Thursday, July 25

Tientsin - the Nightmare Continues ..

I had barely settled in to my billet when a thundering rattle of my door introduced Bennet Burleigh. It was only a matter of hours since we had disembarked from the USS Solace together but now, almost incoherent with his urgency, I could not recall ever seeing such a dramatic change in any man in so short a time. He insisted that I accompany him immediately to meet the correspondent of the Shanghai Mercury who, Burleigh shouted, ".. knows what has happened"
      We sprinted across the harbour square to the north wall of the old city, now the base for a swarthy, heavily armed squad of Russian troops. Burleigh's contact was there, squatting against the wall, surrounded by an ugly, threatening crowd driven by what I could only describe as a mix of blood-lust, hatred and terror in their wild-eyed raging. His camera was focussed on three bloodied bodies that lay at his feet; and it seemed that his journalistic integrity had rendered him completely oblivious to the life-threatening mob around him.
      Burleigh snatched up his camera while I dragged him to his feet; and we made off down the crumbling steps. Some spirit must have been watching over us because, instead of giving chase as we feared, the mob stayed atop the wall. We raced around the base of the wall, desperately searching for some cover or hiding-place; only to hurtle almost headlong into the backs of another crowd, so close that we instantly saw the executioner's blade at the start of its downswing and the collapse of the headless body as it crumpled to the blood-strewn earth.
      I have witnessed killings in other wars, just as cruel and just as barbarous - but I have never before experienced such revulsion or such terror as on this evil day, in this evil place ...

The Correspondent at Work

A Boxer Execution Taking Place

Execution Aftermath

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