By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Letters from Mesopotamia
Author: Palmer, Robert, 1888-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters from Mesopotamia" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

(This file was produced from images generously made

                       LETTERS FROM MESOPOTAMIA

                      IN 1915 AND JANUARY, 1916,
                       FROM ROBERT PALMER, WHO
                     WAS KILLED IN THE BATTLE OF
                     UM EL HANNAH, JUNE 21, 1916
                            AGED 27 YEARS


       *       *       *       *       *

     _He went with a draft from the 6th Hants to reinforce the
     4th Hants. The 6th Hants had been in India since November,

       *       *       *       *       *

    War deemed he hateful, for therein he saw
    Passions unloosed in licence, which in man
    Are the most evil, a false witness to
    The faith of Christ. For when by settled plan,
    To gratify the lustings of the few,
    The peoples march to battle, then, the law

    Of love forgotten, men come out to kill
    Their brothers in a hateless strife, nor know
    The cause wherefor they fight, except that they
    Whom they as rulers own, do bid them so.
    And thus his heart was heavy on the day
    That war burst forth. He felt that men could ill

    Afford to travel back along the years
    That they had mounted, toiling, stage by stage--
    --A year he was to India's plains assigned
    Nor heard the spite of rifles, nor the rage
    Of guns; yet pondered oft on what the mind
    Experiences in war; what are the fears,

    And what those joys unknown that men do feel
    In stress of fight. He saw how great a test
    Of manhood is a stubborn war, which draws
    Out all that's worst in men or all that's best:
    Their fiercest brutal passions from all laws
    Set free, men burn and plunder, rape and steal;

    Or all their human strength of love cries out
    Against such suffering. And so he came
    In time to wish that he might thus be tried,
    Partly to know himself, partly from shame
    That others with less faith had gladly died,
    While he in peace and ease had cast a doubt,

    Not on his faith, but on his strength to bear
    So great a trial. Soon it was his fate
    To test himself; and with the facts of war
    So clear before him he could feel no hate,
    No passion was aroused by what he saw,
    But only pity. And he put all fear

    Away from him, terming it the offspring
    Of an unruly mind. Like some strong man
    Whom pygmies in his sleep have bound with threads
    Of twisted cobweb, and he to their plan
    Is captive while he sleeps, but quickly shreds
    His bonds when he awakes and sees the thing

    That they have bound him with. His faith and will
    Purged all evil passions from his mind,
    And left there one great overmastering love
    For all his fellows. War taught him to find
    That peace, for which at other times he strove
    In vain, and new-found friendship did fulfil

    His thoughts with happiness. Such was the soul
    That he perfected, ready for the call
    Of his dear Master (should it to him come),
    Scornful of death's terrors, yet withal
    Loath to leave this life, while still was some
    Part of the work he dreamed undone, his goal

    As yet unreached. There was for such an one
    A different work among those given,
    Who've crossed the border of eternity
    In youthful heedlessness,--as unshriven
    Naked souls joined the great fraternity
    O' the dead, while yet their life was just begun ...

    And so he went from us unto his task,
    For all our life is as it were a mask
    That lifteth at our death, and death is birth
    To higher things than are upon this earth.


       *       *       *       *       *

_April 25th, 1915._


They are calling for volunteers from Territorial battalions to fill
gaps in the Persian Gulf--one subaltern, one sergeant, and thirty men
from each battalion. So far they have asked the Devons, Cornwalls,
Dorsets, Somersets and East Surreys, but not the Hampshires. So I
suppose they are going to reserve us for feeding the 4th Hants in case
they want casualties replaced later on. Even if they come to us, I
don't think they are likely to take me or Luly, because in every case
they are taking the senior subaltern: and that is a position which I
am skipping by being promoted along with the three others: and Luly is
a long way down the list. But of course I shall volunteer, as there is
no adequate reason not to; so I thought you would like to know, only
you mustn't worry, as the chance of my going is exceedingly remote:
but I like to tell you everything that happens.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four months after he wrote this, in August, 1915, Robert was on leave
at Naini Tal, with Purefoy Causton, a brother officer.

       *       *       *       *       *


_August 3rd_, 1915.


It has been extremely wet since I last wrote. On Saturday we could do
nothing except laze indoors and play billiards and Friday was the
same, with a dull dinner-party at the end of it. It was very nice and
cool though, and I enjoyed those two days as much as any.

On Sunday we left Government House in order to be with Guy Coles
during his three days' leave.

It rained all the morning: we went to Church at a spikey little chapel
just outside Government House gate. It cleared about noon and we
walked down to the Brewery, about three miles to meet Guy. When he
arrived we had lunch there and then got ponies.

We had arranged to take Guy straight to a picnic with a nice Mrs.
Willmott of Agra, who comes here for the hot weather. So we rode up
past the lake and to the very top of Agarpatta, one of the humps on
the rim of hills. It took us over two hours, and the mist settled in
just as we arrived, about 5, so we picnicked chillily on a misty
mountain-top; but Mrs. Willmott and her sister are exceptionally nice
people, so we all enjoyed it. They have two small children and a lady
nurse for them. I never met one before, but it is quite a sensible
plan out here.

We only got back to this Hotel just before dinner, and there I found a
wire from Major Wyatt asking me if I would command a draft and take it
to the 4th Hants in the Persian Gulf. This is the exact fulfilment of
the calculation I wrote to you in April, but it came as a surprise at
the moment. I was more excited than either pleased or depressed. I
don't hanker after fighting, and I would, of course, have preferred to
go with the regiment and not as a draft. But now that I'm in for it,
the interest of doing something after all these months of hanging
about, and in particular the responsibility of looking after the draft
on the way, seems likely to absorb all other feelings. What appeals to
me most is the purely unmilitary prospect of being able to protect the
men, to some extent, from the, I'm sure, largely preventible sickness
there has been in the P.G. The only remark that ever made me feel a
sudden desire to go to any front was when O'Connor at Lahore told me
(quite untruly as it turned out) that "the Hampshires are dying like
flies at Basra." As a matter of fact, they only had ten deaths, but a
great deal of sickness, and I do enjoy the prospect of trying to be
efficient about that. As for fighting, it doesn't look as if there
would be much, whereon Purefoy greatly commiserates me; but if that is
the only privation I shan't complain!

I'm afraid your lively imagination will conjure up every kind of
horror, and that is the only thing that distresses me about going: but
clearly a tropical climate suits me better than most people, and I
will be very careful to avoid all unnecessary risks! both for your
peace of mind and also to keep the men up to the mark, to say nothing
of less exalted motives.

I know no details at all yet. I am to return to Agra on Saturday, so I
shall only lose forty-eight hours of my most heavenly fortnight here.

I got this wire Sunday evening and Purefoy sat up talking on my bed
till quite late as we had a lot to say to each other.

_August 4th._ On Monday morning it was pouring harder than ever,
quite an inch to the hour. I walked across to the Telegraph Office and
answered the Major's wire, and got wet through. After breakfast I
chartered a dandy and waded through the deluge to the station
hospital, where the M.O. passed me as sound, without a spark of
interest in any of my minor ailments. I then proceeded to the local
chemist and had my medicine-case filled up, and secured an extra
supply of perchloride. There is no Poisons Act here and you can buy
perchloride as freely as pepper. My next visit was to the dentist. He
found two more decayed teeth and stopped them with incredible
rapidity. The climate is so mild that though I was pretty wet through
I never felt like catching a cold from being operated on. He was an
American with a lady assistant to hold one's mouth open! I never feel
sure that these dentists don't just drill a hole and then stop it: but
no doubt teeth decay extremely quickly out here.

Then I went back to the Telegraph Office and cabled to Papa and got
back in time for lunch after the moistest morning I ever remember
being out in.

This hotel is about the worst in the world, I should say, though there
are two in Naini reputed to be worse still. It takes in no newspaper,
has no writing-paper, only one apology for a sitting-room, and can't
supply one with fuel even for a fire. However, Moni Lal is resourceful
and we have survived three days of it. Luckily there is an excellent
custom here by which visitors belonging to another club, _e.g._, the
Agra Club can join the Naini Club temporarily for 1s. per day. So we
spent the afternoon and evening at the Club and I spiflicated both
Purefoy (giving him forty and two turns to my one) and Guy at

On Tuesday (yesterday) we got up at 7.0 and went for a sail on the
lake. Guy is an expert at this difficult art and we circumnavigated
the place twice before breakfast with complete success and I learned
enough semi-nautical terms to justify the purchase of a yachting cap
should occasion arise.

After breakfast we were even more strenuous and climbed up to
Government House to play golf. It came on to rain violently just as we
arrived, so we waited in the guard-room till it cleared, and then
played a particularly long but very agreeable 3-ball, in which I lost
to Guy on the last green but beat Purefoy three and one. We got back
to lunch at about 3.15.

As if this wasn't enough I sallied out again at 4.0 to play tennis at
the Willmotts, quite successfully, with a borrowed racquet, my own
having burst on introduction to the climate of this place. Mrs. W.
told me that there was a Chaplain, one Kirwan, here just back from the
Persian Gulf, so I resolved to pursue him.

I finished up the day by dining P. and G. at the Club, and after
dinner Purefoy, by a succession of the most hirsute flukes, succeeded
in beating me by ten to his great delight.

I went to bed quite tired, but this morning it was so lovely that I
revived and mounted a horse at 7.0 leaving the other two snoring. I
rode up the mountain. I was rewarded by a most glorious view of the
snows, one of the finest I have ever seen. Between me and them were
four or five ranges of lower hills, the deepest richest blue
conceivable, and many of their valleys were filled with shining seas
of rolling sunlit cloud. Against this foreground rose a quarter-circle
sweep of the snows, wreathed and garlanded with cloud wracks here and
there, but for the most part silhouetted sharply in the morning sun.
The grandest mass was in the centre: Nanda Devi, 25,600, which is the
highest mountain in the Empire, and Trisoul, over 22,000. There were
six or eight other peaks of over 20,000 ft.

I got back to the Hotel for breakfast, and from 9.30 to 10.45 we
played tennis, and then changed hastily and went to Church for the War
Anniversary Service. The station turned out for this in unprecedented
numbers--churchgoing is not an Anglo-Indian habit--and there was no
seat to be had, so I sat on the floor. The Bishop of Lucknow, Foss's
uncle, preached.

After the service I waylaid the Revd. Kirwan and found he was staying
with the Bishop, who immediately asked us to lunch. So Purefoy and I
went to lunch--Guy preferring to sail--and I extracted quite a lot of
useful information from K. Incidentally the Bishop showed me a letter
from Foss, who wrote from the apex of the Ypres salient. He isn't
enjoying it much, I'm afraid, but was quite well.

When we left the Bishop, it was coming out so fine that we decided to
ride up and try again to see the snows. So up we rode, and the cloud
effects were lovely, both over the plains and among the mountains; but
they hid more than half the snows.

We rode down again to Valino's, the nutty tea-shop here, where we had
reserved a table on the balcony. Guy was there before us and we sat
there till nearly seven listening to the band. We got back to dinner
where Purefoy had secured one of his innumerable lightning friends to
dine with us, and adjourned to the Club for billiards afterwards:
quite a full day.

_Thursday: Government House._--Another busy day. It was fine again
this morning, so we all three rode up to Snow View and got an
absolutely perfect view: the really big snows were clear and
cloudless, while the lower slopes and hills and valleys were flooded
with broken seas of dazzling cloud. I put it second only to the
Darjeeling view.

After breakfast Purefoy and I came up and played golf. Guy took fright
at the chance of being asked in to lunch here and went sailing again.
A shower made us late in starting, and we only got through twelve
holes, after many misfortunes. I ended dormy five.

Lady M. had been in bed ever since we left, but is up to-day, looking
rather ill still.

To-night there is a dinner party.

_Friday._--The dinner party was uneventful. I sat next a Mrs. ----,
one of the silliest females I ever struck. Her only noteworthy remark
was that of course the Germans were well equipped for the War as they
had been preparing for it for arcades and arcades.

It is wet again to-day. No mail has arrived. I start for Agra after
lunch. I have had a delicious holiday. My address now will be:

"Attached 1/4 Hants Regt.,
I.E.F. 'D,' c/o India Office, S.W."

and post a day early.

       *       *       *       *       *


_August 4th, 1915._

To N.B.

I got a telegram on Sunday asking me to take out a draft to the 4th
Hants, in the Persian Gulf, so my address till further notice will be
"I.E.F. 'D,' c/o India Office, S.W." I thought I should hate the idea
of going to the P.G., but now that it's come along I'm getting rather
keen on going. We have been kicking our heels so long while everyone
else has been slaving away at the front, that one longs to be doing
something tangible and active. The P.G. is not exactly the spot one
would select for a pleasure trip: but on the other hand there is
likely to be more to do there that is more in my line than the purely
military side of the business. The main trouble there is sickness and
I'm sure a lot of it is preventible: and though in a battle I should
be sure to take the wrong turn and land my detachment in some
impossible place, I don't feel it so beyond me to remind them to boil
their water and wear their helmets.

I don't know when I'm off, having heard nothing but the bare telegram.
They don't want me back in Agra till Saturday, so I shall almost
finish my full fortnight's leave. It has been heavenly here and the
memory of it will be a joy for months to come. The forests are
lovelier than ever: the ferns which clothe the trees are now full
grown, and pale purple orchids spangle the undergrowth. Wild dahlias
run riot in every open bank, and the gardens are brilliant with lilies
and cannas.

It rained with drenching persistence for three days, but the last two
have been lovely. I got up early this morning, rode up a mountain and
saw the most superb view of the snows. The brown hills between me and
the snows had their valleys full of rolling white clouds, and the
result was a study in deepest blue and purest white, more wonderful I
think than anything I've seen.

The whole station turned out to the Anniversary Service to-day. It is
dreadful to think that we've all been denying our Christianity for a
whole year and are likely to go on doing so for another. How our
Lord's heart must bleed for us! It appals me to think of it.

       *       *       *       *       *



_August 5th, 1915._


I have written all the news to Mamma this week. The chief item from my
point of view is that, as I cabled to you, I am to take a draft from
our two Agra Double Coys. to reinforce the 4th Hants, who are now at
Nasiriya on the Euphrates. I got the wire asking me to do this on
Sunday, but have heard no details since (this is Thursday night), so I
presume they know nothing more at Agra or the Major or Luly would
surely have written.

On the other hand the Major wants me back in Agra by Saturday, so I
suppose I shall be starting some time next week, but unless I hear
before posting this I can tell you nothing of the strength or
composition of the draft or the date of sailing.

Everyone insists on ([Greek: alpha]) congratulating me for going to
a front and ([Greek: beta]) condoling that it is the P.G. I don't
really agree with either sentiment. I'm afraid I regard all war jobs
as nasty, and the more warlike the nastier, but I do think one ought
to taste the same cup as all one's friends are drinking, and if I am
to go to any front I would as soon go to the P.G. as anywhere. It will
be a new part of the world to me and very interesting. The only bore
is being separated from the regiment.

_Friday._--I had a talk on Wednesday with a Chaplain just returned
from Basra, and he told me we're likely to stand fast now holding the
line Nasiriya-Awaz (or some such place on the Tigris). An advance on
Baghdad is impossible without two more divisions, because of the
length of communications. There is nothing to be gained by advancing
to any intermediate point. The only reason we went as far as Nasiriya
was that it was the base of the army we beat at Shaiba, and they had
reformed there in sufficient strength to be worth attacking. This is
not thought likely to happen again, as the Dardanelles will
increasingly absorb all Turkey's resources.

It seems to me that what is wanted here pre-eminently is thinking
ahead. The moment the war stops unprecedented clamours will begin, and
only a Government which knows its aim and has thought out its method
can deal with them. It seems to me, though my judgment is fearfully
hampered by my inability to get at any comprehensive statement of most
of the relevant facts, that the aim may be fairly simply defined, as
the training of India to self-government within the Empire, combined
with its good administration in trust meanwhile. That gives you a
clear criterion--India's welfare, not British interests, and fixes the
limit of the employment of Indians as the maximum consistent with good

The _method_ is of course far more difficult and requires far more
knowledge of the facts than I possess. But I should set to work at it
on these lines:--

1. Certain qualities need to be developed, responsibility, public
spirit, self-respect and so on. This should be aimed at (i) by our own
example and teaching, (ii) by a drastic reform of higher education.

2. The barbarisms of the masses must be attacked. This can only be
done by a scheme of universal education.

3. The material level of civilisation should be raised. This means
agricultural and industrial development, in which technical education
would play a large part.

Therefore, your method may be summed up in two words, sympathy and
education. The first is mainly, of course, a personal question.
Therefore, preserve at all costs a high standard of _personnel_ for
I.C.S. Try to get imaginative men at the top. Let all ranks understand
from the outset the aim they have to work for, and let Indians know
it. Above all let every official act prove it, confidence is a plant
of slow and tender growth here. Beware of phrases and western formulæ;
probably the benevolent autocrat, whether English or Indian, will
always govern better than a committee or an assembly.

The second--education--is a question of _£ s. d._ The aim should be a
far-sighted and comprehensive scheme. A great effort to get the
adequate funds should be made and a scheme capable of ready expansion
started. Reform of higher education will be very unpopular, but should
be firmly and thoroughly carried out; it ought not to cost much. The
bulk of the money at first should go to technical education and the
encouragement of agriculture and industry. This will be remunerative,
by increasing the country's wealth. Elementary education would have to
begin by supplying schools where asked for, at a certain rate. From
this they would aim at making it gradually universal, then free, then
compulsory. But that will be many years hence inevitably.

I should work at a policy on these lines: announce it, invite Indian
co-operation, and meanwhile deal very firmly with all forms of

       *       *       *       *       *


_August 12th, 1915._

To R.K.

This last list is almost more than I can bear. It is hardly possible
to think of poor dear Gilbert as killed. Do let me know how Foss is
and how he gets on. Your letters are such a joy, and they give me news
I get from nobody else.

I'm afraid my share in the correspondence may become even less than
before, as I shall henceforth be on more than nominally active service
and under the eye of the censor.

Luly is clamouring for lunch, which we eat at 11, and I shall have no
peace afterwards till the ship reaches a landlocked bit of Gulf: so
goodbye for the present.

       *       *       *       *       *



_August 16th, 1915._


I shall just have time to write you a line about our journey so far,
and may be able to write to Papa later.

They gave me a very nice farewell dinner on Friday at Agra. Raju came
and sat next me and it all went off very well. Almost the whole
station turned up. After dinner we sat outside, playing the
gramophone, etc. Swift, seconded by Luly and Purefoy, made a
determined effort to make me tight by standing me drinks and secretly
instructing the Khitmagar to make them extra strong; but I was not
quite green enough for that and always managed to exchange drinks at
the last moment with the result that Swift got pretty tight and I

I sat in the bungalow talking to Purefoy till 2, and was up again at
6. From 6 till 11 I was busy with seeing to things and hardly had a
moment's peace. We paraded at 10.45 and marched to the station, with
the Punjabis band leading us. It was excessively warm for marching
orders--96° in the shade--and the mile to the station was quite
enough. There was a great crowd on the platform and everyone was very
nice and gave us a splendid send-off. I was too busy all the time to
feel at all depressed at leaving Luly and Purefoy, which I had rather
feared I should. Partings are, I think, much more trying in the
prospect than at the actual moment, because beforehand the parting
fills one's imagination, whereas at the moment one's hopes of meeting
again come into active play. Anyway, I hadn't time to think much about
it then, and I was already very sleepy. We started at 12.5.

At 1.30 Sergt. Pragnell came running along to say that L/C. Burgess was
taken very bad; so I went along, with the Eurasian Assistant-Surgeon,
who was travelling with us to Bombay. (These Eurasian A.-S.'s are far
more competent than the British R.A.M.C. officers, in my experience.) We
found Burgess with all the symptoms of heat-stroke, delirium and red
face and hot dry skin. A thermometer under his armpit, after half a
minute, showed a temperature of 106°. So the A.S. had all his clothes
removed and laid him on a bench in the draught and dabbled him gently
with water all over from the water-bottles. Apparently in these cases
there are two dangers, either of which proves fatal if not counteracted:
(1) the excessive temperature of the body. This rises very rapidly. In
another half an hour it would have been 109°, and 110° is generally
fatal. This he reduced, by the sponging and evaporation, to about 100°
in the course of an hour. But the delirium continued, because (2) the
original irritation sends a rush of blood to the head, causing acute
congestion, which if it continues produces apoplexy. To prevent this we
wanted ice, and I had wired on to Gwalior for some, but that was three
hours ahead. Luckily at about 3 we halted to let the mail pass, and a
railway official suggested stopping it. This we did, I got some ice
which soon relieved the situation. But of course we couldn't take poor
Burgess with us, so we wired for an ambulance to meet us at Jhansi, and
put him ashore.

Meanwhile at Gwalior a pleasant surprise was in store. We had "train
rations" on the usual measly Indian scale, but for tea on Saturday we
were to rely on tea provided by Scindia at Gwalior. Happily a
Maharajah's ideas of tea are superior to a Quartermaster's, and this
is what we had for fifty men! Unlimited tea, with sugar, twenty-five
tinned cheeses, fifty tins of sausages and twenty-five 2lb. tins of
Marie biscuits! This feed tinted the rest of the journey rose-colour.

The only other incident was the loss by one of the men of his
haversack, which he dropped out of window.

Yesterday, Sunday, was much cooler. When I woke at Bhopal it was only
76° and it only got even as high as 89° for about half-an-hour. We ran
into rain in the afternoon.

We reached Bhusawal at 7 p.m. and had to wait four hours to be picked
up by the Nagpur mail. In the refreshment room I met a Terrier gunner
officer who was P.M.C. of the Mess at Barrackpore when we messed there
in December. He was just back from a course at Mhow and had been
positively told by the Staff Officers there that his and most other T.
batteries were to be sent back to Europe in a month's time: and
moreover that a whole division of Ts. was going to the Persian Gulf
and another to E. Africa.

The air is full of such rumours. Here the Embarkation N.C.O. says
78,000 K's have already sailed to relieve us. But the mere number of
the rumours rather discredits them. And the fact of their using us for
drafts to P.G. seems to show they don't intend moving the units.

We left Bhusawal at midnight and arrived here at 9.15 without
incident. Bombay is its usual mild and steamy self, an unchanging 86°,
which seemed hot in November, but quite decently cool now.

This boat is, from the officers' point of view, far more attractive
than the "Ultonia." Being a B.I. boat it is properly equipped for the
tropics and has good 1st class accommodation. She is about 6,000 tons.
The men are, I'm afraid, rather crowded. There will be 1,000 on board
when complete. We pick up some at Karachi. We sail to-morrow morning.
If not too sea-sick I will write to Papa and post it at Karachi.

I am going out now to do a little shopping and get my hair cut, and I
shall post this in the town.

P.S.--The whole country is deliciously green now, not a brown patch
except the freshest ploughed pieces, and the rivers no longer beggarly
trickles in a waste of rubble, but pretty pastoral streams with
luxuriant banks.

       *       *       *       *       *


_August 21st_,1915.

To N.B.

I don't know when I shall next get one of your letters. It will have
to follow me painfully round _via_ Agra. And if I post this at Basra,
it will have to go back to Bombay before starting for England; though
people here are already talking of the time when we shall have
finished the Baghdad Railway and letters come by rail from England to
Basra in about 5 days.

Meanwhile as I have no letters of your's to answer and no news to
discuss, I will try and give you an account of myself and my fifty
veterans since I last wrote.

The fifty just form a platoon. You see, my retromotion goes on apace.
A Company Commander from August to April, a Company Second in Command
from May to August, and now a platoon Commander. I shall find the
stage of Sergeant harder still to live up to if it comes to that.

Twenty-five are from 'D' Double Company; but only seven of these are
from my own original lambs of 'F': because they wouldn't take anyone
under twenty-three, and as I have mentioned before, I think, very few
of 'F' have qualified for pensions. As it is, two of the seven gave
false ages. The other twenty-five are from a Portsmouth
Company--townees mostly, and to me less attractive than the village
genius: but I daresay we shall get on all right.

Our start wasn't altogether auspicious--in fact taking a draft across
the middle East is nearly as difficult to accomplish without loss as
taking luggage across Scotland. We had a very good send-off, and all
that--concert, dinner, band, crowd on the platform and all the moral
alcohol appropriate to such occasions. It was a week ago, to-day, when
we left Agra, and Agra climate was in its top form, 96° in the shade
and stuffy at that. So you can imagine that it was not only our
spirits that were ardent after a mile's march to the station in
marching order at noon. An hour after the train had started one of my
lance-corporals collapsed with heat-stroke. The first-aid treatment by
the Eurasian M.O. travelling with us was a most instructive object
lesson. The great thing is to be in time. We were summoned within ten
minutes of the man's being taken ill. His temperature was already
106°: the M.O. said that in another half-hour it would have been 109°
and in an hour he would probably have been dead. We stripped him
stark, laid him in the full draught, and sponged him so as to produce
constant evaporation: held up the Punjab mail and got 22lbs. of ice to
put under his head: and so pulled him round in less than two hours. We
had to leave him at Jhansi though, and proceeded to Bombay forty-nine

The ten-little-nigger-boy process continued at Bombay. We arrived on
board on Monday morning: and though orders were formally issued that
nobody was to leave the docks without a pass, no attempt was made to
prevent the men spending the day in the town, which they all did.

On the Tuesday morning the crew told the men we should not be sailing
till Wednesday: and accordingly a lot of them went shopping again. But
for once in a way the ship actually sailed at the appointed time, 11
a.m. on Tuesday, and five of my gallant band were left behind. However
they were collected by the Embarkation Authorities, and together with
their fellow-victims of nautical inaccuracy from the other drafts were
sent up by special train to Karachi, where they rejoined us: the C.O.
according them a most unsympathetic reception, and sentencing them all
(rather superfluously) to Confinement to Barracks for the remainder of
the voyage.

There are no fewer than forty-one units on board this ship. They include
drafts from almost every Territorial Battalion in India, convalescents
rejoining the regular battalions already in Mesopotamia, and various
engineers and gunners. The ship is grossly overcrowded--1,200 on board
an ordinary 6,000 ton liner. The officers are very well off, though. She
is a bran-new boat, built for this very run (in anticipation of the
Baghdad Railway), with big airy cabins and all the latest improvements
in lights, fans and punkahs. There is nobody I know on board and though
they are quite a pleasant lot they don't call for special comment. The
C.O. is a genial major of the Norfolks. He did some star turns the first
two days. There was a heavy monsoon swell on, and the boat rolled so,
you could hardly stand up. However the Major, undaunted, paraded about a
score of men who had squeaked on to the ship after the roll-call at
Bombay. These were solemnly drawn up in a line as defaulters and
magisterially called to attention to receive judgment. On coming to
attention they over-balanced with the regularity of ninepins in a row:
and after three attempts the major had to harangue them standing
(nominally) at ease. Even so, his admonition was rather impaired by his
suddenly sitting down on the deck, and having to leave rather hurriedly
for his cabin before the peroration was complete.

We are just going through the Straits of Ormuz now: we saw the coast
of Persia on and off all to-day. We spent Thursday, by the bye, at
Karachi, an awful hole it looks--treeless and waterless and very much
the modern port. It reminds one strongly of Port Said, though not
_quite_ so repulsive: and there is a touch of Suez thrown in.

So far it has been quite cool, 84 to 86°: but we shall be beyond the
cloud-zone to-morrow and right inside the Gulf, so I expect it will
get hot now.

We expect to reach Basra on Tuesday evening. After that our movements
are wholly unknown to us.

The casualty lists just before we left were so dreadful that I am
rather dreading the moment when we see the next batch.

       *       *       *       *       *


_August_ 22, 1915.

To R.K.

It is too warm to be facetious, and I have no letter of yours to
answer: so you will have to put up with a bald narrative of our doings
since I last wrote.

They gave us various binges at Agra before we left. A concerted effort
to make me tight failed completely: in fact of the plotters it could
be said that in the same bet that they made privily were their feet

We left on Saturday, 15th: fifty rank and file and myself. One had a
heat-stroke almost as soon as the train had started (result of
marching to the station at noon in marching order and a temperature of
96°) and we had an exciting hour in keeping his temperature below 109°
till we met the mail and could get some ice. We succeeded all right
and sent him safely to hospital at Jhansi. The rest of the journey was
cooler and uneventful.

We reached Bombay at 9.15 a.m. on Monday, and went straight on board.
The ship did not sail till next day and when it did they contrived to
leave thirty-two men behind, including five of mine.

This is a new and pleasant boat, almost 6,000 tons and fitted up with
every contrivance for mitigating heat. But there are far too many
persons on board: nearly 1,200: and as they simply can't breathe
between decks, the decks are as crowded as a pilgrim ship's. There are
over forty units represented: including drafts from about twenty-eight
T.F. battalions.

We had the devil of a swell the first two days, though luckily we hit
off a break in the monsoon. Anyway, Mothersibb preserved me from
sea-sickness: but in every other respect I felt extremely unwell. We
reached Karachi on the Thursday morning and stayed there all day. It
is a vile spot, combining the architectural features of a dock with
the natural amenities of a desert. The only decent spot was a Zoo and
even that had a generally super-heated air.

The thirty-two lost sheep turned up at Karachi, having been forwarded
by special train from Bombay. No fatted calf was killed for them: in
fact they all got fourteen days C.B. and three days pay forfeited;
though, as Dr. Johnson observed, the sea renders the C.B. part rather

All Friday we coasted along Baluchistan and Persia. It is surprising
how big a country Persia is: it began on Friday and goes right up into
Europe. On Saturday we reached the Straits of Ormuz and to-day
(Sunday) we are well inside the Gulf, as the mention of Fars doubtless
conveyed to you.

It is getting pronouncedly hotter every hour. It was a quarter to one
when I began this letter and is now half-past twelve, which is the
kind of thing that is continually happening. Anyway the bugle for
lunch has just gone, and it is 96° in my cabin. I have spent the
morning in alternate bouts of bridge and Illingworth on Divine
Immanence: I won Rs three at the former: but I feel my brain is hardly
capable of further coherent composition until nourishment has been
taken. So goodbye for the present. It will take ages for this to reach

       *       *       *       *       *


_Friday, August 27th_, 1915.


I wrote to Papa from just outside the bar, which is a mud-bank across
the head of the Gulf, about seventeen miles outside Fao. We anchored
there to await high tide, and crossed on Tuesday morning.

Fao is about as unimpressive a place as I've seen. The river is over a
mile wide there, but the place is absolutely featureless. In fact all
the way up it is the same. The surrounding country is as flush with
the river as if it had been planed down to it. On either side runs a
belt of date palms about half a mile wide, but these are seldom worth
looking at, being mostly low and shrubby, like an overgrown market

Beyond that was howling desert, not even picturesquely sandy, but a
dried up marsh overblown with dust, like the foreshore of a third-rate
port. The only relief to the landscape was when we passed tributaries
and creeks, each palm-fringed like the river. Otherwise the only
notable sights were the Anglo Persian Oil Works, which cover over a
hundred acres and raised an interesting question of comparative
ugliness with man and nature in competition, and a large steamer sunk
by the Turks to block the channel and, needless to add, not blocking

There was a stiff, warm wind off the desert, hazing the air with dust
and my cabin temperature was 100°. Altogether it was rather a
depressing entrée, since amply atoned for so far as Nature is

We reached Basra about 2 p.m. and anchored in midstream, the river
being eight hundred yards or so wide here. The city of Basra is about
three miles away, up a creek, but on the river there is a port and
native town called Ashar.

The scene on the river is most attractive, especially at sunrise and
sunset. The banks rise about ten feet from the water: the date palms
are large and columnar; and since there is a whole series of creeks,
parallel and intersecting--they are the highways and byeways of the
place--the whole area is afforested and the wharves and bazaars are
embowered in date groves. The river front and the main creeks are
crowded with picturesque craft, the two main types being a large high
prowed barge, just what I picture to have taken King Arthur at his
Passing, but here put to the prosaic uses of heavy transport and
called a mahila; and a long darting craft which can be paddled or
punted and combines the speed of a canoe with the grace of a gondola
and is called, though why I can't conceive, a bhellum. Some of the
barges are masted and carry a huge and lovely sail, but the ones in
use for I.E.F.D. are propelled by little tugs attached to their sides
and quite invisible from beyond, so that the speeding barges seem
magically self-moving.

Ashore one wanders along raised dykes through a seemingly endless
forest of pillared date palms, among which pools and creeks add
greatly to the beauty, though an eyesore to the hygienist. The date
crop is just ripe and ripening, and the golden clusters are immense
and must yield a great many hundred dates to the tree. When one
reaches the native city the streets are unmistakably un-Indian, and
strongly reminiscent of the bazaar scene in Kismet. This is especially
true of the main bazaar, which is a winding arcade half a mile long,
roofed and lined with shops, thronged with men. One sees far fewer
women than in India, and those mostly veiled and in black, while the
men wear long robes and cloakes and scarves on their heads bound with
coils of wool worn garland-wise, as one sees in Biblical pictures.
They seem friendly, or rather wholly indifferent to one, and I felt at
times I might be invisible and watching an Arabian Nights' story for
all the notice they took of me. By the way, I want you to send me a
portable edition of the Arabian Nights as my next book, please.

But the most fascinating sight of all is Ashar Creek, the main
thoroughfare, as crowded with boats as Henley at a regatta. The creek
runs between brick embankments, on which stand a series of Arabian
cafes, thronged with conversational slow moving men who sit there
smoking and drinking coffee by the thousand.

It is a wonderful picture from the wooden bridge with the minaret of a
mosque and the tops of the tallest date palms for a background.

So much for Ashar: I've not seen Basra city yet. We're here till
Sunday probably, awaiting our river boats. There were not enough
available to take us all up on Wednesday, so those who are for the
front line went first. They have gone to a spot beyond Amara,
two-thirds of the way to Kut-al-Amara, which is where the Shatt-al-Hai
joins the Tigris. The Shatt-al-Hai is a stream running from the Tigris
at K-al-A to the Euphrates at Nasria, and that line is our objective.
There is likely to be a stiff fight for the K-al-A, they say, rather
to my surprise. But the 4th Hants has been moved to Amara and put on
line of communication for the present; so our thirst for bloodshed is
not likely to be gratified.

We have moved across to this ship while awaiting our river boat. They
use ships here as barracks and hotels, very sensibly seeing that there
are none fit for habitation on land; while being about 400 yards from
either bank we are practically free from mosquitoes. But this
particular ship is decidedly less desirable for residential purposes
than the Varsova. It was originally a German boat and was sold to the
Turks to be used for a pilgrim ship to Mecca; and I can only conclude
either that the Turkish ideas of comfort are very different to ours or
that the pilgrimage has a marked element of asceticism.

But I am quite ready to put up with the amenities of a Turkish pilgrim
ship. What does try me is the murderous folly of military authorities.
They wouldn't let us take our spine-pads from Agra, because we should
be issued with them here. They have none here and have no idea when
they will get any. Incidentally, no one was expecting our arrival
here, least of all the 4th Hants. Everyone says a spine-pad is a
necessary precaution here, so I am having fifty made and shall try and
make the Colonel pay for them. Every sensible Colonel made his draft
stick to theirs; but our's wouldn't let us take them, because Noah
never wore one.

To continue the chapter of incredible muddles; the 780 who went off on
Wednesday were embarked on their river-boat--packed like herrings--at
9 a.m. and never got started till 4 p.m. A bright performance, but
nothing to our little move. This boat is 600 yards from the Varsova,
and they had every hour in the twenty-four to choose from for the
move. First they selected 2 p.m. Wednesday as an appropriate hour! It
was 100° in the shade by 1 p.m., so the prospect was not alluring. At
1.30 the order was washed out and for the rest of the day no further
orders could be got for love or money.

We were still in suspense yesterday morning, till at 8.30--just about
the latest time for completing a morning movement--two huge barges
appeared with orders to embark on them at 10! Not only that, but
although there are scores of straw-roofed barges about, these two were
as open as row boats, and in fact exactly like giant row boats. To
complete the first situation, the S. and S. had not been apprised of
the postponement, and so there was no food for the men on board.
Consequently they had to load kits, etc., and embark on empty

Well, hungry but punctual, we embarked at 10 a.m. It was 102° in my
cabin, so you can imagine what the heat and glare of 150 men in an
open barge was. Having got us into this enviable receptacle, they
proceeded to think of all the delaying little trifles which might have
been thought of any time that morning. One way and another they
managed to waste three-quarters of an hour before we started. The
journey took six minutes or so. Getting alongside this ship took
another half hour, the delay mainly due to Arab incompetence this
time. Then came disembarking, unloading kits and all the odd jobs of
moving units--which all had to be done in a furnace-like heat by men
who had had no food for twenty hours. To crown it all, the people on
board here had assumed we should breakfast before starting and not a
scrap of food was ready. The poor men finally got some food at 2 p.m.
after a twenty-two hours fast and three hours herded or working in a
temperature of about 140°. Nobody could complain of such an ordeal if
we'd been defending Lucknow or attacking Shaiba, but to put such a
strain on the men's health--newly arrived and with no pads or glasses
or shades--gratuitously and merely by dint of sheer hard muddling--is
infuriating to me and criminal in the authorities--a series of
scatter-brained nincompoops about fit to look after a cocker-spaniel
between them.

Considering what they went through, I think our draft came off lightly
with three cases of heat-stroke. Luckily the object lesson in the train
and my sermons thereon have borne fruit, and the men acted promptly
and sensibly as soon as the patients got bad. Two began to feel ill on
the barge and the third became delirious quite suddenly a few minutes
after we got on board here. When I arrived on the scene they had
already got him stripped and soused, though in the stuffy 'tween
decks. I got him up on deck (it was stuffy enough there) and we got
ice, and thanks to their promptness, he was only violent for about a
quarter of an hour and by the time my kit was reachable and I could
get my thermometer, an hour or so later, he was normal. There was no
M.O. on board, except a grotesque fat old Turk physician to the
Turkish prisoners, whose diagnosis was in Arabic and whose sole idea
of treatment was to continue feeling the patient's pulse (which he did
by holding his left foot) till we made him stop.

The other two were gradual cases and being watered and iced in time
never became delirious; so we may get off without any permanent
casualties; but they have taken a most useful corporal and one private
to hospital, which almost certainly means leaving them behind on

The other men were all pretty tired out and I think it does credit to
their constitutions they stood it so well.

I, having my private spine-pad and glasses, was comparatively
comfortable, also I had had breakfast and didn't have to shift kits or
even my own luggage. I don't dislike even extreme heat nearly as much
as quite moderate cold.

I gather it doesn't get so cold here as I thought. 37° is the lowest
temperature I've heard vouched for.

I haven't time nowadays to write many letters, so I'm afraid you must
ask kind aunts, etc., to be content with parts of this; I hope
_they'll_ go on writing to _me_ though.

       *       *       *       *       *


To N.B.
_August 29, 1915._

I hope you will be indulgent if I write less regularly now: and by
indulgent I mean that you will go on writing to me, as I do enjoy your
letters so much. I expect I shall have slack times when there will be
plenty of leisure to write: but at others we are likely to be busy,
and you never can be sure of having the necessary facilities. And
personally I find my epistolary faculties collapse at about 100° in
the shade. I wrote quite happily this morning till it got hot; and
only now (4.45) have I found it possible to resume. We get it 102 to
104° every day from about noon to four, and it oppresses one much more
than at Agra as there is no escaping from it and flies are plentiful:
but about now a nice breeze springs up, and the evenings are fairly
pleasant. I thought we were leaving for Amarah to-day, so I told Mama
my letter to her would have to do all-round duty, which is mean, I
admit, but I had no day off till to-day.

Not that I've been really busy, but I've been out a lot, partly
getting things and partly seeing the place.

I've just heard I must go ashore with another sick man immediately
after evening service (the Bishop of Lahore is coming on board), so I
shall have to cut this measly screed very short. We load kits on our
river-boat at 7 a.m. to-morrow and start sometime afterwards for
Amarah. My letter to Mama will give you such news as there is. Since
writing it I've seen Basra city, which is disappointing, less
picturesque than Ashar: also the Base Hospital, which strikes me very
favourably, the first military hospital that has: Dum Dum wasn't bad.

We have a lot of Turkish prisoners on board here, and the Government
is trying the experiment of letting them out on parole and paying them
Rs 10/- a week so long as they report themselves. It is a question
whether the result will be to cause the whole Turkish army to
surrender, or whether their desire to prolong the war will make the
released ones keep their parole a secret. I daresay it will end in a
compromise, half the army to surrender and the other half to receive
Rs 5/- a week from the surrendered ones to fight on to the bitter end.

I must go and dress for Church parade.

       *       *       *       *       *

To P.C., _September, 1915._

"I believe that if I could choose a day of heavy fighting of any kind
I liked for my draft, I should choose to spend a day in trenches,
under heavy fire without being able to return it. The fine things of
war spring from your chance of being killed: the ugly things from your
chance of killing."

       *       *       *       *       *

_September, 1915._


"I wonder how long H---- 's 'delirious joy' at going to the front will
last. Those who have seen a campaign here are all thoroughly
converted to my view of fronts. I can't imagine a keener soldier than
F----, and even he says he doesn't care if he never sees another Turk,
and as to France, you might as well say, 'Hurrah, I'm off to Hell.'
Pat M---- goes as far as to say that no sane fellow ever has been
bucked at going to the front, as distinguished from being anxious to
do his duty by going there. But I don't agree with him. Did you see
about the case of a Captain in the Sikhs, who deserted from Peshawar,
went to England, enlisted as a private under an assumed name, and was
killed in Flanders? The psychology of that man would be very
interesting to analyse. It can't have been sense of duty, because he
knew he was flagrantly violating his duty. Nor can you explain it by
some higher call of duty than his duty as a Sikh Officer, like the
duty which makes martyrs disobey emperors. It must have been just the
primitive passion for a fight. But if it _was_ that, to indulge it was
a bad, weak and vicious thing to do. Yet it clearly wasn't a selfish
thing to do: on the contrary, it was heroic. He deliberately
sacrificed his rank, pay, and prospects and exposed himself to great
danger. Still, as far as I can see, he only did it because his passion
for fighting was stronger than every other consideration, and
therefore he seems to me to be morally in the same class as the man
who runs away with his neighbour's wife, or any other victim of strong
(and largely noble) passions. And I believe that the people who say
they are longing to be at the front can be divided into three classes
(1) those who merely say so because it is the right thing to say, and
have never thought or wished about it on their own. (2) Those who
deliberately desire to drink the bitterest cup that they can find in
these times of trouble. These men _are_ heroes, and are the men who in
peace choose a mission to lepers. (3) The savages, who want to indulge
their primitive passions. Perhaps one ought to add as the largest
class (4) those who don't imagine what it is like, who think it will
be exciting, seeing life, an experience, and so on, and don't think of
its reality or meaning at all."

       *       *       *       *       *

_Thursday, September 2nd, 1915._


I only had time to scrawl a short note last night before the mail
went. But I wrote to Papa the day before we left Basra.

Our embarkation was much more sensibly managed this time, a Captain
Forrest of the Oxfords being O.C. troops, and having some sense,
though the brass hats again fixed 10 a.m. as the hour. However he got
all our kits on the barge at 7 and then let the men rest on the big
ship till the time came. Moreover the barge was covered. We embarked
on it at 9.30 and were towed along to the river steamer "Malamir," to
which we transferred our stuff without difficulty as its lower deck
was nearly level with the barge. The only floater was that my new
bearer (who is, I fear, an idiot) succeeded in dropping my heavy kit
bag into the river, where it vanished like a stone. Fortunately that
kind of thing doesn't worry me much; but while I was looking for an
Arab diver to fish for it it suddenly re-appeared the other side of
the boat, and was retrieved.

These river boats are flat-bottomed and only draw six feet. They have
two decks and an awning, and there was just room for our 200 men to
lie about. Altogether there were on board--in the order of the amount
of room they took up--two brass hats, 220 men (four Hants drafts and
some odds and ends), a dozen officers, four horses and a dozen native
servants and a crew.

Altogether I had to leave four sick men at Basra, all due more or less
to that barge episode, and I have still two sickish on my hands, while
two have recovered.

There was a strong head-wind and current so we only made about four or
five knots an hour. The river is full of mud banks, and the channel
winds to and fro in an unexpected manner, so that one can only move by
daylight and then often only by constant sounding. Consequently,
starting at noon on Monday, it took us till 5 p.m. Wednesday to do the
130 miles. It is much less for a crow, but the river winds so, that
one can quite believe Herodotus's yarn of the place where you pass the
same village on three consecutive days. Up to Kurna, which we reached
at 7 a.m. Tuesday, the river is about 500 yards to 300 yards broad,
and the country mainly poor, bare, flat pasture; the date fringe
diminishing and in places altogether disappearing for miles together.
At the water's edge, as it recedes, patches of millet had been and
were being planted. The river is falling rapidly and navigation
becomes more difficult every week.

Kurna is aesthetically disappointing. The junction of the rivers is
unimpressive, and the place itself a mere quayside and row of mud
houses among thin and measly palms. It is of course the traditional
site of Eden.

Above Kurna the river is not only halved in width, as one would
expect, but narrows rapidly. Most of the day it was only a hundred
yards wide and by evening only 60; and of the sixty only a narrow
channel is navigable and that has a deep strong current which makes
the handling of the boat very difficult.

In the afternoon we passed Ezra's Tomb, which has a beautiful dome of
blue tiles, which in India one would date Seventeenth Century.
Otherwise it looked rather "kachcha" and out of repair, but it makes
an extremely picturesque group, having two clumps of palms on either
side of an otherwise open stretch of river.

Soon afterwards we came to a large Bedouin Village, or rather camp,
running up a little creek and covering quite fifteen acres. They can't
have been there long, as the whole area was under water two months
ago. Their dwellings are made of reeds, a framework of stiff and
pliant reeds and a covering of reed-matting; the whole being like the
cover of a van stuck into the ground and one end closed; but smaller,
about 5ft. × 4ft. × 7ft. There were about 100 of these and I should
put the population at 700.

A whole crowd of boys and some men came out and ran along with us, and
dived in for anything we threw overboard. They swam like ducks of
course. All the boys and most of the men were quite naked, which is a
thing you never see in India. Any boy over twelve there has a
loin-cloth. There seemed to be very few men about: a lot of women
came to the doors of their huts. They made no attempt to veil their
faces, which even the beggar women in Basra did. Only one girl and one
woman ran with the boat; the girl dived with the best; the woman was
dressed and her function was to carry the spoils. Incidentally our men
discovered a better use for their ration biscuits than attempting to
eat them. They made excellent ducks and drakes on the water and the
swimmers were quite keen on them. I must say they tasted rather musty
besides being very hard, but I think the men chiefly objected to a
very small brown beetle which was abundant in them.

When the sun got low we tied up to the bank for twenty minutes and a
good many of the men had a bathe; but owing to the current we had to
make them keep within a yard or two of the bank.

Next morning, Wednesday, a half-gale was blowing against us and
progress was slower than ever. The river got wider again, nearly 200
yards in places, and the wind lashed it into waves. It was a great
bore, because you couldn't put anything down for a second. Also three
days confined to a minute deck-space made me rather bilious.

In the afternoon the wind blew us ashore when we were in sight of
Amara, and it took nearly half an hour to get us off again. Finally,
we arrived here about 5 p.m.

This is a town of about 10,000 inhabitants, on the left bank of the
Tigris. On the river front is a quay about a mile long, and an equally
long row of continental-looking houses. It almost reminds one of
Dieppe at moments. The river is about 150 yards wide, and on the other
side there are hardly any houses, just a narrow fringe of dates and
some fields. All the inhabitants of the river-front have been turned
out and it is occupied with offices, stores, hospitals and billets. We
occupy a block of four houses, which have a common courtyard behind
them, a great cloistered yard, which makes an admirable billet for the

We officers live in two of the houses, the third is Orderly Room,
etc., and the fourth is used by some Native Regiment Officers. There
is no furniture whatever, so it is like camping with a house for a
tent. We sleep on the roof and live on the verandahs of the little
inner courts. It is decidedly cooler than Basra, and last night I
wanted a blanket before dawn for the first time since April (excluding
the Hills, of course). In my room now (2.45 p.m.) it is 96° but there
is plenty of breeze about.

It seems to be just a chance when the mail goes out: I hope to write
to Papa later on in the week and give him the news of this place and
the regiment. If I spell names of places without a capital letter it
will be for an obvious reason. Also note that the place which is
marked on the map Kut-al-Amara is always referred to here as Kut.

_P.S_.--In regard to what you say about the ducks, I'm told that teal
are common in Turkey and snipe in Arabia, but not so common as mallard
in England or pintail in India. The bitterns here boom just like guns.

       *       *       *       *       *

I.E.F. "D,"

AMARAH, _September 4th_,1915.

To R.K.

Yours from Albemarle Street reached me just before we left Basra. It
gave me the first news of Charles Lister's second wound. We get almost
no news here. Potted _Reuter_ is circulated most days, but each unit
may only keep it half an hour, so its two to one against one's seeing
it. My only resource is the _Times_ which laboriously dogs my steps
from England: but it has already been pinched en route four times, so
I can't rely on seeing even that: therefore in the matter of
casualties, please be as informative as you can, regardless of

As I told you in my last letter that I was going to Nasiriyah, it
won't surprise you to find I've got here instead. We reached Basra (it
would be much nicer to spell it Bassorah, but I can't be bothered to)
on the feast of St. Bartholomew, which the Military call 24/8/15.
Considering what places are like out here, B. is wonderfully
attractive and picturesque. At least Ashar is, which is the port;
Beroea: Corinth:: Ashar: Basra. To begin with it stands between six
and eight feet above the river level, an almost unique eminence. Then
lots of major and minor creeks branch out from the river and from the
main streets. All round and in every unbuilt on space are endless
groves of date palms, with masses of yellow dates. The creeks are
embanked with brick and lined with popular café's where incredible
numbers of Arabs squat and eat or drink huggas and hacshish and the
like. The creeks and river swarm with bhellums and mahilas. A bhellum
is a cross between a gondola and a Canada canoe: and a mahila is a
barge like the ones used by King Arthur, Elaine or the Lady of
Shallott: and its course and destination are generally equally vague.

We stayed six days at B. mainly on a captured Turkish pilgrim ship. I
suggest a Turkish pilgrimage as a suitable outlet for the ascetic
tendencies of your more earnest spikelets. It was hot, but nothing
fabulous. My faithful thermometer never got beyond 104 in my cabin. The
disadvantage of any temperature over 100 indoors is that the fan makes
you hotter instead of cooler. There are only two ways of dealing with
this difficulty. One is to drink assiduously and keep an evaporation
bath automatically going: but on this ship the drinks used to give out
about 4 p.m. and when it comes to neat Tigris-cum-Euphrates, I prefer it
applied externally. So I used to undress at intervals and sponge all
over and then stand in front of the fan. While you're wet it's
deliciously cool: as soon as you feel the draught getting warm, you
dress again and carry on. This plan can't be done here as there are no
fans. I suppose you realised that Austen Chamberlain was only indulging
his irrepressible sense of humour when he announced in the H. of C. that
in Mesopotamia "The health of troops has on the whole been good. Ice and
fans are installed wherever possible," _i.e._ nowhere beyond Basra. The
hot weather sickness casualties have been just over 30% of the total
force: but as they were nearly all heat-stroke and malaria, it ought to
be much better now. Already the nights are cool enough for a blanket to
be needed just before dawn. Of course they run up the sick list by
insane folly. When we moved to our Turkish ship there was every hour of
the day or night to choose from to do it in, and plenty of covered
barges to do it in. So they selected 10 a.m., put 150 men into an open
barge, gave them no breakfast, and left them in the barge two hours to
move them 600 yards, and an hour unloading baggage afterwards! Result,
out of my forty-nine, three heat-strokes on the spot, and four more sick
the next day.

We left Basra on the 30th. It took us two-and-a-half days to do the
130 miles up here, against a strong wind and current. The Regiment has
moved here from Nasiriyah. This place is 130 miles North of Basra and
120 South of Kut-el-Amarah (always known as Kut). As to our movements,
the only kind of information I can give you would be something like
this. There are fifteen thousand blanks, according to trustworthy
reports, at blank. We have blank brigades and our troops are blanking
at blank which is two-thirds of the way from here to blank; and I
think our intention is to blank with all our three blanks as soon as
possible, but this blank is remaining on lines of communications here
for the present. Not very interesting is it? So I won't reel off any

From the little scraps of news that have come through, it looks as if
the Balkans were going to be the centre of excitement. If Bulgaria has
agreed to let the Germans through as I suspect she has, I'd bet on
both Greece and Roumania joining the Allies.

       *       *       *       *       *


_September 4th_, 1915.


We get hardly any news up here, so please kindly continue your
function of war correspondent whenever you have time, and especially
mention any casualties which affect me.

One of the few bits of news which have reached us is a report of a
speech of yours in which you mention that Milner's Committee
recommended the Government to guarantee 45s. a year for four years,
but the Government wouldn't. Reuter deduces from this that we have
found a way of keeping the whip hand of submarines: but it looks to me
much more like Free Trade shibboleths + the fact that there has
already been a 30% increase in the area under wheat. I hope you will
have written me something about this.

Now for the military news. This battalion, when we arrived here, was
nominally nearly 300 strong, but actually it could hardly have paraded
100. This reduction is nearly all due to sickness. The deaths from all
causes only total between forty and fifty, out of the original 800:
and of these about twenty-five, I think, were killed in action. But
there has been an enormous amount of sickness during the hot weather,
four-fifths of which has been heat-stroke and malaria. There have been
a few cases of enteric and a certain number of dysentery; but next to
heat and malaria more men have been knocked out by sores and boils
than by any disease. It takes ages for the smallest sore to heal.

Of the original thirty officers, eight are left here, Major Stillwell,
who is C.O., one Captain, Page-Roberts, a particularly nice fellow,
and five subalterns, named Harris, Forbes, Burrell, Bucknill and
Chitty: (Chitty is in hospital): and Jones, the M.O., also a very nice
man and a pretty good M.O. too. The new Adjutant is a Captain from 2nd
Norfolks named Floyd: he is also nice and seems good: was on
Willingdon's staff and knows Jimmy.

In honour of our arrival, they have adopted Double Company system. I
am posted to "A" Double Company, of which the Company Commander and
only other officer is Harris, aet. 19. So I am second in command and
four platoon commanders at once, besides having charge of the
machine-guns (not that I am ever to parade with them) while Chitty is
sick. It sounds a lot, but with next to no men about, the work is
lessened. On paper, "A" D.C was seventy-two strong, which, with my
fifty, makes 122: but in fact, of these 122, twenty-five are sick and
sixteen detached permanently for duties at headquarters and so on,
leaving eighty-one. And these eighty-one are being daily more and more
absorbed into fatigues of various kinds and less and less available
for parade. In a day or two we shall be the only English battalion
remaining here, so that all the duties which can't be entrusted to
Indian troops will fall on us.

I haven't had time to observe the birds here very much yet, but they
seem interesting, especially the water-birds. With regard to what I
wrote to Mamma about the teal, people who have been up the river say
they saw a very big flock of them at Kut. There were a lot of snipe
with them and about twenty bitterns, which surprises me. And about
eighty miles north of here there is a mud flat where great numbers of
mallards are assembling for migration northwards: and there are more
bitterns there than there are higher up even. These flocks about the
equinoxes are very curious. I expect the mallards will migrate
northwards, and the teal soon afterwards will become very scarce, but
I hope the bitterns will stay where they are. The snipe are less
interesting: they move about all over the place, wherever they can
pick up most food. These people put the size of the flock of teal at a
hundred and fifty and the mallards at five hundred, but you should, I
think, multiply the first by a hundred and the second only by ten.

I got Mamma's letter via the India Office just after we got here. I
quite agree with her view of war, though I must admit the officers of
1/4 Hants seem to me improved by it. While sitting on that court
martial at Agra I expressed my view in a sonnet which I append, for
you to show to Mamma:

    How long, O Lord, how long, before the flood
    Of crimson-welling carnage shall abate?
    From sodden plains in West and East the blood
    Of kindly men streams up in mists of hate
    Polluting Thy clear air: and nations great
    In reputation of the arts that bind
    The world with hopes of Heaven, sink to the state
    Of brute barbarians, whose ferocious mind
    Gloats o'er the bloody havoc of their kind,
    Not knowing love or mercy. Lord, how long
    Shall Satan in high places lead the blind
    To battle for the passions of the strong?
    Oh, touch thy children's hearts, that they may know
    Hate their most hateful, pride their deadliest foe.

I must stop now, as a mail is going out and one never knows when the
next will be.

       *       *       *       *       *

AMARAH, _September 13th_, 1915.


As I have written the news to Mamma this week I will tell you what I
gather of the campaign and country generally.

There's no doubt that old Townshend, the G.O.C., means to push on to
Baghdad "ekdum"; and if the Foreign Office stops him there will be
huge indignâ. It seems to me that the F.O. should have made itself
quite explicit on the point, one way or the other months ago: to pull
up your general in full career is exasperating to him and very
wasteful, as he has accumulated six months' supplies for an army of
16,000 up here, which will have to be mostly shipped back if he is
pulled up at Kut. The soldiers all say the F.O. played the same trick
on Barratt in the cold weather. They let him get to Qurnah, and he
wanted and prepared to push on here and to Nasiryah, which were then
the Turkish bases. But the F.O. stopped him and consequently the Turks
could resume the offensive, and nearly beat us at Shaibah. The
_political_ people say that the soldiers had only themselves to thank
they were nearly beaten at Shaibah. They were warned in December that
the whole area between Sh. and Basrah would be flooded later on, and
were urged either to dig a canal or build a causeway; but they
pooh-poohed it: and consequently all supplies and ammunition at
Shaibah had to be carried across 8 miles of marsh, 4ft. to 1in. deep.

As for the country, it is said to be very fertile wherever properly
irrigated. At present the water is distributed about as badly as it
could be. The annual rise of the river makes vast feverish swamps,
and the rest of the country is waterless. Any stray Bedouin tribe that
feels like growing a crop can go and cut a hole in the bank and
irrigate a patch for one season and then leave it; and these cuts form
new channels which as often as not lose themselves in a swamp.
Meanwhile this haphazard draining off of the water is seriously
impairing the main streams, especially that of the Euphrates, which is
now almost unnavigable in the low water season. To develop the country
therefore means (1) a comprehensive irrigation and drainage scheme.
Willcock's scheme I believe is only for irrigation. I don't know how
much the extreme flatness of the country would hamper such a scheme.
Here we are 200 miles by river from the sea and only 28ft. above
sea-level. It follows (2) that we must control the country and the
nomad tribes from the highest _barrage_ continuously down to the sea.
(3) We must have security that the Turks don't interfere with the
rivers above our barrage, or even neglect the river banks.

All this seems to me to point to a repetition of our Egyptian
experience. We shall be drawn, whether we like it or not, into a
virtual protectorate at least as far up as the line Kut-Nasiryah,
along the Shatt-al-Hai, and that will have to extend laterally on the
east to the Persian frontier and on the west to the Arabian tableland.
I don't see how we can hope to get off with less: and that being so, I
believe it would be better to take on the whole at once. North of the
Shatt-al-Hai line (_i.e_. Kut-Nasiryah) it would be very exhausting to
go, and very awkward politically, as you soon get among the holy
places of the Shiahs, especially Karbala, which is their Mecca. But
it's no use blinking the fact that a river is a continuous whole, and
experience shows that the power which controls the mouth is sooner or
later forced to climb to its source, especially when its up-stream
neighbours are hostile and not civilised. And what power of
Government will be left to Turkey after the war? It looks as if she
will be as bankrupt, both financially and politically, as Persia; and
I see no real hope of avoiding a partition à la Persia into British
and Russian spheres of interest. In that case it seems to me the
British sphere should go to the Shatt-al-Hai, and the Russian begin
where the plain ends, or at any rate north of Mosul. Are you at
liberty to tell me whether there is already an understanding with
Russia about this country, and if so how far it goes?

As for the climate, I don't think it is any worse than the plains of
India. When it is properly drained the fever will be much less: and
under peace conditions the water can be properly purified and the heat
dealt with. The obvious port is Basra; it is said that the bar outside
Fao could easily be dredged to 26ft. The only other really good
harbour is Koweit, I gather: but our game is to support the
independence of K.: make it the railway terminus, but by using Basra
you make your rail-freight as low as possible and have your commercial
port where you can directly control matters.

I wish they would get a move on in the Dardanelles. It seems to me
Germany is running a fearful risk by committing herself so deeply into
the interior of Russia at this time of year. The only explanation I
can find is that at each rush she has been much nearer to cutting off
a Russian army than has transpired and so is tempted on: nearer
perhaps than the Russians ever intended, which may be the reason of
the Grand Duke's removal to the Caucasus.

       *       *       *       *       *


_September 11th_.


For the men, newspapers would be as welcome as anything. I think Papa
might divert those weekly papers from Agra here, as they get a large
supply in the Regimental Reading Room at Agra.

What strikes me about the 1/4th is that they are played out. They've
no vitality left in them. Out of about 300 men there are seventy sick,
mostly with trifling stomach or feverish attacks or sores, which a
robust man would get over in two days; but it takes them a fortnight,
and then a week or two afterwards they crock up again. One notices the
same in their manner. They are listless and when off duty just lie
about. When I see men bathing or larking it is generally some of our
drafts. I hope the cold weather will brace them up a bit. I do wish I
had more gifts in the entertaining line, though of course there are
very few men left to entertain when you've allowed for all our guards
and the men just off guard.

       *       *       *       *       *

The house is two-storeyed, with thick brick walls, built round an open
well-like court. There is a broad verandah all round the court, on to
which every room opens. There is also a balcony on the W. side
overlooking the river. We sleep on the roof a.p.u. The sun sets right
opposite this balcony, behind a palm-grove, and the orange afterglows
are reflected all up the westward bend of the river, which is very
lovely: though personally I like the more thrilling cloud sunsets
better than these still rich glowings of the desert.

       *       *       *       *       *

The men sleep in huts just behind. These are sensibly built of brick.
Only the S. side is walled up, and even there a space is left between
the wall and the ceiling. The rest is just fenced with reed trellis
work. The roofs are of reed matting, the floors brick with
floor-boards for sleeping on. Boards and bedding are put out in the
sun by day. The men are very contented in them. If I ask my men how
they like it compared to India, they all say they like it better.
"Why, you gets a decent dinner here, Sir." My experience quite
confirms that of Sir Redvers Buller and other great authorities. If
you feed T.A. well you can put him in slimy trenches and he'll be
perfectly happy: but he'd never be contented in Buckingham Palace on
Indian rations. Here we are of course on war rations, cheese, bacon
and jam, bully beef and quite decent mutton, and condensed milk.
Vegetables are scarce, so lime juice is an issue: and they are said
just to have made beer one, which would be the crown of bliss. Every
man gets (if he's there) five grains of quinine a day. There are,
however, far fewer mosquitoes than I expected. I've only seen one
myself. The only great pest is flies: but even of those there are far
fewer here than in Basra.

When I hear what the 1/4th have been through, I think we are in
luxury. They had a very rough trek to Ahway and Illah in Persia in
May, and coming back much exhausted were stationed a month in Ashar
Barracks (Basra). Here for a fortnight it never went below 100° by
night and was 115° by day--damp heat: and the barracks (Turkish) were
in a state which precluded rest: the record bag for one man in one
morning was sixty fleas from his puttees alone. And of course what
Austen told the H. of C. about fans, ice and fruit was all eyewash.

       *       *       *       *       *

A man in our Coy. died last night. I'd never seen him or knew he was
ill. I was rather shocked at the way nobody seemed to care a bit. The
Adjt. just looked in and said "who owns Pte. Taylor A." Harris said "I
do: is he dead?" Adjt. "Yes: you must bury him to-morrow." Harris:
"Right o." Exit Adjt. To do Harris justice, he doesn't know the man
and thought he was still at Nasiriyah. None of the man's old Coy.
officers are here.

       *       *       *       *       *

_September_ 21, 1915.


The provision for the sick and wounded is on the whole fairly good
now. Six months ago it was very inadequate, too few doctors and not
enough hospital accommodation. My men who were in the Base Hospital at
Basra spoke very well of it: it had 500 men in it then, and is capable
of indefinite expansion. The serious cases are invalided to India by
the hospital ship _Madras_. It is said that 10,000 have gone back to
India in this way. It is a curious fact that the Indian troops
suffered from heat-stroke every bit as much as the British.

There are now four hospitals here (1) a big one for native troops, (2)
one for British troops which has expanded till it occupies three large
houses, (3) one for British officers, which will be used for all ranks
if the casualties next Saturday are heavy, (4) one for civilians.
There seems to be no lack of drugs or dressings or invalid foods.

       *       *       *       *       *

_September_ 24, 1915.


Two letters from you rolled up together this mail, for both of which
many thanks.

Like everyone else you write under the cloud of Warsaw and in the
expectation of the enemy forthwith dashing back on us in the West. But
the last two months have made it much harder for him to do that soon,
if at all: and I hope the month which will pass before you get this
will have made it harder still. I found it difficult weeks ago to
explain what induced the Germans to commit themselves so deeply into
the interior of Russia so late in the season, and I came to the
conclusion that with each forward movement they had been much nearer
to enveloping and smashing the Russians than the Reuters would have
led one to suppose: and so had been lured on.

It now looks to me as if they are playing for one of two alternatives.
If Von Below can get round their right flank he will try a last
envelopment: if that flank falls back far enough to uncover Petrograd,
he will make a dash for P. But all that will mean locking up even
bigger forces in the East. Indeed it seems so reckless that I can only
account for it by supposing either that they are confident of rushing
Petrograd and paralysing Russia within a few weeks: or that they are
in a desperate plight and know it.

As for the future, I think it would be a mistake to expect this war to
produce a revolution in human nature and equally wrong to think
nothing has been achieved if it doesn't. What I do hope is that it
will mark a distinct stage towards a more Christian conception of
international relations. I'm afraid that for a long time to come there
will be those who will want to wage war and will have to be crushed
with their own weapons. But I think this insane and devilish cult of
war will be a thing of the past. War will only remain as an unpleasant
means to an end. The next stage will be, one hopes, the gradual
realisation that the ends for which one wages war are generally
selfish: and anyway that law is preferable to force as a method of
settling disputes. As to whether National ideals can be Christian
ideals, in the strict sense they can't very well: because so large a
part of the Christian ideal lies in self-suppression and self-denial
which of course can only find its worth in individual conduct and its
meaning in the belief that this life is but a preparation for a future
life: whereas National life is a thing of this world and therefore the
law of its being must be self-development and self-interest. The
Prussians interpret this crudely as mere self-assertion and the will
to power. The Christianising of international relations will be
brought about by insisting on the contrary interpretation--that our
highest self-development and interest is to be attained by respecting
the interests and encouraging the development of others. The root
fallacy to be eradicated of course, is that one Power's gain is
another's loss; a fallacy which has dominated diplomacy and is the
negation of law. I think we are perceptibly breaking away from it: the
great obstacle to better thinking now is the existence of so many
backward peoples incapable (as we think) of seeking their own
salvation. Personally I don't see how we can expect the Christianising
process to make decisive headway until the incapables are partitioned
out among the capables. Meanwhile let us hope that each new war will
be more unpopular and less respectable than the last.

I'm afraid I haven't even the excuse of a day's fishing without any

Now for your letter of August 11th. I'm sorry you are discouraged
because the programme you propounded to Auntie's work-party in
February has not been followed. But comfort yourself with the
reflection that the programme which Kaiser Bill propounded to _his_
work-party has not been followed either.

Your Balkan programme, or rather Bob's, does not at present show much
more sign of fulfilment than the one you propounded to Auntie's
work-party, I'm afraid.

As usual nothing whatever has happened here. Elaborate arrangements
have been made to have a battle to-morrow 120 miles up the river at
Kut. It ought to be quite a big show: the biggest yet out here. As the
floods are gone now it may be possible to walk right round them and
capture the lot. If we pull off a big success the G.O.C. is very keen
to push on to Baghdad, but it is a question whether the Cabinet will
allow it. It means another 200 miles added to the L. of c.: and could
only be risked if we were confident of the desert Arabs remaining
quiet. Personally I see no solid argument for our going to Baghdad,
and several against it (1) the advance would take us right through the
sacred Shiah country, quite close to Karbala itself (Karbala is to the
Shiah Mohammedans--and the vast majority of Indian Mahommedans are
Shiahs--what Mecca is to the Sunnis; and Baghdad itself is a holy
city). It would produce tremendous excitement in India and probably
open mutiny among the Moslem troops here if they were ordered up. (2)
Surely Russia wouldn't like it. (3) We can't expect to hold it
permanently. Everything, so far as I can see, points to portioning
this country into a British sphere and a Russian, with a neutral belt
in between, on the Persian model, except that the "spheres" may be
avowed protectorates. The British one must come up far enough to let
us control the irrigation and drainage of Lower Mesopotamia properly:
and stop short of the holy cities: say to the line Kut-el-Amarah
(commonly called Kut)--Nasiriyah, along the Shatt-al-Hai. The Russians
would, I suppose, come down to about Mosul.

This campaign is being conducted on gentlemanly lines. When we took a
lot of prisoners at Nasiriyah we allowed the officers to send back for
their kits. In return, last week, when one of our aeroplanes came down
in the enemy's lines and the two airmen were captured, they sent a
flag of truce across to us to let us know that the prisoners were
unhurt and to fetch their kits.

I just missed Sir Mark Sykes who cruised through here two days ago. I
have written to him in the hope of catching him on his way back.

       *       *       *       *       *

_September_ 27, 1915.


After censoring about 100 of my Company's letters I feel this will be
a very incorrect performance. What strikes one too is the great gain
in piquancy of style achieved by the omission of all punctuation. How
could I equal this for instance "The Bible says this is a land of milk
and honey there is plenty of water and dust about if thats what they
mean?" or "The sentry shot an Arab one night soon after we got here I
saw him soon afterwards caught him in the chest a treat it did."

I'm so glad to hear that Foss is getting on well: let me know the
extent and nature of the damage. We hardly ever get a casualty list
here: and I can't take that to mean there have been none lately: so my
news of fractured friends hangs on the slender thread of the safe
arrival of my _Times_ every week--and on you and others who are not
given to explaining that Bloggs will have given me all the news, no

The War Office, fond as ever of its little joke, having written my
C.O. a solemn letter to say they couldn't entertain the idea of my
promotion seeing that under the Double Coy. system the establishment
of Captains is reduced to seven and so on, and having thereby induced
him to offer me the unique felicity of bringing a draft to this merry
land, has promptly gazetted my promotion, and antedated it to April
2nd, so that I find myself a Double Coy. Commander and no end of a
blood. My importance looks more substantial on paper than on parade:
for of the 258 men in "A" Double Coy. I can never muster more than
about thirty in the flesh. You see so many have overeaten themselves
on the ice and fresh vegetables which Austen dwelt upon in the H. of
C. or have caught chills from the supply of punkahs and fans (_ib._)
that 137 have been invalided to India and twenty-five more are sick
here. Then over fifty are on jobs which take them away from the Coy.
and from ten to twenty go on guards every day. However my dignity is
recognised by the grant of a horse and horse allowance.

Unless it is postponed again, the great battle up-river should be
coming off to-day. I hope it is, as it is the coolest day we've had
since April. In fact it is a red-letter day, being the first on which
the temperature has failed to reach 100° in this room. You wouldn't
believe me how refreshing a degree 96° can be.

We have also heard fairy-tale like rumours of an advance of Four
Thousand Yards in France, but I have not seen it in black and white

Having so few men available there are not many parades, in fact from 7
to 8 a.m. about four times a week is all that I've been putting in.
And as a tactful Turk sank the barge containing all my Company's
documents sometime in July there is an agreeable shortage of office
business. So I am left to pass a day of cultured leisure and to
meditate on the felicity of the Tennysonian "infinite torment of
flies." I read Gibbon and Tennyson and George Eliot and the _Times_ by
turns, with intervals of an entertaining work, the opening sentence of
which is "Birds are warm-blooded vertebrate animals oviparous and
covered with feathers, the anterior limbs modified into wings, the
skull articulating with the vertebral column by a single occipital
condyle" and so on. I also work spasmodically at Hindustani. I rather
fancy my handwriting in the Perso-Arabic script. Arabic proper I am
discouraged from by the perverse economy of its grammar and syntax. It
needs must have two plurals, one for under ten and one for over,
twenty-three conjugations, and yet be without the distinction of past
and future. Which is worse even than the Hindustani alphabet with no
vowels and four z's--so _unnecessary_, isn't it, as my Aunts would

       *       *       *       *       *


_September_ 29, 1915.


One's system has got so acclimatised to high temperatures that I find
it chilly and want my greatcoat to sit in at any temperature under
80°, under 100° is noticeably warm.

The men are getting livelier already and the sick list will soon, I
hope, shrink. The chief troubles are dust and flies. About four days
per week a strong and often violent wind blows from the N.W., full of
dust from the desert, and this pervades everything. The moment the
wind stops the flies pester one. They all say that this place is
flyless compared to Nasiriyah, where they used to kill a pint and a
half a day by putting saucers of formalin and milk on the mess table
and still have to use one hand with a fan all the time while eating
with the other, to prevent getting them into their mouths. Here it is
only a matter of half a dozen round one's plate--we feed on the first
floor, which is a gain. In the men's bungalows I try to keep them down
by insisting on every scrap of food being either swept away or covered
up: and the presence or absence of flies is incidentally a good test
as to whether the tables and mugs, etc., have been properly cleaned.
They are worse in the early morning. When I ride through the town
before breakfast they settle all up the sunny side of me from boot to
topi, about two to the square inch, and nothing but hitting them will
make them budge. They are disgusting creatures. Of course the filthy
habits of the natives encourage them. The streets are littered with
every kind of food-scraps and dirt: and the Arab has only two
W.C.'s--the street and the river. Our chief tyranny in his eyes is
that we have posted sanitary police about who fine him 2_s_. if he
uses either: but like all reforms it is evaded on a large scale. The
theory that the sun sweetens everything is not quite true. Even after
several days' sun manure is very offensive and prolific: and many
parts of the streets are not reached by the sun at all: and in any
case the flies get to work much sooner than the sun.

We have just had news from the front that a successful action has been
fought, the enemy's left flank turned and several hundred prisoners
taken--our own casualties under 500. So the show seems to have come off
up to time. We were afraid it might have to be postponed, as a raiding
party got round and cut our L. of C., but this does not appear to have
worried them. I hope they will be able to follow this success up and
capture all their guns and stores, if not a large proportion of their

Two days ago we got the best news that we have had for a very long
time from both European fronts, an advance of from one to three miles
over nearly half the Western front, with about 14,000 prisoners: and
Russian reports of 8,000 dead in front of one position and captures
totalling something like 20,000. Since then no news has come through,
which is very tantalising, as one longs to know whether the forward
move has been continued. I am afraid even if it has there will be more
enormous casualty lists than ever.

The most boring thing about this place is that there are no amusing
ways of taking exercise, which is necessary to keep one fit. As a
double Coy. Commander I have a horse, a quiet old mare which does
nothing worse than shy and give an occasional little buck on starting
to canter. But the rides are very dull. There are only three which one
may call A, B and C, thus:


A is the flooded area, and when it is dry it is caked as hard as
brick, and not a vegetable to vary the landscape.

B takes one through the little ground, the four cemeteries, and the
deserted brick-kilns: by the time one is through these it is generally
time to go home: and even beyond it is market gardens and one can only
ride on foot-paths: and there are only two foot-paths through the
barbed wire defences.

C is good soft-surfaced desert, much the best riding ground though its
virtues are negative. But to reach it one has to cross the Tigris by
the boat-bridge, and this is apt to be cut at any moment for the
passage of boats, which means a delay of half an hour, not to be
lightly risked before breakfast: and in the afternoons the interval
between excessive sun and darkness is very brief. It is too hot to
ride with pleasure before 4.30 and the sun sets at 5.30: and the dusty
wind is at its worst till about 5.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 7, 1915.


Thanks awfully for your letter. It was one of the best I've had for a
long time. And many congratulations on the birth of a daughter. I'm
delighted it went off so well, and only hope she and Grace are both

I am sorry to hear about Benison. I suppose he was in some unit or
other. You saw of course that Stolley was killed some time ago.

At present, at any rate, we're a very comfortable distance behind the
firing line. This has been the advanced base for the Kut show. By river
we are 130 miles above Basra and about the same below Kut. The action
there on the 27th and 28th was a great success, but the pursuit was
unfortunately hung up and prevented our reaping quite the full fruits.
This was partly due to a raid on our L. of C. scuppering some
barge-loads of fuel, but chiefly to the boats getting stuck on mud
banks. This river is devilish hard to navigate just now. It winds like a
corkscrew, and though it looks 150 yards wide, the navigable channel is
quite narrow, and only 4ft. to 6ft. deep at that. So all the river boats
have to be flat bottomed, and the strong current and violent N.W. wind
keeps pushing them on the mud banks at every bend.


The Turks had, they think, 15,000 men and 32 guns. Their position was
twelve miles long and most elaborately entrenched and wired with all
the German devices, and rested on a marsh at either end.

We had about 10,000 men of all arms and 25 or 27 guns, seven of them
on river boats, I think. Townshend's attack was as follows. He made
all his reconnaissances and preparations as for an attack on their
right flank, and on Monday, 27th he deployed a brigade, A. on that
side of the river, leaving only two battalions, B. on the right bank,
and keeping two battalions in reserve, C. For various reasons this
attack had made very little progress by sunset and was last seen
digging itself in. Then as soon as it got dark almost the whole of A.
together with the reserve C. was ordered to march round to the enemy's
left flank and attack Fort E. at dawn. So they moved off, intending to
go between Marsh 1 and Marsh 2; but in the dark they went round
outside Marsh 2, and at dawn after a twelve mile march found
themselves at G. They completely surprised and quickly captured Fort
E. and the section E. and F., their casualties here being mainly from
our own artillery, as was inevitable: but they were enfiladed from F.
and had to reform and dig themselves in on a front parallel with the
river, and send for artillery support.

Meanwhile the skeleton left on our left flank and the force B. were
pressing a frontal attack, supported by the guns: and by the afternoon
the outflanking force A. was able to resume its advance, which it was
keen to finish as the men were very tired and had run out of water.
But just then the whole Turkish reserve turned up on their right front
and flank, having been hurried back from the right flank to which our
feint had drawn them, across the bridge D. whence they deployed in
crescent formation. Apparently this new danger had a very bracing
effect on the thirsty ones; it is a rash man that stands between T.A.
and his drink. They went straight for the centre of the crescent, as
far as I can make out, with the Turkish reserves on their front and
flanks and the Turkish firing line in their rear. This was where most
of the casualties occurred, but after a stiff fight the Turks broke
and ran: and there was a tremendous crush at the bridge D. where they
started shooting each other freely.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Commander announced that he had received a
telegram from the Sultan requiring the immediate presence of himself
and army at Constantinople: so the firing line took the hint and
started for the new alignment by the shortest route. However, as
everybody's great idea was to put the river between himself and the
enemy he'd been facing, two streams met at the bridge D. and there
were further scenes. By this time it was dark, and our troops were
utterly exhausted, so nothing more was done for the moment.

Our casualties were 85 killed and 1,158 wounded, an extraordinary
proportion. We haven't had any reliable information of the enemy's
losses yet: but we took about 1,300 prisoners.

I must stop now. I am very fit and a Capt., 3rd Senior Officer out
here for the moment (excluding Adjutant O.M.O.) and am commanding "A"
double Coy.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_8, 1915


Two lots of letters arrived this mail, including yours of August 30th
and September 6th, for which many thanks.

If I said that this war means the denying of Christianity I ought to
have explained myself more. That phrase is so often used loosely that
people don't stop to think exactly what they mean. If the Germans
deliberately brought about the war to aggrandise themselves, as I
believe they did, that was a denial of Christianity, _i.e._ a
deliberate rejection of Christian principles and disobedience to
Christ's teaching: and it makes no difference in that case that it was
a national and not an individual act. But once the initiating evil was
done, it involved the consequence, as evil always does, of leaving
other nations only a choice of evils. In this case the choice for
England was between seeing Belgium and France crushed, and war. In
choosing war I can't admit there was any denial of Christianity, and I
don't think you can point to any text, however literally you press the
interpretation, which will bear a contrary construction. Take "Resist
not him that doeth evil" as literally as you like, in its context. It
obviously refers to an individual resisting a wrong committed against
himself, and the moral basis of the doctrine seems to me twofold: (1)
As regards yourself, self-denial, loving your enemies, etc., is the
divine law for the soul; (2) as regards the wronger nothing is so
likely to better him as your unselfish behaviour. The doctrine plainly
does not refer to wrongs committed in your presence against others.
Our Lord Himself overthrew the tables of the money-changers. And the
moral basis of His resistance to evil here is equally clear if you
tolerate evils committed against others: (1) your own morale and
courage is lowered: it is shirking; (2) the wronger is merely
encouraged. If I take A.'s coat and A. gives me his cloak also, I may
be touched. But B.'s acquiescence in the proceeding cannot possibly
touch me and only encourages me. Now the Government of a country is
nearly always in the position of B. not A., because a country is not
an individual. In our case we were emphatically in the position of B.:
but I would justify the resistance of Belgium on the same grounds.

Of course as I said last week, national standards can't be as
self-sacrificing as individual standards: and never can be until all
the individuals in a nation are so Christian as to choose unanimously
the self-sacrificing course.

I agree that the Dardanelles outlook is very serious, and it now looks
as if Germany had got Bulgaria to come in against us. We ought to
concentrate on a decision there as vigorously as the Germans did in
Poland, and let us hope with more success.

The big offensive in France came off and seems to have done remarkably
well for a few days: but we have heard nothing more of it for over a
week. I'm afraid that means we exhausted ourselves and lost heavily.

The outstanding fact here is that the hot weather is over. It is now
only unpleasant to be out from 10 till 4, and then only in the sun.
The transition is going on rapidly and by the end of this month I
expect to see cold weather conditions established. I have played
football twice and been out shooting twice. There is a large black
partridge to be shot here which is very good to eat.

I can give you no details about the Kut fight. In fact you probably
know more than we do: I must stop now.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 11, 1915.


The weather has got cooler so rapidly that I have been shooting and
playing football quite happily. The chief things to shoot are a big
black partridge (which will soon be extinct) and a little brown dove,
later on there are snipe, and already there are duck, but these are
unapproachable. Many thanks for your letters of August 27th, and
September 8th, which arrived together this mail.

I think Mrs. Ricketts takes an unduly optimistic view when she says
the Germans mean the war to be decided out here. Nothing would suit us
better. Meanwhile, we certainly seem to mean to go to Baghdad, and
that will mean at least one other big fight: but so far they show no
sign of moving us up to the firing line. This last show was a big
success and nearly was a much bigger, only our men having fought for
two days and marched twelve miles in the intervening night and having
run out of water, were not able to press the pursuit very vigorously.
I take it the next show will come off in about three weeks' time,
sooner if possible.

I have heard a good deal vaguely about the Angels at Mons. It is very
interesting. I gather that A. Machen wrote a magazine story and that
this has got embodied with the real stories and is therefore supposed
to have originated them. If Begbie's forthcoming book on them is good,
do send it to me. We have had no such stories out here, so far as I

As to being pessimistic about the future, I think our mistake was to
underestimate Germany's striking force. You must always keep the
German calculations in mind as well as our hopes, and you will see
that the former have been falsified quite as much as the latter--in
fact much more. They calculated--and not without having worked it all
out thoroughly--that their superior armaments and mobility would
enable them (1) to smash France within a few weeks, (2) to manoeuvre
round the Russians and defeat their armies in detail till they sued
for peace, (3) to dominate the continent and organise it for the
settlement with England. We ought to be devoutly thankful that (1)
failed: but Instead we assumed that the worst was over and that (2)
would fail as signally. As a matter of fact (2) looks like failing
after all; but it has been near success for much longer than (1) was
and consequently has achieved more. But if you remember, both Papa and
K. said at the outset it would be a three years' war: which clearly
meant that they expected us to get the worst of it the first year,
equalise matters the second year and not be decisively victorious till
the third year.

Luly has plenty of friends at Agra and is really very happy there, so
you may be at ease about him.

Many thanks for your offer to send us things for the cold. But the
danger is overlapping, so I will refer you to Mamma, to whom I wrote
about it some time back: and I hope _she_ is combining with Mrs.
Bowker of Winchester (wife of 1/4th Colonel) who is organising the
sending of things to the battalion as a whole. You might mention to
Mamma that, in addition to the articles I've told her of, newspapers
and magazines would be very acceptable.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 17, 1915.


Many thanks for your little letter wishing me Godspeed out here, it
has only just followed me on, and reached me soon after your letter of
September 12th in which you ask me about Persia. I assure you I know
less of what is happening in Persia--though we can see the Persian
hills from here--than you do. Your letter was my first news of the
Consul General's death, which I have seen since in _The Times_ as
well. All I know is that German gold working on the chronic
lawlessness has made the whole country intolerably disturbed. The
Government is powerless. The disorder is mainly miscellaneous robbery:
in the north there is a good deal of hostility to Russia, but nothing
approaching organised war or a national rising. In May Arab raiders
threatened Ahwaz where the Anglo-Persian Oil Company's pipe-line runs;
and at the Persian Government's request a force, including 1/4 Hants,
went up there and dispersed them. Then in August the unrest in Bushire
got acute, and two officers were killed in an ambush. So they sent a
force to occupy it. I don't know how large it was; I imagine two
battalions or so and a few guns. Since then I've heard nothing. Mark
Sykes, whom I saw about October 6th, said he thought things were
quieter there now.

For the Persian situation generally, up to last year, the best account
I've seen is in Gilbert Murray's pamphlet on "The Foreign Policy of
Sir E. Grey." There's no doubt these weak corrupt semi-civilised
States are a standing temptation to intriguers like the Germans and so
a standing danger to peace. That is going to be the crux here too,
after the war. If I make up my mind and have the energy, I will write
my views more fully on the subject in a week or two.

There is a lull here and no news. But there seems no doubt that we are
going to push up to Baghdad. The enemy are now in their last and
strongest position, only twenty miles from B.: and we are
concentrating against it. Undoubtedly large reinforcements are on
their way up, but we don't know how many. I expect you may look for
news from these parts about November 7th.

It is getting quite cold. Yesterday the wind began again and we all
had to take to our overcoats, which seems absurd as it was over 80°.
To-day it was only 74° indoors all the morning and we sat about in
"British warms." And the nights seem Arctic. To get warm last night I
had to get into my flea-bag and pile a sheet, a rug and a kaross on
top of that: it was 70° when I went to bed and went down to 62° at
dawn. As it goes down to 32° later on, I foresee we shall be smothered
in the piles of bed-clothes we shall have to accumulate.

I continue to play football and ride intermittently. I believe I could
mount a middle-sized English horse without serious inconvenience now.
I have begun to try to pick up a little Arabic from the functionary
known as the Interpreter.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 18, 1915.


I'm so glad the saris are what you wanted. If you pay £5 into my a/c
at Childs, it will be simplest.

Everyone--except I suppose the victims--seems to have regarded the
Zeppelin raid as a first-class entertainment. I think they do us
vastly more good than harm, but it would be a satisfaction to bag one.

So poor Charles Lister was killed after all. He is a tremendous loss.
And ----, who could have been spared much better, has been under fire
in Gallipoli for months without being touched.

I agree with Charlie's sentiments. What is so desperately trying about
the Army system is that mere efflux of time puts a man who may be, and
generally is, grossly stupid, in command of much more intelligent
people, whose lives are at his bungling mercy. If Napoleon, who won
his Italian campaign at 27, had been in the British Army he wouldn't
have become a Major till 1811. It is an insane system which no
business would dream of adopting. Yet it wouldn't do to abolish it, or
you destroy the careers of 4/5 of your Officers. The reform I should
like would be to make every third promotion in any regiment
compulsorily regardless of seniority.

I am having a few lessons in Arabic now, but it is a much more
difficult language than Hindustani, and the only available "Munshi" is
the regimental interpreter who can't read and speaks very broken
English, and the only available book deals with classical Egyptian and
Syrian Arabic, which are to the Arabic of to-day as Latin, French and
Italian are to Spanish. So my acquirements are likely to be limited.

There is absolutely no news here. Reinforcements are said to be coming
but have not arrived. The next show should come off about November

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 11, 1915.


I have just seen in the _Times_ that Charles Lister died of his
wounds. It really is heart-breaking. All the men one had so fondly
hoped would make the world a little better to live in seem to be taken
away. And Charles was a spirit which no country can afford to lose. I
feel so sorry for you too: he must have been very dear to you
personally. How the world will hate war when it can pause to think
about it.

I had quite a cheerful letter from Foss this mail. I wonder he wasn't
more damaged, as the bullet seems to have passed through some very
important parts of him. I am rather dreading the lists which are
bound to follow on our much-vaunted advance of three weeks ago. As for
the Dardanelles, it is an awful tragedy. And now with Bulgaria against
us and Greece obstructed by her King, success is farther off than

No, Luly is not with me: I was the only officer with the draft. As for
impressions of our surroundings they are definite but not always

If this neighbourhood could certainly be identified with Eden, one
could supply an entirely new theory of the Fall of Adam. Here at
Amarah we are 200 miles by river from the sea and 28ft. above sea
level. Within reach of the water anything will grow: but as the Turks
levied a tax on trees the date is the only one which has survived.
There are little patches of corn and fodder-stuff along the banks, and
a few vegetable gardens round the town. Otherwise the whole place is a
desert and as flat as this paper: except that we can see the bare
brown Persian mountains about forty miles off to the N.N.E.

The desert grows little tufts of prickly scrub here and there,
otherwise it is like a brick floor. In the spring it is flooded, and
as the flood recedes the mud cakes into a hard crust on which a
horse's hoof makes no impression; but naturally the surface is very
rough in detail, like a muddy lane after a frost. So it is vile for
either walking or riding.

The atmosphere can find no mean between absolute stillness--which till
lately meant stifling heat--and violent commotion in the form of N.W.
gales which blow periodically, fogging the air with dust and making
life almost intolerable while they last. These gales have ceased to be
baking hot, and in another month or two they will be piercingly cold.

The inhabitants are divided into Bedouins and town-Arabs. The former
are nomadic and naked, and live in hut-tents of reed matting. The
latter are just like the illustrations in family Bibles.

What I _should_ be grateful for in the way of literature is if you
could find a portable and readable book on the history of these parts.
I know it's rather extensive, but if there are any such books on the
more interesting periods you might tell Blackwell to send them to me:
I've got an account there. My Gibbon sketches the doings of the first
four Caliphs: but what I should like most would be the subsequent
history, the Baghdad Caliphs, Tartar Invasion, Turkish Conquest, etc.
For the earlier epochs something not too erudite and very popular
would be most suitable. Mark Sykes tells me he is about to publish a
Little Absul's History of Islam, but as he is still diplomatising out
here I doubt if it will be ready for press soon.

As for this campaign, you will probably know more about the Kut battle
than I do. Anyway the facts were briefly these. The Turks had a very
strongly entrenched position at Kut, with 15,000 men and 35 guns. We
feinted at their right and then outflanked their left by a night march
of twelve miles. (Two brigades did this, while one brigade held them
in front.) Then followed a day's hard fighting as the out-flankers had
to storm three redoubts successfully before they could properly
enfilade the position. Just as they had done it the whole Turkish
reserve turned up on their right and they had to turn on it and defeat
it, which they did. But by that time it was dark, the troops were
absolutely exhausted and had finished all their water. Nobody could
tell how far the river was, so the only thing to do was to bivouac and
wait for daylight. In the night the Turks cleared out and got away. If
we could have pressed on and seized their bridge, we should have
almost wiped them out: but it was really wonderful we did as much as
we did under the circumstances. Our casualties were 1243, but only 85
killed. The Turkish losses are not known: we captured about 1400 and
12 of the guns: we buried over 400, but don't know how many the local
Arabs buried. Our pursuit was delayed by the mud-banks on the river,
and the enemy was able to get clear and reform in their next position,
about ninety miles further north. We are now concentrating against
them and it is authoritatively reported that large reinforcements have
been sent from India. This means they intend going for Baghdad. It
seems to me rash: but I suppose there is great need to assert our
prestige with the Moslem world, even at the expense of our popularity:
for B. is a fearfully sacred place.

I should also like from Blackwell's a good and up-to-date map of these
parts, _i.e._ from the Troad to the Persian Gulf.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 21, 1915.


It is hard from here to be patient with the Government for not taking
a bolder line all round and saying frankly what they want. They are
omnipotent if they would only lead. Now we hear that Carson has
resigned. I can't hitch that on to the conscription crisis, yet it
doesn't say it is from ill-health: it is a puzzle.

Life is as uneventful as usual here. I have nearly finished _The Woman
in White_. It is really one of the best thrillers I've read, and Count
Fosco more than fulfils my expectations: I wonder if Haldane keeps
white mice. I have also finished Tennyson. I have read him right
through in the course of the year, which is much the best way to read
a poet, as you can follow the development of his thoughts. His mind,
to my thinking, was profound but not of very wide range, and strangely
abstract. His only pressing intellectual problems are those of
immortality and evil, and he reached his point of view on those before
he was forty. He never advances or recedes from the position
summarised in the preface to "In Memoriam," d. 1849. The result is
that his later work lacks the inspiration of restlessness and
discovery, and he tends to put more and more of his genius into the
technique of his verse and less into the meaning. The versification is
marvellous, but one gets tired of it, and he often has nothing to say
and has to spin out commonplaces in rich language. One feels this even
in the "Idylls of the King," which are the best of his later or middle
long efforts: they are artificial, not impulsive; Virgil, not Homer;
Meredith calls them 'dandiacal flutings,' which is an exaggeration.
But I can quite see how irritating Tennyson must be to ardent sceptics
like Meredith and the school which is now in the ascendant. To them a
poet is essentially a rebel, and Tennyson refused to be a rebel. That
is why they can't be fair to him and accuse him of being superficial.
I think that a very shallow criticism of him. He saw and states the
whole rebels' position--"In Memoriam" is largely a debate between the
Shelley-Swinburne point of view and the Christian. Only he states it
so abstractly that to people familiar with Browning's concrete and
humanised dialectic it seems cold and artificial. But it's really his
sincerest and deepest thought, and he deliberately rejects the rebel
position as intellectually and morally untenable: and adopts a
position of aquiescent agnosticism on the problem of evil subject to
an unshakeable faith in immortality and the Love of God. This is a
red rag to your Swinburnes. That is why I asked you to send me
Swinburne, as I want to get to the bottom of his position. Shelley's I
know, and it is, in my opinion a much more obvious, easier, and more
superficial one than Tennyson's: besides being based on a distorted
view of Christianity. Shelley in fact wanted to abolish Christianity
as the first step towards teaching men to be Christian.

Of all the agnostics, Meredith is the one that appeals to me most: but
I've not read his poetry, which I believe has much more of his
philosophy in it than his novels have.

_P.S._ I have just seen your appeal in the _Hampshire Herald_ for £500
for a motor ambulance boat, in which you say the Red Cross have
already sent us two such boats. All I can say is that nobody in this
regiment has ever seen or heard of these boats: and they certainly
have not been used for transporting sick and wounded either from
Nasiriyah or from Kut. If they were in Mesopotamia at all, it is
incredible that we shouldn't have heard of them.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 22, 1915.


I don't think there is any likelihood of Luly's coming here. For one
thing our battalion 1/6th is too weak to afford another draft at
present; and even if it sent one there are many officers who would be
asked before Luly. As a matter of fact we have just heard we 1/4th are
getting large reinforcements from our proper resources, _viz._ 250
from 2/4th at Quetta and 50 from those invalided in the hot weather.

Your letter of September 5th arrived well after that of September

I'm glad the ---- are optimistic: if Belgians can be we should be able
to. But I can't help feeling the Government is lamentably weak and
wanting in leadership: the policy of keeping the nation in the dark
seems to me to be insane.

There is no news to report here. We still do very little work, but the
weather is quite pleasant. I am very well.

There is not much to do. The country is very dull for walking and

The birds here are very few compared to those in India. On the river
there are pied Kingfishers. On the flooded land and especially on the
mud-flats round it there are large numbers of sandpipers, Kentish and
ringed plovers, stints and stilts, terns and gulls, ducks and teal,
egrets and cranes: but as there is not a blade of vegetation within a
mile of them there are no facilities for observation, still less for

There are several buzzards and falcons and a few kites, but vultures
are conspicuous by their absence. There are no snakes or crocodiles
either. Scavenging is left to dogs and jackals; and there is a hooded
crow, not very abundant, which is peculiar to this country, having
white where the European and Eastern Asiatic species have grey--a
handsome bird. In the river there are a few sharks and a great
abundance of a carp-like fish which runs up to a very large size. The
Quartermaster can buy two 70lb. fish every morning for the men's
breakfasts, and has been offered one of 120lb.

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 31, 1915.


I do hope your "fifty submarines" is true. I shan't think much of you
if you can't get official confirmation from Cousin Arthur: but if he
is impenetrably discreet, you might at least get him to explain--or
pass it on to me if you know already--what conceivable harm it could
do if we published the bare numbers of submarines "accounted for"
without any particulars of when, where, or how.

As for this campaign it is the old story of the Empire repeating
itself. When it began they only meant to secure the oil-pipe and
protect British interests at Basra. But they found to their great
surprise that you can't stay comfortably on the lower waters of a
great river with an enemy above you any more than you could live in a
flat with the lodger above continually threatening your life. A river
like the Tigris or Euphrates is a unit, and the power which occupies
its mouth will inevitably be drawn to its source unless it meets the
boundaries of a strong and civilised state on the way. Turkey will be
neither after the war.

What has happened so far?

[Sidenote: Dec.-Jan.]

We occupied the Shattal-Arab as far as Kurnah. We sat still. The
Turks, based on Nasiriyah attacked us and nearly recaptured Basra.

[Sidenote: April]

We beat them at Shaiba, and for safety's sake had to push them from
their base.

[Sidenote: May]

Then the double advance to Amarah and Nasiriyah.

[Sidenote: July]

We pushed the Turks out, and they promptly reformed at Kut and
prepared to threaten us again. So we pushed forward again and beat
them at Kut.

[Sidenote: September]

Now they have reformed at a point, only twenty miles from ----, their
present base. We shall go for them there no doubt, and push them back
once more. But what does it all lead to? Imagine peace restored. What
will Turkey be like? She will be bankrupt, chaotic, totally incapable
of keeping order among these murderous Bedouins. The country would be
a second Persia under her. Persia is intolerable enough for the
Europeans who trade there at present: but the plight of this country
might easily be worse. We are bound to control the bit from Basra to
the sea to protect existing interests. The whole future of that
area--as of all Mesopotamia--depends on a scientific scheme of
drainage and irrigation. At present half the country is marsh and half
desert. Why? Because under Turkish rule the river is never dredged,
the banks are never repaired, stray Arabs can cut haphazard canals and
leave them to form marshes, and so on. Now an irrigation and drainage
scheme is vitally necessary, but (1) it involves a large outlay; (2)
to be effective it must start a long way up-stream; (3) there must be
security for the good government _not only_ of the area included in
the scheme, but of the whole course of the river above it. These
Asiatic rivers are tricky things: they run for hundreds of miles
through alluvial plains which are as flat as your hand. Here at
Amarah, 200 miles from the mouth of the Tigris, we are only 28ft.
above sea-level. Consequently the river's course is very easily
altered. Look at Stanford's map of this region and see how the
Euphrates has lost itself between Nasiriyah and Basra--"old channel,"
"new channel," creeks, marshes, lakes, flood-areas and so on; the
place is a nightmare. That kind of thing is liable to happen anywhere
if the river is neglected. So that our schemes for Lower Mesopotamia
might be spoilt by the indolence of those in possession higher up the
river: let alone the security of the trade-routes which would be at
the mercy of wild Arabs if Turkey collapses.

All this inclines me more and more to believe that we shall be forced,
sooner or later, to occupy the whole Mesopotamian plain as far as
Mosul or to whatever point is the southern limit of Russian control.
At first I favoured a "neutral zone" from Mosul to Kut, and I
shouldn't be surprised if that plan still finds favour at home. But
frankly I see no prospect of a strong enough Government to make the
neutral zone workable; on the contrary everything points to the
absorption of the Persian neutral zone by either us or Russia,
probably us.

I am still a Captain, but no longer a Coy. Commander. A large draft
from India has arrived, 11 officers and 319 men from 1/4th and 2/4th,
invalids returned. I am now second in command of a Coy. of respectable

       *       *       *       *       *


_October_ 10, 1915.


I agree with most of your reflections about the moral justification of
war. War is an evil, because it is the product of sin and involves
more sin and much suffering. But that does not mean it is necessarily
wrong to fight. Once evil is at work, one of its chief results is to
leave good people only a choice of evils, wherein the lesser evil
becomes a duty. I'm not prepared to say we've been wholly guiltless in
the whole series of events which produced this war: but in the
situation of July, 1914, produced as it was by various sinful acts, I
am quite sure it was our duty to fight, and that it is our duty to
fight on till German militarism is crushed. And I certainly can't
believe we ought not to have made such a treaty with Belgium as we
did. You've got to face the fact that the spirit which produces war is
still dominant. Fight that spirit by all means: but while it exists
don't suppose your own duty is merely to keep out of wars. That seems
to me a very selfish and narrow view. As for our Lord in a bayonet
charge, one doesn't easily imagine it: but that is because it is
inconsistent with His mission, rather than His character. I can't
imagine a Christian _enjoying_ either a bayonet charge, or hanging a
criminal, or overthrowing the tables of a money-changer, or any other
form of violent retribution.

Your sight of the Zeppelin must have been thrilling. You don't make it
clear whether it was by day or night. I am curious to see if my next
batch of _Times_ will mention it. Clearly it is very hard to damage
Zs. by gun-fire: but I don't understand quite why our aeroplanes can't
do more against them. Do they get right back to Germany before

I have been out shooting three times this week, with Patmore of 1/7th
Hants, and we got three partridges, six partridges and seven doves
respectively. The partridges are big black ones, as large as young
grouse, and very good to eat: but they will soon be extinct here as we
are operating much in the same way as "the officers" do at Blackmoor.
The doves were reported as sand-grouse, and certainly come flighting
in from the desert very much in the s.-g. manner: but they are very
like turtle doves when shot.

On our way home after the first shoot, I saw a falcon catch a swallow
on the wing. It had missed one and we were watching it. It flew
straight and rather fast past us, just within shot, fairly high. A
swallow came sailing at full speed from the opposite direction and
would have passed above and to the right of the falcon, and about 6ft.
from it. The latter took no notice of it till the crucial moment,
when it swerved and darted upwards, exactly as a swallow itself does
after flies, and caught the swallow neatly in its talons. It then
proceeded on its way so calmly that if you had taken your eye off it
for 1/5th second you wouldn't have known it had deviated from its
course. It then planed down and settled about 400 yards away on the

I have written to Top such details of the Kut battle as I could gather
from eye-witness: but I don't think it forms a reliable account, and
you will probably find the official version rather different, when it
comes out. Anyway it appears to be beyond doubt now that we mean to
push on to Baghdad, in spite of your _Beatus possidens_. It was only
lack of water and the exhaustion of the troops which prevented a much
larger haul this time: and now they are concentrating against the next
position, 90 miles further north. We hear again on good authority that
8,000 reinforcements are coming out. They will certainly be needed if
we are to hold Baghdad. It seems to me a very rash adventure:
especially as Bulgaria's intervention may enable the Turks to send an
Army Corps down to Baghdad, in which case we should certainly have to

       *       *       *       *       *


_All Saints_, 1915.


Your letters have been so splendidly regular that I'm afraid a gap of
three weeks may mean you've been ill: but I can't be surprised at
anyone at home breaking down under the constant strain of nearness and
frequent news. Mesopotamia and a bi-weekly Reuter are certainly
efficient sedatives; and the most harrowing crisis of the Russian
armies is only rescued from the commonplace by its unintelligibility.
Even the heart-breaking casualties, reaching us five weeks old, have
nothing like the stab they have in England.

Life here requires a Jane Austen to record it. Our interests are
focussed on the most ridiculous subjects. Recently they took an
ecclesiastical turn, which I think should be reported to you. The
station was left "spiritually" in charge of a Y.M.C.A. deacon for a
fortnight: and discussion waxed hot in the Mess as to what a Deacon
was. The prevailing opinion was that he "was in the Church," but not
"consecrated"; so far Lay instinct was sound, if a little vague. Then
our Scotch Quartermaster laid it down that a Deacon was as good as a
Parson in that he could wear a surplice, but inferior to a parson in
that he couldn't marry you. But the crux which had most practical
interest for us was whether he could bury us. It was finally decided
that he could: but fortunately in actual fact his functions were
confined to organising a football tournament and exhibiting a cinema

He was succeeded by a priest from the notorious diocese of Bombay: who
proceeded to shift the table which does duty for altar to the E. side
of the R.A.T.A. room and furnish the neighbourhood of it into a faint
resemblance to a Church. But what has roused most speculation is the
"green thing he wears over his surplice for the early service and
takes off before Parade service." I suggested that it was a precaution
against these chilly mornings.

Gibbon has more to say about these parts than I thought: and I find he
alludes to them off and on right down to 1453, so if you haven't been
able to find a suitable book, I can carry on with that philosopher's

A large draft has just reached us from India, 11 officers and 319
men. They are partly returned invalids, but mainly 2/4th from Quetta.
We shall now be a fairly respectable strength.

Cold weather conditions are almost established now. It is only over
80° for a few hours each day, and between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. I wear a
greatcoat. A senior captain having arrived with the draft has taken
over "A" Coy. and I remain as second in command. There is singularly
little to do at present--about one hour per day.

I wonder if you know any of the officers in this push. There is Chitty
of Balliol, a contemporary of Luly's: and one Elton among the
newly-joined, said to be a double first.

They have made me censor of civil telegrams.

I see no prospect of peace for a year yet, and not much of our leaving
this country till well after peace. I used to think I wasn't easily
bored: but it is hard to keep a fresh and lively interest in this
flattest and emptiest of countries.

_P.S. Tuesday_.--The mail is in for once before the outward mail goes,
and it brings yours of 1.10.15. What you report about Charles Lister
is exactly what I should have expected. It is an element in all the
best lives that their owners are reckless about throwing them away;
but it's a little consolation to know that he didn't succeed exactly.

Most of my new letters are rather gloomy about the French offensive.
We used gas and we're held up: and we're being diddled all round by
kings in the Balkans.

Elton, by the way, was up at Balliol, a scholar 1911--and knows you,
though whether individually or collectively I know not.

Also one Pirie of Exeter has come with the draft.

       *       *       *       *       *


_November_ 4, 1915.


I enclose an extract from a speech which might have been made by you,
but was made by--who do you think? Our modern St. David.

I read Oliver's _Ordeal by Battle_ before I left Agra. Most of my
relations sent me a copy. So far only one has sent me A.J.B.'s _Theism
and Humanism_: books are always welcome: but as their ultimate fate is
very uncertain, it is wiser to stick to cheap ones.

I think the idea of R---- on an Economy League is too delicious. I
should so like to hear the details of their economies.

I hope you have noticed the correspondence in The _Times_ on Wild
Birds and Fruit Growers, and that the latter contemplate invoking the
aid of the Board of Agriculture in exterminating the former.

The birds here increase as the weather gets colder. Geese, duck and
teal are to be seen flighting every day. We shot a pochard on Tuesday
and a plover yesterday. Large flocks of night-herons visit the
flood-lands and rooks have become common. White wagtails appeared in
great numbers a few weeks ago, and sand-grouse are reported in vast
numbers further north.

As there is no news, perhaps it would interest you to know, how we
live in these billets.

The house is very convenient on the whole, though cold, as there is no
glass in the large windows and the prevailing N.W. wind blows clean
through, and there are no fire-places.

As to our mode of existence, my day is almost uniformly as follows:

6.30 _a.m._      Am called and drink 1 cup cocoa and eat 4 biscuits.
7.15 _a.m._      Get up.
7.45 _a.m._      Finished toilet and read _Times_ till breakfast.
8.0              Breakfast. Porridge, scrambled eggs, bread and jam, tea.
8.30-9.15.       Read _Times_.
9.15-10.15.      Parade (or more often _not_, about twice a week 1 parade).
10.15-1.0        Read and write, unless interrupted by duties.
1.0              Lunch. Cold meat, pudding, cheese and bread, lemonade.
1.30-4.0.        Read and write.
4.0.             Tea, bread and jam.
4.30.            Censor Civil Telegrams.
4.45-6.15.       Take exercise, _e.g._, walk, ride, fish, shoot, or
                   play football.
6.15.            Have a bath.
6.30-7.30.       Play skat, or talk on verandah.
7.30.            Mess.  Soup, fish, meat, veg., pudding, savoury, beer
                   or whisky.
8.45-10.15       Bridge.
10.15.           Go to bed.

Such is the heroic existence of those who are bearing their country's
burden in this remote and trying corner of the globe!


"Meanwhile, let personal recrimination drop. It is the poison of all
good counsel. In every controversy there are mean little men who
assume that their own motives in taking up a line are of the most
exalted and noble character, but that those who dare differ from them
are animated by the basest personal aims. Such men are a small
faction, but they are the mischief-makers that have many a time
perverted discussion into dissension. Their aim seems to be to spread
distrust and disunion amongst men whose co-operation is essential to
national success. These creatures ought to be stamped out relentlessly
by all parties as soon as they are seen crawling along the floor."

       *       *       *       *       *


_November_ 18, 1915.


As this week is Xmas mail, I have only time to wish you every blessing
and especially those of peace and goodwill which are so sadly needed

I am dreadfully sorry to hear that S.'s cancer is reappearing. We need
more of her sort just now. I pray that she may get over it, but there
is no disease which leaves less hope.

I suppose everyone is struck by the weakness of a democracy in war
time as compared with an autocracy like the German. It is a complaint
as old as Demosthenes. But it does not shake my faith in democracy as
the best form of Government, because mere strength and efficiency is
not my ideal. If a magician were to offer to change us to-morrow into a
state on the German model, I shouldn't accept the offer, not even for
the sake of winning the war.

       *       *       *       *       *


_November_ 23, 1915.


I strained a muscle in my leg at football yesterday and consequently
can't put my foot to the ground at all to-day. It is a great nuisance
as I'm afraid it will prevent my going on our little trek into the
desert, which will probably come off next Monday.

The news of the fight at Suliman Pak came through yesterday morning
and we had a holiday on spec, and a salute of twenty-one guns was
ordered to be fired. The first effort at 8 a.m. was a ludicrous
fiasco. The Volunteer Artillery, having no 'blank,' loaded the guns
with charges of plain cordite. The result was that as each round was
fired it made about as much noise as a shot-gun, and the packet of
cordite would hop out of the barrel and burn peacefully on the ground
ten yards away, like a Bengal match. Gorringe arrived in the middle in
a fine rage, and stopped the show. I took a snapshot of him doing so
which I hope will come out. He then ordered the salute to be fired at
noon with live shell. This was quite entertaining. They ranged on the
flood-land where we go after the geese, 3,700 yards: and it took the
shells about ten seconds to get there. There were some Arab shepherds
with their flocks between us and the water, and they didn't appear to
enjoy it. They "scorned the sandy Libyan plain as one who wants to
catch a train."

_Thursday_. As luck would have it, orders came round at 1 p.m.
yesterday for half the Battalion (including A. Coy.) to move
up-stream at once: and after an afternoon and evening of many flusters
and changes of plan, they have just gone off this morning. My wretched
leg prevents my going with them: but it is much better to-day and I
hope to be able to go by the next boat. Destination is unknown but it
can only be Kut or Baghdad: and I infer the latter from the facts (1)
that Headquarters (C.O., Adjt. Q.M. etc.) have gone, which means that
the other half Battalion is likely to follow shortly: and (2) that
they won't want a whole Battalion at Kut. The scale of garrison out
here is about as follows. Towns under 5,000 one Coy. or nothing,
5,000-10,000 two Coys. Over 10,000 a (nominal) Battalion: bar Basra
where there are only three men and one boy. Baghdad being about
150,000 may reasonably require two Brigades or a Division. We haven't
heard yet whether we've got Baghdad. They may even have more fighting
to do, though most people don't think so.

I will try to cable before I go up.

The M.O. says I have slightly overstretched my calf-muscles. I jumped
rather high at a bouncing ball while I was running: and I came down
somehow with my left leg stuck out in such a way that the knee was
bent the wrong way: and so overstretched the muscles at the back of
the calf. But I can already walk with two sticks, and hope to be able
to get on a boat in two or three days time. A week on the boat will
give it a further rest.

       *       *       *       *       *


_December 1, 1915._


Sophy's death affects me more than any since Goppa's. She was the most
intimate of all my aunts, as I have constant memories of her from the
earliest times I can remember till she went to live at Oxford. I was
always devoted to her, and she had an almost uncanny power of reading
my thoughts. I don't feel there can have been a shade of bitterness in
death for her, though she loved life; but there is something woefully
pathetic in its circumstances, the pain, the loneliness, the misery of
the war.

I thought about her all yesterday. The sunset was the most wonderful I
have seen out here, and it seemed to say that though God could be very
terrible yet he was supremely tender and beautiful. How blank and
futile a sunset would be to a consistent materialist, as A.J.B. points
out in his lectures.

The result of publishing what he called my "hymn" in the _Times_ of
October 15th has been an application from an earnest Socialist for
leave to print it on cards at 8_s._ 6_d._ a 1,000 to create a demand
for an early peace! But I couldn't help focussing my thoughts of Sophy
into these lines:

    Strong Son of God is Love; and she was strong,
      For she loved much, and served;
    Rejoiced in all things human, only wrong
      Drew scorn as it deserved.
    Fair gift of God is faith: 'twas hers, to move
      The mountains, and ascend
    The Paradise of saints: which faith and love
      Made even Death her friend.

My leg is much better but will still keep me here some days, as I am
not to go till fit to march. It is a great nuisance being unable to
take exercise. I was in such splendid condition, and now I shall be
quite soft again. However there are compensations. The others are only
at Kut, which is as dull as this and much less comfortable; and they
have only 60lb. kits, which means precious little.

Swinburne I will begin when I feel stronger. The Golden Ass hasn't
come. I ordered it years ago, before the war, to be sent on
publication. It is a curious product of Latin decadence, about second
century; the first notable departure from the classical style. The
most celebrated thing in it is the story of Cupid and Psyche: didn't
Correggio paint it round the walls of a palace in Rome? I went to see
it with Sophy.

       *       *       *       *       *


_December 8, 1915._


We are more cheerful now. In the first place we are less cold. The
wind has dropped and we have devised various schemes for mitigating
the excessive ventilation. I have hung two gaudy Arab rugs over my
window, with a layer of _Times_ between them and the bars. Some genius
had an inspiration, acting on which we have pitched an E.P. tent in
the mess room. It just fits and is the greatest success. Finally, I
sent my bearer to speculate in a charcoal brazier. This also is a
great success. Three penn'orth of charcoal burns for ages and gives
out any amount of heat; and there is no smell or smoke: far superior
to any stove I've ever struck. So we live largely like troglodytes in
darkness but comparative warmth. Between breakfast and tea one can sit
on the sunny side of the verandah round the inner court, though all
sunshine has still to be shared with the flies; but they're not the
flies they were, more like English October flies.

Secondly, as far as we can see, the main troubles up stream are over.
My account to Papa last mail was not very accurate, but I will write
him the facts again, in the light of fuller information. Anyway
they're back at Kut now, and ought to be able to look after themselves
till our reinforcements come up. The first two boat-loads have arrived
here this morning, and are pushing on. But it was a serious reverse
and may have very bad effects here and in India and Persia unless it
is promptly revenged.

Owing to the Salsette's grounding, there will be no mail this week.

My leg remains much the same. I can walk quite well with a slight limp
but the doctor won't let me walk more than fifty yards. I am very
thankful I was stopped from going up to Kut. "A" Coy. has been working
at top pressure there, entrenching and putting up wire entanglements.
And now they will have to stand a siege, on forty days' rations, till
Younghusband and Gorringe can relieve them. So I should be very much
_de trop_ there. I always felt that my _entreé_ into the football
world should be pregnant with fate, and so it is proving.

I have been reading some Swinburne. He disappoints me as a
mind-perverse, fantastic and involved. Obscure when he means
something, he is worse when he means nothing. As an imagination he is
wonderful. His poetry is really a series of vivid and crowding
pictures only held together by a few general and loose, though big
ideas. His style is marvellously musical but overweighted by his
classical long-windedness and difficult syntax. Such a contrast to
Tennyson where the idea shines out of the language which is so simple
as to seem inevitable, and yet wonderfully subtle as well as musical.

       *       *       *       *       *


_December_ 12, 1915.


In the stress of the times I can't remember when I last wrote or what
I said, so please forgive repetitions and obscurities.

Let me begin at November 24th, the day we heard of the victory at
Ctesiphon or Sulman Pak. That afternoon I crocked my leg at footer and
have been a hobbler ever since with first an elephantine calf and now
a watery knee, which however, like the Tigris, gets less watery daily.

The very next day (November 25th) half the battalion, including my "A"
Coy., was ordered up stream and departed next morning, leaving me
fuming at the fancied missing of a promenade into Baghdad. But
providence, as you may point out in your next sermon, is often kinder
than it seems. Two days later I could just walk and tried to embark:
but the M.T.O. stopped me at the last moment. (I have stood him a
benedictine for this since.)

Meanwhile, events were happening up-river. The Press Bureau's account,
I expect, compresses a great deal into "Subsequently our force took up
a position lower down the river" or some such _façon de parler_. What
happened was this. We attacked without reserves relying on the enemy
having none. We have done it several times successfully: indeed our
numbers imposed the necessity generally. This time there were
reinforcements en route, had we waited. But I anticipate.

Well, we attacked, and carried their first line and half their second
before darkness pulled us up. A successful day, though expensive in
casualties. We bivouacked in their first line. Daybreak revealed the
unpleasant surprise of strong enemy reinforcements, who are said to
have diddled our spies by avoiding Baghdad: 5,000 of them. As we had
started the affair about 12,000 strong to their 15,000, this was
serious. They attacked and were driven off. In the afternoon they
attacked again, in close formation: our artillery mowed them, but they
came on and on, kept it up all night, with ever fresh reinforcements,
bringing them to 30,000 strong all told. By dawn our men were
exhausted and the position untenable. A retreat was ordered, that
meant ninety miles back to Kut over a baked billiard table. The enemy
pressed all the way. Once they surrounded our rear brigade. Two
officers broke through their front lines to recall the front lot.
Another evening we pitched a camp and left it empty to delay the
enemy. Daily rearguard actions were fought. Five feverish days got us
back to Kut, without disorder or great loss of men; but the loss in
material was enormous. All possible supplies had been brought close up
to the firing line to facilitate our pursuit: mainly in barges, the
rest in carts. The wounded filled all the carts, so those supplies had
to be abandoned. The Tigris is a cork-screwed maze of mud-banks, no
river for the hasty withdrawal of congested barges under fire. You can
imagine the scene. Accounts differ as to what we lost. _Certainly_,
two gunboats (destroyed), one monitor (disabled and captured), the
telegraph barge and supply barge, besides all supplies, dumped on the
bank. Most accounts add one barge of sick and wounded (400), the
aeroplane barge, and a varying number of supply barges. In men from
first to last we lost nearly 5,000: the Turks about 9,000--a guess of

The tale of woe is nearly complete. My "A" Coy. got as far as Kut and
was set to feverish entrenching and wiring. Now the whole force there,
some 8,000 in all, is cut off there and besieged. They have rations
(some say half rations) for six weeks or two months, and ammunition.
They are being bombarded, and have been attacked once, but repelled it
easily. We aren't worried about them; but I with my leg (like another
egoist) can't be sorry to be out of it. I should like to be there to
mother my men. Our Major is wounded and the other officers infants;
the Captain a Colonial one I'm glad to say.

Meanwhile our reinforcements have turned up in great numbers and
expect to be able to relieve Kut by the end of the month. I mustn't
particularise too much. In fact I doubt whether this or any letters
will be allowed to go through this week. The men are warned only to
write postcards. The dear censor has more excuse where Indians are
concerned. I can walk short walks now. Life is rather slow, but I have
several books luckily.

       *       *       *       *       *


_December_ 20, 1915.


There is a double mail to answer this week and only two days to do it
in, so this may be rather hurried.

I do get the _Round Table_. I don't think it suggests a World State as
practical politics, but merely as the only ideal with which the mind
can be satisfied as an ultimate end. If you believe in a duty to all
humanity, logic won't stop short of a political brotherhood of the
world, since national loyalty implies in the last resort a denial of
your duty to everyone outside your nation. But in fact, of course, men
are influenced by sentiment and not logic: and I agree that, for ages
to come at least, a World State wouldn't inspire loyalty. I don't even
think the British Empire would for long, if it relied only on the
sentiment of the Mother Country as home. The loyalty of each Dominion
to the Empire in future generations will be largely rooted in its own
distinctive nationalism, paradoxical as that sounds: at least so I

Please don't refrain from comments on passing events for fear they
will be stale. They aren't, because my _Times's_ are contemporary with
your letters: and the amount of news we get by Reuter's is negligible.
Indeed Reuter's chiefly enlighten us as to events in Mesopotamia. Last
night we heard that Chamberlain had announced in the House that the
Turks lost 2,000 and the Arabs 1,000 in the attack on Kut on December
12th: that was absolutely the first we'd heard of it, though Kut is
only ninety miles as the crow flies, and my Company is there! All we
hear is their casualties, thrice a week. They now total 2 killed and
11 wounded out of 180: nearly all my Company and 3 of my draft

I want to be there very much, to look after them, poor dears: but I
must say that T.A's view that a place like Kut is desirable to be in
_per se_ never fails to amaze me, familiar though it now is. I had
another instance of it last night. About twelve of my draft were left
behind on various duties when the Coy. went up-river in such a hurry.
Hearing that my knee was so much better they sent me a deputy to ask
me to make every effort to take them with me if I went up-river. I
agreed, of course, but what, as usual, struck me was that the motives
I can understand--that one's duty is with the Coy. when there's
trouble around, or even that it's nicer to be with one's pals at Kut
than lonely at Amarah--didn't appear at all. The two things he kept
harping on were (1) it's so dull to miss a "scrap" and (2) there may
be a special clasp given for Kut, and we don't want to miss it. They
evidently regard the Coy. at Kut as lucky dogs having a treat: the
"treat" when analysed (which they don't) consisting of 20lb. kits in
December, half-rations, more or less regular bombardment, no proper
billets, no shops, no letters, and very hard work!

My leg is very decidedly better now. I can walk half-a-mile without
feeling any aches, and soon hope to do a mile. There is an obstinate
little puffy patch which won't disappear just beside the knee-cap: but
the M.O. says I may increase my walk each day up to the point where it
begins to ache.

We have had no rain here for nearly a month; but there are light
clouds about which make the most gorgeous sunsets I ever saw.

       *       *       *       *       *


_December, 1915._

I am looking forward to this trek. Four months is a large enough slice
of one's time to spend in Amarah, and there will probably be more
interest and fewer battles on this trek than could be got on any other
front. The Censor has properly got the breeze up here, so I probably
shan't be able to tell you anything of our movements or to send you
any wires: but I will try and let you hear something each week; and if
we are away in the desert, we generally arrange--and I will try
to--for some officer who is within reach of the post to write you a
line saying I am all right (which he hears by wireless) but can't
write. That is what we have been doing for the people at Kut. But
there are bound to be gaps, and they will tend to get more frequent
and longer as we get further.

No casualties from "A" Coy. for several days: so I hope its main
troubles are over.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Xmas Day_, 1915.

... I'm so glad Gwalior was a success. I think a good native state is
the most satisfactory kind of Government for India in many ways; but
(a) so few are really good, if you go behind the scenes and think of
such fussy things as security of life and property, taxation and its
proportion to benefits received, justice and administration,
education, freedom of the subject, and so on. (b) It spells stagnation
and the abandonment of the hope of training the mass of the people to
responsibility; but I think that is an academic rather than practical
point at present.

Christmas is almost unbearable in war-time: the pathos and the
reproach of it. I am thankful that my Company is at Kut on
half-rations. I don't of course mean that: but I'm thankful to be
spared eating roast beef and plum pudding heartily, as these dear
pachyderms are now doing with such relish. I'm glad they do, and I'd
do it too if my Company was here. I'm always thankful for my thin
skin, but I'm glad dear God made thick ones the rule in this wintry

       *       *       *       *       *



It seems odd to get just now your letter answering my arguments
_against_ the advance to Baghdad. They were twofold (1) Military, that
we should not have the force to hold it and our communications would
be too vulnerable. These objections have been largely met (_a_) by
large reinforcements, which will nearly double our forces when they
are all up, (_b_) by the monitors--the second is here now; they solve
the communication problem. I think now it will take a fresh Army Corps
from Constantinople to dislodge us: and I now hear that the
difficulties of _its_ communications would be very great. (2)
Politically. I thought the occupation of Baghdad would cause trouble
(_a_) with Russia, (_b_) with Indian soldiers, (_c_) with Moslems
generally. Here again (_a_) P. tells me Russia is giving us a free
hand, (_b_) trouble did occur with some Indian Regiments, but it took
the mild form of a strike, and the disaffected units have been
dispersed by Coys. over the lines of communication. (_c_) As regards
Moslems in India, I think I was wrong. The bold course, even to
bluffing, generally pays with Orientals. We have incurred their
resentment by fighting Turkey and on the whole we had better regain
their respect by beating her. Of course we shall respect their
religious feelings and prejudices in every practicable way.

       *       *       *       *       *


_December_ 26, 1915.


I hope you safely received the MS. I sent you last mail.

Orders to move have interrupted my literary activities, and I shall
have to spend the few days before we start chiefly in testing the
fitness of my leg for marching. I went shooting on Friday and walked
about six miles quite successfully, bar a slight limp; and I mean to
extend progressively up to twelve.

The weather has suddenly turned wet, introducing us to a new vileness
of the climate. I hope it won't last--it means unlimited slime.

I shan't be able to write much or often for some time, I expect, as we
shall be marching pretty continuously, I reckon. I shall try and write
to Ma and Pa at each opportunity, and to you if there's time and paper
available. Your little writing-block may come in handy.

One of my draft has been killed and five wounded at Kut. Our
casualties there are 21 out of 180. I shall look forward to seeing my
men again: I hope about the second Sunday after Epiphany. We shall
then march with a force equal to the King of France's on his
celebrated and abortive expedition of ascent. Our destination is a
profound secret, but you may give Nissit three guesses and make her
write me her answers on a Valentine.

Christmas passed off quietly and cheerfully. T.A. is so profoundly
insensible of incongruities that he saw nothing to worry him in the
legend A MERRY CHRISTMAS and the latest casualty list on the
same wall of the R.A.T.A. room: and he sang "Peace on earth and mercy
mild" and "Confound their politics" with equal gusto. And his temper
is infectious while you're with him.

The most perplexing Reuter's come through from the Balkans.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Christmas Day_, 1915.


I hope you got my last letter safely. I enclosed it in my home one to
be forwarded.

There is little news from this theatre, and what there is we mayn't
write, for the most part.

My Coy. is being bombarded at Kut still. They have had 21 casualties
out of 180. One of my draft is killed and five wounded and here
everyone is parroting about a Merry Christmas. Truly the military man
is a pachyderm.

This is likely to be the last you will hear of me for some time,
though I hope to be able to dob out a post-card here and there,
perhaps letters now and then. In a word, we're moving next week and
are not likely to see billets again till we lodge with the
descendants, either of the Caliphs or of Abraham's early neighbours.

My leg is so far recovered that I take it as almost certain I shall
march too when we go. I am testing it to make sure first. Yesterday it
did six miles without damage, though the gait remains Hephaestian.

The weather is still cold, and fine and dry. The sunsets are

       *       *       *       *       *


_December_ 26, 1915.


Christmas and submarines have made the mails very late and we have
again been nearly a fortnight without any.

We have got our orders to move and so I look forward to a fairly
prolonged period of trekking, during which it will hardly be possible
to do more than write odd postcards and occasional short letters; but
I will write when I can. We start in two or three days time.

I expect my leg will be all right for marching. When I heard we were
moving, I went to the hospital to consult the chief M.O. there about
it. He examined _both_ my legs gravely and then firmly grasping the
sound one pronounced that it had still an excess of fluid in it: which
I take to be a sincere though indirect tribute to the subsidence of
the fluid in the crocked one. He proceeded to prescribe an exactly
reverse treatment to that recommended by the other M.O., which had the
advantage of giving me official sanction for pretty well anything I
chose to do or not do. The upshot of it was that I decided to test the
old leg for myself to determine whether it was fit for marching or
not. So I began with a six mile walk on Friday, shooting: and found
that my graceful limb did not impede my progress nor develop into any
graver symptoms. I was more tired than I should have been a month ago,
but that was natural. Yesterday was monopolised by Christmas
functions; to-day I mean to try eight or nine miles, and ten or twelve
to-morrow. If the thing is going to crock it had better do it before
I start: but it shows no sign of it.

The latest way of indicating latitude and longitude is like a date,
_e.g._ 32.25/44/10: you can take the N. and E. for granted.

It has most tactlessly begun to rain again to-day, and with an E. wind
it may continue, which will mean a vile slime for marching.

The Christmas sports were really great fun: one of them--one-minute
impromptu speeches--would make quite a good house-party game.

_P.S._--You must think me brutal not to have mentioned my poor men. I
have written so many letters this morning, I didn't notice it in this
one. They are still being bombarded and have had 21 casualties out of
180: 5 killed, one of my draft, 2 officers slightly wounded. I hope to
see them about Twelfth Night--no, say second Sunday after Epiphany!

       *       *       *       *       *


_January 3_, 1916.


... That afternoon the new draft arrived, headed by Jack Stillwell and
Lester Garland. They arrived only 45 strong, having reached Basra over
100. Basra is a nest of military harpies who seize men for obscure
duties and make them local sergts. Only 68 escaped from it; and of
these 23 fell out on the march--another specimen of R.A.M.C.
efficiency. The M.O. at Quetta had merely passed down the line asking
each man "Are you fit?" and taking his answer.

In this letter A. stands for Amarah, C. for Kut, B. for Ali Gherbi.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Sunday_, January 2, 1916.


As I shan't be able to mention places in connection with our
movements, I shall call the station we left on December 31st A., this
place B. and so on; and I think you ought to be able to follow, as I
will make the lettering consistent.

We left A. at 2 p.m. on Friday. The men were on barges slung on either
side of the river-boat, on which various details, our officers and the
General and his staff were.

I brought my gun and 150 cartridges, and was unexpectedly soon
rewarded: for one of the A.C.C's staff came along after lunch and
asked for someone to come with him in the motor-boat and shoot
partridges. As I was the only one with a gun handy I went. We raced
ahead in the motor-boat for half-an-hour and then landed on the right
bank and walked up the river for two-and-a-half hours, not deviating
even to follow up coveys. There were a lot of birds, but it was windy
and they were wild and difficult. Also with only two guns and three
sepoys we walked over as many as we put up. Craik (the A.D.C's name,
he is an Australian parson in peace-time) was a poor performer and
only accounted for three. I got thirteen, a quail, a plover and a
hare. I missed three or four sitters and lost two runners, but on the
whole shot quite decently, as the extreme roughness of the hard-baked
ploughed (or rather mattocked) land is almost more of an obstacle to
good shooting than the behaviour of the birds. Craik was a stayer, and
as the wind dropped at sunset and the birds grew tamer he persevered
till it was dark. Then we had to walk three-quarters-of-a-mile before
we could find a place where the boat could get in near the bank: so we
had a longer and colder chase to catch up the ship than I had
bargained for, especially as I had foolishly forgotten to bring a
coat. However, when I got too cold I snuggled up against the engine
and so kept parts of me warm. Luckily the ship had to halt at the camp
of a marching column, so we caught her up in one-and-a-quarter hours.

I pitched my bed on deck up against the boiler, and so was as warm as
toast all night.

Yesterday morning we steamed steadily along through absolutely bare
country. The chief feature was the extraordinary abundance of
sand-grouse. I told Mamma of the astonishing clouds of them which
passed over A. Here they were in small parties or in flocks up to 200:
but the whole landscape is dotted with them from 8 a.m. till 11 and
again from 3 to 4: so that any random spot would give one much the
same shooting as we had at the Kimberley dams. An officer on board
told me that when he was here two months ago, a brother officer had
killed fifty to his own gun: and a Punjabi subaltern got twenty-one
with five shots.

We reached here about 2 p.m. This place is only about forty-five miles
from A. as the crow flies, but by river it takes sixteen hours, and
with various halts and delays it took us just twenty-four. We only ran
on to one mud-bank. The effect was curious. The ship and the port
barge stopped dead though without any shock. The starboard barge
missed the mud and went on, snapping the hawsers and iron cables
uniting us. The only visible sign of the bank was an eddying of the
current over it: it was right in midstream.

This is a most desolate place. Apart from the village with its few
palms and gardens there seems not to be a blade of vegetation within
sight. To the N.E. the Persian hills are only fifteen miles away. They
have still a little snow (did I mention that the storm which gave us
rain at A. had capped these hills with a fine snow mantle?)

Here we found "D" Co., which got stranded here when "A" Co. got stuck
in C. We are about forty-five or fifty miles from C. as the crow
flies, and the guns can be heard quite plainly: but things have been
very quiet the last few days. There is an enemy force of 2,000 about
ten miles from here, but how long they and the ones at C. will wait
remains to be seen.

We know nothing of our own movements yet and I couldn't mention them
if we did. We have been put into a different brigade, but the
brigadier has not been appointed yet. The number of the brigade equals
that of the ungrateful lepers or the bean-rows which Yeats intended
to plant at Innisfree. We are independent of any division.

A mysterious Reuter has come through about conscription. As it quotes
the _Westminster_ as saying Asquith has decided on it, I'm inclined to
believe it: but it goes on to talk obscurely of possible resignations
and a general election.

This may catch the same mail as my letter to Mamma from A.

_P.S._ Please tell Mamma that just as we were embarking, the S. and T.
delivered me two packages, which turned out to be the long-lost blue
jerseys. So there is hope for the fishing rods yet.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Monday_, January 10, 1915.


I will use a spare hour to begin an account of our doings since I last
wrote, but I don't know when I shall be able to finish it, still less
when post it.

We left B. last Thursday morning and were told we should march sixteen
miles: we marched up the right bank, so our left flank was exposed to
the desert, and "D" Company did flank guard. My platoon formed the
outer screen and we marched strung out in single file. There were
cavalry patrols beyond us again, and anyway no Arab could come within
five miles without our seeing him, so our guarding was a sinecure.

We paraded as soon as it was light, at 7.15 a.m., but owing to the
transport delays, the column did not start till after 9.0. The
transport consists of: (a) ships and barges; (b) carts, mules and
camels. Each has its limitations. Ships tie you to the river-bank, so
every column must have some land transport. Camels can hardly move
after rain: they slip and split themselves. The carts are fearfully
held up by the innumerable ditches which are for draining the floods
back to the river. There are not nearly enough mules to go round and
they only carry 160lbs. each. So you can imagine our transport
difficulties. The country supplies neither food, fodder nor fuel. Our
firewood comes from India. If you leave the river you must carry every
drop of drinking water. So the transport line was three times as long
as the column itself, and moved more slowly.

Our new Brigadier turned up and proved to be a pleasant, sensible kind
of man, looking rather like Lord Derby. Having just come from France,
he keeps quite cool whatever we encounter. (P.S. We have had a new
Brigadier since this one, I haven't yet seen the present one.)

The march was slow and rough, as most of the ground was hard-baked
plough. The country was as level and bare as a table, bar the ditches,
and we hardly saw a human being all day. It took us till after 4 p.m.
to do our sixteen miles. About 2 p.m. we began to hear firing and see
shrapnel in the distance, and it soon became clear that we were
approaching a big battle. Consequently we had to push on beyond our
sixteen miles, and went on till Sunset. By this time we were all very
footsore and exhausted. The men had had no food since the night
before, the ration-cart having stuck in a ditch; and many of the
inexperienced ones had brought nothing with them. My leg held out
wonderfully well, and in fact has given me no trouble worth speaking

We had to wait an hour for orders, the Brigadier knowing nothing of
the General's intentions. By six it was quite dark, and the firing had
ceased: and we got orders to retrace our steps to a certain camping
place (marked _I_ on sketch). This meant an extra mile, and immense
trouble and confusion in finding our way over ditches and then sorting
kits in the dark: but finally we did it, ate a meal, and turned in
about 9.30 p.m. pretty well tired out, as we had been on the move
fourteen hours and had marched about twenty-one miles. To put the lid
on it, a sharp shower of exceedingly frigid rain surprised us all in
our beauty sleep, about 11 p.m. and soaked the men's blankets and
clothes. Luckily I had everything covered up, and I spread my overcoat
over my head and slept on, breathing through the pocket-holes.

(I will continue this in diary form and post it if and when I get a

_Friday 7th._ Started at 8.30 and marched quietly about five miles.
This brought us within view of the large village of D., which is
roughly half-way between B. and C. Between us and it the battle was in
full swing. We halted by a pontoon bridge (2 on sketch), just out of
range of the enemy's guns, and watched it for several hours. Owing to
the utter flatness of the ground, we could see very little of the
infantry. It was hot and the mirage blurred everything. Our artillery
was clearly very superior to theirs, both in quantity (quite five to
one it seemed) and in the possession of high explosive shell, of which
the enemy had none: but we were cruelly handicapped (_a_) by the fact
that their men and guns were entrenched and ours exposed; and (_b_) by
the mirage, which made the location of their trenches and emplacements
almost impossible.

I had better not say much about the battle yet, but I will give a
rough sketch and describe our own experiences. I will only say this,
that the two great difficulties our side had to contend with were: (1)
the inability of the artillery to locate anything with certainly in
the mists and mirage, and (2) the difficulty of finding and getting
round the enemy's flanks. Either they had a far larger force than we
expected, or they were very skilfully spread out--for they covered an
amazingly wide front, quite eight miles, I should say, or more.

The battle was interesting to watch, but not exciting. The noise of
the shells from field guns is exactly like that of a rocket going up.
When the shell is coming towards you, there is a sharper hiss in it,
like a whip. It gives you a second or two to get under cover and then
crack-whizz as the shrapnel whizzes out. The heavy shells from the
monitors, etc., make a noise more like a landslide of pebbles down a
beach, only blurred as if echoed. Bobbety's "silk dress swishing
through the air" does his imagination credit, but is not quite
accurate, nor does it express the spirit of the things quite!

About 3.30 we had orders to cross to the left bank. As we passed over
the bridge, we put up two duck, who had been swimming there peacefully
with the shells flying over their heads every half minute for hours.
When we reached the left bank we marched as if to reinforce our right
flank. Presently the Brigadier made us line out into echelon of
companies in line in single rank, so that from a distance we looked
like a brigade, instead of three companies. About 4 we came up to a
howitzer battery and lay down about 200 yards from it, thus:


We had lain there about ten minutes when a hiss, crack, whizz, and
shells began to arrive, invariably in pairs, about where I've put the
1 and 2. We had a fine view. The first notice we had of each shell was
the sudden appearance of a white puff, about thirty feet above ground,
then a spatter of dust about thirty yards to the right, then the
hiss-crack-whizz. They were ranging on the battery, but after a minute
or two they spotted the ammunition column, and a pair of shells burst
at 3, then a pair at 4. So the column retreated in a hurry along the
dotted arrow, and the shells following them began to catch us in
enfilade. So Foster made us rise and move to the left in file. Just as
we were up, a pair burst right over my platoon. I can't conceive why
nobody was hit. I noticed six bullets strike the ground in a
semi-circle between me and the nearest man three paces away, and
everyone else noticed the same kind of thing, but nobody was touched.
I don't suppose the enemy saw us at all: anyway, the next pair pitched
100 yards beyond us, following the mules, and wounded three men in C.
Company: and the next got two men of B.--all flesh wounds and not
severe. They never touched the ammunition column.

We lay down in a convenient ditch, and only one more pair came our
way, as the enemy was ranging back to the battery. Of this pair, one
hit the edge of the ditch and buried itself without exploding, and the
other missed with its bullets, while the case bounced along and hit a
sergeant on the backside, not even bruising it.

Just before 5 we got orders to advance in artillery formation. My
platoon led, and we followed a course shown by the dotted line. We went
through the battery and about 300 yards beyond, and then had orders to
return to camp. On this trip (which was mere window-dressing) no shell
came nearer than fifty yards: in fact our own battery made us jump much

The whole episode was much more interesting than alarming. Fear is
seated in the imagination, I think, and vanishes once the mind can
assert itself. One feels very funky in the cold nights when nothing is
happening: but if one has to handle men under fire, one is braced up
and one's attention is occupied. I expect rifle fire is much more
trying: but the fact that shell-fire is more or less unaimed at one
individually, and also the warning swish, gives one a feeling of great

We got back to camp near the river (4 on sketch) about 6, and dug a
perimeter, hoping to settle down for the night. But at 7.30 orders
came to move at 9.30. We were told that an enemy force had worked
round our right flank, and that our brigade had to do a night march
eastward down the river and attack it at dawn. So at 10 p.m. we
marched with just a blanket apiece, leaving our kits in the camp.
After we had gone, the Q.M. made up a big fire and got in no fewer
than fifty-two wounded, who were trying to struggle back to the field
dressing station from the firing line four or five miles away.

The fire attracted them and parties went out to help them in. I think
it is very unsatisfactory that beyond the regimental stretcher-bearers
there is no ambulance to bring the wounded back: and how can a dozen
stretchers convey 300 casualties five miles? It is a case of _sauve
qui peut_ for the wounded: and when they get to the dressing station
the congestion is very bad, thirty men in a tent, and only three or
four doctors to deal with 3,000 or 4,000 wounded. I mention this as
confirming my previous criticism of the medical service here.

Well, we started out at 10 p.m. and marched slowly and silently till
nearly midnight. Then we bivouacked for four-and-a-half-hours (5 on
sketch,) and a more uncomfortable time I hope never to spend. We had
not dared bring rugs for fear of losing them in the subsequent attack,
so I had nothing but my Burberry, a muffler and a woollen helmet. The
ground was bare earth everywhere, very damp and cold. I lay in a ditch
and slept for three-quarters-of-an hour, and then woke with extremely
cold feet, so I walked about a little, and then, finding Foster in the
same case, we both took off our Burberrys and laid one under us and
one above and lay like babes in the wood. This expedient kept one
flank nicely warm, and soon I got North to make a pillow of my other
thigh, which kept _that_ warm: but from the knees downwards I was
incurably cold and never got to sleep again. The men were better off,
having each a blanket, and sleeping in packets of four.

_Saturday._ At last 4.30 a.m. arrived and we started marching again.
It was a blessing to get one's feet warm but the pleasures of the
march were strictly comparative. We trekked on eastwards along the
river-bank till sunrise, 7 a.m., when we came on a camp of Arabs who
fled shrieking at our approach (6 on sketch.) At 7.30, we halted and
had breakfast. Our united efforts failed to find enough fuel to boil a
kettle. We waited till 9, when the cavalry patrols returned and
reported no sign of the enemy, so we marched back to the pontoon
bridge (7 on sketch). I suspect our re-entry _qua_ stage
reinforcements was the whole object of our expedition, and the
out-flankers were a myth from the beginning. The march back was the
most unpleasant we've had. It got hot and the ground was hard and
rough and we were all very tired and footsore. A sleepless night takes
the stamina out of one. There and back our trek was about twelve

On arrival at the bridge we were only allowed half-an-hour's rest and
then got orders to march out to take up an 'observation post' on the
right flank. Being general reserve is no sinecure with bluffing
tactics prevailing.

This last lap was extremely trying. We marched in artillery formation,
all very lame and stiff. We passed behind our yesterday's friend, the
howitzer battery, but at a more respectful distance from the enemy's
battery. This latter showed no sign of life till we were nearly two
miles from the river. Then it started its double deliveries and some
of them came fairly close to some of our platoon, but not to mine.

It took us nearly two hours to drag ourselves three miles and the men
had hardly a kick in them when we reached the place assigned for our
post (8 on sketch). We were ordered to entrench in echelon of
companies facing North. I thought it would take till dark to get us
dug in (it was 2 p.m.); but luckily our men, lined up ready to begin
digging, caught the eye of the enemy as a fine enfilade target (or
else they saw our first line mules) and they started shelling us from
6,500 yards (Enemy's battery, 9 on sketch). The effect on the men was
magical. They woke up and dug so well that we had fair cover within
half an hour and quite adequate trenches by 3. This bombardment was
quite exciting. The first few pairs were exactly over "D" Company's
trench, but pitched about 100 yards beyond it. The next few were
exactly right in range, but about forty yards right, _i.e._ behind us.
Just as we were wondering where the third lot would be, our faithful
howitzer battery and some heavy guns behind them, which opened all
they knew on the enemy battery as soon as they opened on us, succeeded
in attracting its fire to themselves. This happened three or four
times. Just as they were getting on to us the artillery saved us:
there would be a sharp artillery duel and then the Turks would lie
quiet for ten minutes, then begin on us again. This went on until we
were too well dug in to be a tempting target, and they devoted
themselves to our battery. The curious part of it was that though we
could see the flash of their guns every time, the mirages made it
impossible to judge their ranges or even for our battery to observe
its own fire properly. Our howitzer battery unfortunately was not in a
mirage, and they had its range to a yard and plastered it with
shrapnel. If they had had high explosives they could have smashed it.

About 4.30 the mirage cleared and our guns had a free go for the first
time that day: (in the morning mists last until the mirage begins).
I'm told the mirage had put our guns over 1,000 yards out in their
ranging, but I doubt this. Anyway it is the fact that those guns and
trenches which were sited in mirages were practically untouched in a
heavy two days' bombardment.

In that last hour, however, between 4.20 and dark, our heavy guns got
into the enemy finely with their high explosives. They blew one of our
tormentors bodily into the air at 10,500 yards, and silenced the
others, and chased every Turk out of the landscape.

All the same, we were rather gloomy that night. Our line had made no
progress that we could hear of; we had had heavy losses (none in our
battalion), and there seemed no prospect of dislodging the enemy.
Their front was so wide we could not get round them, and frontal
attacks on trenches are desperate affairs here if your artillery is
paralysed by mirages. The troops who have come from France say that in
this respect this action has been more trying than either Neuve
Chappelle or Ypres, because, as they say, it is like advancing over a
billiard-table all the way.

To crown our troubles, we were three miles from the river, which meant
no water except for necessities--the men had no kits, and it was very
cold, and we could not show lights. And finally, after midnight, it
began to pour with rain!

_Sunday._ At 5.30 we stood to arms. It rained harder than ever and
most of us hadn't a dry stitch. At last it got light, the rain
gradually stopped, and a thoroughly depressed battalion breakfasted in
a grey mist, expecting to be bombarded the moment it lifted. About
8.30 the mist cleared a little, and we looked in vain for our
tormentors. Our cavalry reconnoitred and, to our joy, we saw them ride
clean over the place where the enemy's line had been the evening
before. They had gone in the night.

A cold but drying wind sprang up and the sun came out for a short
time, and we managed to get our things dry. At 1 o'clock we marched
back to the river and found the bridge gone.

I think this makes a good place to stop, as it marks the end of our
first series of adventures and of the no doubt by now famous battle of

I enclose a sketch-map to explain our movements. For obvious reasons I
can't say much about the battle itself.

(I will briefly bring this up to date, post it and try to get a cable
through to you.)

When we reached the river (10 on sketch), it began to rain again and
we spent a very chill and damp afternoon on the bank awaiting orders.
About dusk B. and C. Companies were ordered to cross the river to
guard the hospital there, and D. stayed to guard the hospital on the
left bank. Mercifully our ship was handy, so we got our tents and
slept warm, though all our things were wettish.

_Monday._ A quiet morning, no orders. A Scotch mist shrouded
everything till noon and kept our things damp, but the sun got through
at last.

C. Company returned to left bank, as all wounded were being shipped
across. (N.B. They had to bring them across in our ship. There is
still no sign of the Red Cross motor boats up _here_, though I'm glad
to hear they've reached Basra.) We got orders to march to D. by night.
We started at 8 p.m., "B." Company marching parallel on the other
bank. It was seven or eight miles, but we went very slow, and did not
get in till 1.30 and our transport not till nearly 3, heavy guns
sticking in the ditches. (N.B. Once we got behind the evacuated
Turkish line, we found that the ditches had been filled in to allow
passage of guns, an expedient which had apparently not occurred to the
British Command, for no ditch had been filled in between B, and this

_Tuesday._ When morning came we found ourselves camped just opposite
D. (11 on sketch), and we are still there. Two fine days (though it
freezes at night) and rest have restored us. A mail arrived this
morning, bringing letters to December 7th, and your medical parcels.

I only returned you the quinine and bandages, of which people in Amara
have plenty. They will come in handy for you to send out again. _Here_
everything medical can be used, but I couldn't have brought any more
than I did. As it is, I've left a lot at Amarah.

I must close now. On these cold nights the little kitchener is
invaluable, so is the soup. Of the various brands you sent, Ivelcon is
the best. The chocolate is my mainstay on day marches. Also the Diet
Tablets are very good. Bivouac Cocoa is also good. The Kaross is

Stanford's Map has arrived.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Saturday, January 15th_, 1916.


I will continue my account of our doings in diary form. Last week we
had a kind of general introduction to war. The last few days we have
seen a few of its more gruesome details.

_12th, Wednesday._ After posting your letter and one to Luly I read
some of the Mail's papers. We have had absolutely no outside news
since January 1st, and get very little even of the operations of our
own force. I then went to see Foster who has had to go sick and lives
on our supply ship. About 20 per cent. of our men are sick, mostly
diarrhoea and sore feet. The former is no doubt due to Tigris water.
They don't carry the chlorinating plant on trek, and men often have to
replenish water-bottles during short halts. Personally I have so far
avoided unboiled water. I have my bottle filled with tea before
leaving camp, and can make that last me forty-eight hours, and eke it
out with soup or cocoa in the Little Kitchener at bivouacs.

In the evening "D." Company had to find a firing party to shoot three
Indians, two N.C.Os. and one sepoy, for cowardice in the face of the
enemy. I'm thankful that North and not I was detailed for the job. I
think there is nothing more horrible in all war than these executions.
Luckily they are rare. The men, however, didn't mind at all. I talked
to the corporal about it afterwards--a particularly nice and youthful
one, one of my draft--and remarked that it was a nasty job for him to
have to do. to which he replied gaily, "Well, sir, I 'ad a bit o' rust
in my barrel wanted shootin' out, so it came in handy like." T.A. is a
wonderful and attractive creature.

_13th, Thursday._ Moved at 7 a.m., carrying food and water for two
days. The enemy had been located on the E. Canal, about eight miles
from D., and our people were going to attack them. The idea was to
hold them in front with a small force, while a much bigger force got
round their left flank (the Canal is on the left bank of the river).
Our brigade was to support the frontal containing force.

We marched about four miles and then halted about 9 a.m. There was a
strong and cold S.E. wind blowing, which prevented our hearing any
firing, and we could see very little shelling. Our air plane first
reported that a certain fort, which stood about a mile in advance of
the enemy's left flank, was strongly held; but we seem to have shelled
them out of that pretty easily, for about 2 p.m. it reported again
that the enemy had left his trenches on the Canal.

About 3.30 p.m. we advanced, and reached the aforesaid fort a little
before sunset. Here we heard various alarming and depressing reports,
the facts underlying which, as far as I can make out at present, were
these. The Turks, seeing their left flank being turned, quitted their
position and engaged the outflanking force, leaving only about 500 out
of their 9,000 to hold the canal. Our outflanking force, finding
itself heavily engaged, sent and asked the frontal force to advance,
to relieve the pressure. The frontal force, hearing at the same time
that the Turks had quitted their Canal trenches, advanced too rashly
and were surprised and heavily punished by the remnant left along the
Canal, losing half their force and being obliged to retire. So when
they met us they naturally gave us the impression that there was a
large force still holding the Canal, which we should have to tackle in
the morning.

We dug ourselves in about 2,000 yards from the Canal. It was very cold
and windy, and we had not even a blanket, though I had luckily brought
both my greatcoat and Burberry. There was a small mud hut just behind
our trench, littered with Turkish rags. The signallers made a fire
inside, and two stray Sikhs had rolled themselves up in a corner. It
was not an inviting spot, but it was a choice between dirt and cold,
and I had no hesitation in choosing dirt. So after a chill dinner, at
which I drank neat lime-juice and neat brandy alternately (to save my
water-bottle intact), I turned into the hut. The other officers
(except North) at first disdained it with disgust, but as the night
wore on they dropped in one by one, till by midnight we were lying in
layers like sardines. The Colonel was the last to surrender. I have a
great admiration for him. He is too old for this kind of game, and
feels the cold and fatigue very much: but he not only never
complains, but is always quietly making the best of things for
everyone and taking less than his share of anything good that is
going. Nothing would induce him, on this occasion, to lie near the

_14th, Friday._ The night having passed more pleasantly than could
have been expected, we stood to arms in the trenches at 5.30 a.m. This
is a singularly unpleasing process, especially when all you have to
look forward to is the prospect of attacking 9,000 Turks in trenches
behind a Canal! But one's attention is fully occupied in trying to
keep warm.

As soon as it was light we got orders to advance and marched in
artillery formation to within 1,200 yards of the Canal, where we found
some hastily begun trenches of the day before, and proceeded to deepen
them. As there was no sign of the enemy, the conviction grew on us
that he must have gone in the night; and presently the order came to
stop entrenching and form a line to clear up the battlefield, _i.e._
the space between us and the Canal. This included burying the dead and
picking up wounded, as the stretcher parties which had tried to bring
the wounded in during the night had been heavily fired on and unable
to get further than where we were.

I had never seen a dead man and rather dreaded the effect on my queasy
stomach; but when it came to finding, searching and burying them one
by one, all sense of horror--though they were not pleasant to look
upon--was forgotten in an overmastering feeling of pity, such as one
feels at the tragic ending of a moving story, only so oppressive as to
make the whole scene like a sad and impersonal dream, on which and as
in a dream my mind kept recurring to a tableau which I must have seen
over fifteen years ago in Madame Tussaud's of Edith finding the body
of Harold after the battle of Hastings, and indeed the stiff corpses
were more like waxen models than anything that had lived.

The wounded were by comparison a cheerful company, though their
sufferings during the eighteen hours they had lain there must have
been fearful: but the satisfaction of being able to bring them in was
our predominant feeling.

In the middle of this work we were suddenly recalled and ordered to
march to the support of the outflanking force, of whose movements we
had heard absolutely nothing. But when we had fallen in, all they did
was to march us to the Canal, and thence along it back to the river,
where we encamped about 1 p.m. and still are.

It was a great comfort to be within reach of water again, though the
wind and rain have made the river so muddy that a mug of water from it
looks exactly like a mug of tea with milk in it.

The wind had continued unabated for two days and now blew almost a
gale. The dust was intolerable and made any attempts at washing
hopeless. Indeed one's eyes got so full of it the moment they were
opened that we sat blinking like owls or shut them altogether. So it
was a cheerless afternoon, with rain threatening. Our supply ship with
our tents had not come up, but the Major (Stillwell) had a bivouac
tent on the second line transport, which he invited me to share, an
offer which I gladly accepted. We made it as air-tight as possible,
and built a wall of lumps of hard-baked mud to protect us from
snipers, and slept quite reasonably warm. It came on to rain heavily
in the night, so I was lucky to be under shelter.

_15th, Saturday._ This morning it rained on and off till nearly noon,
and the wind blew all day and the sun never got properly through: but
the rain had laid the dust.

_N.B._--With regard to parcels, none are arriving now, just when
they're wanted. The fact is they have to economise their transport
most rigidly. A staff officer told me that our supply of river-boats
just enables one boat (with its pair of barges alongside) to reach us
every day; our food for one day fills one entire barge, so that you
can imagine there is not much room to spare after ammunition and other
war material has been put on board. The mahila convoys are extra, but
as they take several weeks to do the journey their help is limited.

I have just seen the padre who has been working in the field dressing
station. In his station there were two doctors, two nursing orderlies
and two native sweepers; and these had to cope with 750 white wounded
for five days till they could ship them down the river. Altogether our
casualties in the two battles have been well over 5,000, so the Turk
has rather scored.

This afternoon news is ([Greek: a]) that we have got a new Brigadier.
Our brigade manages its commanders on the principle of the caliph and
his wives, and has not yet found a Sherazade. ([Greek: b]) that we
have got a brigade M.O.O. ambulance. This is a luxury indeed. We are
only just over twenty miles from C. now, so we hope to get through
after one more battle.

_16th, Sunday._ Still in camp. No sun. More rain. Friday's gale and
the rise in the river has scattered our only pontoon bridge, and
Heaven knows when another will be ready. All our skilled
bridge-builders are in C. The people here seem quite incapable of even
bridging the Canal, twenty feet wide. Typical, very.

I want a new shaving brush--badger's hair, not too large.

Mail just going. Best love.

_P.S._--We had a Celebration on a boat this morning, which I was very
glad of, also a voluntary parade service.

       *       *       *       *       *


I wrote you last week a summary of our doings during the battle of D.
Now I will tell you what we have done since, though it is mostly

The evening after I posted last week's letter "D." Coy. had to find a
firing party to shoot a havildar, a lance-naik and a sepoy for
cowardice in face of the enemy. Thank goodness North and not I was
detailed for it. They helped dig their own graves and were very brave
about it. They lay down in the graves to be shot. Corp. Boughey was
one of the party and when I condoled with him afterwards on the
unpleasantness of the job, he replied, "Well, Sir, I 'ad a bit of rust
in my barrel wanted shootin' out so it come in handy like"!

_Thursday, 13th._ We marched at 7 carrying food and water for two
days. We were in support of the frontal containing force. The enemy
were on the Canal, eight miles off. We marched about four miles and
then halted, and waited most of the day for orders. A strong S.E. wind
prevented us hearing anything of the battle but we could see a certain
amount of shelling. About 3 p.m. we got orders to go up in support of
the frontal force, which (we were told) had advanced, the enemy having
abandoned the Canal. We marched another three miles to a fort, which
stood about one and a quarter miles from the Canal, and from which we
had driven the enemy in the morning. Here we waited till after dark,
when we heard that the frontal force had blundered into a Turkish
rearguard holding the Canal, and had lost heavily and been obliged to
retire. It is these disconcerting surprises which try one's spirit
more than anything else. We ate a cold and cheerless supper just
beyond the fort, and then dug ourselves in, with other units of our
brigade on either side of us. It was windy and very cold. There was a
small and filthy hut with every mark of recent Turkish use, just
behind the trench, but sooner or later every officer (I among the
first) came to the conclusion that dirt was preferable to cold, and we
all packed in round a fire which our signallers had lit there.

_Friday, 14th._ After a tolerable night we stood to arms at 5.30, a
wholly displeasing process. As soon as it was light, we advanced to
within 1,200 yds. of the Canal and started digging in. But it soon
became clear that the enemy had cleared out in the night, so we
stopped digging and started to clear up the battlefield, _i.e._, the
space between us and the Canal. The stretcher parties had been out
during the night, but they had been fired on so heavily that they
could not get beyond the 1,200 yd. line, so there were wounded to pick
up as well as dead to bury and equipment to collect. The dead were so
pitiable that one quite forgot their ghastliness; but it was a
gruesome job searching their pockets. The poor wounded had had a
fearful time too, lying out in the cold all night, but the
satisfaction of getting them in cheered one up. The ground was simply
littered with pointed bullets.

In the middle of this job we were recalled and told to march to the
support of our outflanking force; but by the time we were collected
and fallen in the need for our assistance had apparently passed, for
we were merely marched to the Canal and then along it to where it
joins the river; where we have been ever since. We got into camp here
soon after noon, and were very glad to be within reach of water again.
The weather was the limit. It blew a gale all the afternoon, and the
dust was so bad one could hardly open one's eyes. We had no tents, but
the Major (Stilwell) had a bivouac and invited me in with him, which
was a blessing as it rained all night.

_Saturday, 15th._ Rained all the morning on and off. Afternoon grey
and cold. Nothing doing and no news. Sniping at night.

_Sunday, 16th._ Morning grey and cold. Rained all the afternoon and is
still at it (8 p.m.). Padre held a celebration on one of the boats,
and an open air voluntary parade service. Dug a bridge-head perimetre.
We are waiting for the bridge. The gale and the river bust it.

_Monday, 17th._ Rained on and off all day. Grey, cold and windy.
Ordered to cross river as soon as bridge is ready. Bridge reported
ready 6 p.m. so we struck camp. We took only what blankets we could
carry. When we reached the bridge, we found it not finished, and
squatted till 8.15. Then the bridge was finished and immediately
broke. So we had to come back to camp and bivouac. Luckily the
officers tents were recoverable, but not the men's.

_Tuesday, 18th._ Rain stopped at 8 a.m. Whole place a sea of mud ankle
deep, and slippery as butter. Nearly the whole bridge had been washed
away or sunk in the night. We got men's tents from the ship, cleared
spaces from mud and pitched camp again. Rain started again about 1
p.m. and continued till 4. The Canal or "Wadi" had meanwhile come down
in heavy spate and broken that bridge, so we were doubly isolated. I
went out to post piquets. It took two hours to walk three miles.
Jubber Khan sick all day, so I had to manage for myself, helped by
North's bearer. Foster being sick North is O.C. "D." Coy. and I share
a 40lb. tent with him. He is 2/4th, son of the Duke of Wellington's
Agent at Strathfieldsaye, but has served three years in N. Rhodesia,
so is quite used to camp life.

Desultory bombardment all day.

_Wednesday 19th._ Sun at last; first fine day since Thursday last.
Orders to cross Wadi as soon as bridge repaired. Crossed at 4 p.m. and
camped in a dry place.

_Thursday, 20th._ Fair, sun, heavy bombardment all day. Post going.

       *       *       *       *       *


_By an Officer who was There._

The Turkish position, which is about ten miles up stream from Shaikh
Saad, is on the left bank of the Tigris. The position is a very strong
one, thoroughly entrenched, with the river protecting its right flank
and absolutely secured on its left flank by a very extensive marsh
which stretches for miles.

Our camp was about five miles from the Turkish position (downstream)
but our forward trenches were within about 1,000 yards of it.

On January 20th our guns bombarded the enemy's trenches at intervals
during the day, and on the following morning at 3 a.m. we moved out of
camp preparatory to the attack which was to commence about 6.30 a.m.

The ---- Brigade was to push the main attack with the ---- Brigade
(ours) in support of it, whilst a third brigade was to make a holding
attack on our right.

The leading brigade entrenched itself during the night within about
500 yards of the position, whilst our Regiment with one Indian
Regiment formed the first line of supports. We were in our trenches
about 1,000 yards from the enemy's position, ready to make the attack,
by 6 a.m.

For some reason, which I do not know, the attack was delayed, and our
guns did not open fire till 7.45 a.m. instead of 6.30 as originally

At 7.55 a.m. after our guns had bombarded the enemy's trenches for
only ten minutes the infantry were ordered to advance to the attack,
our support line advancing at the same time.

Our Battalion, which consisted of three Companies (one Coy. being in
Kut-el-Amara) advanced in three lines, "B" Coy. forming the first line
under Lieut. Needham, "C" Coy. the second line under Capt. Page
Roberts, and "D" Coy. the third line under Capt. North with Capt. the
Hon. R. Palmer as his 2nd in command. Lt.-Col. Bowker was with the
third line.

As soon as we left the trenches we were under a heavy rifle fire, and
as we advanced this became more and more intense, with machine gun and
shrapnel fire added. The ground was perfectly flat and open with no
form of cover to be obtained, and our casualties soon became very
heavy. We continued to advance till we got to within about 150 yards
of the enemy's trenches, but by this time our casualties were so heavy
that it was impossible to press home the attack without
reinforcements, though at the extreme left of our line, our troops
actually got into the first line of trenches, but were bombed out of
them again by the Turks.

No reinforcements reached us, however, and we afterwards heard that
the Regiment which should have come up in support of us was enfiladed
from their right and was consequently drawn off in that direction. All
we could do now was to hold on where we were, making what cover we
could with our entrenching tools, and this we did until darkness came
on, when we withdrew.

The weather had been terrible all that day and night, there being
heavy rain with a bitterly cold wind coming off the snow hills. The
ground became a sea of mud which made it most difficult to remove the
wounded, and many of these had to lie out till the armistice was
arranged the following day.

       *       *       *       *       *


_By an Officer of the 4th Hants._

"The fighting on the 21st was a pure slaughter. It was too awful....

"The troops from France say that in all their experience there they
never suffered so much from weather conditions.

"We were wet to the skin and there was a bitter wind coming off the
snow hills. Many poor fellows died from exposure that night, I am
afraid; and many of the wounded were lying out for more than
twenty-four hours until the armistice was arranged the following day."

       *       *       *       *       *

_Another written down from a Private's account._

"The three Companies of Hampshires were in support, with two native
Regiments, and a Battalion of Connaught Rangers. The Black Watch and
Seaforths were in the firing line. The Hants men were next the river.
The two native Regiments refused to leave their trenches when they
saw the fierce fire from the machine guns. The Connaughts were
fighting further off. So the Hampshire men were obliged to go on
alone. 'We never made a rush, and just walked slowly through the rain.
A slow march to our deaths, I call it.'"

He then said they had got mixed up with the Black Watch and got into
the first Turkish trench, but had been driven out of it again. He saw
Capt. Palmer fall about 200 yards from the trench but did not see
whether he got up again, or where he was wounded.

       *       *       *       *       *




_10th August_, 1916.


I have just received a letter from 2nd Lt. C.H. Vernon, 1/4 Hants
(really 2/7 Hants attached) recording his search for my son's body on
the 7th April, 1916, its discovery (as he believes) and its burial. He
also adds that "at the same time he looked for Capt. Palmer's, but
could not find him. It was afterwards that he heard of his death in
the Turkish Camp," and he adds, "Some stories have come through from
survivors as to how he lost his life. As far as we can gather, he was
the only Hants officer actually to penetrate the Turkish trenches with
a few men. That was on the extreme left close to the river. Our men,
however, had not been supplied by the Indian Government with bombs.
Consequently the Turks, being so provided, bombed them out, and only
one or two men escaped capture or death. It was here that Capt. Palmer
was mortally wounded while trying to rally his men to hold the
captured sector."

I think you may like to have this extract about your gallant son.

(_Signed_) J.T. BUCKNILL.

       *       *       *       *       *



_8th March_, 1916.

The Hampshires were informed that another Battalion was in front of
them, and advanced without returning the hostile fire till they got to
1,000 yards from the Turkish trenches--they then found out that there
were no British troops in front, so opened fire and advanced. The
Connaught Rangers on their right remained behind when they found out
the mistake. Two native Battalions in reserve refused to budge,
although their officers threatened them with their revolvers. The
artillery preparation proved insufficient, but the Hampshires got into
shell holes and held on till dark. The medical arrangements broke
down, there were insufficient stretcher-bearers, and no chloroform or
sufficient bandages. No mention is made of the Arabs, however.

There were seventy-five rank and file returned as missing after the
fight, and a subaltern, Lieut. Lester Garland, took over the command
of the Battalion when my brother collapsed.

The Turks claimed to have captured five officers in one action, but
there is so much "fog of war" in those parts that it is difficult to
identify their claims.

(_Signed_) G.H. STILWELL.

       *       *       *       *       *



_1st May_, 1916.

At the armistice to collect the wounded it was agreed that all
officers and men that fell within 200 yards of the Turkish trenches
should be picked up and retained by the Turks as prisoners, while all
beyond that zone should be removed by us. Your son was seen within 100
yards of the Turkish trench when he fell, and it was reported that
four of his men actually got inside the trench, but were driven out by
bombs. My son was with the next platoon to yours, and Bucknill was a
little further on. They were obviously well in front, and fell in the
enemy's zone.

(_Signed_) G.H. STILWELL.

       *       *       *       *       *


I.E.F. "D,"


_20th February_, 1916.

I received your cable enquiring about your son to-day, and have wired
to the Adjutant General at the base at Basra enquiring whether he has
any information not known to the Regiment, as I very much regret to
say we have none whatever. All we know is that he started in the
attack on the Turkish trenches on the 21st January and has not been
seen since. I write to-day as the mail is leaving, but will cable as
soon as I get a reply from the base. Out of 310 who went into the
attack we had 288 casualties. Bucknill and a good many men are missing
as well. There was great difficulty in getting the wounded back as it
had to be done at night and the rain and mud were appalling.

There was an armistice next day, but we were not allowed to go within
a certain distance of the Turkish trenches, so all wounded within that
area are probably prisoners.

One other officer of ours was captured and we only found that out
incidentally. There has been no official list of prisoners and I don't
think the Army Headquarters here know who was taken. I don't know
whether you would have the means of getting this from the Turks
through the War Office. I believe attempts are being made here. I
think there is a chance of his being a prisoner as the Regiment got
pretty near the trenches, but I can get no information from any of our
men. I will cable at once if I hear anything.

I saw yesterday a copy of the _Pioneer_ (Allahabad) for January 30th,
and that reported your son wounded. I hoped, therefore, that he had
been sent to India and the medical people in this country had omitted
to make any record of it, but I imagine in that case he would surely
have cabled to you himself, and I fear the only hope is that he may be
a prisoner of war.

Your son was attached to my Company latterly and besides being very
keen and capable was a great favourite with the men, and we all miss
him very much indeed. I hope your Lordship will accept my deepest
sympathy in your anxiety, and I sincerely hope that your son may be

(_Signed_) H.M. FOSTER,

_Capt. 1/4th Hants Regt._

       *       *       *       *       *


_May_, 1916.


I am more grieved than I can say to have given you the news which I
telegraphed yesterday. I know how cruel the anxiety of doubt is, and
telegraphed to you when I had the evidence which I and my friends here
considered reliable.

About six days ago I went out to the Turks to discuss terms for the
surrender of Kut. I spent the night in their camp and have been with
them several times since then. I asked them for information about
three names. About two of the names I could get little information. On
the third day I received a message from Ali Jenab Bey, telling me that
your son had died in hospital, and that all that could be done for him
had been done, and asking me to tell you how deeply he sympathised
with you. The next day Ali Jenab and two other Turks came into our
camp. One of them, Mohammed Riza, a relation of Jenab Pashas, told me
that your son had been brought in after the fight on the 21st,
slightly wounded in the shoulder and badly wounded in the chest. He
had been well looked after by the Doctors and the Colonel of the
Regiment (I could not find out which Regiment) had visited him, and at
the Doctor's wish sent him some brandy. He did not suffer and the end
came after four hours.

It is useless to try to tell you how sorry I feel for you and all of
yours. In this campaign, which in my mind has been the most heroic of
all, many of our men who have given their lives have suffered very
long and very terribly, and when one hears of a friend who has gone,
one is glad in this place, to know that he has been spared that

I am,

Yours very sincerely,


       *       *       *       *       *


OCTOBER, 1916.

_It will be noticed that it differs from the private accounts in one or
two particulars._

_1st phase--January 19--23._

After the battle of Wadi River General Aylmer's leading troops had
followed the retreating Turks to the Umm-el-Hannah position, and
entrenched themselves at the mouth of the defile, so as to shut the
enemy in and limit his power of taking the offensive.

The weather at this period was extraordinarily unfavourable. Heavy
rains caused the river to come down in flood and overflow its banks,
and converted the ground on either bank into a veritable bog.

Our bridge across the Wadi was washed away several times, while the
boisterous winds greatly interfered with the construction of a bridge
across the Tigris, here some 400 yards in width.

It was essential to establish Artillery on the right bank of the
Tigris, so as to support, by enfilading fire, the attack of our
Infantry against the Hannah position.

Guns and troops were ferried across, with difficulty, owing to the
high wind and heavy squalls of rain, but by the 19th all troops
allotted to the right bank had crossed over and were established in
the positions from which they were required to co-operate with the
main force on the left bank.

Meanwhile, the leading Infantry Brigades on the left bank had pushed
nearer the enemy. January 20th was devoted to a systematic bombardment
of his position, and during the night the Infantry pushed forward
their advanced line to within 200 yards of the enemy's trenches.

On the morning of the 21st, under cover of an intensive Artillery
bombardment, our Infantry moved to the attack. On our right the troops
got to within 100 yards of the enemy's line, but were unable to
advance further. Our left column, consisting of the Black Watch, 6th
Jats, and 41st Dogras, penetrated the front line with a rush,
capturing trenches, which they held for about an hour and a half.
Supports were sent forward, but, losing direction and coming under
heavy fire, failed to reach them. Thus, left unsupported, our
previously successful troops, when Turkish counter-attacks developed,
were overwhelmed by numbers and forced to retire.

Heavy rain now began to fall and continued throughout the day.
Telephone communication broke down, and communication by orderly
became slow and uncertain.

After further artillery bombardment the attack was renewed at 1 p.m.,
but by this time the heavy rain had converted the ground into a sea of
mud, rendering rapid movement impossible. The enemy's fire was heavy
and effective, inflicting severe losses, and though every effort was
made, the assault failed.

Our troops maintained their position until dark and then slowly
withdrew to the main trenches which had been previously occupied, some
1,300 yards from those of the enemy.

As far as possible all the wounded were brought in during the
withdrawal, but their sufferings and hardships were acute under the
existing climatic conditions, when vehicles and stretcher-bearers
could scarcely move in the deep mud.

To renew the attack on the 22nd was not practicable. The losses on the
21st had been heavy, the ground was still a quagmire and the troops
exhausted. A six hours' armistice was arranged in order to bury the
dead and remove the wounded to shelter.

I cannot sufficiently express my admiration for the courage and dogged
determination of the force engaged. For days they bivouacked in
driving rain on soaked and sodden ground. Three times they were called
upon to advance over a perfectly flat country, deep in mud, and
absolutely devoid of cover, against well-constructed and well-planned
trenches, manned by a brave and stubborn enemy approximately their
equal in numbers. They showed a spirit of endurance and self-sacrifice
of which their country may well be proud.

       *       *       *       *       *



Your son was universally liked and respected by all ranks in this
Battalion, and one and all will regret his death and loss as much as I
do, who knew his sterling worth. His memory will be ever cherished by
his brother officers with whom he was so popular.

(_Signed_) F.H. PLAYFAIR, _Col_.

I was indeed sorry to receive your letter which my brother sent on to
me, giving the news of your son's death from his wounds in the Turkish
trenches. I had great hopes that his wound might have been a slight

May I offer Lady Selborne and yourself the most sincere sympathy both
of the Regiment and myself in this most sad loss which has come to
you. I can assure you both officers and men of the Regiment will miss
him tremendously as he was so popular with all.

(_Signed_) W. B. STILWELL, _Major_.

---- shewed me the wire about Robert yesterday morning. I can't tell
you how sorry I feel for you all. I know I have never lost anyone who
meant anything like so much to me, and I am sure that his friendship
was one of the greatest blessings for me, in every way, that God could
have given me.

When a fellow not only has such ideals but actually lives up to them
with the determination and consistency with which Robert did, I think
there is something very triumphant about his life. Anyway I know that
his influence will live on, not in his friends alone, but in everyone
with whom he came in contact. I wish you could know what a tremendous
lot people thought of him in the Regiment, both officers and men, some
of whom had little in common with him.

With deepest sympathy for you all.

Yours very sincerely,


I had only seen that Robert Palmer had been wounded; the issue giving
the subsequent and very terrible report had escaped me. I am more
sorry than I can well express. Though I didn't know him personally yet
it didn't take long to recognise him as one of the great strengths in
the Battalion, it was noticeable from the very first, from the way he
handled his Company and went about working for them--on the "Ultonia"
it struck me.


Accept my most grateful thanks for your kind words of sympathy. As you
say, this war, with all its terrible consequences, "had to be," and it
is some comfort to us to know that our sons, meant for other things
than violence, took their part in it serenely and cheerfully, with no

I often think of your dear boy and of what he said about the war in
that sonnet. But what I most often think of him, as I can of my own
son, is "Blessed are the pure in heart."

(_Signed_) A.K. COOK.

I had looked forward myself to a great career for him: he had so many
qualities to ensure success: a sharp, keen mind, which proved its
literary quality also at Oxford, an unfailing earnestness and high
purpose and a white character: no one could deny the brilliance and
the steadiness of his gifts.

(_Signed_) M.J. RENDALL.

I have just received the "Wykehamist War Roll" and _The Wykehamist_
and in it find the sad news of your boy. I did not know definite news
had been received and was still hoping. May I add my letter of
sympathy to the many you will have had from all his friends, for
though sympathy does not do much good it does sometimes help a little
I believe, and say how very, very much I feel for you and Lady
Selborne in your loss. He was my senior prefect my first year at
"Cook's," and there never was a kinder, fairer and more liked prefect
by the small boys all the time I was there, and indeed I think I have
never met a better fellow anywhere.


I have only just learned from the announcement in to-day's papers that
you have no longer any ground for hoping against hope. I did not mean
to write to you, but the sense of the loss and of how England will
miss him in the years to come has been so strongly in my mind all day
that I thought perhaps you would not mind my trying to put it into
words. I did not see very much of him, but I have never forgotten the
first impression of him that I got as external examiner at Winchester,
when he was in Sixth Book and how I felt he was marked out for big
work, and I had always looked forward to getting to know him better.
It makes one feel very, very old when those on whom one relied to
carry on one's work and ideas are taken. But it is a happiness--or at
least a sort of shining consolation--to think that one will always
remember him as radiantly young. I have lost so many pupils who will
never grow up and always be just pupils.

Please do not think of replying and pardon this intrusion.

(_Signed_) A. ZIMMERN.

Bobby was gold all through--for head and heart one in a million. Of
all the undergraduates I have known at Oxford during my twenty years
of work there, he struck me as most certain by reason of his breadth
and sobriety of judgment, intellectual force and sweetness of
disposition to exercise a commanding influence for good in the public
affairs of the country. Everyone admired and liked him and I know that
his influence among his contemporaries, an influence exercised very
quietly and unobtrusively, was quite exceptional from the very first.


Those of us who knew Bobby at Univ. and saw him afterwards in London
knew that one way or another he would give his life to the country.
The war has only determined the manner of his giving and made the life
much shorter, but his memory the more abiding.

(_Signed_) ALEC PATERSON, _2nd Lieut_.


[Illustration: MAP ENCLOSED IN LETTER OF JAN. 10.]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Letters from Mesopotamia" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.