Macartney had much to occupy his mind on the long journey across Russia to England. Captain Shuttleworth's arrival at the end of June 1908 was unexpected and had posed a difficult problem for their journey. At this season the rivers on their usual route to Osh were in full flood but waiting for better conditions meant losing time which could have been spent on leave. Macartney decided to go on the northerly route by Naryn where there was only one river crossing to make. It was a journey of 800 miles to the railway at Aris accomplished at times under terrible conditions. They had a month of anguish at Chimkent where the children, then aged five and two and a half, went down with dysentery. For three weeks it was a fight to save Eric's life and Sylvia too was desperately ill. Their parents nursed them without a single night's rest, cooped up in two small rooms. They experienced great kindness from the Russians, many of them complete strangers, who did everything they could to help. When they set off again Eric was too weak to stand but they eventually arrived in England safely in September.