1918 – July 19

Interviews and interviews with all the Staff Branches. My object is to persuade them to let me take on the Urmieh situation and save 80,000 Christians from being massacred.* Very hot but pleasant to see real civilisation and drink soda and other good things. Romantic sleeping on a marble floor on banks of Tigris with moon reflected on water – electric punkah. 

* This is a reference to what is now known as the Armenian Genocide or Armenian Holocaust; the Ottoman government set about a systematic extermination of ethnic Armenians starting in 1915. Assyrians were also massacred in the Urmia region; historians consider the various genocides against non-Ottomans in this region as part of the whole Armenian Genocide. These peoples were already being targeted as a result of their Christianity – the prevailing religion being Muslim – but it is hard to ascertain from the brief reading I have done whether their religion or their being non-Ottoman was the key motivation behind their slaughter.

1918 – January 14

More explorations in this wonderful new Basra with a six mile river frontage, camps, docks, ship-building, if I tried to describe my impressions I should fill this book. I have been waiting for Sir Hamilton Grant, Indian Foreign Secretary, to arrive, as he is to go up in the steamer with me. He arrived to-day. Slept on board the steamer where I have a magnificent cabin, as large as my private office in Peshawar and can open all my boxes and study maps etc. The magnitude of this enterprise does not weigh on me, but it is a big thing. Steaming up river all day in this wonderful land of Chaldaea, Babylon, Nineveh and Abraham – fallen Empires all around are represented by mud heaps. The Turk has treated the country vilely, under us it will again blossom into the Garden of Eden, the Arabs and Jews are white men like us, of the race of Shem. Basra people are quaint and children often wear just the ordinary European woman’s kit, a little out of date. They seem enormously happy and one gets only smiles instead of the sulky looks of India. The children salute, shout “hurrah!” and “good evening”.

NOTE: it is well worth reading up about Turkey’s role in World War One, to give a bit of background as to why Dunsterville was posted to this area, and to his antipathy towards ‘the Turk’. Here is an excellent article.