Yesterday a big Victory demonstration and fireworks and also a huge fire in the Hindu quarter in the city which did enormous damage. Rather tired of doing nothing, waiting for orders and living on a very small rate of pay.
Arrived Peshawar 6.30 a.m., staying with the Rennies – I am glad we came here, there is no spot on earth where we would have more friends and they are good friends. Quite enough friends to keep us cheery – and I am not down on my luck. The telegrams I sent the War Office were certainly impertinent and much too strong, I see that now in cold blood, but they should make allowance for circumstances and let me off with an apology – their present treatment is certainly unjust. But what do all these petty little private matters weigh against the splendid war news – Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria unconditional surrender! and the end of the war – a victorious end – in sight.
Very cold, Daisie and I left by motor at 3 p.m. for Pindi and thence train to Peshawar – Susanna and Miss Key remain here.
Pencilled note: “End of War Diary C. Return to page 132 Vol 10”
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.
More explorations in this wonderful new Basra with a six mile river frontage, camps, docks, ship-building, if I tried to describe my impressions I should fill this book. I have been waiting for Sir Hamilton Grant, Indian Foreign Secretary, to arrive, as he is to go up in the steamer with me. He arrived to-day. Slept on board the steamer where I have a magnificent cabin, as large as my private office in Peshawar and can open all my boxes and study maps etc. The magnitude of this enterprise does not weigh on me, but it is a big thing. Steaming up river all day in this wonderful land of Chaldaea, Babylon, Nineveh and Abraham – fallen Empires all around are represented by mud heaps. The Turk has treated the country vilely, under us it will again blossom into the Garden of Eden, the Arabs and Jews are white men like us, of the race of Shem. Basra people are quaint and children often wear just the ordinary European woman’s kit, a little out of date. They seem enormously happy and one gets only smiles instead of the sulky looks of India. The children salute, shout “hurrah!” and “good evening”.
NOTE: it is well worth reading up about Turkey’s role in World War One, to give a bit of background as to why Dunsterville was posted to this area, and to his antipathy towards ‘the Turk’. Here is an excellent article.
Sailed off into the great unknown at 2 p.m. on the “Baroda”, leaving poor Daisie forlorn at the Carlton Hotel. She returns to Peshawar to-night. None of my Staff were able to catch the boat and I have only Sergeant Watson, my Head Clerk with me. I am on a Special Mission, vastly important and interesting. God give me strength, courage and intelligence to carry it through to a successful issue. I am to be a temporary Major General and to have the full Staff of a Division. Topham of the 15th Sikhs is my A.D.C. Colonel Arnold of the 26th Cavalry commands the ship.