1918 – August 27

Arrived in Baku 3.30 p.m. Bob [Keyworth] came on board to report. I am sorry that during my absence the Turks have made a successful attack on our very weak right and have captured the Mud volcano – our losses being 3 officers and 70 men of the [7th] N. Staffords killed, and 11 officers and 35 men wounded. The attack was a very determined one and had Baku troops been there I’m afraid Baku would have been taken. The odds were 4 to one and we had no artillery support and the Armenian infantry sent to support refused to go. 

As it is, the risk of the town being taken is so great that I dare not keep this Diary by me any more, so I have decided to send it by post to Mc.Murray at Hamadan. 

* Click here to see a (somewhat fuzzy) map of the battle lines of what became known as the Battle of Baku. More about the 7th N Staffs can be read here, although be warned, the website is irritatingly advert-y.

Pencilled note:
“The book was sent and I had to keep further records in a separate notebook.
“End of War Diary B, Begin C.”

1918 – August 26

Sailed 8 p.m. for Baku, fine and calm. Brought over a lot of Naval personnel and some 4 inch* and 12 pounder** Naval guns which I hope to get permission to mount on merchant ships. Water melons bought in Enzeli for two roubles sell in Baku now for 20 roubles, in India the price is 1 anna [1/16th of a rupee].

* likely to be of this type
** likely to be of this type

1918 – August 25

Arrived 3 p.m. I was to have tad tea with Kuchik Khan at Resht, but he cannot arrange before Wednesday [28th August] and I cannot wait so long – so I must again return without accomplishing this important work. Enzeli is looking very nice and clean. Bray is very ill and I sent him to hospital and taken on Lieutenant Grosvald of the Russian Army in his place – a good fellow, but not a patch on Bray. 

1918 – August 23

Fierce North Gale, but we weren’t quite sick, got into Baku at 3 p.m., awful dust storm. Bob [Keyworth] came on board to report all well. I begin my 35th year of service. I don’t fancy I ever meant to stay as long as that, but it has been 35 years of happiness and the last 21 with doubled happiness. The Turks shelled the town at night, but did not do much harm. We want to arm some of these merchant-men, but cannot get the revolutionary Government to agree to it – they fear we might use our new fleet to down them. It has suddenly turned quite cold and I suppose the real hot summer is over. We get not butter or milk or fats of any kind – I don’t miss them at all but doctors seem to think they are necessary. 

1918 – August 21

4.30 p.m. we have just fought the first naval battle of the Caspian, and not very nobly. Never got to Derbend at all. Just off Derbend a suspicious looking vessel, probably Bolshevik, signalled to us to come alongside. The Captain asked me for orders – I said is she any sort of ship with authority to make such a demand. He said, No, it is the Usbeg*, long since in Bolshevik hands – whereupon I said “full steam ahead!” On this the steamer opened fire with some small gun, probably a 3 inch, fired some 4 or 5 shots for a period of a quarter of an hour all round us, and close, but no hits and we, being able to steam faster, got away. Changed course and now steam back to Baku to insist on mounting guns on all ships – otherwise we shall get done in some day by one of these pirates.

 

* I cannot identify this vessel but it is worth noting that Usbeg can mean a ‘member of a Turkic people of Uzbekistan and neighbouring areas’ (definition from here).

1918 – August 20

I attended the Russian Church Service yesterday and I’m afraid the people looked more at me than at the holy images. To-day I was cinematographed, so my features go down in history.

To-night I sail for Derbend. The situation here is critical from a military point of view, but good from a political. But changes come rapidly and the present Government may be thrown out any minute. Bicherakov is doing splendidly and I feel I deserve credit for the one thing that I have trusted him throughout against everyone’s opinion. The War Office cable me not to trust him, the Baghdad people do the same, all Russians do the same. Had I not fought against their views the fat would, indeed, have been in the fire. Bicherakov has been magnificently successful so far, and all my success has been due to him. I am teaching the people here to understand him. The Chief of Staff, Avitisov, hates him, however, we have sent the Chief of Staff off on sick leave and things will be better. Bob [Keyworth, Stalky’s brother-in-law] does very well in command here and the scheme is one of those rare ones where an artillery man is the best man. Got wireless on board and sailed at 9 p.m. for Derbend, weather fine. We heard Alexiev had taken Astrakhan which was good news, now we hear not A. but anarchist sailors from the Baltic which is bad news. I am always being cinematographed and to-day I was filmed while addressing some refugees on board a ship going to Krasnovodsk. Baku is terribly weak and I hope it will not fall during my absence.

 

* I cannot identify Alexiev or Avitisov; if anyone else can I would be very interested to know more.