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 Basra people are quaint and children often wear just the ordinary European woman’s kit, a little out of date.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.
My meeting of the Church of England’s Men’s Society on Tuesdays is rather interesting – there are some good fellows among the men and some humbugs. We got the news of Townshend surrendering at Kut el Amara yesterday with 6000 native [Indian] and 3000 white [British] troops. Not important as regards loss of men, but will stir up Mahomedan excitement in India, Persia and Cabul – however we’ll take whatever comes. Our muddleheaded pacific nation that despised its soldiers in peace time deserves these blows and the poor soldiers suffer.
Daisie tries keeping pets with miserable results. First 2 sparrows – cat got one, then another sparrow enlisted, mysteriously disappeared, and the third died. Then a dove, Daisie took the dove for a walk in the garden and it was carried off by a kite, now 2 quails and we’ll see what happens.
Frightfully hot. 120º [49ºC] in the shade yesterday and sandflies biting me to pieces. When I opened my box at Simla in the Commander-in-Chief’s house and took a clean shirt out, a scorpion jumped out of it! Glad I didn’t put it on with the beast inside it. A fine piece of War news at last. The Boers have captured South West Africa and so one of the side Wars is ended.
My lecture in the theatre – a nasty hour 3 p.m. Very crowded and distinguished audience with the C.-in-C. and the Lt. Governor – it went very well: Saw so many people I wanted to talk to, but couldn’t. Such a rush. Left immediately after lecture and caught train back at 6 p.m.
Arrived Kalka 6 a.m. Left by motor rail at 7.45. a nice bath at the station. Very absent-minded, left my satchel in the train, braces, tie and tie-pin. Recovered the satchel from a passenger on another train later on. Arrived Simla fine, but so cold in a silk suit. An A.D.C. at the smart liveried Rickshaw in which I drove to Snowdon, the Commander-in-Chief’s beautiful residence, just in time for lunch. Sir Beauchamp Duff, very cheery but worried. In the afternoon the Chief drove me all round Simla in his phaeton.
I hoped to stay in Simla till the 10th and then at Murree till the 19th, but my leave is cancelled and I have to return to Peshawar immediately after the lecture, because General Campbell is at Cherat and there is no General at all in Peshawar. So I have 4 nights in the train and all this expense for 1 night in the hills and a hundred rupees fee for my lecture.
Arrived Pindi 6 a.m. Daisie left for Murree at 9 a.m. in the motor bus and I left for Simla by the 1.30 p.m. train. Met Major Little an old friend of the 26th Punjabis. He had lunch with me on the train as he was on his way to Ferozepore to take over command of the 20th Depôt from Elliott, who has gone to Simla sick. We sat for some hours in the restaurant car and had long interesting talk on religious matters – he is a Roman Catholic, and one has to be tactful to avoid quarrelling. R.C’s are so easily aroused to fury.
Fiercely hot and glad to be off. The sand-flies tear us to pieces. Still we get good flowers and have on the table geraniums, sun-flowers, Plumbago, Dianthus, Phlox, Aster, Snapdragon, Pelargonium – the latter 4 just expiring. The frontier seems fairly quiet, but a reverse in the Dardanelles might set India on fire at any moment and we wait anxiously for good news from anywhere and it never comes. The Russians in Galicia* are being thoroughly well hammered owing to lack of ammunition. Left at 11. p.m.
*Original text reads ‘Galacia’, which could either be Galicia (most likely – an area which now lies on the border of Poland and Ukraine – see this article) or Galatia (in Anatolia/Turkey).
It is really hot now, the bungalow is generally 92º [F]*, but we keep fairly fit and cheerful. We miss Susanna very much, but she is well looked after and happy in Murree. I go to Simla on Sunday to lecture on Wednesday. Daisie goes to Murree and I join her there for a few days leave after the lecture. We shall both be glad of some fresh air.
Left Colaba 9.30 p.m. Reserved carriage not very hot but dusty.
Our beautiful rest cure will soon come to an end. We cannot tell what awaits us in India. Rose looks very pale and we hope she is not going to get ill. She and Susanna will soon be in the hills at Murree with Miss Key. The weather is wonderful and it is like a yachting trip. We have a huge cabin with big wardrobe and the ship is full of enormous black-beetles. The Captain, Armitage, is a good fellow, and an Antarctic hero. I play bridge a good deal for very small points and I am reading philosophy. I am nothing else but a philosopher, and so far, I find nothing new – but of course I am dumb, I could not spout all those strings of bewildering words and sentences.