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!
Rather tired and weary after diarrhoea. We have lost several men from cholera and a good deal of typhus and sandfly fever. The flies are awful. Days are hot but nights quite cool.
The number of situations I have to deal with is enormous. The Jilus and Armenians at Urmieh have long been entirely surrounded by the Turks, but have bravely held out so far. Yesterday I managed to get an aeroplane through to them. The aviator, Pennington, was received with an ovation, could not move for half an hour, people kissing his hands and knees.
As a result, I hope to open up the road to Urmieh from Hamadan and have asked the Jilus to fight their way down to Sain Kale [location unidentifiable] to meet us. This is a new situation. Then, in case the Turks get Baku I am sending a party over to Krasnovodsk to see what can be done on the East shore of the Caspian and in Turkestan [Turkmenistan].
Then I still have the defence of Baku on my hands, and am anxious having had no news of Bicherakov for some days.
Then there is the Turkish invasion situation via Tabriz doing pretty well. The Turks hold Tabriz with 2000 men and I am bluffing them with about 20 and 1 armoured car. Then there are the Persian Levies and the Irregulars which are not a great success. They want pay, but don’t want to fight.
Then there is the internal political situation. At Teheran there is a revolution going on, not very dangerous so far. In the town here all is quiet, but all Persian officials are pro-Turk.
Then there is the Jangali situation, which is doing well so far. We are bombing them by aeroplane again to-morrow. My hands and head are very full. Then I am worried a lot by the question of liquidation of the Russian debts, contracts with the Russian road Company, interviews with Russian revolutionaries and schemes to help indigent Russian officers.
Left 9 a.m. for Teheran, arrived 5 p.m. A very ugly, barren, road, parallel to the Elburz Mountains – capable of wonderful fertility if irrigation were not just left to chance.
Our entry into Teheran caused some interest – the sign of the new régime – the first glimpse of a British General in uniform. The crowd had a good chance of admiring us as we were help up for a long time by the police asking all sorts of questions at the barrier. Then through a dusty and rather squalid city and thence into the Legation Garden – one of the beautiful gardens in the world – as near as possible a Paradise on earth. They have an Austrian gardener! Chenar trees, lawns, fountains and ponds with water lilies, roses, etc. – not only very beautiful, but such a contrast to the nasty surroundings.
Teheran is heavenly, but is an abode of devils. Lady Marling ill in bed, Sir Charles is really an invalid. Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch has been living with them for a year – a sort of refugee, 25 years of age, nice looking, but soft and no use to the dynasty. Also met General and Mrs. Polovtsev. Both very young, and she very pretty – the usual Russian worldlings and probably a bad lot. (Barttelot was afterwards killed by the Consul, Mc.Laren, for making love to his wife *) Barttelot I was glad to see (Mil. attaché); also Stokes my G.S.O.; I. Scott, the first Secretary; Havard Consul; Etter, Russian Member; Lecomte, French (Eulenburg scandals!); Caldwell, American Col.; Staroselsky, commanding the Persian Cossacks.
I was tired to death during my stay in Teheran, because there was never quiet one moment. Ride with Barttelot before breakfast, then interviews without ceasing till dinner time, then the other sort of dinner party interview with each of the invités, and bed at 1.0. I like French ladies because they curtsey to me when they are introduced and they make me feel Viceregal! A wonderful cuisine with an Italian chef – everything done in quite the nicest way.
I think Teheran is a nasty place. A nightingale sings outside my bedroom at night and there is an atmosphere of lilies and languor and love in the air, which, with no proper outlet, leads people to be rather nasty. The place is full of Russian Officers who drink and gamble for huge sums at the Imperial Club with Persian noblemen and any bounder with money to be squeezed.
I was glad to leave Teheran on Friday 17. Left Kasvin on Saturday 18th, and arrived at home by Hamadan at 7 p.m. same day. I was very tired and brought with me a collection of prisoners – Austrian, German and others. I had to share my car with the Hungarian officer prisoner’s wife and baby – she had to pull up the car at every mile and be sick. And a very pretty officer’s wife, Sokolov, en route Baghdad. It was a dreadful arrival with one lady sick and one in hysterics and no one to meet us and no arrangements made. I ran them both into Mrs. Funks drawing-room (hard on a missionary lady) while I ran round to arrange things. I was dog tired, but had to go to a concert that had been especially postponed for me. It was quite hot in Teheran and here it is just a warm spring – we want half warm clothes and half summer clothes.
4th party arrived at 11 a.m. 50 officers, 150 N.C.Os, Australians, New-Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans – a fine lot, but tough, commanded by Daisie’s brother, Bob Keyworth.
* I cannot ascertain to what this comment pertains!
O Babel, Babel! An Armenian doctor (member of Baku Committee) came to see me, I took him down to the office. On the road I met a Turkish naval officer coming to surrender. I went into the office and found Lt. Sokolov of the Russian Navy waiting to see me, also Lt. Poidebard of the French Army [most likely to be this man]. In the hall was waiting a Persian Gendarme officer we are going to use as a spy – and also a Greek merchant, who came with information which he gave through the medium of Hindustani, our only common language.
At last we got a mail with Daisie’s letters up to March 21st. Poor Daisie! what a terrible time she has been having – Living with the Starrs and Dr. Starr murdered at night by Pathans, poor fellow. He was stabbed in 5 places by men and lasted till the afternoon, when he died.
* Dunsterville was a renowned polyglot, speaking English, French, German, Russian, various Indian languages (such as Pushtu and Hindustani) and Arabic. It was his multilingualism which was a key reason why he was chosen for this mission.
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.
There is a sense of unreality in life when one lives in the scenes of bygone Kingdoms – down below in Mesopotamia, English soldiers are handling bricks from Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar’s seal on them, the Turks are just beyond them in Nineveh, and here I live in the town of King Darius, King Cyrus and the Great Alexander. How paltry human life seems. 2nd party arrived Zagha and we sent out a motor to bring in our mails. I purposed to call on the Governor, but he made excuses – didn’t want to see me, I suppose, as he is harbouring one of the Persian revolutionaries just returned from Turkey. That’s the very man I want to see.