Major Barttelot arrived en route to Teheran and brought, at last, some post and I had the enormous pleasure of 6 sweet letters from my darling Daisie – but only up to Jan. 24th and I had hoped to get as late as the middle of February. I go on calling and returning calls on Persian officials and noblemen and I am sure this helps to keep the situation quiet. The Governor is a democrat and a supporter of Kuchik Khan, a weak man who wants to make his pile and sail with the wind. To-day the big landowner from Sheverin called on me – Amir-i-Afgham, a fine old, rich, non-political, type – certainly anti-democratic – he is rough and ready and hates the Governor. He is called the Black Fox. Brings with him a horse to carry his hookah, with a brazier of burning charcoal, nearly setting the saddle alight.
He captured two Turks yesterday, but let them go as harmless – the country is full of Turkish escaped prisoners from Russia, trying to get home.
Always raining here – a beastly place. I asked to meet the Committee again at 11 a.m., and found them again very pleasant though they had a big armed guard to frighten me and I thought they might try to take us prisoners, but they did not. I informed them that I quite took their point of view, that I agreed to return at once and begged them to help me with petrol etc, which they agreed to do. I have an army of 40 Chauffeurs and 1 armoured car, and am not prepared to take on 4000 Russians, so there’s nothing to argue about and I do see their point of view very clearly. I foresaw all this from the very start – the mission was two months too late and could only end in failure.
Arrived Calais at day-break alongside a train of French wounded. Cold and wet and foggy, poor weather for the soldiers. but I expect it is worse for the Germans than for us. Saint Omer 9 a.m. The names up here “Ebblinghem” for instance, suggest that this country is really Teuton. As far as this the country has been flat and wet like land reclaimed from the sea. The real continent begins here. Saw the first Indians, only some measly looking followers. Towards Hazebrouck the country gets much more like lieber Deutschland. and Daisie and I could be quite happy here – Reached railhead Merville, at 12.30. Took a long time issuing. Took over 30 Germans prisoners of the 133rd Regt, had one passenger to take down. Lt. Butler R.F.A., who knew my camp with garden in Sonamarg. Not much artillery firing in this neighbourhood which means, I hope, that our fellows are pushing along and getting the Germans further back. Left Merville 8 p.m., arrived St. Omer at midnight and handed over my German prisoners. A most amusing incident: My crown and 2 stars in the faint gaslight look like 3 stars. A Major, Railway Transport officer, excellent fellow, disagreed with me about the escort necessary for the prisoners and I stuck to my opinion, whereupon he fiercely brushed his moustache and said “Look here, now, I’m a Major and you’re a Captain….” I might have let him go on, but it would have been hard luck, so I said “Oh, but I am a Colonel!” Frightfully apologetic – no need, I said, whatever my rank was if I was wrong I ought to be put right.
For those unfamiliar with insignia in the British Army, click on the image below, where you can see how similar the Captain and Colonel epaulettes are!
Arrived Fère-en-Tardenois 6 a.m. Went out to see Bay* and found him among all the aeroplanes. He afterwards came over to my carriage and had lunch with me. While in the Aeroplane camp a German Aeroplane came and we fired at it with a maxim, but it got away.
The French 5th Army Corps are marching through here towards the German right and the German was able to go off with this important information. Left F.T. at 3.30. p.m. Such a mixed crowd on board – wounded, sick, prisoners, kits of dead officers, lances, rifles, disabled guns, one which had been hit right on the nose and the whole shield and I suppose the whole gun detachment carried right away.
*For an explanation of who Bay is, see here.
For a very illuminating article about the use of aviation in World War 1, go here.
Rain again and cold, reached Villeneuve 8 15. a.m. passed many trains of our wounded going down. Rain and Rain and Rain. German prisoners carrying English wounded and English Red Cross carrying German wounded. Truck leaked, wet bed, bad lumbago. I am a crock. Aldridge joined the train here and came on to Braisne* with me. Left V. at 5.35 p.m. A miserable wet night, pouring and I had to give Aldridge my blankets as he had nothing.
*Possibly Braisnes-sur-Aronde, a short distance to the north-west of Compiègne
Poured all night and a furious gale, such a tempest. Such a night to lie out wounded – cold and miserable. A wounded horse close to me kept groaning just like a human being. I am taking him and some others down to the base, but can get no shelter for them here. Issuing rations up to 2 a.m., no lights, no lamp, such a job and such thieving going on. To-day furious gale, but sky clearing. Up at 5 a.m. and checked through the train – signs of plenty of stealing. Left 10.45 a.m. We passed through the suburban lines of Paris about 3 to 5 o’clock. Being Sunday the whole of Paris had turned out and we had an appalling ovation. Especially as it was known we had German prisoners, and some of our men were wearing captured German helmets. The crowd, mostly women, were 5 or 6 deep, in many places and they shrieked and bombarded us with peaches and flowers. I was nearly hit in the eye with a peach. Villeneuve at 4 p.m., Le Mans at 4 a.m. Maroc 7 a.m. At Chartres at 11.30 p.m., the crowd heard there were some German prisoners on board and we had some trouble to keep them off.
I went down to see the remains of the guns of L. Batt R.H.A., which was caught by the Germans at 500 yards – all the guns are here though battered to pieces. Our job is a peculiar one, we leave for the front with a goods train of supplies, destination unknown, then we have to feel our way. Some day one of us will run a train into the German camp, and there will be nice treats for the Germans. Left for Villeneuve 5.30 p.m., it is nicer to get away by day-light. Hot one minute, and cold the next. I have an awful cold and can hardly speak – arrived at Villeneuve 5.45 a.m. Heaps of German prisoners.