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Last Train Over Rostov Bridge - Marion Aten,  DFC, Arthur Orrmont

Though an embellished memoir, "LAST TRAIN OVER ROSTOV BRIDGE" is a rare jewel, for it is one of few books of its kind written by a veteran of the Allied intervention in Southern Russia (1919-20) in aid of the White forces fighting the Bolsheviks.

The book begins with the author celebrating the Armistice on November 11th, 1918 with his squadron mates in a private men's club in London. Aten, an American, came late to the war as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and was nursing a broken arm from a flying accident. Now recuperating, Aten is approached by his squadron commander, Raymond Collishaw (one of Canada's top aces) with an offer to join him and a group of other pilots who have volunteered to join a British military mission to Russia to assist the "White" armies under General Anton Ivanovich Denikin in their fight to drive Lenin and the Bolsheviks (also known as "Reds") from power.

Aten, somewhat at a loss as a lot of young veterans were whose lives were caught up in the war, eagerly accepts the offer. Via a roundabout route by train and ship and somewhat belatedly (owing to his long recovery period in hospital), Aten arrives in Southern Russia in the summer of 1919. For the remainder of the year, Aten is among a group of airmen flying missions (in his Sopwith Camel fighter) in support of the Whites near the Volga River and over Tsaritsyn (later renamed Stalingrad).

At the time of Aten's arrival in Russia, the Whites have the Reds on the run and are confident that they will oust the Reds and be in Moscow by Christmas 1919. But due to some key strategic errors in judgment, a series of political miscalculations, and disagreements between Generals Denikin and Wrangel (who was junior to Denikin and probably the best military leader the Whites had, widely respected and admired by the men under his command), the Whites become overextended and the Allies decided to withdraw their support. The Reds, in the meantime, despite heavy losses, receive infusions of arms and recruits who come to outnumber the Whites and push them towards the Crimea and the Black Sea.

This is a story full of adventure, interspersed with romance that ends in tragedy. The book also has a glossary of Russian words and phrases commonly used in "LAST TRAIN OVER ROSTOV BRIDGE", short biographies of the key people most often mentioned by Aten in the text, an excellent map of the region in Russia where Aten saw action, as well as several interesting photos of Aten and his squadron mates, and of Southern Russia during that period. There are also "Notes on the Text", which are very helpful in explaining, chapter by chapter, many key aspects of Aten's experiences in Russia. All in all, I very much enjoyed reading this book, which I heartily recommend to anyone who loves to read a well-written, gripping tale.