Been in bed a couple of days with real bad influenza – seem to be reviving to-day. Daisie telegraphs frequently and longs for news from me, but my brain is full of men and horses, guns, rifles, equipment, ammunition, supplies, petrol, motor-cars, aeroplanes, clothing, cold, snow, marches, languages, tribes, politics, information and rumours, spies, pro and anti, finance, routes, tactics, strategy, geography, history.
Owing to the secrecy of my arrangements, I am called the Commander of the “Hush, Hush Army”. I blossomed into a Major-General yesterday – as it was obviously foreseen Daisie had made the holes for the new resplendent stars. After fixing up all plans to start, I get a wire to say that Enzeli, my destination on the Caspian Sea, has been seized by some horrid fellows called Jangalis (a very suggestive name) who are intensely anti-British and are in the pay of Germans. It will have to be plot and counter-plot.
These long journeys are full of dramatic change. I am just waiting to jump off into darkness and eternity for a space, with a fair hope of emerging on the far side, and here I have a pantomime with string band and as I stand on the verandah at night, the romantic Tigris flowing as it has flowed for many thousand years, and the moon-light on the water, and everything good the world holds except Daisie to share the beauty and romance of it – but women have no romance!
Daisie came with me to Delhi where I had to have interviews with the Chief and the Staff about my mission. We lunched with the Commander-in Chief and Lady Monro, who talked glibly to Daisie across the table about this very “Secret Mission” and told her many things I had refused to divulge to her! When state secrets are given away you may be sure the guilty ones are those in high places. Not the subordinates.
Daisie came down to Karachi to see me off, and we stayed in a nice hotel.
[Here insert Vol B – Vol C War Diary]
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
A poor Christmas Eve for Daisie. At Dinner time I got orders to proceed overseas for duty with Russian troops – just exactly the job I am fitted for – Thank God for that, though it makes the parting with my darling unsurpassed wife none the less hard. Whatever happens to her or me we must both thank God for 20 years of the most unalloyed and intense happiness.
Note: It is important to realise the significance of this – at the time, Russia was still less than two months from the October Revolution, precipitated by Bolshevik agitators in St Petersburg. I would highly recommend reading further on Russian history of this time to understand the purpose of the mission he was sent on and the nuances of some of the references in diary entries to come. You could start here or here but there are plenty of excellent articles out there.
Daisie had a tennis party on Saturday and so it poured all day, glad to have the dust laid anyway. What does one do when one retires after all this busy life – is it possible to sit still and do nothing? In addition to my Brigade Command I also Command this enormous station, then there is my beloved Soldiers’ Home, then Masonry, I belong to the Craft Lodge, the Mark and Ark, and the Chapter, then I belong to the C.E.M.S. and have to read papers and lecture, then I have the side shows for “Our Day” Dec. 12th. Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks*, Mock Picture Gallery, Cocoanut Shies, Fortune-telling. It can only be done by decentralisation and I am A1. at that I believe.
* Mrs. Jarley was a character in Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop, who exhibited ‘live waxworks’, that is, actors dressed to look as wax models. The novelty was that each was ‘commanded’ to come to life. This discussion here explains how the performance became quite standard in such events as “Our Day”, a charity fundraising day.
It all sounds very gay, but it is not gay. These dinner-parties are “functions”, necessary and regrettable. I was in Cherat all day yesterday, dinner party at night. To-day we dine with the Chief Commissioner. Friday we have another dinner-party, Saturday Tennis party, mean-time Daisie has endless Red X work and the Mothers’ Union and the ‘Our Day’ work. I am to be allowed at last to wear the American War Medal I got from General Chaffee in China 1900*. Terribly shocked to hear of the death of Orlando Gunning, so sad for his wife and children, and such a good fellow and fine soldier.
* awarded in the Boxer Rebellion. If anyone has any details about what type of medal this would have been likely to be, I would be delighted to hear.