I am off to-morrow to Enzeli in the Caspian where I shall see Bicherakov and eat caviare. With the last convoy I sent down the road, Captain Dunsford of the Hants was killed and 6 wounded, but I hope they’ll be quieter now. I have twice sent aeroplanes to bomb K.K’s Headquarters and that may help to cool his ardour. The town is quieter and I have issued counter proclamations.
At last the first shot is fired. Bicherakov’s detachment with the 14th Hussars and 2 armoured cars of mine attacked and captured the Menzil Bridge and the Kuchik Khan bubble is burst. I first sent over 2 aeroplanes with orders not to fire or bomb as I did not want to begin. They were heavily fired at. Then 2 German officers came to parley, but Bicherakov told them simply to clear all their men out of the way. In the town here we have seized the telegraph office and and put in censors and stopped all cipher work, we arrested 6 Persians and 1 Greek in league with Kuchik Khan. Now all the rest of the town are down on their knees and begging not to be arrested. They are mean-spirited. The Government might well have said “what right have you to arrest Persian subjects when you are not at war with Persia? What right have you to seize telegraph office etc?” I have only about 50 men here and there must be at least 2000 armed Persians in the town.
Everything is all right so far, but I am always skating on precious thin ice. The Governor called on me yesterday, and to-day the Karguzar [foreign agent, see March 7]. My 2 aeroplanes arrived all right from Baghdad, but have only enough petrol for one flight during the Menzil battle to-morrow. One armoured car got smashed up coming over the Sultan-Bulak Pass; and one Russian lorry came to grief – several men injured, but no one killed. The climate here is delightful, but rather a beastly wind. Nights are cold and blankets are welcome – The nightingale sings and there are roses in the garden, but I am very lonely.
Arrived Kasvin with 22 Cars, 14 hours run, 140 miles, no incidents. Very nice house here, but hotter than Hamadan, still it is a beautiful place with Gardens and nightingales and it is nice to have a couple of blankets at night.
My troops are getting all over the place, as I have so many different situations to deal with. I have sent Wagstaff with 80 officers and men towards Tabriz to worry the Turks and raise the Shahsavan tribes – he can’t get into Tabriz because the Turks are already there and I have no troops to drive them out with. I have another party of 60 gone to Bijar to raise the Kurds and raid the Turks. I have 20 of the Hants here, 1 Squadron of the 14th Hussars and 2 armoured cars: at Hamadan 140 miles away I have another 100 Hants, 4 Armoured Cars. At Kermanshah, 140 miles further away I have 8 armoured cars and 1000 infantry, travelling in 500 Ford cars as a mobile column, and I have 3 aeroplanes.
All this to run 350 miles of road – keep the Turks out of Azerbaijan, help Bicherakov to knock Kuchik Khan’s revolutionary army off the Enzeli road and try to save Baku from the Germans. I am trying to run Bijar, 180 miles west of this, Hamadan 140 S.W. Tabriz, 300 miles N.W. Enzeli-Baku, 400 miles N. and Teheran 100 miles East. The Russian Officers that I take as refugees are a great source of trouble to me, as I cannot find employment for most of them and they cost Government a great deal of money. General Baratov, who commanded the 1st. Caucasian Corps, I sent down to Baghdad, but they are sending him back, also General Lastochkin. Colonel Baron Meden and wife go to Baghdad in a day or two, also Colonel Masoyedov – and I have 25 others here, younger officers, whom I can employ though they are not really of much use.
I am now planning to march to Enzeli with Bicherakov’s 1000 Cossacks and 1 Squadron 14th Hussars – to capture the Menzil Bridge, Resht, and Enzeli and get over to Baku. I do not know if Kuchik Khan means to fight. I sent Colonel Stokes down two days ago with a flag of truce to see Kuchik Khan to tell him that I do not want to fight him, but I will have the road clear, and I will have the prisoners released and he can do what he likes about it. He will have to fight. I am anxiously awaiting Stokes’ return.