1918 – September 9

The enemy have a map of the town and are, of course, accurately informed of my movements. They know I have tea on board the Kruger at 4.30 p.m. And they have a spy observer here to direct their fire. On Saturday at tea-time they began to fire and one could note the careful observation, first shot near the cathedral, next more towards me, and so, one by one till they got one straight between the masts that fell in the sea a few yards away without exploding, then the observer signalled all correct and we got 2 rounds battery fire straight on to the Kruger. But you don’t hit what you aim at, you hit the things near – so two steamers on the next wharves were hit and all started steaming out into the bay. But the Kruger, the cause of all the trouble, remained fast, and the firing ceased, as they are not too well off for ammunition.

I have Captain Noel with me here, a fine fellow. He has been 6 months in prison with Kuchik Khan, where he was in chains and flogged and was released after I had made peace with Kuchik – he seems none the worse for his troubles. I took him out to the front to see the position at Binagardi, and on the way back I found my H.Q. in the Hotel d’Europe heavily being shelled. I couldn’t pull up the car and take cover in front of the fleeing populace, so we just had to head straight into the storm – it was unpleasant with bricks and mortar flying around, and the most terrific bangs, but I was very much watched, so had to sit up and look as if I like it.

As I reached the Hotel, the firing was over – one shell had burst in Wither’s bed-room next my Q. Office – destroyed the room and hit no one. Two burst in the road and smashed all the windows and a balcony, one set a house on fire alongside, but the fire-brigade were out in no time, in very good order and soon got the fire under control. Artillery fire is terrifying, but in a town its effect is very small unless it is the big shells that no one in this country possesses.

Thank goodness and thank God for many mercies. Bicherakov’s first detachment arrived to-day from Petrovsk* and things, for the moment, look very good indeed. London and Baghdad keep on telling me to leave Baku at once and I finally and firmly refuse – so how it will all end I do not know. I have sent the strongest telegrams that have ever been sent, but they contain nothing but what is true and right and what can be substantiated. Both Baghdad and London have been criminal in their outlook on the strategy, and even now they do not seem to realize that the capture of Baku by the Turks is a far bigger thing for them than the capture of Baghdad by us, was for us. In the evening I had to attend an anniversary dinner for the battle of the Marne, given by the Belgian Consul, who is an Armenian. The guests were some 12 prominent Armenians, Col. Chardigny and one French officer, one Russian, and the Armenian priest in full and very picturesque robes. The table was quite a wonderful sight and the guests more so. There were many speeches – too many – and I got away after two hours on a genuine plea of work.

* I can find two Petrovsks, one in central Russia near Moscow and one to the south-east of Moscow on the border with Kazakhstan. I presume it is the latter, but await further confirmation.

1918 – February 26

What comfort in the nice house of the Mc.Murrays – such a sleep and such a rest – The vile weather continues and it snows again. I hear Barttelot had to abandon his cars and ride from Kermanshah, likewise Offley Shore – it is a marvel how I have brought these 40 cars over this 1000 miles of bad road and 7 snow passes without losing one. Now we are permanently blocked with heavy snow on the passes each side of us.

Sent many cables home, but no reply yet. As what I have suggested amounts to a change of policy in Persia, I suppose they have had to have a Cabinet Meeting* about it and that will cause the delay. They want me to go by the Tabriz road** – how little they understand the situation. I should have to be taken prisoner or shot the first day, or take a force big enough to fight. The people we are out to help seem a worthless lot and cannot pull together. The Armenians and Georgians hate each other and the Tartar hates them both. I shall never cease to marvel at our escape from Enzeli – I expect they are now cursing their foolishness in letting us go. Each was trying to get the other to fire the first shot and neither dared, but the Red Guards who arrived from Baku just as I left, would doubtless have done it, and they had us cold. If I had stayed another 24 hours it would have been all up. Thanks be to God! The situation all round is bad, but here, at least, we can put up a fight – I have implored Baghdad and London to send troops, but they take no notice.

* The involvement of the British Government’s Cabinet Office gives some indication as to the significance of this mission.

** The map below shows the location of Tabriz (I couldn’t get it to stop saying Pars Hotel) to demonstrate the alternative route that the War Office in Baghdad wished Dunsterville to take.

Map showing Tabriz, Iran

1914 – September 3

Arr. Le Mans, our new Adv. Base at 10 a.m. the siding is really called MAROC, 3 miles from Le Mans – a horrid desert. What good food the men have, it is a treat to get a bit. Bacon, ham, jam, cheese, bully and H.P. biscuits. We get shaving, washing and tea water from the engine and the men cook their bacon on a shovel in the engine furnace.

In London, before the war, we were eating bully for a treat. Here I get nothing else and am a little tired of it. I see here in real life the very pictures we saw at the Cinema. Tacked on to us a whole train-load of Austrians and Germans who were living in the country at the outbreak of war, they are being sent South to a concentration camp. They told me they were well treated, but men, women and children crowded together in cattle trucks 50 in each for long journeys of about 100 hours cannot be very nice. Arrived Le Mans 6 a.m. 26 hours late, but we did not shunt to Maroc till 10 a.m.

1914 – August 13th (Thursday)

We arrived yesterday uneventful – No.8 Delamere St. Weather fine and hot. Saw Emily. Not much signs of War except round Horse Guards and War Office where recruits are thronging. Went to India Office. Nothing doing. Changed a £5 note into 2 of the new £1 notes and 6 Postal Orders of 10/- each. The latter are currency.

1914 – August 11th (Tuesday)

Col. Keyworth* got up a meeting in the village on the “Underlying Causes of the present War and our Duty to our Motherland” – and I had to speak – my first time on a public platform. I did not like it, but it went all right. We are off to London to-morrow to see if I can’t get something out of the War Office or the India Office – it is sickening to be out of it all.

 

* Keyworth was Daisie’s maiden name. I am unsure as to the actual relation here.