Arrived Kasvin with 22 Cars, 14 hours run, 140 miles, no incidents. Very nice house here, but hotter than Hamadan, still it is a beautiful place with Gardens and nightingales and it is nice to have a couple of blankets at night.
My troops are getting all over the place, as I have so many different situations to deal with. I have sent Wagstaff with 80 officers and men towards Tabriz to worry the Turks and raise the Shahsavan tribes – he can’t get into Tabriz because the Turks are already there and I have no troops to drive them out with. I have another party of 60 gone to Bijar to raise the Kurds and raid the Turks. I have 20 of the Hants here, 1 Squadron of the 14th Hussars and 2 armoured cars: at Hamadan 140 miles away I have another 100 Hants, 4 Armoured Cars. At Kermanshah, 140 miles further away I have 8 armoured cars and 1000 infantry, travelling in 500 Ford cars as a mobile column, and I have 3 aeroplanes.
All this to run 350 miles of road – keep the Turks out of Azerbaijan, help Bicherakov to knock Kuchik Khan’s revolutionary army off the Enzeli road and try to save Baku from the Germans. I am trying to run Bijar, 180 miles west of this, Hamadan 140 S.W. Tabriz, 300 miles N.W. Enzeli-Baku, 400 miles N. and Teheran 100 miles East. The Russian Officers that I take as refugees are a great source of trouble to me, as I cannot find employment for most of them and they cost Government a great deal of money. General Baratov, who commanded the 1st. Caucasian Corps, I sent down to Baghdad, but they are sending him back, also General Lastochkin. Colonel Baron Meden and wife go to Baghdad in a day or two, also Colonel Masoyedov – and I have 25 others here, younger officers, whom I can employ though they are not really of much use.
I am now planning to march to Enzeli with Bicherakov’s 1000 Cossacks and 1 Squadron 14th Hussars – to capture the Menzil Bridge, Resht, and Enzeli and get over to Baku. I do not know if Kuchik Khan means to fight. I sent Colonel Stokes down two days ago with a flag of truce to see Kuchik Khan to tell him that I do not want to fight him, but I will have the road clear, and I will have the prisoners released and he can do what he likes about it. He will have to fight. I am anxiously awaiting Stokes’ return.
Still fires and still in our warm clothing, but leaves are appearing on the trees, and when the sun is out it is quite warm. I am having a lot of trouble with the Russians, they are so inexact – Baratov and Col. Bicherakov – in their ideas. I must put everything on paper and my fingers are very tired. Situation here is quiet. Turks are coming into Tabriz and I do not know how to thwart them without troops. The Squadron of 14th Hussars [scroll down to Bridges Column, here, to read more] arrived on Wednesday and I sent them on to Kasvin on Monday.
Such a day of talk. Haji Saad-es-Sultaneh, whom I like very much and who talks French, called on me – then General Baratov with a lot of questions, some so very simple. I offer to send him down to Baghdad, as he cannot return to the Caucasus. He says, “Could I get command of a Division?” I said “I’m afraid quite impossible.” Then he asked: “Supposing Great Britain declares war on Russia?” I replied, “Well, you’ll be a prisoner, and I’m sure very happy in our hands.” The weather alternates between snowstorms and warm sunshine – so does the political situation. At the present moment I am in the sunshine. Last night there were rumours of trouble in the city – this morning I was asked to stop the Governor issuing arms to the rabble to attack the English – now Kuchik Khan says he wants to make peace with the English, the Governor says he is our very best friend – and I also hear there is a chance of my getting through to Tiflis – so the sun shines indeed for the moment.
No cables from Home. General Baratov came to see me with General Lastochkin – a long interview about 3 hours. The Caucasus Government have ordered him to return to the Caucasus and the other officers, a ridiculous order in view of the fact that the Bolsheviks hold Enzeli and informed me that they had condemned Baratov to death – I must get all these superfluous officers back to Baghdad, but a certain number I can employ to man the 3 guns and work the wireless. There are 9 barrels of petrol we passed, lying on the Pass 60 miles from here and I meant to save them at once, but it always snows and I cannot risk the cars getting snowed up.
Such an appalling lunch with the Russian officers – General Baratov made a long speech and I replied in a short one, thinking it was all over. But he made 11 more. He toasted us, the British Army, our wives and families, our regiments, the Baghdad Army, the capture of Baghdad, the Union of the Churches, General Maude, General Marshall and many others, 1.30 to 5.30. My brain was rotted with platitudes, and my interior disturbed with endless food and drink. I was very cautious with the latter, but just sipped some very poor and sour Persian wine. Then Gen. Baratov and I kissed each other, and we were free at last – a whole day wasted – Weather fine – Terrible reports of enemies barring my way down the road. Turks, Germans, Austrians and the Jangali tribe. Well, well – we must just trust in God and see for ourselves. What chaos – the world is a large lunatic asylum – when and how will it all end?
General Baratov returned my call and spoke for 3 hours without taking breath re the Russian evacuation, Russian financial requirements and Russian tactical considerations. I do much listening and the time is not yet for me to talk. The road ahead is reported dangerous and every animate and inanimate thing is out to stop me, but if you face the obstacles they disappear as a rule. Turkish, German and Austrian agents, all over the place, and hostile Bolshevik soldiers several thousand, blocking the road between here and Enzeli – it is lively.
More snow and more snow. It is awful. Had long talks with Shore, Goldsmith, Mc.Murray, Barttelot, Rowlandson etc. re this doubly, doubly complicated situation in North Persia and in the Caucasus – it is enough to make one’s brain reel and thoughts continued all night and destroyed sleep. Shore looks utterly nervy and broken down, Rowlandson also. Called on Russian General Baratov.