Is this to be another case of “too late”? – if nothing has yet happened I honestly believe it is as much due to my policy of ingratiating myself with the people as anything else, that they are quiet so far – But it is vile being helpless without troops. German and Austrian Agents plot against us, the town is full of Turks, the Bolsheviks or Red Guards have a plot to seize the Bank and I could not stop them with my 40 chauffeurs. It is just all bluff, my 40 Ford cars – which are an appalling element of weakness – strike the inhabitants as death-dealing machines, and my brave chauffeurs, who hardly know one end of a gun from another, look like fine soldiers. But distances are enormous – we are over 300 miles from Baghdad – Persia on the verge of a revolution with the cry “kick out the Europeans” and no troops. I have done my best, in sending fierce cables, and the War Office are at last awake to it, but Baghdad is very lethargic. The War Office want me to obtain command of the Caspian Sea – I’ve thought of that all the time – I could seize the gun-boats with a small force, but can’t they see I must have at least one port? If I can get Bicherakov to capture and hold the Menjil Bridge, Resht and Enzeli I might do something – but he is not up to it.
Heavy snow and everything all buried again in white.
The Enzeli Bolsheviks have come up here to get money from the Bank and other purposes. They are very different people here, the situation being reversed, and they sing very small. They say they love the English and hate the Germans and despise Kuchik Khan. They offer us tons of petrol (which we shall never get) and say that on their return they will insist on Kuchik releasing the Resht Bank Manager (Oakshot) and the Consul (Maclaren) whom he arrested the other day. Mc.Murray says “You allowed Kuchik to loot the bank and now you come to me to cash a cheque. I won’t cash it.” So they are very unhappy as it is a big cheque for 300,000 krans [qirans]. This snow to-day will block the Sultan-Bulak Pass [70 miles/110 km south-west of Qazvin] and they will have a job getting back.
Coming from a Sunni country, India, where the Shiah is a despised worm, it is interesting to live in a Shiah country and see the reverse of the picture. Here they talk of “Mahomedans” meaning Shiahs only – Sunnis are Sunnis and outside the pale of Mahomedanism, the Shiah feeling appears even less tolerant than the Sunni. [Read here about the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims]
People seldom trouble to record those things or they would discover how silly it is to believe in omens! I slept like a top and there was no sort of firing or trouble. Several wires to-day. Bicherakov offers to escort my party through, but he is an Ossietin [Ossetian] and out simply to fight for the Ossietins against the Bolsheviks which has nothing whatsoever to do with my aims. We had a very pleasant combined service with the Americans. Called on the Governor Nizam-es-Sultanat [the Governor, possibly this man] and met there another Teheran Official, who spoke French, Haji Saad-es-Sultanat [special delegate for Russian affairs], the better man of the two. A pleasant hour’s conversation from which I gather that the former is a sympathiser with Kuchik Khan – though, of course, he did not say so, I judged it merely from his face.
Glad we got over the Pass yesterday, we woke to find it had been slowing all night and we left in a heavy snowstorm – but only 24 miles to go and got into Kasvin at 12 noon to the Goodwin’s house. All sorts of uneasy rumours here – the situation is a ticklish one and there is a strong anti-British agitation. On our entry into Kasvin we were greeted with a volley which made me prick up my ears, but it was only Bolsheviks joy firing.
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.
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