Such a day of talk. Haji Saad-es-Sultaneh, whom I like very much and who talks French, called on me – then General Baratov with a lot of questions, some so very simple. I offer to send him down to Baghdad, as he cannot return to the Caucasus. He says, “Could I get command of a Division?” I said “I’m afraid quite impossible.” Then he asked: “Supposing Great Britain declares war on Russia?” I replied, “Well, you’ll be a prisoner, and I’m sure very happy in our hands.” The weather alternates between snowstorms and warm sunshine – so does the political situation. At the present moment I am in the sunshine. Last night there were rumours of trouble in the city – this morning I was asked to stop the Governor issuing arms to the rabble to attack the English – now Kuchik Khan says he wants to make peace with the English, the Governor says he is our very best friend – and I also hear there is a chance of my getting through to Tiflis – so the sun shines indeed for the moment.
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.
A poor Christmas Eve for Daisie. At Dinner time I got orders to proceed overseas for duty with Russian troops – just exactly the job I am fitted for – Thank God for that, though it makes the parting with my darling unsurpassed wife none the less hard. Whatever happens to her or me we must both thank God for 20 years of the most unalloyed and intense happiness.
Note: It is important to realise the significance of this – at the time, Russia was still less than two months from the October Revolution, precipitated by Bolshevik agitators in St Petersburg. I would highly recommend reading further on Russian history of this time to understand the purpose of the mission he was sent on and the nuances of some of the references in diary entries to come. You could start here or here but there are plenty of excellent articles out there.
One or two hot nights, but there has been heavy rain all round and it is quite cool now – Daisie works daily in the garden till 12.0 and amuses herself with her rabbits and pigeons. I have a lecture at the Soldiers’ Home on Wednesday 20th on Russia.
I gave an address in the Soldiers’ Home the other day on “how we can lead the Christian Life in the Army”. And again on Thursday, we are to discuss it. There are some very fine characters among the men here. I am to go to Simla on June 30th to be invested with my C.B. by Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy. Daisie goes to Cherat for the 4 days. The War goes on well. Verdun remains unfallen after 4 months hammering. The Russians continuing their triumphant progress against the Austrian. Our garden is full of doves, and they simply roar in the early morning. I never heard such frightfully vigorous “coos” in my life.
I gave an address in the Soldiers’ Home last night rather against the emotional sort of Christian. Christ came on earth to save sinners, not to make saints. Some of them didn’t like it.
No hardship this hot weather. It was just trying to bring out my prickly heat, then a storm last night and now it is quite cool again. We have a Memorial Service for Lord Kitchener to-morrow. The Russian victory in Hungary seems tremendous and far outweighs any of the German successes in the Verdun Direction. The War goes very well.
Yesterday we had news of the great Naval Battle off Jutland with the Germans – a victory for us, but dearly paid for. Our losses in ships and men were very large, probably larger than the Germans, but they bolted home and left us masters of the Sea, so they can hardly claim it, but they will, as a victory. We had thorough bad luck throughout. Then we have news of the most dramatic incident in the War, the sinking of The Hampshire with Lord Kitchener and Staff on board en route for Russia – no survivors. It is sad. Kitchener is not irreplaceable, but it is a great feather in the German cap.