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.
Staff Tour in the Miranzai Valley, left Peshawar 6 p.m. Monday, dined at Nowshera with General Climo, 3 days up the Valley hard riding and climbing, interesting work. Thursday dined with Gen. Eustace and Friday motored home.
And so our Cherat trip is over and I am not sorry. I certainly thank God that He brought us here for those 15 days, when my boils were about to spring on me – I should have died down below. I am still very sick and get little sleep at night, but I suppose things are improving. In Murree I am to be injected with some sort of anti-boil stuff. We leave here to-morrow 7 a.m. spend the day packing and perspiring in Peshawar, leave by the night mail, arrive Pindi 6 a.m. arriving by motor in Murree at 9 a.m. if all goes well.
What luck that Providence fetched me away from Peshawar just in the nick of time – I should have had to go to hospital otherwise – My boils are frightful, they hurt just like burns, and sleep is almost impossible as I have no comfortable side to lie on. And boils are so disgusting.
Left Peshawar 7 a.m. in motor-car and arrived Cherat in the clouds at 9. a.m. Such delicious breeze – it was like heaven to tear off ones clothes and lie on ones bed with the howling gale blowing over one and blowing away the vile prickly heat.