AFTER some months or convalescence, I was passed fit for Active Service. Admiral Wemyss, Commander-in-Chief of the East Indian Fleet, had done me the honour to ask me to serve under him, when I was well again, as his liaison and Intelligence officer. I accepted very gladly, for I knew how devoted to him were all those who served Admiral Wemyss. The unappreciative War Office showed no reluctance in dispensing with my services, but my orders got lost, and it was only late in February when I left. When my weak qualifications in the way of languages were put before the Department concerned, the brief comment was: "This must be an immoral man to know so many languages."
about this time the question was perpetually debated as to whether war should be made mainly on the one great front or en petits paquets; that is, practically all over the globe. "Hit your enemy where he is the weakest," said some, while others were violently in favour of striking where he was strongest.
When I left England, she was in a curious state of official indecision. It would then have been, obviously, greatly to our advantage had we been able to get the Turks out of the war, for the collapse of Bulgaria would almost certainly have followed. On the other hand, Russia had been promised Constantinople and the Church of Santa Sophia, and while these promises held it was idle to think that the Grand Turk would compromise or resign his position as head of Islam. So the dread in the minds of Englishmen of friction with Russia was unconsciously adding square leagues to the British Empire, by forcing us reluctantly to attack an unwilling foe. In the end, we chose both Scylla and Charybdis, for the Turks remained in the war, Russia went out. Yet we survived, victoriously. Allah is greatest.
The story of this campaign is the most difficult to tell. The writer was in a humble position, but in a position of trust, and can only record what he saw and the things with which all men's ears were too familiar in Mesopotamia.
Diary. Monday, February 28th, 1916. S.S. "Mooltan." Off Marseilles. The Germans are by way of not torpedoing our boats until Wednesday, but to-day is St. Leander's Day, not a good day, on the sea, at this time of year. They have torpedoed four boats these last days near Marseilles. We are off the coast of Coprsica, dull and unattractive. . . . John Baird is here. . . .
Wednesday, March 1st, 1916. S.S. "Mooltan." yesterday J.B., Captain Cummings, and I went ashore at Malta. We heard of the torpedoing of the Maloja off Dover. I saw Admiral Limpus, and old friend; then dined with Admiral de Robeck. I saw R.K. He still wants to go up the Dardanelles. This seems to me to be a war of ants and attrition, and no one ought to think of the glory of the Army of the Navy before winning the war. I do not think he cares if he is at the bottom of the sea, as long as the country and the Navy is covered with imperishable splendour. He talked about the blizzard as if it had been a zephyr. You can't beat that sort. A lot of old Admirals rolled up. They had rejoined long past the age as Commanders of sweepers, or in any and every kind of capacity. The spirit of their Elizabethan ancestors was not more tough or fine than theirs. . . .Left J.B. and Jack Marriott.
Monday, March 6th, 1916. Ismailia. We landed without incident from the Mooltan. The last day, at luncheon, there were two tremendously loud bangs, the lids of hatches falling; they sounded exactly like cannon shot. Nobody moved at lunch, which I thought was good. Am staying with O'Sullivan. He has been eighteen years in Central Africa. To-night I went to the Club and found Kettle, alive, whom I thought dead--very glad to find it wasn't true--and lots of Anzacs. Then went for a walk with the Admiral; I understand why men like serving him. Afterwards tea with General Birdwood and a yarn about the Peninsula. All the men from Anzac talk of it with something like reverence. I dined with General Godley. I have been doing work between the Navy and the Army; found them very stiff. Yesterday they said: "What can you want to know?" Also, in my humble opinion, what they are doing is wrong.
Friday, March 10th, 1916. Cairo. Back again at Zamalek. They have sown a proper, green, English lawn instead of the clover which we put in for economy. Saw C. in the evening. Agreed that for the time being our Arab policy was finished. . . .If the Russians go ahead and threaten Constantinople, the French agreement may stand. If, on the other hand, they cannot get beyond Trebizond, then Arabia will probably be a Confederation, perhaps nominally under the Turks. The Powers would probably look favourably at this, as it would be a return to the bad old principle. It would constitute one more extension of the life of the Turk, outside Turkey, made miserable to him and his subjects, during which all his lagatees would intrigue to improve their own position. They would go on fermenting discontent amongst the subjects of the Turk, and when it did not exist
they would create it. It is the old cynicism that this war had done nothing to get rid of. On the other hand, if annexation follows there will be two results: (1) the population in the annexed French and Russian spheres will be rigorously conscripted. I think we ought to do our best to prevent the Arabs being the subjects and victims of High Explosive Powers. They themselves don't realize what it means, and simply look forward to the boredom of having to beat their swords into ploughshares and take up the dullness of civilization. The second result is that we shall have vast, conterminous frontiers with France and Russia, and that we shall be compelled to become a huge military power and adopt the Prussianism that we are fighting. There ought to be a self-denying ordinance about annexation. We should none of us annex.
Wednesday, March 8th, 1916. Cairo. I arranged for Storrs to come down the Red Sea with the Commander-in-Chief. In the evening I saw the Sultan at the Palace. He prophesied that the Russians would be in Trebizond in eight days, and that we should be in Solloum in the same time; he put our arrival at Baghdad at the end of May. The snows were melting, he said, and the waters of the Tegris and Euphrates rising; the Turks might be cut off and might have to surrender. . . .He said we did not understand the Moslems or what was their fraternity. In his hall he had two signs, "God and His Propet," and the other, "I live by God's will." Any Moslem who entered saw these, and knew him for his brother. He would rather have been a farmer, dressed as a farmer, and, he added, rather quaintly, sitting in his automobile, amongst his fields, than in his Palace with interviews before him all day long.
He had accepted the Throne when it had been offered to him after consideration, because the good of Egypt was bound up in our success, and as Sultan he could help us. He regretted he had not been allowed to help more. He was loyal, but neither we, nor any man, could buy his honour. We could throw him over at any moment. So be it; he knew what his honour and individual dignity demanded. General Maxwell, he said, understood the Moslems. Even the Duke of Connaught could hardly have done better in Egypt. He, the Sultan, had deplored Gallipoli, both before and after. We English were bons enfants, but did not understand the East. He gave many messages to his friends, especially General Birdwood.
Thursday, March 9th, 1916. Cairo. Saw Jaafar Pasha, a prisoner. He was wounded by a sword thrust in the arm. They had had a good old-fashioned mêlée. He was just off shopping, taking his captivity with great philosophy. It was beautiful weather. The Bougainvillea was purple and scarlet all over the house. It looked as fairylike as a Japanese dwelling.
Friday, March 10th, 1916. Cairo. The admiral came up on Thursday night. I lunched with General Maxwell. Bron came. He said his leg troubled him flying, but he loved it. I saw his Colonel, who told me that he was worried, as if he fell in the desert he was done, as he could not walk great distances like the others, with his wooden leg.
I have got a "Who's Who," for Arabian, but I want a "Where's Where."
Saturday, March 11th, 1916. Ismailia. The Australians have been having high old times in Cairo. We have to pay for their extraordinary fine fighting qualities, but it's a pity that they can't be more quiet. . . .They admire General Birdwood, who's got a difficult job. We owed a lot to their initiative at Anzac, when all their officers were killed. Salutes, after all, matter less than fighting. I peace they resent General Godley's discipline, and that's natural, but it's inevitable, and they know it, when it comes to fighting. Charlie Bentinck came down with us, going home; I hope he gets there all right.
Tuesday, March 14th, 1916. Ismailia. Maxwell is not definitely recalled. . . .It's a pity to take away the man whose name is everything in Egypt. On Saturday I dined with the Admiral and Potts of (ed: on?) the Khedive's yacht. Like Jimmy Watson, he was very fond of his ex-Chief. Sunday I lunched with the Admiral and General Murray, and saw my old friend Tyrrell. Yesterday the Admiral left with Philip Neville for Solloum. I should have liked to have been in that show.
Here are criticisms and indiscretions, which are better left lying at the bottom of a drawer. . . .
All are very sad about Desmond Fitzgerald's death. There was no one quite like him. He would have played a great part. He was extraordinarily fine, too fine to be a type, though he was a type, but not of these times. I shall never forget him during the Retreat, always calm and always cheerful. Bron came, and we had a long talk.
Wednesday, March 15th, 1916. Cairo. This morning I saw Jaafar Pasha for a minute. He is becoming less and less a prisoner. Was off to shop, and said that he heard that Cairo was a nice town. He was unmoved by the war. I said to M. that the war ought to prevent one's pluses ever fluttering again. M. said to me: "Yes, unless it makes them flutter for ever."
Here there followed naval, strategical, political and commercial considerations which are irrelevant to this published diary.
Diary. March 15th, 1916. Went to the citadel to see the old Sheikh. It was a lovely day of heat, fresh winds, clear air and flowers everywhere.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 1916. Ismailia. I have neglected my diary. Yesterday I went and said goodbye to General Birdwood. General Godley, he and everybody went to seee Maxwell off. It was a very remarkable demonstration; all were there--red hats and tarbouches, blue gowns and the khaki of the private soldier. We were all downhearted at his going.
To-day I rode with Temperley through the groves of Ismailia, out by the lagoon. The desert was in splendid form. The Australians were bathing everywhere and French sailors were paddling. I lunched with General Russell. . . .I dined with General Godley. All the talk was of Mesopotamia. Some one said at dinner that no securely beleaguered force had ever cut its way out. I could only think of Xenophon, who, General Gwynne said, quite truly, was not beleaguered, and also of Plevna, that didn't get out.
Sunday, March 26th, 1916. Cairo. This morning we leave for Mesopotamia, by the Viceroy's train. He arrived yesterday, having been shot at by a torpedo on the way. The soldiers are becoming discontented. Their pay is four months due, and when they get it they are paid in threepenny bits for which they only receive twopence in exchange. Hence their irritation. Tommy Howard's brigade has nearly all got commissions. There are now forty-sevena officers and only enough soldiers left for their servants. Saw Uncle Bob G., who reminded me of Sayid Talib, the Lion of Mesopotamia and the terror of the Turks, with whom on one occasion I travelled from Constantinople. Sayid Talib once wanted to get rid of a very good Vali of Basrah. He went round to all the keepers of hashish dens and infamous houses and got them to draw up a petition: "We, the undersigned, hear with anguish that our beloved Vali is to be removed by the Merciful Government. He is a good man, has been just to all, and most just to us, who now implore the mercy of the Sublime Porte." Constantinople was in a virtuous mood. The experts of Basrah were summoned. They expressed their horror at the support which the Vali was receiving form all the worst elements in the town. The Vali was removed. Sayid Talib scored. He was on our side, and remained in Basrah, but we made him a prisoner and sent him to India, I believe.
Monday, March 27th, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus." Gulf of Suez. Yesterday, Sunday, the Prince of Wales, the Viceroy, General Birdwood and the High Commissioner travelled down to Ismailia. Storrs and I were also of the company. General Godley was at the station to meet the Prince, and a lot of others.
Tuesday, March 28th, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus." I wonder what situation we shall find in Mesopotamia. Willcocks in Cairo said that the Arabs were feeding Townshend's people. "In the old days," he said, "Elijah was fed by the ravens--that is, 'orab,' which means Arabs as well as ravens." That was how he explained that miracle.
It's getting very hot. I am working at Hindustani. The Staff here are all first class. It's luck to find Colonel de Sausmarez, who was on the Bacchante, now promoted.
Thursday, March 30th, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus." Took a bad fall down the ladder. Storrs sleeps in a casemate. The only ventilation is through a gun whose breech has now been closed. Have been writing précis and political notes. We are bound to make mistakes in dealing with the Arabs, but they need not matter if they are passive mistakes; they can be corrected. If they are active, they are much harder to remedy. . . .Our people divide the world into two categories. The Ulstermen, the Serbs and the Portuguese are good, loyal people, because they are supposed to put our interests first, whereas the Bulgars, the Arabs, etc., are beastly traitors, because sometimes a thought of self-interest crosses their minds.
It's raining hard this morning and it's cooler. Hope to get into the trenches at Aden, but doubt there being time. Am learning Hindustani. A number of the same words mean different things. Kal means yesterday or to-morrow, i.e. one day distant; but on the other hand parson means the day after to-morrow or the day before yesterday. This must occasionally make muddles about appointments.
Friday, March 31st, 1916. Aden. Got up early this morning and went over to the Northbrook. The Turks at Lahej are being bombardment. The Admiral's going part of the way to see it. Six seaplanes off. A heavy, hot, grey day. The Turks are fighting well. There is no ill-will here. They say the Turk is a member of the club, but has not been in it lately. We are feeding the Turks and they feed us. Caravans come and go as usual. There are great difficulties in the way of blockade. We can't hit our enemies without also hitting our friends, and yet if we do nothing our prestige suffers.
A conference this morning. Fifty years ago Colonel Pelly said that the Turks were like the Thirty-nine Articles; every one accepts them, but nobody remembers them or what they are. India seems extremely apathetic about Aden. We left early this morning. Last night I saw Colonel Jacob, who has been twelve years at Aden and in the Hinterland. In the evening I went with the Brigadier to the Turkish prisoners. They said they had surrendered because life was impossible in the Yemen. They had been six to seven years without pay, had had bad food and perpetual fighting. Then they had been put on a ship to go back to their families, then taken off again and sent to fight us. Human nature could not stand it, they said. They liked their Commander, Said Pasha, who was good to the soldiers, but they complained of their non-commissioned officers. . . .
We seem to be prepetually changing our officers here. This C.O. Is the fifth in a short time. Jacob is the only man who talks Arabic, and there is not a soul who talks Turkish. Wrote to Egypt to get an interpreter.
Sunday, April 2nd, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus." we are steaming through a grey-black gloom, like an English autumn afternoon, only the thermometer is 92 and there are no rooks cawing. There are lowering skies everywhere. Talked about Arabia yesterday with the Admiral.
Have been re-reading Whigan's Persia and other Gulf books. Wish that I had George Lloyd's memoranda. The present position is unsatisfactory. We have policed and lighted and pacified this Gulf for a hundred years, and we are entitled to a more definite status. We ought to have Bunder Abbas. Otherwise, if the Russians come down the Gulf to Bunder Abbas, they hold the neck of the bottle of the Persian Gulf and we shall be corked in our own bottle; they would be on the flank of India; they would be fed by a railway, while our large naval station would be cooking away in Elphinstone's Inlet (which is only another name for a slow process of frying), where we should have battle casualties in peace time from the heat. Elphinstone's Inlet to Bushire is a poor Wei-hai-Wei-Haig-wei to a first-rate Port Arthur. Then, if the Russians come down, any defensive measures which we may be forced into taking will appear aggressive when the Russians are on the spot. They would not appear aggressive now. We have a prescriptive right to Bunder Abbas, which we ought to strengthen. It doesn't involve territorial annexations.
Monday, April 3rd, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus." last night I had a long and rather acrimonious argument with ---- and ---- on the question of Arab policy. They said: "You must punish the Arabs if they don't come in on our side." I said: "You have no means of punishing them. All you can do is to antagonize them."
there is news of a Zeppelin raid on London. Everybody is anxious.
Tuesday, April 4th, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus," Muskat. Last night I had my fourth Hindustani lesson, a very easy one. Jack Marriott is extraordinarily quick at languages. My teacher said that his affianced wife is fourteen and that he kept her in a cage at Bushire. Talked with the Admiral and Captain Burmester. . . .
To-day is a wild day, Arabia crouching, yellow like a lion, in a sand storm, and spray and sand flying in layers on the ship. All the land is lurid and the sea foaming and the sky black. If only there had been some sharks at sea and lions on shore, it would have been a perfect picture. This afternooen it cleared and became beautiful. We passed a desolate coast with no sign of life, where it looked as if a man would fry in half an hour in summer. A few dhows on the sea were all we saw. My last journey here came back vividly and the time at Bahrein after we were wrecked in the Africa.
Wireless came into Basrah to say the spring offensive was beginning. We put into Muskat. I found that the Resident, Colonel Ducat, was a neighbour. There has been a row at Chahbar, and the Philomel, which we expected to find here, has left, telegraphed for this morning. The news here is that the tribes intend to attack Muskat, but it's not believed. We went ashore this evening, and a Beluchi boy took the Admiral and all of us round. The people who had not been to the East before were enchanted by the quiet, the scent of musk, and the evening behind the Sultan's Palace. Last time I was here was on Christmas Day, with Leland Buxton. I was very sick, carrying a huge bag of Maria Teresa dollars. The Portuguese forts and the names of the ships that come here, painted in huge white letters on the cliffs, are the remarkable things about the place. There is a sort of a silent roll-call of the ships. The men like writing their names up in white letters. Matrah is round the corner, and looks bigger than Muskat. You have got to get to it by boat. Muskat itself is completely cut off. I saw a straight-looking Arab from Asir who had been with the Turks and had information, and asked the Agent to send him on to Aden.
Wednesday, April 5th, 1916. Muskat. Came ashore early this morning. Then came the Admiral and his Staff, and we went to the Sultan's house. He had about thrity followers. We drank sherbet like scented lip-salve, and the sailors didn't like it. The Admiral and the Sultan talked. Later the Sultan came here with seven A.D.C.'s and a nephew who talked very good English, which he had learned at Harrow. The Sultan has got a lot (MUSKAT)
of rather nice-looking little horses and a monstrous goat with ears that are about 3 feet long. The Sultan gets 5 per cent of the customs of this place. Jack Marriott went to see a prisoner in the Portuguese fort. He was Sheikh of a village in which a murder had been committed. They had failed to catch the murderer, and so the Sheikh had to suffer imprisonment himself. Not a bad plan, really. It's the old Anglo-Saxon idea. That sort of thing discourages men from pushing for power and makes them very energetic, for their own sakes, when they have power. Everything seems quiet in the Hinterland. These people here are Bunhas, who cheat the Sultan, slom aristocratic Arabs, and gorilla-like negroes. They are mostly armed to the teeth. Sheets of rain fell this afternoon.
Thursday, April 6th, 1916. Persian Gulf. We left early this morning. Some very fine king-fish were brought aboard, about 4 feet long. Great heat. We had an excellent telegram about Gorringe's offensive in Mesopotamia; the Turks driven back. The Admiral in great spirits. I am tremendously glad, because I have always felt that we were coming to a tragedy. I remember the telegram read out to us at Anzac and the cheers--- "The Turks are beaten! The way lies open to Baghdad!" ---and our enthusiasm and the disappointment after it, and I did not think this would succeed. Hanna, on the left bank of the Tigris, is reported taken. That ought to open Sinn on the right bank.
Friday, April 7th, 1916. Persian Gulf . . . .To-day we were told by wireless telegram that we had a slave of the Sultan's on board. Quite true; so we have. . . . He said he had been with the Sultan eight years and that if he were sent back he feared for his throat. He drew his finger across it very tenderly, and everybody roared with laughter. I do not see that the Sultan has a leg to stand on. If the man went to him eight years ago, he went either of his own free will, in which case he can leave, or he was sold, and we do not recognize anything except bondage, no traffic in slavery.
The Philomel's prisoners have been transferred to us. One of them looks like an old nobelman. His name is Shah Dulla. He held up Chahbar for 4000 rupees, like other old nobelmen, and was captured with seven bearded patriarchs by the Philomel fours days ago. They are dignified people.
Saturday, April 8th, 1916. H.M.S. "Euryalus." Bushire. A very cold morning with a clear sky. It's a nuisance having lost all my coats. Here I leave Edward. I hope he will be all right. He is to follow by the first opportunity with the other servants and my kit. McKay, who is a jolly fellow, will look after him. The news this morning is that we have again improved our position and have taken the second Turkish line. The Russians are advancing. There was a fight here a couple of nights ago. Our Agent, his brother and four sepoys were killed last night at Lingah.
Sunday, April 9th, 1916. H.M.S. "Imogene." Shat-el-Arab. Yesterday Commodore Wake came aboard . . . .He said that an officer had put land-mines down, and that some time after this officer had been recalled. People in Bushire naturally wanted him either to remove or mark his land-mines, but he said that they were all right, as they were only exploded by electricity. The following night, however, there were loud explosions when dogs gambolled over these mines, so people still walk like Agag, and walking is not a popular form of exercise round Bushire. To-day we are in a brown waste of waters that I remember well, a dismal Hinterland to a future Egypt. We passed a hospital ship early this morning, in these yellow shallow waters. It reminded me of the Dardanelles, but there it was much better, for there the sea and sky were beautiful and the climate, by comparison, excellent.
Ages ago, in Egypt, Machel used to talk of ghosts. This ship conjures them up all right--trips with Sir Nicholas and the children to the island and many other people, some of them still in Constantinople. Sir Nicholas would have been surprised if he could have seen the name of his yacht written on the rocks at Muskat, and, as the Admiral said, he would not have liked anyone else in command of his yacht, here or in any other waters. Townshend has telegraphed some time ago to say he could only hold out until April 1st. Here we are at the 9th.
Monday, April 10th, 1916. H.M.S. "Imogene." Kurna. Yesterday we arrived at Basra. It looked very beautiful and green, but we only had a short time. Everything seemed in a state of great confusion. Two Generals came aboard. They said we had taken two out of three lines of the trenches that we had got to take in the first attack. Then our men had been checked. We ought to have taken the trird line last night. The Sinn position still remains to be taken. If we had been successful last night (and we ought to have heard this morning), we have got a chance of relieving Townshend. If not, I am afraid there is not much chance . . . .The doctors are being pretty hotly criticized, also the Royal Indian Marine, though how they can be expected to know this river I can't see. Apparently they asked for iron barges from India and were given wooden barges that the banks and the current continually break. They asked here for one type of river-craft from home, and were told they must have another. Lynch out here says that Lynch in London has never been consulted, though they deny this at home. The troops have only two days' supplies. The soldiers in Basra were cheerful; the wounded also, for the first time, were cheerful, because they thought it had been worth it and that we are going to succeed. . .
There is a great storm getting up. The river's a vast rolling flood of yellow water, palm trees beyond and again beyond that, marshes and glimpses of a skeleton land, with marsh Arabs always in the background, like ghouls, swarming on every battlefield, killing and robbing the wounded on both sides. The Turks, they say in Basra, had said: "Let us both have a truce and go for the Arabs and then we can turn to and fight again." Nureddin, the Turkish Commander-in-Chief, is supposed to have been at Harrow with Townshend. I should think that it was really a pension at Lausanne. I saw P.Z. Cox yesterday. He and Lady Cox were very good to me years ago in the Gulf . . . . The Russians have not yet met any considerable Turkish force. If we do not relieve Townshend, and have to fall back, we shall be attacked by all the Arabs, who are well armed. They say a Royal Commission is being sent to India because at home they anticipate a failure here and want a scape-goat, which they have already provided in Nixon.
I dined with Gertrude Bell, Millborrow, whom I had last seen at Bahrein, and Wilson, whom I had known before. We transferred here at Kurna from the Imogene on to a tiney Admiralty gunboat, as usual leaving all our kit. Dick Bevan says that he has a vision of perpetual landings and expeditions until we arrive in China, with always the same troubles, too few mules, too many A.P.M.'s, etc. This is a war threshold to conjure up dreams and visions. It would be hard to find one more tragic. It's a curious fate that sends us a second time, unprepared, to one of the richest countries in the world that, like Egypt, has combined fertility and desert, with a stream controlling its future.
Tuesday, April 11th, 1916. H.M.S. "Snakefly." Monday night we got off the Imogene on to the Snakefly, one of the twelve Admiralty gunboats built for this expedition. The Admiralty don't seem able to stop building them, now they've started. They were sent out here in pieces, then put together. One has been taken by the Turks.(24)
The Snakefly draws 2 feet 9 inches only. Webster is her captain. We slept on deck all right. We saw practically no traffic at first on the river, and could not understand why we did not pass boats coming back empty for supplies. We passed many Indian troops, mainly on the left bank of the river; also isolated stations with telegraph-masters as chiefs. These men go out two or four miles into the desert with only a couple of rifles. These small posts contain the maximum of boredom and anxiety, because there is nothing to do, and if any force of Arabs came along they would be done in. An enterprising Indian sentry fired at us in the night. We passed dour, scowling Arabs in villages and groups on the bank with flocks and herds, buffaloes and goats, men more savage than the Philistines, but armed with rifles. An almost endless column of our cavalry wound its way through marsh and desert, over the green grass, and here and there fires sent up their smoke where meals were cooked. It struck me as more curious than the Australians round the Pyramids. At 6 p.m. we reached Ali Gharbi. I talked to an officer of the --th Punjabis. They were all very depressed at the failure of Aylmer's attack on the 8th March . . . .Townshend was the man they swore by. The 4th Devons, where John Kennaway is, are said to be at the front. There are flies that bite like bulldogs everywhere. Each night we have had lightning over towards Kut like a sort of malignant and fantastic Star of Bethlehem to light us on.
Wednesday, April 12th, 1916. H.M.S. "Snakefly." last night the weather broke. The Admiral's got a cabin about 6 feet long by 2 1/2 across. He put his head out of the window and said: "Would any of you fellows like to come in?" It was a beastly night. Our clothes are the thinnest tropical khaki, and they tear like a woman's veil. There was no shelter. I got into a conning-tower, like a telescope, but finally walked about. There seemed to be people's faces everywhere on deck, though there was a lot of water. I kept my dictionary dry. Now it's fine and bright. At seven this morning, when I had gone below, a Boy Scout of eighteen, one of the crew, went overboard. He was rescued almost at once, and swam lightly and gallantly. He was lucky. To-day is the 12th, my lucky day, but I have only got one extra shirt and one blanket, and a Turkish dictionary for a pillow . . . .
Everything seems greater and greater chaos . . . .We started this campaign against one of the great military Powers of the world with two brigades of Indians, who ought not to have been used at all, if it could have been avoided, on this ground, which to them is holy. We started with the wrong type of boat, and also Indian Generals who looked on the expedition as a frontier campaign . . . . If we fail to relieve Townshend, I suppose the best thing to do would be to cut our losses and retire to Kurna and hold that line, but if we do that the Turks can fortify the river and make it impregnable. We ran on to the bank last night, and stayed there. We spent an uncomfortable wet night, but got off all right this morning. There was an encampment close by. We couldn't make out if they were friends or enemies; the Admiral didn't bother. We all want a clean pair of socks and fewer mosquitoes.
Thursday, April 13th, 1916. Near Sanayat. It was at noon yesterday that we arrived at Ali Gharbi. The Admiral saw General Lake. We are cruelly handicapped by lacking transport and not being able to get in. In the afternoon I crossed the river and saw General Gilman at Felahiya. I was very glad to see him again. He had been on our left with the 13th Division at Anafarta. One of the best men I have met. We had a long talk . . . .Then I came back with Dick Bevan. What's happened is this: we got in such a state about Townshend being able to hold out till the end of January that we rushed up troops and attacked without the possibility of making preparation for th wounded, ambulances, etc., and we failed . . . .Townshend had got 5000 Arabs with him, and the bouches inutiles have told enormously, but T. Has apparently promised these people his protection and nothing will make him send them away, and he's right. The strain on the men with him has been very great indeed; some of the older men are very sick. No one thinks that he's got a dog's chance of getting out. The --th were badly cup (ed: cut?) up at Anafarta, but they kept their keenness, and at the beginning of this show their fooicers could not keep them back, on the 8th of March. The fight on the 9th of April was very bad luck. All the men were very cold and tired. A hot cup of coffee might have made the whole difference . . . . We shall have to face a lot of trouble with the Arabs and look out for Nasryah, which could be cut off by marsh Arabs from Basra way and turned into another Kut. Most people think that the line that we ought to defend is Nasryah--Amara--Ahwaz. The Admiral's going to Nasryah. I suggested his taking General Gillman, and he is off too. Every one is raging against the economy of India, especially a man called Meyer, the Treasury member for the Council of India. He is said to have refused to give any help. In this flat land they need observation balloons; none forthcoming. They asked for transport from May to Christmas, and then got one launch . . . .
I saw the Admiral in the evening. He was cheered after talking to General Gorringe. We walked by the river. We met some of the Black Watch--clean, smart men. There was a great bridge of boats, without rails, swaying and tossing in the hurricane and covered with driven foan from the raging yellow water. Across this there lurched Madrassis, Sudanese, terrified cavalry horses, mules that seemed to think that there was only water on one side, and that they would be on dry land if they jumped off on the other. We are out of range, but shelling is going on and one can fix points in the landscape by bursts. The eternal flatness is depressing. This morning I saw Leachman, the political officer. He had had a lot of adventures in Arabia--a very good fellow, whom everybody likes, which is rare . . . . He was against our going farther back than Sheikh Saad, both from the point of view of strategy and also because it would be playing a low game on our own friendlies. The Arabs on the bank between Sheikh Saad and Ali Gharbi are, apparently, past praying for.
This afternoon I went out with the Admiral . . . .Townshend has been telegraphing to-day. His men are dying of starvation. The whole situation is pitiful. Here the troops have been on half rations for some time. Our boats are many, but insufficient. They are of every kind, from an Irawaddy steamer to the steamers of the Gordon Relief Expedition and L.C.C. Boats. We met some of the 6th Devons, and I asked them if the way the Admiral was going was safe. They said: "We be strangers here, zur," as if they were Exeter men in Taunton , , , ,the rain is making the relief practically impossible. Last night there was heavy firing and we advanced 2000 yards, but the main positions are still untaken. To-night met Percy Herbert, very useful, as my tropical khaki is coming to pieces.
Friday, April 14th, 1916. H.M.S. "Stonefly." . . . .A furious wind got up and drove mountains of yellow water before it, against the stream. The skies were black. Captain Nunn, the Senior Naval Officer, wanted to go to Sheikh Saad. I wanted to go to H.Q. To see Colonel Beach, Chief of the Intelligence, who has written to me to come. We got off with difficulty into the stream. It was like a monstrous snake, heaving and coiling. We only drew 3 feet and we were very top-heavy with iron, and I thought we were bound to turn over. I said so to Singleton, the captain, who said: "I quite agree. It serves them d----d well right if we do, for sending us out in this weather." this thought pleased him, though it did not satisfy me. Nunn said it was the worst weather he had seen in the year. I got off at Wadi thankfully, and went to see Beach, but it was not all over yet. He wanted to go and see how the bridge of boats was standing the strain. The end of the bridge of boats had been removed to let the steamers through, though there were none passing. It was twisting like an eel trying to get free, and going up and down like a moving staircase in agony. There was foan and gloom and strain and fury and the screaming of the timber, but the bridge held. The engineers were calmly smoking their pipes at the end, wondering in a detached way if it would hold. I prefer fighting any day to this sort of thing. Hen I went walking with Beach. He asked me to be ready in case Townshend wanted me. I dined with General Lake, General Money, Williams, and Dent; capital fellows. Had an interesting time after dinner. The future is doubtful. If we have to retire, we shall have a double loss of prestige, Kut gone and our own retreat. When we want to advance later, we shall find all our present positions fortified against us. A retreat will also involve the abandonment of our friendlies. This campaign has taught me why we have been called perfide Albion. It's very simple. We embark upon a campaign without any forethought at all. Then, naturally we get into extreme difficulties. After that, we talk to the natives, telling them quite truthfully that we have got magnificent principles of truth, justice, tolerance, etc., that where the British Raj is all creeds are free. They like these principles so much that they forget to count our guns. Then, principles or no principles, we have got to retreat (H.M.S. STONEFLY)
before a vastly superior force, and the people who have come in with us get strafed. Then they all say "perfide Albion," though it's really nobody's fault--sometimes not even the fault of the Government.
I slept on the Malamir, on deck. It was very wet in the night, but I kept fairly dry.
Saturday, April 15th, 1916. "Malamir." I went and saw the Turkish prisoners in one of the most desolate camps on earth; some Albanians amongst them. They said there were munition factories in Bagdad, that 4000 Turks had gone to Persia--they did not know if it was to the oil-field at Basra or against the Russians. It's Basra and the oil-field that are important to us.
Lunched aboard the Malamir. General Lake was very kind. I went off on an Irawaddy steamer, a "P" boat. The Captain told appalling stories of the wounded on board after Ctesiphon. It took them seventeen days to Amara, which sounds incredible. They had to turn back three times at Wadi and return to Kut, because they were heavily attacked at Wadi by Kurds. General Nixon had to turn back, too. The transport was so overcrowded that men were pushed overboard. I met an Indian political officer on board . . . . (and again) . . . .He said one thing to me that was not indiscreet. Once at Abazai he had seen a Pathan wrestling. Before he wrestled he help (ed: held?) up his hands, and cried an invocation: "Dynamis" ("Might"). He thought it must have come from the days of Alexander. He had been in the Dujaila fight on March 8th, and talked about it, unhappily. He also said that the corruption of the Babus at Basra was awful.
On board our ship there were piles of bread without any covering, but a swarming deposit of flies; good for everybody's stomach.
Sunday, April 16th, 1916. Half a day's food is being dropped daily by aeroplanes in Kut , , , ,I met a very jolly Irish officer, a V.C. He said that when the war broke out he, and many like himself, saw the Mohammedan difficulty. They had themselves been ready to refuse to fight against Ulster; why should Indians fight the Turks? We were fighting for our own lives, but the quarrel did not really concern Indians. They might have been expected to be spectators. Then the orders came for them to go to France. They called up the Indian officers and said to them: "German had declared war, and on second thoughts, a Jehad. She quarrelled with England first and then pretended she was fighting for Islam." the Indian officers agreed, and came along readily. They were then ordered to Mesopotamia. They again called upon the Indian officers, who said: "We would sooner go anywhere else in the world, but we will go, and we will not let the regiment down." they were told to go to Baghdad, and were willing to go, though their frame of mind was the same . . . . Then I went off to interrogate prisoners. It was tremendously hot. The prisoners were under a guard of Indians, and I found it hard to make the Indians understand my few words of Hindustani. The prisoners' morale seemed good. They said they were not tired of the war and that they did not think of disobeying orders, for that, they said, would be awful and would make chaos. They thought that what pleased God was going to happen, and they were inclined to believe that that would be victory for the Turks. They said twenty-seven guns had come up in the last eight days, 17 cm. And 20 cm. If that's the case, they can shell us out of here. I told the Admiral, and in the evening we talked. We met General Gorringe . . . .I am tremendously sorry for these men here. Last year the God of battles was on our side. We ought not to have won, by any law of odds or strategy, at Shaiba, at Ctesiphon, or Nasriyah, but we did. They won against everything, and now the luck has turned. They have brought Indian troops to fight on holy soil for things that mean nothing to them. They ahve been hopelessly outnumbered by the Turks. They have been starved of everything, from food to letters, not to speak of high explosives. They have been through the most ghastly heat and the most cruel cold, and they are still cheerful. I have never seen a more friendly lot than these men here. They have always got something to say when you meet them. The weather has changed and it's very fine, with a beautiful wind and clear skies, but there are no scents, like in Gallipoli of thyme and myrtle. It's a limitless bare plain, green and sometimes brown mud, covered by an amazing mixture of men and creatures: horses and mules and buffaloes, Highlanders, Soudanese and Devons, Arabs and Babus. Camp fires spring up, somehow, at night by magic. We generally have a bombardment most days, but no shells round us.
Monday, April 17th, 1916. H.M.S. "Waterfly." harris is Captain. While we were having breakfast this morning a German aeroplane flew over and bombed us ineffectually. Bombs fell a couple of hundred yards away in camp, not doing any damage, but they'll get us sometime, as we are a fine target, three boats together.
Tuesday, April 18th, 1916. H.M.S. "Waterfly." Last night the Admiral went to Amara. He left Jack Marriott, Philip Neville, Dick Bevan and me here. There was no work down there and a lot here. Last night we did well, took about 250 prisoners and the Bunds that are essential to us. If the Turks have these and want to, they can flood the country to the extent of making manoeuvring impossible. There was peace yesterday at the crimson sunset. Then after that came the tremendous fight. Guns and flares blazed all along the line. Now comes the news that we have lost the Bunds and the eight guns we had taken. The position is not clear. We are said to
have retaken most of the positions this morning.
The prisoners; morale here is much better than in Gallipoli. I asked an Arab if he was glad to be a prisoner. He said that he was sorry, because his own people might think that he hadn't fought well, but that he was glad not to have to go on fighting for the Germans. Jack Marriott wrote for me while I translated. The prisoners could not or would not tell us anything much about the condition of the river. This morning I had an experience. I walked out through tremendous heat to where the last batch of officer prisoners were guarded in a tent. As I came up, I heard loud wranglind, and saw the prisoners being harangued by a fierce black-bearded officer. I said: "Who here talks Turkish?" and a grizzled old Kurd said: "Some of us talk Kurdish and some Arabic, but we all talk Turkish." I picked out Black-beard and took him apart from the others, whom I saw he had been bullying. He was a schoolmaster and a machine-gunner, and fierce beyond words. He began by saying sarcastically that he would give me all the information I wanted. "You have failed at Gallipoli," he said. "We hold you up at Salonica, and you are only visitors at Basra. I do not mind how much I tell you, because I know we are going to win." I answered rather tartly that it was our national habit to be defeated at the beginning of every war and to win in the end, and that we should go on, if it took us ten years. "Ah, then," he said, "you will be fighting Russia." I did not like the way this conversation was going, and said to him: "Do you know the thing that your friends the Germans have done? They have offered Persia to Russia. How do you like that?" "The question is," he said, "how do you like it?" He then said that he was sick of the word "German," that Turkey was not fighting for the Germans, but to get rid of the capitulations. He said they had four Austrian motor-guns of 24 cm. coming in a few days. I congratulated him. In the end he became more friendly, but I got nothing out of him. One prisoner had a series of fits: I think it was fright. He got all right when he was given water and food. The river has given another great sigh and risen a foot and a half. We have crossed over from the right to the left bank. It's a black, thundery day. Much depends on to-day and to-night.
Good Friday, April 21st, 1916. H.M.S. "Waterfly." I have had no time to write these last days. This morning is a beautiful morning, with a fresh north wind. When we first came here Townshend was supposed to be able to hold out until the 12th. Now the 27th April is the last date. All the reports that we have been getting from the Turks are bad. Masses more men and guns coming up, heavy calibre guns. Still, Townshend is getting some food . . . . The Julnar is to go up in a few days, when the moon is waning. It is very difficult to get information from the prisoners, without running the risk of giving things away. Costello is chief of the Intelligence here, a capital fellow.
The Royal Indian Marine, freed from the obstruction of India, seem to have done pretty well. A lot of the boats and barges sent here have been sunk on the way. The Admiralty goes on building these river Fly boats like anything. The Mantis with Bernard Buxton captain, draws 5 feet and was intended for th Danube in the days when we were going to have taken Constantinople. On Wednesday, the 18th, we fired a good deal from the Waterfly. We are not well situated for firing . . . .
The Dorsets and Norfolks, the Oxfords and the Devons, have done the most splendid fighting. Twenty-two Dorsets save the whole situation at Ahwaz. Harris, who is only twenty-five, had been through all this. He was the first up here, with Leachman. It's awfully bad luck on Townshend, being shut up again, the second time counting Chitral. On Wednesday there was a tremendous fire. It sounded like a nearer Helles. The Turks are three miles from us. They lollop down mines that go on the bank, but this morning one was found close by the ship.
I examined a Turk this morning, who said that three Army Corps were coming up under Mehemed Ali Pasha. I asked him if they could outflank us on the Haig, to try and turn this place into a second Kut. "That," he said, "has always been my opinion."
Yesterday, the 20th, I went to H.Q. in the morning, then talked to Dick and got maps revised and borrowed a horse for the afternoon from Percy Herbert, and got another from Costello for B.
Here I should explain that I had promised my friend B., the sailor, to take him up into the front-line trenches. He had never been in a front trench before, and was determined to see what it was like.
Diary. General Gillman gave B. and me luncheon. Then B. and I rode out to the camp of the 18th Division, where I found Brownrigg, now become a Colonel, with malaria. I congratulated and condoled. I asked if we could get into the front trench, and Colonel Hillard said it was unhealthy. B. said that didn't matter, and I asked exactly how unhealthy. Hillard said there were no communication trenches and we should be under machine-gun fire at 80 yards. No rations were being sent up till nightfall, but still, of course, if we wanted to go, we could. B. was passionately anxious to go; I was not. We walked down a shallow communication trench, which we soon had to leave, because of the water, and then across the open to a beastly place called Crofton's
Post, an observation post in the flat land, with a few sandbags and mud walls. They had dug a kind of shelter about 6 feet deep below it. It stood about 20 feet high. The Turks were eight to nine hundred yards away. We passed other observation posts, these simply a ladder rising from the flat land, and men like flies on it. It's incredible that the Turks leave these places standing or that they allow people to walk about in the open in the way in which they do. Coming out, we passed a lot of quail and partridge and some jolly wildflowers, but also the smells of the battlefield.
After we had been at Crofton's Post a little while, a furious bombardment of the Turks by us began. I cursed myself for not having asked what the plans of the afternoon were going to be. B. was delighted. Shells rushed over our heads from all sides. I heard the scream of two premature bursts just by us. They raised filthy, great columns of heaving smoke. It was a wonderful picture; the radiant and brilliant light of the afternoon, the desert out by the river, the gleam of the gun flashes and the smouldering smoke columns.
The Gurkhas fought very well two nights ago, they said here. They used up all their ammunition and what Turkish rifles they could get and then they fought with kukries. At one place an unfortunate mistake happened. We mistook the Indians for Turks, and we bombarded each other.
We went back almost deafened by our own guns, B. reluctant to leave. I expected a heavy Turkish return bombardment every minute, which would have been unpleasant without any cover, but beyond the ticking of a machine gun nothing happened. Found General Maude having tea. His casualties have been heavy--nineteen officers killed and wounded in the last ten days, simply trench work, no attacks. He said it was putting a very heavy strain on the new army.
The more I see of this foul country, the more convinced I am that we are a seafaring people, lured to disaster by this river. The River Tigris has been a disaster and a delusion to us. These lines are untenable without two railways, one across to Nasriyah and the other up to Baghdad. At the present moment, we can be cut off if the river falls or if they manage to put in guns anywhere down the river and sink a couple of our boats, or even one, in the narrows, and so block the channel. We have got no policy. We came here and we saw the Tigris and we said: "This is as good as the sea, and up we will go," and now it will dry up and we shall get left.
Lawrence arrived at Wadi on Wednesday. Had some talk with him; I am very glad to see him. Got a letter from John Kennaway yesterday--he is down at Sheikh Saad--asking me to go there. I can get no news about Bobby Palmer. Am afraid there is no doubt; he must be killed; am very sad for his people.
Easter Sunday, April 23rd, 1916. H.M.S. "Greenfly." a curious morning, with the whole of Pushti Kuh standing blue and clear. The last two foreigners who visited that place were given the choice of embracing Islam or of being pushed over the precipice. They chose the precipice.
Yesterday morning we attacked. The 19th Brigade, the Black Watch, the 20th and the 28th. We took two trenches, but were driven back to our own. I was sent post-haste to H.Q. for news. There was a great sand-storm and men and artillery going through it like phantoms. Overhead it was lurid. One could hardly breathe for the sand. High columns of it rushed across the desert. The repulse looks as if the end's very close. I came back to the Admiral ans was sent back again. This time they said there was a truce, and if the Admiral would give permission, I was to go to the front at once. I came back and found the Admiral and went on shore. I got a horse and rode up to the front as fast as I could, passing many dead and wounded. I went to General Young-husband and asked if I could be of any use to him. He said the truce was ending. The Turks had pushed out white flags, which was decent of them. We had done the same. A Staff officer came into say that the Turks were taking our kit, and he wanted to fire on them. I was anxious we should not do so without giving warning.
We discussed the possibility of the Turks letting Townshend and his men come out with the honours of war, to be on parole till peace. I said that I could see no quid pro quo, and even if one existed, we, here, could not use it, because of our ignorance of the Russian situation . . . . The General said that the water had narrowed our front to 300 yards across which to attack. The Turkish trenches were half full of water and many of our men fell and got their rifles filled with mud. The Turks attacked again at once. He said there were not many troops who would do that when a brigade like the 19th had been through them. Te's very little left of the 19th; beautiful men they were. I have talked to a lot of them these last days. I rode back on a horse that was always falling down. In the morning I crossed the river with the Admiral and rode up to the front with Beach. There was shelling goingon, but nothing came near. The river was gorgeous in the sunset. Overhead the sand-grouse flew. We talked about the future . . . . It seems to me that if we have got to retreat 130 miles it's less bad for prestige to do it in one go. The politicals' point of view is that you should not retreat at all, but that, of course, has got to depend on military considerations. The Soldiers' point of view is that you should not do your retreat in one go, because you do not kill so many of the enemy as if you fall back from one position to another; but
then, I suppose, that cuts both ways. None of these soldiers have had any decorations since the beginning of the war. One of them said to me it made them unhappy, because they felt that they hadn't done their duty. It's an infernal shame. I asked the man who had said this if he had any leave. He said: "Not much! I should have lost my job." That would have been quite a pleasure to a lot of men . . . .
Lawrence has gone and got fever; Nunn also has it. The atmosphere makes shooting difficult. Yesterday the Turks shot quite a lot at a mirage, splashing their bullets about in the Suwekki marsh. We often do the same. Curiously enough, I believe that we won the battle of Shaiba by virtue of a mirage. We saw a lot of Turks marching up against our position, and fired at them; these Turks were phantoms of men miles away; but it happened to be the only road by which they could bring up ammunition, and our firing prevented that. To-night the Julnar goes up the river on her journey. She has less speed than they thought.
For various reasons I have barely mentioned the Julnar until now, though she had been very much in our thoughts. The Julnar was a river-boat, and for some days past she had been preparing to set out upon he splendid tragic mission. In her lay the last hope of General Townshend and his gallant force. Her freight was food, intended to prolong the resistence of the garrison until the relieving force was sufficiently strong to drive back the Turks and enter Kut. The writer of this diary has many heroic pictures in his mind, but no more heroic picture and no more glowing memory than the little Julnar steaming slowly up the flaming Tigris to meet the Turkish Army and her fate. Her Captains were Lieut. Firman, R.N., and Lieut.-Comdr. Cowley, R.N.V.R., of Lynch's Company, who had spent a long life navigating the River Tigris.
When Admiral Wemyss called for volunteers, every man volunteered, for what was practically certain death. Lieut. Firman and Lieut.-Comdr. Cowley were both killed, and both received posthumous V.C.'s (ed: V.C.s ?)
diary. April 23rd. H.M.S. "Greenfly." we are alongside the Mantis. I am sleeping in Firman's cabin. He is downstream, but he comes up to-night. Many men badly wounded yesterday, but all as cheerful as could be; one man with three bullets in his stomach, full of talk and oaths. Fifteen of the Dorsets have died in the nearest hospital and have been buried close by.
This afternoon an Easter Service was held on board. The Padre made a good sermon three minutes long. It was a wonderful sight--the desert covered with our graves, mirages in the distance and the river glowing in the sun. At the end of the service the Julnar arrived. Firman is an attractive good-looking fellow. King, whom I met last year in Alexandretta, whither he had marched from Baghdad, is also here. When Buxton told the men of the hundred to one chance of the Julnar's getting through, they volunteered to a man. Gieve waistcoats are being served out; the cannon's sounding while they are loading the Julnar and the Black Watch are playing on the bagpipes close by. Overhead go the sand-grouse, calling and the river and the desert wind are sighing. It's all like a dream . . . . Even if she does get through, I don't believe we can relieve Kut. The Turks will have time to consolidate their position and we shan't be sent enough men from home to take them. If this attempt fails, I suppose we shall fall back to Sheikh Saad. I see three points: (1) Political. Don't retreat. (2) Military. You've got to retreat, occupying as many positions as possible, in order to attrition the enemy. (3) If you do this last, you give the Turks the chance of saying they have beaten you in a number of battles. Probably retreat as little as possible is the best. A retreat may be more disastrous to us than the loss of Kut. While we hold Sheikh Saad, it's difficult for them to outflank us on the right bank, and while we have the Vali of Pushti Kuh with us, they ought not to be able to get to Ahwaz. One wonders if they realize the supreme importance of Basra at home and that if we no longer hold it we do not hold the Indian Ocean.
Monday, April 24th, 1916. H.M.S. "Dragonfly." Firman came last night, and I sat next to him at dinner. The Julnar could not start; she starts to-night.
I went ashore this morning and saw Leachman, then Colonel Beach. The flies are awful; one black web of them this morning; in one's hair and eyes and mouth, in one's bath and shaving-water, in one's tea and in one's towel. It's a great nuisance being without Edward and having to do everything oneself, besides one's work. It destroys all joy in war.
Tuesday, April 25th, 1916. H.M.S. "Greenfly." a year ago to-day we landed at Anzac. To-day is the day of the fall of Kut, though the surrender may not be made for some time. Last night the Julnar left. I saw old Cowley, an old friend. He is to pilot her. He has been thirty-three years on this river. He is a proper Englishman. He laughed and chaffed with Philip Neville and me on the Julnar before starting. Firman was very glad to have got the job, and felt the responsibility. Everybody wanted to go. The sailors were moved. No cheers were allowed. They pushed off, almost stationary, into the river, that was a glory of light with the graceful mehailahs in an avenue on both sides of it, with masts and rigging a filigree against the gorgeous sunset. The faint bagpipes
and the desert wind were the only music at their going . . . .The Admiral told me to be ready to go out at any moment. This morning Colonel Beach came aboard and told me to hold myself in readiness. He propsed going out to see the Turks with Lawrence and myself. He talked about terms. It's a very difficult thing to get terms when one side holds all the cards. If Townshend destroys his guns, as he must, I don't see what terms we have got. My own opinion is that Townshend would make better terms for himself with the Turks than we can get for him here. It will be difficult to stop the Arabs being shot and hung. We have got to do our best . . . .
The Julnar has grounded above the Sinn position. Nothing is known of what happened to the crew.
Wilfred Peek turned up here this afternoon, having seen John Kennaway down the stream. We have no terms to offer the Turks except money, general or local peace, or the evacuation of territory. I do not think the first is any good. We cannot offer the second because of ourselves and of Russia. The third might be all right, if it was not beyond Amarah. I hope in these negotiations we do not meet a Prussian Turk in Khalil.
After lunch I met Captain Potter. In the last attack this had happened: A corporal had gone mad, and, after rolling in filth, had come down the trench with a bomb in each hand, shouting out that he was looking for the ---- Arabs. The parapet was low, about shoulder high, and there was a good deal of shrapnel and bullets coming in. The corporal threw the bomb into the middle of the officers' mess, killing one and wounding the Colonel, knocking Potter and the others out. They collared the corporal, who had got a madman's strength. Then the attack followed. Potter went as soon as he recovered. They charged across 600 yards under machine-gun fire, up to their knees in mud. The Turks were in their third trench. The first and the second were filled with mud. Then the Turks ran out a white flag, which suited us very well, as it allowed our men in the Turkish trenches to get away, which otherwise they couldn't have done. He thought the Turks did it because they wanted to bring up reinforcements. He now commands a battalion of 84, all that are left of 650 men. He said they had reached the limit of human endurance. He had three officers, including himself, left. The Black Watch had been wiped out twice, and other regiments simply annihilated. I told him that I thought there would be no more attacks. He said a Turkish prisoner, a friend of his, had said to him: "Let's have a truce and both kill the Arabs."
beach says there is no question of going out to-day. I went our shooting sand-grouse.
Wednesday, April 26th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." I am writing in great haste, till the sun goes down, as the mehailahs stream past on a river of fire, in the retreat that is beginning.
The news from home is good and bad. As usual, they are desperately optimistic, but more men are coming. We must, if we can, save the Arabs with Townshend. The last telegrams in were pitiful. Townshend quotes military precedents and other campaigns, and it's all mixed up with famine and the stinks of Kut. Wilfred Peek's his A.D.C. I am to try and get him a safe conduct to take Townshend's stuff up to him, also one for us. If Townshend does not make it clear that it's a return ticket, we shall all be kept. I saw General Lake this morning. Captain Bermester, the Chief of the Staff, Neville, Dick Bevan, and Millar all went off this morning. The Admiral is coming back. I have received instructions about negotiations.
Friday, April 28th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." for the last two days I have been standing by to go to Kut, constantly dressing up for it and then undressing for the heat. A wave of great heat has come and the air is black with flies. Practically no firing, though they tried to shell us yesterday and an aeroplane dropped bombs near here. We have got very little to bargain with, as far as the Turks are concerned, practically only the exchange of prisoners. The operations of this force are not to be reckoned with as a bargaining asset. We are not to retire to save Townshend. Yesterday Townshend saw Khalil at 10 a.m., whom he liked. Khalil said that Townshend would have as great a reception in Turkey as Osman Pasha in Russia, but he demanded unconditional surrender, or that Townshend should march out of Kut. This last is equivalent to an unconditional surrender, and Townshend's men are too weak. We are all sorry for them.
Yesterday morning General Lake sent for me, and talked about the Turks. I said it was quite clear to me that the Turks would procrastinate, if it was only from force of habit, and the end of that must mean unconditional surrender. General Lake was calm. He had been made responsible for things for which other people are answerable. Townshend has telegraphed to say that he has only food for two more days and that Khalil has referred to Enver for better terms. . . .I still think Townshend would get better terms for himself than we shall get for him. He has made a desperately gallant fight of it, and his position had not been taken. Lack of food makes him surrender, not force of arms. We, the relieving force have been checked by the Turks, but I suppose all these men, Lake, Townshend, and Nixon, will be made scape-goats. In the last telegrams Townshend warns us that the Turks may attack. He says he cannot move out, and that even if he were able to
get his weak men out the Turks would not have enough tents for them or transport them to Baghdad, and that there will be a terrible tragedy and that a lot of sick and wounded will die. . . .We are not in a position to insist on anything. One is more sorry for Townshend and his men than words can say.
Sunday, April 30rd, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." The Events of Saturday: Yesterday morning Colonel Beach came to the Mantis at seven and took me off. We rode across the bridge to General Younghusband's H.Q. Nothing that I have ever seen or dreamed of came up to the flies. They hatched out until they were almost the air. They were in myriads. The horses were half mad. The flies were mostly tiny. They rolled up in little balls, when one passed one's hand across one's sweating face. They were on your eyelids and lashes and in your lips and nostrils. We could not speak for them, and could hardly see.
We went into General Younghusband's tent. The flies, for some reason, stayed outside. He put a loose net across the door of the tent. They were like a visible fever, shimmering in the burning light all round. Inside his tent you did not breathe them; outside you could not help taking them in through the nose and the mouth. We left General Younghusband and went on to the front trenches, where we met Colonel Aylsmee. There Lawrence joined us. We three went out of the trenches with a white flag, and walked a couple of hundred yards or so ahead, where we waited, with all the battlefield smells round us. It was all a plain, with the river to the north and the place crawling with huge black beetles and singing flies, that have been feeding on the dead. After a time a couple of Turks came out. I said: "We hav got a letter to Khalil." This they wanted to take from us, but we refused to give it up, and they sent an orderly back to ask if we might come in to the Turkish lines. Meanwhile we talked amiably. One of the Turkish officers, a Cretan, had left school five years ago and had been in five wars. He reckoned that he had been in 200 attacks, not counting scraps with brigands and comitadjis. The Turks showed us their medals, and we were rather chagrined at not being able to match them, but they and we agreed that we should find the remedy for that in a future opportunity.
Several hours passed. It was very hot. I was hungry, having had no breakfast. Again they asked us to give up our letter. I said that our orders were to deliver it in person and, as soldiers, they knew what orders were, but that Colonel Beach would give the letter up if their C.O. would guarantee that we should see Khalil Pasha. This took a long time. The Turks sent for a tent. A few rifle shots went off from our lines, but Beach went back and stopped it. The Turks sent for oranges and water, and we ate and drank. We had to refill these bottles from the Tigris, and up and down the banks were a lot of dead bodies from shot-wounds and cholera. After some time they agreed to Beach's proposal. We were blindfolded and we went in a string of hot hands to the trenches of the Turks. When it was plain going the Turks, who talked French, called: "Franchement, en avant," and when it was bad going, over trenches, "Yavash Dikatet." We marched a long way through these trenches, banging against men and corners, and sweating something cruel. Beyond the trenches we went for half an hour, while my handkerchief became a wet string across my eyes. Then we met Bekir Sami Bey. He was a very fine man and very jolly, something between an athlete and old King Cole. He lavished hospitality upon us, coffee and yoghurt, and begged us to say if there was anything more he could get us, while we sat and streamed with perspiration. He told us how he had loved England and still did. He was fierceness and friendship incarnate. He said it was all Grey's fault, and glorified the Crimea. Why couldn't we have stuck to that policy? Then, as we were going off, I said that he would not insist on our eyes being bandaged, showing him my taut, wet rag of a pocket-handkerchief. He shouted with laughter and said: "No, no; you have chosen soldiering, a very hard profession. You have got to wear that for miles, and you will have to ride across ditches." Then he shook hands and patted us on the shoulder.
My eyes were bound, and I got on a horse that started bucking because of the torture of the flies. The Turk was angry and amused. I heard him laughing and swearing: "This is perfectly monstrous. Ha, ha! He'll be off. Ha, ha! This is a reproach to us." I was then given another horse that was not much of an improvement, and off we three went with a Turkish officer, Ali Shefket, and a guard. Lawrence had hurt his knee and could not ride. He got off and walked, a Turkish officer being left with him. Colonel Beach and I went on. Then our eyes were unbound, though as a matter of fact this was against the orders I had heard given. The Turk Ali Shefket and I talked. He knew no French. He said to me: "Formerly the Arabs would not take our banknotes; now they take them. Once upon a time they would not take medjids; two days ago they took them. To what do you put that down?" I knew he meant the fall of Kut, but it was not said maliciously. I said that I put it down to the beautiful character of the marsh Arans (ed: Arabs?), "yerli bourda beule" ("here the native are thus"). He laughed and agreed. We passed formidable herds of horses and mules, our road a sand track. The escort rode ahead of us. The heat was very great, but we galloped. The Turks we met thought that we were prisoners. They saluted sometimes at strict attention, sometimes with a grin, and later our Indians were told in return to salute the Turkish officers, who looked at them as black as thunder.
At last we come to Khalil's camp, a single round tent, a few men on motor-cycles coming and going, horses
(WITH THE TURKS)
here and there and the camp in process of shifting. Later on, Khalil said that the flies bored him and that he meant to camp beside the river. Colonel Beach told me to start talking. I said to Khalil, whose face I remembered: "Where was it that I met your Excellency last?" And he said: "At a dance at the British Embassy." Khalil, throughout the interview was polite. He was quite a young man for his position, I suppose about thirty-five, and a fine man to look at--lion-taming eyes, a square chin and a mouth like a trap. Kiazim Bey, who was also courteous, but silent, was his C.G.S. We began on minor points. The Turks had taken the English ladies in Baghdad. Their husbands were sent across to Alexandretta, where I met them last year; some of them, worse luck, are now prisoners again. We had Turkish ladies at Amara and also twenty-five Turkish civilian officials. This exchange was arranged. They were to meet each other at Beyrout.
I went on to speak of the Julnar. He said that there had been two killed on the Julnar. He was afraid it was the two Captains. He was sorry. It made Beach and me very sad. I did hope they would have got through. Firman was a gallant man--he had had forty-eight hours' leave in four years--and old Cowley was a splendid old fellow. Well, if you are going to be killed, trying to relieve Townshend is not a bad way to end.
After that, I began talking of the treatment of the Arab population in Kut. I asked Khalil to put himself in the position of Townshend. I said that I knew that he could not help feeling for Townshend, whose lifelong study of soldiering was brought to nought through siege and famine, by no fault of his own. I said that the Arabs with Townshend had done what weak people always do: they had trimmed their sails, and because they had feared him, they had given him their service. If they suffered, Townshend would fell that he was responsible. Khalil said: "There is no need to worry about Townshend. He's all right." he added that the Arabs are Turkish subjects, not British, and that therefore their fate was irrelevant, but that their fate would depend upon what they did in the future, not upon what they had done in the past. We asked him for some assurance that there would be no hanging or persecution. He would not give his assurance, for the reasons already stated, but said that is was not his intention to do anything to the Arabs. Then Lawence turned up.
We discussed the question of our sick and wounded. He said that he would send 500 of them down the river, but that he required Turkish soldiers for them in exchange. I said that he gained by having sound men instead of wounded. He wanted us to send boats to fetch these men. He said that he was sending them drugs, doctors, and food, and doing what could be done. Beach asked for the exchange of all our prisoners in Kut against the Ottomans that we had taken. He at first said that he would exchange English against Turk and Arab against Indian, because he had a poor opinion of the fighting qualities of the last two. I said that some of the Arabs had fought very well, and he would gain by getting them back. He then pulled out a list of prisoners of ours, and went through the list of Arab surrenders, swearing. He said: "Perhaps one of our men in ten is weak or cowardly, but it's only one in a hundred of the Arabs who is brave. Look, these brutes have surrendered to you because they were a lot of cowards. What are you to do with men like that? You can send them back to me if you like, but I have already condemned them to death. I should like to have them to hang." That ended that. We must see that Arabs are not sent back by mistake.
He then said that he would like us to send ships up to transport Townshend and his men to Baghdad; otherwise they would have to march, which would be hard on them. He promised to let us have these ships back again. Colonel Beach said to me, not for translation, that this was impossible. We have already insufficient transport. He told me to say that he would refer this to General Lake. We then talked about terms and the exchange of the sick and wounded. On this, Khalil said he would refer to Enver or Constantinople as to whether sound men at Kut would be exchanged against the Turkish prisoners in Cairo and India. He did not think it likely. He was going to give us the wounded in any case, at once. He would trust us to give their equivalent.
Guns: Townshend had destroyed the guns. Khalil was angry and showed it. He said he had a great admiration for Townshend, but he was obviously disappointed at not getting the guns, on which he had counted. He said: "I could have prevented it by bombarding, but I did not want to." Later, one of his officers said to me: "The Pasha's a most honourable man; all love him. He was firtst very pleased and said that Townshend should go free. After that something happened, I don't know what, and now Townshend will be an honoured prisoner at Stamboul."
Beach told me to say that we would willingly pay for the maintenance of the civilians and the Arabs of Kut. Khalil brushed this aside and returned to his proposal that we should send up boats to transport Townshend's sick and wounded to Baghdad. Beach whispered to me that we had not enough ships for ourselves at the present moment and no reserve supplies. . . .
Then we talked of the general situation and its difficulties. I asked him if all this business would be possible
without an armistice. Khalil said very strongly indeed that he was entirely against an armistice and that he wanted his assurance given to General Lake that even if there was a general offensive the ships carrying the sick and wounded could still come and go. Beach told me to say that we had no idea of an armistice. Khalil, at this point, grew very sleepy. He alologized and said he had had a lot of work to do. He also said that he had seen Townshend that morning and that he was all right, but he had slight fever.
Our final understanding with Khalil was that we were to notify him when we were sending up boats, so that he might clear the river. He laughed and said that he had forgotten all about the mines, which we had not.
We ended with mutual compliments, and we said good-bye to him and Kiazim Bey. As we were leaving he called to me and said that he hoped we should be comfortable that night and that we were to ask for all we wanted. After more compliments, we shook hands and rode away, all the Turks saluting. I talked to Ali Shefket, who now seemed a fast friend, and said: "How angry the Germans would be if they could see the Turks and the English."
We rode on, and before sunset, came to the Turkish camp. There the three of us sat down and, as far as we could for the flies, wrote reports.
The Turks gave us their tents, though I should have preferred to sleep out. They gave us their beds and an excellent dinner. We all sat and smoked after dinner for a few minutes under the stars, with camp fires burning round us. Muezzin called from different places and the sound of flutes and singing came through the dusk. Then Colonel Beach decided that I had better stay and go to Kut, where I was to meet him and Lawrence, who would come up with the boats to take our prisoners away. I didn't believe that Khalil would accept this sort of liaison business. Beach wanted to go straight back, but would not let Lawrence or me. We pointed out that, if he got shot in the dark by our people, it would upset everything.
I dictated a French letter to Lawrence, asking for permission for me to stay and go across to Kut. I cannot think how he wrote the letter. The whole place was one smother of small flies, attracted by the candle. They put it out three times. B. and I kept them off Lawrence while he wrote. We got an answer at about two in the morning. Khalil said that it was not necessary. All this happened on April 29th.
To-day. April 30th. We left at 4.40 this morning, and this time rode all the way with unbandaged eyes. We ended up on the river bank amongst dead bodies. We walked across to our front lines and Colonel Beach telephoned to H.Q. While he was doing this a Turkish white flag went up and we went out again. After several palavers, Ali Shefket came out and said that the river was clear of mines. Beach and Lawrence went back to H.Q.
Our boat could go up uf it arrived by 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I, with the Cretan, the man of a hundred fights, Ali Shefket and others, went across. A fierce-bearded Colonel came out, arrogant and insolent, talking German. He boasted that he knew Greek, but when I talked to him in Greek, he could not answer. He then harangued me in bad German, talking rot. I said, in Turkish: "Neither you not I can talk good German, therefore let us talk Turkish." "Yes," said the other Turks; "it's a much better language."
The ship tarried. At 5 o'clock in the evening she was in sight, but she could not have arrived for another hour. It was decided that we could do nothing that night and that she would have to be put off until next day. A monstrous beetle, the size of half a crown, crawled up my back. The Turks were as horrified as I.
Monday, May 1st, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." I came back last night. I saw General Lake this morning to report. I think Khalil is going to play the game, but he has got something up his sleeve. A letter has come in from him. The ships, he said, could go. He wanted boats to send the prisoners to Baghdad. He was answered by General Money that His Excellency would understand that we ourselves needed all our boats. Beach went up this morning with two boats, but they stopped him at No Man's Land.
Tuesday, May 2nd, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." last night I went on the P---- to go to Kut, with a rather tiresome Padre. It rained and blew in the night, and was very uncomfortable on deck. I got up at four, and we started soon after. They opened the bridge of boats for us. A launch followed for me, for I was to get off before entering neutral territory.
At the neutral territory I found white flags and an Indian Major, who was tired and nervous. All the way up the river there had been a curious feeling of expectancy and uncanniness; the Indians looked at us, shading their eyes from the rising sun, and our own troops stared. There was an uncomfortable, eerie feeling in the air. The Major said the Turks refused to allow the boats to go on. I telephoned to Colonel Beach, who was leaving H.Q. He told me to do the best I could . . . .I took a white flag and went out into No Man's Land and found the man I had talked to before, the Cretan's brother. I asked what all this meant. This was neither war nor peace. He said that it was our fellows, who had been shooting on the right bank, and there was quite enough shooting while we talked to make one feel uncomfortable. I said that Khalil had given his word that the boats could go up, even if there was an offensive. This was telephoned to Khalil. Our fellows began loosing off with a machine gun. The beastly Colonel and the Cretan then came out to say that they had telephoned, and later the Cretan came again, alone, to say that our boats could not go through until the others had returned from Kut. He said it might not be necessary to send them up to Kut. We sat and talked in the great heat. I have given Ali Shefket Bobby Palmer's photograph and have asked him to make inquiries. He sent it back to me by the Cretan, who read me out what Ali Shefket had written me. It was to say that Bobby Palmer was killed. He spoke very kindly and very sadly. I am so sorry for his family.
I went back very tired and found a lot of men making up burying parties which, reluctantly, I sent back again. A lot of the bodies on the river-bank look as if they died of cholera. By the way, we have had a hundred and fifty cases in the last three days. Then I shaved o the deck of the launch, while the Turks looked on in the distance. Then I went and telephoned from the front line to Beach. He told me to bring all the four boats back, which I did. The only news is that the Turks have dug in below us near Sheikh Saad.
Wednesday, May 3rd, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." You foul land of Mesopotamia! This morning bodies raced by us on the stream and I spent most ot the day walking in the ruin of battle. I was sent for by General Gorringe and General Brown. They wanted to know why our boats had not come down from Kut. They said that the Turks had been shooting on the right and sent out white-flag parties, 200 men strong, to bury the dead. I said I thought it would be all right about the ships but I would go and see Khalil. The fact that they did not want us to send more ships showed that it was all right, but I thought they would probably like to nag us into doing something indiscreet, and asked the General if he would give orders that there should be no firing except under instructions, as long as they had our hostages. He sent me off to see the Turks.
I rode fast through suffocating heat, with an Indian orderly. At the bridge I found our two ships, the Sikhim and the Shaba, which had come through from Kut. They were banking above the bridge, which was being mended. This altered the whole situation, since the General had sent me out to complain that they had not been let through, and I galloped back. After a talk at H.Q., it was decided that I was only to thank Khalil.
I jumped the trenches and finally arrived at the main trench, where my horse stared down at a horrified circle, lunching. The circle said that no horses were allowed there and that none had ever been there, and that my horse, or rather Costello's, would be shot immediately by the Turks. So I went to General Peebles, who was lunching farther along in the same trenches, and he had her sent back. I then got a white flag and walked out . . . .I met a couple of Turks. They wanted us to send up two ships to-morrow, and were quite agreeable. I asked them, as a favour, not to send out again the Colonel who talked German, as I couldn't stand him, and they said they wouldn't.
It was blazing hot; a Turkish officer and I sat out between the lines.
There is one incident not recorded in the diary that is, perhaps, worth mentioning, as it had a curious result that will find its place in the sequel to this journal, if it is ever published. On one of the occasions when I was talking to the Turks between the lines, a general fire started from the British and the Turkish trenches. The Turks, for the honour of their country, and I, for the honour of mine, pretended to ignore this fire, and we continued to discuss our business, but in the end the fire refused to be ignored, and, with loud curses, we fell upon the ground and there attempted to continue the discussion. I suggested to the Turks that the whole proceeding was lacking in dignity and that it would be better for each to retire to their own trenches and resume negotiations when circumstances were more favourable.
Next time I returned I was informed that one of the Turks had been hit whilst returning. I naturally said how sorry I was, and that I hoped they would not think it was a case of mala fides, as it might have happened to one of us, and wrote a note explaining my regret.
Diary. It was curious and bitter sitting in that peacful field talking amicably with the Turks between the lines, with maize round us. The river murmured and the larks were singing, while the stiff clay held the knee-deep prints, like plaster of Paris, of the Black Watch and the others, who had charged across that foul field, when it had been a trap and a bog.
Thursday, May 4th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." Very tired to-day. I rode back last night from the Turks, very fast. The flies made it impossible to go slow, horses couldn't breathe. At the bridge, I found that the traffic was going the other way and had to hold up an unfortunate brigade to get across, hating to do it.
I met Green Armitage, who had just come from Kut. He had got Townshend's terriers, who barked like mad. He said that there were three Turkish officers on board the Sikhim, who were asking for me. I didn't know what to do, as I wanted to go to H.Q., but dashed on board and found they were Ali Shefket and Mehmed Jemal and Salahedin Bey, inspector to the Agricultural Bank of Smyrna. Our people on board wanted me to stay. I told them I would come back. I saw the sick and wounded Indians being carried away, terribly emaciated. I reported at H.Q., where, apparently, half a dozen entirely contradictory orders were being prepared for me. I then went back in a launch to the Turks, who were reported to be taking notes of our position from the bridge. On the Sikhim I found crowds of our officers with the Turks and a general jollification going on. I did not understand how or why they had been allowed to come down. All the Intelligence came along to see what the Turks could tell them. I was fed-up with the whole business, and disliked the Turks being on deck. I said to them: "Of course, it's a pleasure to have you here, as guests, but we would much rather give you hospitality in London, for there we can show you everything, and, unfortunately, that's not the case here. So in future, if you please, Turkish officers will not accompany the boats down." They agreed to that.
The same tiresome Padre came bumbling up again. I think he wanted to go to Kut for the adventure, and I had no sympathy, as he would have meant another mouth to feed. The Turks made no particular objection to his going, but they said there was already a clergyman there, so I told the Padre he could go if he liked, but that if he went he ought to stay and let the other chaplain come back, as the other had had all the hardships of the siege. He thought I was brutal, but cleared out and gave no more trouble. It seems to me, however, that he runs a fair risk, like the rest of us, of being made a prisoner.
I wish the Admiral was here. The Turks on board said that they had hung seven Arabs at Kut, which made me furious. I said that Khalil had said that he had no intention of doing that. The Turks said that these men were not natives, but vagabonds . . . .
Then they talked about the future. I said it would not be easy for Turkey to dissociate herself from German, even if they wanted to. They replied: "How long did it take the Bulgars and Serbs to quarrel?" They said Khalil had sent messages, and I arranged that if there was any hitch I should be able to get straight through.
I did not sleep much. This morning I went up with them to Sanayat, where Husni Bey took their place. Then I came back by launch to the bridge and found a motor, which I took to H.Q.
At dinner to-night Reuter's came in, and the doctor, in a perfectly calm voice, read out ot us that there now seemed some chance of checking the rebellion in Ireland. Somebody said: "Don't be a fool. Things are bad enough here. Kut's fallen and we shall probably be prisoners. Don't invent worse things." The doctor said: "It's an absolute fact," and read it out again. Then somebody said: "Those cursed Irish." Then an Ulsterman leapt to his feet and said: "You would insult my country, would you?" Then there was a general row. After that, everything seemed so utterly desperate that there was nothing to be done but to make the best of things, and we had an extremely cheerful dinner. We must have missed a lot of news. Let's hope this Irish business is the bursting of a boil. I am more afraid of the treatment than the disease.
Friday, May 5th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." Vane Tempest came back from Kut with unpleasant stories. He said that our officers had been looted at the point of the bayonet by the Arabs. He had seen four men hanging and one man hanged. This was a curious incident. This man, as he was going to execution, threw Vane Tempest his tesbih (his rosary), the ninety-nine Beautiful Names of God. Vane Tempest had still got it. It means "I commend my cause to you. Take up my quarrel." I told Vane Tempest if he was superstitious he ought never to part with it.
Now there is a new position created. They can float down all their guns and stores. There is a fight coming, but I wonder where. Eight hundred Turks and Arabs below Sheikh Saad, with three guns. The country is up behind us and we have only half a day's provisions in reserve. The guns are booming away behind us. It's going to ve very hard to hold this position. I wish Edward was here, and hope he is all right, with my kit. I want it badly, but I got some stuff from Percy Herbert this morning. We agreed that we had a most excellent chance of being cut off . . . . One is sorry for these men here. They are starving in every way, ammunition excepted. They are not even given cigarettes and have to pay six times their price to the Arabs. Last night the Arabs were looting all over the place. A man told me this morning that a sick officer in the 21st Brigade found five Arabs in his tent and lost everything. Lucky for him that was all he lost.
Saturday, May 6th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." Sheikh Saad. Yesterday my typewriter broke. A jolly mechanic more or less repaired it and refused money. "It's all for one purpose," he said. H.Q. suddenly determined to come down to Sheikh Saad in the afternoon. General Gorringe and General Ratcliffe went off, strafing like mad. Then the Mantis sailed. I found Edward on board the Blosse Lynch, with 200 "sea-gulls," as he called the
sepoys. He was very upset about the Irish news, but glad to have found me.
I walked at night with Bernard Buxton into the Arab village to find H.Q. A curious sight: Devons and Somersets, Gurkhas, Arabs and frogs all mixed up together. The Somersets were very glad to meet a friend.
This morning, after going through the evidence with the other officers about Bobby Palmer, I sent a telegram to Lord Selborne. They did not doubt the evidence of the Turks that he was killed.
This morning I walked along the banks of the Tigris, while bodies floated down it. After a time I found the 4th Devons and John Kennaway, Acland Troyte and the rest, also a lot of people from home. Promised them cigarettes and that I would get messages home for them. The lastest out were a bit depressed and complained of the shortage of food. Their camp isn't too bad. Three miles away, one can Lot's Tomb, with gernerally, they say, a Turks patrol on it. Sheikh Saad is supposed, J.K. Says, to be Sodom. If you took our troops away, another dose of brimstone would do it and its inhabitants a lot of good. (ed: no pun intd.?)
Then I saw Captain ---- of the Indian Transport. He was miserable at the way that his men were treated. He said: (1) The drivers did not receive pay equal to sepoys, nor did they receive allowances, which mountain battery drivers and ammunition column drivers did receive. The work the transport drivers did was equally dangerous and more onerous. (2) There were no spare men. A transport driver went sick and the next man had to look after his animals. (3) They got no fresh clothes. Their clothes were in rags. (4) They had 21-lb. Tents for four men. In a hot or a cold climate this is unhealthy; very bad here. Also they have only one flap, so later on they'll be bound to get sunstroke. (5) They do not get milk, cigarettes, or tobacco. (6) They get no presents such as the other Indian regiments have received. (7) The treatment of transport officers is not equal to that of a sepoy officer. (Vide Subadar Rangbaz Khan, about thirty years' service.) Recommended with many others. No notice taken. Only two recommendations given, those for actual valour. This man, if he had been with his relations in the cavalry, would probably have done less good work, but would have been covered with medals.
I walked back through rain, with frogs everywhere, a plague. It's a pity we can't get our men to eat them. One can't even teach the officers to eat them. John said the Arabs sniped them most nights, but they were well and not too uncomfortable. Jack Amory was there, but I didn't see him. He was out shooting sand-grouse.
Sunday, May 7th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." Harris came up last night. He said all was quiet down the river. Subhi Bey, with a good many troops, had tried to cut us off at Kumait, but the floods were out. He said that last year Cowley prophisied that when the hot weather came the river would fall and that five-eights of our transport would be useless. Cowley was generally right. If he was wrong then, he will probably be right now. Harris had been fishing the other day, when two of the Devons suddenly appeared, naked, beside him. They had swum the river, being carried a mile and a half down, and intended to swim it again. It's very dangerous. They are wonderful fellows. I am on the Waterfly now.
Early this morning a telegram arrived to say the Corps Commander wanted me at once. I spoke on the telephone to H.C. Cassel said: "Our men have fired on the Turks and they have collared the Sikhim. You must come and get her out . . . . I transferred to the Waterfly and came up with Harris. I knew this would happen. What, apparently, happened was that the Turks fired four shots at the Sikhim. The Turkish officer was angry, and rigid orders had been issued to the Turks not to fire again. Then our men had opened fire . . . . But they don't all tell the same story . . . . I have now got five contradictory orders from H.Q.
Tuesday, May 9th, 1916. Felahiah. The last boatload of wounded is coming down and the truce will, I suppose, end. The Silhim had made her last journey. A telegram arrived from the Admiral ordering me to go at once to Bushire. I am to get on board the Lawrence, sailing the 12th from Bushire, and join him at Bushire . . . .(Here indescribable things follow.) I went round and said good-bye to everybody.
There is a lot of cholera. General Rice died last night. There are many bodies floating down the river. It's tremendously hot. I have just seen Williams, the doctor of the Sikhim. He says the Turks have been good throughout. The Arabs have looted at the beginning, but this has been put an end to. It's not going well with the Arabs . . . . We must largely depend on them for supplies.
Wednesday, May 10th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." I was to have left on S.1, but when it was apparent that it would not start that night, I went off to the Mantis. Buxton telephoned from Sheikh Saad that he would take me to Amara, if I could get there by 4.30 a.m. I came down with Colonel James. Many bodies in the river and much cholera at Wadi. Our men lack every mortal thing. I should like to send a telegram like this home, but don't expect I should be allowed to: "From my experience in this country, I see that, unless certain action is taken immediately, consequences that are disastrous to the health of the troops must follow. All realize here that the past economy of the Government of India is responsible for our failure (vide Sir W. Meyer's Budget speech). Unless his is realized in England and supplies taken out of the hands of the Government of India, altogether, or liberally supplemented from home and Egypt, the troops will suffer even more during this summer than last year. Condensed milk and oatmeal are essential to the troops. India cannot provide these under three months, by which time we shall have sustained great and unnecessary losses. Supplies of potatoes and onions will cease at the end of this month. If cold storage is found to be impossible, a substitute, e.g. Dried figs, must be found.india cannot provide these substitutes in time. Sufficient ice-machines and soda-water machines are as essential to prevent heat-stroke in the trenches as to cure heat-stroke in the hospitals. India, unless ordered to commandeer these from clubs, private houses, etc., cannot provide them. Many Indian troops are in 21-lb. Tents, single flap, one tent to four men. Numbers of these will get sunstroke. If you mean to hold this country, you can't do it on the lines of Sir W. Meyer. A railway is essential. A fall in the river would render half our present transport useless, above Kurna. Many of the troops here are young and not strong. If a disaster to their health, which, in its way, is as grave as the fall of Kut, and due to the same reason, lack of transport, is to be prevented, supplies must be taken in hand from England and Egypt."
Thursday, May 11th, 1916. H.M.S. "Mantis." Amara. Yesterday was one of the most beautiful days imaginable. We came very fast down the river, with a delicious wind against us. On both banks there were grat herds of sheep, cattle, and nice-looking horses. Every horse there is blanketed by the Arabs, only our horses not blanketed. The Arabs vary a lot in looks. One man, towing a bellam, glancing back over his shoulder, was the picture of a snarling hyena. A great many of them were handsome.
We came to Amara in the evening and found a lot of cholera. I went to the bazaar and bought what I could for J.K. and his mess, and cigarettes for the men, but couldn't get fishing-tackle. Amara looked beautiful in the evening--fine, picturesque Arab buildings, and palm groves and forests up and down both sides of the lighted river. At night we anchored to a palm and slept well, in spite of great gust of wind occasionally, which roared through the palm forests, and bursts of rifle fire on the banks by us, at Arabs, who were stealing or sniping us. Jackals cried in a chorus.
To-day the river has been enchanted. Long processions of delicately built mehailahs , perfectly reflected in the water, drifted down, often commanded by our own officers. The river turned into a glowing, limpid lake, almost without a land horizon. We passed the Marmariss, which the Turks fought until she caught fire. The Arab villages were half afloat. There was a look of peace everywhere, and the flood is too high to allow an attack on us. There was a glorious, dangerous sunset. The sky was a bank of clouds that caught fire and glowed east and west over the glowing water. The palms looked like a forest raised by magic from the river. It was like the most magnificent Mecca stone on the most gigantic scale.
Pursefield, whose last night it is in Mesopotamia, asked me how much I wanted to get on. I said I couldn't see the people I wanted to that night, so it was the same to me if we got in after dawn next morning. We tied up in med-stream, to avoid being sniped. No flies at all. Sherbrooke and I talked after dinner.
Friday, May 12th, 1916. H.M.S. "Lawrence." The Army Commander and General Money were both away, and I only spent twenty minutes at Basra. I saw Bill Beach and Captain Nunn and wrote a line to Gertrude Bell and George Lloyd. I wish I could have seen them both. The Sikhim is there, in quarantine, her Red Cross looking like a huge tropical flower. I got on to the Lawrence. Cleanliness and comfort and good food. I wish the others could have it too.
(Ed: the paper version ends; it required 270 pages.)
24. Taken back after.
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