Arrived 3 p.m. I was to have tad tea with Kuchik Khan at Resht, but he cannot arrange before Wednesday [28th August] and I cannot wait so long – so I must again return without accomplishing this important work. Enzeli is looking very nice and clean. Bray is very ill and I sent him to hospital and taken on Lieutenant Grosvald of the Russian Army in his place – a good fellow, but not a patch on Bray.
The Port here is quiet, but although we have arrested and sent to Baghdad the Bolshevik leaders, we cannot yet get real control of the port and the shipping, as I have very few troops and cannot show force. In fact, the Bolsheviks or the Jangalis or both together might attack me at any time and knock me out. One has to take big risks but I must send all I can to Baku and keep only the minimum here.
I have had bad diarrhoea for some time and on the road down I felt as if I were going to die – I determined to eat nothing, but at the Nagober toll-gate I had to accept hospitality and I was hungry, so I gave in and drank tea and coffee and ate cheese and omelette. After that I nearly died again and gave up worrying, so when we got to the Resht toll-gate and I was again tempted, I ate everything I wanted. Bray suggested a Russian cure, vodka with pepper in it, so I drank three pepper vodkas which were very consoling! and from that moment to this I have been as fit as a fiddle – it was, I suppose, too much for the microbes.
When one arrives in a new town, one is deluged with interviews that tire one to death. Yesterday I had M. Hunin, head of customs. Khachikov and Senizavin, controlling the Caspian fleet, Gendre, the Social Revolutionary, Dr. Araratiantz, head of the Armenian National Council, Mr. Ogamiantz, Soc. Rev. Alkhari – Bicherakov’s man; great schemes are propounded, but each is playing for his own hand. To-day I have already had heaps of time-wasters, mostly Russian and British refugees trying to get a job – (that is, money) out of me. Baku still holds up and I hope Bob will pull through, but my reinforcements are small and time flies.
[I cannot identify the location of Nagober but I believe it to be somewhere in Iran]
Passed through Resht and had lunch there at the tollgate and talked with Matthews and Moir who have done very well. We recently bombed by aeroplane all the Gilan towns and I do not think they will attack again. Resht is much damaged, but town seems quiet and no shots were fired at my convoy. The country was more beautiful than ever, the wonderful 20 miles of forest and the green rice-fields below. Arrived Enzeli 6 p.m., staying in the fisheries’ same old house. We have just arrested the leaders of the Russian Revolutionary Committee and I think all will go well. 6 months ago Cheliapin was on the verge of arresting me and I had to flee in haste – to-day he is on his way to Baghdad and the Revolutionary Committee exists no more while I hold Enzeli. Bob is in Baku and the news from there is not so bad – we may be able to hold out.
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.
To Kasvin – a dreadful journey. 4 hours’ engine trouble. 6 punctures at last ran in by moon-light on the rims to Kirk Bulak [place unidentified] and telephoned from there for another car which arrived at 3 a.m. and got us in by 6 a.m., on the 24th. Glad to be at home – sick of travelling. 780 miles in car and 220 in aeroplane. While I was away much has been doing. The Jangalis have recaptured Resht and we had 50 casualties.
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.
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.
The War Office wire absolutely forbidding me to go to the Caucasus at the present time, so the Germans will get the Baku oil, the Krasnovodsk cotton, the Astrakhan wheat and the Caspian Sea. It is very hard and disappointing. I am to look after Persia only. I suppose Percy Sykes‘ troubles in Southern Persia make them anxious, then Kuchik Khan at Resht, the Turks in Tabriz, the hopelessness of the civil war in Baku and the financial cost – they cannot produce the money. I wired estimated minimum cost 5 million sterling a month.
* for information about the significance of the Krasnovodsk cotton, the Astrakhan wheat and the Baku oil-fields, see here.
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.
Heavy snow and everything all buried again in white.
The Enzeli Bolsheviks have come up here to get money from the Bank and other purposes. They are very different people here, the situation being reversed, and they sing very small. They say they love the English and hate the Germans and despise Kuchik Khan. They offer us tons of petrol (which we shall never get) and say that on their return they will insist on Kuchik releasing the Resht Bank Manager (Oakshot) and the Consul (Maclaren) whom he arrested the other day. Mc.Murray says “You allowed Kuchik to loot the bank and now you come to me to cash a cheque. I won’t cash it.” So they are very unhappy as it is a big cheque for 300,000 krans [qirans]. This snow to-day will block the Sultan-Bulak Pass [70 miles/110 km south-west of Qazvin] and they will have a job getting back.
Coming from a Sunni country, India, where the Shiah is a despised worm, it is interesting to live in a Shiah country and see the reverse of the picture. Here they talk of “Mahomedans” meaning Shiahs only – Sunnis are Sunnis and outside the pale of Mahomedanism, the Shiah feeling appears even less tolerant than the Sunni. [Read here about the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims]