What comfort in the nice house of the Mc.Murrays – such a sleep and such a rest – The vile weather continues and it snows again. I hear Barttelot had to abandon his cars and ride from Kermanshah, likewise Offley Shore – it is a marvel how I have brought these 40 cars over this 1000 miles of bad road and 7 snow passes without losing one. Now we are permanently blocked with heavy snow on the passes each side of us.
Sent many cables home, but no reply yet. As what I have suggested amounts to a change of policy in Persia, I suppose they have had to have a Cabinet Meeting* about it and that will cause the delay. They want me to go by the Tabriz road** – how little they understand the situation. I should have to be taken prisoner or shot the first day, or take a force big enough to fight. The people we are out to help seem a worthless lot and cannot pull together. The Armenians and Georgians hate each other and the Tartar hates them both. I shall never cease to marvel at our escape from Enzeli – I expect they are now cursing their foolishness in letting us go. Each was trying to get the other to fire the first shot and neither dared, but the Red Guards who arrived from Baku just as I left, would doubtless have done it, and they had us cold. If I had stayed another 24 hours it would have been all up. Thanks be to God! The situation all round is bad, but here, at least, we can put up a fight – I have implored Baghdad and London to send troops, but they take no notice.
* The involvement of the British Government’s Cabinet Office gives some indication as to the significance of this mission.
** The map below shows the location of Tabriz (I couldn’t get it to stop saying Pars Hotel) to demonstrate the alternative route that the War Office in Baghdad wished Dunsterville to take.
Left Aveh 6.30 a.m. Arrived Hamadan 7.30 p.m. The pass was deep in snow for 6 miles, but the Northward moving Russians had had to cut through it so we were not blocked, but it took 6 hours to do 6 miles!
Left Kasvin at 8 a.m. There is always so much firing in Kasvin that it is like a battle going on, but I suppose they aim in the air as no one ever seems to get hit. A fine day for a change and the road in good order. We arrived at the dirty little house at Aveh at 2 p.m. and found it half occupied by Cossacks and in an appalling state of filth. Just this side of Nahavend we found a beautiful spring from which we filled our bottles.
Had a long talk with the Cossacks on the road. Talking of the disorder in the Russian Army even before the war, one of them said “If you indent for sugar they send you ammunition and if you ask for ammunition they bring you sugar” – I asked about their felt boots, had they a pair each – no, only one between 20. Why? Oh, there were a lot of them for issue, but instead of issuing them the Commandant sold them to the Persians.
The hot sulphur springs at Abi Garm were interesting, the bath was very hot, much hotter than I would have like to have got into. I am frightfully disappointed at having to go back like this, but I am convinced that very few men could have extricated the party from the ridiculous position they were in and I am glad to be here without losing a car or a man – 40 cars are a great anxiety and after 1000 miles one cannot expect too much from them.
Left Enzeli 5.30 a.m., glad to get away, rather anxious work. Arrived Mezgil 5.30 p.m., weather fair – Many of Kuchik Khan’s soldiers looking very fierce on the road but no one fired at us and we fired at no one – the Russians as they march down the road, are fond of loosing off their rifles at nothing and this keeps one rather on the qui vive.
Revolutionary Committee Meeting, Soldiers and Sailors all very pleasant and “comrady” and well behaved. Each questioned me in turn and tried to get me to reveal secrets and to contradict myself – I hope I got through all right. I insisted that my mission was not political and not anti-Bolshevik, and that they must let me go to Tiflis. They said they would take every possible step to prevent my getting there – the Caucasus being against the Bolsheviks and they could not permit us to pass through – and if we left here we would be caught by the Bolsheviks at Baku. They possess the telegraph and everything. They put sentries on all the ships to prevent my leaving and they have a gun-boat ready to sink us if we try – our house is guarded night and day and the situation is absurd – the mission has ended and there is nothing to do but to get out of it with all speed.
To explain the context – having reached as far as this, on a journey north to Tblisi (Georgia) or Baku (Azerbaijan), Dunsterville is now faced with the prospect of arrest or other detention, attack by the Iranian (Persian) revolutionaries, or retreat. At the same time, he is aware that any retreat will be looked on badly by the War Office. It is worth reading more about the situation here.
This map shows the final route through the mountains from Hamadan (Hamedan) to Enzeli (Bandar-e Anzali), a port town on the Caspian Sea. From here, Dunsterville intended to continue his journey north to Tiflis (Tiblisi, Georgia) and Baku (Azerbaijan) by ship.
The diary mentions trees and flowers on the final route from Mendzil (Manjil) to Enzeli – you can see on the map the crescent of green and how flat the land is at Enzeli. This must have been somewhat of a relief after the arduous journey through the mountains and snow – in motorised vehicles which were probably not, at that point, able to cope with plummeting temperatures.
You can click for a larger version.
Through a terrible 60 mile defile, worse than the Khyber and over a long snow Pass, road good, reached Mendzil where we put up at a house calling itself a hotel. Met many Bolshevik soldiers and had long talks with them, but there’s not really much the matter with them after all, but lack of discipline which leads to disorder and murder.