Soldiers and civilians in Galicia
Catalogue reference: CAB 37/126/32

[This Document is the Property of His Britannic Majesty's Government.]
Printed for the use of the Cabinet. March 1915.



My colleagues may be interested to see the accompanying statement made to a member of my Department by a British subject who has recently returned from Galicia.
R. McK.

     March 26, 1915.


     Mr. L. M -, who lives at Torquay, returned from Boryslaw, Galicia, via Petrograd on the 17th March, 1915.
     Just before war broke out he was in England on leave after two years in Boryslaw, and got back to Boryslaw just as war was declared between England and Germany.   
     When war was declared between England and Austria the British subjects in Boryslaw were registered, but not interfered with.
     When the Austrians retired, an advance guard of Cossacks and a force of 12,000 Russians advanced through Boryslaw. The infantry of the Russian 33rd regiment pillaged all the houses on their line of march, the officers co-operating with the men. The English people complained to the officer in command, but he said that the men were beyond his control.
     The English people then moved in a body to a small village in the mountains, and stayed there for a month whilst things quieted down. Stray bands of Russians visited them, and helped themselves to blankets and clothes.
     Owing to the treachery of the Jews, a punitive expedition was sent by the Russians to Boryslaw and Drohobyez. The soldiers ransacked the shops, and the principal buildings were burnt down in both towns. The English colony returned to a small village named Dembrowa, and were little troubled; one of the Englishmen of the party was married to a Russian, and she proved most useful in explaining matters to the Russians, who went off after receiving gifts of food.
     The oil wells, too, were undamaged. The important ones belong to English. French, and German companies. Before the Austrians retired, the banks were closed, and the money sent to Vienna. The Jews "cornered" supplies of everything eatable, and prices rose. Then, for three weeks, the Russians refused to allow supplies to enter the town, and provisions reached famine prices. When these punitive measures ceased, prices fell almost to their usual level, flour, indeed, being under the usual price.
     The Russians opened soup kitchens for the poor; they have granted allowances to the families whose breadwinners are with the Austrian army, and supply provisions at cost price. They also advanced money to work the wells, taking oil in payment.
     The Poles are not in the least grateful for what the Russians have done for them; they think the Russians are only doing their bare duty.
     The Germans and Hungarians broke through the Lowoczne Pass, took Stanislaw, and advanced to Kalusz. They were beaten back with heavy losses, principally to the Germans; in fact, all the wounded and prisoners with whom Mr. M - spoke were Germans.
     At Boryslaw they could hear the guns engaged in the fighting near the Turka Pass, where the Germans and Austrians are trying to break through. The Russian positions dominate the pass, and they could clear out the enemy at any time, but prefer to continue the fighting in the mountains. The snow is breast deep and frosts severe, and the Germans feel the cold acutely, whilst the wretchedly-clad Austrians are quite unfitted for warfare under such conditions; hence the Russian tactics of failing to press the advantage they so often gain keeps the enemy in the mountains, where they suffer heavy losses.
     The Russians and Germans are splendidly equipped, but the Austrians are in rags. Their long great-coats have been torn away at the bottom in strips to bind round the legs and feet. Generally they wear boards on their feet, their boots having been worn out long ago.
     The Russian troops are magnificent in physique and their fitness and bravery are beyond doubt; but when fighting in open ground their leadership is so bad that they are no match for the Germans - the Austrians they reckon as of no account - and the only way they have of beating the Germans is to advance in overwhelming numbers in close formation. In this way they defeated the Germans and Hungarians at Stanislaw, but, of course, lost heavily in the process. Even the German privates ridicule the Russian officers' tactics.
     The Russian Red Cross organisation in Galicia is practically perfect. On the night following a battle all the wounded are brought in and all the dead buried. The Austrian Red Cross seems non-existent.
     All the Jews who could possibly do so have cleared off into Hungary. Those that are left favour the Austrians, for whom they act as spies. On several occasions Cossack outposts have been captured by the Jews. The Jews have suffered severely in consequence, though they were well treated at first.
     The Poles are almost indifferent to the fighting; the only feeling they show is a dislike of the Germans.
     The country is settling down to the ordinary round of work. The trains are largely used for the conveyance of materials for the troops, but there are a few trains per day for civilians. In Lemberg most of the shops are open; several Russian shops have recently been started. Numbers of wives and families of Russian officers have moved there. There is considerable trouble with the labourer an hooligan elements in the towns. Owing to the free feeding they won't work, and a rule has been made that anyone found out of doors after 9 P.M. who has no pass showing that he is in employment, is sent to dig trenches or repair the Lemberg forts, such as Mikalajow. The pay is 1 rouble per day, but the rouble's value is fixed at 3 fr. 30 c., i.e., 2s. 9d.
     Mr. M - has no knowledge of the reported carrying off to Russia of the Polish archives which were kept in Lemberg. There would be such an outcry that he would certainly have heard of it. He speaks Polish and German fluently, and the employees at the oil wells where he was engaged were Poles.
     No one is allowed to leave Galicia without a permit. He got away in order to join the army.
     There is still a considerable number of English people at Boryslaw, and the consul at Moscow knows their names.

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