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.
What a Babel. I talk English to my orderly in the middle of my Persian lesson, I receive a letter from the Governor which I have to answer in French and a Russian soldier calls in the middle to complain of a loss of money – and two days ago I was talking German to a German prisoner. I read last night a letter in Gurmukhi from Sunder Singh, a Subadar in the 36th Sikhs, and I spoke Pushtu yesterday to the one and only Afghan in Hamadan, and Hindustani to two Indian deserters! Left the Mc.Murrays’ comfortable house and moved over to mine, where I live with Col. Duncan and Capt. Topham, my A.D.C. If one allowed oneself to be worried by these fearful plots and rumours, one would get no sleep. The Democrats in the town are plotting to shoot me and also to down us by a sudden attack. The Kurds, close by, are being stirred up by the Turks to wipe out the English at Hamadan and Kermanshah, and Kuchik Khan with the Germans and the Baku Tartars, threatens to destroy us all – Col. Bicherakov’s Cossacks, whom I sent to Kasvin, are the only thing between us and disaster, and I cannot get Baghdad to wake up. I intercepted a letter yesterday from a big man in Teheran to Kuchik Khan, full of treachery and implicating even the Prime Minister!
2nd party arrived – called on Governor at 2 p.m. and had the Foreign Office man, Haji Saad-es-Sultaneh there to interpret. He was late and I found I could quite easily get on in Persian with the Governor. We talked of many things. He asked if I trusted him. I know that he has been arranging for Kurds to attack us and turn us out, but I told him I had heard all sorts of wicked things about him, but would not believe them because he was so nice. I told him to advise the Teheran Government to ask for British troops instead of stopping us, otherwise they would have the Germans instead. I also said he might advise the Mejliss [council?] to close its doors for ten years and stop all this rot about politics while they created an Army – politics are no use without soldiers to back the policy.
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.
Breakfast 5.30, left 6.30, arrived Kermanshah 1 p.m. The Russians sent 2 Kuban Cossacks to show us the way. Billeted in a beautiful Persian house, with Persian carpets etc., very pretty garden with 2 fountains, jasmine, roses etc., not out, of course. Met Col. Kennion, the Political here, Capt. Greenwood, his assistant, Mr. Redmond, civil political, Mr. Hale, Manager of the Imperial Bank of Persia – all interesting people. Had lunch and dinner with the Kennions, she is a charming woman and acts as his secretary. Kermanshah is the first large Persian town we have seen, population 50,000 and it is not much knocked about though the Turks burnt a few houses before they left. The Kennions were very kind and actually produced a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion. Met also Colonel Bicherakov, commanding the few loyal Cossacks who have not deserted, about 300. He is a Caucasian, a good fellow and badly wounded.
Left at 4 a.m. Sari Mil. 7 a.m., Karind 10 a.m. Harunabad 2 p.m., all cars in by 3.30 p.m. The Serai was very dirty, so we turned the Kurds out amicably and took private houses which were just like those in any Punjab village. It was very beautiful winding up the narrow Pass through the snow by moonlight – we had to get out and push here and there and the first 2/3rds of the road Karind to Harunabad was wet clay and very difficult. Last third quite good, only because it was dry – this place was one of the resorts of Harun-el-Raschid of the Arabian Nights, hence its name. All the road is between 4000 and 5000 feet above sea-level and it was very cold.
Still an invalid, but very glad this came on now instead of on the journey – I am simply straining to be off – this delay is terrible, but I am sure it is good. When I start on Sunday [27th January 1918] it will be a good start, and a good start is half the battle. I have had to wait also for Duncan who was my Brigade Major in Peshawar and now comes as A.Q.M.G. – he will be invaluable. Another reason for delay has been the kaleidoscopic changes in the situation as each item of information comes in. I have to get my party through 600 miles of Persian territory on a bad road with few supplies, which means thinking out food and petrol schemes far ahead and measures for protection against Kurds, Germans and Turks.
My task is as difficult for one man as any Napoleon ever undertook. I am as strong as Napoleon in my confidence in myself, but unlike him, I have my strength only in God, who I feel and know directs and guides me as He has every day of my life – I have never felt more certain of any of the material facts of life than I do of this spiritual fact – and yet I am far from being what Christians would call a “good” man, I am full of “bad” and I know it. Also quite unlike Napoleon, I find it impossible to place myself on a pedestal, this was a great asset to him – in fact, it made him. To me the all important fact is my own paltriness and the only cheer I get is that I may be less paltry than some others – without being pharisaical, I dislike putting my religious thoughts into words. It is where words quite fail one, and what one writes is not exactly what one feels. Any such writing regarding oneself, looks so pharisaical and priggish. 9 p.m. Just getting into bed, my first experience of air-craft bombs – enemy aeroplanes bombing like mad all over the place which seems very vulnerable in the bright moon-light. Anti-aircraft guns firing, but no search-light – a very chance aim. One has far less sense of danger than when the simple rifle shot whizzes through camp at night on the frontier – being hit by a bomber seems so very much like winning the Derby Sweep which one never wins.