Very hot. We bathe in the Sea every morning at 6.30 a.m. I interview people all day long. Complications increase frightfully. Delays are terrible, no convoy ever arrives when expected and Baku just hangs on a thread – all the cars break down and everything seems against me. In addition to all the Persian strings, I have Baku, now Krasnovodsk begs for troops, and Lenkoran, and Bicherakov at Derbend, and the Russian colony at Meshed-i-sar and the Jangalis threaten to attack here, and everyone is against us – but God is with us. My temperament is a calm one or I should go mad. Baku and all the others begin to think I am leaving them in the lurch. I am left in the lurch myself by Baghdad and by the motor-cars. And I run all this with one half size Brigade – it’s worse bluff than any game of poker!
The Port here is quiet, but although we have arrested and sent to Baghdad the Bolshevik leaders, we cannot yet get real control of the port and the shipping, as I have very few troops and cannot show force. In fact, the Bolsheviks or the Jangalis or both together might attack me at any time and knock me out. One has to take big risks but I must send all I can to Baku and keep only the minimum here.
I have had bad diarrhoea for some time and on the road down I felt as if I were going to die – I determined to eat nothing, but at the Nagober toll-gate I had to accept hospitality and I was hungry, so I gave in and drank tea and coffee and ate cheese and omelette. After that I nearly died again and gave up worrying, so when we got to the Resht toll-gate and I was again tempted, I ate everything I wanted. Bray suggested a Russian cure, vodka with pepper in it, so I drank three pepper vodkas which were very consoling! and from that moment to this I have been as fit as a fiddle – it was, I suppose, too much for the microbes.
When one arrives in a new town, one is deluged with interviews that tire one to death. Yesterday I had M. Hunin, head of customs. Khachikov and Senizavin, controlling the Caspian fleet, Gendre, the Social Revolutionary, Dr. Araratiantz, head of the Armenian National Council, Mr. Ogamiantz, Soc. Rev. Alkhari – Bicherakov’s man; great schemes are propounded, but each is playing for his own hand. To-day I have already had heaps of time-wasters, mostly Russian and British refugees trying to get a job – (that is, money) out of me. Baku still holds up and I hope Bob will pull through, but my reinforcements are small and time flies.
[I cannot identify the location of Nagober but I believe it to be somewhere in Iran]
To Kasvin – a dreadful journey. 4 hours’ engine trouble. 6 punctures at last ran in by moon-light on the rims to Kirk Bulak [place unidentified] and telephoned from there for another car which arrived at 3 a.m. and got us in by 6 a.m., on the 24th. Glad to be at home – sick of travelling. 780 miles in car and 220 in aeroplane. While I was away much has been doing. The Jangalis have recaptured Resht and we had 50 casualties.
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?”
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?
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!