Yesterday I sent a party to clear the snow off the Asadabad Pass and they found a caravan just being plundered and captured the robber band complete! A Russian lorry, en route Kasvin, was attacked on the road near Manian [possibly here, but unlikely?), 8 killed. I am sending Nizam-es-Sultan, the Governor of this town off to Teheran to-morrow to see the Government and put some new ideas before them – after having, in many interviews, shown him the meshes of German intrigue I hope it will be of use, and I have promised to prevent anyone else bagging the vacant Governorship during his absence. We have learnt to love each other so much that he insisted on giving me two smacking kisses on departure!
4 more Russians murdered on the road by Aveh and I am anxious about the party I am sending to Kasvin. It is always Alice in Wonderland. I sent Bicherakov’s fierce Cossacks down to take the Menzil Bridge from the Jangalis, which should have meant awful blood-shed, instead of which I hear the Cossacks and the Jangalis are sitting side by side alongside of the bridge are quite friendly with each other! One minute I have to implore Bicherakov not to kill too many and the next minute I have to urge him on to kill at least some of them.
What a Babel. I talk English to my orderly in the middle of my Persian lesson, I receive a letter from the Governor which I have to answer in French and a Russian soldier calls in the middle to complain of a loss of money – and two days ago I was talking German to a German prisoner. I read last night a letter in Gurmukhi from Sunder Singh, a Subadar in the 36th Sikhs, and I spoke Pushtu yesterday to the one and only Afghan in Hamadan, and Hindustani to two Indian deserters! Left the Mc.Murrays’ comfortable house and moved over to mine, where I live with Col. Duncan and Capt. Topham, my A.D.C. If one allowed oneself to be worried by these fearful plots and rumours, one would get no sleep. The Democrats in the town are plotting to shoot me and also to down us by a sudden attack. The Kurds, close by, are being stirred up by the Turks to wipe out the English at Hamadan and Kermanshah, and Kuchik Khan with the Germans and the Baku Tartars, threatens to destroy us all – Col. Bicherakov’s Cossacks, whom I sent to Kasvin, are the only thing between us and disaster, and I cannot get Baghdad to wake up. I intercepted a letter yesterday from a big man in Teheran to Kuchik Khan, full of treachery and implicating even the Prime Minister!
An amusing morning examining the German prisoner Eric Wiener and his Turkish guide. He says he hates the Turk because he believes it was he who gave his disguise away when he was travelling as a woman. His only request was for some decent bread, but I told him that we had all been eating Turkish chuppaties for 2 months and could get nothing else. He was evidently bearing important despatches but had destroyed them. What horrible times we live in, I live in such appalling contrasts and it is only by contrast that we can realize. This famine is perfectly awful. I have just walked through the town and I gave alms to the extent of my purse, perhaps about 40 krans, 2 krans to each beggar, but there were thousands of them and I suppose they must all die. In the bright sunshine in the middle of the road lay a little boy of about 6, quite dead, with his face buried in the mud: the others seem quite callous. And then from all this misery I come home to a beautiful house and sit in a luxurious drawing-room after a good tea and listen to the most beautiful violin music played by a Russian Officer (Ostrovsky), and my German prisoner tells me he wants to get back to his wife – and it all seems so wicked and senseless. I believe the famine here could be put right with a million pounds, and what is that in a war that costs us 7 million a day? I have asked the War Office to give me £20,000 a month for road-making and that will help a little.
Heavy snow-storm, had a long talk with Revd. and Mrs. Hawkes about their missionary work, he has been here for 36 years. Wild alarmist rumours – about Kuchik Khan and Anti-British demonstrations in Teheran – and Russian dislike of us turning into actual hostility.
Persian political news confusing and disturbing. Two Russian Aviation officers came to me from Baku with offers of help, but when I cross-questioned them and it came down to bed-rock it was evident they could not help me and very much needed help themselves. They had, as usual, fantastic ideas, among others, that of capturing one of the Caspian Bolshevik gun-boats with one sea-plane – it is all very like Alice in Wonderland. A dull cold day and the white snowy landscape bores me to death. We hear that our mail is at last being brought up.
No cables yet from the Home Government – situation in Persia is dangerous and I have to be ready to meet attack. Revolutionaries in the town and social democrats trying to stir up the people against us. To-day is the first and I hope not the last fine day, a beautiful blue sky and quite a spring feeling. Coming over the Asadabad Pass yesterday, a Russian convoy of ammunition lost 30 mules and 6 men froze to death – glad I was not as bad as that.
* The diary records this entry as 29th February, but there was no such date in 1918, so I am assuming this is actually 1st March.
Left at 7 a.m., arrived at Kasvin 2 p.m., staying with Goodwin, Bank and Consul, Sir Charles Marling and Col. Napier* – Minister and Military Secretary, Teheran, came to confer with me – very interesting talk. There never was such a terrifying situation – but one is not paid to be terrified. The Caucasus seems already to be in the thick of civil war – and Persia also on the verge. My port of embarkation is in the hands of Persian revolutionaries and my port of arrival in the hands of Russian and Tartar anarchists. Kasvin is a filthy, filthy town, and full of disorderly Russian soldiers. But beautiful fruit gardens all round – I have at last seen a pistachio-tree – after meeting the liquorice bush in Mesopotamia – and some beautiful coloured tile domes in the town.
* I cannot identify any of these men