On Friday I took out the C.O’s for a Staff tour, slept the night in Urmur* canal bungalow and rode home on Saturday – it was interesting and not very hot. Life is an appalling turmoil just now of military engagements and social functions – look forward to a little peace and quiet in the hot weather. War news is good – 13,000 prisoners and 168 guns taken between Arras and Lens.
* Possibly Urmar Tanda
The world seems very small!! On October 15th 1914, I wrote in my diary in France: “Braisne is being shelled, where I was on Sept. 18th and Oct. 3rd, and two old ladies have fled from there, I am taking them down with me to Paris.” To-day I get a letter from Captain Elliott. from North Wales and he says: “They had a most interesting old French lady with them, Mademoiselle Menesson…. in this War she was at Braisne on the Aisne, and had French, German and British alternately billeted on her, finally they started bombarding and she fled to England, this was on Oct. 15th 1914, she says that at 7 p.m. that evening at Mont Notre Dame, she was assisted by an Indian Army Colonel, “bel homme, distingué, d’une grande taille,” [good-looking man, distinguished, very tall] who was “chef de train”, could it have been yourself? Anyhow she quite fell in love with him and tells everyone she meets of her wonderful Colonel who had come all the way from India to be a train conductor – the said Colonel was most attractive, fed her on the best bully beef, opening the tin with his own fair hands, etc. etc.” It is very interesting.
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
These Pathans are very outspoken and impertinent. Old Khalu came to see me to-day, an enemy Mohmand who did some secret service for me during the trouble last year. He says “You soldiers are like hawks, never know where you will be next. Sometimes like you in France, then on the Frontier here, then perhaps in Mesopotamia and so on. The Civilians are like your women-folk, while you fight and kill and lose your lives, they stay at home and look after the house and eat presents of fruit and reap the rewards of your deeds of valour!” A rather unjust view of the Indian civilian who’s just as ready as anyone to take his place in the firing line.
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.
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.
In 18 months of war what have we achieved? Held motionless in France, disastrously defeated in Mesopotamia, defeated and baffled in Gallipoli – too late to save Servia and so on and so on. Yet our tails are up and we will win.