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.
Floods and deluges of rain – servants’ houses all flooded out and one washed right down. I am so pleased at having my proper pay of Rs.2100 a month that life seems quite different. My arrears are also Rs.1200 which enables me to pay all my debts at the shops. What a huge war this is. Bay writes from Belgium, others from France, Watts from Mesopotamia and Egypt, Irwin from East Africa, Cunliffe in West Africa, Bob and Wattie are in Salonica and here are we on the Afghan frontier. Bennett writes from Persia.
*Rs = Rupees
These Pathans are very outspoken and impertinent. Old Khalu came to see me to-day, an enemy Mohmand who did some secret service for me during the trouble last year. He says “You soldiers are like hawks, never know where you will be next. Sometimes like you in France, then on the Frontier here, then perhaps in Mesopotamia and so on. The Civilians are like your women-folk, while you fight and kill and lose your lives, they stay at home and look after the house and eat presents of fruit and reap the rewards of your deeds of valour!” A rather unjust view of the Indian civilian who’s just as ready as anyone to take his place in the firing line.
Miss Key came to stay. Life goes on. A year ago I was a Colonel on the Railways in France – now I am a Brigadier General and an Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty, King George V. the latter is a great honour and one I appreciate very much indeed. Nothing but bad news from every part of the front, bar in France and Russia – but the Germans must be feeling the war terribly I am sure – much more than we do.
In 18 months of war what have we achieved? Held motionless in France, disastrously defeated in Mesopotamia, defeated and baffled in Gallipoli – too late to save Servia and so on and so on. Yet our tails are up and we will win.
Nights quite cool, days fiercely hot. Yesterday General Campbell, commanding the Division, Colonel Rice G.S.O. and myself, motored out to Shabkadr* and Matta to look round the Mohmand frontier. It was strange to be back in these wild parts after that war in France, all this seems like another planet. I like this command, but rather regret the pay and interest of my railway work and the comfort of Mme. Delaporte’ s house and my beloved Germaine’s French lessons. The road from Peshawar to Shabkadr in the early morning at this time of the year is very beautiful, especially the beds of lotus.
* Now spelt Shabqadar
Off Algiers – fine and hot but cold breeze – ideal weather. Think of them shivering in England, France and Belgium. Everyone plays the same old ship games which bore me. I hope we are beyond reach of the sub-marines now, but there was one on the lookout for us before Gibraltar. Tied on our lifebelts, Susanna’s is an enormous one, it would certainly drown her.
I hear Kitchener has given an order that all wives are to leave France whether employed or not. Taking a train up the line to see how things are working. I took the busiest train of course. Ramassage [collection, or pick-up] B. left Rouen 7.45 p.m. Lt. Col. Carter R.A. and Lt. Col. Stewart R.A. (Ordnance) as passengers. I took the Prince de Mahé’s carriage and gave him a rest looking after my office.
The Germans have bombarded Scarborough and Whitby and at last some of the English people will be able to begin to think. They think it is a dreadful thing, a few villas and a hotel or two knocked about and an odd hundred people damaged. It will help them to realize that the whole of Belgium and North of France is like that. One old bounder who was wounded by a fragment of shell said the fright had turned his hair white.
My last Xmas in England was in 1883, 37 years ago, and I was looking forward to this one with all the beloved children, but it is not to be alas!
Arrived Calais at day-break alongside a train of French wounded. Cold and wet and foggy, poor weather for the soldiers. but I expect it is worse for the Germans than for us. Saint Omer 9 a.m. The names up here “Ebblinghem” for instance, suggest that this country is really Teuton. As far as this the country has been flat and wet like land reclaimed from the sea. The real continent begins here. Saw the first Indians, only some measly looking followers. Towards Hazebrouck the country gets much more like lieber Deutschland. and Daisie and I could be quite happy here – Reached railhead Merville, at 12.30. Took a long time issuing. Took over 30 Germans prisoners of the 133rd Regt, had one passenger to take down. Lt. Butler R.F.A., who knew my camp with garden in Sonamarg. Not much artillery firing in this neighbourhood which means, I hope, that our fellows are pushing along and getting the Germans further back. Left Merville 8 p.m., arrived St. Omer at midnight and handed over my German prisoners. A most amusing incident: My crown and 2 stars in the faint gaslight look like 3 stars. A Major, Railway Transport officer, excellent fellow, disagreed with me about the escort necessary for the prisoners and I stuck to my opinion, whereupon he fiercely brushed his moustache and said “Look here, now, I’m a Major and you’re a Captain….” I might have let him go on, but it would have been hard luck, so I said “Oh, but I am a Colonel!” Frightfully apologetic – no need, I said, whatever my rank was if I was wrong I ought to be put right.
For those unfamiliar with insignia in the British Army, click on the image below, where you can see how similar the Captain and Colonel epaulettes are!