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A MYSTERIOUS CANARD.
To newspaper men Jhroughout both England and Scotland one of tho most astonishing in- cidents of the war bas surely been the re- markable story of a Russian army bavins passed through the two countries on its way fron- Archangel tp the Continent (remarks' the "Newspaper World" of September 26), Por severaUweek« It was hardly possible to move- about In town or country without meet- ing some person who knew someone who had seen these Russian soldiers, and telephonic Inquiries to the chief newspaper pillees bo came a positive nuisance to the harassed membors of the staff.
The story was wonderfully constructed, and, like the snowball, the further it went tit« greater it grow, gathering much circumstan- tial evidence in its course. Many truinloada of Russian soldiers were said to have pass-id through various stations on both Eastern and Western main lines. Ono phase of the tan- talising tale was that Russians In numbers, ! variously estimated, had been shipped from I Archangel, landed at ports in Scotland, a
distance of roughly 2000 miles, and were be- ing taken to an eastern or southern port for Immediate transfer to the Continent. In the newspaptr oflices apparent confiinintlon of these- details was received from a hundred sources, and as long ago as August 27 "The Yorkshire Post," being assailed with the pe* j slstent Russian rumour, both lu their London , and Loeds offices, took the trouble to inquire
specially of the Press Bureau whether any ' credence could be placed in it. The Presa Bui eau replied that there wab no foundation for the story and therefore that Journal ignor- ed it altogether. Three days later, however. tho rumour had gathered prodigiously lu stiength, and became so persistent that a second Inquiry was made lo the Press Bureau, whose reply was published on August 80 as
PRESS BUREAU REPORT.
"The Press Bureau declares that there Is no truth at all "in the rumour, And they are quite puzzled as to its origin."
Despite this denial, the peculiarly fascinat- ing story continued to be speculated on by the public, and newspapermen were continu- ally bombarded with questions as to Us truth and with evidence that the troops of the Czar had boen seen at various British rail- way stations. On September 8 practically all the papers published a telegram from Rome stating that a newspaper there repor- ted "that the departure of tbe Kaiser foi Metz had been caused by the receipt of nowa that 250,000 Russian troops are being con centrated in Franco." The Pre3s Bureau did not conflrm this report, and did not ob-
ject to its publication.
In some newspaper circles this attltuna I was taken to mean that In official circles toe story of the Russian transport of troops was virtually admitted, and "The Yorkshira Telegraph and Star," the Sheffield evening paper, published about three-quarters of ,v .column which they characterised as "cor roboratlon of a otory that was founded on cumulative evidence stronger than Is to be had of moBt of the admitted facts of the) war." The Sheffield Journal'3 evidence In- cluded information from a Doncaster medical gentleman who "had seen no fewer than three train-loads of soldiers of the Czar at the station of St. Leger Town, where the troop trains had boen drawn up for a brief period." The Journal also gave a story i from a Slietu« Id nurse, "who wa- on buBinesu I at Newcastle and was anxious to travel to Sheffield. She was told that wiw Impossible as there were circumstances which prevented ilt. When she explained that she v.as a Red
Crors nurse, and wa" v anted urg"ntly at Sheffield on military duty, she was Informed i that under th «se circumntances she could
travel, but it would bo In a troop train and with a largo number of forelpn sold'ers. . This she stat.'d nhc did not object to, and I she rode to Sheffield in a compartment in which no man except one could speak Eng- lish. Her fellow passengers were all Rus- sian soldiers." Other instances given by the samo paper war* that "a Sheffield me- dical m.-tn while at York saw n tralnfiill of the Czar'e soldiers there," and "a Sheffield Territorial officer was nt a station whore one of tho trains waa pull-d up, and, being able.to talk Russian, entered Into conversa- tion with the soldier«., who had <-nme frena Archan-cl to usslnt the Allies In France."
The London "Star" on the same date cited similar evidence, and remarked that this move in the "strangest rhnpter In the military his- tory of Eurone since we brntitrht Russians to Holland to fitrht Napoleon in 1753."
At the beginning of last v/oek the abundant and circumstantial rumours were strength- ened by a correspondent of the "Daily News and Leader" on the Continent testifying that ho hail at last found the Russians, and that only considerations of public Interest pre- vented him stating their locality and their numbers. Equally positiva was the narrative of a Welsh engineer, who had held a position in Russia, that he had sailed from Archangel ', to Leith In the same steamer with a force of Cossacks, the last of a contingent number- ing in all 70,000. With these further stories, and despite the official denials, It was becom- ing extremely hard,for the incrodulouB to hold their ground, and the comments of a great section of the public on the few newspapers that hod published the Press Bureau denials wcro bitlngly sarcastic.
At lOGt, however, the bubble wa« pricked by the Press Bureau stating, plain and jilump
"there Is no truth whatever In the rumour t'/at Russian soldiers have landed In or passed through Groat Britain on their way to Franco or Belgium. The statement that Russian troops are now on Bolglan or French
«soil should be discredited."
If such a gigantic undertaking as the trans- port of a Russian army with its double tran- shipment had been accomplished, it seems perfectly certain that neither tho War Office nor the Press Bureau would have neglected to take the press Into their confidence. .They took this course in regard to the despatch and landing of the British Expeditionary Force and many other matters with complete suc- cess, and due and generous tributes have been paid by Lord Kitchener and Mr. Asquith to tho loyalty and honour with which Journalists respected that confidence. Therefore, It is only rcanonable to believe thnt tho Govern- ment departments would have adopted a simi- lar pinn again if tho Archangel army had not boen ap army of ghosts.
And thus is dissipated a most attractive legend, which has caused a vast amount of inquiry in many newspaper offices. More than | ofto London Journal sent a special represen-
tative up to Scotland to make special Inquiry as to the facts, but not for the purpose of 1 publishing any report. To tens of thousands 1 of people the exploding of the story will have proved a great disappointment, but there still I remains tho mystery of how and where It
originated. Truly, it Is one of the most won- derful yarns in the annals of warfare, and has proved one of the most difficult canards newspapermen ever had to track down.