Latest news leads me to have another try at Baku, so I leave here on Friday, 31st, join up with Bicherakov and his Cossacks at Kasvin and then make war on the Jangalis on the Enzeli road – if we are not delayed we may get to Baku in time to save the town and oil-wells from falling into the hands of the Turks and Germans, who are racing up from Tiflis to get them. Are we to be always too late? It’s not my fault anyway as they refuse me all the troops and aeroplanes I need.
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.
We always have our little services with the American Missionaries. We can get no news from Tiflis and they all seem fighting like cats and dogs there, poor devils – and starving. Daisie may be glad I never reached there – and I also feel that the chaos had reached too great a pitch for me to restore order – Yet perhaps I might have helped – God willed otherwise.
Kasvin seems to be in a dangerous state, but I can do nothing till the 29th, if they can hold out till then. I am sending Colonel Bicherakov with his Cossacks to hold Kasvin, but he cannot get there before the 29th – it’s a race between him and Kuchik Khan’s men.
Revolutionary Committee Meeting, Soldiers and Sailors all very pleasant and “comrady” and well behaved. Each questioned me in turn and tried to get me to reveal secrets and to contradict myself – I hope I got through all right. I insisted that my mission was not political and not anti-Bolshevik, and that they must let me go to Tiflis. They said they would take every possible step to prevent my getting there – the Caucasus being against the Bolsheviks and they could not permit us to pass through – and if we left here we would be caught by the Bolsheviks at Baku. They possess the telegraph and everything. They put sentries on all the ships to prevent my leaving and they have a gun-boat ready to sink us if we try – our house is guarded night and day and the situation is absurd – the mission has ended and there is nothing to do but to get out of it with all speed.
To explain the context – having reached as far as this, on a journey north to Tblisi (Georgia) or Baku (Azerbaijan), Dunsterville is now faced with the prospect of arrest or other detention, attack by the Iranian (Persian) revolutionaries, or retreat. At the same time, he is aware that any retreat will be looked on badly by the War Office. It is worth reading more about the situation here.
Arrived Baghdad 8 a.m., breakfast with Sir P. Cox. Staying with the Commander-in-Chief, Sir William Marshall, met Stuart Wortley, Q.M.G. (possibly this man?) and several other old friends. I have a tough job in front of me – it is difficult to get through Persia with things as they are, and arriving at Tiflis safely, there may still be great obstacles to overcome. This is a beautiful house on the banks of the Tigris, and it is romantic to hear the waters of the ancient river lapping on the bank below my window.
In the forward journey there is the risk of traps by tribesmen, or German and Turkish plots. In Tiflis, German paid assassins or truculent politicians. But God is with us always and I thank him for an intensely happy life with my beloved wife, even if it terminates at 53.
Tiflis = Tblisi, capital of Georgia