Sailed off into the great unknown at 2 p.m. on the "Baroda", leaving poor Daisie forlorn at the Carlton Hotel. She returns to Peshawar to-night. None of my Staff were able to catch the boat and I have only Sergeant Watson, my Head Clerk with me. I am on a Special Mission, vastly important and interesting. God give me strength, courage and intelligence to carry it through to a successful issue. I am to be a temporary Major General and to have the full Staff of a Division. Topham of the 15th Sikhs is my A.D.C. Colonel Arnold of the 26th Cavalry, commands the ship.
Arrived Basra after a beastly rough voyage with everyone sick. I just managed to eat my meals, but was very miserable. The poor Bengali troops were horribly sick, and wished they had never enlisted. Captain of the ship - a good fellow, Simpson Jones. We arrived about 2.30 p.m. I went ashore and met my old friend Sir George Mac.Munn, who is now commanding the Lines of Communication here. He put me up and I drove round with him in his car, to see the wonderful development of this once little, now big port.
Motored all round, saw docks, etc. also by launch on river - a very wonderful development far out-doing the tales of the Arabian Nights - they have the right man in MacMunn, keen and imaginative.
More explorations in this wonderful new Basra with a six mile river frontage, camps, docks, ship-building, if I tried to describe my impressions I should fill this book. I have been waiting for Sir Hamilton Grant, Indian Foreign Secretary, to arrive, as he is to go up in the steamer with me. He arrived to-day. Slept on board the steamer where I have a magnificent cabin, as large as my private office in Peshawar and can open all my boxes and study maps etc. The magnitude of this enterprise does not weigh on me, but it is a big thing. Steaming up river all day in this wonderful land of Chaldaea, Babylon, Nineveh and Abraham - fallen Empires all around are represented by mud heaps. The Turk has treated the country vilely, under us it will again blossom into the Garden of Eden, the Arabs and Jews are white men like us, of the race of Shem. Basra people are quaint and children often wear just the ordinary European woman's kit, a little out of date. They seem enormously happy and one gets only smiles instead of the sulky looks of India. The children salute, shout "hurrah!" and "good evening".
Started at 7.30 a.m. with Grant on board, Captain Dunning as my A.D.C., arrived Kut el Amara 6 p.m.
Dined with Col. Gordon Brown commanding al Amara. Met Sir Percy Cox - started in train 9 p.m. a rather sleepless night with jolts and bumps.
Arrived Baghdad 8 a.m., breakfast with Sir P. Cox. Staying with the Commander-in-Chief, Sir William Marshall, met Stuart Wortley, Q.M.G. and several other old friends. I have a tough job in front of me - it is difficult to get through Persia with things as they are, and arriving at Tiflis safely, there may still be great obstacles to overcome. This is a beautiful house on the banks of the Tigris, and it is romantic to hear the waters of the ancient river lapping on the bank below my window.
In the forward journey there is the risk of traps by tribesmen, or German and Turkish plots. In Tiflis, German paid assassins or truculent politicians. But God is with us always and I thank him for an intensely happy life with my beloved wife, even if it terminates at 53.
Owing to the secrecy of my arrangements, I am called the Commander of the "Hush, Hush Army". I blossomed into a Major-General yesterday - as it was obviously foreseen Daisie had made the holes for the new resplendent stars. After fixing up all plans to start. I get a wire to say that Enzeli, my destination on the Caspian Sea has been seized by some horrid fellows called Jangalis (a very suggestive name) who are intensely anti-British and are in the pay of Germans. It will have to be plot and counter-plot.
These long journeys are full of dramatic change. I am just waiting to jump off into darkness and eternity for a space, with a fair hope of emerging on the far side, and here I have a pantomime with string band and as I stand on the verandah at night, the romantic Tigris flowing as it has flowed for many thousand years, and the moon-light on the water, and everything good the world holds except Daisie to share the beauty and romance of it - but women have no romance!
Been in bed a couple of days with real bad influenza - seem to be reviving to-day. Daisie telegraphs frequently and longs for news from me, but my brain is full of men and horses, guns, rifles, equipment, ammunition, supplies, petrol, motor-cars, aeroplanes, clothing, cold, snow, marches, languages, tribes, politics, information and rumours, spies, pro and anti, finance, routes, tactics, strategy, geography, history.
Still an invalid, but very glad this came on now instead of on the journey - I am simply straining to be off - this delay is terrible, but I am sure it is good. When I start on Sunday it will be a good start, and a good start is half the battle. I have had to wait also for Duncan who was my Brigade Major in Peshawar and now comes as A.Q.M.G. - he will be invaluable. Another reason for delay has been the kaleidoscopic changes in the situation as each item of information comes in. I have to get my party through 600 miles of Persian territory on a bad road with few supplies, which means thinking out food and petrol schemes far ahead and measures for protection against Kurds, Germans and Turks.
My task is as difficult for one man as any Napoleon ever undertook. I am as strong as Napoleon in my confidence in myself, but unlike him, I have my strength only in God, who I feel and know directs and guides me as He has every day of my life - I have never felt more certain of any of the material facts of life than I do of this spiritual fact - and yet I am far from being what Christians would call a "good" man, I am full of "bad" and I know it. Also quite unlike Napoleon, I find it impossible to place myself on a pedestal, this was a great asset to him - in fact, it made him. To me the all important fact is my own paltriness and the only cheer I get is that I may be less paltry than some others - without being pharisaical, I dislike putting my religious thoughts into words. It is where words quite fail one, and what one writes is not exactly what one feels. Any such writing regarding oneself, looks so pharisaical and priggish. 9 p.m. Just getting into bed, my first experience of air-craft bombs - enemy aeroplanes bombing like mad all over the place which seems very vulnerable in the bright moon-light. Anti-aircraft guns firing, but no search-light - a very chance aim. One has far less sense of danger than when the simple rifle shot whizzes through camp at night on the frontier - being hit by a bomber seems so very much like winning the Derby Sweep which one never wins.
Thank goodness, Duncan and Stork arrived. I wonder if anyone will ever realize what a forlorn hope my mission is? I am proud and glad to have it and I think I can accomplish what I am told to, but that thought is based only on my optimism and not at all on calculation. If I were appreciating the situation for another man, I should say "can't be done", but I can never say that for myself. I agree with Government that it is worth trying and the loss of a few lives etc., is a trifle compared with what may be gained. I am up against a hostile-neutral, almost anarchical Persia and a possible hostile reception from out own friends, the Russians. The Turks at Kifri are within 50 miles of my road at the start, and one aeroplane, if it spots us, gets the lot as we cannot defend ourselves from the sky. We pass through 600 miles of barren, cold country, between 5000 and 7000 feet, and no supplies, and through Kurds all the time who are the same sort of independent robbers that the Afridis are.
Farewell lunch with Stuart-Wortley - got rid of my Indian servant and took on Pte. Galton of the 1st Oxford and Bucks.
41 cars, first party left Baghdad 7 a.m., Hurrah for the great adventure! 93 miles to Khanikin, arrived 5.30 p.m., road not too bad. We all tucked up for the night in an old ruined Turkish bakery, no doors or windows, we slept on the floor and were very comfy - not many fleas.
Crossed into Persia through Kasr-i-Shirin - our posts all along - a beastly day, rain and sleet. Road bad, last cars not in till 5 o'clock. At Pai-tak they had hot bully soup stew and tea waiting for us. Quite Alpine and snow all around, a beautiful land with broad valleys among barren hills, lovely clear trout streams. All towns and villages ruined, burnt and demolished by Turks and Russians, inhabitants very glad to meet people who do not burn, rape, or destroy. All fruit trees cut down, willows and almonds, everything devastated and the people dying of famine. We passed one poor fellow who had just died by the roadside. The children take morsels of bread from your hand like pie dogs it is very depressing. What a vile thing is man. Slept in the ruined houses of Pai Tak village once a fine place. Such a bitter gale blowing, but all well and cheery.
Rained all night and sleet, and the roofs leaked and it was not very comfortable and not very good for my beastly cold. I meant to start at 6.30 a.m., but thought it better to give the men a hot meal and start later, so we got off at 8 a.m. It took us 4 hours and a half to do the 4 miles to the top of the pass, pushing the cars up. At the top it snowed - I halted there to let the columns close up and left at 1.15 p.m., no sooner started than down came another heavy snow-storm and the cars got stuck every 100 yards - so I gave up the venture and put in for the night in the old ruined caravanserai of Surkhadise Khan, a Cecil Hotel to us, but really more like a pig-sty.
The oaks here are like the Himalayan Oak, but not evergreen - acorns enormous, 3 inches long, and over an inch in diameter. They make flour out of them. Started at 8 a.m. weather cleared, but much snow on the ground. Snow got deeper and deeper, and we only did about a mile an hour, all pushing and digging - so I gave it up and returned to the old Serai - which seemed quite snug. The country is absolutely full of partridge and there were marks of snow-leopard. Two dead horses in the serai!
Sent touring-cars unloaded to explore - they took 2 hours doing 6 miles and reported deeper snow - it seems hopeless and I must stay here. Meantime the Turks are beginning to hear about us which is the most unfortunate aspect of the delay - a German plane flew over the Serai at 2 p.m. today, I thought he was going to drop bombs, but he flew on. I suppose he was out to reconnoitre and report and we shall get the bombs to-morrow. It is a hopeless situation, but I am an optimist and never without hope - I feel sure that God will guide us through. Tactical problems are so easy to solve, but these are far greater problems. Shall I start to-morrow? If so, how far can I expect to get? How much petrol expended? Will I be held up in the snow, unable to get forward or backward? One has to make a decision and stick to it, so I decide not to move to-morrow. But every day's delay gives the Germans more time to arrange to thwart us. What an example of how weather affects military problems. I have realized this all my life, but never hoped to have such a bad actual situation. I am in bed with bad cold on chest. The old one I had in Baghdad which would have been cured but for this vile weather.
Cold better but still a worm. Weather fine, but snow not melted. I intend to start at 4 a.m. to-morrow while the snow is frozen. The German plane that flew over yesterday was downed soon afterwards by one of ours, so his information about us never reached and we were saved a bombing.
Left at 4 a.m. Sari Mil. 7 a.m., Karind 10 a.m. Harunabad 2 p.m., all cars in by 3.30 p.m. The Serai was very dirty, so we turned the Kurds out amicably and took private houses which were just like those in any Punjab village. It was very beautiful winding up the narrow Pass through the snow by moonlight - we had to get out and push here and there and the first 2/3rds of the road Karind to Harunabad was wet clay and very difficult. Last third quite good, only because it was dry - this place was one of the resorts of Harun-el-Raschid of the Arabian Nights, hence its name. All the road is between 4000 and 5000 feet above sea-level and it was very cold.
Breakfast 5.30, left 6.30, arrived Kermanshah 1 p.m. The Russians sent 2 Kuban Cossacks to show us the way. Billeted in a beautiful Persian house, with Persian carpets etc., very pretty garden with 2 fountains, jasmine, roses etc., not out, of course. Met Col. Kennion, the Political here, Capt. Greenwood, his assistant, Mr. Redmond, civil political, Mr. Hale, Manager of the Imperial Bank of Persia - all interesting people. Had lunch and dinner with the Kennions, she is a charming woman and acts as his secretary. Kermanshah is the first large Persian town we have seen, population 50,000 and it is not much knocked about though the Turks burnt a few houses before they left. The Kennions were very kind and actually produced a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion. Met also Colonel Bicherakov, commanding the few loyal cossacks who have not deserted, about 300. He is a Caucasian, a good fellow and badly wounded.
A day of disasters. God up 3.30 a.m., breakfast 4.30. left at 5.30. Splendid day, Lt. Georgiev of the Cossacks comes with us as a guide. Difficulties began at once. It was dark when we started and one of the cars dropped into a ditch and broke something which delayed us for 1½ hours - when every moment was precious. Reached the Kangavar Pass 5,600 feet (snow) about 12 noon. We had to get out and push every single car over the Pass one by one - it took us 3 hours. Reached Kangavar 4 p.m. Here the kind Russians had a hot meal waiting for us, which took us an hour to eat, but I did not grudge the delay, as I thought with a hot meal inside us we could take whatever chances might lie before us. Left Kangavar 5 p.m., darkness soon came on, the road was often no road, and there were risks of cars losing their way, however, we eventually reached Asadabad and got cars and all tucked in about 9 p.m. Some Russian chupattie, some cheese and rum and a very welcome bed. The drivers are splendid Englishmen and grouse about nothing - they were on the go from 3 a.m to 10 p.m., 19 hours, and were quite cheery. Ready to start to-morrow at 7, get over the big Pass 7600 feet and hope to reach Hamadan about 11 a.m. There will be lots to do there.
Woke at 5 a.m. and found, good Lord what? Out of last night's beautiful blue sky heavy snow and it is snowing still at noon - height here about 5000 ft. - we shall be buried soon and God only knows when we are likely to be able to get over that big Pass. One has to take what comes and I do not complain, but it is sad - one could have staked all one's money on that blue sky. We luckily had tucked ourselves in very comfortably into the big serai which is not too dirty. Officers, 3 or 4, in the small rooms about 15' by 12', lying on the ground - and there are decent fire-places. Men sleeping in the cars and in a cow-shed where we do our cooking, all cars parked in the centre. One must be grateful for such decent accommodation which I think magnificent, but the guide-book says: "No accommodation for a European." The headman called on me and I returned his call. The Russians have small posts all along here, but those who were here have deserted, and there are none. We have had no opposition yet, only one shot was fired at the last car as we were coming in to Kermanshah.
Weather fine, spent day trying to make a road over the pass - it is thawing which makes slush and our serai is beastly and dirty. We will get through to-morrow I hope.
Snowing again, confound it, and all yesterday's work spoiled. I determined to ride over with Duncan and no escort - all went well - snow in drifts 12 to 15 feet - got men working both sides. At Zajha a Russian officer Lieut. Zypaloff, took us on in a motor to Hamadan, where we arrived at the Mc.Murrays, Imperial Bank of Persia at 4.30 p.m. A lovely house and every comfort which made me unhappy, thinking of the others in the old serai at Asadabad. General Shore meets me here from Tiflis to explain the situation.
More snow and more snow. It is awful. Had long talks with Shore, Goldsmith, Mc.Murray, Bartellot, Rowlandson etc. re this doubly, doubly ,complicated situation in North Persia and in the Caucasus - it is enough to make one's brain reel and thoughts continued all night and destroyed sleep. Shore looks utterly nervy and broken down, Rowlandson also. Called on Russian General Baratov.
General Baratov returned my call and spoke for 3 hours without taking breath re the Russian evacuation, Russian financial requirements and Russian tactical considerations. I do much listening and the time is not yet for me to talk. The road ahead is reported dangerous and every animate and inanimate thing is out to stop me, but if you face the obstacles they disappear as a rule. Turkish, German and Austrian agents, all over the place, and hostile Bolshevik soldiers several thousand, blocking the road between here and Enzeli - it is lively.
At last the cars got over, dragged by coolies - they got in about 4 p.m. and the men were very hospitably entertained by the American Missionaries. All officers dined with the Mc.Murrays, a party of 20 and very jolly, singing and an impromptu dance afterwards with Mrs. Mc.Murray the only lady.
Such an appalling lunch with the Russian officers - General Baratov made a long speech and I replied in a short one, thinking it was all over. But he made 11 more. He toasted us, the British Army, our wives and families, our regiments, the Baghdad Army, the capture of Baghdad, the Union of the Churches, General Maude, General Marshall and many others, 1.30 to 5.30. My brain was rotted with platitudes, and my interior disturbed with endless food and drink. I was very cautious with the latter, but just sipped some very poor and sour Persian wine. Then Gen. Baratov and I kissed each other, and we were free at last - a whole day wasted - Weather fine - Terrible reports of enemies barring my way down the road. Turks, Germans, Austrians and the Jangali tribe. Well, well - we must just trust in God and see for ourselves. What chaos - the world is a large lunatic asylum - when and how will it all end?
Left at 5.30 a.m., arrived Aveh, 1.30, Duncan and I had lunch with the Russian Commandant - such awful arrack to drink. The Pass 7600 feet high, we crossed easily.
Left at 7 a.m., arrived at Kasvin 2 p.m., staying with Goodwin, Bank and Consul, Sir Charles Marling and Col. Napier - Minister and Mil Sec. Teheran, came to confer with me - very interesting talk. There never was such a terrifying situation - but one is not paid to be terrified. The Caucasus seems already to be in the thick of civil war - and Persia also on the verge. My port of embarkation is in the hands of Persian revolutionaries and my port of arrival in the hands of Russian and Tartar anarchists. Kasvin is a filthy, filthy town, and full of disorderly Russian soldiers. But beautiful fruit gardens all round - I have at last seen a pistachio-tree - after meeting the liquorice bush in Mesopotamia - and some beautiful coloured tile domes in the town.
Through a terrible 60 mile defile, worse than the Khyber and over a long snow Pass, road good, reached Mendzil where we put up at a house calling itself a hotel. Met many Bolshevik soldiers and had long talks with them, but there's not really much the matter with them after all, but lack of discipline which leads to disorder and murder.
To Enzeli. We stayed half an hour at Resht to see the consul there. He says the situation is very bad. After all this horrible snow and hills and no trees, we ran 50 miles through the most lovely country, beech forests, chestnut, cyclamen, primrose, scented violets, snowdrops, and strawberries in quantities - a lovely country. Towards the Caspian it gets flat and boggy, and one passes through rice-fields. Enzeli is a port with a huge fishing industry - very interesting freezing works. The town is entirely Bolshevik and they have a very good and orderly organization - but we were prisoners from the moment of our arrival. The Revolutionary Committee sent me a message desiring my presence at 8 p.m. at their meeting. I was dining at that hour with Mme. Hunin, the wife of the Belgian Customs Officer, so I took no notice of it which was the wrong thing to do. At 9 o'clock the President and one Member bearded the lion in his den and turned up at the house insisting on seeing me. I sat in a room with them and they proceeded to cross-examine me as to the meaning of this armed British party suddenly descending on them, my destination, my aims etc. I answered briefly and agreed to meet the full Committee at 11 to-morrow.
Revolutionary Committee Meeting, Soldiers and Sailors all very pleasant and "comrady" and well behaved. Each questioned me in turn and tried to get me to reveal secrets and to contradict myself - I hope I got through all right. I insisted that my mission was not political and not anti-Bolshevik, and that they must let me go to Tiflis. They said they would take every possible step to prevent my getting there - the Caucasus being against the Bolsheviks and they could not permit us to pass through - and if we left here we would be caught by the Bolsheviks at Baku. They possess the telegraph and everything. They put sentries on all the ships to prevent my leaving and they have a gun-boat ready to sink us if we try - our house is guarded night and day and the situation is absurd - the mission has ended and there is nothing to do but to get out of it with all speed.
Always raining here - a beastly place. I asked to meet the Committee again at 11 a.m., and found them again very pleasant though they had a big armed guard to frighten me and I thought they might try to take us prisoners, but they did not. I informed them that I quite took their point of view, that I agreed to return at once and begged them to help me with petrol etc, which they agreed to do. I have an army of 40 Chauffeurs and 1 armoured car, and am not prepared to take on 4000 Russians, so there's nothing to argue about and I do see their point of view very clearly. I foresaw all this from the very start - the mission was two months too late and could only end in failure.
Left Enzeli 5.30 a.m., glad to get away, rather anxious work. Arrived Mezgil 5.30 p.m., weather fair - Many of Kuchik Khan's soldiers looking very fierce on the road but no one fired at us and we fired at no one - the Russians as they march down the road, are fond of loosing off their rifles at nothing and this keeps one rather on the qui vive.
Tried to leave at 6 a.m., but it was a day of disasters - no sooner started than we had a delay of 2 hours for repairs, then later 3¼ hours, got over the pass all right, failed to reach Kasvin, but put up for the night in a decent isolated serai half-way between Kuin and Buvnak - not at all bad and not quite in ruins.
Glad we got over the Pass yesterday, we woke to find it had been slowing all night and we left in a heavy snowstorm - but only 24 miles to go and got into Kasvin at 12 noon to the Goodwin's house. All sorts of uneasy rumours here - the situation is a ticklish one and there is a strong anti-British agitation. On our entry into Kasvin we were greeted with a volley which made me prick up my ears, but it was only Bolsheviks joy firing.
Heavy now storm last night, finer to-day. Unable to leave owing to repairs to cars.
Left Kasvin at 8 a.m. There is always so much firing in Kasvin that it is like a battle going on, but I suppose they aim in the air as no one ever seems to get hit. A fine day for a change and the road in good order. We arrived at the dirty little house at Aveh at 2 p.m. and found it half occupied by Cossacks and in an appalling state of filth. Just this side of Nahavend we found a beautiful spring from which we filled our bottles. Had a long talk with the Cossacks on the road. Talking of the disorder in the Russian Army even before the war, one of them said "If you indent for sugar they send you ammunition and if you ask for ammunition they bring you sugar" - I asked about their felt boots, had they a pair each - no, only one between 20. Why? Oh, there were a lot of them for issue, but instead of issuing them the Commandant sold them to the Persians. The hot sulphur springs at Abi Garm were interesting, the bath was very hot, much hotter than I would have like to have got into. I am frightfully disappointed at having to go back like this, but I am convinced that very few men could have extricated the party from the ridiculous position they were in and I am glad to be here without losing a car or a man - 40 cars are a great anxiety and after 1000 miles one cannot expect too much from them.
Left Aveh 6.30 a.m. Arrived Hamadan 7.30 p.m. The pass was deep in snow for 6 miles, but the Northward moving Russians had had to cut through it so we were not blocked, but it took 6 hours to do 6 miles!
What comfort in the nice house of the Mc.Murrays - such a sleep and such a rest - The vile weather continues and it snows again. I hear Bartellot had to abandon his cars and ride from Kermanshah, likewise Offley Shore - it is a marvel how I have brought these 40 cars over this 1000 miles of bad road and 7 snow passes without losing one. Now we are permanently blocked with heavy snow on the passes each side of us. Sent many cables Home, but no reply yet. As what I have suggested amounts to a change of policy in Persia, I suppose they have had to have a Cabinet Meeting about it and that will cause the delay. They want me to go by the Tabiz road - how little they understand the situation. I should have to be taken prisoner or shot the first day, or take a force big enough to fight. The people we are out to help seem a worthless lot and cannot pull together. The Armenians and Georgians hate each other and the Tartar hates them both. I shall never cease to marvel at our escape from Enzeli - I expect they are now cursing their foolishness in letting us go. Each was trying to get the other to fire the first shot and neither dared, but the Red Guards who arrived from Baku just as I left, would doubtless have done it, and they had us cold. If I had stayed another 24 hours it would have been all up. Thanks be to God! The situation all round is bad, but here, at least, we can put up a fight - I have implored Baghdad and London to send troops, but they take no notice.
No cables from Home. General Baratov came to see me with General Lastochkin - a long interview about 3 hours. The Caucasus Government have ordered him to return to the Caucasus and the other officers, a ridiculous order in view of the fact that the Bolsheviks hold Enzeli and informed me that they had condemned Baratov to death - I must get all these superfluous officers back to Baghdad, but a certain number I can employ to man the 3 guns and work the wireless. There are 9 barrels of petrol we passed, lying on the Pass 60 miles from here and I meant to salve them at once, but it always snows and I cannot risk the cars getting snowed up.
Snow again, and always snow. Our chauffeurs are playing foot-ball to-day against the Persian Christian boys - to-morrow the officers play the civilians of the town.
No cables yet from the Home Government - situation in Persia is dangerous and I have to be ready to meet attack. Revolutionaries in the town and social democrats trying to stir up the people against us. To-day is the first and I hope not the last fine day, a beautiful blue sky and quite a spring feeling. Coming over the Asadabad Pass yesterday, a Russian convoy of ammunition lost 30 mules and 6 men froze to death - glad I was not as bad as that.
Nothing but the Dead March in Saul runs in my head to-night, if anything happens to me those who read this diary may believe in omens, I have never believed in them. Fine day, officers football v. Civilian Hamadan.
People seldom trouble to record those things or they would discover how silly it is to believe in omens! I slept like a top and there was no sort of firing or trouble. Several wires to-day. Bicherakov offers to escort my party through, but he is an Ossietin and out simply to fight for the Ossietins against the Bolsheviks which has nothing whatsoever to do with my aims. We had a very pleasant combined service with the Americans. Called on the Governor Nizam-es-Sultanat and met there another Teheran Official, who spoke French, Haji Saad-es-Sultanat, the better man of the two. A pleasant hour's conversation from which I gather that the former is a sympathiser with Kuchik Khan - though, of course, he did not say so, I judged it merely from his face.
Persian political news confusing and disturbing. Two Russian Aviation officers came to me from Baku with offers of help, but when I cross-questioned them and it came down to bed-rock it was evident they could not help me and very much needed help themselves. They had, as usual, fantastic ideas, among others, that of capturing one of the Caspian Bolshevik gun-boats with one sea-plane - it is all very like Alice in Wonderland. A dull cold day and the white snowy landscape bores me to death. We hear that our mail is at last being brought up.
Heavy snow-storm, had a long talk with Revd. and Mrs. Hawkes about their missionary work, he has been here for 36 years. Wild alarmist rumours - about Kuchik Khan and Anti-British demonstrations in Teheran - and Russian dislike of us turning into actual hostility.
Heavy snow. Interesting visit to a big land-owner, Anti-Democrat. Amir-i-Afgham - fine old fellow, but probably a bad lot - visit rather spoilt by unexpected attendance of the Deputy-Governor who came to spy.
Fine weather. The Governor and the Karguzar returned my call. We had a very interesting talk. The Governor said: "as you are the most democratic people why on earth are you against the democrats here?" which was true. We are backing, as usual, the wrong horse. I wish I could persuade the Government to tackle famine relief and support the democrats - I have cabled this to London.
Major Bartellot arrived en route to Teheran and brought, at last, some post and I had the enormous pleasure of 6 sweet letters from my darling Daisie - but only up to Jan. 24th and I had hoped to get as late as the middle of February. I go on calling and returning calls on Persian officials and noblemen and I am sure this helps to keep the situation quiet. The Governor is a democrat and a supporter of Kuchik Khan, a weak man who wants to make his pile and sail with the wind. To-day the big landowner from Sheverin called on me - Amir-i-Afgham, a fine old, rich, non-political, type - certainly anti-democratic - he is rough and ready and hates the Governor. He is called the Black Fox. Brings with him a horse to carry his hookah, with a brazier of burning charcoal, nearly setting the saddle alight.
He captured two Turks yesterday, but let them go as harmless - the country is full of Turkish escaped prisoners from Russia, trying to get home.
Fine day, but March winds and everything looking just like an English spring. At last an important cable from Home facing facts and altering everything. I am now no longer on a Mission to the Caucasus. They recognise, as I suggested, that Persia must be held first. So I am no longer independent. I am under Baghdad, and they are told to shove troops up here as soon as they can, and as far as I am concerned, the sooner the better. But Baghdad are very sticky and take a long time to get a move on - I asked for armoured cars a month ago, and now they "contemplate" sending them. Until the troops arrive things are dangerous as the population are naturally in a ferment and that is the time for the political agitator to get to work. I wanted to see the Persian Governor but he was too ill to see anyone which simply means that he is quite well, but "lying up".
Heavy snow and everything all buried again in white. The Enzeli Bolsheviks have come up here to get money from the Bank and other purposes. They are very different people here, the situation being reversed, and they sing very small. They say they love the English and hate the Germans and despise Kuchik Khan. They offer us tons of petrol (which we shall never get) and say that on their return they will insist on Kuchik releasing the Resht Bank Manager (Oakshot) and the Consul (Maclaren) whom he arrested the other day. Mc.Murray says "You allowed Kuchik to loot the bank and now you come to me to cash a cheque. I won't cash it." So they are very unhappy as it is a big cheque for 300,000 krans. This snow to-day will block the Sultan-Bulak Pass and they will have a job getting back. Coming from a Sunni country, India, where the Shiah is a despised worm, it is interesting to live in a Shiah country and see the reverse of the picture. Here they talk of "Mahomendans" meaning Shiahs only - Sunnis are Sunnis and outside the pale of Mahomedanism, the Shiah feeling appears even less tolerant than the Sunni.
Is this to be another case of "too late"? - if nothing has yet happened I honestly believe it is as much due to my policy of ingratiating myself with the people as anything else, that they are quiet so far - But it is vile being helpless without troops. German and Austrian Agents plot against us - the town is full of Turks, the Bolsheviks or Red Guards have a plot to seize the Bank and I could not stop them with my 40 Chauffeurs. It is just all bluff, my 40 Ford cars, which are an appalling element of weakness - strike the inhabitants as death-dealing machines, and my brave chauffeurs, who hardly know one end of a gun from another, look like fine soldiers. But distances are enormous - we are over 300 miles from Baghdad - Persia on the verge of a revolution with the cry "kick out the Europeans" and no troops. I have done my best, in sending fierce cables, and the War Office are at last awake to it, but Baghdad is very lethargic. The War Office want me to obtain command of the Caspian Sea - I've thought of that all the time - I could seize the gun-boats with a small force, but can't they see I must have at least one port? If I can get Bicherakov to capture and hold the Menjil Bridge, Resht and Enzeli I might do something - but he is not up to it.
A wind almost enough to blow the roof off - a little snow last night and so cold to-day that the coolies refuse to work on the aeroplane Ground. Snowing hard later.
An amusing morning examining the German prisoner Eric Wiener and his Turkish guide. He says he hates the Turk because he believes it was he who gave his disguise away when he was travelling as a woman. His only request was for some decent bread, but I told him that we had all been eating Turkish chuppaties for 2 months and could get nothing else. He was evidently bearing important despatches but had destroyed them. What horrible times we live in, I live in such appalling contrasts and it is only by contrast that we can realize. This famine is perfectly awful. I have just walked through the town and I gave alms to the extent of my purse, perhaps about 40 krans, 2 krans to each beggar, but there were thousands of of them and I suppose they must all die. In the bright sunshine in the middle of the road lay a little boy of about 6, quite dead, with his face buried in the mud: the others seem quite callous. And then from all this misery I come home to a beautiful house and sit in a luxurious drawing-room after a good tea and listen to the most beautiful violin music played by a Russian Officer (Ostrovsky), and my German prisoner tells me he wants to get back to his wife - and it all seems so wicked and senseless. I believe the famine here could be put right with a million pounds, and what is that in a war that costs us 7 million a day. I have asked the War Office to give me £20,000, a month for road-making and that will help a little.
Yesterday we went down to choose a new road to the flying-ground. The Persian Government have answered the Ministers' note in the most uncompromising terms and there is going to be trouble. They refuse to admit British troops and order them to leave, they practically support Kuchik Khan - a change of Cabinet seems probable, but the next one will vote the same way. I wish to goodness they'd send me some troops - I cannot put up much of a fight with 40 chauffeurs however plucky they may be. I sent down to-day 10 cars to Kermanshah to fetch up I hope 30 men of the Hants Regt. that will be a beginning, but if it snows they will not get through I'm afraid.
I hear they have announced in the town that they mean to have a shot at me, I only wonder they haven't done it a thousand times already - God will see that my life terminates when He wills. Meantime I cannot possibly shut myself up.
We always have our little services with the American Missionaries. We can get no news from Tiflis and they all seem fighting like cats and dogs there, poor devils - and starving. Daisie may be glad I never reached there - and I also feel that the chaos had reached too great a pitch for me to restore order - Yet perhaps I might have helped - God willed otherwise.
Kasvin seems to be in a dangerous state, but I can do nothing till the 29th, if they can hold out till then. I am sending Colonel Bicherakov with his Cossacks to hold Kasvin, but he cannot get there before the 29th - it's a race between him and Kuchik Khan's men.
These are terrible times, indeed, with all the awful anxiety here - not for myself, but for my work and my responsibilities - we get the very worst war news. The big battle on the French front has begun and we are being pushed steadily backwards - please God we are preparing a counter-blow somewhere else, but from our point of view in Persia the news comes at the very worst time. Famine relief too, has broken down, it is impossible to control the poor starving wretches, and officers giving out tickets are mobbed - and order cannot be kept so it has to stop. The strong fight for the tickets and resell them to others. A dull gloomy day with sleet and wind, and no aeroplane arrived.
I have issued a proclamation in the town in Persian warning the people that the agitation against the British is only got up by the politicians. That we do all we can to help the people, and our wheat purchases are not local so do not affect the famine.
A beautiful day, yesterday alternate sunshine and snowstorms. Everything, everything, everything seems always against us, but it always pans out for the best in the end though "the end" may be when all this little lot are scuppered. I have denuded myself of nearly all my men and cars to meet crises and now I am a helpless crisis myself. The cars I sent to Kasvin ought to be back to-morrow, but they got snowed up on the Sultan Bulak Pass. The cars I sent to Kermanshah, due to return with men of the Hants: regiment, have not yet reached Kermanshah, held up by bad weather and a broken bridge. Meantime if I were attacked here I have no fighting force, but 10 officers, 2 batmen, 2 clerks and 10 chauffeurs and 1 armoured car.
The aeroplane arrived all right yesterday and gave a good show that impressed the people. To-day the democrats have engineered a run on the Bank - if it goes broke we're done. Meantime Baghdad will not get troops on the move and things are very serious indeed. To-day I hope to get in a few men of the Hants and there are about 100 of the Cossacks still here if there is a row, but I want a squadron of cavalry and a couple of guns. The Germans and Turks are drilling the Kurds in the mountains close by, with the intention of swooping down on the towns, and I cannot stop them, and the famine is awful. It all makes me feel very, very old. But God is with us always. The news from France is bad, still retiring. Only from Baghdad the good news that we have captured 3000 Turks on the Euphrates.
Such a day of talk. Haji Saad-es-Sultaneh, whom I like very much and who talks French, called on me - then General Baratov with a lot of questions, some so very simple. I offer to send him down to Baghdad, as he cannot return to the Caucasus. He says, "Could I get command of a Division?" I said "I'm afraid quite impossible." Then he asked: "Supposing Great Britain declares war on Russia?" I replied, "Well, you'll be a prisoner, and I'm sure very happy in our hands." The weather alternates between snowstorms and warm sunshine - so does the political situation. At the present moment I am in the sunshine. Last night there were rumours of trouble in the city - this morning I was asked to stop the Governor issuing arms to the rabble to attack the English - now Kuchik Khan says he wants to make peace with the English, the Governor says he is our very best friend - and I also hear there is a chance of my getting through to Tiflis - so the sun shines indeed for the moment.
There is a sense of unreality in life when one lives in the scenes of bygone Kingdoms - down below in Mesopotamia, English soldiers are handling bricks from Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar's seal on them, the Turks are just beyond them in Nineveh, and here I live in the town of King Darius, King Cyrus and the Great Alexander. How paltry human life seems. 2nd party arrived Zagha and we sent out a motor to bring in our mails. I purposed to call on the Governor, but he made excuses - didn't want to see me, I suppose, as he is harbouring one of the Persian revolutionaries just returned from Turkey. That's the very man I want to see.
2nd party arrived - called on Governor at 2 p.m. and had the Foreign Office man, Haji Saad-es-Sultaneh there to interpret. He was late and I found I could quite easily get on in Persian with the Governor. We talked of many things. He asked if I trusted him. I know that he has been arranging for Kurds to attack us and turn us out, but I told him I had heard all sorts of wicked things about him, but would not believe them because he was so nice. I told him to advise the Teheran Government to ask for British troops instead of stopping us, otherwise they would have the Germans instead. I also said he might advise the Mejliss to close its doors for ten years and stop all this rot about politics while they created an Army - politics are no use without soldiers to back the policy.
Several of my officers have been shot at in the last few days, but never hit. I have written to warn the Governor that I shall have to defend myself and will not be responsible for consequences. The Governor called on me and promised his aid - not worth much, perhaps.
Town quite quiet. My policy has succeeded well so far. Two aeroplanes were to have arrived yesterday, but failed to come.
What a Babel. I talk English to my orderly in the middle of my Persian lesson, I receive a letter from the Governor which I have to answer in French and a Russian soldier calls in the middle to complain of a loss of money - and two days ago I was talking German to a German prisoner. I read last night a letter in Gurmukhi from Sunder Singh, a Subadar in the 36th Sikhs, and I spoke Pushtu yesterday to the one and only Afghan in Hamadan, and Hindustani to two Indian deserters! Left the Mc.Murrays' comfortable house and moved over to mine, where I live with Col. Duncan and Capt. Topham, my A.D.C. If one allowed oneself to be worried by these fearful plots and rumours, one would get no sleep. The Democrats in the town are plotting to shoot me and also to down us by a sudden attack. The Kurds, close by, are being stirred up by the Turks to wipe out the English at Hamadan and Kermanshah, and Kuchik Khan with the Germans and the Baku Tartars, threatens to destroy us all - Col. Bicherakov's Cossacks, whom I sent to Kasvin, are the only thing between us and disaster, and I cannot get Baghdad to wake up. I intercepted a letter yesterday from a big man in Teheran to Kuchik Khan, full of treachery and implicating even the Prime Minister!
I get my old fits of giddiness worse and more frequently as I get older - generally about an hour after breakfast, so I suppose it's a form of indigestion - to-day I nearly tumbled down, some day I shall quite - as my father did on more than one occasion.
Situation to-day is bad. I sent Colonel Bicherakov with his cossacks to save Kasvin against the Jangalis which he has so far done. This morning the Persian Government have ordered the Russians to leave at once and the fat is in the fire - Our Government is now at last compelled to do something either to fight or to withdraw from Persia. Baghdad beat their own record yesterday. As I have now some British troops I wired asking for "a butcher and a baker". They have replied "For what purpose do you require a butcher and a baker?"
Still in our warmest clothes and fires burning. Church Service as usual. Political situation complicated, I am quite genuinely friends with the Governor here, but my friendship is, I am afraid, more genuine than his. We meet every two or three days, and in the interval correspond a good deal. I have now given orders to Bicherakov at Kasvin to attack the Jangalis at Menzil with his cossacks and that I think, will bring the crisis to a head, for better or for worse. I wished to wait longer, but the situation compelled me. I trust he may be able to disperse the Jangalis and secure the Menzil bridge without actual bloodshed. I think the Jangalis will disperse when force is displayed. In the end there must be blood-letting, but I want another ten days, if possible.
Yesterday I sent a party to clear the snow off the Asadabad grass and they found a caravan just being plundered and captured the robber band complete! A Russian lorry, en route Kasvin, was attacked on the road near Manian, 8 killed. I am sending Nizam-es-Sultan, the Governor of this town off to Teheran to-morrow to see the Government and put some new ideas before them - after having, in many interviews, shown him the meshes of German intrigue I hope it will be of use, and I have promised to prevent anyone else bagging the vacant Governorship during his absence. We have learnt to love each other so much that he insisted on giving me two smacking kisses on departure!
4 more Russians murdered on the road by Aveh and I am anxious about the party I am sending to Kasvin. It is always Alice in Wonderland. I sent Bicherakov's fierce Cossacks down to take the Menzil Bridge from the Jangalis, which should have meant awful blood-shed, instead of which I hear the Cossacks and the Jangalis are sitting side by side alongside of the bridge are quite friendly with each other! One minute I have to implore Bicherakov not to kill too many and the next minute I have to urge him on to kill at least some of them.
Apricot is out and willows begin to have leaves. Weather very wintry with frequent blizzards on the Passes. - still in our nasty warm clothes.
O Babel, Babel! An Armenian doctor (member of Baku Committee) came to see me, I took him down to the office. On the road I met a Turkish naval officer coming to surrender. I went into the office and found Lt. Sokolov of the Russian Navy waiting to see me, also Lt. Poidebard of the French Army. In the hall was waiting a Persian Gendarme officer we are going to use as a spy - and also a Greek merchant, who came with information which he gave through the medium of Hindustani, our only common language.
At last we got a mail with Daisie's letters up to March 21st. Poor Daisie! what a terrible time she has been having - Living with the Starrs and Dr. Starr murdered at night by Pathans, poor fellow. He was stabbed in 5 places by men and lasted till the afternoon, when he died.
Still fires and still in our warm clothing, but leaves are appearing on the trees, and when the sun is out it is quite warm. I am having a lot of trouble with the Russians, they are so inexact - Baratov and Col. Bicherakov, - in their ideas. I must put everything on paper and my fingers are very tired. Situation here is quiet. Turks are coming into Tabriz and I do not know how to thwart them without troops. The Squadron of 14th Hussars arrived on Wednesday and I sent them on to Kasvin on Monday.
Rode out to see the famous tablets of Darius and Xerxes, his son, yesterday. I get a ride every afternoon now, and am getting to know the country well. General Byron rides with me as a rule. The War Office refuse to give me any more troops I asked for a Division, then for a Brigade - and all they give me is 1 Cav. Regiment and 1 Infantry Battalion to run the country against the Germans, Turks, Democrats and Brigands, from Tabriz, Teheran to Kermanshah, an equilateral triangle with the sides of 400 miles, or a bigger area than the British Isles.
Left 7 a.m. for Kasvin, 140 miles, many breaks on road and only arrived Nahavend at sunset.
arrived Kasvin and had a long discussion with Col. Bicherakov on fresh plans - but the War Office will not give me any troops.
Left 9 a.m. for Teheran, arrived 5 p.m. A very ugly, barren, road, parallel to the Elburz Mountains - capable of wonderful fertility if irrigation were not just left to chance. Our entry into Teheran caused some interest - the sign of the new régime - the first glimpse of a British General in uniform. The crowd had a good chance of admiring us as we were help up for a long time by the police asking all sorts of questions at the barrier. Then through a dusty and rather squalid city and thence into the Legation Garden - one of the beautiful gardens in the world - as near as possible a Paradise on earth. They have an Austrian gardener! Chenar trees, lawns, fountains and ponds with water lilies, roses, etc. - not only very beautiful, but such a contrast to the nasty surroundings. Teheran is heavenly, but is an abode of devils. Lady Marling ill in bed, Sir Charles is really an invalid. Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch has been living with them for a year - a sort of refugee, 25 years of age, nice looking, but soft and no use to the dynasty. Also met General and Mrs. Polovtsev. Both very young, and she very pretty - the usual Russian worldlings and probably a bad lot. (Bartellot was afterwards killed by the Consul, Mc.Laren, for making love to his wife) Bartellot I was glad to see (Mil. attaché) also Stokes my G.S.O. I. Scott, the first Secretary, Havard Consul, Etter Russian Member, Lecomte French (Eulenburg scandals!) Caldwell, American Col. Staroselsky, commanding the Persian Cossacks. I was tired to death during my stay in Teheran, because there was never quiet one moment. Ride with Bartellot before breakfast, then interviews without ceasing till dinner time, then the other sort of dinner party interview with each of the invités, and bed at 1.0. I like French ladies because they curtsey to me when they are introduced and they make me feel Viceregal! A wonderful cuisine with an Italian chef - everything done in quite the nicest way. I think Teheran is a nasty place. A nightingale sings outside my bedroom at night and there is an atmosphere of lilies and languor and love in the air, which, with no proper outlet, leads people to be rather nasty. The place is full of Russian Officers who drink and gamble for huge sums at the Imperial Club with Persian noblemen and any bounder with money to be squeezed. I was glad to leave Teheran on Friday 17. Left Kasvin on Saturday 18th, and arrived at home by Hamadan at 7 p.m. same day. I was very tired and brought with me a collection of prisoners - Austrian, German and others. I had to share my car with the Hungarian officer prisoner's wife and baby - she had to pull up the car at every mile and be sick. And a very pretty officer's wife, Sokolov, en route Baghdad. It was a dreadful arrival with one lady sick and one in hysterics and no one to meet us and no arrangements made. I ran them both into Mrs. Funks drawing-room (hard on a missionary lady) while I ran round to arrange things. I was dog tired, but had to go to a concert that had been especially postponed for me. It was quite hot in Teheran and here it is just a warm spring - we want half warm clothes and half summer clothes. 4th party arrived at 11 a.m. 50 officers, 150 N.C.Os, Australians, New-Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans - a fine lot, but tough, commanded by Daisie's bother, Bob Keyworth.
Latest news leads me to have another try at Baku, so I leave here on Friday, 31st, join up with Bicherakov and his Cossacks at Kasvin and then make war on the Jangalis on the Enzeli road - if we are not delayed we may get to Baku in time to save the town and oil-wells from falling into the hands of the Turks and Germans, who are racing up from Tiflis to get them. Are we to be always too late? It's not my fault anyway as they refuse me all the troops and aeroplanes I need.
The War Office wire absolutely forbidding me to go to the Caucasus at the present time, so the Germans will get the Baku oil, the Krasnovodsk cotton, the Astrakhan wheat and the Caspian Sea. It is very hard and disappointing. I am to look after Persia only. I suppose Percy Sykes' troubles in Southern Persia make them anxious, then Kuchik Khan at Resht, the Turks in Tabriz, the hopelessness of the civil war in Baku and the financial cost - they cannot produce the money. I wired estimated minimum cost 5 million sterling a month.
Goodbye to Hamadan for a time and perhaps for ever. To-morrow we go to Kasvin - which is hotter, but more central for my work, as the Turks are coming down the Tabriz Road. I got the first of my four aeroplanes to-day, and my eight armoured cars will soon be here - and 1000 infantry are coming up in Ford vans, so we shall soon be getting to work. Dined with the Mc.Murrays farewell party.
Arrived Kasvin with 22 Cars, 14 hours run, 140 miles, no incidents. Very nice house here, but hotter than Hamadan, still it is a beautiful place with Gardens and nightingales and it is nice to have a couple of blankets at night. My troops are getting all over the place, as I have so many different situations to deal with. I have sent Wagstaff with 80 officers and men towards Tabriz to worry the Turks and raise the Shahsavan tribes - he can't get into Tabriz because the Turks are already there and I have no troops to drive them out with. I have another party of 60 gone to Bijar to raise the Kurds and raid the Turks. I have 20 of the Hants here, 1 Squadron of the 14th Hussars and 2 armoured cars: at Hamadan 140 miles away I have another 100 Hants, 4 Armoured Cars. At Kermanshah, 140 miles further away I have 8 armoured cars and 1000 infantry, travelling in 500 Ford cars as a mobile column, and I have 3 aeroplanes. All this to run 350 miles of road - keep the Turks out of Azerbaijan, help Bicherakov to knock Kuchik Khan's revolutionary army off the Enzeli road and try to save Baku from the Germans. I am trying to run Bijar, 180 miles west of this, Hamadan 140 S.W. Tabriz, 300 miles N.W. Enzeli-Baku, 400 miles N. and Teheran 100 miles East. The Russian Officers that I take as refugees are a great source of trouble to me, as I cannot find employment for most of them and they cost Government a great deal of money. General Baratov, who commanded the 1st. Caucasian Corps, I sent down to Baghdad, but they are sending him back, also General Lastochkin. Colonel Baron Meden and wife go to Baghdad in a day or two, also Colonel Masoyedov - and I have 25 others here, younger officers, whom I can employ though they are not really of much use.
I am now planning to march to Enzeli with Bicherakov's 1000 Cossacks and 1 Squadron 14th Hussars - to capture the Menzil Bridge, Resht, and Enzeli and get over to Baku. I do not know if Kuchik Khan means to fight. I sent Colonel Stokes down two days ago with a flag of truce to see Kuchik Khan to tell him that I do not want to fight him, but I will have the road clear, and I will have the prisoners released and he can do what he likes about it. He will have to fight. I am anxiously awaiting Stokes' return.
Everything is all right so far, but I am always skating on precious thin ice. The Governor called on me yesterday, and to-day the Karguzar. My 2 aeroplanes arrived all right from Baghdad, but have only enough petrol for one flight during the Menzil battle to-morrow. One armoured car got smashed up coming over the Sultan-Bulak Pass; and one Russian lorry came to grief - several men injured, but no one killed. The climate here is delightful, but rather a beastly wind. Nights are cold and blankets are welcome - The nightingale sings and there are roses in the garden, but I am very lonely.
At last the first shot is fired. Bicherakov's detachment with the 14th Hussars and 2 armoured cars of mine attacked and captured the Menzil Bridge and the Kuchik Khan bubble is burst. I first sent over 2 aeroplanes with orders not to fire or bomb as I did not want to begin. They were heavily fired at. Then 2 German officers came to parley, but Bicherakov told them simply to clear all their men out of the way. In the town here we have seized the telegraph office and and put in censors and stopped all cipher work, we arrested 6 Persians and 1 Greek in league with Kuchik Khan. Now all the rest of the town are down on their knees and begging not to be arrested. They are mean-spirited. The Government might well have said "what right have you to arrest Persian subjects when you are not at war with Persia? What right have you to seize telegraph office etc?" I have only about 50 men here and there must be at least 2000 armed Persians in the town.
I am off to-morrow to Enzeli in the Caspian where I shall see Bicherakov and eat caviare. With the last convoy I sent down the road, Captain Dunsford of the Hants was killed and 6 wounded, but I hope they'll be quieter now. I have twice sent aeroplanes to bomb K.K's Headquarters and that may help to cool his ardour. The town is quieter and I have issued counter proclamations.
Returned from Enzeli. The down journey was quite uneventful and the country looked very different to what it did in the winter. No shots were fired either out or on the return journey, though several battles took place on the road in between while. Stayed the night at Menzil - next day passed through Resht and down to Enzeli. It was nice to see the sea again - lived in the same quarters as before. Next day sea-bathing on nice sandy beach and the Caspian was delightful. Long final interview with General Bicherakov and final settlement of plans in South and North Caucasus. Then long interview with Cheliapin the leader of the Revolutionary Committee who wanted to arrest me in Feb., and was responsible for my not reaching Baku - he is very stupid and not more amenable now than he was then. One can deal with anything except blank ignorance. Finally he said: "I cannot continue to talk with one who subjects himself to the domination of a King and a Crown!" Left Enzeli same afternoon, arrived Resht for dinner. Stayed next day interviewing new Governor, Sirdar-i-Kul, pro-Turk and pro-German, but now pro-me (temporarily), arranged a great function for rehoisting of British flag. All consuls present - troops armoured cars, Persian official. I made speech, flag hoisted. Persian police marched past and saluted flag. Persian Commandant made apology.
Good fight at Iman-Zadeh-Hashem, on the road outside the town - Gurkhas captured and burnt a village and killed many of the enemy. Two officers took two Polish women out for a drive in motor-car - silly asses. Drove straight into the enemy. One officer 2 women killed, car captured. One officer escaped and now to be tried by Court-Martial.
Rather tired and weary after diarrhoea. We have lost several men from cholera and a good deal of typhus and sandfly fever. The flies are awful. Days are hot but nights quite cool. The number of situations I have to deal with is enormous. The Jilus and Armenians at Urmieh have long been entirely surrounded by the Turks, but have bravely held out so far. Yesterday I managed to get an aeroplane through to them. The aviator, Pennington, was received with an ovation, could not move for half an hour, people kissing his hands and knees. As a result, I hope to open up the road to Urmieh from Hamadan and have asked the Jilus to fight their way down to Sain Kale to meet us. This is a new situation. Then, in case the Turks get Baku I am sending a party over to Krasnovodsk to see what can be done on the East shore of the Caspian and in Turkestan. Then I still have the defence of Baku on my hands, and am anxious having had no news of Bicherakov for some days. Then there is the Turkish invasion situation via Tabriz doing pretty well. The Turks hold Tabriz with 2000 men and I am bluffing them with about 20 and 1 armoured car. Then there are the Persian Levies and the Irregulars which are not a great success. They want pay, but don't want to fight. Then there is the internal political situation. At Teheran there is a revolution going on, not very dangerous so far. In the town here all is quiet, but all Persian officials are pro-Turk. Then there is the Jangali situation, which is doing well so far. We are bombing them by aeroplane again to-morrow. My hands and head are very full. Then I am worried a lot by the question of liquidation of the Russian debts, contracts with the Russian road Company, interviews with Russian revolutionaries and schemes to help indigent Russian officers.
July 4th [note: either this date or the 10th is wrong - I shall try to verify the correct date(s).]
I went to Teheran and stayed with the Minister, returned on the 7th, it was very beautiful there. The Minister, Sir Charles Marling, was not happy and the moral atmosphere of the place is unclean. I do not like the young Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch. The attitude of the old-régime Russians is very unpleasant, suspicious and hostile.
I hate travelling on Sundays and I always find myself doing so. I left to-day by motor for Hamadan - a very good journey - arrived there about 6 p.m., stayed with the Mc.Murrays. I had arranged for an aeroplane to meet me at Hamadan and fly me down to Baghdad. If it had not been for that I would not have undertaken the trip. I want to get to Baghdad very badly to make them understand things, but I calculated I could not afford to be away as long as a week. The aeroplane had been unable to rise properly owing to the heat, it fell on its nose and they will not send me another. They say I must get down to the flat first, and plane from there.
Motor to Kermanshah, 150 miles, stayed with Hale of the Bank - I have with me only my Russian A.D.C., Captain Bray, of the 5th Russian Hussars, an A.1. useful man.
Motor to Head-quarters of the 14th Division at Mirjaneh - 200 miles bad road and very tiring. Bateman Champain, an old friend, commanding, and Major Nicholson, another old friend doing D.A.G. Very hot night. Had lunch with 26th Punjabis at Ser-i-Mil en route.
4 a.m., flew 100 miles into Baghdad - some difficulty in getting off owing to heat, and not a very good landing. Staying with General Gillman, Chief of Staff at G.H.Q.
Interviews and interviews with all the Staff Branches. My object is to persuade them to let me take on the Urmieh situation and save 80,000 Christians from being massacred. Very hot but pleasant to see real civilisation and drink soda and other good things. Romantic sleeping on a marble floor on banks of Tigris with moon reflected on water - electric punkah.
Left in Aeroplane 4 a.m. for Kasr-i-Shirin, 120 miles. I do not like aeroplanes - hot air - rush of wind noise of engine beastly. Kasr-i-Shirin is a very bad landing ground and rather jumpy work between high walls. Got into motor and travelled 160 miles to Kermanshah. Lunch with Anderson of the 26th at Ser-i-hul. They have done a lot of work on the roads which are much improved.
Kermanshah to Hamadan with Chaplain. Met General Ready.
To Kasvin - a dreadful journey. 4 hours' engine trouble. 6 punctures at last ran in by moon-light on the rims to Kirk Bulak and telephoned from there for another car which arrived at 3 a.m. and got us in by 6 a.m., on the 24th. Glad to be at home - sick of travelling. 780 miles in car and 220 in aeroplane. While I was away much has been doing. The Jangalis have recaptured Resht and we had 50 casualties.
Looks as if I might still have a chance of saving Baku from Turks and Germans. The Bolshevik power has been thrown out and I am going to try and get across the Caspian at last. I have frequent interviews with the Bolshevik leaders and the Social Revolutionaries. The former came to lunch - the latter are more amenable.
Things are very critical in Baku and we may be too late - I had two of the Bolshevik leaders to lunch, Cheliapin and Lazarev - not very interesting people. It was amusing to see how they eat not only their food but their principles. It was quite an entente party.
Baku is on the verge of falling, but we may be able to save it - I have sent Bob on and leave myself to-day for Enzeli. Arrived Menzil, the little post-house there very uncomfortable with Baku and Resht refugees.
Passed through Resht and had lunch there at the tollgate and talked with Matthews and Moir who have done very well. We recently bombed by aeroplane all the Gilan towns and I do not think they will attack again. Resht is much damaged, but town seems quiet and no shots were fired at my convoy. The country was more beautiful than ever, the wonderful 20 miles of forest and the green rice-fields below. Arrived Enzeli 6 p.m., staying in the fisheries same old house. We have just arrested the leaders of the Russian Revolutionary Committee and I think all will go well. 6 months ago Cheliapin was on the verge of arresting me and I had to flee in haste - to-day he is on his way to Baghdad and the Revolutionary Committee exists no more while I hold Enzeli. Bob is in the Baku and the news from there is not so bad - we may be able to hold out.
The Port here is quiet, but although we have arrested and sent to Baghdad the Bolshevik leaders, we cannot yet get real control of the port and the shipping, as I have very few troops and cannot show force. In fact, the Bolsheviks or the Jangalis or both together might attack me at any time and knock me out. One has to take big risks but I must send all I can to Baku and keep only the minimum here.
I have had bad diarrhoea for some time and on the road down I felt as if I were going to die - I determined to eat nothing, but at the Nagober toll-gate I had to accept hospitality and I was hungry, so I gave in and drank tea and coffee and ate cheese and omelette. After that I nearly died again and gave up worrying, so when we got to the Resht toll-gate and I was again tempted, I ate everything I wanted. Bray suggested a Russian cure, vodka with pepper in it, so I drank three pepper vodkas which were very consoling! and from that moment to this I have been as fit as a fiddle - it was, I suppose, too much for the microbes.
When one arrives in a new town, one is deluged with interviews that tire one to death. Yesterday I had M. Hunin, head of customs. Khachikov and Senizavin, controlling the Caspian fleet, Gendre, the Social Revolutionary, Dr. Araratiantz, head of the Armenian National Council, Mr. Ogamiantz, Soc. Rev. Alkhari - Bicherakov's man; great schemes are propounded, but each is playing for his own hand. To-day I have already had heaps of time-wasters, mostly Russian and British refugees trying to get a job - (that is, money) out of me. Baku still holds up and I hope Bob will pull through, but my reinforcements are small and time flies.
Very hot. We bathe in the Sea every morning at 6.30 a.m. I interview people all day long. Complications increase frightfully. Delays are terrible, no convoy ever arrives when expected and Baku just hangs on a thread - all the cars break down and everything seems against me. In addition to all the Persian strings, I have Baku, now Krasnovodsk begs for troops, and Lenkoran, and Bicherakov at Derbend, and the Russian colony at Meshed-i-sar and the Jangalis threaten to attack here, and everyone is against us - but God is with us. My temperament is a calm one or I should go mad. Baku and all the others being to think I am leaving them in the lurch. I am left in the lurch myself by Baghdad and by the motor-cars. And I run all this with one half size Brigade - it's worse bluff than any game of poker!
I moved myself and Headquarters on board the S/S President Kruger, where I shall remain, I expect, for some time. It is cooler on board, I will rig up a wireless set, and I can then move at a moment's notice anywhere up and down the Caspian. My sailor, Commodore Norris, is extemporising a fleet - so far we have not taken any ships, but we possess a 4 in gun arrived yesterday and 3 more are coming and we have naval personnel about 160. The Officers on board and the crew seem a very decent lot. We took down the Revolutionary Red flag and hoisted the old Russian flag.
Now the time has come to cross the Caspian Sea we get on to stormy weather and we shall all be very sick. The mail boat was unable to leave last night and we sail to-night.
Arrived Baku. We lived through the roughness all right and did not miss a meal. Day was cool and just a nice strong breeze.
Yesterday and to-day I visited the whole front line, about 10 miles long, South on Sea to North where right flank is open, enabling Turks to get round and make trouble in our rear in East of peninsula. Armenian citizen soldiers very slack, no discipline and no organisation, holding the line with a stiffening of the North Staffords on both flanks. We are gradually putting British Commandants into the Armenian Battalions, and we have our officers also with their Batteries. My car ran along the front for a while within 3000 yards of the Turkish guns, quite in the open, and they never fired a round at us, so I suppose they are pretty short of ammunition. Our line is terribly weak on the right, and that the Turks do not take the town shows they have very poor spirit. Their batteries are only 6000 yards from the town and harbour and they could shell us any minute if they wanted to. The oil-fields are very interesting. Baku is a very fine town with splendid business houses, but the surroundings are hideous and barren, and the tall chimney stacks of the oil-works are dreadful to look at.
I have interviewed the 5 Dictators who rule the town, at an official reception - also the 10 members of the Armenian National Council, also the C-in-C, Gen Dokuchaieu and his staff, and had to have the latter to dinner last night.
I attended the Russian Church Service yesterday and I'm afraid the people looked more at me than at the holy images. To-day I was cinematographed, so my features go down in history.
To-night I sail for Derbend. The situation here is critical from a military point of view, but good from a political. But changes come rapidly and the present Government may be thrown out any minute. Bicherakov is doing splendidly and I feel I deserve credit for the one thing that I have trusted him throughout against everyone's opinion. The War Office cable me not to trust him, the Baghdad people do the same, all Russians do the same. Had I not fought against their views the fat would, indeed, have been in the fire. Bicherakov has been magnificently successful so far, and all my success has been due to him. I am teaching the people here to understand him. The Chief of Staff Avitisov, hates him, however, we have sent the Chief of Staff off on sick leave and things will be better. Bob does very well in command here and the scheme is one of those rare ones where an artillery man is the best man. Got wireless on board and sailed at 9 p.m. for Derbend, weather fine. We heard Alexiev had taken Astrakhan which was good news, now we hear not A. but anarchist sailors from the Baltic which is bad news. I am always being cinematographed and to-day I was filmed while addressing some refugees on board a ship going to Krasnovodsk. Baku is terribly weak and I hope it will not fall during my absence.
4.30 p.m. we have just fought the first naval battle of the Caspian, and not very nobly. Never got to Derbend at all. Just off Derbend a suspicious looking vessel, probably Bolshevik, signalled to us to come alongside. The Captain asked me for orders - I said is she any sort of ship with authority to make such a demand. He said, No, it is the Usbeg, long since in Bolshevik hands - whereupon I said "full steam ahead!" On this the steamer opened fire with some small gun, probably a 3 inch, fired some 4 or 5 shots for a period of a quarter of an hour all round us, and close, but no hits and we being able to steam faster, got away. Changed course and now steam back to Baku to insist on mounting guns on all ships - otherwise we shall get done in some day by one of these pirates.
Fierce North Gale, but we weren't quite sick, got into Baku at 3 p.m., awful dust storm. Bob came on board to report all well. I begin my 35th year of service. I don't fancy I ever meant to stay as long as that, but it has been 35 years of happiness and the last 21 with doubled happiness. The Turks shelled the town at night, but did not do much harm. We want to arm some of these merchant-men, but cannot get the revolutionary Government to agree to it - they fear we might use our new fleet to down them. It has suddenly turned quite cold and I suppose the real hot summer is over. We get not butter or milk or fats of any kind - I don't miss them at all but doctors seem to think they are necessary.
There were one or two people killed by the shelling last night and there was a most uncalled for panic. Left at 8 p.m. for Enzeli. Weather fine.
Arrived 3 p.m. I was to have tad tea with Kuchik Khan at Resht, but he cannot arrange before Wednesday and I cannot wait so long - so I must again return without accomplishing this important work. Enzeli is looking very nice and clean. Bray is very ill and I sent him to hospital and taken on Lieutenant Grosvald of the Russian Army in his place - a good fellow, but not a patch on Bray.
Sailed 8 p.m. for Baku, fine and calm. Brought over a lot of Naval personnel and some 4 inch and 12 pounder Naval guns which I hope to get permission to mount on Merchant ships. Water melons bought in Enzeli for two roubles sell in Baku now for 20 roubles, in India the price is 1 anna.
Arrived in Baku 3.30 p.m. Bob came on board to report. I am sorry that during my absence the Turks have made a successful attack on our very weak right and have captured the Mud volcano - our losses being 3 officers and 70 men of the N. Staffords killed, and 11 officers and 35 men wounded. The attack was a very determined one and had Baku troops been there I'm afraid Baku would have been taken. The odds were 4 to one and we had no artillery support and the Armenian infantry sent to support refused to go.
As it is, the risk of the town being taken is so great that I dare not keep this Diary by me any more, so I have decided to send it by post to Mc.Murray at Hamadan.
Pencilled note: "The book was sent and I had to keep further records in a separate notebook.
"End of War Diary B, Begin C."
Well Baku still holds out though truly it is just a prolonged miracle - there is no order or discipline in the town, the 5 Dictators Yermakov, Lemlin, Verluntz and 2 others are as weak as water, they are all young, about 25 to 30 and I do not believe in councils without grey-beards. There is no order, discipline or organisation among the troops. They retire whenever the enemy attack, and my troops are annihilated owing to failure of support. I told some Armenian troops to occupy a position already prepared and they entrenched because the enemy were about to attack it. They refused to go, because the enemy were about to attack it. Alice in Wonderland again. Yesterday a regiment was ordered to the front. They held a meeting to decide whether to go or not. The votes were 30% for and 70% against. The 30% were real stout fellows, and opened fire on the 70% to punish them or compel them to go. The bullets whizzed near one of our armoured cars who telephone to the Commander: "If they don't stop I shall open fire on the lot of them." The Commander replied "Please do!"
The town is shelled a good deal by day and night, but the inhabitants are getting accustomed to it and the small shell do very little harm except making a big bang and the sickly swains and their haughty little girls continue their nightly promenade undisturbed. My steamer on the wharf is the point most aimed at, but it is at the very end of their extreme range and the shells fall short in the town and mostly in cemeteries when the old dead are killed once more. Once shell destroyed a ship's boat just behind the stern - a very good shot. I did not like the risk of the big ammunition dump on the wharf just outside my porthole, so I wrote an urgent note for its removal. While writing, there was a bang, and a shell exploded absolutely in the middle of it, smashing open a case of shells and wounding slightly 2 sentries and nothing more. The Commander in Chief, General Dokuchaev, is a good fellow, not strong, and in a most difficult position. His Chief of the Staff Avelisov (Armenian) is weak, ill, and useless. I have asked them to kick him out and put in Stokes instead. The next Staff Officer, Van der Fless is not bright. The Minister of War, Bogratuni, Armenian, has just had his leg amputated. He is clever but not a forceful character. To-day the Turks captured Diga without much difficulty, though Diga was a strong point as had promised to put up a stout defence. They go from success to success and God only knows why they do not walk straight into the town. They must be quite rotten, and if only I had troops for a counter-attack I could destroy the whole lot of them. Unless they have the bad luck to come against a detachment of my brave 900 (Warwicks, Worcesters, Nr. Staffords, Gloucesters) they just come through without casualties. In vain I point out the harmlessness of artillery-fire except when it is used in the intensity if the French front which the Turks can never do. Casualties from Artillery are so far almost nil. The question is how to save the wretched population from the impending massacre - all these women and children (some 80,000 of them, I suppose) all promenading every evening on the boulevards by the electric light and quite unconscious that in any hour's time they may be having their throats slit by the Turks. So I called a meeting in the Hotel d'Europe, of the Dictators, the Fleet, the Army, and the Armenian National Council and I exploded on them the following bomb:-
"It is time to come to some final decision regarding the fate of Baku. Surmises and hopes must be placed on one side and only facts considered. The facts are as follows:- My troops alone fight, they are only 900 and no more reinforcements are coming. The Turks are in every attack victorious and can enter the town whenever they have the pluck to come straight in. The town troops go from bad to worse - I was present at a War Council last night when the General's plans were overridden by a common sailor. Plans of that sort are valueless - I was present this morning at the front when Binagardi Hill was taken. At the moment when a small counter-attack could have retaken the Hill. I found the entire citizen army loafing back into Baku with their hands in their pockets and their backs to the enemy. I then again visited the C-in-C. and discussed his future plans. I have since thought the matter quietly over and my final advice to you is this: Why study the map and discuss the value of positions when you know from experience that your troops, when ordered to attack, invariably retire? That being the case, why needlessly prolong the agony and risk the lives of all your noncombatants? I will no longer throw away in vain the lives of my brave soldiers. I am about to withdraw my troops entirely and leave Baku to its fate - I will go to Krasnovodsk and start a fresh and more useful movement in Turkestan. I will hold on till to-morrow to give you a chance of negotiations. Send at once a flag of truce to surrender the town to the enemy and suggest the following terms (but strengthen your line first with every available man) If you will give us 48 hours to remove all our women and children and our forces from Baku we will surrender the town to you intact. If you refuse we will fight to the bitter end. Your losses will be heavy and we shall destroy all the electric power stations and the irreplaceable machinery that pumps the oil to Batoum and which is the only thing that makes the town worth capturing - you want the oil for the railways and for the Black Sea fleet - and you will be foiled in that attempt and your efforts will have been in vain."
There was a great hubbub and excitement among the members. Each knew that what I said was true, yet none had dared, up to now, to put it in words. The town has been twice saved by a miracle sent direct from God. On July 26th and August 5th. We cannot expect a third miracle. After a little talk in which rather bitter remarks were thrown at my head, I left them to talk among themselves and went off to see the C-in-C., then I returned and begged them to stop their silly talk - how they love talking - and to act. I then went to see the War Minister who agreed with me. They talked till 8.30 p.m., and then agreed to my decision and promised to act. But they went on talking all night and eventually changed their silly minds. The Navy finally said: "We object to this cowardly plan. We control the situation. You must never yield. If a single ship tries to have the harbour we will sink her and then we shall turn our guns on to you on shore." All very well for the brave Navy to say this when being on the water, their own safety is quite secured. So we continue the defence. I am glad, because every day we hold out is of great value to the Allies - I only fear for the civil population in the dreadful sauve-qui-peut which I foresee. Help from outside seems impossible. Will God really give us a third miracle? I have taken up my quarters ashore now, in the Hotel d'Europe, because they might think my remaining on board ship a sign of cowardice.
A lull - these stupid Turks - why don't they take the town? I suppose it is just because they fear the destruction of that machinery which would render their victory barren.
Shelling the town quite heavily last night. The French Colonel Chardigny is very jumpy. I am not naturally brave in the least. But I pray for the courage I have not got, and that is the sort of prayer which meets with an immediate answer, and I am as calm as if I were at Bishopsteignton. I never can believe in the answer to prayer for material things, the other prayers are always answered. Six well aimed shells fired at me personally on Binagardi Hill the other day while I was examining the enemy's position, left me quite unmoved and the thought of any danger was quite absent from my mind. There being no other firing but these 6 shots one could hear the approach of each shell quite clearly and all one thought of was what a harmless sounding noise it was for an instrument that was on the point of exploding and tearing people to pieces.
We still hold the town, I don't know how, one can only believe in God's miracles, the time is not yet, but it may be any minute. These Baku troops are terrible. Last night at sunset my Inspecting officer visited the line and found at the most dangerous point and a probably point of attack, no one, when there should have been 1500 men and 2 machine guns. In another place where there should have been a whole Armenian battalion there were 75 men. Water melons cost 20 roubles, a bottle of natural mineral water 4 roubles. 1 egg 2½ roubles - a small meal 50 roubles, just one plate meat, one plate of pudding, and so on. My day is spent in interviewing and squabbling with different people. I have had two serious rows with the 5 Dictators, who represent the Government, but we love each other now. They, poor fellows, have no real power which is in the hands of the Committees and their position is very difficult indeed.
Rather heavier shelling last night. Bray was robbed of everything, including gold cigarette case and 6000 roubles, the thief had to pass through my room in and out, and never touched a thing of mine - I am perpetually surrounded with miracles, and God is very good - but when I say that, I feel "smug" as if I were deserving of special protection and Bray were not.
The enemy made no attack? Why? still more miracles -
The enemy have a map of the town and are, of course, accurately informed of my movements. They know I have tea on board the Kruger at 4.30 p.m. And they have a spy observer here to direct their fire. On Saturday at tea-time they began to fire and one could note the careful observation, first shot near the cathedral, next more towards me, and so, one by one till they got one straight between the masts that fell in the sea a few yards away without exploding, then the observer signalled all correct and we got 2 rounds battery fire straight on to the Kruger. But you don't hit what you aim at, you hit the things near - so two steamers on the next wharves were hit and all started steaming out into the bay. But the Kruger, the cause of all the trouble, remained fast, and the firing ceased, as they are not too well off for ammunition. I have Captain Noel with me here, a fine fellow. He has been 6 months in prison with Kuchik Khan, where he was in chains and flogged and was released after I had made peace with Kuchik - he seems none the worse for his troubles. I took him out to the front to see the position at Binagardi, and on the way back I found my H.Q. in the Hotel d'Europe heavily being shelled. I couldn't pull up the car and take cover in front of the fleeing populace, so we just had to head straight into the storm - it was unpleasant with bricks and mortar flying around, and the most terrific bangs, but I was very much watched, so had to sit up and look as if I like it. As I reached the Hotel, the firing was over - one shell had burst in Wither's bed-room next my Q. Office - destroyed the room and hit no one. Two burst in the road and smashed all the windows and a balcony, one set a house on fire alongside, but the fire-brigade were out in no time, in very good order and soon got the fire under control. Artillery fire is terrifying, but in a town its effect is very small unless it is the big shells that no one in this country possesses. Thank goodness and thank God for many mercies. Bicherakov's first detachment arrived to-day from Petrovsk and things, for the moment, look very good indeed. London and Baghdad keep on telling me to leave Baku at once and I finally and firmly refuse - so how it will all end I do not know. I have sent the strongest telegrams that have ever been sent, but they contain nothing but what is true and right and what can be substantiated. Both Baghdad and London have been criminal in their outlook on the strategy, and even now they do not seem to realize that the capture of Baku by the Turks is a far bigger thing for them than the capture of Baghdad by us, was for us. In the evening I had to attend an anniversary dinner for the battle of the Marne, given by the Belgian Consul, who is an Armenian. The guests were some 12 prominent Armenians, Col. Chardigny and one French officer, one Russian, and the Armenian priest in full and very picturesque robes. The table was quite a wonderful sight and the guests more so. There were many speeches - too many - and I got away after two hours on a genuine plea of work.
Days are very busy. To-day I saw Lt. Maurice of the French Army about certain secret matters connected with the oil-fields, then Captain Noel about some mills that want shuttles from England to increase supply, we to purchase increased supply and exchange for grain in ports where cash is not accepted - we get back to barter in these days, also about Noel's plans for the N. Caucasus where Pike has been killed and I propose Noel takes his place. Then Mr. Clarke Head of the Food Control about food supplies for population here, 300,000. Then Gendre, the Social Revolutionary about his plots, then Araratiantz, the Armenian about Armenian Army Reform, then Chardigny, about wiring present situation to Paris - then Ragozin about his plans, Albizzi about the Russian armed cars. In the evening 5 p.m. a Georgian Prince re Tartar affairs and hopes. Then a Committee meeting at the War Minister, Bogratuni, reorganization. Then Captain Colmanautz, re the situation in Erivan, Major Conrans en route to Bicherakov with instructions, Colonel Rawlinson re destruction of Bridges.
A woman was shot by her lover on the next wharf at lunch time and her screams were dreadful - it was regarded as an ordinary occurrence. These wicked Armenians never cease their Mahomedan atrocities. Last night they raided a Tartar house and when Russian soldiers went to restore order, the Captain's son was shot and the ship is in mourning to-day - No shelling yesterday. A nasty lull. After many interviews I met, in the evening, for the first time, a representative of the Daghestani-Mahomedans, who put the Daghestani point of view very clearly before me. We have restored order in the Arsenal and have the ammunition supply well in hand. Machine guns and Artillery also - the present supply can be made to last 6 months.
I am always on the move on Sundays. Here we are, on the Kruger, steaming back to Enzeli with the remnant of the brave 39th Brigade. At last the crisis, so long waited for, has come and gone, and God has been good to us. The final assault of the Turks began at 4 a.m. yesterday, by 11 a.m. they were holding the heights above the town and soon after were driving in our right. Our troops, the Staffords, Warwicks and Worcesters, fought magnificently and their 800 rifles coupled with our artillery and the local artillery under our control - about 40 guns - bore the whole brunt of the battle against, perhaps, 7000 Turks - the armoured cars too, did splendid work. At 4 p.m. I learnt that the Baku troops were, as usual, retiring, instead of fighting, and leaving my troops exposed. Bicherakov's men and his artillery did splendidly - the Armenians were no use. I, accordingly, sent Bray with a note to the Dictators informing them that now the situation was definitely lost, I proposed to take my troops on board as soon as it was dark and sail for Enzeli. He found the Dictators in a state of bewilderment and they practically said "Do what you please."
At 10 p.m. we were just ready to sail, when 2 Dictators came on board, Lemlin and Sadovsky, with orders for me to send my troops back to their positions and not to sail till I got their permission. I decided to risk it with lights out, so ordered each ship to move off independently for Enzeli and if pulled up by superior force (a gun-boat for instance) yield and parley. So far, I do not know the fate of the others. At 1 p.m. I was on the bridge with the Captain, the Commodore and Hoskyn - we tried to creep by the guardship, but she twigged us and gave three whistles to stop, we answered 3 whistles which meant assent; and then went full speed ahead. She was at anchor so unable to chase, but she opened fire as long as we were in range and effected nothing. Brave sailors! Three pompom shot came over the bridge and the man at the wheel dropped the wheel and ran like a hare. The Captain an A1 fellow, took the wheel and we carried on. And here we are in this beautiful scenery, moving merrily with a light breeze over a rippling sea as if there were never any wars in the world. In the meantime Persia has tumbled to pieces - Urmieh has fallen, the Turks are advancing in Hamadan and Kasvin, and goodness knows what lies ahead of us - chased from pillar to post. I sent a very strong wire to Baghdad and the War Office, pointing out that their policy was a bad one, but even then I could have got through if they had not run even their "bad" policy badly. They object to my impertinent criticisms, and state they would remove me from my command if they could do so, but they cannot. My conduct will be gone into later - so I suppose I shall be tried by Court Martial.
Both yesterday and the day before they shelled my H.Q. offices in the Hotel d'Europe very heavily, and very well, one high explosive burst in the room next the hall where we were all standing, blew everything to smithereens and killed no one.
I think the intention of the Baku Government was, after we had done all the fighting for them, to use us as one of their pawns for securing good conditions: "we will surrender to you British General Staff, etc etc." It would have been a great asset to them. While the fight was in progress I visited Gen. Dokuchaev, Russian C.-in-C. at intervals throughout the day. He was driven mad by allowing himself to be worried by all sorts of nonentities and spent most of his time answering telephone calls - good fellow, but useless. I found Vosskresensky, whom I regard as quite a worthless youth - actually holding him by the lappels of his coat and shaking him, and I had to interfere and V. out of the way.
I was very anxious indeed about the other boats' adventures and thanked God very deeply when I found all in the harbour except the little Armenian with which Col. Rawlinson had left loaded up with ammunition from the Arsenal.
Providence throughout guided us. The wharf from which I had originally planned the evacuation, was, I now see, quite unsuitable, under shell-fire, and in full observation of the town, who would have mobbed my soldiers. I was driven by circumstances to the new wharf which was on the edge of town and extraordinarily suitable for the purpose.
A wire telling me to return to Baghdad. I am not offended. I have done excellent work under trying conditions, and produced very good results out of nothing in spite of apathy and misunderstanding of War Office and Baghdad. But after my telegrams they had no course but to relieve me and to try me, I suppose by Court Martial. Thank God Rawlinson and his little steamer arrived all well after having run a heavy gauntlet of fire. Armenian refugees a great problem.
Settling up with my Russian friends and handing over - A last bathe in the Caspian.
Left with Hoskyn and Bray to Kasvin.
At Kasvin handing over to General Thomson.
To Hamadan. Such pleasure to be back again in the hospitable house of the Mc.Murrays.
Out to Abi Shini to see the Urmieh refugees.
Padre O'Connor. Holy Communion in the Mc.Murray's Drawing-room - just ourselves, then off for Kermanshah. A very sad parting with this homely home and these good people of incredible kindness and hospitality. Very hot and dusty - car at last broke down 30 miles out of Kermanshah, but luckily just opposite the camp of the 48th Pioneers where we stayed the night very comfortably.
Kermanshah - stopping with Weir the Political - My Russian A.D.C. is very ill again, I hope I shall not have to leave him behind, as it would be very hard to do without him.
To Tak-i-giri G.H.Q. Camp at the top of the Paitak Pass. Met General Gilman the Chief of the Staff and General Beach, Chief of the Intelligence - they were not very communicative, but we talked on other topics - our splendid advance up to Acre in Palestine. I do not at all tremble for my fate, but I hate these sort of quarrels - I have insulted both the War Office and Baghdad, and my action has been right throughout - I have been quite misjudged and if I insisted on an inquiry others in high places would get into trouble and not me - but I loathe these things. The only thing that matters is one's own conscience and my conscience entirely congratulates me.
Arrived H.Q. 14th Division at Mirjaneh and stayed with General Frazer. Met Nicholson, 37th Dopas and George Gunning, 21st Cav. also Maclachlan, 40th Pathans commanding a Brigade - such a nice atmosphere to be back once more among real soldiers.
To Baghdad - thank God for the last of the Motor-cars for a bit after that 600 mile drive on a vile road. The Jilu refugees - poor things - blocked the road everywhere and I feel half responsible for them though it was not my fault that Government would not take up my Urmieh scheme. Billeted in No. 2 Mess - Stuart Wortley. Dined with the C.-in-C.
Writing up despatches. Dined with General Dixon of Rhodesia. The Marlings were there - glad to be out of Teheran. Also Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch, 27. now with a Commission as Captain in the British Army, He is quite possibly the next Czar. He talked to me for an hour in gratitude for my help to the Russians etc., and told me of the horrible things he has to suffer at the hands of our blunt Englishmen. One Officer says: "the Russians always run away, don't they?" and so on.
Dined with old Westward Ho! boy - General Rimington, R.E. whom I remember in the first 15 at school - a pleasure to meet after all these years.
Writing up dispatches, dined with Ready, Adjutant General. Everybody very nice, but a general sort of feeling that I have been a naughty boy and ought to be put in the corner. The Chief was very nice in my last interview, but begged to differ from me.
Dined last night with Stuart-Wortly - Left by train today at 8 p.m. for Kut-el-Amara. Arrived there at 6 a.m. on
And sailed on board S/S Taraki. Lt. Colonel Wilmer, R.F.A. a very excellent companion, shares my cabin, and the 25th Punjabis, under Colonel Hunt, are on board - also Stork, my Staff Captain - The Captain of the ship is new on this ship and we have endless misfortunes - it is as well we are not in a particular hurry.
Spent the whole morning manoeuvring with steel hawsers on a sand-bank. Got off after some hours' work. Stuck again a good deal and at midnight got into a regular dust-storm cyclone and were properly wrecked, but nothing can really happen to these big, shallow, flat-bottomed things, so we steamed on again quite cheerfully and got into Amara on
at about 9 a.m. Very hot and dusty and the flies are awful. Had to wait until night-fall for the train. They did me very well, giving me a nice inspection carriage with a kitchen where I could brew a cup of tea - Stork travelled with me and my excellent Batman, Milam, 1/4 Hants Regiment. Slept comfortably and arrived at Basra about 9 a.m., on
where Colonel Senior of my old regiment, the 20th very kindly put me up in G.H.Q., and took me all over Basra to see the wonderful things they have been doing since I was last there.
Lunched on flagship with Admiral Gaunt - Dined with Senior and General Sutton. Went on board the Egra after dinner and shook the dust of Mesopotamia finally off my worn-out shoes - no particular gladness or sorrow, but nice to think of meeting Daisie.
Sailed at 5.30 a.m. Hot. With my face set the other way time always seemed to fly - with my face set towards Daisie in Bombay every second seems like a year and the five next days like 5 life times. A quaint Captain commanding the Egra - Captain Carre from Guernsey, a tiny man, very religious, who says Grace before meals. The officers on board are simply "terrors" truly we have reached absolute bed-rock - there is honestly not one of them who would have been selected before the War for a lance-corporal's stripe. War news is still splendid - we progressing everywhere and Germany plaintively bleating for Peace.
A quiet, restful day. Whether I am ill, or whether it is just the reaction, but I can hardly drag one leg after another and seem incapable of any physical or mental action - I just sleep and dream and read and flop about and long and long for the too-slow flying hours to pass - then when I meet Daisie I shall want the hours to linger and they will fly like a whirlwind till we reach the grave.
This war has made time fly - it seems incredible that I have been a General for nearly 4 years and I feel so very juvenile - in the rank.
I met a youth from Sherborne - Galfrid's new school and he tells me it is a very good place.
Weather much cooler now - as time gets on it seems to creep, only the more slowly - still it is something almost incredible to think that I can count the time in hours now instead of years, months, weeks, or even "days."
Very good Church Services. The Captain himself "Carre" a religious enthusiast, took the morning service. A quiet, pleasant, restful day, but longing for the morrow.
Had to put on life-belts and stand to for floating mines from 4 a.m. Rather dull work. Arrived in dock 8 a.m. Met Salusbury there, drove to Taj Hotel and found not only Daisie, but her brother Colonel Walter Keyworth, just out from home and met by accident here - delightful honeymoon!
The Marlings and the Grand Duke are staying in this same hotel.
Dined at Yacht Club with Salusbury.
No Orders - enjoying a rest cure.
My Orders came at last - not very brilliant
"To go home to England as soon as convenient
The Bobbie Lows are here and R.J.R. Brown and A.C.Campbell, all washed up on the Beach.
A whole bunch of my Russian Officers turned up at the Taj Hotel - Col. Baron Medem, Col. Kordachevsky, Colonel Andruskevitch, a most unlikeable fellow - I asked the Band to stop playing after dinner and they sang and made speeches.
Left for Pindi 4 p.m.
Arrived Pindi 7 p.m.
Motor car to Murree took us 2 hours 10 minutes, arriving 11.30. Delightful to see Susanna again, not changed, but grown.
Very cold, Daisie and I left by motor at 3 p.m. for Pindi and thence train to Peshawar - Susanna and Miss Key remain here.
*** *** ***Pencilled note: "End of War Diary C. Return to page 132 Vol 10"
Arrived Peshawar 6.30 a.m., staying with the Rennies - I am glad we came here, there is no spot on earth where we would have more friends and they are good friends. Quite enough friends to keep us cheery - and I am not down on my luck. The telegrams I sent the War Office were certainly impertinent and much too strong, I see that now in cold blood, but they should make allowance for circumstances and let me off with an apology - their present treatment is certainly unjust. But what do all these petty little private matters weight against the splendid war news - Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria unconditional surrender! and the end of the war - a victorious end - in sight.
God is good to use that we should always be allowed to be together on our wedding day - to-day is the 21st anniversary, and to-morrow we begin our 22nd year.
Susanna and Miss Key arrived from Murree by the early morning train and brought with them the wonderful news of:
P E A C E AT LAST!
and this GREATEST WAR is over.
We are so accustomed to war in this fifth year that we can hardly believe the news.
Meantime I have been more or less forgiven and am to have command of a new Brigade at Agra - but I do not believe now that the war is over that they will ever want any new Brigades. Susanna and Miss Key are staying with the Bomfords and we go over there also in a few days.
We celebrated Peace at the Club with a Champagne dinner party with the Rennies.
Left the kind and hospitable roof of the Rennies for our friends the Bomfords C.M.S.
The sensation of the War being over is peculiar. I lectured at the Islamia College to the students on Monday 18th, at the Club on Wednesday 20th, an address at the Soldiers' Home to the C.E.M.S. on Thursday, 21st. On Monday we dine with the Chief Commissioner, and on Tuesday I give a lecture at the Edwards College.
Yesterday a big Victory demonstration and fireworks and also a huge fire in the Hindu quarter in the city which did enormous damage. Rather tired of doing nothing, waiting for orders and living on a very small rate of pay.
Orders at last. Glad to cease being unemployed. I leave for Agra to-morrow morning, visiting the Shrine at Makhad and my old friend the hereditary Saint on the banks of the Indus (Pir Sahib Said Ghulam Abas) and staying a day at Jhelum.
To Campbellpur where I spent the day.
To Makhad, arrive 5 a.m., then rode 9 miles to the shrine and went through the usual prayers - Mahomedan prayers are very cheerful! Stayed all day interviewed very old pensioner and then rode back and took train for Campbellpur.
Arrived Jhelum 4 p.m. staying with Elliott at the 20th Depôt, inspected the men.
To Meerut to report to the Divisional Commander, General Nugent, stayed all day, arrived December 4th.
To Agra, arrived 12.30. Met by Col. Drayson 1/6 E. Surrey and my new Brigade-Major, Capt, McCausland 45th Sikhs. Cecil Hotel, very comfortable. Wire from the Commander-in-Chief to say that they have bestowed on me the C.S.I Companion of the Star of India - for which I am grateful. Also bought Bolton's car B.S.A. for Rs.7000., about £450. Wired for Daisie to come down on the 9th - a heap of letters to attend to.
Daisie, Miss Key and Susanna arrived. My horse arrived yesterday and very wild after the train journey, threw me off twice.
I am glad to say my horse, Edward VII, threw the rough-rider off twice, so it isn't my bad riding, he has just got a fit of the very devil. Left for Jhansi where I stay with Gen. Poor commanding the Jhansi Brigade - see his training system and give a lecture on N.W. Persia and Baku.
Returned to Agra - Miss Key is very seedy. I am busy inspecting the 7 units of the Brigade and have no time for writing.
My B.S.A. 5 seater-car, arrived from Peshawar - it runs well and is very smart and satisfactory. Wore my mufti at last after a year of uniform and not at all glad to get into it.
My Russian A.D.C., Captain Bray, of the 5th Death's Head Hussars, arrived to stay a few days with us.
General Sir Arthur Barrett is staying in the Hotel here and inspecting my troops at the same time, also General Sir George Kemball from Mhow. We had a very merry Christmas and this Hotel is just like home. We spend our time sight-seeing and the car is very useful and runs very well.
Dined with the Sergeants of the 1/6 East Surrey Territorials. A very fine regiment commanded by an excellent man, Colonel Drayson, a diamond merchant, and second in command Whitehouse, a dentist. Enjoyable evening, but had to make speeches which I do not like.
To Dholpur with Colonel Dealy to see some barracks. Lunched with the Raja, a nice young man of 26. Agra, in winter, is as big a social turmoil as Simla - it will be nice to have a quiet hot weather - Daisie has been here 16 days and she has 160 callers already in her visitors' book!
Inspected the 144th Regiment to the Native Sate of Bhartpur - pretty country and the road full of monkeys and peacocks.