Latest news leads me to have another try at Baku, so I leave here on Friday, 31st, join up with Bicherakov and his Cossacks at Kasvin and then make war on the Jangalis on the Enzeli road – if we are not delayed we may get to Baku in time to save the town and oil-wells from falling into the hands of the Turks and Germans, who are racing up from Tiflis to get them. Are we to be always too late? It’s not my fault anyway as they refuse me all the troops and aeroplanes I need.
Yesterday I sent a party to clear the snow off the Asadabad Pass and they found a caravan just being plundered and captured the robber band complete! A Russian lorry, en route Kasvin, was attacked on the road near Manian [possibly here, but unlikely?), 8 killed. I am sending Nizam-es-Sultan, the Governor of this town off to Teheran to-morrow to see the Government and put some new ideas before them – after having, in many interviews, shown him the meshes of German intrigue I hope it will be of use, and I have promised to prevent anyone else bagging the vacant Governorship during his absence. We have learnt to love each other so much that he insisted on giving me two smacking kisses on departure!
4 more Russians murdered on the road by Aveh and I am anxious about the party I am sending to Kasvin. It is always Alice in Wonderland. I sent Bicherakov’s fierce Cossacks down to take the Menzil Bridge from the Jangalis, which should have meant awful blood-shed, instead of which I hear the Cossacks and the Jangalis are sitting side by side alongside of the bridge are quite friendly with each other! One minute I have to implore Bicherakov not to kill too many and the next minute I have to urge him on to kill at least some of them.
Still in our warmest clothes and fires burning. Church Service as usual. Political situation complicated, I am quite genuinely friends with the Governor here, but my friendship is, I am afraid, more genuine than his. We meet every two or three days, and in the interval correspond a good deal. I have now given orders to Bicherakov at Kasvin to attack the Jangalis at Menzil with his cossacks and that I think, will bring the crisis to a head, for better or for worse. I wished to wait longer, but the situation compelled me. I trust he may be able to disperse the Jangalis and secure the Menzil bridge without actual bloodshed. I think the Jangalis will disperse when force is displayed. In the end there must be blood-letting, but I want another ten days, if possible.
I get my old fits of giddiness worse and more frequently as I get older – generally about an hour after breakfast, so I suppose it’s a form of indigestion – to-day I nearly tumbled down, some day I shall quite – as my father did on more than one occasion [note: it’s likely to be angina due to other symptoms mentioned elsewhere].
Situation to-day is bad. I sent Colonel Bicherakov with his Cossacks to save Kasvin against the Jangalis which he has so far done. This morning the Persian Government have ordered the Russians to leave at once and the fat is in the fire – Our Government is now at last compelled to do something either to fight or to withdraw from Persia. Baghdad beat their own record yesterday. As I have now some British troops I wired asking for “a butcher and a baker”. They have replied “For what purpose do you require a butcher and a baker?”
What a Babel. I talk English to my orderly in the middle of my Persian lesson, I receive a letter from the Governor which I have to answer in French and a Russian soldier calls in the middle to complain of a loss of money – and two days ago I was talking German to a German prisoner. I read last night a letter in Gurmukhi from Sunder Singh, a Subadar in the 36th Sikhs, and I spoke Pushtu yesterday to the one and only Afghan in Hamadan, and Hindustani to two Indian deserters! Left the Mc.Murrays’ comfortable house and moved over to mine, where I live with Col. Duncan and Capt. Topham, my A.D.C. If one allowed oneself to be worried by these fearful plots and rumours, one would get no sleep. The Democrats in the town are plotting to shoot me and also to down us by a sudden attack. The Kurds, close by, are being stirred up by the Turks to wipe out the English at Hamadan and Kermanshah, and Kuchik Khan with the Germans and the Baku Tartars, threatens to destroy us all – Col. Bicherakov’s Cossacks, whom I sent to Kasvin, are the only thing between us and disaster, and I cannot get Baghdad to wake up. I intercepted a letter yesterday from a big man in Teheran to Kuchik Khan, full of treachery and implicating even the Prime Minister!
The aeroplane arrived all right yesterday and gave a good show that impressed the people. To-day the democrats have engineered a run on the Bank – if it goes broke we’re done. Meantime Baghdad will not get troops on the move and things are very serious indeed. To-day I hope to get in a few men of the Hants and there are about 100 of the Cossacks still here if there is a row, but I want a squadron of cavalry and a couple of guns. The Germans and Turks are drilling the Kurds in the mountains close by, with the intention of swooping down on the towns, and I cannot stop them, and the famine is awful. It all makes me feel very, very old. But God is with us always. The news from France is bad, still retiring. Only from Baghdad the good news that we have captured 3000 Turks on the Euphrates.
We always have our little services with the American Missionaries. We can get no news from Tiflis and they all seem fighting like cats and dogs there, poor devils – and starving. Daisie may be glad I never reached there – and I also feel that the chaos had reached too great a pitch for me to restore order – Yet perhaps I might have helped – God willed otherwise.
Kasvin seems to be in a dangerous state, but I can do nothing till the 29th, if they can hold out till then. I am sending Colonel Bicherakov with his Cossacks to hold Kasvin, but he cannot get there before the 29th – it’s a race between him and Kuchik Khan’s men.