well, even seasoned historians who go to St. Petersburg, pass by the Art Nouveau styled structure at 5 Alexander Park completely unaware that it was the Emrpress's Orthopedic Hosptial, Clinic, and Research center.  In 1988 the RR Wrede Orthopedic Institute, as it is now called, moved to its new location at Baikova e. 8, St. Petersburg. I quietly celebrated it's 100th anniversary on 14 August 2006.

The Empress’ Orthopedic Hospital and Chapel, 5 Alexander Park, St. Petersburg, opened 1906. (Chapel at far right)

Kuzma Sergeevich Petrov-Vodkin’s, symbolist Icon of Our Lady and Child, taken from old canonical work, Amazing Eyes Watching the Mother of God of Light and Sorrow. Majolica tiles, Doulton, London, 1904 .

Close up of Kuzma Sergeevich Petrov-Vodkin’s, Icon of Our Lady and Child. 

If the Blue train was bombed by the Austrians most of the KUK LFT-Kaiserliche und Konigliche Luftfartruppen (Imperial and Royal Aviation troops) records survived the war. There also weren't that many Fliks-Flieger Kompanie (aviation companies) each 4 aircraft with 2 in reserve operating on the Russian front in 1916 so If you give a date and location I may be able to match it up with a unit at least.

The train could have been delibratly bombed it is also possible it could be a case of a bomb being way off another target. It could have been an accident do to one or more of the following factors: poor eyesight, inexperience, health problems do to wounds or illness, flying with hangover, having what we would call today PTSD. The pilot may also been unable to make out the red crosses on the train do to smoke from the engine, ground mist or fog. By the way were red crosses painted on the tops of the railroad cars. Also note some cargos like aircraft were loaded on freight cars and covered with light colored canvas. The white roof s of the cars could have fades from use ect. I also think  if this train or any other hospital train was damaged in any way someone would have photographed the damage. I also think the old Emperor Franz- Joseph would have been upset that one of his pilots would have delibratly bombed a hospital train.

I think when General A Knox mentions it took 17 hours to get from Warsaw to St Petersburg pre war. I think it could just mean express passenger and mail trains. I would say the regular freight trains ect took longer. He mentions in his book "With the Russian Army 1914-1917" that the same trip took 42 hours in March 1915.

You mention a decoration with a palm that sounds like a French decoration to me. They did palms with a second or more awards for some medals.

As for Nicholas St George order. He was the army commander and in the September- October period the Russians did stop a Austrian offensive and managed to retake some ground in some counter attacks. It looks like he did something to get this award.

I am glad you found my information usefull Griffh. I hope to find some more at a later date.

James your information is more than useful!!!

Thank you for sharing these details and just to say that I will email you the information I have on the bombing of the Blue Train in 1916.

Gramps always said that his medal was Italian and I remember it was gold.  He was a very quiet gentleman but was extremely proud of his medal and he wore it to all the events in his life that were special, such as his granddaughter, Gabriell's wedding to one of the American descendants of the Talleyrand family. He also wore it to concerts of the Italian String Quartet which he was patron of.

James I found the following Italian order. 

Medaglia Al Valore Militare (Military Medal for Valor) Awarded to the military for exceptional valour. This medal was instituted in March 1833 by King Albert of Sardinia in three classes : gold, silver and bronze and was meant for award to army and navy personnel. Similar medals were created for resp. navy and air force.  The medal's obverse has changed a number of times : the WWI obverse bears the royal weapon of Savoia under a crown.

When awarded, the recipient's name was written on the reverse of the medal. During World War I the words "GUERRA DI 1915-1918" (War of 1915-1918) were written above the recipient's name.

Do you think that this could be the order Gramps had?

Well thank you again James, and just to say I will email you what I have on the Blue Train bombing in the next day or so.

You have posted a lot of interesting information on Alexandra. I am quite impressed she did all this for the war effort and it was not used until now.

The Order of St George. Which was for officers only. Was awarded for acts of heroism, succesfull generalship and to royalty. Alexei got his on 17 October 1915. Nicholas got his on 27 October 1915 and was quite pleased from what I have read. They both got the Order of St George 4th class the lowest of the four classes. All Russian rulars were made knights of St George except Tsar Alexander I who accepted the award after the 1805 campaign. The Order of the 4th class could either be awarded by the St George council in Petrograd or a General in the field if 7 knights of the order approve of it. I understand Alexei was decorated by general Ivanov when he was SouthWest Front commander after he visited some field hospitals.

Note on the 5th Hussars one of the regiments Alexandra was honorary Colonel of. The regiment adopted a black uniform in 1809 and apparently it stayed as the regiments dress uniform. Terms Dolman: tunic, Pelisse: Jacket worn over the left shoulder, Busby fur hat looks like short bearskin all part of the Hussars uniforms For lancers the Czapka: lance cap.

Alexandra was also honorary colonel of the 21st Siberian Rifle regiment  6th Siberian rifle regiment, V Siberian Corps. Could you give me a time period were the unit was gassed and I might be able to give you possible gas attack on them

As for Russian gas masks there is a book "Imperial Russian field uniforms and equipment 1907-1917" by John Somers that does have some information on them. I got the book by interlibrary loan and took a few notes on them:
Petrograd model 1 issued in June 1915 along with the models 2 and 3 used until the end of 1916 basicly just a guaze bandage and goggles
Filter mask designed by the collge of mines at St Petersburg issued in June 1916 and after they failed the troops in a July 1916 gas attack at Morgo were withdrawn in September 1916
The Zelinski-Komrant mask replaced them

as for the german mask I made a post on the Great war forums equipmet section and got quite a few replies. There were a number of posts with pictures of the German gas masks during WW I

Note The Italian ace Baracca's last victory was over Albatross D III 153.266 flown by Ltn Sigmund Von Joipovich of Flik 51 J who was wounded and captured

Thank you so much James for this great research!!!!

You are a gold mine!!!!

Correction:  Gramps had not grown up in the French Chateau in Pasadena, quite obviously....he had grown up in Chicago....sorry about that....

Gramps returned to Pasadena after the war and returned to live with his mother. The year (1923) she sold her French Chateau to the Blankenhorns, right across the street where that had been a natural ravine, Mrs. George Madison Millard, had commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build "La Minatura," (645 Prospect Crescent) and before Gramps left with his new wife for Paris, he made Mrs. Millard promise to contact him if the time ever came when she wanted to sell the house. When Alice Millard suddenly passed in 1938, she left instructions that Gramps was to be contacted about purchasing the house as she had promised him.  He had been studying art with Archpenko in Paris and had become part of the expatriate American colony, but he wanted "La Minatura" so much that he convinced his very reluctant wife to move back to Pasadena, which I don't believe she ever really wanted to. She had passed by the time I had become acquainted with Gramps. He was such a wonderful man, handsome, courteous, beautifully groomed and wholesome, without being effete. He had a very bright French poodle that he only spoke to in French and just one servant, a distinguished looking black butler he called Kope, and who I always mistakenly called Krupp...I suppose because of the love of WWI...

He had filled "La Minatura" with the most beautiful collection of antiques he had found in Europe, medieval French doors, etc., all to the absolute horror of Frank Lloyd Wright who could never talk Gramps out of his antiques or into Wrights furniture designs.  I have so many happy memories in that wonderful house, especially in the drawing room where I had my first tea. 


The room was very different and I think for more charming with Gramps antiques and especially the setting around the fireplace.  I remember Kope coming in the room in his spotless white pekay short coat and black pants carrying a magnificent tea tray which he placed on the coffee table with the grace of a dancer. When one of the ladies present that Gramps had asked to pour became bewildered by the number of pots on the tray, he turned to my mother asking her to assist instead. The other lady had been thrown by the pot that held extra hot water as it looked like a coffee pot.  The sun was shining in from the terrace doors and the setting was so warm and comforting.  I felt as though nothing bad could ever happen again.

You entered on Prospect Crescent where the garage was and which was on a level above the house. Gramps had enormous white boxes of lemon trees and in one of the garages stood his beloved 1938 Citroen which he had brought back from Paris.

And as much as Frank Lloyd Wright fought with Gramps, Wright did build an addition on "La Minatura" for Gramps studio.  You could walk to it from the balcony of the drawing room and you would then walk across a ramp and enter the studio on the second floor.

The interior was far more dramatic than the photo above.  When you walked into that little room you can see, it had one white washed 16th carved chair that looked like it had been made for the Pope and a single black metal bed with a blue ticking spread for Gramps to take naps.  It as the most enchanting room....

Well I am spent and need to return to bed for a bit of shut eye...but this has been fun....

It was one of those haunting nights with a raging rain storm beating against the bedroom window and I finally got up in the wee early hours of the morning and I thought that I was going to continue to write my forth article, when for some reason my thoughts turned to memories of Donald Potter Daniels, known to us as "Gramps." 

He was a close friend of my mother's and part of the mid-western social set that my mother's family moved in. He had gown up in a 9,000 square feet of French chateau on the east bank of the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena. The house was built in 1916 for Gramp's parents, Julius Clark Daniels and Gertrude Potter Daniels of Chicago. Gramps father, a semi-valid, was estranged from his mother, though they lived together until 1922 when his father left with his nurse for Hawaii and made a "remarkable recovery," but never returned to Pasadena. Gramps' mother was one of the Potters of Chicago and was distantly related to Julia Cantacuzene through Mrs. Potter Palmer. She became an active patron of the arts in Pasadena. She sold the house in 1923 to David Blankenhorn, who had just sold Santa Catalina Island to William Wrigley Jr. and could afford it. Blankenhorn and his wife, Emma, lived in the house with their two sons, a chauffeur, two gardeners, a butler, a cook, several maids and a children's nanny. They were deeply involved in Pasadena society and culture as members of the Valley Hunt Club and founders of the Pasadena Playhouse.

Gramps was in his early twenties when his parents moved to Pasadena and shortly after the family home was built in 1916, though I don't know the exact date, as an amateur pilot, he volunteered to fly for the Italian Royal air force, Corpo Aeronautico Militare, that was part of the Regio Esercito (Royal Army) during WWI. Not many people know, but Italy was at the forefront of aerial warfare in 1914 as the first country to have made the first reconnaissance flights and the first bombing raid on Lybia 1 November 1911. Apparently the credit for the bombing goes to Giulio Gavotti who, according to a BBC link Gavotti "He had imagined that he would only be flying reconnaissance missions there, but then realised that more was required of him.
Gavotti threw the bombs from an Etrich Taube Monoplane designed by Austrian Igo Etrich

"Today two boxes full of bombs arrived," he wrote in a letter to his father, sent from Naples. "We are expected to throw them from our planes." "It is very strange that none of us have been told about this, and that we haven't received any instruction from our superiors. So we are taking the bombs on board with the greatest precaution. "It will be very interesting to try them on the Turks." By bringing aircraft to the battlefront, the Italians were doing something new. This was only eight years after the pioneering Wright brothers in America had managed the first, short flight. Flying was still in its infancy. "As soon as the weather is clear, I head to the camp to take my plane out," the Gavotti wrote. "Near the seat, I have fixed a little leather case with padding inside. I have laid the bombs in it very carefully. These are small round bombs - weighing about a kilo-and-a-half each. I put three in the case and another one in the front pocket of my jacket." Gavotti took off and headed for Ain Zara. It is now a town just east of Tripoli, but at the time he described it as a small oasis. There he would have expected to find Arab fighters and Turkish troops that were allied in the fight against the Italian invasion."

I can't remember which plane Gramps flew for the Corpo Aeronautico Militare, or if they were Italian or French but he was awarded a medal of honor which he refereed to a "the Palm" but I am not quite sure what that meant.

Maggiore Francesco Baracca shoots down an Albatros DIII in his Spad VII on 15th June 1918, his 34th and final victory

Ann just to get back to you on the logistics question about the first three hospital trains. 

While I have the information, I realized that I cannot share the details as I am going to use the information n my book, which will include the world's longest footnote on the bombing of the Empress's hospital trains.

I will share the logistics of the Empress's Winter Palace sklad which I covered in detail in my second article, after my third article is published in September.

I know that I have shared some quotes from my second article, but then it occurred to me that it is still being sold and I don't want to undercut sales by sharing too much information.

I hope you understand. 

What I will share in my next post, however, are some more insights on the Empress's correspondence that I have learned through my research and that, hopefully will be interesting to think about, which will reference one of my favorite books, William C. Fuller Jr.'s "The Foe Within."

I have actually lost some friends over disagreements about the content of this remarkable book, and perhaps James will give me added grief over it, but it will not make any difference as it unlocked everything for me, and though Fuller had no interest in Alexandra, his negative evaluation of some of her enemies turns everything on it's head.

The same is true of Figes and Kolonitskii's "Interpreting the Russian Revolution." Again it is not a book that has any interest in Alexandra but quotes some of Buchanan and Paleolouge's accusations, men who were so careful in their autobiographies to assure their readers that they never believed the accusations of treason against Alix. Yet, for instance, Figes and Kolonitskii repeat the story of Buchanan complaining to the Duma President Rodzianko in November 1916 that "Germany is using Alexandra Feodorovna to set the Tsar against the Allies." And so, how does that not sound like an accusation of treason? 

All this is very interesting, especially the practice charges, since all I have read previously says that Alexandra didn't like riding and rode only when she had to.

However, it was not Helena Victoria, known as Thora, who married Aribert of Anhalt, but Marie Louise, and it was their brother Albert, not Aribert, who was known as Abby.

Have you managed to track anything down on the logistics of getting the trains into service?


Spot on!  Ann. I thought I had gone back and corrected that mistake about Thora and Marie Louise, but apparently not!    

I have not forgotten about your question as to the logistics of getting the first three trains up and running.  I also had to research the logistics of getting Alix huge Winter Palace sklad up and running three days after Germany declared war on Russia.

Ann, just to say, when I went into my file on Princess Christian and her daughters, I opened my folder on Marie Louise and found I had mistaken her for Thora and then became so fixated on some of the photographs taken of her near the end of her life, that I forgot to make the correction.  

I had Marie Louise's autobiography in my library, and though she was a critic of Alix, I liked her book a great deal, but alas I lent it to a friend, never to see it again....

Marie Louise in later years

Griffh, just wanted to say that reading this thread made me realize what a wonderful, kind-hearted woman Alexandra was. Thank you for that:)

Thank you for you lovely insight wakas.  It is so true, and after a century, her thoughts about proper care are so contemporary and are making their way back into medical and nurse's training. 

All this is very interesting, especially the practice charges, since all I have read previously says that Alexandra didn't like riding and rode only when she had to.

However, it was not Helena Victoria, known as Thora, who married Aribert of Anhalt, but Marie Louise, and it was their brother Albert, not Aribert, who was known as Abby.

Have you managed to track anything down on the logistics of getting the trains into service?


Spot on!  Ann. I thought I had gone back and corrected that mistake about Thora and Marie Louise, but apparently not!   

I have not forgotten about your question as to the logistics of getting the first three trains up and running.  I also had to research the logistics of getting Alix huge Winter Palace sklad up and running three days after Germany declared war on Russia.


Chemical warfare WWI

Nurse with victim of chemical warfare WWI.

Alix's persistence, thoroughness and ingenuity are revealed in ever expanding scope and extent of her war relief work...

Again, to quote my article #2:

“Few Russians realized that their Empress possessed the “heart of a soldier’s daughter & soldier's wife” (as she would write her husband in the Fall of 1915). Fewer still had any idea how deeply she esteemed military valor: as a young woman in Darmstadt, Alix had ridden out with visiting regiments and joined in their maneuvers and cavalry charges.” It is so necessary to understand because it was this dedication to the valor, bravery and honor of the Russian Armed Forces that was the motivation behind her intensely comprehensive war relief work.

Again, thanks to Petra's incredible book of correspondence between Alix, Ernie and his second wife Elenore, I was able to quote the letter she had written her brother, Ernst Ludwig, after her Siberian Rifle Regiment was gassed by the Germans, describing how she had “cried heartrendingly reading the Commanders (sic) description of the tortures those poor men went through – shooting, falling in cramps, again shooting & then dying in hellish pain…Those that recover will be ill for all their lives…what they look like, you cannot simply imagine!” Refusing to mask her loathing for Germany’s High Command from her brother, who served at Kaiser Wilhelm’s Headquarters, Alexandra exploded: “thats (sic) not warfare, but slaughtering by poison."

Continuing to quote my article,

"Not stopping there, the Empress ordered Count Vladimir E. Schulenburg, head of her Veteran’s Home (opened in 1906 for disabled soldiers of the Russo-Japanese war), to research gasmask production and purchase the newest inventions. The Count “presented two models of masks, but they did not satisfy Her Majesty: one was too bulky, the other too complicated.” Alexandra feared that during the confusion and disorientation of a toxin gas attack “the lower ranks…would not be able to handle them.” Then quite by chance, during a visit to the Schulenburg’s home, the Empress spotted a German gasmask (possibly the highly efficient Gummimaske-15) among the war trophies of the Count’s young son, and requested: “I would like to take this one with me, to show it as an example; he (i.e. my son) would not object, if I keep it some time? Reasoning that the producers of poisonous gas would have created the best protection, Alexandra had the German gasmask copied for the Russian Army, but not without further improvements as “even this model Her Majesty ordered to be improved.”

This is not the picture generally credited to Alix, who was supposed to be spending the war, half mad, and frantically nursing in her little annex hospital, while ignoring ignoring her greater duty to the army. This false picture is the result of such deliberate misrepresentation which I start to address in the upcoming article #3 and take on with full force in article #4.

Hey James could you weigh in on the Gummimaske-15?  Also do your have more information on the gas attack her Siberian's suffered?  

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