by Lisa Smedman – Vancouver Courier 2006
In January 1918, Lieutenant Colonel John Weightman Warden faced the toughest decision of his long military career. He’d just received word that volunteers were being recruited for a “secret mission” in some distant land far from the trenches of France—a mission that, he later recalled, “was mysteriously whispered was a very dangerous one.”
Volunteering for this mission, however, would mean giving up command of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion—men he’d personally recruited from Vancouver and
from smaller towns throughout B.C. After leading them through the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele, leaving “Warden’s warriors” behind would, he said, be “the hardest
thing I ever had to do in my life.”
Further Readings on Conflict and the Service of Dunsterforce here
(from Wikipedia) Established in late 1917, Dunsterforce was an Allied military mission of under 1,000 Australian, New Zealand, British, and Canadian troops (drawn from the Mesopotamian and Western Fronts), accompanied by armoured cars, deployed from Hamadan some 350 km across Qajar Persia. It was named after its commander General Lionel Dunsterville.
Its mission was to gather information, train and command local forces, and prevent the spread of German propaganda. Later on, Dunsterville was told to take and protect the Baku oil fields. The force was initially delayed by 3,000 Russian Bolshevik troops at Enzeli but then proceeded by ship to the port of Baku on the Caspian Sea. This was the primary target for the advancing Turkish forces and Dunsterforce endured a short, brutal siege in September 1918 before being forced to withdraw. Some 50,000 Christian refugees accompanied the column on its retreat to Baghdad.
An extensive look at Dunsterforce from Canadian Defence Quarterly and official documents of the day is at this link.