Writing up despatches. Dined with General Dixon of Rhodesia. The Marlings were there – glad to be out of Teheran. Also Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch, 27, now with a Commission as Captain in the British Army, He is quite possibly the next Czar. He talked to me for an hour in gratitude for my help to the Russians etc., and told me of the horrible things he has to suffer at the hands of our blunt Englishmen. One Officer says: “the Russians always run away, don’t they?” and so on.
I went to Teheran and stayed with the Minister, returned on the 7th, it was very beautiful there. The Minister, Sir Charles Marling, was not happy and the moral atmosphere of the place is unclean. I do not like the young Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch. The attitude of the old-régime Russians is very unpleasant, suspicious and hostile.
Left 9 a.m. for Teheran, arrived 5 p.m. A very ugly, barren, road, parallel to the Elburz Mountains – capable of wonderful fertility if irrigation were not just left to chance.
Our entry into Teheran caused some interest – the sign of the new régime – the first glimpse of a British General in uniform. The crowd had a good chance of admiring us as we were help up for a long time by the police asking all sorts of questions at the barrier. Then through a dusty and rather squalid city and thence into the Legation Garden – one of the beautiful gardens in the world – as near as possible a Paradise on earth. They have an Austrian gardener! Chenar trees, lawns, fountains and ponds with water lilies, roses, etc. – not only very beautiful, but such a contrast to the nasty surroundings.
Teheran is heavenly, but is an abode of devils. Lady Marling ill in bed, Sir Charles is really an invalid. Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch has been living with them for a year – a sort of refugee, 25 years of age, nice looking, but soft and no use to the dynasty. Also met General and Mrs. Polovtsev. Both very young, and she very pretty – the usual Russian worldlings and probably a bad lot. (Barttelot was afterwards killed by the Consul, Mc.Laren, for making love to his wife *) Barttelot I was glad to see (Mil. attaché); also Stokes my G.S.O.; I. Scott, the first Secretary; Havard Consul; Etter, Russian Member; Lecomte, French (Eulenburg scandals!); Caldwell, American Col.; Staroselsky, commanding the Persian Cossacks.
I was tired to death during my stay in Teheran, because there was never quiet one moment. Ride with Barttelot before breakfast, then interviews without ceasing till dinner time, then the other sort of dinner party interview with each of the invités, and bed at 1.0. I like French ladies because they curtsey to me when they are introduced and they make me feel Viceregal! A wonderful cuisine with an Italian chef – everything done in quite the nicest way.
I think Teheran is a nasty place. A nightingale sings outside my bedroom at night and there is an atmosphere of lilies and languor and love in the air, which, with no proper outlet, leads people to be rather nasty. The place is full of Russian Officers who drink and gamble for huge sums at the Imperial Club with Persian noblemen and any bounder with money to be squeezed.
I was glad to leave Teheran on Friday 17. Left Kasvin on Saturday 18th, and arrived at home by Hamadan at 7 p.m. same day. I was very tired and brought with me a collection of prisoners – Austrian, German and others. I had to share my car with the Hungarian officer prisoner’s wife and baby – she had to pull up the car at every mile and be sick. And a very pretty officer’s wife, Sokolov, en route Baghdad. It was a dreadful arrival with one lady sick and one in hysterics and no one to meet us and no arrangements made. I ran them both into Mrs. Funks drawing-room (hard on a missionary lady) while I ran round to arrange things. I was dog tired, but had to go to a concert that had been especially postponed for me. It was quite hot in Teheran and here it is just a warm spring – we want half warm clothes and half summer clothes.
4th party arrived at 11 a.m. 50 officers, 150 N.C.Os, Australians, New-Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans – a fine lot, but tough, commanded by Daisie’s brother, Bob Keyworth.
* I cannot ascertain to what this comment pertains!
Rode out to see the famous tablets of Darius and Xerxes, his son, yesterday. I get a ride every afternoon now, and am getting to know the country well. General Byron* rides with me as a rule. The War Office refuse to give me any more troops. I asked for a Division, then for a Brigade – and all they give me is 1 Cavalry Regiment and 1 Infantry Battalion to run the country against the Germans, Turks, Democrats and Brigands, from Tabriz, Teheran to Kermanshah, an equilateral triangle with the sides of 400 miles, or a bigger area than the British Isles.
* This is Brigadier-General John Joseph Byron, who was the second-in-command of Dunsterforce. His obituary is available here.
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.
2nd party arrived – called on Governor at 2 p.m. and had the Foreign Office man, Haji Saad-es-Sultaneh there to interpret. He was late and I found I could quite easily get on in Persian with the Governor. We talked of many things. He asked if I trusted him. I know that he has been arranging for Kurds to attack us and turn us out, but I told him I had heard all sorts of wicked things about him, but would not believe them because he was so nice. I told him to advise the Teheran Government to ask for British troops instead of stopping us, otherwise they would have the Germans instead. I also said he might advise the Mejliss [council?] to close its doors for ten years and stop all this rot about politics while they created an Army – politics are no use without soldiers to back the policy.
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.