7 a.m. Just off! It is sad breaking up this little home where we have had 2½ happy years – but I felt all the time it was wrong to have so much happiness amidst the misery of War time. Our Christmas Dinner was a great success in spite of all – and my farewell to the Home was also inspiring. Last night I had 36 men of the Church of England Men’s Society to tea – including Corporal Gould. Daisie comes down to the port with me and Susanna stays here with Miss Key.
I suppose I go to Baghdad* and thence go on to serve with the Russians, the very job I am fitted for and that I have desired since I knew that we had linked up with them. Daisie thinks the Russian anarchists and Bolsheviks will kill me, which is quite likely!
* Reference to Fall of Baghdad, 1917
A poor Christmas Eve for Daisie. At Dinner time I got orders to proceed overseas for duty with Russian troops – just exactly the job I am fitted for – Thank God for that, though it makes the parting with my darling unsurpassed wife none the less hard. Whatever happens to her or me we must both thank God for 20 years of the most unalloyed and intense happiness.
Note: It is important to realise the significance of this – at the time, Russia was still less than two months from the October Revolution, precipitated by Bolshevik agitators in St Petersburg. I would highly recommend reading further on Russian history of this time to understand the purpose of the mission he was sent on and the nuances of some of the references in diary entries to come. You could start here or here but there are plenty of excellent articles out there.
Rain and Rain and Rain and torrents and endless floods of rain – the world is being washed away! I am certain it is due to the fighting in Europe. 1000 miles of front with double row of guns all the way firing day and night for three years have filled the upper strata of the air with millions of millions of cubic metres of gas liberated which supplies the necessary medium for the condensation and precipitation of the moisture. Thus, whereas the moisture would remain perhaps 6 months in the upper regions awaiting the proper conditions to produce rainfall it now meets these conditions and descends at once – so the cycle of evaporation and condensation takes place 6 times in the year to every one of previous times and gives us a rainfall 6 times greater.
Floods and deluges of rain – servants’ houses all flooded out and one washed right down. I am so pleased at having my proper pay of Rs.2100 a month that life seems quite different. My arrears are also Rs.1200 which enables me to pay all my debts at the shops. What a huge war this is. Bay writes from Belgium, others from France, Watts from Mesopotamia and Egypt, Irwin from East Africa, Cunliffe in West Africa, Bob and Wattie are in Salonica and here are we on the Afghan frontier. Bennett writes from Persia.
*Rs = Rupees
I gave an address in the Soldiers’ Home last night rather against the emotional sort of Christian. Christ came on earth to save sinners, not to make saints. Some of them didn’t like it.
No hardship this hot weather. It was just trying to bring out my prickly heat, then a storm last night and now it is quite cool again. We have a Memorial Service for Lord Kitchener to-morrow. The Russian victory in Hungary seems tremendous and far outweighs any of the German successes in the Verdun Direction. The War goes very well.
Yesterday we had news of the great Naval Battle off Jutland with the Germans – a victory for us, but dearly paid for. Our losses in ships and men were very large, probably larger than the Germans, but they bolted home and left us masters of the Sea, so they can hardly claim it, but they will, as a victory. We had thorough bad luck throughout. Then we have news of the most dramatic incident in the War, the sinking of The Hampshire with Lord Kitchener and Staff on board en route for Russia – no survivors. It is sad. Kitchener is not irreplaceable, but it is a great feather in the German cap.
My meeting of the Church of England’s Men’s Society on Tuesdays is rather interesting – there are some good fellows among the men and some humbugs. We got the news of Townshend surrendering at Kut el Amara yesterday with 6000 native [Indian] and 3000 white [British] troops. Not important as regards loss of men, but will stir up Mahomedan excitement in India, Persia and Cabul – however we’ll take whatever comes. Our muddleheaded pacific nation that despised its soldiers in peace time deserves these blows and the poor soldiers suffer.
Daisie tries keeping pets with miserable results. First 2 sparrows – cat got one, then another sparrow enlisted, mysteriously disappeared, and the third died. Then a dove, Daisie took the dove for a walk in the garden and it was carried off by a kite, now 2 quails and we’ll see what happens.
Keep your tails up! We lost a Battleship yesterday, mined in the Mediterranean, a submarine the day before, and to-day we get news (long expected as far as I am concerned) of Townshend surrender to the Turks at Kut el Amara with 9000 men! 9000 men doesn’t matter tuppence and very few white, but the whole thing will be greatly magnified and be a heavy blow to our prestige in the East, it may even bring the Afghans down on top of us, as they have long been hanging on the brink – however, it’s all God’s will and certainly our nation with its pre-war concentration on trade and rubbish, and utter neglect of its army, does not deserve to win this war.
This is being a wonderful year so far. Heavy rain yesterday and black clouds now, quite cold and no idea of thin suits or punkahs – it is most abnormal. The War shows no sign of flagging, goes on just killing, killing, killing. I suppose it will end some day. Good news yesterday, the vile traitor, Roger Casement*, tried to land in Ireland with arms and was captured – everybody except Roger is very pleased. Am going up to Landi Kotal to-morrow to have a peep at Afghanistan.
I have given both the boys a good start in stamp-collecting and I hope they’ll take an interest in it and not swop valuable stamps for tame rabbits or white mice.
* Roger Casement was knighted in 1911 for his humanitarian work; yet, having been born in County Dublin, was a sympathiser of Irish nationalism due to the British oppression of the Irish. He was captured leaving a U-boat in April 1916, having tried to muster support from the German government for an uprising in Ireland. Despite his failure, the Uprising went ahead, on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, in Dublin. While the uprising was crushed, it ultimately led to Ireland being granted Home Rule and paved the way for Eire (southern Ireland) to become independent of the United Kingdom.
Some doubts exist over the circulation of diaries purporting to show Casement as gay, which of course was a grave crime in 1916. These diaries removed any sympathy to his plight and he was executed for treason on 29 June of that year.
Miss Key came to stay. Life goes on. A year ago I was a Colonel on the Railways in France – now I am a Brigadier General and an Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty, King George V. the latter is a great honour and one I appreciate very much indeed. Nothing but bad news from every part of the front, bar in France and Russia – but the Germans must be feeling the war terribly I am sure – much more than we do.