Apricot is out and willows begin to have leaves. Weather very wintry with frequent blizzards on the Passes. – still in our nasty warm clothes.
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.
A wind almost enough to blow the roof off – a little snow last night and so cold to-day that the coolies refuse to work on the aeroplane ground. Snowing hard later.
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]
Heavy snow. Interesting visit to a big land-owner, Anti-Democrat. Amir-i-Afgham – fine old fellow, but probably a bad lot – visit rather spoilt by unexpected attendance of the Deputy-Governor who came to spy.
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.
Snow again, and always snow. Our chauffeurs are playing foot-ball to-day against the Persian Christian boys – to-morrow the officers play the civilians of the town.
What comfort in the nice house of the Mc.Murrays – such a sleep and such a rest – The vile weather continues and it snows again. I hear Barttelot had to abandon his cars and ride from Kermanshah, likewise Offley Shore – it is a marvel how I have brought these 40 cars over this 1000 miles of bad road and 7 snow passes without losing one. Now we are permanently blocked with heavy snow on the passes each side of us.
Sent many cables home, but no reply yet. As what I have suggested amounts to a change of policy in Persia, I suppose they have had to have a Cabinet Meeting* about it and that will cause the delay. They want me to go by the Tabriz road** – how little they understand the situation. I should have to be taken prisoner or shot the first day, or take a force big enough to fight. The people we are out to help seem a worthless lot and cannot pull together. The Armenians and Georgians hate each other and the Tartar hates them both. I shall never cease to marvel at our escape from Enzeli – I expect they are now cursing their foolishness in letting us go. Each was trying to get the other to fire the first shot and neither dared, but the Red Guards who arrived from Baku just as I left, would doubtless have done it, and they had us cold. If I had stayed another 24 hours it would have been all up. Thanks be to God! The situation all round is bad, but here, at least, we can put up a fight – I have implored Baghdad and London to send troops, but they take no notice.
* The involvement of the British Government’s Cabinet Office gives some indication as to the significance of this mission.
** The map below shows the location of Tabriz (I couldn’t get it to stop saying Pars Hotel) to demonstrate the alternative route that the War Office in Baghdad wished Dunsterville to take.
Left Aveh 6.30 a.m. Arrived Hamadan 7.30 p.m. The pass was deep in snow for 6 miles, but the Northward moving Russians had had to cut through it so we were not blocked, but it took 6 hours to do 6 miles!