Pvt. Casimer "Cash" Nowak,
Co. B, 310th Engineers, 85th Div., U.S. Army
American North Russia Expeditionary Force, 1918-1919
Pvt. Casimer Nowak
Camp Custer, 1918
(Family photo courtesy of Roy Nowak)
Nowak's travels as a soldier in the USA, England and North Russia
During the period from July 11, 1918 through March 1919
|The text below was transcribed from Pvt. Nowak's handwritten notes (with footnotes added by the webmaster). He apparently wrote this in March 1919 just after Company B finished making their way on foot from Kholmogory to Bereznik on the Dvina River Front. It was written on two ruled sheets of paper that were taken from an unused daily planner (the printed dates on the blank pages run from 19 Wed. to 30 Sun. 1917).
|Left Custer1 Thursday the
11th day of
July 1918. Lan.2 in NY the 12th P.M.
8 days in Camp Mills3, C.I.4 the 18th,
Left NY the 22nd. 13 days on water.
Landed in Liverpool England Sat. the
3rd of Aug. Cowshot5 Sun A.M.
London on furlough Wed 14th.
Left Brookwood Mon A.M. the 26th
of Aug. Left Newcastle out of Tine6
Harbor for Russia the 26th P.M.
Landed in Archangel Wed the 4th of Sept.
Bakarytya Port7 the 5th, first big
holdup on whiskey Thanksgiving
Eve 21 Cases of John Dewar's
white Label.8 Wood and truck
detail until the 5th of March 1919.
Farewell party with the Russian
workmen the 6th. Started for the
river front9 the 7th, hiked the
same day from Homagorskaya10 to
Elenatika 24 Versts11; next 21 to Jaclena,
from Jaclena to Siscoe12 18 Versts. From
Siscoe to Jemetyka13 22 - Rested 24 hrs.
From Jemetyka to Nichola 21 Versts.
And a ferocious blizzard from Nichola
to Polztowo 22. From Polztowo to Morsh
18. Bolos on our heels some fun.14
|From Morsh to
Oyta 18 Versts.
From Oyta to Beres-
niki15 22 Versts.
Rum raid16 the same night.
(illegible) 16 Versts. 20317
place a home I
tell you. Five
of us boys and
Dukes of the village18
Every Tom Dick and
Harry were on
our working list.
1Camp Custer in Battle Creek, Michigan
2Lan. = Landed
3Camp Mills (1917-1920) was located on Long Island
in what is now known as Garden City, NY
4C.I. = Company Inspection
5Camp Cowshot was located near Brookwood, Surrey, England
6Newcastle upon Tyne, the port in northeast England from which
he sailed on the HMT Tydeus for Archangel
7Bakarytya Port = Bakharitsa, a port on the Dvina River opposite
the city of Archangel
8The "boys" stole 21 cases of whiskey from the stockade in
Bakharitsa the night before Thanksgiving, most of the "boys"
were drunk on Thanksgiving Day and the day after.
9river front = Dvina River Front
10Homagorskaya = Kholmogory, a village on the Dvina River
111 Verst = approx. 0.67 mile
12Siscoe = Siskoe, a village on the Dvina River, below the Emtsa River
13Jemetyka = Emetsk or Emetskoe, a village on the Emsta River located
just upstream from the Dvina River
14some fun = a mildly sarcastic reference
15Beresniki = Bereznik, a village on the Dvina River, below the Vaga River
16The Rum Raid in Bereznik (see story below)
17203 = total number of Versts hiked, about 135 miles
18there were only five soldiers in the village and they were "kings of the hill"
Raid in Bereznik, March 1919
(as related by Casimer Nowak's son, Roy)
When I was a student at the University of Michigan (ca. 1953), the mailman at my fraternity house mentioned that he was going to go to the Polar Bear convention. I told him that my dad was also a Polar Bear in the 310th Engineers. The postman asked if my dad was involved in "that group of Engineers who raided the rum house?" I said I didn't know, but I would find out. The next time I was home (in Traverse City), I asked my dad about it and here is what he told me:
In those days the British soldiers were given a daily ration of rum, while the Americans got nothing. Some of the boys in Company B decided to do something about the situation, so one night a group of them commandeered a sledge (I don't remember if he said they also got a horse or not) and went to the English storage facility where the rum was kept [this was in Bereznik, on the Dvina River]. My dad was fluent in Polish and could understand enough Russian to get along with the language of the people, so he was the interpreter.They took the sledge to the entry way and bribed the guard, who was a Russian, as best I can remember the story, with the promise of a bottle of rum. He let them in and they loaded the sledge with enough rum to keep them "happy" and went back to the barracks.
Everyone in the barracks shared in as much rum as they could hold. Now, the rum came in wooden boxes packed with straw. Two to a box. Jamaican rum. As the boxes became empty, they were fed into the pot bellied stove. Eventually the stove over heated and the wooden barracks caught fire. The fire was extinguished before the barracks burned down. A fine time was had by all and eventually they went to sleep - or more likely passed out. The next morning at roll call this barracks of Engineers showed up in sorry shape, and the British commander wanted to know how the barracks caught fire. The Engineers' captain knew perfectly well how it all happened, but pleaded ignorance. So therefore none of the boys were reprimanded.
Pvt. Nowak's "Trench Art"
On the return trip home, Pvt. Nowak created this ashtray stand from a large brass artillery shell casing.
On the bottom of the shell casing he hand-tooled the following inscription:
SEP. 4 .....JUNE 27
"Polar Bear" Stories - as told by themselves and/or their relatives
310th Engineers Photo Album - 241 captioned photos from Pvt. Nowak's album, taken by the photographers of the 310th Engineers
The "Detroit's Own" Polar Bear Memorial Association web site
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