Baku is on the verge of falling, but we may be able to save it – I have sent Bob on and leave myself to-day for Enzeli. Arrived Menzil, the little post-house there very uncomfortable with Baku and Resht refugees.
Returned from Enzeli. The down journey was quite uneventful and the country looked very different to what it did in the winter. No shots were fired either out or on the return journey, though several battles took place on the road in between while.
Stayed the night at Menzil – next day passed through Resht and down to Enzeli. It was nice to see the sea again – lived in the same quarters as before. Next day sea-bathing on nice sandy beach and the Caspian was delightful. Long final interview with General Bicherakov and final settlement of plans in South and North Caucasus. Then long interview with Cheliapin the leader of the Revolutionary Committee who wanted to arrest me in Feb., and was responsible for my not reaching Baku – he is very stupid and not more amenable now than he was then. One can deal with anything except blank ignorance. Finally he said: “I cannot continue to talk with one who subjects himself to the domination of a King and a Crown!” Left Enzeli same afternoon, arrived Resht for dinner. Stayed next day interviewing new Governor, Sirdar-i-Kul*, pro-Turk and pro-German, but now pro-me (temporarily), arranged a great function for rehoisting of British flag. All consuls present – troops armoured cars, Persian official. I made speech, flag hoisted. Persian police marched past and saluted flag. Persian Commandant made apology.
Good fight at Iman-Zadeh-Hashem, on the road outside the town – Gurkhas captured and burnt a village and killed many of the enemy. Two officers took two Polish women out for a drive in motor-car – silly asses. Drove straight into the enemy. One officer 2 women killed, car captured. One officer escaped and now to be tried by Court-Martial.
* I cannot find anything out about this person but Sirdar-i-Kul means ‘chief or commander of all’, so it is likely to be an honorific rather than an actual name.
At last the first shot is fired. Bicherakov’s detachment with the 14th Hussars and 2 armoured cars of mine attacked and captured the Menzil Bridge and the Kuchik Khan bubble is burst. I first sent over 2 aeroplanes with orders not to fire or bomb as I did not want to begin. They were heavily fired at. Then 2 German officers came to parley, but Bicherakov told them simply to clear all their men out of the way. In the town here we have seized the telegraph office and and put in censors and stopped all cipher work, we arrested 6 Persians and 1 Greek in league with Kuchik Khan. Now all the rest of the town are down on their knees and begging not to be arrested. They are mean-spirited. The Government might well have said “what right have you to arrest Persian subjects when you are not at war with Persia? What right have you to seize telegraph office etc?” I have only about 50 men here and there must be at least 2000 armed Persians in the town.
Everything is all right so far, but I am always skating on precious thin ice. The Governor called on me yesterday, and to-day the Karguzar [foreign agent, see March 7]. My 2 aeroplanes arrived all right from Baghdad, but have only enough petrol for one flight during the Menzil battle to-morrow. One armoured car got smashed up coming over the Sultan-Bulak Pass; and one Russian lorry came to grief – several men injured, but no one killed. The climate here is delightful, but rather a beastly wind. Nights are cold and blankets are welcome – The nightingale sings and there are roses in the garden, but I am very lonely.
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.
Is this to be another case of “too late”? – if nothing has yet happened I honestly believe it is as much due to my policy of ingratiating myself with the people as anything else, that they are quiet so far – But it is vile being helpless without troops. German and Austrian Agents plot against us, the town is full of Turks, the Bolsheviks or Red Guards have a plot to seize the Bank and I could not stop them with my 40 chauffeurs. It is just all bluff, my 40 Ford cars – which are an appalling element of weakness – strike the inhabitants as death-dealing machines, and my brave chauffeurs, who hardly know one end of a gun from another, look like fine soldiers. But distances are enormous – we are over 300 miles from Baghdad – Persia on the verge of a revolution with the cry “kick out the Europeans” and no troops. I have done my best, in sending fierce cables, and the War Office are at last awake to it, but Baghdad is very lethargic. The War Office want me to obtain command of the Caspian Sea – I’ve thought of that all the time – I could seize the gun-boats with a small force, but can’t they see I must have at least one port? If I can get Bicherakov to capture and hold the Menjil Bridge, Resht and Enzeli I might do something – but he is not up to it.
Tried to leave at 6 a.m., but it was a day of disasters – no sooner started than we had a delay of 2 hours for repairs, then later 3¼ hours, got over the pass all right, failed to reach Kasvin, but put up for the night in a decent isolated serai half-way between Kuin and Buvnak – not at all bad and not quite in ruins.