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Title: With the Persian Expedition
Author: Donohoe, M. H.
Language: English
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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.

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WITH THE PERSIAN EXPEDITION



[Illustration: THE ROAD TO BIRKANDI.]



  WITH THE PERSIAN
  EXPEDITION


  BY

  MAJOR M. H. DONOHOE

  LATE ARMY INTELLIGENCE CORPS



  ILLUSTRATED



  LONDON
  EDWARD ARNOLD
  1919

  (_All rights reserved_)



  TO THE MEMORY OF

  MY COMRADES OF THE IMPERIAL AND
  DOMINION FORCES

  WHO, IN THE CONCLUDING YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR,
  GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THE WORLD'S FREEDOM
  IN PERSIA AND TRANSCAUCASIA.



{v}

PREFACE

No one can be more alive than I am to the fact that of the making of
war books there is no end, nor can anyone hear mentally more plainly
than I do how, at each fresh appearance of a work dealing with the
world tragedy of the past five years, weary reviewers and jaded
public alike exclaim, "What?  Yet another!"  Why, then, have I added
this of mine to the already so formidable list?

Well, chiefly because in the beginning of 1918 Fate and the War
Office sent me into a field of operations almost unknown and unheeded
of the average home-keeping Briton--viz., that of North-West Persia,
in the land lying towards the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea; and my
experiences there led me into bypaths of the Great War so unusual as
to seem well worth describing, quite apart from the military
importance of the movements of which they were but a minute part.

However, in the latter aspect, too, I hope my book will serve as a
useful footnote to the history of the gigantic struggle now happily
ended.

The story of the Persian campaign needed to be told, and I am glad to
add my humble quota to the recital.  It is the story of a little
force operating far {vi} away from the limelight, unknown to the
people at home, and seemingly forgotten a great part of the time even
by the authorities themselves.  It was to this force--commanded by
General Dunsterville, and hence known to those who knew it at all as
"Dunsterforce"--that I was attached, and it is about it that I have
written here.  I have tried to make clear what the "Dunsterforce"
was, why it was sent out, and how far it succeeded in accomplishing
its mission.  In order to do this I have been obliged to treat rather
fully both of local geography and politics.  For here we had no
clear-cut campaign in which all the people of one country were in
arms against all the people of another country.  No!  It was a very
mixed-up and complicated business, as anyone who troubles to read
what I have written will readily see.

Then, again, it was a war waged distinctly off the beaten track.
During its progress we came across tribes to whom Great Britain was
as some legendary land in another solar sphere--tribes to whom the
aeroplane and the automobile were undreamed-of marvels--tribes,
finally, whose habitat and modes of life and thought are almost as
unknown to the average European as his are to them.  For this reason
I have devoted some space to descriptions of places and people as I
saw them.

A word should perhaps be said as to how and why I happened to be
there at all.

{vii}

War has figured very largely in my life.  For the past twenty years,
as Special Correspondent of the _Daily Chronicle_, I have been
privileged to be present at most of the world's great upheavals, both
military and political.

From July, 1914, on, for some eighteen months, I followed the
fortunes of the Entente armies in the field as a war chronicler,
first in Serbia, next in Belgium, and afterwards in Italy and
Greece--a poor journalistic Lazarus picking up such crumbs of news as
fell from the overladen table of Dives, the Censor.  But I was not
happy, because I felt I was not doing my "bit" as effectively as I
might; so I followed the example of millions of other citizens of the
Empire and joined the army.  Detailed to the Intelligence Corps, I
was sent first to Roumania, then to Russia.  Escaping from the "Red
Terror" in Petrograd, I finally found myself one day embarking for
the remote land of Iran as Special Service Officer with
"Dunsterforce"--at which point this chronicle begins.

THE AUTHOR.

  PARIS,
    _October_, 1919.



{ix}

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

THE START OF THE "HUSH-HUSH" BRIGADE

A mystery expedition--Tower of London conference--From Flanders mud
to Eastern dust--An Imperial forlorn hope--Some fine fighting
types--The amphibious purser--In the submarine zone--Our Japanese
escort


CHAPTER II

EGYPT TO THE PERSIAN GULF

Afloat in an insect-house--Captain Kettle in command--Overcrowding
and small-pox--The s.s. _Tower of Babel_--A shark scare--Koweit


CHAPTER III

THE CITY OF SINBAD

Arrival at Basra--A city of filth--Transformation by the
British--Introducing sport to the natives--The Arabs and the cinema


CHAPTER IV

AT A PERSIAN WEDDING

Visit to the Sheikh of Mohammerah--A Persian banquet


CHAPTER V

UP THE TIGRIS TO KUT

Work of the river flotilla--Thames steamboats on the Tigris--The
waterway through the desert--The renaissance of Amarah--The river's
jazz-step course--The old Kut and the new--In Townshend's old
headquarters--Turks' monument to short-lived triumph


{x}

CHAPTER VI

BAGDAD

Arabian nights and motor-cars--The old and the new in Bagdad--"Noah's
dinghy"--Bible history illustrated--At a famous tomb-mosque


CHAPTER VII

EARLY HISTORY OF DUNSTERVILLE's FORCE

Jealousy and muddle--The dash for the Caspian--Holding on hundreds of
miles from anywhere--A 700-mile raid that failed--The cockpit of the
Middle East--Some recent politics in Persia--How our way to the
Caspian was barred


CHAPTER VIII

OFF TO PERSIA

Au revoir to Bagdad--The forts on the frontier--Customs house for the
dead--A land of desolation and death--A city of the past--An
underground mess--Methods of rifle thieves


CHAPTER IX

THROUGH MUD TO KIRIND

A city of starving cave-dwellers--An American woman's mission to the
wild--A sect of salamanders--Profiteering among the Persians--A
callous nation--Wireless orders to sit tight--Awaiting attack--The
"mountain tiger"


CHAPTER X

KIRIND TO KERMANSHAH

Pillage and famine--A land of mud--The Chikar Zabar Pass--Wandering
Dervishes--Poor hotel accommodation--A "Hunger Battalion"--A city of
the past


{xi}

CHAPTER XI

A CITY OF FAMINE

In ancient Hamadan--With Dunsterville at last--His precarious
position--"Patriots" as profiteers--Victims of famine--Driven to
cannibalism--Women kill their children for food--Trial and
execution--Famine relief schemes--Deathblow to the Democrats--"Stalky"


CHAPTER XII

DUNSTERVILLE STRIKES AFRESH

Official hindrances--A fresh blow for the Caucasus--The long road to
Tabriz--A strategic centre--A Turkish invasion--Rising of Christian
tribes--A local Joan of Arc--The British project


CHAPTER XIII

THE RACE FOR TABRIZ

A scratch pack for a great adventure--Wagstaff of Persia--Among the
Afshars--Guests of the chief--Capture of Zinjan--Peace and
profiteering


CHAPTER XIV

CAPTURE OF MIANEH

Armoured car causes consternation--Reconnoitring the road--Flying
column sets out--An easy capture at the gates of Tabriz--Tribesmen
raid the armoured car--And have a thin time--Turks get the wind up


CHAPTER XV

LIFE IN MIANEH

Training local levies--A city of parasites and rogues--A knave turns
philanthropist--Turks getting active--Osborne's comic opera
force--Jelus appeal for help--An aeroplane to the rescue--The
democrats impressed--Women worried by aviator's "shorts"--Skirmishes
on the Tabriz road--Reinforcements at last


{xii}

CHAPTER XVI

THE FIGHT AT TIKMADASH

Treachery of our irregulars--Turkish machine gun in the
village--Headquarters under fire--Native levies break and
bolt--British force withdrawn--Turks proclaim a Holy War--Cochrane's
demonstration--In search of the missing force--Natives mutiny--A
quick cure for "cholera"--A Turkish patrol captured--Meeting with
Cochrane--A forced retreat--Our natives desert--A difficult night
march--Arrival at Turkmanchai--Turks encircling us--A fresh retirement


CHAPTER XVII

EVACUATION OF MIANEH

We have a chilly reception--Our popularity wanes--Preparation for
further retirement--Back to the Kuflan Kuh Pass--Our defensive
position--Turks make a frontal attack--Our line overrun--Gallantry of
Hants and Worcesters--Pursuit by Turks--Armoured cars save the
situation--Prisoners escape from Turks--Persians as fighters


CHAPTER XVIII

CRUSHING A PLOT

Anti-British activities--Headquarters at Hamadan--Plans to seize
ringleaders--Midnight arrests--How the Governor was entrapped


CHAPTER XIX

THE FIRST EXPEDITION TO BAKU

Kuchik Khan bars the road--Turk and Russian movements--Kuchik Khan's
force broken up--Bicherakoff reaches Baku--British armoured car crews
in Russian uniforms--Fighting around Baku--Baku abandoned--Captain
Crossing charges six-inch guns


{xiii}

CHAPTER XX

THE NEW DASH TO BAKU

Treachery in the town--Jungalis attack Resht--Armoured cars in
street-fighting--Baku tires of Bolshevism--British summoned to the
rescue--Dunsterville sets out--Position at Baku on arrival--British
officers' advice ignored--Turkish attacks--Pressing through the
defences--Baku again evacuated


CHAPTER XXI

THE TURKS AND THE CHRISTIAN TRIBES

Guerrilla warfare--Who the Nestorian and other Christian tribes
are--Turkish massacres--Russian withdrawal and its effect--British
intervention


CHAPTER XXII

IN KURDISTAN

The last phase--Dunsterforce ceases to exist--The end of Turkish
opposition--Off to Bijar--The Kurdish tribes--Raids on Bijar--Moved
on by a policeman--Governor and poet


CHAPTER XXIII

THE END OF HOSTILITIES

Types of Empire defenders--Local feeling--Dealing with Kurdish
raiders--An embarrassing offer of marriage--Prestige by
aeroplane--Anniversary of Hossain the Martyr--News of the
Armistice--Local waverers come down on our side of the
fence--Releasing civil prisoners--Farewell of Bajar--Down country to
the sea and home


APPENDIX

THE WORK OF THE DUNSTERFORCE ARMOURED CAR BRIGADE


INDEX



{xv}

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


THE ROAD TO BIRKANDI ... _frontispiece_

BRITISH-TRAINED PERSIAN POLICE

HÔTEL D'EUROPE AT RESHT

STONE BRIDGE AT SIAH RUD

TYPICAL PERSIAN VILLAGE

PERSIAN TRANSPORT

DARIUS INSCRIPTIONS AT BISITUN

CARAVANSERAI, BISITUN

DRILLING JEHUS AT HAMADAN

ROAD NEAR RUDBAR

NORTH GATE OF KASVIN

DRILLING ARMENIANS AT BAKU

GROUP OF STAFFORDS AT BALADADAR STATION

SIX-INCH HOWITZER IN ACTION AT BAKU

GENERAL VIEW OF SCENE FOLLOWING THE ARMENIAN RETIREMENT

HARVESTING IN PERSIA


_Map ... facing page_ 1



[Illustration: Map]



{1}

WITH THE PERSIAN EXPEDITION



CHAPTER I

THE START OF THE "HUSH-HUSH" BRIGADE

A mystery expedition--Tower of London conference--From Flanders mud
to Eastern dust--An Imperial forlorn hope--Some fine fighting
types--The amphibious purser--In the submarine zone--Our Japanese
escort.


Scarcely had dawn tinged the sky of a February day in 1918 when there
crept out of the inner harbour of Taranto a big transport bound for
Alexandria.  It was laden with British and Dominion troops.

All were for service overseas.  There were units for India and Egypt,
a contingent of Nursing Sisters for East Africa, and a detachment of
Sappers for Aden.  The transport stealing noiselessly towards the
open sea was the P. and O. liner _Malwa_, and, as a precaution
against submarine attack, she had been so extensively and grotesquely
camouflaged by dockyard artists in black and white that some of her
own crew coming alongside on a dark night had difficulty in
recognizing her.

The _Malwa_, too, had on board the members of a military expedition,
surely one of the most {2} extraordinary that ever crossed the sea to
fight the battles of the Empire in distant lands.  Our official
designation was the "Dunsterville" or "Bagdad Party"; but War Office
cynics, and the damsel who sold us our patent filters and Tommy
Cookers at the military equipment stores in London, knew us as the
"Hush-hush" Brigade.  And the "Hush-hush" Brigade we were privileged
to remain.  This nickname met us in Alexandria, followed us to Cairo
and distant Basra, and preceded us to the City of the Caliphs on the
shores of the muddy-brown Tigris.

On the eve of the departure from England of the main body for the
Italian port of embarkation, a heart-to-heart talk between General
Sir William Robertson and the members of the Bagdad Party had taken
place at the Tower of London.  The veil of official secrecy was drawn
ever so little aside, and, allowed a peep behind, we beheld a field
of military activity with a distinctly Eastern setting.  Men who had
been "over the top" in Flanders heard with a joyous throb of
expectation that the next time they went into the line would be
probably somewhere in Persia or the Caucasus.  They were as happy as
children at the prospect, finding it a welcome relief from muddy
tramps through the low-lying lands of the Western Front, the dull
grey skies, the monotony of life in flooded trenches under incessant
bombardment, varied only by an occasional rush across No-Man's Land
to get at the Hun throat.  We were going from mud to dust, but
hurrah! anyway.

{3}

On that February morning, as the _Malwa_ slipped past Taranto town
and into the roadstead where lay her Japanese destroyer escort, the
roll-call of the Bagdad Party showed a strength of 70 officers and
140 N.C.O's.  This was to be the nucleus of a force which we hoped
would combat and overthrow Bolshevism, make common cause with
Armenians, Georgians, and Tartars, raise and train local levies, and
bar with a line of bayonets the further progress of Turk and German
by way of the Caspian Sea and Russian Turkestan towards the Gates of
India.

With few exceptions our party consisted of Dominion soldiers gathered
from the remote corners of the Empire.  There were Anzacs and
Springboks, Canadians from the far North-West, men who had charged up
the deadly shell-swept slopes of Gallipoli, and those who had won
through at Vimy Ridge.  They were, in fact, a hardened band of
adventurous soldiers, fit to go anywhere and do anything, men who had
lived on the brink of the pit for three years and had come back from
the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

The War Office needed the raw material for a desperate enterprise.
It was found by Brigadier-General Byron, himself an able and
experienced soldier with a brilliant South African fighting
reputation.  He went across to Flanders and picked out the cream of
the fighting men from the South African contingent and from the
magnificent Australian and Canadian Divisions.  I do not recall a
single officer {4} or N.C.O. who had not won at least one decoration
for bravery.  We had with us, too, a small party of Russian officers
who, fleeing from the Red Terror when their army broke and melted
away, remained loyal to the Entente, and volunteered for the
Caucasus, where they hoped to prove to the Bolsheviks that the cause
of Russian national and military honour was not entirely lost.

Our Russian allies for the Caucasus were mostly young men,
enthusiastic and keen soldiers, endowed with the splendid fighting
spirit of the old Russian Army such as I knew it in the early spring
campaign of 1915 in Bukovina, when it fought with empty rifles and
stood up to the encircling Austrians in those terrible February days
that preceded and followed the evacuation of Czernowitch.

On the _Malwa_, I remember, we had with us Captain Bray, an
Anglo-Russian who had been a liaison officer in London, and spoke
English like an Englishman.  Then there was a Colonel who had been
earmarked for death when his regiment mutinied and went "Red" at
Viborg in Finland.  Scantily clad, he had escaped his would-be
assassins, fleeing bare-footed into the darkness of the Finnish
winter night.  After many hairbreadth escapes he had gained Swedish
territory and safety.

[Illustration: BRITISH TRAINED PERSIAN POLICE.]

There was also Captain George Eve, an Anglo-Russian mining engineer,
who came from South America to enlist, and who, because of his accent
and foreign appearance, had been arrested more than {5} once in the
front line in Flanders on suspicion of being a German spy dressed in
British uniform.

Colonel Smiles of the Armoured Car Section was another interesting
figure.  A descendant of Smiles of "Self-Help" fame, he had won the
D.S.O. and the Cross of St. George while fighting with the
Locker-Lampson unit in Russia.

Where practically every second man had a record of thrilling deeds
behind him it is difficult to individualize, but a word must be given
to Colonel Warden, D.S.O., of the Canadian Contingent.  "Honest John"
was the affectionate nickname bestowed upon him by the ship's
company, who found a special fascination in his childlike simplicity
of character combined with exceptional soldierly qualities.

Another refreshingly original type was Colonel Donnan, the C.O. of
the party.  Apart from other things, his physical qualities seemed to
mark him out for the important post he occupied.  They were
calculated to strike terror into any Hun or other heart.  A veritable
Sandow, his burly thick-set figure, black bristling moustache, and
dark piercing eyes were valuable assets for the man whose task was to
discipline such a mixed company as ours, and the nurses affected an
exaggerated terror of them, well knowing (the minxes!) that they were
but the outworks of the fortress behind which was entrenched the
Colonel's kind heart--outworks apt to go down like ninepins when
assailed by a woman's tearful pleadings.

{6}

Colonel Donnan is one of the strong, silent Englishmen who have done
so much in an unostentatious way to push the interests of the British
Empire in the far-off places of the earth.  A great Orientalist, he
has passed through many Eastern lands in disguise, bringing back
precious fruits of his labours in a store of information, both
military and political, gathered in his journeyings.

The _Malwa_ boasted an amphibious purser named Milman.  For three and
a half years, ever since the war began, he had been sailing up and
down the seas from London to Rio, and from Bombay to Liverpool, and
he knew from personal contact the summer and winter temperature of
the Mediterranean Sea better than did any meteorologist from
collected data.  In fact, he had been torpedoed so many times that he
had begun to look upon it as part of the routine of his daily life.
He possessed a life-saving suit, his own improved design, which was
at once the wonder and admiration of all who inspected it.  It was of
rubber, in form not unlike a diving dress, with a hood which came
over the head of the wearer and was made fast under the chin.  In
front were two pockets, which always remained ready rationed with a
spirit-flask, some sandwiches, and a pack of patience cards.  It was
the purser's travelling outfit when he was overboard in the
Mediterranean or elsewhere and waiting to be hauled on board a rescue
boat.

Occasionally when, in harbour, time hung heavily on his hands, this
amphibious purser would clothe {7} himself in his rubber suit, slip
over the ship's side, and go off for an outing.  Once in Port Said,
while gently floating off on one of these aquatic excursions, he was
sighted by the port guardship, and a picket-boat was sent to fish him
out under the impression that he was dead.  "This bloke is a gonner
all right!" said one of the crew, as he reached for him with a
boathook.  Then the "corpse" sat up and said things.  So did the
spokesman of the astonished crew when, having recovered from the
shock, he found his voice again.

Milman was a cheery optimist.  Nothing ever perturbed him.  He was a
recognized authority on "silver fish" (_i.e._, torpedoes) and
cocktails, was an excellent raconteur, and possessed all the suavity
and tact of a finished diplomat.  When nervous ladies worried the
doctor and cross-examined him as to the habits and hunting methods of
Hun submarines, he invariably passed them on to the purser, and
always with the happiest results; for, under the spell of Milman's
racy talk, they soon forgot their fears.

The second day out from Taranto brought us well within the submarine
danger zone.  We changed course repeatedly, for wireless had warned
us of the proximity of the dreaded sea pirate.  The _Tagus_, our
fellow transport, proved herself a laggard; she was falling behind
and keeping station badly, and the Commodore of our Japanese escort
was busy hurling remonstrances at her in the Morse code.  {8} Our
three Japanese destroyers made diligent and efficient scouts.  They
gambolled over the blue waters of the Mediterranean like so many
sheepdogs protecting a moorland flock.  Now one or another raced away
to starboard, then to port, then circled round and round us, took
station amidships, or dropped astern.

Their tactics, perhaps one should say their antics, must have been
extremely baffling, even exasperating, to any enemy submarine
commander lying low in the hope of bagging the _Malwa_ or the
_Tagus_.  Nothing seemed to escape the keen-eyed sailors of the
Mikado's navy.  Experience had taught them the value of seagulls as
submarine spotters.  Endowed with extraordinary instinct and eyes
that see far below the surface of the sea, the resting gulls detect a
submarine coming up anywhere in their vicinity, take fright, and
hurriedly fly away.  Whenever the gulls gave the signal--and there
were many false alarms--a Japanese destroyer would race to the spot
in readiness for Herr Pirate; but he never appeared.

However, the Hun was not always so cautious.  There was great
rejoicing on board the _Malwa_ when the wireless told us that west of
us, in the Malta Channel, Japanese vigilance had been rewarded,
transports saved from destruction, and two enemy submarines sent to
the bottom.  It was all the work of a few minutes.  Whether the enemy
failed to sight the destroyers, or whether they intended to chance
their luck and fight them, is not quite clear.  At all {9} events,
Submarine No. 1 popped up dead ahead of one destroyer and was
promptly rammed and sunk.  Submarine No. 2 met with an equally
unmistakable end.  It had already singled out a transport for attack,
when a second Japanese destroyer engaged it at seven hundred yards'
range and blew its hull to pieces.

Nevertheless it was an anxious time for us on the _Malwa_ living in
hourly dread of being torpedoed.  The Nursing Sisters professed to
treat the danger with scorn; they were courageous and cheery souls,
and would unhesitatingly have faced death with the equanimity of the
bravest man.

Ten in the forenoon and five in the afternoon were the hours of
greatest peril, when submarine attacks might be specially expected.
Everyone "stood to" at these hours, wearing the regulation lifebelt,
and ready to take to the boats if the ship were hit and in danger of
sinking.  Colonel Donnan, C.O. ship, was a strict disciplinarian.  He
enhanced the somewhat piratical ferocity of mien with which nature
had gifted him by always carrying his service revolver buckled on and
ready for any emergency, and the Nursing Sisters professed to be in
great trepidation each time at inspection parade when he ran his
critical eye over their life-saving equipment.  Of course knots
sometimes went wrong, and the strings of the life-belt were tied the
incorrect way; but volunteers were never lacking to adjust the erring
straps and to see that they sat on a pretty pair of {10} shoulders in
the manner laid down in Regulations, while the ferociously
tender-hearted C.O. smiled approval.

On the fourth day after leaving Taranto the _Malwa_ steamed into
Alexandria Harbour.  Everyone was in the highest spirits.  We had
escaped the submarine peril, and the period of nervous tension while
waiting in expectancy of a bolt from the deep was happily over.  It
was a glorious spring day; the warm, radiant sun of Egypt gave us a
fitting welcome.

The stay in Alexandria of the Bagdad Party was short.  Orders came
through from headquarters that we were to proceed to Suez by rail as
soon as possible to join a waiting troopship there.  That night there
were many tender leave-takings in quiet secluded nooks on the upper
deck of the _Malwa_.  During our four days' journey from Taranto the
Australians on board had proved themselves to be as deadly effective
in love as they are in war.  But now had come the parting of the
ways, with the pain and bitterness of separation.  Perhaps a kindly
Fate may reunite some of these sundered ones, but for many that can
never be.  At least three of those bright, cheery Australian lads
sleep in soldiers' graves beneath the soil of Persia, far from their
own South Land and from the girls to whom they plighted their troth
that last night in the harbour of Alexandria beneath the starry
Egyptian sky.

General Byron, his orderly officer, and myself left the same evening
for Cairo en route for Suez.  Next {11} day we had time to obtain a
fleeting glimpse of the Pyramids, take tea at Shepheards', and be
held to ransom by an energetic British matron who ordered us to
"stand and deliver" in the name of some philanthropic institution
which had not the remotest connection with the War or any suffering
arising out of the War.  The General furnished the soft answer that
turneth away wrath, and with that, plus a small contribution for
supplying wholly unnecessary blankets to the aboriginal inhabitants
of some tropical country, we were allowed to retain the remainder of
our spare cash and to continue our journey in the Land of Egypt.



{12}

CHAPTER II

EGYPT TO THE PERSIAN GULF

Afloat in an insect-house--Captain Kettle in command--Overcrowding
and small-pox--The s.s. _Tower of Babel_--A shark scare--Koweit.


Forty-eight hours after disembarking at Alexandria we were steaming
down the Gulf of Suez on board a second transport bound for the
Persian Gulf.

It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast than that between
the vessel which brought us across the Mediterranean and the one that
was now carrying us towards the portals of the Middle East.  The
latter was a decrepit steamer, indescribably filthy, which had been
running in the China trade for a quarter of a century.  Though
favoured by the mildest of weather, the old tub groaned in every
joint as she thumped her way down the Red Sea towards the Indian
Ocean.  Long overdue for the scrap-heap, when the war broke out she
was turned into a transport, and thenceforth carried cargoes of
British troops instead of Chinese coolies.  Her decks and upper works
were thickly encrusted with dirt, the careful hoarding of years; and
a paint-brush had not touched her for generations.  Her cabins were
so many entomological museums where insect life {13} flourished.  In
the worm-eaten recesses of the woodwork lurked colonies of parasites
gathered from every corner of the globe, fighting for the principle
of self-determination of small nations.  The bathroom door, held in
place by a single rusty hinge, hung at a drunken angle, and the
inflow pipe of the bath was choked with rust.  At night, as you slept
in your bunk, playful mice, by way of establishing friendly
relations, would nibble at your big toe, and a whole family of
cockroaches would attempt new long-distance-sprinting records up and
down the bedclothes.

The Captain of the ship was a sharp-featured ferret-eyed individual
who sometimes wore a collar.  No one knew his exact nationality, but
he bore a tolerable resemblance to Cutcliffe Hyne's immortal "Captain
Kettle."  Indeed, he was said to cultivate this resemblance by every
means in his power.  He had a pointed, unshaven chin; he wore a
much-faded uniform cap tilted over one ear.  On the bridge you would
see him with hands thrust deep in his trouser pockets and chewing a
cigar.  As master of a tramp, he had nosed his way into almost every
port in both hemispheres.  He had traded from China to Peru, and
along the Pacific Coast of America.  In his wanderings he had
acquired a Yankee accent and a varied and picturesque polyglot
vocabulary which, when the floodgates of his wrath were opened, he
turned with telling effect upon his Lascar crew or his European
officers.  He was a man of moods and {14} strange oaths, a good
seaman with a marked taste for poker and magazine literature of the
cheap sensational kind.

Such, then, was our ship, and such its skipper!  When we had arrived
at Suez, where we embarked, there were several cases of smallpox
amongst its Lascar firemen.  The Embarkation Officer had feared
infection, and had hesitated to send us on board; but he was
overruled by a higher authority somewhere in Egypt or England.  There
was no other transport available, it was said; the units for India
and for Persia were urgently needed; and, smallpox or no smallpox,
sail we must--and did.

The ship was terribly overcrowded.  The Indian troops "pigged it"
aft; the British troops were accommodated in the hold; and those of
the officers who were unable to find quarters elsewhere unstrapped
their camp bed and slept on deck.  Fortunately it was the cool season
in the Red Sea; the days were warm, but not uncomfortably so; and the
nights were sharp and bracing, the head-wind which we carried with us
all the way to Aden keeping the thermometer from climbing beyond the
normal.

Once clear of Suez everybody settled down to work, a very useful
relief to the discomforts of life on an overcrowded transport.
Youthful subalterns joining the Indian Army set themselves to study
Hindustani grammars and vocabularies with the valiant intention of
acquiring colloquial proficiency before they even sighted Bombay.
Members of the {15} Bagdad Party, stimulated by this exhibition of
industry, tackled Persian and Russian.  We had two officers who
offered themselves as teachers of the language of Iran--Lieutenant
Akhbar, a native-born Persian whose English home was at Manchester,
and Captain Cooper of the Dorsets, who had studied Oriental tongues
in England, and had been wounded at Gallipoli in a hand-to-hand fight
with the Turks.

For Russian also there was no lack of teachers, the Russian officers,
Captain Eve, and I taking charge of classes.  In my own section,
elementary Russian, I had twenty-two N.C.O.'s as eager and willing
pupils.  The majority were Australians, and, although dismayed at
first by the bizarre appearance of the unfamiliar characters, and the
seemingly unsurmountable difficulties of what one Anzac aptly
described as "this upside-down language," they put their backs into
it with very remarkable results, plodding away at their lessons hour
after hour with unwearying zeal.  Some had picked up a smattering of
"Na Poo" French on the Western Front; a few spoke French fairly well;
but the majority knew no foreign language at all; yet the quick alert
Australian brain captured the entire Russian alphabet in forty-eight
hours after beginning the preliminary assault.

I have sometimes thought since that to the Gods on High our ship must
have appeared a sort of floating Tower of Babel, so intent on
speaking strange tongues were each and all.

Before we reached the Indian Ocean, one of the {16} ship's officers
disappeared in a mysterious manner.  He was missed from the bridge at
midnight and, although diligent search was made, no trace of him was
ever found, and it had to be assumed that he had jumped or fallen
overboard.  Our Goanese stewards who were Christians looked upon this
incident with the greatest misgivings.  Knowing the superstitions of
the Lascar crew, they secretly felt that the missing officer had been
thrown overboard by some of them to placate a huge shark that had
been following the ship for days.  The Lascars have a great dread of
such company at sea.  To their untutored minds this voracious brute
following a vessel foretells death to someone on board; so better a
sacrificial victim than perhaps one of themselves!

Personally, I do not think for a moment that Lascar superstition was
responsible for the disappearance of the missing man, nor that these
people are given to the propitiation of the Man-Eaters of the Red
Sea.  But when, two nights later, one of the Lascars vanished as
mysteriously as had the ship's officer, and this too in calm weather,
it looked as if some Evil Spirit had found a place on board.
Stewards and crew now became terrified.  The former would not venture
alone on the deck at night, and the Lascars, sorely puzzled over the
fate of their comrade, went about their work in fear and trembling.

This dread of the mysterious and the unseen became contagious and
affected others outside the ship's company.  Subalterns who had been
sleeping {17} on hammocks slung close to the ship's rail and whose
courage had been proved on many a field, now decided that, shark
worship or no shark worship, they would be safer elsewhere, and
transferred themselves to the 'tween decks.  Anyhow, the Sea Demon
must by this time have been satisfied, for we lost no more of our
personnel.

We arrived off Koweit in the Gulf of Persia on March 1st, seventeen
days after leaving Suez.

Koweit, or Kuwet, is an important seaport on the Arabian side at the
south-west angle of the Persian Gulf, about eighty miles due south of
Basra, our port of destination.  Kuwet is the diminutive form of Kut,
a common term in Irak for a walled village, and the port lies in the
south side of a bay twenty miles long and five miles wide.  Seen
through our glasses it did not seem a prepossessing place, for the
bare stony desert stretched away for miles behind the town.  Yet only
by accident had it escaped greatness.  In 1850 General Chesny, who
knew these parts by heart, recommended it as the terminus of his
proposed Euphrates Valley Railway; and, when the extension of the
Anatolian Railway to Bagdad and the Gulf was mooted, Koweit was long
regarded as a possible terminus.  But the War altered all that, and
it is doubtful now if Koweit, which lives by its sea commerce alone,
will even achieve the distinction of becoming the terminal point of a
branch line of the railway which is destined to link up two
continents.

{18}

The Turks and Germans have long had their eyes open to the great
possibilities of Koweit.  The former in 1898 attempted a military
occupation, but were warned off by the British, and abandoned their
efforts to obtain a foothold in this commercial outpost of the Gulf,
while the ruling Sheikh was sagacious enough to be aware of the
danger of Turkish absorption, and to avert it by placing his
dominions under the protection of Great Britain.  The
German-subsidized Hamburg-Amerika Line made an eleventh hour attempt
to capture the trade of the Gulf, and in the months immediately
preceding the War devoted special attention to Koweit and Basra
trade, carrying freight at rates which must have meant a heavy
financial loss.  It was all part of the German Weltpolitik to oust us
from these lucrative markets of the Middle East, and to secure for
German shipping a monopoly of the Gulf carrying trade.  With the
German-controlled Bagdad Railway approaching completion, one shudders
to realize what would have been our fate economically, if the
sea-borne trade of Basra and Koweit had passed under the flag and
into the hands of the enterprising Hun.

Basra lies about eighty miles to the north of Koweit.  It is here
that the Shatt el Arab (literally the river of the Arabs, or,
otherwise, the commingled Euphrates and Tigris) empties itself into
the Persian Gulf.  Vessels with a greater draught than nineteen feet
cannot easily negotiate the bar.  Our own transport was bound for
Bombay, so it was with a feeling {19} of thankfulness that we quitted
her for ever and were transferred to a British India liner, the
_Erinrupy_, which since the beginning of the War has been used as a
hospital ship.  She was spick and span, and the general air of
cleanliness was so marked after the filthy tub that had conveyed us
from Suez that we trod her decks and ventured into her cabins with an
air of apologetic timidity.

It was half a day's run up river to Basra.  Next morning we were
speeding along with the swirling brown waters of the Shatt el Arab
lapping our counter, the land of Iran on our right, and that of Irak
on our left.  It grew warmer, and there was a good deal of moisture
in the air.  The low flat shores, cut up by irrigation canals, were
covered by date-palm groves.  Dhows and other strange river craft,
laden with merchandise, dotted the surface of the brown waters, and
the glorious green of the foreshores was a welcome relief to eyes
tired of the arid sterility of the Arabian shore.  A few miles below
Basra we steered a careful course, passing the sunken hulls of two
Turkish gunboats which the enemy had submerged in the fairway in the
hope of blocking the river channel and preventing the victorious
British maritime and war flotillas from reaching Basra.  Like most
other operations undertaken by the Turks the effort was badly
bungled, and the channel was left free to our ships.



{20}

CHAPTER III

THE CITY OF SINBAD

Arrival at Basra--A city of filth--Transformation by the
British--Introducing sport to the natives--The Arabs and the cinema.


Basra or Busra, the Bastra of Marco Polo, and for ever linked with
the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor, is one of the most important
ports of Asiatic Turkey, and sits on the right bank of the Shatt el
Arab a short distance below the confluence of the Tigris and the
Euphrates.

It is built on low-lying marshy land where the malarial mosquito
leads an energetic and healthy life.  Basra proper is about a mile
from the river, up a narrow and malodorous creek, and when the tide
is out the mud of this creek cries out in strange tongues.  The
natives, however, seem to thrive upon its nauseating vapours.  It is
at once the source of their water supply and the receptacle for
sewerage.  In this delectable spot, as indeed throughout Asiatic
Turkey and Persia, sanitary science is still unborn, and the streets
are the dumping-ground for refuse.

The long, narrow bellem, with its pointed prow, in general appearance
not unlike a gondola, is the chief means of communication between the
Shatt {21} el Arab and Basra itself.  If the tide is low, the Arab in
charge poles up or down stream, and when you arrive at your
destination you generally pick your way through festering mud to the
landing-place.

One's first feelings are of wonder and bewilderment that the entire
population has not long ago been wiped out by disease.  Going up and
down stream at low tide I have seen Arab women rinsing the salad for
the family meal side by side with others dealing with the family
washing.  Then the bellem boy, thirsty, would lean over the side of
the craft, scoop up a handful or two of the water, and drink it.  As
successors to the dirty and lazy Turk the British in occupation of
Basra have set themselves to remedy this state of affairs, but it is
uphill work.  Manners and customs of centuries are not easily laid
aside, and your Asiatic sniffs suspiciously at anything labelled
Sanitary Reform, while the very mention of the word Hygiene sounds to
him like blasphemy against the abominations with which he loves to
surround himself.  The Turk never bothered his head whether the
inhabitants lived in unhealthy conditions.  When an epidemic broke
out and carried off a certain proportion of the population, the
Turkish Governor would bow his head in meek resignation before the
inscrutable will of Allah.

The architecture of Basra is of a distinctly primitive type.  The
houses are built chiefly of sun-dried bricks, and the roofs are flat,
covered with mud laid {22} over rafters of date-wood and surrounded
by a low parapet.

Basra had been used as the British base for the advance against the
Turks on the Tigris.  From here had been rationed the army and the
guns that reconquered Kut and opened the difficult road to Bagdad.
The magician's wand of the British soldier-wallah wrought wonders in
the place.  Malarial swamps were filled in, and hospitals and
administrative buildings erected.  Wharves equipped with giant cranes
sprang into being on the quayside, and, as we were landed, the busy
river scene, with fussy tugs towing huge laden barges, and the
quayside packed with transports, irresistibly recalled some populous
port in the Antipodes or Britain itself, rather than the seaside
capital of a vilayet in Asiatic Turkey.

That Basra had a great future in store for it as a shipping centre
was early recognized by Major-General Sir George McMunn, who for some
time held the post of Inspector-General of Lines of Communications at
Basra.  He was one of those rare soldiers with a genius for
organization and a capacity for bringing to bear upon big problems a
wide range of outlook, and he was never hampered by those military
trammels which often mar the professional soldier and make a good
general an exceedingly bad civil administrator.  So General McMunn
set to work to give Basra an impetus along the path of commercial
progress.  He planned a model city {23} which was to include
residential and business sites, electric tramways, modern hotels, and
public parks.  It was a stupendous undertaking, but McMunn
accomplished much in the face of great financial difficulties.  He
endowed Basra with a first-class hotel run by a chef and an hotel
staff recruited from London, installed electric light, gave the
evil-smelling town a vigorous spring-cleaning, and with stone
quarried in Arabia buried beneath stout paving the slimy mud of some
of the Basra streets.

Ashar which fronts the Shatt el Arab is really the business centre of
Basra.  Its bazaars running parallel with Basra Creek are dark,
evil-smelling, and over-crowded by human bipeds who swarm about ant
fashion, and are born, live, and die in these purlieus.

In the course of an hour during the busy part of the day you can
count on meeting representatives of all the races and creeds of Asia
in the streets and bazaars of Ashar or lower Basra.  Here ebbs and
flows the flotsam of the East--Jews, Arabs, Armenians, Kurds,
Persians, Chaldeans (merchants or traffickers these!), and coolies
from India, Burma, and China, with wanderers from the remote khanates
of Russian Turkestan, the latter in quaint headdress and wearing
sheepskin coats whose vicinity is rather trying to sensitive noses
when the thermometer is well above eighty in the shade.

General Byron, with Major Newcombe of the Canadian Contingent,
Captain Eve, some other members of our party, and myself were
quartered in {24} the old Turkish cavalry barracks, while the
remainder went into camp at Makina, two miles out.  The Turks, it is
true, were gone never to return, but in the honeycombed recesses of
the crumbling dust-covered walls of Ashar barracks their troopers had
left behind many old friends who, from the very first, displayed an
envenomed animosity towards us, and attacked British officers and men
with a vigour which the Turkish Army itself had never excelled.
Every night raiding parties, defying alike our protective mosquito
nets and the poison-gas effect of Keating's, found their way into our
beds; and every morning we would crawl from between the sheets
bearing visible marks of these night forays.

It is always said, and generally believed, that the British signalize
their occupation of a country by laying down a cricket pitch and
building a church.  They did all these things and more at Basra.
There was a garrison church, a simple building with a special care
for the temperature of a Gulf Sunday.  There were several sports
clubs, and one at Makina, which might be called the suburb of Ashar,
had good tennis courts.  Beyond, in the desert, was a racecourse
where the local Derby and Grand National were run off.

The ordinary native of Iran and of the "Land of the Two Rivers" has
not hitherto shown any marked taste for either mild or violent
physical exercise.  But Basra, I found, was a noted exception to
this, and youth of the place were badly bitten by the {25} sports
mania.  As the doctors would say, "the disease spread with alarming
rapidity, and spared neither young nor old."  After a few weeks
devoted to picking up points as spectators at "soccer" matches, a
native team would secure possession of a rather battered football and
start work, "Basra Mixed" trying conclusions with "Ashar Bazaar," for
example.  The rules were neither Rugby nor Association, but a local
extemporization of both; and the dress was not the classic costume of
the British football field, but a medley of all the garbs of Asia.
Stately Arabs in long flowing robes, suffering from the prevailing
sports fever, would forget their dignity to the extent of running
after a football and trying to kick it.  Chaldean Christian would
mingle in the scrum with Jew and Mussulman.  Individual players
sometimes received the kick intended for the ball.  Off the field
this would have led to racial trouble and perhaps bloodshed, but as a
rule these slight departures from the strict football code were
accepted in the best possible spirit, being regarded no doubt as part
of the game itself.

Of course things did not always run so smoothly.  Sometimes the ball
was entirely lost sight of, and lay lonely and isolated in some
corner of the field, while the players would resolve themselves into
a sort of Pan-Asian congress on the ethics of games in general.
Everyone spoke at once and in his own tongue.  On such occasions a
passing British soldier would be summoned to assist at the
deliberations, {26} and in "Na Poo" Arabic would straighten out the
tangle.  Then play would be resumed, everybody bowing to the superior
wisdom of the soldier sahib, and accepting his decision
unquestioningly.

The youth of Basra, more precocious than their elders, converted the
streets of Ashar into a playing-ground where tip-cat, bat and ball,
marbles, diabolo, and sundry other forms of juvenile recreation found
eager devotees at all hours of the day in narrow streets generally
crowded with army transport.

The cinema also exercised a great influence on the native mind.
Never quite understanding its working, he accepted it all
philosophically as part of the travelling outfit of that strange race
of infidels from far away who had chased the Turks from the shores of
the Arabian Sea, who seemed to be able to make themselves into birds
at will, and who rushed over the roadless desert in snorting
horseless carriages.  Men such as these were capable of anything, and
when the first cinema film arrived, the Arabs filled to overflowing
the ramshackle building which served as a theatre.  In Basra I often
went to the cinema, not so much for the show itself as to watch the
joy with which that primitive child of nature, the Arab, followed the
mishaps and triumphs of the hero through three reels.  How they were
moved to tears by his sufferings!  And how they shouted with joy when
the villain of the piece was hoist by his own petard and his career
of rascality abruptly and fittingly terminated!

{27}

One thing, I found on talking to some of these native onlookers,
puzzled their minds exceedingly, and that was the morals and manners
of European women as shown on the screen.  The Arab is a fervent
stickler for the conventionalities, and it was a great shock to his
religious scruples to see women promenading in low-necked dresses
with uncovered faces, frequenting restaurants with strange men not
their husbands, and imbibing strong drink.  "The devil must be kept
busy in Faringistan raking all these shameless creatures into the
bottomless pit!" said one Arab to me, when I asked him what he
thought of the cinema.  It was useless to seek to explain that cinema
scenes did not represent the real life of the Englishman or the
American, and that all our women do not earn their living as cinema
artists.

In Basra I never saw a Mohammedan woman frequenting a cinema
performance.  Even had she won over her husband's consent to such an
innovation, public opinion would veto her presence there, and she
would not be permitted to look upon this devil's machine illustrating
foreign "wickedness."



{28}

CHAPTER IV

AT A PERSIAN WEDDING

Visit to the Sheikh of Mohammerah--A Persian banquet.


A few miles below Basra, on the Persian shore, at the point where the
Karun River joins the Shatt el Arab, are the semi-independent
dominions of the Sheikh of Mohammerah.  His territory is part and
parcel of the moribund Persian Empire, but the Sheikh has long held
independent sway, and has ruled his little kingdom with Oriental
grandeur and benevolent despotism.  He is a firm and convinced friend
of the British, and even at the darkest hour of our military fortunes
in the Gulf, when it seemed as if we might be driven from the lower
Tigris itself, the Sheikh was proof against Turkish intrigue and the
corrupting influence of Hun gold.

His Excellency the Khazal Khan, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E., to give him his
full title, like most Persian potentates in the tottering, crumbling
Empire of Iran, where the writ of the present "King of Kings" does
not run beyond the walls of Teheran, held undisputed sway over his
little state, and his authority was enforced by a nondescript army of
retainers.  But he was a {29} generous host, a firm friend, and an
unforgiving enemy.

One week-end while at Basra I was one of a few British officers
invited to assist at the elaborate festivities which precede a
Persian marriage.  The contemplated matrimonial alliance was intended
to unite the family of the Sheikh and that of Haji Reis, his Grand
Vizier or Prime Minister.  In the small party that dropped down the
river on one of His Majesty's gunboats, were the Admiral of the
Station, one or two generals, the Political Officer, the liaison
officer between the Indian Government and the ruler of Mohammerah,
and my friend Akhbar, a Persian from Manchester who had joined up
early in the War.  As we dropped down stream past the Palace, a
salute was fired in our honour by the Sheikh's artillery-men with a
couple of old six-pounders.  An antediluvian Persian gunboat dipped
her ensign as we steamed past.  It was the first time I had seen a
warship or indeed any other vessel flying the Persian flag, and I
regarded her with interest.  Akhbar, who despite his British uniform
and his long residence amongst us, remained always an ardent Persian,
professed to be very much hurt by some chance observations of mine
directed at the river gunboat and the Persian navy in general.

The Palace was a rectangular building, with stuccoed front, standing
back from the water and approached by a winding stone staircase.  On
landing we were received by the chief dignitaries of the {30} place
with the Grand Vizier at their head.  There was much bowing and
salaaming, and it was here that I first made acquaintance with that
elaborate code of official and social ceremony which surrounds every
act of one's life in Persia.  A guard of honour from the Sheikh's
household troops made a creditable attempt to present arms as we
stepped ashore.  More soldiers lined the stairway leading to the
reception room.  They wore a variety of uniforms, and were armed with
everything in the way of rifles, from antiquated Sniders to modern
Mausers and Lee-Enfields.  Like most of the irregulars that we
encountered in Persia afterwards, they fairly bristled with
bandoliers stuffed full of cartridges.  A Persian on the war-path, be
he tribal chief or simple armed follower, is generally a walking
arsenal.  He is full of lethal weapons which nearly always include a
rifle of some kind and a short stabbing sword with an inlaid hilt.
He often displays a Mauser pistol as well, and usually carries enough
ammunition hung round him to equip a decent-sized small-arms factory.

The Sheikh himself received us in the main reception hall, which was
covered with rare Persian carpets, any single one of which would be
worth a small fortune in London.  The Prime Minister and his son, we
found, spoke excellent English, and the former, who was wearing the
conventional frock coat of the Occident, but no shirt collar,
presented each visitor in turn to our Arab host, a man just past {31}
middle life with all the stately grace and dignity of his Bedouin
forebears.  He was dressed in native costume; his manners were easy
and full of charm.  He had a dark, olive-tinted face, black beard and
wonderful lustrous black eyes.  A strict adherent of the Shi'ite
sect, and an abstainer from strong drink himself, he was,
nevertheless, not averse to supplying it to his Western guests.  The
Grand Vizier during his sojourn in Europe had evidently studied our
customs and civilization _au fond_.  Apart from a knowledge of the
English language and literature, he had brought back with him a fine
and discriminating taste in the matter of aperitifs, knew to a nicety
the component parts of a Martini cocktail, and was a profound
connoisseur of Scotch whisky.  Our party had few dull moments with
the Grand Vizier as cicerone, and our admiration for his versatility
rose by leaps and bounds.

The dinner was _à la fourchette_.  It is not always so in hospitable
Persia where, as a rule, host and guests sit in a circle on the floor
and help themselves with the aid of their fingers.  Here everything
had been arranged in European fashion, and the long table was topped
by a rampart of specially prepared dishes with a lavishness that was
truly Oriental.  It is a Persian custom to supply five times more
food than one's guests can possibly consume.  What remains becomes
the perquisite of the servants of the household.

According to Persian etiquette a son may not sit {32} down in the
presence of his father, so the bridegroom-elect had no place at the
board, and his active participation in the banquet was limited to
carrying out the duties of chief butler and waiting upon the guests.
It was hot and exhausting work, in the intervals of which he
liberally helped himself from a black bottle which stood on a table
behind the Grand Vizier's chair.  Barefooted servitors passed nimbly
along the table, and saw to it that their master's guests wanted for
nothing.  A plate was emptied only to be speedily replenished.

We saw nothing of the bride-to-be.  She played but a minor part in
the evening's entertainment.  Nor were any other women of the
household to be seen.  At one end of the banqueting hall was a
heavily curtained aperture.  Occasionally this was furtively drawn
aside an inch or two, and a woman's veiled face would appear for an
instant, and as quickly disappear.  It was the private view allowed
to the bride and her girl friends.

The menu was inordinately long.  Dish succeeded dish, and eat we must
unless we wished to cause dire offence to our host.  He himself,
seated at the middle of the table, ate sparingly and drank but water,
his air of quiet impassivity giving place to a smile from time to
time as he listened to some Persian _bon mot_ or other from one of
his neighbours.

The Sheikh excelled as a host.  No sooner was the banquet at an end
than he told us that a display of {33} fireworks had been arranged in
our honour.  Seats had been placed for the visitors on the long
veranda at the back of the palace and facing the extensive grounds.
No Persian feast is held to be complete without a pyrotechnic display
of some kind, and that organized for our pleasure would have done
credit to the best efforts of Brock or Pain.

There were Catherine-wheels, rockets, and welcoming mottoes in
Persian and English which flared up merrily, until the whole grounds
were one blaze of light.

The retainers entered fully into the spirit of the affair.  Clad in
fireproof suits, they were hung round with squibs which were set
alight, and then the human Catherine-wheels carried out an
astonishing series of somersaults, to the intense delight of the
native portion of the audience.  An English gunnery instructor, aided
by native workmen with material from the Sheikh's arsenal, had been
responsible for the pyrotechnic part of the entertainment.

In the meantime the banqueting hall had been cleared, and presently
we were conducted thither, where, to the strains of a Persian
orchestra, native dancing boys showed their skill in a series of
emotional and highly sensuous gyrations.  These youths were of a
distinctly effeminate appearance in their long flowing Persian robes,
and there was a look of brazen abandon in their more than suggestive
evolutions as they whirled round and round on the floor.

{34}

To these succeeded a quartette of Armenian girls in bright-hued
raiment and low-necked dresses, their bare bosoms covered with cheap
jewellery, their hair and costumes studded with glittering sequins,
and their ankles encircled by gilt metal bracelets giving them an air
of tawdriness and unspeakable vulgarity.  Their movements were
graceful, with a certain artistic crudeness.  To the clash of
cymbals, and with a jingling of their sequins and anklets, two would
whirl round the dancing hall, until sheer physical exhaustion
compelled them to seek a temporary respite on a divan; whereupon they
would be succeeded on the floor by the other pair who had been
awaiting their turn.  This dancing by relays went on until the early
hours of the morning, and we began to be alarmed lest it should
continue for the duration of the War.  Etiquette forbade us to leave,
so we did our best and stuck it out to the end.  In the tobacco-laden
atmosphere, with the temperature distinctly sultry, and the windows
hermetically sealed I made a desperate but ineffectual attempt to
fight off drowsiness.  At last I succumbed and dreamt that I was in
the Paradise of Mahomet listening to the music of the houris
entertaining some of the newly arrived Faithful.

I woke with a start, for someone had prodded me in the ribs and told
me it was time to go, and by a swift transition I found myself back
at Mohammerah and our party bidding adieu to our kindly host and his
Grand Vizier.

{35}

It was too dark to attempt the passage of the river back to Basra, so
we crossed over to the house of Mr. Lincoln of the British Consulate
on the right bank of the Karun river and spent the remainder of the
night under his hospitable roof.



{36}

CHAPTER V

UP THE TIGRIS TO KUT

Work of the river flotilla--Thames steamboats on the Tigris--The
waterway through the desert--The renaissance of Amarah--The river's
jazz-step course--The old Kut and the new--In Townshend's old
headquarters--Turks' monument to short-lived triumph.


Our stay at Ashar barracks was of brief duration.  A week after
landing in Basra we received orders from General Headquarters to
proceed to Bagdad immediately, but steamer accommodation was limited,
and it was found impossible to embark the whole of our party at once.
However, a compromise was effected with the Local Embarkation
Officer, and place was found on an up-river steamer for our first
contingent, consisting of General Byron, twenty-four other officers
(of whom I was one), and forty N.C.O's.

Our transport was an antiquated paddle steamer, broad of beam, and
the whole of her one deck was packed with troops bound for up-river
like ourselves.  In addition, she towed, moored on either side, two
squat barges filled with troops and supplies.

The navigation of the Tigris, even in peace time, {37} when the river
is unencumbered, is a hazardous undertaking.  Its lower reaches are
flat and winding, and when it is in flood the banks are submerged.
The stream follows an erratic course, occasionally striking out on an
entirely fresh one, and the search for the new channel is often
attended with disaster for the daring river mariner.  Yet up and down
the stream between Kut and Basra British seamen have zigzagged their
way by sheer pluck and perseverance, dumping down men and supplies at
the advanced base with unfailing regularity.  The admirable part
played by these river skippers of the Tigris has never been told, and
so has never been properly appreciated by their countrymen at home.
Day and night they toiled to hurry up the needed reinforcements to
the hard-pressed battle line in Mesopotamia, and to feed the army
that was driving the Turk from the "Land of the Two Rivers."  Drawn
from all parts of the Empire, they worthily represented the pluck,
courage, and unyielding tenacity of the British race.  Had it not
been for the river skippers of the Tigris, shy, unostentatious men,
sparing of speech and indifferent to praise, the Mesopotamian
Campaign must have ended abortively; Kut could never have been
retaken, and the Turks would still have been in Bagdad.

The despatches of victorious generals in Mesopotamia have been full
of references to valuable aid and service rendered by units and
individuals, but, it seems to me, they have entirely overlooked the
{38} great contribution of the men of the Tigris River Flotilla, who
have apparently been left without reward or recognition.

In the waterway of the Shatt el Arab itself, and before we entered
the Tigris proper, we passed scores of river craft.  There were dhows
laden to the gunwale with river produce being carried swiftly down by
the current towards Basra market.  Here was an antiquated
sternwheeler with her lashed barges alongside, like an old woman with
parcels tucked under her arms, going to the base to load up supplies.
And, most wonderful of all, here was a London County Council steamer,
the _Christopher Wren_, which had abandoned the Thames for the Tigris
and the carrying of happy trippers from Blackfriars to Kew for the
transporting of Mr. Thomas Atkins and his kit part of the long river
journey towards Bagdad.  Some of the Tommies on our steamer eyed her
enviously.  Here was a touch of the far-distant homeland under
Eastern skies!  There was a suspicion of a tear in some sentimental
eyes, but the wag of the party scored a laugh when he megaphoned with
his hands to the skipper of the Wren, "I'm for Battersea, I am!"

A number of these L.C.C. boats had come out from London under their
own steam, making the long voyage to the Gulf and Basra through the
Bay of Biscay and across the Mediterranean and Red Seas, buffeted by
wind and wave, but without losing any of their personnel or suffering
any material {39} damage.  It was a triumph of seamanship and British
pluck.

The banks of the Tigris, and indeed of the Euphrates, at certain
seasons of the year are surely the most desolate places on the
habitable earth.  The date-palm plantations of the Shatt el Arab are
succeeded by a monotonous landscape of dull brown desert stretching
away as far as the eye can see.  To our right, as we wound and
twisted our way up river, we occasionally caught a glimpse of the
snow-clad mountains of Persia.  Dotted here and there along the banks
are Arab villages, which seemed to be a conglomeration of goats,
sheep, and dusky-brown naked children, all thrown confusedly into the
picture.  By way of variation, now and then we swept past a desert
oasis, where stood a few stunted palm-trees near which a tribe of
nomads had set up their black tents of goat's-hair and were spending
a week-end on the river bank before trekking afresh into the heart of
the desert.

Your real Arab nomad is essentially a child of nature.  He spends his
life in the wilderness and has a rooted objection--nay, it is, in
truth, a positive terror--to visiting any town, big or little.  He
has an undefinable dread of venturing within a walled city,
apparently regarding it in much the same way as a wild bird would
regard an iron-barred cage.  Any restriction of movement is irksome
to him.  He loves the free life of the desert, with its limitless
possibilities, its far-stretching horizon, and its absence {40} of
streets and houses.  He is of the tribe of Ishmael, destined to
wander on and on, ever remote from the haunts of his fellow-man.

The semi-nomad, on the other hand, is less intractable, and does not
chafe so much under the yoke of Western civilization.  He is frugal,
sober, and thrifty.  We passed hundreds of his tribe who live on the
banks of the Tigris, cultivating a patch of arable land, and using a
wooden plough which must have been old-fashioned even in the days of
that earliest recorded agriculturist, Cain.

We groped a tedious way along the sinuous Tigris, missing by a foot
or two a down-river steamer and its lashed barges, making fair
headway against the swirling waters which swept past us with the
speed of a millstream.  The current carried us from side to side,
first bumping one bank, and then cannoning against the opposite one,
until it seemed as if the stout lashings of our captive barges must
be torn away.  Where the river was especially narrow, we would tie up
to the bank and give right-of-way to a convoy going down stream.  At
night, too, we would either tie up or anchor inshore, and at daylight
would be off again.

In the bright clear atmosphere it was possible to see objects many
miles distant.  Ofttimes we would catch sight of a steamer away to
our right or left, looking for all the world as if she were making an
overland trip and was stuck fast in the middle of the waterless
desert.  But the seeming mystery was {41} explained by the winding
course of the river, which can only be likened to a series of figures
of eight.

It took us about thirty hours to reach Amarah, which lies on both
banks of the Tigris and, by reason of its position, had become an
important coaling-centre on the lower part of the stream.  There was
an air of bustle and activity about the place, for British
organization had descended upon it and rudely awakened it from the
sleep of centuries.  British military and native police controlled
the town, and kept the more mischievous of the unruly Arab elements
in order.  A swing-bridge had been thrown across the river to carry
vehicular traffic.  River steamers were moored at the quays, taking
in or discharging cargo, and Indian and Arab coolies sweated in the
sun as they hurried along with great burdens on their backs.

Our way to camp led through the Bazaar, which may, I think, lay claim
to be one of the filthiest and most malodorous in all the "Land of
the Two Rivers."  It had rained heavily the previous night, and now
the unpaved roadway through the main bazaar was a foot deep in liquid
mud.  The average native was wholly unconcerned and, while we picked
our steps carefully, mentally consigning Amarah and its abominable
streets to perdition, barefooted Arab women, wearing anklets of
silver, with a pendant through one nostril, and in their finest
raiment, would plod contentedly through this mire as if it were a
rose-bestrewn path.  Tiny mites with no more clothing than a {42}
string of beads gave each other mud baths with the joy and enthusiasm
of children sporting in the sea at some European watering-place.

Still, if Amarah disgusted us with its muddy streets and
evil-smelling bazaars, it had some compensating advantages, amongst
them its British Officers' Club.  In a desert of dirt and discomfort
this was a veritable oasis, with its excellent cuisine, and smoking
and reading rooms provided with the latest three-months-old
newspapers and magazines.  It stands on the river front, and from its
roof-garden a fine panorama opens at one's feet.  In the foreground
are the busy river and the crowded quayside, and on the opposite bank
the white tents of the British camps blend with the dark green of the
date-palms.  Still farther beyond, as a background to the picture, is
the dun-brown of the desert wastes.

A wet camp is at all times an abomination, and our first night at
Amarah was not a pleasant experience.  The transit camp is on a sort
of peninsula, and a few hours' rain converted it into a lake of mud.
We were housed in huts whose shape recalled a miniature Crystal
Palace, and whose semi-circular sides and roof were thatched with
palm netting.  In the hut which I shared with Major Newcombe and
Captain Eve, during the early hours of the morning a heavy shower
poured through the roof as if it were a sieve.  In the darkness there
was a scramble over the muddy floor in quest of waterproof sheets and
raincoats with which to set up a second line of defence for {43} our
leaky roof.  Afterwards we all laughed heartily at the experience,
but at the time we were inclined to be wrathful, for an unexpected
and unlooked-for shower-bath in bed at 2 a.m., even on active
service, may ruffle the mildest of tempers.

From Amarah to Kut we went by river, the journey occupying three
days.  The military-constructed railway which has since been opened
does the journey in ten or twelve hours.  Our steamer, No. 95, was a
comfortable one of her class for Tigris river travelling.  Indeed in
this part of the world she would be listed as de luxe, inasmuch as
she possessed cabin accommodation and actually had a bathroom.  The
trip itself was but a slight variation of the monotonous river
journey to Amarah.  There were the same flat stretches of country now
and again relieved by a few palm-trees; the white tents of a British
river guard, a link in this long-drawn-out line of communications; or
some Arab village with its grouping of dilapidated palm-roofed huts,
its barking curs, and its mud-brown naked children.  Occasionally
down by the banks there was a fringe of green where some native
cultivator, aided by the water from an irrigation canal, was rearing
a hardy spring crop.

As on its lower reaches, the river pursued a devious path across the
face of the country until one grew giddy with attempting to follow
its windings.  The Tigris is a most impulsive stream; it obeys no
will but its own, and is as erratic as any river of its size in the
world.  However, as Kut is approached on the {44} up journey, it
broadens out into noble proportions, swift and deep, and for a few
miles behaves rationally, abandoning its geographical jazz-step over
the Mesopotamian plains.

Kut--the scene of Townshend's immortal stand, with his handful of
troops diminished daily by famine and disease, holding off to the
last a powerful enemy--is situated at the end of a tongue of land at
a point where the Tigris, taking a mighty sweep, mingles its waters
with those of the Shatt el Hai.

But a new Kut, a British Kut, a town of tents and wooden huts and
galvanized iron buildings, has sprung into being three miles below
the tottering walls of Turkish Kut, and about two miles from
Townshend's advanced trench line.  In British Kut there are rough
wooden piers, hastily built, it is true, where the river steamers
moor, few attempting the difficult passage from Kut to Bagdad.  Kut
is also an important railway junction, for the troops bound up river
were disembarked here, and stepped from the steamer deck into the
waiting troop-trains.

We went up river in a motor launch, General Byron, Major Newcombe,
Captain Eve, and myself, to visit Townshend's famous stronghold.  It
was with a feeling of emotion that we disembarked at the old stone
pier of Kut, and made our way along its broken unpaved streets, past
its crumbling wall, to the centre of the town.  The route led through
the main business centre--it could hardly be called a bazaar--where
merchants and money-changers plied {45} their trades, and a blind
beggar in rags sat under the lee of a wall, with the sun shining full
on his sightless eye-sockets, droning a supplication for alms.  The
wave of red war had passed and repassed over Kut, leaving it scorched
and maimed.  Turk and Briton had fought for supremacy round and about
it, but that was more than a year ago, and Kut now dozed sleepily in
the hot afternoon sun, beginning already to forget the past and, with
the calm philosophic indifference of the East, accepting as a
predestined part of its daily life the Standard of Britain which had
replaced the Crescent of the Turk.

The Arab policemen who guarded its unkempt streets were serving their
new masters faithfully, and those we passed, spick and span in
spotless khaki and tarbooshes, by their alert and soldierly bearing
gave unmistakable evidence of having graduated from the school of
that efficient, exacting, and most conscientious of mortals, the
British drill instructor.

Presently, guided by a Staff Officer from the base headquarters, we
came to the house of the Hero of Kut.  It was an unpretentious
dwelling, flat-roofed, and built of sun-dried bricks, with nothing
much to distinguish it from its hundreds of neighbours.  Descending a
steep flight of steps, we came to the Serdab or underground apartment
common to most Mesopotamian houses, where the occupants hide for
shelter during the hottest hours of the blistering summer day.  The
room was bare of adornment--a few chairs, a divan, and a table
covered with official {46} papers--that was all.  It was now the home
of the local Political Officer, but it had changed little, if any,
since its former illustrious occupant walked out of it and up those
stone steps--his proud spirit unbroken, his heart heavy, but his
courage undimmed--to pass a captive into the hands of the Turks.

None of our party could lay any special claim to be sentimental but,
standing there in the narrow underground room with its hallowed
associations, where a very gallant British General, the foe without
and disease and hunger within--he, too, alas! another victim of
high-placed incompetency--planned and schemed during those dark days
of the siege to break the throttling grip of the Turk, we felt we
were upon holy ground, and every one of us, moved by a common
emotion, raised our hands to our caps in salute.  It was our tribute
of admiration and respect for Townshend and his heroes--for the men
who perished so nobly, no less than for their comrades maimed and
broken who survived the fall of Kut, many of them, unhappily, only to
pass anew through the gate of suffering and to end their lives as
prisoners in the hands of a brutal, ungenerous enemy to whom honour
and compassion are meaningless terms.

It was not every day that the Turks could boast such a victory as
Kut, or that they found themselves with a British General and a
starving British force surrendering to their arms.  Short-lived as
was their triumph, they lost no time in celebrating it by setting up
a commemorative monument.  This stands on the {47} Tigris' bank close
to British Kut and the landing pier, and is in the form of an obelisk
of unhewn stone on a plinth of corresponding material fenced in by an
iron railing.  A few obsolete cannon, the muzzles facing outwards,
are grouped round the base of the monument.  An inscription in
Turkish records the fall of Kut and the capture of Townshend and his
men which, it recounts, was accomplished by the grace of Allah and
the prowess of the besieging Turkish Army.

The next stage of our journey from Kut to Bagdad was a short one.  A
night in a troop-train, and sunrise the following morning saw us
being dumped down at Hinaida Camp on the outskirts of the City of the
Caliphs.



{48}

CHAPTER VI

BAGDAD

Arabian nights and motor-cars--The old and the new in Bagdad--"Noah's
dinghy"--Bible history illustrated--At a famous tomb-mosque.


Who has not heard and read of Bagdad, of its former glory and its
greatness?  I set foot in it for the first time on March 20th, 1918,
the day after the arrival of our little party at Hinaida Transit Camp
on the left bank of the Tigris.

As I tramped across the dusty Hinaida plain towards the belt of palm
groves which veils the city on the east, I had visions of Haroun al
Raschid, and fancied myself coming face to face with the wonders of
the "Arabian Nights."  It was with something of a shock, then, that
on entering the city I encountered khaki-clad figures, and saw Ford
vans and motor lorries tearing wildly along the streets.  In the main
thoroughfare, hard by British Headquarters, a steam roller was
travelling backwards and forwards over the freshly metalled roadway,
completing the work of an Indian Labour Corps; farther on, a watering
cart labelled "Bagdad Municipality" was busily drowning the fine-spun
desert dust that {49} had settled thickly on the newly born
macadamized street.  Here was an Arab café, with low benches on the
inclined plane principle like seats in a theatre, where the occupants
sipped their Mocha from tiny cups, or inhaled tobacco-smoke through
the amber stem of a hubble-bubble, watching the passing show, and
betimes discussing the idiosyncrasies of the strange race of
unbelievers that has settled itself down in the fair city which once
had been the pride of Islam.

Truly a city of contrasts!  Cheek by jowl with the Arab café was an
eating-house full of British soldiers.  The principal street runs
parallel with the river and, as one proceeded, it was possible to
catch glimpses of pleasant gardens running down to the water's edge
and embowering handsome villas--gardens where pomegranates, figs,
oranges, and lemons grew in abundance.  The Oriental readily adapts
himself to changing circumstances, and unhesitatingly abandons the
master of yesterday to follow the new one of to-day.  Already traces
of the Ottoman dominion were being obliterated.  The Turkish language
was disappearing from shop signs to be replaced by English or French,
with, in some cases, a total disregard of etymology, such choice gems
as "Englisch talking lessons," "Stanley Maude wash company" (this
over a laundry), "British tommy shave room," showing at all events a
praiseworthy attempt to wrestle with the niceties of the English
language.

Bagdad as I saw it in the first days following my {50} arrival struck
me as a place whose remains of faded greatness still clung about it.
No one could deny its claim to a certain wild beauty which age, dirt,
and decay have not been able wholly to eliminate.  The glory of the
river scene is unsurpassable.

To see Bagdad at its best one must view it from the balcony of the
British Residency (now General Headquarters).  Here, as you look down
upon the river, the old bridge of boats connecting with the western
bank is on your right, and handsome villas where flowers grow in
profusion, the residences of former Turkish officials or wealthy
citizens, adorn the foreshore.

The river is broad and majestic, and strange craft dot its surface.
Here is a Kufa, in itself a link with antiquity, a circular boat of
basketware covered with bitumen, sometimes big enough to hold ten men
and two or three laden donkeys.  Its cross-river course is decidedly
eccentric.  Propelled by crudely fashioned paddles wielded by sturdy
oarsmen, its progress from shore to shore is leisurely and cumbersome
as, caught into the eddying current, it twirls slowly, with a
rotatory movement, like the dying motion of some giant spinning-top.

The cheerful Thomas Atkins promptly christened the kufa "Noah's
Dinghy," and lost no time in getting afloat therein.  Some of the
Australians at Hinaida Camp organized a kufa regatta, the course
being across river and back, a distance of about two miles.  A
waterproof sheet was attached as a sail {51} by one enterprising
Anzac, but even that did not help to accelerate very appreciably the
snail-like progress of his aquatic tub.  Local tradition avers that
Sinbad the Sailor came spinning down from Bagdad to Basra in a kufa,
when he signed on at the Gulf port for his first ocean voyage.  Who
knows?  Kufas are depicted on some of the old Assyrian monuments.

A close relative surely to the Kufa is the Kellik or Mussik raft of
the upper Tigris.  Constructed of a square framework of wood buoyed
by inflated goat-skins, it is widely utilized as a cargo carrier on
these inland waterways.  Piled high with hay and a miscellaneous
collection of live-stock, it will waddle off down river with a crew
of three or four, and half a dozen or so passengers.  Sometimes the
cargo shifts, or the goat-skin bladders become deflated, and the
kellik, down by the nose or stern, grows more unwieldy than ever.  A
little mishap of this kind never bothers the crew.  They steer for
some convenient point on the river-bank where the water is shallow,
unhitch the defective skins, and inflate them afresh with the unaided
power of their own lungs.  The cargo righted, and the trim of their
cumbersome raft restored, they will push off into midstream and
continue their venturesome journey, logging a steady two knots.

But on an upstream trip it is another story.  Then the laden or empty
kellik has to be towed, and hard work it is to make headway when the
river is in {52} flood and racing down to meet its brother, the
Euphrates, on their joint way to the Gulf.

Going upstream the kellik keeps as close in shore as possible.  Two
men in the boat keep her from going aground, while a couple of others
yoke themselves to a towline and move along the margin of the stream
much like the canal bargees in Holland.  But on the Tigris there is
no well-defined towing path, and the course resolves itself into a
kind of zigzag cross-country obstacle race, and the agility and
dexterity with which these muscular native rivermen harnessed to the
towline of a heavily laden raft will negotiate sunken ground, canal
ditches, tumble-down village walls, and a few other natural hazards
on a stretch of Tigris' river-bank, is extraordinary to behold.  The
life of a galley slave in Carthage must have been a soft snap indeed
compared with that of the dark-skinned toilers who tug at an up-river
kellik under the full force of a Mesopotamian sun.

Bagdad as a city takes us back to the horizon rim of the world's
history.  There still clings to it an air of musty antiquity and
prehistoric dirt which the efforts of its new masters, the British,
with pick-and-shovel sanitary science, and other new-fangled
inventions of Western civilization, have not entirely eradicated.
The beardless invaders from over the seas have sought to scrape clean
its ancient bones, to straighten out the kink in its narrow,
tortuous, and evil-smelling streets, and to let the light of day and
a little wholesome fresh air penetrate into the {53} gloom and
dampness of its rabbit-warren of a bazaar.  Staid, solemn-looking
citizens, with the green turban of Mecca enveloping their venerable
heads, whose ancestors probably drifted in here when overland travel
was resumed after the Flood, have looked on in pious horror while
festering slum areas have been laid low by British pickaxes.  These
Hadjis, fervent believers in tradition, and uncompromising opponents
of innovation, have caressed their beards thoughtfully when
confronted with the new order of things, and come to the philosophic
conclusion that, as Kipling has it, "Allah created the English mad,
the maddest of all mankind."

Biblical history is no longer vague and shadowy, but takes on a new
meaning and an added significance to anyone who explores old Bagdad
with eyes to see.  As I wandered through its bazaars in quest of
antiquities and bargains in bric-à-brac and rare damascened weapons,
I often forgot the primary object of my visit while strolling
silently about contentedly studying the hastening crowds who elbowed
and fought their way along the narrow streets, or watching the
complacent shopkeepers who sat cross-legged in their narrow,
cell-like shops, haggling over prices with some prospective buyer.
It was like throwing Biblical romance and Biblical tragedy on a
cinema screen, only that now it lived and was real flesh and blood.
Here were the descendants of the Jews of the
Captivity--shrewd-looking, sharp-featured merchants, traffickers in
gold and silver, {54} dealers in antiquities, a living link between
that very remote yesterday and the modern to-day, amassing much
wealth in the land of their perpetual exile, carrying on unbrokenly
the religion and traditions of Judaism--in dress, manners, customs,
and speech as unchanged and unchanging as on the day when the heavy
hand of the Babylonian oppressor smote their forbears and they were
led away into slavery.

And here, too, now competing in commercial rivalry with the sons of
Abraham, are lineal descendants of Assyrians, Chaldeans, Medes,
Persians, and of those other warring races who between them made
history in the long ago.

The descendants of the Jews of the Captivity have never wandered far
afield, and it would even seem that they have preferred exile to
repatriation.  Bagdad formed part of Babylonia, and a three hours'
train journey to Hilleh on the Euphrates will land the Bagdad Jew of
an archæological turn of mind amidst the ruins of ancient Babylon.

The Jew venerates Bagdad as a sort of lesser Zion.  It was long the
seat of the Exilarch, and is still the rallying centre of Eastern
Judaism.  Monuments and tombs of the mighty ones of the Chosen Race
are scattered over Lower Mesopotamia.  There is the reputed tomb of
Ezra on the Shatt el Arab near Korna, that of Ezekiel in the village
called Kefil, while the prophet Daniel has a holy well bearing his
name at Hilleh near the ruins of Babylon.  But the chief place of
pious pilgrimage for Bagdad Jews lies {55} in a palm grove an hour's
journey from the city on the Euphrates road.  Here is said to be
buried Joshua, son of Josedech, a high priest towards the end of the
captivity period.

Western Bagdad, on the right bank of the Tigris, always recognizing
and rendering a somewhat sullen obedience to the sway of the Turkish
Sultan, is separated from Eastern Bagdad by much more than the deep
waters of the river.  Its inhabitants for the most part are
Mohammedans of the Shi'ite sect, as opposed to the orthodox or Sunni
creed of the Turks.  The Shias may be described as Islamic
dissenters, and their cult is the state religion of Persia.
Ethnologically and politically they are closer akin to Iran than to
Turkey, and their eyes are more frequently turned to Teheran than to
Istambul.  In Western Bagdad they have their own mosques, their own
bazaars, and their own shrines, and lead lives more or less isolated
from their Asiatic brethren on the opposite side of the river.

During a visit to the famous Shi'ite mosque and shrine at Kazemain, a
suburb of the Western City, I found that the people, while outwardly
friendly and polite, were much more fanatical than the average Sunni
Mussulman, and were inclined to resent any attempt on the part of a
Giaour like myself to see the interior of their mosques and shrines.
I had for companions General Byron and Lieutenant Akhbar, the latter
a professing Shi'ite.  We crossed by the new pontoon swing bridge
which now connects the {56} two shores, superseding the old bridge of
boats of Turkish days.

The houses are huddled together, and are squat and meanly built, with
the low encircling walls and roofed parapets of sun-dried mud so
common to Persian villages.  The streets are barely wide enough for
two pedestrians to pass abreast, and are full of holes or covered
with garbage.  As for the inhabitants, they were miserably clad, and
the few women whom we chanced to encounter in our path hastily
stepped aside and, turning from us, made a furtive effort to veil
themselves by covering the upper part of their faces with a dirty
piece of rag produced from the voluminous folds of a sleeve-pocket.

We did not tarry here very long.  Quitting this waterside hamlet we
drove three miles to Kazemain itself, passing en route the terminus
of the Bagdad-Anatolian Railway, that great link of steel in the
chain of German world-expansion the completion of which, under the
existing concession, would have been commercially and economically
fatal to us in Western Asia.

The tomb-mosque of Kazemain is one of the architectural landmarks of
Bagdad.  Its twin domes and its four lofty minarets, all overlaid
with gold, are visible for miles as the traveller approaches Bagdad
from the west.  When the rays of the noonday sun strike on these
gilded cupolas and graceful tapering columns it enhances their beauty
a hundredfold, and throws into bold relief all their harmony and {57}
symmetry.  It recalled to me vividly, but in a minor degree, some of
the wonder and the glory of that other great monument of an Eastern
land--the Taj Mahal at Agra.  But while the one is secular and
commemorative of earthly love, the other has a deeply religious
significance, for in the imposing mosque of Kazemain are buried Musa
Ibn Ja'far el Kazim and his grandson, Ibn Ali el Jawad, the seventh
and ninth of the successors of Ali, the son-in-law of Mahomet, and
recognized by the Shias as the rightful Caliphs of Islam.  As a
centre of pilgrimage for Shi'ite Moslems, Kazemain ranks second after
Kerbela, the tomb of Hosain the Martyr; and from the point of view of
sanctity, Kazemain is considered to take even higher place than
either Samarra or Nejef, the other two Shi'ite shrines in the Vilayet
of Bagdad.

The customary crowd of beggars, maimed, halt, and blind, whined to us
as we alighted before the great gate of Kazemain Mosque.  Three or
four small boys, who had stolen a free ride by clinging to the back
of the automobile while it crawled dead slow through the gloomy,
winding streets of the bazaar, now demanded a pishkash (the Persian
equivalent of backsheesh).  Mollahs, Sayyeds, and other reputed holy
men, springing apparently from nowhere, formed a ring around us,
deeply interested in our dress, our speech, the colour of our hair,
and our beardless faces.  More especially was the wondering attention
of the crowd concentrated on Akhbar, himself a native Persian,
holding the King's commission and wearing {58} the King's khaki.
"What manner of man is this?" asked the puzzled onlookers.  "Is he
Infidel or True Believer? for, by the Beard of the Prophet, he speaks
our holy tongue as well as we do ourselves!"

Now there intervened an elderly personage in the Abba or flowing
robes affected by the better class of Persian, with a green kamarband
indicating his claim to lineal descent from the Prophet.  The
new-comer, whose hair and beard were plentifully dyed with henna--a
never-failing sign, I was assured, of virtue and virility--offered to
go in search of the Mujtahid or Chief Priest.

He returned presently with that important functionary, who salaamed,
but looked at us coldly and suspiciously, I thought.  A whispered
colloquy now took place between himself and Akhbar.  He had no doubt
as to the heterodoxy of the General and myself, but, on the other
hand, at first he was not convinced of the orthodoxy of Akhbar, this
professed Believer clad in Infidel garb.  All Akhbar's impassioned
pleading failed to move him.  Akhbar himself might enter freely, but
as for the two Unbelievers, they must not set foot within the
jealously guarded portals of the holy place.

Up to this point the negotiations had been singularly free from
anything even remotely connected with coin of the realm.  I think it
was the Mujtahid himself who, in his most winning manner, hinted that
"Blessed is he that giveth," and that even the dole of an Unbeliever
might win merit in the sight {59} of Allah.  We gave accordingly,
whereupon the Mujtahid, out of the kindness of his heart, and by way
of requiting our generosity, said he would enable us to see something
of the Shi'ite "holy of holies."  With himself as guide we were led
by a circular route to a caravanserai for pilgrims which stood close
to the high wall of the mosque.  The place was untenanted, but,
mounting by a flight of rickety stairs to the flat and somewhat
unstable roof, we were able to overlook the interior courtyard of the
mosque, to note its gilt façade, and to watch the worshippers
performing their ablutions at the fountain in the centre of the
courtyard.  With this we had to be content.

The Shrine down to recent days had been a sanctuary for criminals
fleeing from justice, but the Turkish overlords, it is said, when a
fugitive happened to be of sufficient importance, were able by
cajolery and bribery to override Sanctuary and secure the man they
wanted.  In consequence, Kazemain lost its popularity with fugitive
law-breakers.

The populace at the termination of our visit gave us a hearty
send-off, and the beggars, whose persistence and persuasiveness it
was difficult to resist, having relieved us of sundry krans and
rupees, called down the blessing of Allah on our heads.

The Sunni Moslems have many imposing places of worship in Bagdad.
The Mosque of Marjanieh is noted for its very fine Arabesque work,
bearing considerable resemblance to the ornamentations on the {60}
Mosque at Cordova, in Spain.  There is also the Mosque of Khaseki,
which is believed to have been once a Christian Church.  Its Roman
arch, with square pedestals and its spirally-fluted columns, reveal
an architectural school that is not Oriental.

Outside the walls of the Western City is the reputed site of the tomb
of Zobeide, the wife of Haroun al Raschid.  The eroding hand of Time
has dealt heavily with this once splendid mausoleum, but its
curiously-shaped pineapple dome is still intact, and survives proudly
amongst the ruin and decay of a dead-and-gone civilization.  Niebuhr,
the German traveller who visited this tomb in the middle of the
eighteenth century, says he discovered an inscription setting forth
that it was the site of the ancient burying-place of Zobeide, but
that about 1488, Ayesha Khanum, wife of a Governor of Bagdad, was
also given sepulture there.  Doubt is thrown upon the historical
accuracy of Niebuhr by many scholars, and there is a legend that
Zobeide was buried at Kazemain.



{61}

CHAPTER VII

EARLY HISTORY OF DUNSTERVILLE'S FORCE

Jealousy and muddle--The dash for the Caspian--Holding on hundreds of
miles from anywhere--A 700-mile raid that failed--The cockpit of the
Middle East--Some recent politics in Persia--How our way to the
Caspian was barred.


Bagdad is not a pleasant place of residence when the Sherki, or south
wind, blows, and when at noonday the shade temperature is often 122
degrees Fahr.  For Europeans, work is then out of the question, and
it is impossible to venture abroad in the scorching air.  There is
nothing for it but a suit of the thinnest pyjamas and a siesta in the
Serdab or underground room which forms part of most Bagdad houses.
The local equivalent of a punkah is usually to be found here, and
this helps to make life just bearable during the hot season.

At Headquarters and administrative branches there was a welcome
cessation of labour from tiffin time until after the great heat of
the day.  But the late Sir Stanley Maude, when in chief command at
Bagdad, demanded a very full day's work from his staff, and suffered
no afternoon siesta.  He set the example himself, and on even the
hottest days was absent from his desk only during meal hours.  Maude,
{62} splendid soldier and genial gentleman that he was, boasted of an
iron constitution which was impervious alike to Mesopotamian heat and
Mesopotamian malaria.

The cool weather had already set in when the Bagdad party took up its
abode under canvas at Hinaida.  We found already there an earlier
contingent which had been gathered together from units serving in
Mesopotamia and Salonika.  No one knew quite what to do with us, and
General Headquarters was seemingly divided in mind as to whether we
should be treated as interlopers, and interned for the duration of
the War, or left severely alone to work out our own salvation, or
damnation, as we might see fit.  The latter view carried the day, and
our welcome in official quarters was therefore distinctly chilling.
The difficulty chiefly arose, it appears, because General
Dunsterville, the leader of our expedition, had been given a separate
command, and was independent of the General commanding-in-chief in
Mesopotamia.  Jealousy was created in high quarters.  There was a
spirited exchange of telegrams with the War Office, in which such
phrases as "Quite impossible of realization," "Opposed to all
military precedent," are said to have figured prominently.

In February, in the middle of the rainy season, and while the snow
still lay thick upon the Persian mountain passes, General
Dunsterville had collected some motor transports and, taking with him
a handful of officers, had made a dash for the Caspian Sea.  {63} His
intention was to seize and hold Enzeli, the Persian port on the
Caspian, in order either to bluff or to beat the Russian Bolsheviks
there into submission, and to use it as a base for operations against
Baku, which had become a stronghold of German-Turkish-Bolshevik
activity.

After untold difficulties, one party crossed the rain-sodden Persian
uplands, hewed a road over the snow-covered Assadabad Pass for their
Ford cars, and, although severely tried by cold and hunger, succeeded
in reaching Hamadan.  Leaving a small band of men there to keep the
unfriendly Persian population in check, Dunsterville pushed on for
Kasvin, and thence to Resht, a few miles from Enzeli, brushing aside
the stray bands of armed marauders that sought to bar his progress.

The goal was in sight, but, unsupported, and without supplies, and
hundreds of miles from his small party at Hamadan, he found himself
unable to hold on.  His enemies were numerous and well-armed.  Awed
at first by the appearance of this handful of British officers who
had unconcernedly motored into their midst after a seven-hundred-mile
raid across Mesopotamia and Persia, the Bolsheviks and their
German-subsidized Persian auxiliaries were for temporizing--nay, they
even invited the British General to a conference to discuss the
situation; and, in the hope of arriving at the basis of an
understanding, Dunsterville accepted the invitation to confer with
them.

{64}

In the meantime his enemies had not been idle.  Their spies were
quick to report that no British reinforcements were arriving.
Dunsterville's numerical weakness was apparent, and the drooping
spirits of the Bolshevik Council revived.  It had been cowed into
inaction, but now it grew bold, and its attitude became menacing.
The British General was presented with an ultimatum demanding his
immediate withdrawal on pain of capture and death.

There was no help for it.  Withdraw Dunsterville must, and did.  The
Ford cars carrying the daring raiders sped away from the Bazaar of
Resht and back to Hamadan, and through streets crowded with armed and
hostile ruffians ripe for any crime.

This, briefly, was the situation in the early days of March.
Dunsterville had leaped and failed.  He was back at Hamadan, holding
on tenaciously, with a small body of officers and N.C.O.'s, no men,
lacking supplies, from which he was separated by hundreds of miles of
roadless country made doubly impassable by rain and melting snow, and
threatened with extermination by unfriendly tribesmen who, wolf-like,
were baying round him, eager yet afraid to strike.

[Illustration: HOTEL D'EUROPE AT RESHT.]

But, one will ask, what were Dunsterville and his force doing in
Persia at all?  And why had Britain, who had gone to war with Germany
because the latter had overrun neutral Belgium, and who had professed
so much horror for Germany's aggression, why had she, of all nations,
violated Persian neutrality, {65} invaded Persian territory, and
ignored Persian protests?  The answer is simply that we entered
Persia to defend Persian rights as much as to defend our own cause
and the cause of the Allies.  The territory of the Shah had been
devastated by contending armies of Turks and Russians.  It had been
swept by fire and sword; and now those twin handmaidens of ruthless
war, famine and disease, were abroad in the land of Iran, slaying
indiscriminately such of the wretched helpless populace as had
escaped the fury and the sword of Turk and Muscovite.  Persia, by
reason of its geographical boundaries--its frontiers being
coterminous with those of Russia and Turkey--had in the early part of
the great world struggle become the cockpit of the Middle East.  The
weak, emasculated Government of the Shah, a mere set of marionettes,
hopped about on the political stage of a corrupt capital.  It had no
will of its own; and, even if it had, the constitutional advisers of
the "King of Kings" had no means of enforcing it.

Hating Russia politically, and perhaps not without reason, coquetting
with Turkey because of the common religious bond of Islamism, Persia
herself very early in the War failed to observe the obligations which
neutrality imposed upon her.  She aided and abetted the emissaries of
the Central Powers.  Hun gold was the charm at which her gates flew
open to admit Prussian drill-instructors, whose business was to
organize and train the wild tribes of the south-west for raids
against our vulnerable right {66} flank in Mesopotamia.  The
"Volunteers of Islam," a body of fanatical Mollahs with a leavening
of Turkish military officers and of bespectacled professors of German
Kultur, were recruited round Lake Van in Turkish Armenia.  They had
for their object the preaching of a holy war in Afghanistan against
Britain, and the setting alight of our Indian north-west territory.
The "Volunteers of Islam," moving across the Persian frontier,
established their base in Persian Kermanshah preparatory to turning
their faces eastward in the long trek to Herat and the scene of their
Islamic and anti-British crusade.

They were destined never to behold the mountain passes of their
"Promised Land," for, valour outrunning their discretion, these
militants of Islam and Potsdam, while engaged in the final
preparations for the journey to Afghanistan, were foolish enough to
throw in their lot with a Mesopotamian frontier tribe which was
thirsting to distinguish itself in battle against the British.  The
combat duly took place, and the insolent tribesmen were punished for
their foolhardiness.  In fact, they found extinction, instead of the
looked-for distinction; and many "Volunteers of Islam" were also
given sepulture by the vultures, the _concessionaires des tombeaux_
in these parts.  As for the survivors, they readily abandoned
Kermanshah for the greater security offered by the Armenian highlands.

After the Russian military collapse in the winter of 1917, followed
by the Bolshevist triumph and the {67} signing of the shameful treaty
of Brest Litovsk, the Germans and their infamous allies, the
followers of Lenin and Trotsky, lost no time in making themselves
masters of the Caucasus.  Tiflis fell, and arrayed itself under the
Red Banner of National Shame; Armenians, Georgians, and Tartars, all
victims of Turkish misrule, but hating each other more cordially than
they collectively hated the Osmanli oppressor, wrangling over their
respective claims to independent nationhood, varied by the absorbing
passion of slitting each other's throats, were all too busy to seek
to make common cause against the Bolshevik wolf when it appeared
before their fold in the guise of a German lamb.

Would that all these nationless peoples of the Caucasus, who with so
much vehemence are always pleading their own inalienable right to
self-determination, possessed military gifts commensurate with their
brilliant, perfervid, never failing oratory!  If they could fight
only half as well as they can talk, what unrivalled soldiers they
would be!

The Bolsheviks and their German masters and paymasters, coming down
the railway line from Tiflis, speedily possessed themselves of Baku
and its oil wells.  Immediately opposite Baku, and on the eastern
shore of the Caspian Sea, is Krasnovodsk, the terminus of the
Transcaspian Railway, that important strategic line which links up
the khanates of Russian Turkestan, connects, on the one hand,
Samarkand with Orenburg and the main _reseau_ of {68} Russian
railways, and, on the other, bifurcates and comes to a dead
stop--resembling the extended jaws of a pincers--within hailing
distance of the Afghan frontier.  Once masters of the Caspian
littoral and of the Russian gunboats which patrolled its waters, the
Bolsheviks and their German allies were free to use the Transcaspian
Railway, and to menace India seriously by way of Afghanistan.

At all events, they lost no time in invading Persia from the sea by
way of Enzeli.  Here they found eager sympathisers and willing
auxiliaries in the Persian Democrats, a political party with
considerable influence and following in Resht itself and throughout
the Persian provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran.  The Democrats laid
claim to represent the intelligentza of North-Eastern Persia.  Their
profession of political faith was, broadly, "Persia for the
Persians," the abolition of all foreign meddling in Persian affairs,
and the ending of the Russian and British spheres of influence.  But
it was against the British that their virulent hatred and political
conspiracies were chiefly directed.  While they feared the British,
they despised the Russians.  As one of the leaders of this "Young
Persia Movement" said to me when we had a heart-to-heart talk in
Kasvin, "To our sorrow we find that the British are honest and
incorruptible, therefore they are dangerous.  Should they decide to
stay here, we could never hope to turn them out.  On the other hand,
to our joy we recognize that neither the Russians nor the {69} Turks
possess these high moral attributes, consequently there was always
the hope that some day we might be able to escort the last of them to
the frontier."

The "Young Persia" representative put his case concisely, fairly, and
without any tinge of political jaundice.  None better than he
realized the impotency of the vacillating Teheran Government to
enforce its paper protests against the violation of Persian
neutrality.  Its only military instrument was a ragged, unpaid,
undisciplined rabble, which international courtesy has been wont to
designate an Army.  The Persian Democrats therefore linked up with
the Bolsheviks.  But it would be erroneous to assume that their ranks
were recruited entirely from disinterested patriots, inspired by the
highest altruistic ideals, burning to rid their country of the
foreigner--be he Briton, Turk, or Russian--in order that Persia might
be free to work out her own political salvation in her own way and
without interference from anybody.  Some there were in the ranks of
the Democrats actuated only by love of country, as they conceived it,
who, with noble resolve in their hearts, trod the financially
unremunerative path which led to the goal of political glory.  There
was always plenty of elbow-room and never any overcrowding on this
road.  The great majority of the Democrats, as I found them, put pul
(_i.e._, money) before patriotism, and for them a Turkish lira, or a
twenty-mark piece, had an irresistible attraction.

{70}

With the downfall of Russia as a military power, her Army, which had
pushed down through Persia in order to effect a junction with the
British in Mesopotamia, rapidly retreated, and as rapidly
disintegrated, smitten by the deadly plague of Bolshevism.
Discipline and organization were at an end; obedience was no longer
rendered to Army Chief, corps commander, or regimental officer, but
to the soldiers' own "Red Committee"--usually with a sergeant at its
head--which, besides usurping the functions of Generalissimo, became
the Supreme War Council of the Army, giving an irrevocable decision
upon everything from high strategy to vulgar plundering.  Now two
Russian generals, named Bicherakoff and Baratof, appeared on the
troubled stage of Persian politics.  From the debris of an army they
had gathered round them the odds and ends of stray Russian regiments,
bands of irregulars from Transcaucasia, and Cossacks from the Don and
the Terek--stout fighting men of the mercenary type, whose trade was
war and whose only asset was their sword.

Both Bicherakoff and Baratof were loyal to the cause of Imperial
Russia and her Allies, and refused to bend the knee to Lenin and
Trotsky.  They were willing to make war on our side as subsidized
auxiliaries.  In short, these heterogeneous cohorts were for sale;
they possessed a certain military value, and the British taxpayer
bought them at an inflated price, and also their right, title, and
interest, if any, in the abandoned motor lorries, machine-guns, and
{71} military stores of all kinds which littered the track of the
retreating, disorganized Russian Army.  The British military
treasure-chest also honoured a proportion of the Russian requisition
notes which had been given to the extent of millions of roubles in
exchange for Persian local supplies, and which the Persian holders
knew full well would never be liquidated by any Bolshevik Government
in Petrograd or elsewhere.

Our friends, the Russians, having sold us their supplies for the
common cause, made some difficulty about handing them over.  The
soldiers, it was said, claimed that war material was national
property, and objected to its appropriation unless they, representing
so many national shareholders, were each paid on a cash basis a
proper proportion of the purchase price.  This was a deadlock that
was never satisfactorily adjusted.  Our new Russian allies also
offered to sell us the 160 miles of road from Kasvin to Hamadan which
had been constructed by a Russian Company, and was being maintained
by a system of tolls levied upon goods and passengers.  But the price
was so formidable that, if we had closed with the bargain, the
British Exchequer would have needed the wealth of Golconda to
complete the transaction.

Bicherakoff and his volunteers concentrated at Kasvin, at the
junction of the roads leading to Resht and the Caspian in the north,
to Tabriz in the north-west, to Teheran in the south-east, and to
Hamadan {72} and Kermanshah in the south-west.  Here they imposed an
effective barrier against the flowing tide of Bolshevism coming from
the Caspian, and it was hoped that they might be able to keep open
the road from Kasvin to Resht and Enzeli.

The distance from Kasvin to Resht is about eighty miles.  Half-way,
at Manjil, there is a road bridge over the Kizil Uzun River, and the
country beyond is covered with thick jungle, which fringes the
roadway on both sides.

About the time the Russians were sitting down in Kasvin awaiting
developments, there appeared in the jungle country a redoubtable
leader named Kuchik Khan, who was destined to exercise considerable
influence on the military situation in the region of the Caspian.
Kuchik Khan was a Persian of a certain culture and refinement of
manner, endowed with courage, personal magnetism, and great force of
character.  He possessed, moreover, no little knowledge of European
political institutions and of the science of government as practised
in the West.  The personification of militant "Young Persia," he
proclaimed himself an apostle of reform.  Preaching the doctrine of
Persian Nationalism in the broadest sense, he declared that he was
the uncompromising enemy alike of misrule within and interference
from without.  Recruits, attracted by good pay and the prospects of
loot, flocked to his standard from amongst the harassed and overtaxed
peasant population, and were soon licked into tolerable military
shape by {73} German and Turkish officers.  Rifles, machine-guns,
ammunition, military equipment, and money were also forthcoming from
German sources.  His army, which had its own distinctive uniform,
grew rapidly, and it was not long before Kuchik Khan found himself
strong enough to bid defiance to Teheran and its feeble Government.
He set up as a semi-independent ruler, and had his own council of
political and military advisers.  Kuchik Khan's tax-gatherers
collected and appropriated the Shah's revenues in Gilan and in part
of Mazandaran, and his power became paramount from Manjil to the
Caspian Sea.  The Jungalis, as his followers were called, under
German instruction became proficient in trench warfare.  Selecting a
good defensive position, they dug themselves in along the
Manjil-Resht road, and their advanced outposts held the bridge head
at Manjil itself.

[Illustration: STONE BRIDGE AT SIAH RUD WHICH IS THE PROBABLE PLACE
OF ATTACK FROM ANY OF THE JUNGLE TRIBES.  IT WAS AT THIS POINT THAT
THE HANTS SUFFERED CASUALTIES.]

Kuchik Khan, as Persians go, was relatively honest, and was possibly
inspired by patriotic zeal; but this did not prevent his becoming a
pliant and very useful military asset in the hands of the enemies of
the Entente Powers.  At their behest he bolted and barred the door
giving access to the Caspian and for the British, at all events,
labelled it, "On ne passe pas!"



{74}

CHAPTER VIII

OFF TO PERSIA

Au revoir to Bagdad--The forts on the frontier--Customs house for the
dead--A land of desolation and death--A city of the past--An
underground mess--Methods of rifle thieves.


It was not until the beginning of April (1918) that the intermittent
rainfall practically ceased, and allowed a contingent of the
weatherbound Dunsterville party to turn their faces towards Hamadan,
where our General and his small force were said to be in dire straits.

The advanced base near Baqubah on the Diala River, north-east of
Bagdad, where some of our unit were under canvas, was a quagmire; and
the road beyond the Persian frontier was reported to be impassable
for man, motor, or animal transport.  But four consecutive days of
fine weather effected a transformation.  The heat of the sun
converted the liquid mud of the plains into half-baked clay, and the
road itself showed a hard crust upon its surface.

No time was lost in setting out for Persia.  The force from the
advanced base began its march at daylight on April 5.  Baggage and
transport were cut down to the lowest possible limits, and General
{75} Byron and I moved ahead of the column in a Ford van.

On the first night we reached the headquarters of General Thompson,
commanding the 14th Division operating on the Diala.  Next morning,
the weather still promising fair, we were off betimes, and, in spite
of road difficulties, at ten o'clock reached the Motor Transport
Depot at Khaniquin, the last town on the Turkish side.  After a brief
halt to enable us to swop our somewhat war-worn car for a more
efficient one, we started again, and, within an hour of pulling up at
Khaniquin, had crossed the frontier into Persia.

As we approached the boundary of the crumbling Ottoman Empire at this
point, the road wound round a low hill.  On an eminence above stood a
tumble-down martello tower which once had held a Turkish guard; and
on a corresponding height on the other side were the ruins of a
Persian fort.  From these vantage points the two Asiatic Empires,
both now crumbling in decay, had for centuries jealously watched each
other, quarrelling over a mile or two of disputed territory with all
the vehemence of their Oriental blood.

Near Khaniquin, on the Turkish side, we saw what had once been the
Quarantine and Customs Stations.  It was here that the corpse
caravans, coming from the interior of Persia and bound for Kerbela,
one of the holy places of the Shi'ite sect, halted and paid Customs
dues.  It is the pious wish of every Persian {76} to be buried at
Kerbela, near the shrine of Hossain the Martyr.  The town is in the
Vilayet of Bagdad, and in pre-war days the Turks derived a very
handsome revenue from tolls levied on dead Persians who were being
transported to their last resting-place beside the waters of the
Euphrates.  It was a gruesome but lucrative traffic for the living,
whether Customs officials or muleteers.  These caravans of dead, by
reason of the absence of anything approaching proper hygienic
precautions, probably also carried with them into Asiatic Turkey a
varied assortment of endemic diseases.  When Persians whose
testamentary dispositions earmarked them for the last pilgrimage to
Kerbela died, they were buried for a year.  At the end of this period
they were exhumed, enveloped in coarse sacking, lashed two by two on
the back of a mule, and carried to their new resting-place,
accompanied by bands of sorrowing friends and relatives.

We were now well over the frontier, and found ourselves in a land of
desolation and death.  Our way lay past ruined and deserted villages,
many of the inhabitants of which had been blotted out by famine.
Beyond a few Persian road guards in British pay, or an occasional
native labour corps road-making under the protection of a detachment
of Indian Infantry, the country seemed destitute of life.  On the
other side of the frontier I had heard a good deal as to the
appalling economic conditions of Persia, and of the shortage of food;
but now, {77} brought face to face with the terrible reality, I
understood for the first time its full significance.

Men and women, shrivelled and huddled heaps of stricken humanity, lay
dead in the public ways, their stiffened fingers still clutching a
bunch of grass plucked from the roadside, or a few roots torn up from
the fields with which they had sought to lessen the tortures of death
from starvation.  At other times a gaunt, haggard figure, bearing
some resemblance to a human being, would crawl on all fours across
the roadway in front of the approaching car, and with signs rather
than speech plead for a crust of bread.  Hard indeed would be the
heart that could refuse such an appeal!  So overboard went our ration
supply of army biscuit, bit by bit, on this our first day in the
hungry land of the Shah!

At Kasr-i-Shirin, where we made a short halt, we were soon surrounded
by a starving multitude asking for food.  One poor woman with a baby
in her arms begged us to save her child.  We gave her half a tin of
potted meat and some biscuits, for which she called down the blessing
of Allah on our heads.  Her maternal solicitude was touching, for,
although it was evident that she was suffering from extreme hunger,
no food passed her lips until her baby had been supplied.

The western slopes of Kasr-i-Shirin are covered with the remains of a
great city.  The outline of extensive walls can be traced amidst the
debris of masonry.  Masses of roughly hewn sandstone strew {78} the
ground.  Within the ancient enclosure are heaps of tumble-down
masonry, all that exists of the houses that formerly stood there.
Some little distance away are traceable the ruined outlines of a
splendid palace with spacious underground apartments and beautiful
archways, once the residence of some Acharmenian or Sasanian monarch.
The remains of a rock-hewn aqueduct, with reservoir, troughs, and
stone pipes, which brought water to this city of antiquity from a
distance of twelve miles, are still to be seen.

From Kasr-i-Shirin onwards there was a gradual descent to the bottom
of the Pai Tak Pass.  It is three miles to the top of the Pass, and
there is a difference in altitude of about fifteen hundred feet.
Whatever else they may be, Persians are not roadmakers.  Formerly the
only way to scale Pai Tak was by following a mule track which wound
round the sparsely wooded slopes of the hill.  But now British
military engineers had done some useful spade work there; an
excellent road had been built with easy gradients, and Pai Tak was
negotiable for Ford cars, and even for heavily laden Peerless lorries.

The view from the top was superb.  On either side of the plateau
towered snow-capped mountains.  We found in possession, under Colonel
Mathews, a British force consisting of the 14th Hants.  The Colonel
himself was absent; but the officers of the battalion gave us a
hearty welcome, and fixed us up with quarters for the night.

The Senjabi tribesmen round about were troublesome, {79} and their
leader, Ali Akhbar Khan, incited by German propagandists, seemed bent
upon coming into collision with the British.  It was bitterly cold at
Surkhidizeh on the top of the Pai Tak Pass, and we enjoyed the warmth
and comfort of the Hants' mess quarters.

This was an underground circular apartment, cut out of the earth,
into which you descended by a flight of wooden steps.  The top was
roofed with canvas, tent fashion.

Rifle thieves were active in the camp at Surkhidizeh.  Wandering
Kurdish tribesmen showed special daring in this form of enterprise.
Scarcely a night passed without the Hants' Camp being raided for
arms.  British rifles brought enormous prices when sold to the
Senjabi and other of the lawless nomads whose happy hunting-ground is
the "No Man's Land" in the neighbourhood of the Turko-Persian
frontier.  Here a man was socially valued solely by the arms he
carried.  He might be in rags as far as raiment was concerned, but
the possession of a .303 Lee Enfield, or a German Mauser, marked him
as a man of some distinction and importance in the country, one who
might be expected to do big things, and with whom it was well to be
on friendly terms.

The average nomad whom I came across is not renowned for physical
courage, and in daylight he will think twice before attacking even a
single British soldier; yet these selfsame tribesmen would {80}
unhesitatingly raid a British bivouac nightly, and face the
possibility of death, in order to pilfer a couple of rifles.  Rifle
raiding possessed for them a kind of fascination.  The raiders often
failed and paid the penalty with their lives, but the attempts were
never abandoned for long.  One method was for a brace of snipers to
fire on the sentry and on the guard, so creating a diversion.  A
couple of their fellows, with their bodies well oiled, naked save for
a loin-cloth, and carrying each a long knife, would meanwhile crawl
into the camp at a place remote from the point of disturbance, and
snatch a rifle or two from beside the sleeping soldiers.  If caught,
they used their knives, and invariably with fatal effect.  Even if
detected the raiders usually got away, for in the darkness and
confusion it was difficult to fire upon them without incurring the
risk of hitting one of your own people.

I was aroused from a sound sleep the first night at Surkhidizeh by
the noise of rifle firing, followed by an infernal hullabaloo.
Unbuttoning the tent flap, and rushing into the open, I found that
the rifle snatchers had been busy again.  A native had wriggled
through the barbed-wire enclosure and, with the silence of a Red
Indian, had entered a tent occupied by men of the Hants battalion.
The soldiers slept with the sling of the rifle attached to the
waistbelt.  Cutting through this without disturbing the owner, the
thief had bolted with the weapon.

On leaving, he fell over some of the sleeping {81} occupants, who
were aroused and sought to grab him, but in the darkness and confined
space of the bell-tent, they missed the thief and grasped each
other's throats.  The sentry fired, but failed of his mark.  The
remainder of the guard and some Indian units also loosed off a few
rounds, but without success.

The night favoured the enterprise.  It was pitch dark.  The raider's
friends, from the cover of some dead ground in the neighbourhood,
sniped the camp intermittently for the next hour or two, until
everybody grew exasperated, and wished that Persia with its marauding
bands, and the whole Middle East Question were sunk in the deep sea.



{82}

CHAPTER IX

THROUGH MUD TO KIRIND

A city of starving cave-dwellers--An American woman's mission to the
wild--A sect of salamanders--Profiteering among the Persians--A
callous nation--Wireless orders to sit tight--Awaiting attack--The
"mountain tiger."


Next day we set out for Kirind, about fifteen miles from Surkhidizeh,
where a platoon of the Hants held an advanced post.  After passing
Sar Mil and its ruined fort, we dipped down into a valley bordered by
high hills, where grew dwarf oaks, with a background of mountains
whose snow-topped peaks glistened in the warm spring sunshine.

Our way lay over a black cotton-soil plain, and the road looked as if
it had recently been furrowed by a giant plough.  It was hard going
for the Ford cars, and our difficulties were increased when rain
presently overtook us.  Half an hour's downpour will convert any
Persian road into a morass, and that between Surkhidizeh and Kirind
is no exception to the rule.  The Fords for once were baffled.  The
leading car could get no grip on the slippery soil; its front wheels
revolved aimlessly, then by a mighty exertion moved forward a few
yards, only to come to an abrupt stop, up to its front axle in a
slimy {83} mud-hole.  We temporarily jettisoned everything, and
pulled it out with a tow rope and the united efforts of a dozen
friendly natives who were not averse from a little physical labour
for a pecuniary reward.  There was no getting rid of the glutinous
mud.  It adhered to one's boots and clung to one's garments with a
persistency that was irritating and ruinous to the temper.  The
fifteen miles' journey occupied four hours, and we were "bogged"
seven times before the cars finally got clear and gained the roughly
paved causeway which, skirting Kirind village, led to the British
military post.

[Illustration: TYPICAL PERSIAN VILLAGE.]

Kirind itself is a straggling and typical group of Persian
mud-houses.  It clings haphazardly to both sides of a steep, narrow
gorge, closed at one end by a perpendicular wall of jagged limestone
rock, which rises sheer for a thousand feet.  Beneath this frowning
rock-barrier nestles a village abominably and indescribably filthy,
inhabitated by an elf-like people in whom months of semi-starvation
had bred something of the sullen ferocity of a pack of famishing
wolves.  There was in their eyes the glint of the hunted wild animal.
They fled at our approach--men, women, and children--diving into
dark, noisome, underground dens which exhaled a horrible effluvium,
or else bolting like so many scared wild-cats for some lair high up
amongst the limestone ridges.  Some of the fugitives whom we rounded
up and spoke to compassionately answered with a terrified snarl, as
if dreading we should do them injury.  Yet it {84} was chiefly the
Turk, that zealous propagandist of the tenets of Islam, whose
rapacity and cruelty had driven this fellow Moslem race to the
borderland of primitive savagery.

Amid all the horror and misery of this desert of human despair we
found a Christian angel of pity, isolated, working single-handed,
striving to alleviate the terrible lot of the starving people.  The
angel was an American woman, Miss Cowden, of the Presbyterian
Mission.  Years before she had given up home, country, and friends in
obedience to a higher call, and was devoting her life and her
energies to the betterment of the temporal lot of the unhappy,
underfed, Persian children.  She had learned their language, and
moved from village to village alone and unattended, carrying out her
great work of charity, and content to live in some dirty hovel.  A
vocation surely demanding sublime self-abnegation, and calling, I
should think, for the highest attributes of faith and courage!  I
hold no brief for foreign missionaries in general.  I know that their
proselytizing methods have been the subject of severe criticism in
the public press and on the lecture platform.  All the more reason,
therefore, why I should tell of a work which is being done so
unobtrusively, without hope of earthly recompense, and well beyond
the range of the most powerful "Big Bertha" of the cinema world.

The Kirindis for the most part belong to the curious religious sect
called Aliullahis, about {85} whose beliefs and rites many strange
legends circulate.

One of these concerns their immunity from injury by fire, and recalls
the "fire walkers" of the Tongan Islands.  Aliullahian devotees, it
is said, will enter a kind of oven and stay there while fire is
heaped around it, making it red-hot.  Then, covering their heads with
the burning cinders, they cry, "I am cold," and pass out unhurt.
Another ceremony consists in lifting bars of red-hot iron out of the
fire with their bare hands, their skin showing no signs of burning.

Their religion seems to be a strange mixture of Mohammedanism and
Judaism, with doctrines from various other esoteric faiths grafted on
to it.  Thus they number amongst their prophets Benjamin, Moses,
Elia, David, and Jesus Christ, and they have also a saint of peculiar
efficacy in intercession named Ali.  Some investigators into their
creed maintain that Ali and Daoud (David) are one and the same
person; others think that Ali is so high up in the spiritual
hierarchy as only to be invoked through Daoud.  In any case, their
prayer before battle is, "O Daoud, we are going to war.  Grant that
we overcome our enemy!"  They then sacrifice some animal, usually a
sheep, which is roasted whole.  The High Priest prays over the
carcass and distributes the flesh in small portions to those present.
Communion in this sacrament appears to inspire the Aliullahian with
absolute confidence in the success of any undertaking it precedes.

{86}

Another of their beliefs is that of a successive incarnation of the
Deity in the greatest of their spiritual guides, seven of whom are
clubbed together under the name of "Haft-Tan."

When in Mohammedan cities, they outwardly conform to the tenets
taught by the Prophet of the Crescent, but secretly they continue the
practice of their own mystic rites.  They bury their dead without
prayer (after keeping the unembalmed corpse six days), but turn his
head to face Kerbela, as do the Mussulmans.

They are recognizable from their long moustaches, since the Shiahs
are not allowed to have hair so long as to pass the upper lip.

Some authorities proclaim them the remnant of the Samaritans who, as
related in 2 Kings xvii. 6 and 7, were carried into captivity by
Hoshea, King of Assyria; and Rawlinson, in his writings on Persia,
speaks of a rock-tomb which they regard as a place of special
sanctity.  They call it, he says, Dukka-ni-Daoud (David's shop),
because they believe that the Jewish monarch was a smith by trade.

We stayed two nights in Kirind village.  Our quarters were a couple
of rooms above a stable which sheltered a sundry collection of goats,
sheep, two consumptive donkeys and their charvadars, some stray hens,
and two or three pariah dogs.  Crossing a dirty courtyard, where
filth had accumulated for years, we climbed a broken stairway, and
were at home.  The flat roof of the stable was our promenade; {87}
but, since it was full of holes, which were generally concealed by a
thin layer of sun-dried mud, great caution was needed to prevent a
sudden and undignified descent into the menagerie below.  Our rooms
opened on to the roof of the stable.  We slept on the floor, and, as
it was cold, our Persian servant bought some green wood and made a
fire in the only fireplace available, which consisted of a small
cavity in the mud floor.  A hole in the upper roof supplied
ventilation, and served the purposes of a chimney.

It was here that the Governor paid an official call upon General
Byron.  He sent a servant to announce his coming, and presently
arrived accompanied by a retinue of unkempt, hungry-looking
officials, all wearing the chocolate-coloured sugar-loaf hat peculiar
to Persians.  The Governor himself was a fat, pompous individual,
with a drooping moustache, unshaven face, and no collar.  We wondered
at first whether the stubble on his chin was due to slothfulness, or
was a sign of mourning.  We discovered it was the latter, a brother
of his having died recently through over-participation in food at
some local festivity.  To look at the portly form of the Governor
made it quite evident that everybody was not going hungry in Kirind.
As he sat cross-legged on the floor, his fingers interlaced in front
of his breast, and twirling his thumbs, he looked exactly what he
was--the personification of hopeless incapacity and lethargy.  "What
ashes are fallen on my head!" he moaned aloud, by way of expressing
sorrow for the {88} death of so many of the villagers from
starvation.  Yet he himself had done nothing to lessen the ravages of
famine in the district, and was content to see the wretched
inhabitants die, without moving a finger to help them.

His attitude was typical of officialdom throughout this starving
land.  The Governor was a landowner, and probably, like others of his
class whom I came across later in Kermanshah and Hamadan, had plenty
of grain hidden away waiting for the day when the British
Commissariat, in order to feed starving Persians, would come and buy
it at inflated prices, thus enriching a gang of hoarding, avaricious
rascals.

When General Byron spoke of what the British were doing elsewhere in
the way of feeding the famine-stricken, the Governor's eyes
brightened, and scenting the possibility of an advantageous
commercial deal in cornered wheat, he replied with a fervent
"Mash-allah!" (Praise be to God!)  The suggestion that thieving local
bakers who had been profiteering at the expense of the starving
population might be taught a salutary lesson by having their ears
nailed to their bakehouse doors, or otherwise dealt with under some
equally benign Persian enactment, seemed to find favour in the eyes
of the Governor, for he answered, "Inshallah!" (Please God!)

This Governor, who had so suddenly developed a keen interest in the
local food problem, was afterwards present at a full-dress parade of
Miss Cowden's {89} starvelings.  The recipients of mission charity
were of both sexes, and varied from toddlers of three to their elders
of ten or twelve years.  All they had in the way of clothing was a
piece of discoloured rag, or a section of a tattered gunny bag,
fastened round the loins.  Physical suffering long endured was
indelibly stamped on their shrunken features and on their emaciated
frames.  Each was given a substantial chunk of freshly baked
chipattee, or unleavened bread, and they were desired to eat it then
and there to prevent its being pilfered from their feeble hands by
hungry adult prowlers outside the mission buildings.  They made no
demur, and ate ravenously.  Bread is the staple diet, and generally
the only article of food, of the Persian poor; and this daily free
distribution must have been the means of preserving the lives of many
hundreds of Kirind children.  Charity in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of
the word seems to find no home in the breast of the average Persian;
and each day there was a fight between local cupidity, as represented
by the Kirind bakers, and foreign generosity as exemplified by the
American Mission, which was spending its funds freely in order that
these unhappy children of an alien race might have bread and live.
Here, as elsewhere during my wanderings through Iran, I was painfully
impressed by the appalling callousness and indifference exhibited by
the ordinary Persian towards the sufferings of his own people.  He
would not lift a hand to help a dying man, and dead, would leave {90}
him to the tender mercies of the dogs and vultures rather than
trouble to give him burial.

One morning, while preparing for a further move eastward towards
Kermanshah, a wireless message, transmitted in haste from
Surkhidizeh, ordered us to sit tight and await developments and
reinforcements.  We were warned that the Senjabis were restless, and
might any night swoop down on our slenderly-garrisoned post.  Ali
Akhbar Khan, who was the Pendragon of the Senjabis and various stray
allied bands of nomadic robbers in these parts, was said to be
watching us from his eyrie up in the snow-capped hills.  His martial
ardour had been stimulated to the verge of action by German gold and
German rifles, and the promise of much loot when our weak force had
been duly annihilated.  To the careful, calculating Akhbar, and to
the wild tribesmen who had flocked to his standard at the very first
mention of the word "unlimited loot," the capture of the Kirind post
must have seemed the softest of soft things.  To look our way and
resist temptation was like flying in the face of Providence.  How
that dear old bandit's mouth must have watered in anticipation of
securing a fine haul of rifles, ammunition, and transport animals!

All that stood between Akhbar Khan and the realization of his project
was a platoon of the 14th Hants under Lieutenant Gow, a Lewis gun, a
dozen Persian irregulars of doubtful fighting quality, and a very
unformidable barrier of two rows of {91} barbed wire.  The camp was
on the edge of a narrow plateau facing the road.  In the rear, where
this latter became merged in the hills, the smooth slope was like a
toboggan run, and the alert Senjabis, if they so wished, might have
slid from their hill-top sangars down on to the field of battle.  But
they held aloof; their day was not yet.

We spent an anxious night.  Everybody was under arms waiting for the
threatened attack.  Morning ended our period of suspense and brought
the looked-for reinforcements--a squadron of the 14th Hussars under
Captain Pope, a couple of guns, an additional platoon of the Hants,
as well as the Dunsterville contingent which had originally set out
from Baqubah.

The "mountain tiger," as Ali Akhbar Khan was called in the
imaginative and picturesque vocabulary of the district, had
hesitated, and missed his chance.  The reinforcing party was very
much disappointed at Akhbar's display of irresolution and his
reluctance to fight.  Some amongst the bolder spirits contemplated
calling upon him in his mountain lair.  But that was not to be.  When
the "tiger" did spring later on, and sought to cut up a British
column, he received the lesson of his life.  But our party was not
there to share in the glory of his undoing.



{92}

CHAPTER X

KIRIND TO KARMANSHAH

Pillage and famine--A land of mud--The Chikar Zabar Pass--Wandering
dervishes--Poor hotel accommodation--A "Hunger Battalion"--A city of
the past.


From Kirind to Kermanshah, our next stage, is about sixty miles.  For
the most part it is dreary, barren country, with a few isolated
villages astride the line of march.  The whole land had been skinned
bare of supplies by Turk and Russian, and it was now in the throes of
famine.

There was a good deal of similarity in the methods of these
successive invaders.  They commandeered unscrupulously and without
payment, and what they could not consume or carry off they destroyed.
There was no seed wheat, and consequently no crops had been sown.
Many tillers of the soil had fled for their lives; those who had
remained were dying of hunger in this war-ravaged region.  The arable
land which is noted for its fertility was forlorn and neglected; no
plough had touched its soil since the passing of the war storm, and
its abandoned furrows were temporarily tenanted by wandering crows
struggling to gain a precarious livelihood.  It was desolation and
ruin everywhere.

{93}

This was the country into which we, too, now, in our turn adventured.
Armed robbers roamed from hill to plain and back again, holding up
and looting passing caravans, preying upon the miserable inhabitants
in the remote villages, and relieving them of anything in the nature
of food and live-stock that the greedy maw of Turk and Russian had
inadvertently overlooked.

Little wonder that the terrified wayside inhabitants fled pell-mell
at the approach of our column!  It took some persuasion to assure
them that they would not be "bled" afresh, nor put to the sword.  Not
unnaturally, they had reason to dread the exactions of a third
invader, and both effort and time were needed to convince them that
our intentions were not hostile, but friendly.  When confidence was
at last restored, the glad tidings of our exemplary behaviour sped
ahead of us from village to village, carried by that mysterious
agency which in the East lends wings to any news of import, and in
speed rivals wireless telegraphy.

So it was that on our further progress ragged and cringing peasants,
all semblance of manhood driven out of them by hunger and oppression,
would crawl forth into the light of day from some dark hovel to beg,
firstly for their lives, and secondly for a morsel of bread.  We
granted the one without question, but were not always able to comply
with the second demand.

From Kirind our progress was slow.  The first day, {94} Sunday, April
14th, we barely covered ten miles, arriving at Khorosabad late in the
afternoon, where we bivouacked under the lee of the hills.  The road
beyond was a kind of hog's back strewn with limestone boulders which
proved too difficult for the laden Ford cars.  To add to our troubles
the weather broke in the evening, and it rained steadily throughout
the night, so that our camping-ground became a swamp.  The Hussars'
horses suffered from exposure, while the men themselves were wet
through and inclined to be grumpy.  In the morning, as the weather
showed signs of mending, the march was resumed; but the Ford convoy
had to be left behind in charge of an escort to wait until the road
became passable.

The infantry units marched through twelve miles of mud to Harunabad,
the next stage on the journey.  It tried the men's endurance to the
utmost.  The road was simply an unmetalled track across the plain;
there was no foothold in the saturated soil, and at each step a pound
or two of clay adhered to one's boots, necessitating frequent halts
to scrape them clean.  The Persian muleteers were more fortunate.
They marched barefoot, and their movements were not handicapped by
the encumbering dead weight of adhesive earth.

[Illustration: PERSIAN TRANSPORT.]

Harunabad does not differ essentially from any other village in
South-Western Persia.  Dirt and decay have laid their twin grip upon
its crooked streets, its tottering mud walls, and ruinous
habitations.  {95} The inhabitants were as hungry as any other of
their class in Persia, and they crowded round the bivouac cookhouses
snatching eagerly at any morsel of food that was thrown to them.
General Byron, Captain Eve, Lieutenant Akhbar, and I lighted on a
couple of rooms in a disused caravanserai, and the local governor,
who seemed to bother less about backsheesh than the average of his
fellows, procured us some mutton and firewood.  Two of his servitors
who had brought the supplies were demanding an exorbitant price--the
middleman's profit.  The Governor, happening to arrive on the scene
while the haggling was proceeding, beat the grasping pair soundly in
our presence, and promised them a dose of the bastinado on the
morrow.  Thoroughly abashed by their drubbing, and terrified by the
prospect of a fresh one next day, they fell upon their knees, begging
for mercy and forgiveness.  The General successfully pleaded on their
behalf, and they showed their gratitude by kissing his hands, before
taking themselves out of range of the still wrathful eye of the
Governor.

The night was cold, with a tinge of frost in the air.  We sat round
the fire after supper drying our sodden garments and removing the
encrustations of Persian mud which had settled thickly upon them.
Sleep came to us easily after the fatigues of the day, and it was
with a feeling of deep personal resentment that we heard the Hussars'
trumpeter sound the reveille.

{96}

Most transport mules are longsuffering animals, but they rebel
occasionally.  The Persian variety was inclined to be peevish, when
it came to early rising and taking afresh upon its sturdy back the
burden of the day.  Those of our supply convoy, when prodded into
activity before sunrise, rarely failed to make their displeasure felt
by a vigorous protest lodged at random in some part of a charvadar's
anatomy.  On the morning of our departure from Harunabad the mules
showed themselves especially intractable.  It could hardly have been
because of any deep-rooted affection for the locality itself.
However, at the cost of much profanity and shouting on the part of
the muleteers, during which grave aspersions were cast upon the
character of the mules' ancestors, the rebellious beasts were cowed
into submissiveness and our column was soon floundering anew in the
mud of the Persian wilderness.

A wind from the north blew across our path and sent the menacing
rain-clouds scurrying to the right-about.  The sun, too, unveiled its
face, as if half-ashamed of its tardiness, and speedily dispelled the
curtain of white mist which arose from the sodden earth.  The air was
keen and invigorating, but tempered by the warm breath of spring.
Men and horses and transport mules responded to the gladsome call of
Nature in her most beneficent mood.  British soldier and Persian
charvadar each sang the wild songs of his native land, telling
invariably of {97} some fair, beauteous maiden whom the sentimental
songster had left behind somewhere in England or Iran.  To the ears
of one riding on in advance, as I happened to be that day, this flow
of song blending with the deep note of the jingling mule-bells made
sweetest music.

Four hours' march brought the head of the column to the top of the
Chihar Zabar Pass.  The road went sheer down the reverse slope,
cutting across an immense plain carpeted with the deepest emerald
green.  Here wild flowers grew in abundance--crocuses, daffodils,
daisies, violets, and a species of indigenous primrose, a woof of
rich, glorious colouring in the warp of green.  This "Promised Land,"
the work of Nature's own brush, stretched away from my very feet till
it mingled with the grey-blue of the distant horizon.  What a
pleasing contrast to the dreary, desolate lowlands we had so lately
traversed!  It was a most welcome prospect to eyes tired of looking
upon dull, monotonous landscapes.  To me it was the fairest sight I
had yet seen in the land of Iran.

While I was revelling in the beauty of the scene, there appeared on
the summit of the Pass, coming from this valley of enchantment, three
men whose dress and appearance excited my curiosity.  They were
sturdily built, and dressed in black, skirted coats, fastened at the
waist by a girdle from which was suspended a sword and satchel.
Their beards were no longer than that permitted by the precepts of
{98} the Koran.  They were without head-covering of any kind, and
their long hair fell free and untrammelled on their shoulders.  The
trio wore shoes of Moroccan leather with pointed, turned-up toes and
silver buckles.  Each carried a small silver-headed axe at the
"slope," as a cavalry trooper does a sabre.

As they approached, my first feeling was one of alarm, and my hand
instinctively sought my revolver holster.  Seeing this, the foremost
raised his hand in friendly salutation, and greeted me with, "Peace
be upon thee, O stranger!"  They proved to be wandering dervishes who
begged their way from end to end of Persia, and to judge by their
raiment and their general well-to-do appearance, it must be a
profitable occupation.

These dervishes, amongst the Persians of all classes, have a great
reputation for sanctity.  The rich help them liberally, and even the
very poor will not turn a deaf ear to their request for aid.  One of
them chattered away like a magpie, recounting adventures which were
not always of the kind one is prone to associate with the austerity
of a Religious Order.  They had come on foot from Meshed in Eastern
Persia to Teheran, Hamadan, and Kermanshah, and were now bound for
Kerbela and the Shi'ite holy places in the vicinity of Bagdad.  The
burdens of life sat lightly on their shoulders, and the destroying
hand of care had left no traces upon their merry, laughing faces.
They were a cheery trio, {99} forgetful of yesterday, unmindful of
to-morrow, and living only for to-day.

They were full of a pleasant inquisitiveness, and withal as simple as
children.  "Were there dervishes across the big water in Faringistan
(Europe), and had the man-birds (aviators) come to Bagdad?" they
asked.  I told them they would see plenty of "man-birds" and
"wonder-houses" (cinemas) down yonder in Bagdad, but that an
itinerant Persian dervish would be a _rara avis_ amongst our
benighted folk, not one, so far as I knew, having yet shed the light
of his countenance upon our slow-going old Western world.  With a
small cash contribution oh my part towards the expenses of their
journey, and on theirs the formal invocation of the blessing of Allah
upon my head, the dervishes and I exchanged cordial adieux, and
parted company on the summit of the Chihar Zabar.

Our next halting-place was at Mahidast, a walled town which stands in
the midst of an immense plain seventy miles long by ten broad.  It is
one of the most fertile tracts in Persia, and grows great crops of
wheat and barley for the market of Kermanshah.  As for Mahidast
itself, it consists of a few dirty streets, unpaved and
evil-smelling, and a hundred houses, the greater number of which are
in ruins.  Its inhabitants are chiefly Kalhur-Kurds, semi-nomads, who
migrate in winter with their flocks to the neighbourhood of Khaniquin
and Mandali.  Mahidast is a great resort of pilgrims on the way {100}
to and from Kerbela, and in the main street stands a vast
caravanserai built by that industrious architect-ruler, Shah Abbas.

I rode inside the great doorway of Shah Abbas' hostelry hoping to
find quarters here, but my nose was in revolt at once.  A stagnant
pool covered with green slime, where myriads of mosquitoes and flies
were undergoing a course of field training, occupied the centre of
the courtyard, and this was flanked by festering heaps of garbage
amongst which lean, hungry-looking dogs were fossicking for an
evening meal.

Turning in disgust from the loathsome spot, I encountered a farrash
(messenger) come from the Naib-ul-Hukumeh, or Deputy Governor, The
latter had heard of our arrival, and sent to conduct us to quarters
near his own dwelling.  Our abode proved to be a smaller
caravanserai, its living-rooms adjoining the stables and looking out
on a manure heap.  The Deputy Governor himself turned up presently,
and in the usual flowery Persian speech bade General Byron welcome,
and assured him that supplies of forage and fuel would be forthcoming.

He hinted that, as the prowling Kurds of the district were keen
horse-fanciers, and not always able to discriminate between the
niceties of _meum_ and _tuum_, it would be advisable to mount a
stable guard.  For this purpose he sent us eight truculent-looking
rascals, fairly bristling with weapons, who watched over our horses
while we sought to snatch a few hours' repose.

{101}

Sleep we found to be out of the question.  Our sleeping-bags, the
latest of their kind from London, had no chance against the
incursions of the nimble Mahidast flea, or his bigger parasitical
brethren, whom pilgrim caravans had brought from the remote corners
of Persia.  Emerging angry and unrefreshed from an unequal combat, we
quitted Mahidast at an early hour.  The major portion of the
inhabitants were present to see us off, and incidentally to demand a
pishkash for services--chiefly imaginary--rendered us during our
sojourn.  Akhbar paid off the fuel and forage vendors, and ransomed
our horses from the stable guard for a substantial sum in krans.  He
next gave a considered decision in respect to the claim of the Deputy
Governor and his numerous retinue.  The former modestly demanded an
amount which would have provided him with a comfortable life annuity,
pointing out that, as our throats were unsevered and our purses
untouched, we could afford to be generous, and reward his protecting
zeal.  I did not wait for the end of the negotiations, but I heard
afterwards that Akhbar, whose temper had been sorely tried, consigned
the Deputy Governor to _jahannam_, and effected a compromise with his
insistent retainers for the equivalent of ten shillings.

It is an eighteen-mile march to Kermanshah from Mahidast.  The road
was harder, and it was easier travelling for the horses and transport
animals.  There was a good deal of traffic too.  We passed numerous
caravans, the first being one of tobacco {102} and general
merchandise bound for Bagdad.  To this a number of pilgrims had
attached themselves for safety, and had hired an armed convoy to
protect them against plundering Kurds and, in a minor sense, the
exactions of the Persian road guards.  These latter were supposed to
police the route, and had posts along the road.  By way of recompense
they were allowed to levy baj (toll) upon travellers.  But their
rapacity was boundless.  They were said to stand in with the
freebooters of the district, and woe betide the simple traveller or
merchant who, journeying without armed retainers, fell into their
hands!  Him they fleeced unmercifully, and if the victim were
inclined to protest against this bare-faced spoliation, he might
always be sure of receiving a sound beating in addition.

So much for Persian road guards and their methods!  The British
sought to remedy these abuses by subsidizing local chiefs to protect
a section of road, but the chiefs took the cash and stuck to it,
while the guards still dipped deeply into the pockets or into the
bales of merchandise of those who came their way.  It was considered
a lucrative post, that of road guard, and much sought after by
gentlemen who hated the attendant risks of ordinary highway robbery,
and preferred the easier and surer means of growing rich by levying
toll in a quasi-official capacity.

Presently we met a corpse-caravan bound for Kerbela with its
lugubrious freight.  A contingent of road guards had gathered round
like so many {103} human vultures, and there was much haggling
between themselves and angry relatives of the defunct as to what a
dead Persian ought or ought not to pay to pass free and unhindered
over this section of the long and thorny road that led to the holy of
holies of the Shi'ite Moslem.

On the banks of a stream by the roadside was a "hunger battalion"
resting.  Its members, men and boys, were in a state of semi-nudity;
their few garments hung in tattered rags about their wasted bodies,
and all looked to be in the last stage of physical exhaustion from
starvation.  For some the end had clearly come.  They were incapable
of further effort, and lay waiting for a merciful death to cut short
their sufferings.  Others there were who still clung despairingly to
the enfeebled thread of life.  They crouched on the ground, gnawing
frantically at a handful of roots or coarse herbs with which they
sought to assuage the terrible pangs of unsatisfied hunger.  A little
apart from the main body was a small group crooning a mournful dirge:
it was the funeral requiem of a man whom famine had killed.  The body
was being prepared for burial and, before committal to earth, was
being washed in the stream which supplied a near-by village with
drinking water.

We divided some food amongst the sorely stricken survivors of the
hunger battalion.  It was all we could give.  They were thankful, and
one man said that he and five companions had originally started {104}
from Hamadan, where the people were dying by hundreds daily, in the
hope of crossing the frontier to Khaniquin or Kizil Robat, at either
of which places they might get work and food in the British Labour
Corps.  Of the six who had set out on this quest he was the sole
survivor.

Kermanshah is a very old Persian city, and was known to writers and
travellers from the earliest Christian times.  It once was a
flourishing industrial and commercial centre, but much of its
prosperity and glory have been dimmed by a succession of political
and economic vicissitudes.  The town itself has a certain military
importance.  It is close to the Turkish frontier, and is equidistant
from Bagdad, Ispahan, Teheran, and Tabriz.  During the War Turks and
Russians occupied it in turn, and the Turks had a consul and a
consular guard here until their army was chased out of the province.

Outside the town itself the nomadic and semi-nomadic population
consists chiefly of Kurds, and Kurdi is the language of the people as
distinct from the merchants.  Cereals are extensively grown, but,
owing to the lack of communications, the cost of transporting grain
to Bagdad or Teheran was triple its local market value, and it was a
profitless enterprise.  The grain rotted in Kermanshah while people
died of hunger in adjoining provinces.

The chief trade route in Western Persia passes through Kermanshah,
and it is also an important market for transport mules, which are
bred in the {105} district.  In pre-war days as many as 200,000
pilgrims passed through Kermanshah each year on their way to and from
Kerbela and the other Shi'ite shrines in the Vilayet of Bagdad.  The
bazaars were well stocked with British and foreign goods, and the
local traders were reputed to be wealthy.  But the War and the coming
of the Turks were fatal to Kermanshah and its commerce; the shops
were closed, and the wealthier merchants hid their cash and valuables
and sought asylum elsewhere.

Kermanshah suffered much during the Civil War of 1911-12.  In July of
1911 it was occupied in the name of the ex-Shah, Muhammad Ali, by a
force of irregulars under Salar-ud-Dauleh, the ex-Shah's brother.  In
the following February the Government troops reoccupied Kermanshah,
and the troops of the dethroned Shah were driven out.  But a
fortnight later Salar-ud-Dauleh, aided by a large force of Kurds, was
back again; the town was plundered, and the Governor appointed by the
Constitutionalists had his legs cut off and was burnt alive.  For the
next few months the redoubtable Salar and his military opponent,
Farman Farma, hunted each other in turn up and down Western Persia
until the Shah's rebellion was finally subdued.

I found the streets of the town narrow and tortuous.  The Zarrabiha
Street and that leading from the Darvaseh Sarab to the Chal Hassan
Khan are about the only two possible for carriages.  In the Feizabad
quarter, which is remote from the bazaars, are the {106} houses of
the wealthy classes, with their immense courtyards, high walls, and
beautifully kept gardens.  By contrast, the houses of the poor look
despicably mean, being simply a collection of mud hovels into which
the light of day penetrates with difficulty.

The rain overtook us afresh at Kermanshah, and we had to stay there
for three days weatherbound.  The Hussars and the remainder of the
column bivouacked on a hill near the British Consulate.  It was far
from agreeable.  The tents were already soaking wet after the
downpour at Khorosabad, and had had no time to dry.

General Byron went to stay with the Kennions.  Colonel Kennion was
Political Officer and Consul, and his wife, a very charming and
energetic lady, who held in her hands most of the threads of the
political happenings in Persia, worked hard all day in the office
ciphering and deciphering despatches.  In the evening she entertained
her husband's guests and graced a hospitable table.

The foreign colony of Kermanshah was not a large one.  Besides the
Kennions, there were the Russian Consul and his wife, a French
Consul, Mr. and Mrs. Stead of the American Presbyterian Mission, and
Mr. Hale, local manager of the Imperial Bank of Persia.  Hale has
travelled widely in Persia, and knew its elusive and nimble-witted
people better than most Englishmen.  He was an excellent raconteur,
and I spent pleasant evenings in his company {107} laughing over
stories of adventure which irresistibly called to mind that great
exponent of Persian drollery, "Hadji Baba."

Leaving our horses behind to be brought on by the marching column,
General Byron and six officers, including myself, moved by motor
convoy from Kermanshah on April 22nd.  With luck we hoped to reach
Hamadan in two days.

It is twenty-two miles to Bisitun Bridge and the crossing of the
Gamasiab, a tributary of the Kara river.  The brick bridge over the
stream had been destroyed by the retreating Russians.  It had not yet
been repaired, and we were to be faced with the difficult problem of
getting the Ford cars across to the eastern bank of the Gamasiab.
The recent rains had done their worst for the road track which led
over the great plain of Kermanshah, and the soil had been converted
into a kind of pulpy clay which the passage of recent caravans had
churned into puddle.  The laden cars bravely struggled through it,
sinking occasionally to the axles in the treacherous mire.  Finally,
we crawled out of this bog and struck a patch of hard road which led
to the village of Bisitun, where we halted to allow the other bogged
cars to join up.  Beyond the straggling village of thirty houses or
so the great rock of Bisitun rises perpendicularly from the level
plain.

Bisitun is famous for the inscriptions and tablets of Darius found
here.  It lies on the highway from Ecbatana to Babylon, and was thus
chosen by various {108} monarchs as a fitting place for the record of
their exploits.

It is to British pluck, tenacity, and will-power that the world owes
its definite and detailed knowledge of the Darius inscriptions.  That
"King of Kings," as he proudly styles himself, saw to it that the
written account of his greatness should be at a height corresponding
with his fame, and had it placed 300 feet above the ground on the
wall of a dizzily perpendicular cliff.  To climb this rock near
enough to read what Persian workmen chiselled there five hundred
years before the Christian era is the dangerous and difficult
undertaking accomplished by Rawlinson.

The bas-relief tablets and inscriptions on Bisitun's famous cliff
wall have all but one object--to glorify Darius Hystaspes ("The great
King, the King of Kings, King of Persia, King of the Provinces"), and
to give the lie to any of his enemies or rivals who dared to proclaim
themselves monarchs also.  ("This Gaumata the Magian lied: thus did
he speak: 'I am Bardiya; son of Cyrus, I am King!'")

Grandiloquently the names of the countries over which Darius ruled
are set forth.  They number twenty-three.  A Persian Alexander the
Great was this "King of Kings."

[Illustration: DARIUS INSCRIPTIONS AT BISITUN.]

The bas-relief vividly portrays his conquest of the lesser chieftains
from whom he wrested their kingdoms.  His foot is on the prostrate
form of the most formidable of these, Gaumata, while the others are
shown tied together by their necks, a sorry company {109} of defeated
royalties.  Darius is depicted as physically towering above the men
of his day, a giant in every way.  Over him hovers the Godhead,
Auramazdn, or Ormuzd, who, holding a circlet of victory in one hand,
with the other points out the mighty monarch as the wearer-designate.

The whole is in a marvellous state of preservation, thanks to the
conscientious work of the craftsmen who laboured at it so many
thousand years ago.  After first smoothing the surface of the rock,
they filled in every tiny crevice or crack with lead.  Then they
chiselled deeply, and with astonishing accuracy, each character,
finally coating the whole with a silicious varnish, a protection
against climatic ravages which has stood the test imposed upon it
while countless generations of mankind have come and gone.

When we reached the Gamasiab, we found the stream in flood, and a
six-knot current swirling through the brick arches of the damaged
bridge.  There was a great gap in the central span, the latter
running to a point almost like a Gothic arch.  Gangs of workmen were
busy repairing it, under Lieutenant Goupil, R.E.

Captain Goldberg, of the Armoured Car Section, had preceded us to
Bisitun.  Goldberg, who had ripped roads through East African jungle
to get within shooting distance of the Hun, claimed that in his
service lexicon there was no such word as fail, and that wherever a
transport mule could pass in Persia {110} he would take his lighter
cars.  At Bisitun he was as good as his word.  The animals of the
transport were ferried across on crudely constructed rafts to which
were attached inflated goatskins to give additional buoyancy.  They
were of the type of the Mussik raft of the Tigris, and the scheme
worked successfully.  But it was a tricky business when it came to
ferrying motor-cars over.  Our own Fords were emptied of their
contents, and a single car was lashed on a raft which was then
man-hauled across a hundred yards of stream to the other bank.
Sometimes one of the guide-ropes gave way, and the raft and its
burden, caught by the swift current, would go gyrating down stream
until it was lassooed by pursuing coolies on a second raft.  At other
times the wheel-lashings would part in transit, and the raft would
"nose dip" at a dangerous angle.  Then the Persian labour coolies,
with wild shouts and cries, would jump into the water and restore the
equilibrium of the water-logged raft by clinging to its stern.  All
our cars were in this manner safely carried over without serious
mishap, and the stores and baggage were brought on coolies' backs
across the wrecked bridge itself.  On the eastern bank the Fords were
reloaded and the party got under way once more.

We spent the night at Kangavar, a big village at the eastern end of
the Bisitun gap, and at the junction of the Hamadan Qum and
Daulatabad roads, fifty-five miles from Kermanshah.  Kangavar reposes
at the foot of a lofty, snow-capped mountain, and is {111} built on a
series of natural and artificial mounds which rise corkscrew fashion
from the plain.  Here are the ruins of a large temple or palace whose
history is lost in antiquity.  That profound scholar and
archæologist, Rawlinson, thinks that Kangavar is the Chavon of
Diodorus, where, according to the Sicilian historian, Semiramis built
a palace and laid out a paradise.  There also existed at Kangavar a
celebrated temple of Anaitis, whose lascivious cult was once
widespread in this ancient land.

We were hospitably entertained by the representative of the Deputy
Governor, who is noted for his pro-British sympathies.  The Sheikh,
our host, furnished us with quarters within his own residence, a
wonderful walled enclosure big enough to hold a battalion, and laid
out with beautiful gardens and fountains.  In the trees the laqlaqs
(storks) nested, and down by the cool splashing fountains a peacock
in all the beauty of fully displayed plumage strutted proudly.

We were seven officers to supper, but our host, in accordance with
the lavishness required by Persian hospitality, prepared enough food
for four times our number.  His multitude of retainers looked on
while we ate, and what remained of the feast passed to them by right
of custom.

It was with considerable misgivings that we heard that the shorter
road to Hamadan over the great Asadabad Pass, nearly eight thousand
feet high, was closed by snow.  We accordingly took the longer {112}
and lower road by way of Parisva and Tasbandi which skirts the Alvand
mountain range.  The cars bogged incessantly in the low, flat
country, but going over the Parisva Pass, where the gradients are
steep and great boulders strew the route, our progress was also very
slow.  The cars had to be manhandled, being towed and pushed by
peasants collected from the neighbouring fields.  There were several
"lame ducks" in the convoy, and before evening a number had broken
down altogether and had to be temporarily abandoned by the roadside
in charge of an armed guard.

[Illustration: CARAVANSERAI, BISITUN.]

Night had already fallen when the leading cars crawled into Hamadan,
having taken fourteen hours to cover a journey of about ninety-five
miles.  Weary and travel-stained, we reported at British
Headquarters, and to our joy found that everyone was well, and that
the Dunsterville Garrison, overawing the turbulent section of the
population, was still in possession of this isolated post in the
heart of Persia.



{113}

CHAPTER XI

A CITY OF FAMINE

In ancient Hamadan--With Dunsterville at last--His precarious
position--"Patriots" as profiteers--Victims of famine--Driven to
cannibalism--Women kill their children for food--Trial and
execution--Famine relief schemes--Death blow to the
Democrats--"Stalky."


Hamadan stands at a height of six thousand feet at the foot of the
Alvand range, which is covered with snow for ten months in the year.
In summer, when the tender shoots of the growing corn are pushing
above the earth, and the trees are blossom-laden, "every prospect
pleases."  The reverse of the medal is presented after a brief
acquaintance with Hamadan's people, and one sadly recalls that "only
man is vile."

It is said that modern Hamadan occupies the site of one of the
ancient Ecbatanas of the Greeks, of which there were seven, and that
it was the treasure city of the Achæmenian Kings, the place taken and
plundered by Alexander the Great when he was "strafing" the Eastern
World.  However that may be, very few ancient remains have been
brought to light.  On a hill outside the town are the ruins of a
{114} citadel, and a carved stone lion of venerable aspect and crude
workmanship crouches by the roadside not far from the British
Hospital Compound.  This lion may once have adorned the façade of an
Achæmenian palace, but he has fallen from royal greatness to plebeian
utility; for it is popularly believed that he exercises a protective
influence against cholera, smallpox, plague, and kindred ills; and
Persian mothers bring their children and seat them on his stone back
to obtain immunity from disease.  Famine is evidently not included,
or so many children would not have succumbed during the hunger days
of the spring and early summer of 1918, before that never-failing
talisman, the British Commissariat, exorcised the famine fiend.

In Hamadan, too, is buried the celebrated philosopher and physician
of Bokhara, Abu ali ibn Sina, better known as Avicenna, the legend of
whose fondness for eleventh-century wine and women has come down
through all the ages, obscuring whatever reputation he may have
possessed as a healer or thinker.

The Jews of Hamadan, and they are numerous, point with pride to the
site of the tombs of Esther and Mordecai.  It is very uncertain
whether either of these personages who figure so prominently in the
Book of Esther is buried here.  Within an insignificant-looking,
weather-worn, stucco-covered shrine in the grip of decay, are two
wooden sarcophagi covered with faded paint and bearing gilt
inscriptions in Hebrew of verses from the Book of Esther.

{115}

The Rabbi in charge, a sallow-faced man with a long white beard, who
had seen generations of Gentiles come and go while he kept watch and
ward here, assured me that the tomb of this heroine of the Jewish
race, who stooped to amatory conquest that her people might live, as
well as that of her shrewd relative, the opportunist Mordecai, were
of unquestionable authenticity.  I will leave it at that.

The arrival of our small party in Hamadan at the beginning of May
added a hundred or so additional rifles to the unwelcome and
uninvited skeleton force already there.  As I related in a previous
chapter, General Dunsterville, after falling back from Resht,
established himself in Hamadan, his available fighting force being a
handful of officers and a baker's dozen of N.C.O's.  He was in the
midst of a more or less hostile population of about 70,000,
one-fourth of whom were Turks or of Turkish origin and sympathies,
the remainder being Persian, with a small sprinkling of Jews and
Armenians.

Yet he sat there unharmed while the Asiatic world wondered.  His
position was precariousness itself.  The full virulence of political
animosity was focussed upon him and his dangerously thin khaki line.
I am convinced that no Assurance Company, however speculative, would
have considered him a "safe life" during those dark and doubtful
days, when he was barricaded within the British Compound, alternately
waiting for the inglorious but picturesque death so fervently
promised him by the local Democrats, or {116} watching for the
reinforcements which dribbled fitfully from Bagdad and over Persian
plain and mountain.

Hamadan was at once the foyer of Turkish espionage and of Persian
intrigue.  The moribund association of local Democrats, merchants and
grain-growers, had been largely galvanized into anti-British activity
by Kuchik Khan, whose army of Jungalis still barred the road from
Manjil to the Caspian Sea.  The Hamadan Democrats were "pure
patriots," who talked glibly in the local tea-houses of the blessing
of political freedom, cursed the British as mischievous, evil-minded
interlopers, and called upon Allah to bless their deliberations and
rid them of the British oppressor.  Incidentally, they would meet in
secret conclave and decree a further increase in grain prices, which
meant a substantial gain to themselves.  Supplies were refused to the
British except at very exorbitant rates; the profiteers waxed fat and
became more insolent; and the poor of Hamadan were left to die of
hunger, victims of Persian cupidity and Persian indifference.
Pamphlets, inflammatory in tone, and bearing the imprimatur of the
principal democratic club, were distributed broadcast in the streets,
and from these the victims of famine had at all events the
ante-mortem satisfaction of learning that it was the British who were
deliberately starving them to death in order that these beardless
intruders might the more easily overrun the whole land of Persia.

{117}

If a Persian Democrat be valorous in speech, he is fortunately
discreet in deeds.  An ukase would go forth from Kuchik Khan that
there was to be a truce to temporizing, and that the Dunsterforce
must be sent without delay to the Jehannam of Unbelievers.  "By
Allah, it will be accomplished!" would be the prompt reply.  Then the
fearless Democrats, always careful never to risk their own skins
unduly, would hire some half-starved fedais or irregulars, who for a
kran or two would fire a few shots into British Headquarters, or,
under cover of dusk and a sand-bank, snipe some solitary officer or
soldier of our force.  Whereat there would be much rejoicing in
democratic circles, and the club would sit up late drinking arak.

Meanwhile the hunger mortality in Hamadan was increasing.  Bread, the
chief, indeed the only, article of diet of the poor, was at 14 krans
a batman (roughly, the equivalent of ten shillings for 7 lbs.), and
the wheat combine saw to it that the price increased rather than
decreased.  On May 6th Mr. McDouell, the British Consul, officially
computed that the daily deaths from starvation were two hundred.
Hamadan was a city of horrors.  The unburied victims of famine--men,
women, and children--were lying in the streets and in the fields
adjoining British Headquarters.  The Kashish or priest of the Shi'ite
mosque, who received a fee of about twopence for officiating at the
funerals of those buried in _forma pauperis_, admitted that the daily
interment-roll was {118} one hundred and sixty during the first
fortnight of May.  The hunger-enfeebled survivors became herbivorous,
eating the grass in the fields like so many animals.  A short course
of this diet proved as fatal as the want of bread, for it invariably
caused peritonitis and a lingering, agonizing death.

But there was worse to come.  The foodless people, driven crazy by
their sufferings, now resorted to eating human flesh.  Cannibalism
was a crime hitherto unknown in Persia, and no punishment exists for
it under Persian law.  The offenders were chiefly women, and the
victims children stolen from the doorsteps of their homes, or
snatched up haphazard in the bazaar purlieus.  Mothers of young
children were afraid to leave them while they went to beg for bread,
lest in their absence they should be kidnapped and eaten.  I never
went into the Bazaar or through the narrow, ill-paved streets without
a feeling of sickly horror at the sight of the human misery revealed
there.  Children who were little better than human skeletons would
crowd round to beg for bread or the wherewithal to purchase it, and
in parting with a few coppers to them, one could not help shuddering
and wondering if they, too, were destined, sooner or later, to find
their way into the cooking-pot.

The Persian Governor one day awoke from his habitual lethargy and
roused the local police, who set out on the track of the
child-eaters.  A series of domiciliary visits brought to light
fragments of human bones and rags of clothing.  They arrested {119}
eight women, who confessed that they had kidnapped, killed, and eaten
a number of children, pleading that hunger had driven them to these
terrible crimes.

On the following day, May 8th, a yet more horrifying case of
cannibalism was discovered.  Two women, mother and daughter, were
caught red-handed.  They had killed the daughter's eight-year-old
child, and were cooking the body, when the police interrupted the
preparations for this horrible feast.  The half-cooked remains were
removed in a basket, and an indignant crowd of well-fed Democrats
followed the wretched offenders to the police-station, threatening
them with death.

Some of the people, who did not share the noble view of the Democrats
that the poor should starve rather than that cornered wheat should be
released, went to the telegraph office with the intention of
informing the weak and incapable Teheran Government of the true state
of affairs.

But the Democrats would have none of that; it might upset their
carefully laid schemes for enrichment at the expense of the flesh and
blood of their fellows.  There was no telling what effect a
telegraphed protest might have upon the supineness of the Shah's
Cabinet Ministers.  Those administrative sluggards might be goaded
into some action bordering on interference with the policy of the
Hamadan Democrats, which Heaven forbid!  So Democrat emissaries
picketed the Persian telegraph office, and pitched into the street
any of their adversaries who {120} questioned their right to impose
an arbitrary censorship.  Thus was made manifest the "benign rule" of
the "friends of Persia" in all its callous disregard for the first
principles of humanity.

On the following day there was the sequel to the case of child murder
by mother and daughter, when these two unfortunates paid the cruel
penalty imposed by Persian law for killing one's own offspring--that
of being stoned to death.  The "execution" took place in front of the
Hamadan telegraph office.  The condemned women, already on the
borderland of death from hunger, were staked down in two shallow pits
near where heavy stones were plentiful.  Then the police, reinforced
by a willing mob, armed themselves with heavy boulders and pounded
the flickering life out of their emaciated frames, silencing for ever
their unavailing cries for pity and mercy.  It was a revolting
spectacle, and although their crime was an abominable one, no one not
a Persian could repress a feeling of compassion for the wretched
creatures who, made desperate by hunger, had become so dead to all
human instinct as to kill and be prepared to eat their own flesh and
blood.

Other women were apprehended and executed for child murder.  It was
reported that there was plenty of wheat stored in private houses, and
it was urged that severe measures should be taken against the
hoarders.  The men were still eating their evening meal of grass,
flavoured with a little salt.  One of the favourite trysting-places
of the Democrat {121} stalwarts was the football-ground near the
Hospital Compound.  Nearly every afternoon in fine weather, when the
ground was not being used for play, they sat there cross-legged--in
their brown and black loose-fitting robes, resembling so many
clucking hens on a roost--discussing and planning the overthrow of
the British, while hundreds of their own people lay dying around them
of starvation.

In Hamadan, to add to our other difficulties, we were greatly
troubled with professional mendicants, whose ages varied from six to
sixty, and whose energy and begging zeal were unbounded.  In time we
got to know them, chiefly, I think, because of their physical
fitness.  They were always in the pink of condition, sound in wind
and limb, and could run a mile in pursuit of a likely dole without
turning a hair, while their vigorous lung power would have done
credit to a "cheap jack" auctioneer.

I always did, and always shall, admire the wonderful patience and
clemency exercised by Dunsterville when faced with the Democratic
organization, which aimed at nothing short of wiping out both himself
and his force in Hamadan, if not by a _tour de force_, then by
starvation.  They were always inciting the populace to rise and
finish us.  But hungry men have little stomach for blood-letting, and
although those in Hamadan found it difficult enough to exist owing to
the food shortage, they were in no hurry to abridge their unhappy
days by flinging themselves on British bayonets.

{122}

The Hun or the Turk would have ended this intolerable situation long
ago by decorating Hamadan lamp-posts with the dangling bodies of
local Democrats; but Dunsterville was forbidden to embark upon any
strong measures.  Our own Minister in Teheran, Sir Charles Marling,
kept warning us that we were neutrality-breakers, and wondering
whether the Persian Government, even by the exercise of all his (the
Minister's) diplomatic skill, could ever be induced to forgive us.
Sir Charles, who has since been transferred to some other sphere of
usefulness, was always quick to grasp and expound the Persian
official point of view.  I often wonder if he ever busied himself
with attempting to understand that of the British concerning the
occupation of Hamadan and Kasvin.

One of the contributory causes of the Hamadan famine was the insane
behaviour of the Russian Army when in occupation of the town and
district.  They destroyed the growing crops of wheat and barley, and
wantonly wasted the grain they were unable to consume or carry off.
The Hamadan harvest is not ripe for gathering until about the first
week in July, so the British, in May, were faced with the problem of
feeding a starving population for some sixty days.  It was not
incumbent upon them to do so, but both pity and policy coincided in
indicating the necessity for combating the evil of food shortage that
was so rapidly thinning out the population.

With the approval of the British Government a {123} scheme of famine
relief was inaugurated by General Dunsterville.  Labour gangs were
formed, and under the supervision of our officers the starving
multitude was set to work road-making.  In about the first week three
thousand offered themselves for employment, and were enrolled.
Nominally, only the able-bodied were supposed to be eligible, but
judging by the human wrecks that one saw in the Labour Corps few of
this category existed in Hamadan.  The road-makers, at the beginning,
were paid four krans per diem (a kran is, at war-exchange, the
equivalent of a franc), and it was stipulated that they should
provide themselves with a spade or mattock and a basket in which to
carry away the loosened earth.  A number, it is true, did present
themselves armed with the narrow-bladed bilm or spade of the Persian
agricultural labourer, but there were hundreds who heroically tackled
the job equipped with nothing more efficacious than wooden
rice-spoons.  Still, no one kicked at this, and the rice-spoon
wielders did their "bit," or attempted to do it to the best of their
enfeebled ability.  Our object was rather to be content with some
colourable imitation of a _quid pro quo_ for cash disbursements, than
to exact a stiff day's labour from people wholly incapable of
performing it.

In our blissful ignorance of Persian psychology, we fondly imagined
at first that the equivalent of £400 a day paid out in wages to
roadmakers would sensibly alleviate the prevailing distress.  But we
{124} did not reckon upon Persian avarice, selfishness, and
untrustworthiness of character.  The price of bread, somewhat to our
surprise, did not fall.  In fact it became dearer than ever.  The
bakers saw to that.  Money was beginning to circulate more freely;
the very poor were no longer empty-fisted; so up went the price of
bread with a bound!  In short, it was found that the more we
distributed in famine relief the lower fell the purchasing power of
the kran.  Another thing, too, that militated against the successful
working of the "all cash" scheme of assistance was that it did not to
any extent ameliorate the pitiable lot of the women and children.
The men did not always bother to buy bread for their starving
dependents, preferring to dissipate their earnings in a nightly
carouse in an opium den--the local equivalent to a British gin palace.

An unpleasant element of "graft" was also brought to light.  No
Persian for very long can keep his itching fingers from other
people's money.  The native foremen of the road gangs were not an
exception to the rule, and for a brief period they made a lucrative
income by trafficking in labour tickets.  First they issued spurious
ones to their friends and relatives, none of whom had done a stroke
of work; they even sought, somewhat clumsily to be sure, to
counterfeit the official stamp which each ticket bore on its face.
They rubbed some Indian ink on the reverse side of a two-kran piece,
and with this stamped the forged tickets, adding a few pencil strokes
_à la {125} fantasie_ by way of giving a finishing touch of
verisimilitude.

As the tickets entitled the bearers to draw four krans when presented
nightly at the pay office, the thieving foremen were in a fair way to
becoming rich by the time the fraud was discovered.  The same
individuals were also in the habit of coercing their hapless
underlings into selling their tickets for a kran or two.  These were
then resold to a middleman, who cashed them at their full face value.
But a liberal application of the bastinado worked wonders, and
speedily rendered such dishonest practices highly unpopular.

Still, it was felt that some radical alteration was necessary if we
were to get full value for, and the Hamadan poor full benefit from,
the money that was being expended on their behalf.  General Byron, a
level-headed practical soldier, and very wise in worldly knowledge,
who at this time was second in command to General Dunsterville, now
took over control of famine relief work.  He decided upon an
alteration of the existing system of doles in favour of one
consisting of a free distribution in food supplemented by payment in
cash of two krans instead of four.  Bread alone was deemed to be
insufficient, and it was felt that the starving people who toiled
daily road-making required some more nourishing food.  After
overcoming many difficulties, official as well as unofficial, and
silencing the usual group of objectors who vowed that it could not be
done, the {126} General opened soup kitchens at several centres, and
fed as many as 2,000 hungry people per day.

The recipients were delighted and grateful.  But it was now that the
local Democrats, who throughout had stood aloof from the movement for
succouring their starving brethren, reached their high-level of
political strategy.  It was not at all to their liking that the
detested British interloper was filling the empty stomachs of the
people gratis.  In such circumstances they could not be expected to
revolt and join hands with the Democrats, and besides, if this free
distribution of food were not stopped, it would be a bad day for the
wheat-trust and inflated grain prices.  So they set to work and
issued broadcast handbills warning the poor against partaking of
British soup, on the ground that it was heavily flavoured with
poison.  It was part of another "deep-laid plot," they said, to kill
off all the Hamadani whom the ravages of famine had so far overlooked.

The average Persian peasant is an ignorant and gullible individual as
a rule, but this time the Democrats overshot the mark and their
assertions were too much even for Persian credulity.  The hungry
people came and ate.  The second and succeeding days they came in
thousands.  Barricades and armed soldiers were required to prevent
their storming the distribution centres and carrying off all the
available supply.  And, to the dismay and horror of all good
Democrats, not a single one died from poisoning.  This was the
deathblow to the prestige of the Democratic {127} movement.  It lost
its grip on the people.  There is nothing a Persian, or indeed any
Oriental, hates so much as being made to look ridiculous; and the
Democrats became the target for quip and jest in the bazaars of
Hamadan, until in rage they plucked their beards and tore their
garments, exclaiming, in accents of sorrow and humiliation, "Alas,
what ashes have fallen on our heads to-day!"

But they rallied in their last ditch, and made an eleventh-hour
attempt to avert the consequences of the moral defeat which had
overtaken them.  Kuchik Khan, the "Robin Hood" of the Caspian
Marches, yielding to democratic pleadings, and in the hope possibly
of discrediting British famine relief work, sent fifteen mule-loads
of rice to Hamadan to be sold for the benefit of the poor.  But
Kuchik's agents had seized the rice without payment from growers
living in his "protected area," so he was able to play the merry game
of robbing the Persian Peter in order to comfort the Persian Paul.

The artifice was too thin.  Hamadan was not deluded.  The British
were _de facto_ masters of the situation.  They had conquered the
people of Hamadan not by the sword and halter of the Turk who had
preceded them, but by a modern adaptation of the miracle of the
loaves and fishes.

By a _ruse de guerre_ the grain owners were induced to disgorge some
of their hoarded stocks.  Telegrams purposely written _en clair_
which passed between Bagdad and Hamadan made it appear that large
{128} supplies of wheat were being forwarded from Mesopotamia,
whereupon the local Hamadan hoarders rushed into the market and sold
readily at daily diminishing rates, until something like normal
prices were reached once more.  And so the bottom fell out of the
wheat ring.

Private foreign effort closely co-operated with the military in the
distribution of food and the relief of the famine-stricken.  Dr. Funk
and Mr. Allen of the American Presbyterian Mission, Mr. McMurray of
the Imperial Bank of Persia, and Mr. Edwards, local manager of the
Persian Carpet Factory, amongst them spent considerable sums of money
and devoted a great deal of time to this work of charity.

Mr. McMurray is a man possessing much business acumen and financial
ability, and as expert adviser to the British in occupation at
Hamadan he was able to render very great services to his country.
Too modest to seek reward or recompense of any kind, he nevertheless
had an honour thrust upon him.  It was a minor class of a minor
decoration which a grateful Government in England somewhat
grudgingly, it seems, bestowed upon him in generous recognition of
his zealous labour in the common cause of Empire.  So now, should he
attend a public function at home, and the question of precedence
arise, he will probably find himself ranking next after some lady
typist from the War Office, who can write shorthand and spell with
tolerable accuracy.  To be {129} an unofficial Briton working for
Britain abroad is a very serious handicap for the Briton concerned.
The Government of the Empire sees to that.  I have never been able to
discover exactly why it is, but the handicap holds good all the way
from Tokio to Teheran, and from Salonika to Archangel.  Should you
desire to acquire merit, and you happen to be the possessor of a name
that betokens pure British ancestry, hide it, and let it be inferred
that the cradle of your race is somewhere in Palestine or the Middle
East.  Then your path is easy.  The India Office will pat you on the
back, and the British Foreign Office will ecstatically fold you to
its bosom.

McMurray's bungalow was the chief trysting-place for the British
officers in Hamadan.  It stands within the great walled enclosure or
compound where many members of the British and American colonies had
made their homes.  It was a city within a city, fringed with trees
and pleasant pathways, and bordered by flower-beds.  Mrs. McMurray
was always "at home" to her compatriots from about 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
daily.  While she fed starving Persians, she also gave luncheons and
dinners to British officers.  Rarely were there fewer than six of the
latter billeted under her hospitable roof.  The eaglets of the
R.A.F., and especially the fledglings still without their second
wing, found her an admirable foster-mother, who counselled them in
health and nursed them in illness, and was always a sympathetic
amanuensis when {130} fevered brows and unsteady hands attempted to
grapple with the problem of inditing a "line or two" for home to
catch the outgoing mail.

Dunsterville, as he was popularly called, was a frequent visitor at
the bungalow.  The original of Kipling's "Stalky," he rode easily and
without straining on the anchor of his reputation.  He is
keen-witted, with an illimitable fund of dry, racy humour, and no
drawing-room was ever dull when the General was having his fling.  As
a retailer of _bon mots_ the G.O.C. had no compeer in Hamadan.  His
shafts were never envenomed, and his victims laughed as heartily as
anybody else, as, for instance, once when rations were running low
and cannibalism was in vogue among the poor of the city,
Dunsterville, turning to a very youthful A.D.C. whose cheeks were the
colour of a ripe apple, said in his droll way, "I shall never starve,
my lad, while you are about!"

One of his _obiter dicta_ was that every British officer in Persia
should be compelled to pass a qualifying examination in "Hadji
Baba"--the Oriental Gil Blas--for he would then know more about the
Persians, their manners and customs, than could be acquired by months
of travel and unaided observation.

"Stalky" had no fear of personal danger.  He was an optimist who
always saw a diamond-studded lining to the blackest of clouds.  It is
related of him {131} that at his fateful interview with the
Bolsheviks on the occasion of his raid on Resht he told the "Red
Committee" so many amusing stories in their own mother-tongue that
they quite forgot the principal business of the evening, which was to
sentence him (Dunsterville) to death.



{132}

CHAPTER XII

DUNSTERVILLE STRIKES AFRESH

Official hindrances--A fresh blow for the Caucasus--The long road to
Tabriz--A strategic centre--A Turkish invasion--Rising of Christian
tribes--A local Joan of Arc--The British project.


By the middle of May Dunsterville began to feel his feet.
Reinforcements were trickling in, officers and N.C.O's., but no
fighting men, and always in the _petits paquets_ so beloved by the
parsimonious-minded officials who sat at General Headquarters down in
Bagdad.

Dunsterville's own position was not an enviable one.  His path was
beset by difficulties of every description, and, much against his
wish, he found himself engaged in a kind of triangular duel with
British officialdom at home and abroad.  First the Minister in
Teheran, and apparently also the Foreign Office, were wringing their
hands in despair, asking what he was doing in Persia at all, and
urging him to "move on" towards the Caucasus.  Next there was Bagdad,
who, deeply incensed that Dunsterville had an independent command,
and was in direct communication with the War Office, never lost a
chance of putting a retarding spoke in his wheel, {133} even going to
the extent of telegraphing up the line that no member of
"Dunsterforce" was to be furnished with supplies from the military
canteens.  Then, finally, there was the War Office, who had sent him
to Persia in the first instance because it was the most direct route
to the centre of Bolshevik activities in the Caucasus.  For some time
they continued to support him against the pretensions of Bagdad, but
ultimately they yielded, and Dunsterville and his force became
subordinate to the Bagdad command.  Of course, there were, in
addition, the malcontents amongst the Persians, notably the Democrats
and their Turkish-German sympathizers, who had more than a passing
interest in all this bickering and wrangling.  They, too, were
anxious that a British force should not sit down indefinitely in
Persia.

At last it was determined to do something and to strike a fresh blow
for the Caucasus; but the initiative no longer rested with
Dunsterville.  It had passed to Bagdad.  New difficulties arose
immediately.  How were the Caucasus to be reached--by the Caspian Sea
and thence by steamer to Baku?  Or overland from northwards, through
the province of Azarbaijan to Tabriz and railhead?

The direct route to the Caspian from Hamadan was not possible,
because Kuchik Khan and his Jungalis still held the Manjil-Resht
section of the road, and Dunsterville unaided was not then strong
enough to turn them out.  True, there were the Russian auxiliaries
under Bicherakoff, but these valued allies {134} were making ready
for an offensive in their own leisurely fashion, and were not to be
"speeded up" by any known methods of British hustling.

From Hamadan to Tabriz by way of Zinjan is about three hundred miles.
The route for the most part lies over difficult and mountainous
country, where supplies are scarce or hard to procure.  The wild and
scattered tribesmen are not noted for extreme friendliness.  Zinjan
itself is 115 miles from Hamadan in a northerly direction.  The next
important stage on the road to Tabriz is Mianeh, eighty-five miles
north-west of Zinjan.  From Mianeh, Tabriz itself is distant about
one hundred miles.

Tabriz, the ancient Tauris, and capital of the province of
Azarbeijan, is the largest city in the Persian Empire, and the most
important commercial centre in all Iran.  It is the residence of the
Valiahd, or heir-apparent to the Persian throne.  It occupies much
the same position in north-western Persia as does Meshed in the
north-eastern part of the country.  Marco Polo visited it during his
long overland trek to far Cathay, and found it a fair city, full of
busy merchants and wealthy citizens.

But for the British, seeking to arrive within fighting distance of
the Turks, Germans, and Russian Bolsheviks overrunning the Caucasus,
Tabriz had its own special military importance.  It was a point of
great strategic value.  Julfa, on the Russian-Persian frontier, and
ninety miles from Tabriz, is the terminus of the Trans-Caucasian
Railway which runs to Tiflis, {135} the Caucasian capital and main
British objective.  Tiflis is 320 miles from Tabriz.  The railway
from the former city continues west to Poti and Batum, the shipping
ports on the Black Sea, and east (also from Tiflis Junction) to Baku
and its oilfields on the Caspian Sea.

From Julfa, connecting with the Trans-Caucasian Railway, a Russian
company had built a branch line to Tabriz, and an extension to Sharaf
Khane on the eastern shore of Lake Urumia.  On the lake itself was a
fleet of Russian-owned steamers, which maintained communication
between the railhead at Sharaf Khane and Urumia city, famous as the
legendary birthplace of Zoroaster, which is on the western shore of
the lake, and about twenty-five miles from Sharaf Khane.

When the Russian Army, stricken by the deadly plague of Bolshevism,
retreated northwards towards Tiflis, they accommodatingly left behind
at Sharaf Khane, for the use of the first comer, their fleet of lake
steamers, hundreds of guns of heavy and medium calibre, dumps of
shells and small-arms ammunition, thousands of serviceable rifles,
and quantities of other military stores.

The Turkish frontier line, passing about forty-five miles west of
Urumia, continues due north to its junction with the territorial
boundaries of Russia and Persia on the perpetual snow-clad summit of
the Greater Mount Ararat.  The region round Lake Van having been
cleared of potential enemies--the {136} Russians had retired, and the
Armenians were put to the sword--the Turks, swinging eastward, lost
no time in crossing the frontier and violating Persian territory.
They pleaded military exigencies for the step they had taken, and
turned a very deaf and unsympathetic ear to the mere paper
remonstrances of the Persian Government.  But in the invaded
territory they met with severe and unexpected opposition, not from
their own Islamic kindred, but from hated and despised Infidels of
the Christian sect.

Urumia is the centre of a thickly populated Christian district, and
the headquarters of French, Armenian, American, Russian, and British
religious missions to the Nestorian Christians.  These latter, with
few exceptions, inhabit the plains and lowlands; but in the bleak,
almost inaccessible mountain regions, live and thrive some brave and
warlike tribes who are also Nestorian Christians, and who are
generically known as Jelus.  They had suffered much from religious
persecution at the hands of Kurd, Persian, and Turk, and over and
over again in their mountain eyries, with rifles in their hands, they
had put up a brave fight against the Moslem oppressor in defence of
hearth and home and the temples of their faith.

Nestorians and Jelus once more made common cause against the common
Turkish enemy.  Already warned by the fate of the hapless Armenians,
they were under no delusion as to what would befall them should the
Osmanli triumph--it meant extermination, root and branch.

{137}

Badly equipped and badly armed, but heroically led, the combined Jelu
Army took the field under Agre Petros, generalissimo, and Mar Shimon,
the Nestorian Patriarch.  With the latter went his sister, Surma
Khanin, who fought in the ranks of the Christian army, and whose
lion-like bravery and devotion under enemy fire speedily led to her
being known as the Nestorian Jeanne d'Arc.

A force of Turkish regulars belonging to the 6th Division, plundering
and burning as it went, on May 17th was surprised by the Jelus on the
River Barandoz, south of Urumia, and cut to pieces, the victors
capturing the guns and greater part of the supplies.  Thus came to
naught the Turkish plan for the taking of Urumia by means of a
combined attack from the south and from Salmas in the north!  The
captured artillery and supplies gave the Jelus a new lease of
military life, and they were able for some time afterwards to keep
the Turk at bay.  Everyone realized that, without military help from
the British, the Urumia Christians must be overwhelmed by the Turks
sooner or later.

This, then, was briefly the situation towards the middle of May.  The
Turk, battered and bruised after his encounter with the Jelus, was
pulling himself together for another and more carefully prepared
spring.  He hung around Khoi, whence he threatened Urumia on the
western shore of the lake, and Sharaf Khane and its rich booty of
Russian guns and military stores on the eastern shore.

{138}

While the Turk was probably inwardly debating whether he should not
bring matters to a climax by descending on Tabriz to possess himself
of the Persian end of the Trans-Caucasian Railway and the Russian
military stores at Sharaf Khane all at one swoop, some official folk
in remote Bagdad and remoter London were discussing between
themselves with great earnestness and energy whether it would not be
possible and practicable to forestall him by marching a column from
Hamadan to occupy Tabriz, seize the railhead, establish a base for
operations against Tiflis and the Caucasus generally, and stretch out
a helping hand to the sorely pressed Nestorian-Jelu Army on the other
side of Lake Urumia.

[Illustration: DRILLING JELUS AT HAMADAN.]

The British Minister in Teheran got wind of the project and jumped
upon it heavily.  The Persians would not like it; it would offend
their susceptibilities; they were almost certain to be annoyed, and
diplomatic complications, etc., etc., were sure to follow.  It is a
little way British Ministers sometimes have.  They become
over-zealous and over-cautious, ever dreading a hair-breadth
departure from the narrow limits of the conventional protocol.  There
followed a good deal of official wobbling and indecision.  First the
"Ayes" had it, then the "Noes," and meanwhile much precious time was
wasted.  Ultimately, some strong man somewhere--it is rumoured that
he lives down Whitehall way--got a firm grip of the problem, and
flung his weight into the scale on the side of the "Ayes"; and the
{139} "Noes," including the far-seeing Minister, were routed.

The word "go" was given in Hamadan, and then began the great Olympian
race--the goal Tabriz, with Turk and Briton pitted one against the
other.



{140}

CHAPTER XIII

THE RACE FOR TABRIZ

A scratch pack for a great adventure--Wagstaff of Persia--Among the
Afshars--Guests of the chief--Capture of Zinjan--Peace and
profiteering.


On May 21st a small British column left Hamadan for the north-west of
Persia.  It was anything but a formidable fighting force as far as
numerical strength was concerned.  It comprised fifteen British
officers, one French officer, and about thirty-five British N.C.O's.
The whole party was armed with rifles and some also carried swords,
infantry or cavalry pattern, which had been dug out of the Ordnance
Store at the last moment.

Even as our equipment was varied, so was there certainly something
distinctly Quixotic about our saddlery and our chargers.  Of the
latter, some were a fresh issue by the Remount Department, and ranged
from heavy limber horses to light 'Walers.  Then there were Persian
"Rosinantes," bare-boned and razor-backed.  The humble Persian mule
and humbler donkey were also impressed into the service of carrying
some British officer or sergeant forward on the great adventure.

For adventure it certainly was.  Our orders were {141} to march on
Zinjan, where a few hundred Turks were said to be holding a post,
defeat or disperse them, raise and train Persian levies, and, with
these auxiliaries to aid us in the fighting line, push on to Tabriz,
and, if possible, dispose of any Turks who might be inclined to
dispute our entry into the capital of Azarbaijan.  We had a Lewis
gun, but no artillery.  We had a medical officer, but scant medical
and surgical stores; no ambulance or stretchers, but a couple of
dhoolies, to each of which a mule was harnessed fore and aft.
Baggage and supplies were cut down to a minimum, for the column, if
such it could be termed, was to be self-supporting, and to live on
the country, not always an easy task in the starving land of Persia.

This British forlorn hope was led by Major Wagstaff of the Indian
Army, an officer who had spent years in Persia attached to the South
Persia Rifles, and had an intimate knowledge of the Persian as a
fighter and as an intriguer.  Wagstaff spoke the language of the
country with great fluency, and knew all the tribes from Fars to
Azarbaijan with the intimacy of an ethnological connoisseur.  I
remember that he held the Persian in high esteem, believed him to be
courageous to a certain extent, honest according to his lights, and
altogether possessing the makings of a soldier.  But then Wagstaff
was born an optimist!

Our route lay due north from Hamadan to Zinjan, where it was intended
that we should cut in on the {142} main Tabriz road that runs from
Teheran by way of Kasvin.  The Turks, too, had been active in this
district lately.  Small reconnoitring parties of them were said to
have made their way down through Azarbaijan to the neighbourhood of
Mianeh and Zinjan, in quest of supplies and military information.  In
a sense they were operating on favourable ground, for a large
proportion of the inhabitants of Azarbaijan are of Turkish origin.
They belong to the same race as the Turks on the north side of the
Araxes (Russian-Persian frontier) who occupy the valley from Julfa to
Erivan, and with whom those in Azarbaijan have blood ties.

The Afshari is one of the powerful Turkish tribes known as Kizil
Bashis, which settled in Persia in the seventeenth century, and at
the present day more than a quarter of the descendants of the Afshari
live in Azarbaijan.  It was to smash the growing power of these
newcomers from across the Persian border that Shah Abbas organized
the tribesmen in north-eastern Azarbaijan, who were known as
Shahsavans--"Shah loving."  But their loyalty did not last long.
They soon turned their arms against their royal master, and joined
the Russians in the campaign of 1826, forming an enduring alliance
with their tribal enemies, whom they ultimately absorbed into their
bosom.  The Shahsavans are a turbulent crew, well aware of their
strength and fighting value, and have from time to time terrorized
the Persian Government.  In 1912 they revolted in the vicinity {143}
of Ardabil, and it took a combined Persian-Russian force of five
thousand men and a four months' campaign to suppress them.

After six days' march we were in the country of the Afshar tribe, one
of the five main branches of Shahsavans, which is credited with being
able to put a thousand mounted and armed men in the field.  The chief
of the Afshars, Jahan, Shah Jahan, we found sojourning in one of his
villages called Karasf.  A day's march from this village we were met
by a messenger from the Amir Afshar, as he is generally called, who
invited us to make a detour and break our journey at Karasf.

It was at the close of a hot, dusty afternoon that we reached the
Amir's abode, very tired after a long march.  The Amir's headman bade
us welcome, and announced that we were to be the guests of his master
during our stay.  The customary sacrificial offering of sheep was
made in our honour, and our horses were led away by native mihtaran
or syces.  As for ourselves, we were installed in a spacious
caravanserai with a retinue of servants to wait upon us.  The Amir
Afshar proved an admirable host, and supplies were forthcoming in
abundance from the many villages in his domains.

Ascertaining that several members of the party were poorly mounted,
he sent us six horses, the very best of his blood stock.  The Amir
lives in semi-regal style, and, as paramount chief of the Afshar
tribe, is lord of his people and the arbiter of the lives {144} and
fortunes of about five thousand tribal families, who render him
unswerving, unquestioning obedience.  Here was ancient feudalism in
the heart of the twentieth-century Persian Empire!  Although owing a
nominal allegiance to the "King of Kings" in Teheran, the Amir
apparently did not bother his head very much about party intrigues or
the trend of national politics at the Court of the Shah.  He did his
own intriguing, and did it exceptionally well.  A man of
extraordinary ability and political shrewdness, he first coquetted
with the Turks and then with the British, adroitly playing one off
against the other in the great game of politics.  Too careful to
commit himself irrevocably to one side or the other while the Great
World War was still undecided, this Oriental Vicar of Bray
nevertheless contrived to maintain a cordial and unbroken friendship
with both Turk and Briton.  If a Turkish emissary, backing up his
persuasive pleadings with a bag of gold, besought him to put an end
to neutrality and to place his resources and his small army of
irregulars at the service of his blood relatives, the Amir always
accepted the gold cheerfully, and fervently wished success to the
Turkish arms.  Then the British, not to be outdone by the Turk, would
ask, as a guarantee of his good faith, for fifty or a hundred armed
levies from amongst his tribesmen.  The Amir invariably agreed in
principle, but he would point out that no self-respecting Afshari
could fight at his best unless equipped with a British rifle.  The
latest pattern {145} army rifle would be forthcoming to the number
required, but then a border foray would always be staged about the
same time, and the wily Amir would plead, and with some show of
reason, that he needed every sowar he had to prevent his territory
being overrun by his powerful and unscrupulous tribal neighbours.
Still, for all that, during the darkest of the famine days, he kept
the British commissariat well supplied with grain, and that, too, at
a reasonable price.

Our host was usually "at home" to distinguished visitors from four to
five a.m.  He sent to say that the state of his health forbade his
receiving us at the more conventional hour of noon.  The Amir, I
learned afterwards, was a confirmed opium-eater, his daily dose of
the drug being far in excess of the quantity consumed by our own
candid de Quincey.  He was an old man, verging on eighty, but
although his physical health was indifferent, his mental energies
were unimpaired.  He rarely ventured abroad, and spent his days and
nights in the privacy of his apartment, abandoning himself to the
full enjoyment of his enthralling passion of opium-eating.  At
daylight he was usually recovering from his latest dose of the drug.
Then he would partake of a little food, see callers, read his
letters, and depart for dreamland again, carried thither on the wings
of the insidious and baneful poppy extract.

One morning at dawn the members of the Wagstaff Mission paid a
ceremonial call on the Amir.  {146} Fortunately we were accustomed to
early rising.  We were conducted to his presence with considerable
ceremony, and found him reclining on the floor of a large apartment
covered with rare Persian rugs.  There was little else in the way of
furniture in the place.  I saw before me an old man with shrivelled,
sunken features, piercing black eyes, and a grey beard growing on a
face the colour of yellow parchment.  A long, thin, bony hand was
held out for us to shake in turn, the Amir excusing himself from
rising on account of physical weakness.  He bade us welcome in a
quavering, piping voice.

Whatever else may have been his infirmities, it soon became clear
that he had a remarkably alert brain.  The most recent phases of the
European War, the varying fortunes of the participants engaged
therein, the latest tit-bit of scandal from Teheran, and the
pretensions of the Turks to territorial occupation of Azarbaijan and
possible aggrandizement at the expense of Persia, all these topics
drew from the aged but mentally virile potentate pungent and
sagacious criticism.  He talked high strategy with all the assurance
of a Field-Marshal, and gleefully told how he had politically
out-manoeuvred the wily, calculating Turk in a recent little _affaire
à deux_.  While he spoke he ran his hand idly through a pile of
correspondence, read and unread, opened and unopened, which littered
the floor beside him.  Letter-filing has evidently not reached any
high standard at Karasf.

{147}

I think we all fell under the spell of our host's well-informed mind
and his world-wide interests, and when he asked if there had been any
Cabinet changes recently in London, and whether Lloyd George was
still Chief Minister of our King, we felt that the march of
contemporary events, rapid indeed as they can be sometimes, had
failed to outstrip the keen alertness of the overlord of Karasf.

On May 29th, having previously exchanged adieux with our kindly host,
we set out from Karasf.  The weather was now oppressively hot, and it
was becoming increasingly difficult to march during the noon-day
heat.  We accordingly moved off earlier, and usually contrived to
take the road about sunrise daily, halted at noon for an hour or so,
and then on again, finishing the day's march early in the afternoon
in the welcome shade of some garden on the outskirts of a village and
close to a good water-supply.

A day's trek from Karasf took us beyond the confines of the Amir's
territory.  Couriers whom he had despatched in advance of us warned
his local headmen of our coming, and we lacked nothing in the way of
supplies.  We crossed rough, broken country, wound over mountain
passes, and down into pleasant valleys beyond.  Our advent, it was
clear, caused much excitement in the countryside, but the people,
while they sometimes held aloof, were never unfriendly.  We were
passing through a country less {148} ravaged by starvation than the
region close to Hamadan.  Food was more plentiful, and the "hunger
battalion," with its suffering members, was not to be seen in the
Persian North-West.

We were also gradually losing touch with Persian as a spoken
language.  It was being supplanted by Turki, the dialect of
Turkish-Persian spoken by the peasant classes in the province of
Azarbaijan.  As we rode north we were sensible of this linguistic
change.  First the peasants we met in the village spoke Persian and
understood Turki; farther north Persian was understood, but not
spoken with any fluency; until, north and north-west of Zinjan, Turki
entirely ousts the native Persian, the latter as a spoken language in
many cases being quite unknown to the villagers.

So far we had seen nothing of any hostile Turks.  A body of their
cavalry and a few infantry were reported to be at Zinjan, but the
villagers told us they had not come farther south, or anywhere in the
neighbourhood of our own line of march.  A few robber bands
occasionally quitted their mountain lairs and descended into the
plain, taking us for some peaceful merchant caravan, probably
unarmed, and therefore an easy prey for these wild freebooters of the
hills.  But, on reconnoitring closer and discovering their mistake,
they did not tarry, and turning about, went off into the hills as
fast as their wiry ponies could carry them.

{149}

On the afternoon of May 30th we arrived within ten miles of Zinjan,
and camped on a bare and desolate sand tract close to the main road.
A Persian tea-house, with its walls crumbling to ruins, stood by the
wayside.  Tea there was none, and the occupier had disappeared,
leaving his establishment to the care of the wild dogs and prowling
hill robbers that nightly infested it.  It was empty now, and
abominably filthy, so I sat outside under the lee of the tea-house
wall which afforded a little protection from the scorching heat,
holding a very tired horse, and waiting for the sun to take himself
from off the hot plain in order that we might seek both rest and
refreshment.

At daylight on May 31st we broke camp early and moved cautiously
forward in the hope of surprising the Turkish force in Zinjan,
leaving the baggage and stores behind under a guard.  Our total
striking force was thirty all told, half of which was under Major
Wagstaff and the remainder under Captain Osborne, 2nd King Edward's
Horse.

Zinjan is a town of 24,000 inhabitants, shut in by high hills on the
east and west, between which lies an immense plain traversed by the
Zinjaneh Rud.  On both banks of this river are beautiful gardens
enclosed by walls of baked brick.  If the Turks meant to make a stand
here, they had found an admirable defensive position, and one from
which it would take a couple of battalions to dislodge them.
Osborne's party worked round to the west and north {150} in order to
threaten the retreat of the enemy, while Wagstaff and his small band,
including myself, halted under cover of a garden wall to the south of
the town.

Some Persian Charvadars coming out of the town volunteered the
information that the Turks holding Zinjan, whose numbers were
variously estimated at from two to three hundred, were already in
flight, and galloping away northwards as hard as they could go.  The
news of our approach must have reached them early.  No doubt our
numerical strength had been magnified tenfold by the imaginative
native spy who had carried the intelligence of our advance.

This information decided Wagstaff.  In a moment we had flung
ourselves into the saddles and, with a wild British cheer that shook
sleepy folk out of their beds, we dashed across the stone bridge
spanning the river and so into Zinjan.  We rode first for the
bazaars, hoping to round up in that quarter some stray Turks who had
overstayed their leave when the town was being evacuated.  But we
found none.

If our sudden arrival failed to surprise the Turks, it certainly
alarmed the inhabitants of Zinjan.  Panic seized them.  In the
bazaars the women and children fled at our approach, and the
shopkeepers, trembling in every limb, made frantic efforts to bolt
and bar their premises.  Finding that the new-comers neither robbed
nor maltreated anyone, the bazaar lost its {151} attack of "nerves,"
and recovered its habitual calm.  Business instincts got the better
of physical fear.  Shutters came down with a run, and as a slight
token of local appreciation, and in honour of our coming, all bazaar
prices were immediately, and by universal consent, increased one
hundred per cent.



{152}

CHAPTER XIV

CAPTURE OF MIANEH

Armoured car causes consternation--Reconnoitring the road--Flying
column sets out--An easy capture at the gates of Tabriz--Tribesmen
raid the armoured car--And have a thin time--Turks get the wind up.


Zinjan having thus passed into our hands without the firing of a
shot, the Wagstaff column established its headquarters in a garden
villa a mile north of the town, near the junction of the road to
Mianeh.  The Indo-European Telegraph Company had an office in Zinjan,
and we were speedily in communication with Kasvin, eighty miles to
the south-east.

Osborne's small party soon turned up, having failed to round up any
Turks.  Indeed, the latter bolted from Zinjan with amazing celerity,
so much so that their commandant, Major Ghalib Bey, left behind some
of his papers and personal effects.

During our march on Zinjan, Dunsterville headquarters had moved up
from Hamadan to Kasvin in order the more effectively to co-operate
with Bicherakoff and his Russian volunteers in the impending
operations against Kuchik Khan and his Jungalis, who were holding the
Manjil-Resht road.

A few hours after we had taken peaceable possession {153} of Zinjan,
Lieutenant Pierpont, with a light armoured car mounting a machine-gun
and a Ford convoy bringing supplies for our force, arrived from
Kasvin.  The car, as it lumbered through the narrow bazaar streets,
scraping its way round sharp corners where there was scarcely room to
swing a cat, visibly impressed the susceptible native mind, and
damped the pro-Turkish enthusiasm of the militant local Democrats.
Its presence exercised a salutary moral influence, and although there
were mutterings of discontent at our unceremonious seizure of the
town, the stodgy barrel of the machine-gun peeping from the turret of
the armoured car was in itself sufficient to overawe all the
anti-British hotheads of Zinjan.

On the morning following our arrival in Zinjan Major Wagstaff sent me
off with the armoured car to reconnoitre the road towards Mianeh.  I
had with me Lieutenant Pierpont, who was in charge of the car and its
crew of three, and Lieutenant Poidebard of the French Army, who was
attached to our column.  In addition to the car there were a couple
of Ford vans carrying spare petrol and stores for the journey.
Official road reports in our possession covering the section of the
route between Zinjan and Mianeh were indefinite and even conflicting.
The road ahead was in places reputed to be "good for wheeled
transport," but whether it was passable for an armoured car was
highly problematical.

Our first day's journey was devoid of thrill.  We forded the shallow
waters of the Zinjan Rud and one {154} of its tributary streams,
towed the car in places with the two Fords as tugs, and at others
built a plank bridge to carry it over deep mud holes.

At the village of Nik Be, or Nikhbeg, which is about thirty miles
from our starting-point, the inhabitants fled in terror at the sight
of the strange iron-clad monster moving down the village high street.
The very dogs took fright and set out for some remote part of
Azerbaijan with their tails between their legs.  Even the usually
placid transport donkey was not proof against the prevailing
infection of fear, and kicking his load free, he betook himself
elsewhere.  The general impression appeared to be that the Evil One
himself had dropped in for a morning call.  In five minutes from our
entry into the village not a human face was to be seen, and a silence
as of death itself reigned everywhere.  Presently we dug out some of
the terrified villagers from various subterranean hiding-places and
prevailed upon them to inspect the "monster" at close range.  Finding
it now stood the test well, and that it behaved in a rational way,
they grew bolder, and patted its khaki-painted sides affectionately,
as one would stroke a dog of dubious friendliness.

On the succeeding day, by dint of a good deal of spade work, we
reached Jamalabad, about fifteen miles from Mianeh, where the road
approaches the Baleshkent Pass.  The ascent to the pass from the
Jamalabad side is about three miles from the village, and the road
mounts abruptly at a very sharp angle.  {155} On the reverse slope it
zigzags down the side of a gorge which made one giddy to look at.  It
required the united efforts of fifty sturdy villagers from Jamalabad
to push the car to the top of the pass, but, even if we could have
negotiated the descent in safety, it was doubtful if we should ever
have been able to climb back by the precipitous corkscrew ascent.

To be caught by the Turks at the bottom of the Pass unsupported would
mean disaster for the expedition, so very reluctantly we turned the
armoured car's head for Zinjan.  We learned that there were Turks in
Mianeh, but none of those who had quitted Zinjan in such haste before
the advance of the Wagstaff column had come along the Jamalabad road.

Pierpont, who was in charge of the car, was a mild-mannered youth,
but of a very warlike disposition, and was much disappointed that we
had not had a brush with his old enemy, the Turk.  Down Mesopotamia
way he once charged an infantry position and engaged in "close
action" by laying his armoured car alongside a front-line trench,
where he speedily closed the account of its defenders with
machine-gun fire.

Another swift stroke now placed us in possession of Mianeh and
brought us eighty miles nearer Tabriz.

Captain Osborne, taking with him a small detachment from Wagstaff's
force, as well as a contingent of hastily recruited Persian
irregulars, was despatched from Zinjan over the recently reconnoitred
{156} route.  He had a convoy of Ford vans, took with him the
armoured car under Lieutenant Pierpont, and pushed forward rapidly,
negotiating the difficult Baleshkent and the still more difficult
Kuflan Kuh Passes.  The Kuflan Kuh at its highest point is 5,750
feet, and the ascent on the south side and descent on the north side
are very difficult for ordinary wheeled transport.  This is
especially so on the south slope, which, in a series of short, sharp
gradients rises 2,000 feet in two miles.

By the aid of a good deal of native labour the armoured car was
safely taken over the formidable Kuflan Kuh, and duly made its
appearance in Mianeh.  The Turks were reported to have had a small
post here, but when Osborne's party entered Mianeh the enemy had
already withdrawn towards the north-west.

The premises of the Indo-European Telegraph Company, which had a
stout wall and a compound, were selected as British headquarters.
Leaving a part of his slender command here to hold the place until
Wagstaff and his main body could come up, Osborne with the
armoured-car patrol and a few British N.C.O's pushed along the Tabriz
road, crossed the Shibley Pass twenty miles south-east of Tabriz, and
reconnoitred up to the gates of the city itself.  It was a hazardous
and daring undertaking, but it would have succeeded, and we could
easily have won the race to Tabriz and so checkmated the less
enterprising Turks, had a few companies of {157} British troops been
available to hurry to the support of Osborne.  But one cannot very
well expect the equivalent of a sergeant's guard to perform the work
of a battalion, and to hold a city of 200,000 inhabitants whose
attitude was doubtful from the point of view of friendship.  So
Osborne had to fall back slowly towards Mianeh.

The armoured car had by this time used up all the spare tyres and
inner tubes, and, when the retirement over the Shibley Pass began, it
was going on bare rims.  Its mobility was impaired, and, while it
could still fight, it certainly could not run, and its tyreless
progress over the mud and boulders which pass for a road in
Azerbaijan was slow and painful.

The limping car looked an easy prey to Turk or prowling robber
hordes.  So thought a band of two hundred Shahsavan tribesmen, as
they rode down from the hills one morning on one of their periodical
forays.  They had watched the car from afar, and noted its limping
gait and its helplessness.

In that corner of upper Azerbaijan, from the Tabriz road east to
Ardabil and the Caspian Sea, and north towards the Russian frontier,
there roam free and unhampered a score or so of sub-tribes of the
Shahsavan Clan, wild and lawless rascals for the most part, but not
wanting in courage or in that rude chivalry common to the Asiatic
hillmen.  The Shahsavani handle a rifle skilfully.  Pillaging is for
them both a livelihood and a distraction.  They are the recognized
tax-gatherers of the Tabriz road, and {158} will rob a fat caravan,
or disarm and strip the Shah's Cossacks, with equal impunity.

And now the tribesmen got their lesson.  The car stood on the
roadside while Lieutenant Pierpont and his men were preparing
breakfast.  Approaching to within eight hundred yards, the raiders
opened out, and charged to the accompaniment of wild yells.  Then the
machine-gun in the turret of the immobile car spoke up in reply.  It
sprayed the charging horsemen with lead; they broke and fled; but,
reforming, came on anew.  The gun spat more leaden hail, and this
time the tribesmen had had enough; they fled in disorder, and ever
afterwards gave a very wide berth to all such devilish contrivances
as armoured cars and machine-guns.

The Turks now grew seriously alarmed at our temerity in threatening
to snatch Tabriz from their impending grasp.  It was the door to the
Caucasus and to one of the Turkish main theatres of military
operations.  It was a prize worth having, and for the Turks the
possession of the capital of Azerbaijan was of scarcely less vital
importance than it was for the British themselves.  Kuchik Khan had
already effectively barred the gate to Resht and shut us off from the
Caspian on the east; now the Turk was completing the "bottling-up"
process, for he was closing the door of Tabriz in our face and
getting in the way of our reaching Tiflis in the north.

[Illustration: ROAD NEAR RUDBAR.  THE TWO LARGE ROCKS IN THE
FOREGROUND REPRESENT ONE ATTEMPT OF THE JUNGALIES TO BLOCK THE ROAD.]

During the first week in June the Turks bestirred themselves and
began their campaign of close and {159} active co-operation with
Kuchik Khan.  Turkish troops hurriedly moved on Tabriz from the
neighbourhood of Khoi and the direction of Julfa.  Ali Elizan Pasha,
who designated himself "Commander of the Ottoman Army in the province
of Azerbaijan," issued a flamboyant proclamation addressed to his
dear Persian brethren and co-religionists asking them to rally to his
standard and to make common cause with his Army of Liberation which
was pledged to free Persia from the thraldom of the Infidel.  So the
Turks moved in, and were welcomed by the Persian officials and by the
Valiahd or heir-presumptive with manifestations of joy, and the
Entente consuls and citizens of the Entente countries moved out as
fast as slow-moving Persian transport could carry them.

Once in Tabriz, the Turks did not let the grass grow under their
feet.  They were bent on giving us a Roland for our Oliver.  They
assiduously cultivated the good graces of the local Persian
Democrats, actively identified themselves with the Ittahad-i-Islam,
or Pan-Islamic movement, and set about the recruiting and training of
local levies with which to harry us in Azerbaijan.  The Turks also
formally notified the Teheran Government that it was their intention
to extend their occupation to the Persian capital, so as to complete
the spiritual and political resurrection of the Shah's Empire.

Mahmud Mukhtar Pasha, a Turkish military leader of some renown,
entered Tabriz on June 15th, gave {160} his blessing to the
Pan-Islamic propagandist movement, and promised the militants amongst
the Democrats that there would soon be no British left in Azerbaijan
or elsewhere in Persia to trouble the peace of mind of those
patriots.  The good work was furthered by such zealous Democrats and
Turkophiles as Hadji Bilouri, Mirza Ismael Noberi, and the Sheikh
Mehamet Biabari, who contrived to combine piety with politics for a
cash consideration.

The Turks, while lavish with oratory, were niggardly with money.  In
short, they were bad paymasters, happily for the British; otherwise
the latter would not have been in Azerbaijan as long as they were.
They enrolled fedais or native levies, but forgot to pay them,
whereupon the levies deserted and took service with the British down
Mianeh way, arguing, logically enough, if crudely, that Turkish
promises would not buy bread, and that the money of the Infidel was
better than none at all.

The Turks, too, by their rapacity early estranged popular feeling.
They commandeered right and left without payment, and in the bazaar,
at the point of the pistol, they compelled merchants and
money-changers to accept their depreciated paper currency at an
inflated rate of exchange as against Persian krans.



{161}

CHAPTER XV

LIFE IN MIANEH

Training local levies--A city of parasites and rogues--A knave turns
philanthropist--Turks getting active--Osborne's comic opera
force--Jelus appeal for help--An aeroplane to the rescue--The
Democrats impressed--Women worried by aviator's "shorts"--Skirmishes
on the Tabriz road--Reinforcements at last.


When the Wagstaff Mission finally reached Mianeh from Zinjan it began
to collect grain supplies, by purchase, and set to work to raise and
train irregulars.  Although the Persian hates drill and discipline,
there was no dearth of recruits for the local army.  The pay was
good, about £2 a month with rations and uniform, which meant
affluence to the average Persian villager, who was usually too poor
to buy enough bread to keep himself alive.

Mianeh, which is rightfully credited with being the most unhealthy
spot in North-Western Persia, has a population of about 7,000.  It is
the chosen home of a poisonous bug (Argas Persicus) whose bite
produces severe fever and occasionally death.  There is also a set of
parasites, human this time, whose sting is very deadly in a financial
sense.  They are the Merchants' and Grain-Growers' Guilds, {162} and
they were always attempting to dip deep and dishonestly into the
British treasure chest.  It would be doing this delectable spot no
injustice to say that, in proportion to its population, it can boast
a greater percentage of unchained rogues than any other town in the
whole province of Azerbaijan.

One of these knaves turned "philanthropist" once.  He begged the
Mission to start relief works to help the starving poor of Mianeh,
and offered to supply the British with spades for excavation work at
cost price.  The spades were paid for and the relief work
started--and about a week later it was accidentally discovered that
the "philanthropist" was collecting two krans a day as spade hire
from the dole of the starving peasants!  On another occasion he
induced a too-confiding officer to sanction the payment of a sum of
money for rendering less malodorous the streets of this pestiferous
town.  The money was drawn, and then its recipient discovered that
the people were partial to noxious vapours, and had conscientious
objections to any interfering and misguided foreigner meddling with
their pet manure heap.  So nothing was done, but the money
disappeared.  Such is morality as practised in this corner of the
Shah's dominions!

The Telegraph Compound which, during our occupation of Mianeh, served
as Wagstaff's headquarters, stood on the brink of a knoll overlooking
the main street leading to the Bazaar Quarter.  On the face of a
corresponding eminence opposite, and divided {163} by a bend of the
road, was the local Potter's Field, where friendless peasants and
penniless wanderers from afar who had paid the great debt of Nature
within the inhospitable walls of Mianeh were interred (when the lazy
townsfolk found time to give them sepulture) in a hastily dug and
shallow grave.  In the meantime the defunct ones were wont to be
dumped down on a rude bier and left there, sometimes for a whole day,
under the fierce rays of a mid-June sun.  Mianeh was as uncomfortable
for the dead as it was unhealthy for the living.  Truly, few Persians
seem to possess any olfactory sensitiveness.  They would pass the
Potter's Field hourly, showing no concern at the repulsiveness that
must have assailed their eyes and noses.

News filtered down the road from Tabriz that the Turks there were
displaying great activity.  They were daily being reinforced, and
made no secret of their intention to attempt, when sufficiently
strong, the task of chasing the British from Azerbaijan.  They
established posts on the Tabriz road southwards as far as Haji Agha,
about sixty miles from Mianeh.

The answer to all these Turkish preparations for breaking our slender
hold upon Azerbaijan was for Wagstaff urgently to ask for
reinforcements and especially mountain guns.  In the meantime he sent
Osborne back up the Tabriz road, with all the fighting men that could
be spared, to watch the enemy and to attempt to prevent his breaking
farther south.  {164} Osborne's chief reliance was placed on the few
British N.C.O.'s who accompanied him.  Beyond these, all he had to
stem any Turkish advance was about half a squadron of newly enrolled
irregular horse and a couple of platoons of native levies who had
been taught the rudiments of musketry and elementary drill.

Their appearance, at all events, was very warlike, not to say
terror-inspiring, and, like some of the wild tribes of Polynesia,
they relied chiefly on the effectiveness of their make-up when on the
"war-path" to bring about the discomfiture of their enemies.  The
Sowars were unusually awe-inspiring, hung about as each was with two
or three bandoliers studded with cartridges.  Each carried a rifle, a
sword of antique design, and a short stabbing blade.

The Naib, or Lieutenant, who commanded them, was equally formidable
from the point of view of arms and equipment.  He had a Tulwar shaped
like a reaping-hook, and a Mauser pistol, the butt of which was
inlaid with silver.

The tactics of the Sowar levies were something in the nature of a
compromise between a "Wild West" show and _opéra bouffe_.  They would
gallop at full speed up a steep hill, brandishing their rifles over
their heads and yelling fiercely the while.  It was always a fine
spectacular display with a dash of Earl's Court realism thrown in.
The rifles of the Sowars had a habit of going off indiscriminately
during these moments of tense excitement when they {165} were riding
down an imaginary and fleeing enemy, and the British officers who
watched their antics found it expedient in the interests of a whole
skin to remain at a respectful distance from the manoeuvring,
or--should one say, performing?--Sowars.

Swagger and braggadocio were the principal fighting stock-in-trade of
the levies and their Persian officers.  They were always clamouring
to be led without delay against the Turks in order that we might have
an opportunity of witnessing what deeds of valour they would perform
under enemy fire.  The time did come, and our brave auxiliaries found
themselves in the front line with a Turkish battalion about to pay
them a morning call--and we realized more fully than ever that the
hundred-years-old dictum of that incomparable humorist, Hadji Baba,
still held good, "O Allah, Allah, if there were no dying in the case,
how the Persians would fight!"

The Turks having outstripped us in the race to Tabriz, a belated
attempt was made early in July to get in touch with the sorely
pressed Jelus in Urumia and stretch out to them a succouring hand.
They had sent us a despairing appeal for help.  Their ammunition was
running out; their available supplies were nearly exhausted; and they
were on the verge of a military collapse.  The Turks threatening
Urumia had offered terms if the Jelus laid down their arms, but,
fearing treachery if they accepted, the War Council of the Jelus
refused the enemy offer, advising unabated resistance, and urging
that an {166} attempt should be made by the whole army to break out
towards the south and march in the direction of Bijar and Hamadan, in
order that they might find safety behind the British lines.

Lieutenant Pennington, a youthful Afrikander airman who was noted for
his coolness and daring, was despatched from Kasvin on July 7th.  He
was to fly to Urumia carrying a written assurance of speedy British
aid for the beleaguered garrison there.  Pennington made a rapid
non-stop flight to Mianeh, covering the distance from Kasvin in a
little over two hours.  He spent a day at Mianeh, where he carried
out a series of useful demonstrations intended to impress the local
Democrats.  They had never seen an aeroplane before, and were rather
vague as to its offensive potentialities.  Moreover, they had been
inclined to be scornful of our want of military strength so glaringly
revealed at Mianeh.  But now, at all events, the Democrats were duly
impressed by Pennington and his machine.  They argued that, if one
aeroplane could come from Kasvin in a couple of hours, so could a
whole flotilla, and armed with death-dealing bombs.  Not altogether
ignorant of the doctrine of consequences, the Democrats realized the
value of oratorical discretion; so for a while they put a curb on
their poisonously anti-British tongues.

Meanwhile Pennington continued his aerial journey to Turkish-menaced
Urumia, the city by the lake shore, where a Christian army was
sheltering and wondering anxiously whether it was succour or the
{167} sword that awaited it.  Within two hours of leaving Mianeh, the
intrepid airman was crossing over Lake Urumia heading for the western
shore.  He dropped low on approaching the city itself, and his
unexpected appearance brought consternation to the inhabitants.
Aeroplanes were unknown in those parts.  They felt that this visitor
from the clouds could hardly be a friend; therefore he was presumably
a foe.  Reasoning thus, the Jelus lost no time in blazing away a
portion of their already slender stock of ammunition in the hope of
bringing him down.  The aviator had many narrow escapes, and so had
his machine.  He landed with a few bullet holes through his clothing,
but his aeroplane, happily, had not been "hulled," or he would have
been immobilized at Urumia.

As he alighted, the Jelus rushed up to finish him off, for they were
not noted for being over-merciful to Turks falling into their hands.
But seeing that he was English, they embraced him as a preliminary,
and then carried him shoulder-high into the city.  He was the hero of
the hour.  The people were delirious with joy, and women crowded
round and insisted on kissing the much-embarrassed aviator.  As the
weather was very hot, Pennington was wearing the regulation khaki
shorts.  One Nestorian woman, after gazing compassionately at the
airman's bare, sunburnt legs, and noting the brevity of his nether
garment, shook her head sadly and said she had not realized till then
that the British, too, were feeling the effects of the War and were
suffering from a {168} shortage of clothing material.  There was a
whispered consultation with some sister-Nestorians, and a committee
was formed to remedy the shortcomings of Pennington's kit.  The women
ripped loose their own skirts and, arming themselves with needles and
cotton, pleaded to be allowed to fashion complete trousers for the
aviator, or at least to be permitted to elongate by a yard or so the
pair of unmentionables he was wearing.  The youth blushed furiously,
and was at great pains to explain that there was still khaki in
England, and that it was convenience, and not any scarcity of
material, that had caused the ends of his trousers to shrink well
above his knees.

Pennington flew back from Urumia, and it was arranged that the Jelus
with their women and children were to march south by way of Ushnu and
Sain Kaleh to meet a British relieving force moving up from Hamadan
and Bijar.

Early in August Osborne had several brushes with the Turks on the
Tabriz road.  The enemy flooded our lines with spies, chiefly
Persians from Tabriz, and pushed reconnoitring patrols as far south
as Haji Agha, forty miles from Tabriz.  In these road skirmishes our
Persian levies behaved with their characteristic unsteadiness.  Once
they were fired upon by hidden infantry at seven hundred yards, they
forgot their promised display of valour, their courage oozed out at
their boots, and they promptly bolted.  An aerial reconnaissance
revealed detachments of cavalry, artillery, and infantry marching
{169} south along the Tabriz road, but Headquarters in Bagdad refused
to attach any importance to this concentration, and for the moment
were deaf to Wagstaff's reiterated demand for reinforcements, and
especially for a mountain gun or two.

Captain Osborne and his party now dug themselves in at Tikmadash,
about fifty miles from Mianeh and a corresponding distance from
Tabriz, and fixed his headquarters in a serai close to the village
which commanded the Tabriz road.  There was a supporting British post
at Karachaman not far from the main Tabriz road and fourteen miles to
the south-east.

Wagstaff's repeated pleadings with "high authority" at last began to
bear fruit.  It was a generally accepted military axiom out in
Mesopotamia and Persia that, if you were insistent enough in your
demands for an extra platoon or two, with a gun or an aeroplane
thrown in, you were either given the goods, or dubbed a
"flannel-footed fool" and relegated to the cold shades of official
oblivion.  It was generally the latter.  When Wagstaff, therefore,
heard that he had been given a whole squadron of 14th Hussars, a
platoon of the 14th Hants, and a platoon of Ghurkas, as well as a
section of a howitzer battery and a couple of mountain guns, his
habitual soldierly calm deserted him, and he almost wept for joy on
the neck of his adjutant, debonair "Bobby" Roberts of the 4th Devons.

"C" squadron of the 14th Hussars had made a {170} forced march from
Kasvin.  Its ranks had been thinned by fever, and it barely mustered
eighty sabres when it rode over the Kuflan Kuh Pass to Mianeh.  It
had but two officers, Lieutenants Jones and Sweeney, fit for service.
But there was no respite.  Fever-racked troopers and leg-weary
horses, after a night's halt at Mianeh, started on a fifty-mile march
to Tikmadash, where a handful of British were holding up a Turkish
force already numbering nearly a thousand and growing daily.  The
tired infantry who had "legged it" all the way from Kasvin were also
pushed north in the wake of the cavalry.



{171}

CHAPTER XVI

THE FIGHT AT TIKMADASH

Treachery of our irregulars--Turkish machine-gun in the
village--Headquarters under fire--Native levies break and
bolt--British force withdrawn--Turks proclaim a Holy War--Cochrane's
demonstration--In search of the missing force--Natives mutiny--A
quick cure for "cholera"--A Turkish patrol captured--Meeting with
Cochrane--A forced retreat--Our natives desert--A difficult night
march--Arrival at Turkmanchai--Turks encircling us--A fresh
retirement.


The Turks came against Osborne at Tikmadash on September 5th.  For
days previously they had been carefully preparing for the attack.

Overnight they sent into the village, unperceived by the British, an
infantry detachment which fraternized with the inhabitants and also
with a small party of our irregulars who were on observation duty
there.  The treacherous irregulars said nothing of the presence of
the Turks in their midst, and made common cause with them at once.
Towards midnight the Turks smuggled in a machine-gun, which they
subsequently mounted on the flat roof of the dwelling of a Persian
official.  At daylight the Turks, from cover of the village itself,
opened a violent machine-gun fire on the headquarters of Osborne,
which were in a serai a short distance on {172} the Mianeh side of
Tikmadash village.  All the officers, some eight or ten in number,
lived here.  There were two doors to the serai on two different sides
of the building.  Both these exits were sprayed with machine-gun
fire.  There was nothing for it but to open the door and run the
gauntlet.  It was like coming within the vortex of a hail-storm, yet,
surprising to relate, few were hit.

Beyond the weak units of the 14th Hussars, the Hants, and the
Ghurkas, Osborne had nothing to depend upon in this critical hour
save levies recruited in Mianeh and elsewhere who, in spite of their
boastings, were always fire-shy.  They took up a position this
morning at Tikmadash, but it was clear from the beginning that their
hearts were not in the business.

After firing some shrapnel into the position, the Turks stormed it
with two thousand infantry.  The shell fire had already stampeded the
Persians, but their British officers, Captains Heathcote, Amory, and
Trott of the Devons, and Hooper of the Royal West Kents, by dint of
persuasion and threats, temporarily stopped the disorderly flight,
and induced the wavering men to follow them back into the line.  But
a few more shells from the Turkish gun, which burst with telling
accuracy, finished the resistance of the levies.  Osborne had no
artillery, the mountain battery section from Mianeh not having yet
arrived.

This time the portion of the line held by the levies {173} doubled up
like a piece of paper.  Panic seized them, and they fled with all the
swiftness of hunted animals, throwing away their rifles as they ran.
The Hants, Ghurkas, and Hussars were now all that was left to cover
the retirement.  The Turks were working round both flanks and, had
the British hung on, the whole force would have been surrounded and
killed or captured.  Some of the British soldiers were so incensed at
the cowardice of the Persians that they turned their rifles against
the fugitives and shot them in their tracks.

When a retirement was seen to be inevitable, the charvadars were
ordered to load up the stores and medical supplies at the serai.  In
the midst of their preparations the levies broke and fled.  This
decided the charvadars, who showed themselves to be as arrant cowards
as the rest of their race.  Cutting away the lashings securing the
loads on the transport mules, they jumped on the animals' backs and
galloped panic-stricken to the rear.

Captain John, of the Indian Medical Service, who had worked like a
Trojan attending to the wounded under fire, now collected three or
four British N.C.O's. and sought to rally the runaway charvadars, or
at least to recapture some of the transport mules.  As well might
Dame Partington have tried to mop back the waves of the Atlantic.
John, however, did succeed in moving the British wounded, but all the
officers' kits, medical supplies, and ammunition fell into the hands
of the enemy.

{174}

The sadly diminished and battered British force withdrew to
Karachaman, preceded by the fleeing native levies, who magnified the
extent of our reverse, and as they ran spread panic amongst the
villages on our line of retreat.

Eight days before the Turks hit us at Tikmadash, news had filtered
through to Mianeh that the enemy was becoming active in Eastern
Azerbaijan.  Raiding parties of Turkish cavalry had penetrated to
Sarab, eighty miles east of Tabriz, and stray bands of tribal levies
who had taken service under the Turkish flag were reported farther
east towards Ardabil and the Caspian littoral.  They distributed
proclamations broadcast announcing a Jehad or Holy War against the
British, and calling upon the people to rally to the banner of the
Ittahad-i-Islam, or Pan-Islamic movement, and so make an end of the
Infidel occupation of Persia.  The hapless villagers themselves had
little choice in the matter; compulsion was drastically applied, and
a village that showed hesitation, or evinced any apathy in embracing
the tenets of the political-cum-religious and Turkish-controlled
Ittahad-i-Islam, was laid waste, its inhabitants maltreated, or
sometimes put to the sword.

The Turks further showed their contempt for Persian authority by
seizing the telegraph office at Sarab and kicking out the detachment
of Persian Cossacks who held the place in the name of the Shah and
did police duty in the district.  These Cossacks, in common with the
rest of their brigade, were under {175} the command of a Russian
officer.  He evidently harboured some extraordinary view as to his
duty towards the Shah's Government, for he accepted with meek
submissiveness the imperative orders of the Turks to take himself and
his command out of Eastern Azerbaijan without any unnecessary delay.
The Persian Cossacks, the "paid protectors of the poor," to give them
one of their official designations, rarely "protected" anybody unless
as a financial investment, and their brutality and greed for illicit
gain caused them to be as much dreaded by the Persian peasant and
bazaar shopkeeper as were those brutal, plundering ruffians, the
Turkish Bashi-bazouks whom the senior partner in the Pan-Islamic firm
had let loose in upper Azerbaijan.

To counteract enemy activity round Sarab and Ardabil a small mounted
force was despatched from our post at Karachaman under Captain Basil
Cochrane of the 13th Hussars.  Cochrane had with him about forty
British enlisted Sowars of Khalkhal Shahsavans.  Moving across the
mountains, he boldly rode into Sarab.  The Turks, assuming his to be
but the advance guard of a large British force, scattered at his
approach.  The Governor and the townsfolk welcomed him effusively,
and promised him military support.  But Persian promises are not
always redeemable, as we had already found to our cost.  Turkish
cavalry were advancing afresh and threatening his rear, so Cochrane,
who was fifty miles as the crow flies from the nearest British post,
{176} had to let go his hold on Sarab, and retire towards the south.
Then a veil of silence enshrouded his movements; and at Mianeh
headquarters it was feared that he had been cut off and killed with
his whole party.

I had just come back from a long trek, and had stretched my weary
self out on a camp bed and gone fast to sleep, booted and spurred,
when someone shook me vigorously.  I awoke and found it was Wagstaff,
chief of the Mission, with orders for me to take out a mounted party
and go in search of Cochrane.  I mustered the available Sowars of the
station, about fifty in all.  They were recruited from the Shahsavan
tribesmen, and we had had hitherto no reason to suspect their
fidelity.  But immediately they divined that trouble was brewing and
that they might get a "dusting" from the Turk, they decided that
Mianeh was a healthier place than Sarab, and mutinied to a man.
Neither threats nor persuasion could move them.  Having, so to speak,
thrown in their hands, they dismounted from their shaggy,
fleet-footed hill ponies, and stood sullenly with folded arms,
refusing obedience to all orders.

Leaving Wagstaff to deal with the mutinous Sowars, I collected about
a dozen of my own Persian police, and with these and two British
N.C.O's., Sergeants Calthorpe, R.F.A., and Saunders of the 13th
Hussars, set off on my mission.

We marched the greater part of the night, and early next day reached
Turkmanchai on the Tabriz {177} road, twenty-five miles north-west of
Mianeh.  Here I impressed ten Sowars of ours who, feigning illness
and suffering from "fire-shyness," had stolen out of the trenches at
Tikmadash.  Our route from Turkmanchai lay nearly due north towards
the foothills of the lofty Bazgush Range and the country of the
Khalkhal sub-tribe of Shahsavans.  We bivouacked for the night in the
prosperous village called Benik Suma, which stands in the middle of
an arboreal-cloistered dale watered by a shallow but swift-running
mountain stream.  Supplies were plentiful, and the hand of famine had
not touched this secluded Persian hamlet, which nestled so cosily
beneath the glorious foliage of oak and chestnut.

When the march was resumed in the morning, it was found that four of
the "malingerers" from Turkmanchai had deserted overnight.  My little
command did not seem at all easy in its mind at the prospect of
having a brush with the enemy, and every hour that brought us nearer
to the hill country an increasing number of Sowars reported sick and
begged to be allowed to fall out.

At first I was puzzled by the spread of this sudden malady, for the
symptoms were identical in each case--severe abdominal pains; but
presently the mystery was explained.  I encountered on the road a
Persian Cossack who had ridden in from the Sarab district, and had
come across the mountains that lay ahead of us.  He volunteered the
information that in a village about twenty miles distant he had {178}
seen a Turkish cavalry patrol.  Our Sowars on hearing this looked
very glum, and four of them at once complained of violent illness.
They rolled on the ground in pretended agony, artfully simulating an
acute cholera seizure.  This time, and without much difficulty, I
diagnosed the disease as being that of pure funk, or what is commonly
known in military parlance as "cold feet."  While sympathizing with
the sufferers, I gravely told them that I had instructions to shoot
off-hand any of my command who became cholera-stricken, and to burn
their bodies in order to prevent the disease spreading.  The result
was little short of magical.  The "severe pains" disappeared, and the
patients made such a wonderful recovery that within half an hour they
were able to mount their horses and turn their faces towards Sarab
once more.  And the "epidemic" did not reappear.

We entered the mouth of the gloomy Chachagli Pass in the Bazgush
Range.  Horsemen afar off had hovered on our flanks and reconnoitred
us carefully, but the distance was too great to tell whether they
were enemy irregulars or simply roving Shahsavans in search of
plunder, who would impartially despoil, provided the chances were
equal, Briton, Turk, or Persian.

The Chachagli Pass, a trifle over 8,000 feet, must surely be the most
difficult to negotiate in the whole of the Middle East.  The road or
track from the southern entrance of the Pass follows a narrow {179}
valley shut in by a high gorge.  A huge mass of limestone rock,
parting company with some parent outcrop several thousand feet above
our heads, has fallen bodily into the shallow stream which rushes
down the Pass, damming up its waters momentarily.  The stream is
angry, but not baffled, at this clumsy effort to bar its path.
Gathering volume and strength, and mounting on the back of the
impeding boulder, it dives off its smooth surface with all the energy
and vim of a miniature Niagara, and goes on its way humming a merry
note of rejoicing.

After traversing the stream repeatedly, the road tilts its nose in
the air and mounts sharply.  With just enough room for sober-going
mules to pass in single file, it skirts the brink of a precipice
until the top is reached.  The rocks radiated a torrid heat that
September morning, and the sun struck across our upward path.  It was
difficult climbing, for there is not in all the Chachagli Pass enough
tree shade to screen a mountain goat.

On the north side of the summit the road descends just as abruptly;
the track is narrow and rugged, and it requires careful going to
avoid toppling over the unramped side and down into the rock-studded
bed of the stream.

It was nearing sunset on the evening of September 2nd, and my small
force was preparing to bivouac for the night, when two Sowars who had
been foraging in a village to the west came galloping with news of
the enemy.  They had learned that a party of {180} Turkish irregulars
had halted in a hamlet three miles away.

We moved in the direction indicated and found the information was
correct.  The enemy horsemen, believing themselves secure, had
neglected to mount a guard.  They had off-saddled and were sleeping
peacefully in the shade of a mud-walled compound when we burst into
the place and surprised them.  They were ten in all.  Rudely
disturbed in their siesta, they surrendered without firing a shot.
The prisoners comprised two Turkish N.C.O's., six Sowars, and two
agents of the Ittahad-i-Islam.  They had evidently been "billposting"
and recruiting, for their saddlebags contained letters addressed to
Turkish sympathizers in the district and also the red armlets worn as
a distinguishing badge by the newly enrolled fedais who undertook to
fight under the crescent-flag of the Osmanli.

My own Sowars were greatly elated over this minor success.  Their
spirits rose accordingly, and they now professed to regard the
fighting Turk with disdain, and to be prepared to match themselves
single-handed against a whole troop of the enemy.

But it was all mere bombast.  The prisoners were sent down to Mianeh
with an escort of six of these "valorous" levies.  On the way they,
though, of course, unarmed, overpowered the guard, took the arms and
horses, and escaped.

At daylight next morning, September 3rd, the march northwards was
resumed.  Our advanced {181} guard was fired upon by some armed
horsemen, who retired.  Following them up, we found that they were
some of Cochrane's scouts who had mistaken us for Turks.  Cochrane
himself I came across two hours later.  With his little force he had
retreated without loss from Sarab, and had taken up a snug defensive
position on the brow of a wooded eminence, where he placidly awaited
whatever fate might send him first--the attacking Turk, or the
succouring British.

The tribesmen were friendly towards us, and, attracted by the
prospect of good pay, were offering themselves freely as recruits.
Making due allowance for the fighting instability of our levies, we
felt we were strong enough to hold on, and if the worst came to the
worst, and we were outnumbered, capable of putting up a running fight
with the enemy.

But the end bordered on the dramatic, and came with an abruptness
that neither of us had foreseen.  As related in a previous chapter,
Osborne was heavily attacked at Tikmadash on the morning of September
5th, and the news of his retreat and the advance of the Turks along
the Tabriz road did not reach Cochrane and myself until 2 a.m. on the
morning of the 6th.  It was a ticklish situation.  Go forward we
could not, and our only way back was over the gloomy fastness of the
Chachagli Pass.  The Turks, we knew, were advancing rapidly, and we
mentally saw them already astride our one line of retreat and
ourselves trapped at the south exit of the Pass.

{182}

There was no time to be lost.  So, destroying our surplus stores, and
with grim faces, we set off in the darkness of the night.  Our levies
surmised that something had gone wrong with the British, and fear
gripped their hearts.  They deserted wholesale and without waiting to
bid us adieu.  There was a picket of fifteen Persians and a British
sergeant in a village a mile to our front.  The sergeant alone
reported back.  His command had "hopped it" when they realized that
danger threatened.  Five miles behind us on the crest of the ridge
there was an observation post of thirty irregulars with a Naib or
native lieutenant and two British N.C.O's.  The Naib had the previous
evening vaunted his personal prowess, and assured Cochrane and myself
that no Turks would pass that way except over his lifeless body.  But
when we reached his post in the blackness of the night, we discovered
that the gallant Naib had fled none knew whither, and taken all his
men with him.  We never saw him again.  The two N.C.O's. had mounted
guard alternately, and we found them cursing Persian irregulars and
Persian perfidy with a degree of vigour and a candour that did
adequate justice to their own private view of the situation.

Cochrane is an Afrikander born, and as resourceful and plucky a
soldier as ever donned khaki.  Used to night marching on the veldt,
he led the advanced guard of our party through the intricate,
labyrinthian windings of the Chachagli Pass where a single false step
meant death.  It was nerve-straining work, this {183} night march in
the darkness, with men, horses, and transport mules following each
other in blind procession and groping for a foothold on the narrow
causeway.  That mysterious dread of the unseen and the unknown, ever
present on such occasions as these, clutched with a tenfold force the
timorous hearts of the native levies who had survived the earlier
stampede at the beginning of the retreat.  Their teeth chattered, and
their trembling fingers were always inadvertently pressing triggers
of loaded rifles, which kept popping off and heightening the nerve
tension.

We got clear of the Pass shortly after daylight.  Fortunately the
Turks were not there to intercept our march.  With the passing of the
long night vigil, and the coming of the dawn, gloom was dispelled;
life assumed a rosier tint, and the levies recovered some of their
lost spirits and waning courage.  Once free of the imprisoning hills,
and out on the broad plateau that dipped southwards to intersect the
Tabriz road, we headed straight for Turkmanchai.  Once we rode into a
village as fifty well-mounted horsemen, disturbed like a covey of
frightened birds, bolted out at the other end.  We found that they
were Shahsavan robbers, who looked upon our party as potential
enemies.  Turkish cavalry in extended order were visible on the
skyline as we gained the shelter of Turkmanchai.

We reached this spot in the nick of time.  Osborne's force had been
compelled to evacuate Karachaman, {184} the position occupied after
Tikmadash, and his sorely pressed command was now trickling into
Turkmanchai with the Turks at their heels.  Turkmanchai village is at
the base of a steep hill.  At its summit the road from Tabriz
squeezes through a narrow-necked pass.  Here the Hants and the
Ghurkas took up a position in order to arrest the Turkish advance.  A
section of a mountain battery had arrived overnight.  The Turkish
cavalry appeared in column of route, out of rifle fire as yet, and
blissfully ignorant of our possession of artillery.  The cavalry made
an admirable target.  Two well-directed shells burst in the midst of
the astonished horsemen.  Their surprise was complete, and wheeling
they opened out and galloped wildly for cover.  The impromptu salvo
of artillery set them thinking, and they did not trouble us again
that day.

To hold Turkmanchai was impossible.  We had stopped the Turks in
front, but they were working round our flanks, and it was only a
question of hours when we should be isolated and cut off from Mianeh.
We were outnumbered by fully ten to one, and the flanking parties of
cavalry which the enemy threw out were alone larger than the British
combined force of regulars and irregulars.

A fresh retirement was decided upon, and on the morning of September
7th we evacuated Turkmanchai.  The wounded and the sick were removed
in transport carts, and two hours after midnight the head of the
column moved slowly off in the darkness.  {185} I was in charge of
the advanced guard, and found myself in command of a varied
assortment of Persian irregulars, some of whom had "distinguished"
themselves at Tikmadash and Karachaman and had been "rounded up" by
British troops during the retreat.  They were a motley crew, and what
infinitesimal amount of pluck they ever possessed had long ago
evaporated.  In the advanced guard it was difficult to restrain their
impetuosity.  They dashed off at top speed as if they were riding a
fifty-mile Derby race to Mianeh.  But their one impelling motive was
to place as many miles as possible of dusty road between themselves
and the oncoming Turks before daylight.

By dint of threats of summary punishment they were brought to heel
and ultimately held in leash.  Silence it was impossible to impose,
short of some form of gagging, and they chattered like a cageful of
monkeys, utterly heedless of the danger of betraying our presence to
the enemy.  Then, too, their superheated imagination saw Turks
growing on every bush.  "Osmani anja!"  "Osmani anja!" (The Turks are
there!) they would cry, indicating some village donkey or goat taking
a hillside stroll.  Fortunately for us, the Turks showed themselves
to be singularly lacking in energy, and were not keen on risking a
night attack in unknown country, or they might have ambushed the
advanced guard half a dozen times before it got clear of the danger
zone.  With our Persian "braves" to rely upon, there {186} would
surely have been a "regrettable incident" to record officially.

The Turks waited for daylight, and then they attacked the main body
and the rearguard, but were beaten off, and the column extricating
itself reached Mianeh in safety.



{187}

CHAPTER XVII

EVACUATION OF MIANEH

We have a chilly reception--Our popularity wanes--Preparation for
further retirement--Back to the Kuflan Kuh Pass--Our defensive
position--Turks make a frontal attack--Our line overrun--Gallantry of
Hants and Worcesters--Pursuit by Turks--Armoured cars save the
situation--Prisoners escape from Turks--Persians as fighters.


Mianeh, pampered, spoon-fed Mianeh, which had grown fat on British
bread and comparatively wealthy on British money, gave the retreating
column a chilly reception.

The bazaar looked at us askance, and the Democrats spat meaningly in
our direction and muttered a malediction upon our heads.  There was
joy in the eyes of the people which they took no pains to conceal.

The news of the Turkish success, much magnified in passing from mouth
to mouth and village to village, had preceded our arrival, and the
barometer of bazaar sentiment, always a sure gauge of Persian public
opinion, had veered round to "stormy."

And "stormy" it was to be.  It was felt that the sands of the British
glass had run out.  The attitude of the people underwent a sudden
change {188} from cringing supplication to one of thinly veiled
hostility.  Fawning officials, who had battened upon our liberality
and profited by our largesse, now fell over themselves in their
efforts to sponge the slate clean and write upon it a Persian
improvised version of the "Hymn of Hate."  They threw the full weight
of their mean souls into the job.  In the bazaar they buzzed about
like so many poisonous gadflies, and in order to curry favour with
their new masters-to-be they incited the people to anti-British
demonstrations, and beat and imprisoned humble folk whose friendship
for our nation was disinterested and had not been offered on the
local commercial basis of so many krans per pound.  With one
exception, all the district notables--who had always been reiterating
their professions of friendship, and to whom we had paid large sums
as subsidies for faithless, turn-tail levies, or as purchase price
for grain--went over to the enemy.  Our Mianeh police, my own
command, or those of them who were Persians, followed the general
example and ran off to join the Turks.

There was one notable exception.  Four Kurds who belonged to the
police and who could not be intimidated or cajoled, stood firm and
refused to be carried off by the wave of desertion, and they remained
to guard the Mission premises.

After Turkmanchai we did not tarry long in Mianeh.  Preparations were
at once made for a further retirement.  The Turks were coming on
{189} slowly and methodically, and apparently in no immediate hurry
to hustle us out of Mianeh.  The long and, in a sense, rapid marches
of the previous five days during hot weather had told upon the
Turkish infantry, and now the advancing enemy had cried a halt in
order that his tired troops might enjoy a brief repose.

Our next defensive position was the Kuflan Kuh or Qaplan Kuh (the
panthers' hill) Pass, which lies five miles south-east of Mianeh.
The main range of the Kuflan Kuh runs roughly from east to west, and
the Tabriz-Zinjan road passes over its crest at a height of about
five thousand feet.  At the end of the Mianeh plain, and some two
miles from the village itself, there is a solid brick bridge over the
Karangu River.  Once the river is crossed, coming from Mianeh, the
rise begins gradually, and the foothills of the Pass are met with a
mile or so from the river bank.  The ascent from the northern or
Mianeh end is very difficult, and the road mounts between two
perpendicular walls of rock.  The gradient is steep, and the outer
edge of the roadway was wholly unprotected until a British labour
corps took the job on hand and interposed a coping-stone barrier
between the exposed side of the road and the abyss below.  The same
workers also plugged up some of the gaping holes in the roadway which
had existed from time immemorial.

On Sunday, September 8th, the whole of Major Wagstaff's force bade
farewell without regret to {190} Mianeh, marched across the Karangu,
and placed the formidable barrier of the Kuflan Kuh between itself
and the advancing enemy.  Wagstaff established his headquarters in a
ruined caravanserai near the stone bridge which spans the Kizil Uzun
River at the southern entrance to the Pass.  All the stores of wheat
and barley which had been accumulating in Mianeh were destroyed
before evacuation, and the rearguard crossed the Karangu without
molestation either from the Turks or from their new allies, the
Mianehites, who were hourly showing themselves more hostile to the
retiring British.

[Illustration: NORTH GATE, KASVIN.]

Headquarters at Kasvin now began to be alarmed at the uninterrupted
southward advance of the Turks, for, if Zinjan fell, Kasvin might be
expected to follow, and our line of communications from Hamadan
towards the Caspian would be cut.  General Dunsterville himself was
away in Baku, fighting Bolsheviks and Turks.  Some weeks earlier,
with the help of Bicherakoff and his Russians, he had rooted out
Kuchik Khan from his jungle fastness, and opened the road from Manjil
to Resht and the Caspian Sea.

Wagstaff was accordingly ordered to hold the Kuflan Kuh at all costs,
but what he was to hold it with was not quite clear, inasmuch as his
total dependable fighting strength of Hants, Ghurkas, and 14th
Hussars did not exceed 250 bayonets and 50 sabres, the few remaining
levies being a negligible quantity.  He had been given a machine-gun
detachment, a {191} mountain battery section, two field guns, and a
howitzer.  His main position was on a line of low hills extending for
about three miles below the northern face of the Pass, and commanding
the approaches from the Mianeh plain and the brick bridge across the
Karangu.  The guns were on the reverse or southern slope of the Pass,
whence by indirect fire they could make it unpleasant for an enemy
crossing the Karangu bridge or fording the shallow river itself.

A platoon of the Worcesters arrived to reinforce our attenuated line,
and Colonel Matthews of the 14th Hants took over command on the 9th.
The Turks had now occupied Mianeh in force, and during the ensuing
two days were busy preparing for an offensive movement.  They pushed
a considerable body of infantry down to the cultivated fields
bordering the north bank of the Karangu.  Here, amongst the boundary
ditches, topped with low bushes, they found a certain amount of
ready-made cover, and they subjected our advanced posts on the right
to a harassing fire.  These were held by levies with a stiffening of
British officers and British N.C.O's.  The Persians, as usual, became
"jumpy" whenever Turkish bullets hummed in their immediate vicinity,
and as they were utterly lacking in elementary fire-control they were
a source of vexatious perplexity to their British officers and
sergeants.  One officer, in despair at their utter unreliability
under fire, pleadingly suggested that they might be withdrawn {192}
altogether, and himself left with two British sergeants to hold the
post.

Even after making due allowance for the complete worthlessness of our
Persian auxiliaries, we hesitated to believe that the Turks would
commit themselves to a frontal attack on the Kuflan Kuh.  Given a
sufficiency of reliable troops, it would have been an admirably
strong defensive position, and any enemy who came "butting" against
it with lowered head would have found the experiment a costly one.

But the Turks had seemingly gauged the measure of our strength and
our weakness more accurately than we had ourselves, for, eschewing
anything in the nature of new-fangled turning movements, they came at
us in the good old-fashioned way, and by the most direct route.

The attack was delivered after breakfast on September 12th, and on
the part of the enemy there was no sign of hurry or confusion.  Two
thousand infantry, highly trained and admirably handled, belonging to
one of their crack Caucasian divisions, crossed the river in extended
order and flung themselves against our line.  The shock of contact
was first felt on the right, where the Persians were in position.
These latter promptly broke and fled in utter disorder, all attempts
to rally them proving futile.  Our line was now in the air, so to
speak, with the Persians scuttling like rabbits up towards the
entrance to the Pass.  It was short and bloody work.

{193}

The Hants and the Ghurkas had now to bear the brunt of the attack.
The Turks, reinforced, came on in surging waves and flowed over their
trenches.  Both units made a gallant but ineffectual fight, and were
forced back up the Pass, suffering considerable losses.  The enemy
followed up his advantage and stormed the Pass itself.  A last stand
was made at the summit to cover the retreat of the guns.  Here Hants
and Turks fought hand to hand with bayonet and clubbed rifle, until
the sadly diminished remnant of this brave battalion, after losing
their gallant sergeant-major, were literally pushed over the crest
and down the reverse slope.  But they had stood their ground long
enough to save the guns from capture.

The Worcesters, who had been in reserve on the southern slope, now
came doubling into action to the assistance of the hard-pressed
Hants.  Taking shelter behind the boulders which are plentiful on
both sides of the roadway, they covered the retirement, driving the
Turkish snipers off the summit of the Pass and arresting any
immediate pursuit on the part of the enemy.

The caravanserai at the Kizil Uzun Bridge, where Colonel Matthews had
his headquarters, being now untenable, he withdrew with his remaining
force across the Baleshkent Pass to Jamalabad on the road to Zinjan.
As for the runaway levies, some of them did not halt until they had
placed a good twenty miles between themselves and the scene of the
Kuflan Kuh fighting.

{194}

The Turks pursued us to Jamalabad, but it was the last kick.  Their
offensive spent itself here, thanks to a new factor which had entered
into the game.  This was the armoured car sections, light and heavy,
under Colonel Crawford and Lieutenant-Colonel Smiles, which, when our
position was indeed precarious, had been rushed up from Kasvin and
Zinjan in support of our retiring column.  The Turks got a bad
peppering at Jamalabad, and a few miles farther south at Sarcham
where the cars were in action.  The enemy had no liking for this sort
of fighting, and troubled us no more.  They withdrew from Jamalabad
and, in anticipation of a counter-offensive on our part, proceeded to
fortify themselves on the Kuflan Kuh.

A week after the fight at the Kuflan Kuh two men of the Hants who had
been captured by the Turks arrived in our lines, clothed in nothing
save a handkerchief apiece.  While their captors were squabbling
amongst themselves as to the distribution of the worldly possessions
of the prisoners, the latter had slipped away unperceived and gained
Jamalabad.  There they were waylaid by Persian thieves, badly beaten,
stripped of their clothing, and left for dead on the roadside.
Still, they were a plucky pair, for, recovering, they set out afresh,
and, completing a fifty-mile tramp in the blazing sun without food or
raiment, rejoined their unit.

The Crawford armoured cars and the Matthews column slowly fell back
on Zinjan, and there {195} ended the military activities of the
Tabriz expedition.

My strictures on the fighting value of the Persian may appear unduly
severe.  I fully realize that one had no right to expect very much
from a mass of raw, undisciplined material.  The men were hastily
recruited, and their training, necessarily circumscribed by the
exigencies of time, could not have been anything but perfunctory and
imperfect in the circumstances.  But I am tilting rather at the
theory prevalent in certain quarters at the inception of the Tabriz
Expedition that one had only to send British officers into the
highways and byways of Azerbaijan and that they would find there
"ready-made" soldiers endowed with a fine fighting spirit, hardly
inferior in quality to our own superb infantry, men who would stand
up to trained and efficient soldiers like the Turks.  Having once got
the half-trained levies into the trenches, their British officers
were expected to hold them by sheer force of will-power, and to
hypnotize them into taking aim at an enemy without shutting both
eyes.  Now the bubble of Persian fighting efficiency has been
pricked, and we have a more just appreciation of the virtues and
shortcomings of the Persians as a unit in a modern army.



{196}

CHAPTER XVIII

CRUSHING A PLOT

Anti-British activities--Headquarters at Hamadan--Plans to seize
ringleaders--Midnight arrests--How the Governor was entrapped.


Back in Hamadan, the fierce political enmity of the Democrats, which
had been quiet for some time, broke into fresh activity after the
removal of Dunsterville headquarters to Kasvin at the end of May.

General Byron, who was in charge at Hamadan, speedily discovered
through his Intelligence Officers that the local Democrats were bent
on making things merry for the British, if they possibly could.
Previous rebuffs had taught the Democrats the value of silence and a
more complete method of organization.  Their defects in these
directions were now to some extent remedied.  Turkish gold, too, was
forthcoming, and the Democrats of Hamadan became a secret political
organization--a sort of Persian Mafia or Camorra--which was hatching
a political conspiracy against the British.  It was the
Ittahad-i-Islam again at work.  This organization, while outwardly
making common cause with the Islamic malcontents of Hamadan and
elsewhere, was in secret working strenuously for Turkey and the
Turkish cause, and the Democrats {197} who were caught in its net
were but a means to that end.

One thing, however, soon became clear--that a vast network of Turkish
espionage, with ramifications through Persia, had its headquarters in
Hamadan.  For many weeks the organization was allowed to have free
rein in the carrying out of its "holy work."

Its propaganda mills worked long and late; its agents came and went;
Turkish emissaries slipped into Hamadan and out again without any
difficulty, and the leaders of the Hamadan movement, which aimed at
our overthrow by a _tour de force_, must have often chuckled to
themselves at our apparent simplicity and at the ease with which we
had been outmatched by Oriental cunning.

While feigning blindness, the British were very watchful indeed.  It
was like the story of the faithful retainer of the Samurai noble in
feudal Japan who set out to avenge his lord's death.  His enemies
were powerful and vigilant, but in the end his carefully simulated
indifference threw them completely off their guard, and he triumphed.
So it was in Hamadan, where sharp wits were pitted against sharp
wits.  In time the chiefs of the inner ring of the Hamadan
combination grew careless.  Little by little, their secret signs and
passwords, their working programme, their membership roll, and even
full details of the Turkish system of espionage in Persia generally,
passed into our hands.  There was little more to wait for.  It was
time to strike.

{198}

But a fresh difficulty immediately presented itself.  The plotters,
in co-operation with Kuchik Khan, had fixed the date for an armed
revolt against British occupation; and what afterwards happened in
Egypt, was, in June of 1918, deliberately and carefully planned to
take place in Hamadan.  There were practically no troops in the town
at the time, and the torch of revolt once lighted and the work of our
extermination begun, ten or twelve officers with a couple of dozen of
N.C.O's. of Dunsterforce could not for long have resisted the
determined onslaught of a fanatical and arrack-incited population of
70,000.

To arrest the leaders openly in daylight would assuredly have
precipitated a disaster, and led to bloodshed, and probably to our
own undoing.  The inner council of the conspiracy consisted of
fifteen members, and included the Persian Governor and a number of
local notables.

Secrecy and surprise were essential; so the plan hit upon was a night
descent simultaneously on the whole band, an officer and two N.C.O's.
being detailed for each arrest.

The procedure in the following case may be taken as typical of the
others: In the early hours of the morning a Persian batman in the
employ of a British officer was directed to deliver a sealed envelope
marked "From O.C. Hamadan" at the house of one of the plotters.  The
messenger, hammering at the door, aroused the sleepy watchman within,
and told him {199} that he had an important letter to deliver from
the British General.  "Come back in the morning," would reply the
watchman, "my master is in bed and asleep."  The messenger, duly
coached, would reply, "That is impossible.  Open the door.  The
letter, I know, is important, for I have been given ten krans to
deliver it safely."  The watchman, while wary and inclined to be
suspicious of belated callers, was also avaricious, and was not going
to let slip any chance of netting a few krans.  As had been
anticipated, his greed overcame his caution.  He opened the door in
order to claim his share of the late letter delivery fee.  As soon as
he did so, a couple of stalwart British sergeants, springing out of
the darkness, seized, bound, and gagged him.  Once within the
high-walled courtyard of the house, the rest was easy.  It was but a
few steps to the sleeping apartments, and the proscribed conspirator
as a rule woke up to find the chilly muzzle of a British service
revolver pressing against his temple.  He was gagged to prevent his
raising an alarm; his hands were bound; and, thus helpless, he was
carried off and dumped into a covered motor lorry, where an armed
guard saw that he came to no harm.

But the Persian Governor himself was the most difficult of the whole
band to surprise and arrest.  His residence was in a big walled serai
at the extreme end of Hamadan, and, in accordance with Persian
custom, and by reason of his official position, he lived surrounded
by a guard of about fifty men.  To {200} deal with him tact and
finesse were necessarily called into play.

The task of securing the Governor quietly and without unnecessary
fuss fell to the lot of a Colonel who had learned something of native
ways in Rhodesia and East Africa.  He was an Irishman possessing a
glib tongue, a knowledge of Persian, and all the suavity of his race.
He also had the advantage of being known to the Governor and his
entourage.  So, when he knocked at the door of the Governor's
residence at an hour long after midnight, the watchman admitted him
without hesitation.  The guard turned out and eyed the intruder
suspiciously, but, finding it was the sartip sahib (Colonel) from the
British Mission who was making inquiries about the state of the
Governor's health, they yawned sleepily and betook themselves to the
shelter of their blankets, vowing inwardly that the eccentricities of
this strange race called English who paid ceremonious visits in the
middle of the night were beyond the comprehension of any Oriental
mind.

"There has come wonderful news from Teheran, and the Governor must be
told at once," said the visitor, flourishing a big envelope with many
red seals attached thereto.

"Good," replied the janitor deferentially, "the Governor is enjoying
sweet repose, but if it is the wish of the Colonel Sahib, I will take
him the paper."

"Alas, that it should be so!" interposed the caller gravely, "but
into his own hands alone am I permitted {201} to deliver this
precious letter.  Go, faithful one!  Summon your illustrious master,
the protector of the poor, and the friend of the oppressed!  I will
remain on guard by the open door, and none shall enter in your
absence."

The ruse succeeded.  The servitor departed on his errand, and in a
few minutes returned with the Governor clad in a dressing-gown and
slippers.  He greeted the Colonel, who handed him the envelope which
contained a blank sheet of paper.  It was dark on the threshold where
the Governor stood tearing open the missive, so the Colonel proffered
the aid of his electric torch.  Presently the Governor, divining that
something was amiss, looked up with a start, and found himself
covered with a revolver.  "Come with me," said the officer tersely,
"and, above all, do not resist or attempt to summon help!"  The
trapped official obeyed with docility, and followed his captor to a
waiting automobile, into which he was bundled and placed in charge of
a British guard.  Two sentries at the guardroom door kept the Persian
guard within in subjection while the Governor's papers were being
seized.  These latter proved to the hilt his complicity in the plot
that was being hatched to destroy British lives in Hamadan.  The
deposed official--accompanied by copies of the incriminating
documents--was sent as a present to the Teheran Cabinet, with a
polite request for an explanation of the gross treachery of their
unfaithful servant.

{202}

The coup had succeeded without the firing of a shot, and the back of
the conspiracy was broken, for it was left impotent and leaderless.
Before sunrise all the captives, with the exception of the Governor,
were on their way to Bagdad and an internment camp.

An amusing sidelight on the affair was the attitude of the Persian
police in Hamadan.  Hearing of the arrests, they assumed the worst.
They bolted, taking refuge in the neighbouring cornfields, where they
remained a whole day under the impression that they were the sole
survivors of a "general massacre" of inhabitants carried out by the
British.



{203}

CHAPTER XIX

THE FIRST EXPEDITION TO BAKU

Kuchik Khan bars the road--Turk and Russian movements--Kuchik Khan's
force broken up--Bicherakoff reaches Baku--British armoured car crews
in Russian uniforms--Fighting around Baku--Baku abandoned--Captain
Crossing charges six-inch guns.


In a previous chapter I pointed out that Kuchik Khan was in military
possession of the Manjil-Resht road, and that the Russians under
Bicherakoff were concentrating at Kasvin preparatory to trying
conclusions with this amiable bandit--the cat's-paw of Turkish-German
intrigue--who was barring Bicherakoff's route to the Caspian and to
Russia.

At the end of May, in order to bring about a more effectual
co-operation between his own force and that of the Russian commander,
General Dunsterville transferred his headquarters from Hamadan to
Kasvin.

The original purpose of the Dunsterville Mission, it will be
recollected, was to fight Bolshevism by the organizing of Armenians
and Georgians and, if possible, Tartars, in the Southern Caucasus.
This had now become difficult of realization, owing to {204} the
series of bewildering and kaleidoscopic changes in Transcaucasia
which had profoundly affected the entire political and military
situation.  For example, the virus of Bolshevism had infected the
Russian troops in Baku; the Germans had landed at Batum and, by
making peace with the Georgians, were placed in possession of Tiflis.
The Turks had arranged a peace pact with the Armenians which left
their armies free to invade north-west Persia, prosecute a vigorous
campaign against the Nestorians of Urumia, and, finally, overrun the
Caucasus as a preliminary to co-operating with the Germans in their
contemplated advance on Baku.  Now the Bolshevik leaders in Baku
refused to recognize the right of either of the rival belligerent
groups--the Central Powers or the Entente--to spoil the flavour of
their military hotch-potch in any way.  It suited the blasé Russian
palate, and that should be sufficient.  The Bolsheviks, at all
events, were consistent to the extent that, while they opposed the
advance of the Germans and Turks towards Baku, they more than once
resolutely refused to accept the proposed aid of British troops to
help them in overcoming the forces of the Central Powers.

[Illustration: DRILLING ARMENIANS AT BAKU.]

Negotiations with Kuchik Khan had ended abortively.  The leader of
the Jungalis was quite prepared to permit Russian troops to withdraw
from Persia if they wished, and to pass through his "occupied
territory" to their port of embarkation on the Caspian.  But British,
"No!"  They had no business {205} in Persia at all, he argued, and if
they were desirous of going to Russia, they would have to find some
other road.

The haughty tone of this communication angered the Russian General,
and he sent Kuchik Khan an ultimatum, calling upon him to evacuate
the Manjil position with all his followers, or be prepared to take
the consequences.  As Kuchik ignored this, a combined Russian-British
force was sent against him on June 12th.  Two of the British armoured
cars which the year previously had formed part of the Locker-Lampson
unit in Russia proper, were present at the attack.  After a brief
bombardment, a white flag was hoisted on the Manjil bridge position,
and two German officers issued from the trenches to parley.  They
offered, on behalf of Kuchik Khan, to come to terms with the Russians
and allow them to pass, provided a similar concession was not
demanded by the British.  Bicherakoff's reply was to dismiss the
impudent _parliamentaires_, and to intimate that Kuchik Khan and his
whole force could have fifteen minutes in which to lay down their
arms and surrender.  Nothing happened, so at the end of the
stipulated period the advance was ordered, and the Russians and
British stormed the enemy trenches and speedily disposed of the
Jungalis holding them.  Kuchik and a portion of his army, with his
two German military advisers, escaped for the time; but, after
another drubbing had been administered to him, the crestfallen
Jungali leader was glad to make {206} peace, dismiss his German staff
officers and drill instructors and release McLaren and Oakshott, two
Englishmen, who had spent months in captivity.

The road to Resht and Enzeli was open at last, and Bicherakoff moved
to the Caspian without delay and set about embarking his command for
Baku.  As a leader, Bicherakoff was popular amongst his men; and in
the Caucasus he enjoyed deserved prestige as a soldier.  He was
pro-Russian--that is to say, anti-Bolshevik; and it was felt that his
own personal influence, no less than the presence of his troops at
Baku, would serve as a powerful antidote to Bolshevik activity in
Southern Caucasia.

Bicherakoff's contingent embarked at Enzeli on July 3rd.  A British
armoured car battery accompanied the Russians, and, in order not to
ruffle unduly the susceptibilities of the Bolsheviks, British
officers and men wore Russian uniforms.  But these they discarded on
landing at Baku.  Bicherakoff, who made a favourable impression
locally and was well received by the inhabitants of the great oil
centre, lost no time in seeking out and engaging the Turks, who were
menacing Baku from two sides.  A good deal of heavy fighting went on
during the middle of July, and the British armoured cars rendered
signal services, being engaged almost daily in close-quarter fighting
with the Turks, enfilading their infantry and breaking up their
threatened attacks, and, on another occasion, repulsing a cavalry
charge with heavy loss to the enemy.

{207}

Bicherakoff, however, soon found that the local troops were not to be
relied on, even when they professed their readiness to fight under
his flag and against the Turks.  On July 29th the Turks, who seemed
bent on getting possession of Baku at any cost, succeeded in
capturing Adji-Kabul station, a short distance south-west of Baku.
Using this as a pivot, they swung northwards in order to complete the
envelopment of Baku.

The Russian commander now became anxious for his own safety.
Realizing his powerlessness to carry on an effective offensive, and
fearing lest he should be shut up in Baku when the Turkish encircling
movement became complete, he hurriedly abandoned the town, and with
his British armoured car auxiliaries went off north by rail towards
Derbend and Petrovsk, to operate against the Bolsheviks and Dageshani
Tartars who were terrorizing the country bordering on the Caspian.

In the attack on Petrovsk, the armoured car unit led under the
command of Captain Crossing.  Their fire threw the Bolshevik troops
into confusion, and, when the latter broke, the cars pursued them
through the town, capturing several hundred of their number.  A
battery of six-inch guns which had subjected the attacking force to
an annoying fire was with extraordinary temerity engaged by the
armoured cars and put out of action by the simple, but dare-devil
expedient of dashing up within range and shooting all the gunners.
This splendid and heroic deed won {208} for Captain Crossing--"the
super-brave Crossing," as Bicherakoff designated him--the Cross of
St. George, and the Order of St. Vladimir for Lieutenant Wallace; nor
in the distribution of awards for gallantry were the men who
accompanied the two officers in the armoured car charge against the
guns forgotten by the grateful Russian commander.



{209}

CHAPTER XX

THE NEW DASH TO BAKU

Treachery in the town--Jungalis attack Resht--Armoured cars in
street-fighting--Baku tires of Bolshevism--British summoned to the
rescue--Dunsterville sets out--Position at Baku on arrival--British
officers' advice ignored--Turkish attacks--Pressing through the
defences--Baku again evacuated.


We were soon to discover that we had not cut the claws of the Jungali
tiger, and that he was yet capable of giving us serious trouble.

There had been a good deal of unrest amongst the disbanded followers
of Kuchik Khan.  Men had gone back to their villages to brood over
their reverse of fortune.  The hotheads amongst them were not at all
satisfied at the easy way in which they had been beaten out of their
entrenchments on the Manjil road.  Various pretexts were put forward
with a view of explaining away the sharp reverse they suffered on
that occasion.  Further, there was a recrudescence of propaganda
activity amongst them, carried on by Turkish agents and sympathizers
who came and went in the jungle country on the shores of the Caspian.

Bicherakoff and his Russians had gone off to Baku, and a small force
of British alone was holding {210} Resht.  Admirable for the
Jungalis' plan, thought their leaders!  This time they would be able
to settle their account with the British without any intervening
Russian mixing himself up in the business.

Early on July 20th a large force of Jungalis made a surprise attack
on Resht.  Aided by armed partisans within who, once the attack
developed, brought hitherto concealed rifles into play from window
and roof-top, the enemy achieved a distinct measure of success.  The
street fighting was desperate and severe.  The attacking force fought
with great bravery, determination, and skill.  They dug themselves
in, and threw up barricades the better to aid them to hold ground
they had won.

But, although the greater part of Resht passed into their hands,
following their first impetuous dash, the Jungalis were never able to
make themselves masters of the south-western section of the town
which was held by British troops.  They knocked their heads against
this in vain.  It was left to the armoured cars, moreover, once more
to demonstrate their great value in street fighting.  The heavy cars
of the Brigade and the 6th Light Armoured-Motor Battery were rushed
into action, and although the streets had been dug up by the enemy in
order to impair the mobility of the Brigade, the latter made short
work of the Jungalis, driving them from point to point, and from
street to street, until the town was once more in our possession.
The enemy found themselves at a complete disadvantage {211} when
facing armour-plated fighting machines.  The moral effect of these
alone, apart from their fire efficiency, proved disastrous to Jungali
nerves, and spread panic and disorganization in the ranks of the foe.
Profiting by the bitter example of treachery that the Jungali attack
had furnished, the British this time were less lenient when it came
to imposing terms upon the beaten enemy.

Towards the end of July signs of dissension showed themselves amongst
the Bolshevik militants who controlled the political and military
destinies of Baku, a matter of which I wrote in the previous chapter.
The Turks were without the gates.  Bicherakoff had gone north, and
the Bolshevik military machine had helplessly broken down.  It could
neither organize any scheme of defence, nor evolve any offensive plan
for relieving the city from the gradually tightening grip of the
Turk.  The people of Baku found that mediocrity and mendacity were
but poor and unsatisfactory weapons with which to attempt to arrest
the march of a modern army, and these were about all the Bolsheviks
possessed in their mental arsenal.  Above the chaos and welter of
discordant opinion arose the murmurings of a discontented,
fear-stricken people.  They had suffered much from Bolshevik
oppression and from Bolshevik ineptitude, and clamoured for a new set
of _dramatis personæ_ and the recasting of the principal roles in the
Baku tragedy.  So these political _farceurs_, the Bolsheviks, were
figuratively hissed off the boards, and disappeared {212} down the
stage trap-door to an oblivion which, alas! was but temporary.  They
were baffled, but not beaten.

Their places were taken by men holding saner and less violent
political views.  One of the first official acts of the new Baku
Government was to summon the British to their aid.

It was the chance for which Dunsterville had lived and waited, and he
lost no time in grasping it.  At Enzeli he embarked a mixed force of
about two thousand, made up of unattached Imperial and Dominion
officers of the original Dunsterforce, a battalion or so of the North
Staffords, a detachment of Hants, howitzer and field gun sections,
two armoured cars, two sections of the motor machine-gun company, and
other sundry units and details which had been commandeered from Resht
for the move upon Baku.

The advanced guard disembarked at the Caspian oil port on August 5th,
and the remainder speedily followed.

The position in Baku was not one to inspire confidence.  There were
Bolshevik troops in the town who did not attempt to conceal their
displeasure at the arrival of the British.  The "Red Committee," too,
was gathering fresh strength and planning the overthrow of its
successors in office--the Government that had invited Dunsterville to
Baku.  Muddle and confusion prevailed everywhere.  Jealousy,
distrust, and bickering were rife amongst the heterogeneous, {213}
ill-disciplined mass of Russians and Armenians which passed for an
army in Baku.  It was computed that there were about 20,000 Russians
of various political hues, ranging from bright Bolshevik red to sober
Imperial grey, in and around the town, while the number of Armenian
auxiliaries was estimated at 5,000.  Yet the brunt of the fighting
had to be borne by the British infantry, chiefly the North Staffords,
for it was rarely that over 5,000 of our more than doubtful allies
could be rounded up to assist in holding the far-flung defensive line
of Baku.

Despite the stiffening of British troops in the front line, the moral
encouragement of British officers, and the active material support of
British artillery and British armoured cars, it was found impossible
to infuse any real or lasting enthusiasm into the Baku army.  It had
its own ethics of fighting and stuck to them.  War, it was felt, was
a job not to be taken too seriously, and must never be allowed to
interfere with one's customary distractions, nor with one's business
or social engagements.  Russians and Armenians would leave a "back
to-morrow" message, and casually stroll out of the front-line
trenches, whenever they felt in the mood, to go off to attend some
political meeting in Baku, or seek refreshment and questionable
enjoyment at some of the local cafés.

The position of the unattached British officers was a difficult one
in Baku.  They were there in an {214} advisory capacity chiefly, but
their counsel and presence were alike resented by all parties,
political and military.  Suggestions for a more efficient
co-operation between infantry and artillery, for the filling up of
dangerous gaps in the line, the better siting of trenches, or the
establishing of observation posts and the employment of "spotters,"
were usually received in silence and with a disdainful shrug of the
shoulders.

While striving to beat off the Turk outside, the British, too, had to
sit on the head of the rabid Bolshevik within, and prevent his
regaining his feet and running amuck once more.

The economic situation was also serious.  Food supplies were
lamentably short, and the available stock was running low.  A
super-commercial instinct had been developed, and gross profiteering
was widely practised.  It was true that the pre-war standard value of
the paper rouble had suffered a heavy depreciation, but this hardly
justified the exorbitant tariff of some of the Baku restaurants.  It
was no uncommon thing for them to exact five roubles for the bread
eaten at meals, and about seventy roubles for the very indifferent
meal itself.

Colonel Keyworth, R.H.A., was appointed to the command of the troops
in the Baku area.  His heavy duties confined him a good deal to the
port itself, and he was unable to see very much of the defensive
perimeter; but he had excellent coadjutors in Colonel Matthews of the
Hants, and in Colonel {215} Stokes of the Intelligence Department, an
officer who had been for many years British Military Attaché in
Teheran.  Then, too, there was Lieutenant-Colonel Warden, a blunt,
straight-spoken Canadian, and a very keen and efficient infantry
soldier whose permanent telegraphic address in Flanders had been
"Vimy Ridge."  Warden was generally an optimist, but the Baku problem
was responsible for his passing sleepless, unhappy nights; and
finally he gave up attempting to instil martial ardour into the
non-receptive mind of the Baku soldier.  In his own racy speech,
redolent, of his native prairie, he summed up his efforts in this
direction as being as futile as trying to flog a dead horse back to
life.

I am not so much concerned with describing the military operations in
detail as I am with laying stress upon the many difficulties that
beset the path of the British during their first and short-lived
occupation of Baku.  The wonder is that, instead of giving in after a
few days, they were able to cling to the position for weeks.

On August 26th, the Turks, who had been preparing for days, delivered
a heavy attack against the Griazni-Vulkan sector.  Their advance took
place under cover of destructive artillery fire which caused many
casualties.  The section of the line where the Turks struck first was
held by about one hundred and fifty of the North Staffords, supported
by four machine-guns of the Armoured Car Brigade.  Despite severe
losses, the Turks, being reinforced, pressed {216} home the attack,
and the auxiliary troops on the right flank were flung back and
forced to retire.  At this point two of the machine-guns failed to
hear the order to retreat, and fought the Turks until their crew were
surrounded and cut off.  The other machine-gun section, under
Lieutenant Titterington, stuck it to the last, and when they withdrew
the Turks were already firing upon them from the rear.  But the
surviving members of the gun crews managed to "shoot" their way
through the ranks of the foe.

The enemy, who had suffered very heavily in the attack of the 26th,
resumed the offensive on the 31st, when he bit another slice out of
the thinly held line and captured the position known as Vinigradi
Hill.  After this the Turk advanced from success to success, slowly
driving back the garrison on the inner defensive line.

[Illustration: GROUP OF THE STAFFORDS, WHOSE HEROIC ATTEMPT TO
RECOVER THE SITUATION FOLLOWING THE ARMENIAN RETIREMENT WILL ALWAYS
BE REMEMBERED AT BAKU.  THE SCENE WAS AT BALADADAR STATION.]

His crowning victory was the storming of the Voltchi Vorota sector on
the morning of September 14th.  An Arab officer who deserted two days
previously furnished full particulars of the impending attack, but
his information was regarded with suspicion.  It proved, however, to
be absolutely correct, for the enemy made a feigned attack on the
neighbouring Baladjari sector and delivered his main blow against
Voltchi Vorota.  He got home at once, driving out the Russian troops,
who retreated in some confusion.  An armoured car, however,
intervened between the retiring troops and the oncoming enemy, and,
although heavily shelled by the Turkish batteries, {217} it
manoeuvred adroitly, paralyzing the advance by its deadly fire and
allowing the broken Russians time to reform with a leavening of
British bayonets.  The Turks later in the day converted the feigned
into a real attack, and broke through at Baladjari.

This series of reverses contracted the daily shrinking perimeter
still more.  It was now clear to Dunsterville that his troubled
occupancy of Baku had come to an end, and orders were issued for an
immediate evacuation.  The Bolsheviks had got the upper hand again.
Their attitude was doubtful and, in the first instance, they had
objected to the troops being withdrawn, threatening to use the
Caspian fleet of gunboats to fire on the laden transports should the
latter attempt to sail.  It was not exactly altruism, nor the
promptings of a generous nature, that led them to do this.  On the
contrary, it was rather a tender regard for their own cowardly skins.
Should the victorious enemy storm the town the British would serve as
a useful chopping-block upon which the Turks might expend their fury;
and, if the worst came to the worst, and there was no other way out
of a disagreeable dilemma, grace and favour might be won from the
Osmanli by uniting with him in administering the _coup de grâce_ to
the trapped and betrayed remnant of Dunsterville's Army of Occupation.

Although the town lay defenceless and at their mercy, the
Turks--victims probably of their periodical inertia--did not follow
up their advantage.  The {218} Bolsheviks hesitated to strike, and,
after the motor-cars, stores, and transport had been destroyed, the
evacuation was successfully carried out under the menacing guns of
the Caspian Fleet.

Captain Suttor, an Australian officer, and two sergeants, were
overlooked in the hurry of embarkation.  But they escaped and,
boarding a steamer full of Bolshevik fugitives, induced the Captain
to land them at Krasnovodsk on the eastern shore of the Caspian and
the terminus of the Trans-Caspian Railway.  Suttor knew that a
British military post had been established there.  Of this the
Bolsheviks were ignorant, and their fury and amazement were great
when they found themselves marched off as prisoners.

[Illustration: SIX-INCH HOWITZER IN ACTION AT BAKU WITH A DETACHMENT
OF DUNSTERFORCE GUNNERS.]

The day after the British evacuation of Baku the Turks entered, and
for two days the town was given over to pillage, many of the Armenian
irregulars being killed in cold blood by the enemy.



{219}

CHAPTER XXI

THE TURKS AND THE CHRISTIAN TRIBES

Guerrilla warfare--Who the Nestorian and other Christian tribes
are--Turkish massacres--Russian withdrawal and its effect--British
intervention.


The Nestorians, Jelus, and other racially connected Christian groups
who, in the region around Lake Urumia, had been carrying on a
guerrilla warfare against the Turks, at the beginning of July were
reduced to very sore straits indeed by losses in the field, disease,
and famine.

As already related in a previous chapter, Lieutenant Pennington, a
British aviator, flew into Urumia in the first week in July, carrying
General Dunsterville's assurance of speedy help.  The leaders of
these Christian peoples, in full accord with the British, decided
that after evacuating Urumia an attempt should be made to break
through to the south in the direction of Sain Kaleh and Bijar, in
order to get in touch with the British relieving column which was
marching north from Hamadan bringing ammunition and food supplies.

For the better understanding of this narrative, some explanation is
due to the reader as to who and {220} what are the Nestorians and
their kindred Christian clans who were now about to run the gauntlet
of the Turkish Army operating in the Lake Urumia district.

The Nestorians are the followers of the Patriarch of Constantinople
who was condemned for heresy in the year A.D. 431.  They inhabit
Kurdistan and north-western Persia, are also known as Assyrians, and
are indeed often loosely referred to as Syrians.  They live in that
portion of the country which the Bible has familiarized to us as
Assyria, and are confusedly termed Syrians, not because they come
from Syria proper on the Mediterranean littoral, with its cities of
Antioch, Aleppo, and Damascus, but rather because their rubric and
sacred writings are in ancient Syriac, while the language of the
people themselves is modern Syriac.

Hundreds of years ago the seat of the Nestorian or Assyrian
Patriarchate was near Ctesiphon on the Tigris, a short distance below
Bagdad.  But the Turkish conquerors persecuted the Christians, the
Patriarch was forced to flee, and finally took refuge at Qudshanis,
in the highlands of Kurdistan.  The present spiritual head of the
Assyrians, who is ecclesiastically designated Mar Shimun, is said to
be the one hundred and thirty-eighth Catholicos, or Patriarch, of the
Nestorian Church.

At the outbreak of the European War there were three distinguishable
main groups of Assyrian Christians.  One inhabited the Upper Tigris
Valley beyond {221} Mesul and the hilly country towards Lake Van; a
second was to be found on the Salmas-Urumia plateau and in the
mountainous country bordering on the Persian-Turkish frontier; the
third group lived on the Turkish side of the frontier between Lake
Van and Urumia.  Roughly they may be classified as Highlanders and
Lowlanders, with various tribal subdivisions, of which one of the
better known is the Jelu group.

Urumia itself is the scene of considerable foreign missionary
activity, and is the headquarters of the Anglican, American, French,
and Russian religious missions to the Assyrian Christians.  Each had
its own well-defined sphere of influence, and worked in the broadest
spirit of Christian tolerance.  When war burst upon this unhappy
land, anything in the nature of sectarian rivalry and proselytizing
zeal vanished, to give place to a united effort to aid and materially
comfort the victims of Turkish fury.

The retreat of the Russians from Urumia, at the beginning of January,
1915, left some thousands of Urumia Christians who were unable to
accompany them at the mercy of the Turks and their savage
auxiliaries, the Kurds; and the usual massacre followed.  The
Christians, though poorly armed, defended themselves as best they
could, and the survivors were driven to seek sanctuary in the
American Mission Compound.  Those who surrendered and gave up their
arms to the Turks were put to death without mercy.  At the beginning
of May, 1915, the {222} army of Halil Bey, operating in North-Western
Persia, was routed by the Russians, who reoccupied Urumia.  But the
beaten Turks in their retreat westwards killed every Christian
tribesman they could find.  A second Russian evacuation of Urumia in
August, 1915, led to a fresh exodus of the able-bodied Assyrian
fighting men, and to another massacre of those who remained behind.

From then until 1918 they had endured all the horrors and
vicissitudes of war, with its fluctuations of victory and defeat.
The Christian army had put up a brave fight against the Turks after
the final Russian withdrawal from North-Western Persia.  Now, hemmed
in and suffering from hunger, they were about to attempt a third
exodus, this time towards the South into the British lines.

During the last week in July the Christian army--probably about
10,000 fighting men, but with its ranks swelled to 30,000 by women
and children refugees--withdrew from Urumia and marched southwards.
The Turks gave pursuit and much harried their rearguard, which they
subjected to artillery fire, inflicting severe losses.  Ultimately
the retreat under Turkish pressure degenerated into a rout, during
which the mass of fugitives was severely cut up.  In the course of
the panic which prevailed, the Nestorian Army lost its artillery and
its remaining supplies, while many of the women and children were
abandoned in the general _sauve qui pent_, and fell into the hands of
the enemy.

{223}

The Turks reoccupied Urumia on August 1st, and vented their
displeasure upon the defenceless people in the customary Turkish way.
The aged were killed, and young girls were carried off and subjected
to a fate worse than death.

Mgr. Sontag, the head of the French Lazarist Mission, a saintly man
who was revered even by the local Moslems amongst whom he had lived
for many years, was one of those who fell victims to the blind fury
of the Turkish soldiery when they found themselves once more masters
of Urumia.

At Sain Kaleh and Takan Teppeh, to the north-west of Bijar, the
British were able to intervene between pursuers and pursued.  The
Nestorians, a sadly diminished band, were drafted back to Bijar and
thence south to Hamadan.  Harbouring vindictive feelings against
Moslems in general as a result of the atrocities perpetuated upon
them by the Turks, it is not perhaps surprising that they in their
turn made an onslaught upon the inhabitants of the Persian villages
encountered _en route_, and left them in much the same condition as
the man who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves.

Mar Shimun, the spiritual head, and Agha Petros, the recognized
military leader, accompanied the Nestorians from Urumia.  The
survivors of the exodus were put in a concentration camp at Hamadan
with their women and children.  The able-bodied and healthy amongst
the men were subsequently drafted out and sent to Bakuba near Bagdad,
where {224} an attempt was made by the British to organize and train
them into fighting units.  They received good pay and rations, but
proved very difficult material to handle.  Their wild, free lives had
apparently unfitted them for a régime of discipline and ordered
restraint.  A large contingent refused to sign attestation papers
lest they should be sent to fight overseas.  It was useless
attempting to reassure them on this point, and to tell them that all
the military service they were expected to render in return for
British pay and British rations was that of defending their own
country against the common enemy, the Turk.  It may be that their
physical sufferings had demoralized them, but the irregulars of Agha
Petros were incapable of attaining an ordinary degree of military
efficiency as judged by British standards.  They were a perpetual
source of embarrassment to the British officers entrusted with their
training.  The experiment proved a failure, and at last, on the Turks
suing for an armistice, the men of Agha Petros' command were
disbanded and sent back to their own country.



{225}

CHAPTER XXII

IN KURDISTAN

The last phase--Dunsterforce ceases to exist--The end of Turkish
opposition--Off to Bijar--The Kurdish tribes--Raids on Bijar--Moved
on by a policeman--Governor and poet.


It was in South-Western Kurdistan that I saw the last phase of the
war between the Turks and ourselves.

At the end of September, Dunsterforce had ceased to exist, at any
rate under that name.  Dunsterville himself had gone down to Bagdad
to discuss the whole Caucasian and North Persian situation with
General Headquarters, and the officers of Dunsterforce had either
gone back to their units in France, Salonika, and Egypt, or had been
absorbed by the North Persian force which was concentrating under
General Thompson at Enzeli for a fresh smack at the Turk in Baku.

After his capture of the oilfields' port, the enemy seemed to have
reached the last stages of physical exhaustion, and to be incapable
of further effort.  His push through from Tabriz towards Zinjan and
Kasvin had been finally arrested, and he had been driven back to his
entrenchments on the Kuflan Kuh Pass, where he was well content to
sit down to {226} a peaceful, inoffensive life, smoke his
hubble-bubble, nurse his blistered feet lacerated by long marches on
unfriendly Persian roads, and, in general, by his exemplary behaviour
earn "good conduct" marks from the inhabitants of the zone of
occupation.

But in the country to the west of Mianeh and south of Lake Urumia the
enemy was still inclined to spasmodic activity.  It was in this
region that he had harried the Nestorian Army as it was fighting its
way to the south and to safety.  At the beginning of October, 1918,
the Turks held Sauj Bulagh, the local capital of the Kurds of
Azerbaijan, Sakiz, Sain Kaleh, and Takan Teppeh, all of which were in
more or less precarious touch with Kowanduz on the western slopes of
the Kurdistan Range, and thence with the main and sole surviving
Turkish Mesopotamian Army which was clinging tenaciously to Mosul.
Their occupation of these several strategic points on the Persian
side of the frontier enabled the Turks to threaten the British post
at Bijar, on the confines of South-Western Kurdistan, and in a sense
to menace the British occupation of Hamadan.

[Illustration: GENERAL VIEW OF THE SCENE FOLLOWING THE ARMENIAN
RETIREMENT.]

But Allenby's smashing blow at the Turk in Palestine had its
repercussion in the remote highlands of Persia and in the remoter
region of the Caspian Sea.  Its effect was instantaneous.  It broke
the Turkish grip on Baku and appreciably loosened his hold on
Azerbaijan.  He withdrew from Mianeh and made ready to evacuate
Tabriz and retire into his own territory in an eleventh-hour effort
to {227} buttress up his remaining Asiatic provinces which, one after
the other, were tottering beneath the sledgehammer blows of the
British.

Early in October the wheel of fate and the illness of a brother
officer led to my being transferred from Caspian Headquarters to
Bijar, as Assistant Political Officer and Intelligence Officer.  I
looked it up on the map and started.  It was a long and interesting
zigzag trek across Persia, first south-west to Hamadan, then
north-west to Bijar and the wild country of the Kurdish tribes.

Few Europeans can lay claim to any intimate knowledge of Kurdistan
and its predatory but fascinating people.  It is distinctly remote
from the beaten tourist track.  Russian and German travellers and
scholars have nibbled at the ethnological and philological problems
which it presents, and, much more recently, our own Major Soane in
his remarkable book, "Through Kurdistan in Disguise," draws aside the
veil a little, and we are able to take a peep at Kurdish life and
manners naturally portrayed.

Kurdistan cannot be said to possess either natural or political
boundaries, for it embraces both Persian and Turkish territory, and
in it live people who are not racially Kurds.  Broadly speaking, it
may be said to stretch from Turkish Armenia on the north to the
Luristan Mountains on the south, and the Turkish-Persian frontier
cuts it into two longitudinal sections.  Persian Kurdistan, then, is
bounded by Azerbaijan on the north, the Turkish frontier on the {228}
west, Kermanshah on the south, and Khamseh and Hamadan on the east.
Its old administrative capital is Sinneh.

Its geographical outline is one of bold and rugged mountains which in
winter are covered deep in snow.  Narrow valleys run far into the
flank of the towering hills, and it is here, taking advantage of
these natural barriers, that the villages cluster and the inhabitants
attempt to keep warm during the long, bitter, and often fireless,
winter months.

A nonsense rhymester who evidently knew something of the proclivities
of the Kurds once scored a palpable bull's-eye on the target of truth
when he wrote:

  "The hippo's a dull but honest old bird;
  I wish I could say the same of the Kurd."


The Kurds themselves have more traducers than friends outside their
own country.  As the great majority of them are Sunni Moslems, it has
been pointed out, and with a certain element of truth, that the root
of the Persian-Kurdish Question is the religious hatred between Sunni
and Shi'ah, just as the root of the Turkish problem is the undying
hatred between Moslems and Christians.  Kurmanji, the main Kurdish
language, has been incorrectly described as a corrupt dialect of
Persian, whereas it is really a distinct philological entity, tracing
an unbroken descent from the ancient Medic or Avestic tongue of Iran.

I had a good deal to do officially with several of {229} the
principal Kurdish tribes, such as the Mukhri, Mandumi, and Galbaghi,
while I was stationed at Bijar, and I cannot agree with the generally
accepted estimate of their character as "a lazy, good-for-nothing set
of thieves."  They are admittedly fierce and intractable, of noted
predatory habits, and ready to prey with equal impartiality upon
Persian or Christian neighbour.  On the other hand, I found that they
were neither cruel nor treacherous; they are never lacking in
courage, and possess a rude, but well-defined sense of hospitality
and chivalry.

Unarmed, save for a riding-crop, and accompanied only by a few
Sowars, I have gone into their villages in search of raiders--not
always a pleasant task amongst Asiatic hill tribes--and the
inhabitants would be amiability itself.  Here one saw the happier
side of these wild, free people who, revelling in the unrestrained
life and the health-giving ozone of their native mountains, find the
trammelling yoke of modern civilization about as irksome and fearful
an infliction as a bit and saddle are to an unbroken colt.

What I liked about the Kurds was their habit--the common inheritance
of most free men--of looking their interlocutor straight in the face.
Their women, many possessing great physical beauty, and glorious
creatures all, would crowd round to do the honours to those visiting
their village.  Amongst the Kurds the women are allowed a great deal
of freedom.  They shoot and ride like so many Amazons.  It is true
they are the hewers of wood and the drawers of {230} water in the
village or community, but, save for lacking parliamentary
enfranchisement, they do not seem to have many grievances against the
masculine portion of the Kurdish world.  They always go unveiled, are
not a bit "man-shy," and, unlike their Moslem sisters in Turkey and
Persia, do not consider themselves spiritually defiled when their
faces are gazed upon by some Infidel whom chance has thrown across
their path.

From this I do not wish it to be inferred that the Kurdish women are
immodest in conduct, or of what might be described as "flighty
morals."  Far from it.

These self-same tribesmen who received us so hospitably in their
villages, and gave us entertainment of their best--treating us in
friendly fashion according to their laws, because we had come
trusting to their honour in the guise of friends and without hostile
intent--would, when they took the "war path" and raided a British
post, put up a spirited fight, fully bent on killing or being killed.

Persian Kurds are largely pastoral and nomadic.  There are the
sedentary tribes who are the tillers of the soil and never move very
far away from home.  The nomads, on the other hand, roam with their
flocks and herds and womenfolk from winter to summer quarters and
vice versa, and it is during these periodical migrations that the
inherited predatory instincts of the Kurds are given free rein.  Many
are the armed forays made on a peaceful {231} Persian neighbour's
stock.  Often there is resistance, and occasionally an attempt at
reprisals; so a respectably-sized Persian-Kurdish hill-war may have
had as its origin the theft of half a dozen goats by Kurdish robbers.
Stray bands of brigands who had made life more than usually
interesting for some Persian village or other, if pursuit became too
vigorous and they were threatened with capture, were always able to
escape the consequences of their depredations by slipping over the
frontier and seeking bast (sanctuary) in Turkish territory.

Whether the Kurds are, or are not, the descendants of those
first-class fighting men of long ago who opposed the retreat of the
Ten Thousand through the bleak mountain passes of Kurdistan, they
undeniably are imbued with a certain pride of ancestry which
manifests itself in various little ways.  No pure nomadic Kurd will
ever engage in manual labour, which he looks upon as a disgrace, and
a job fit only for helots, nor will he become a Charvadar (muleteer).

The Kurd undoubtedly possesses an unenviable reputation for
lawlessness amongst the more law-abiding Persians and Turks of this
wild and turbulent frontier land.  He is handicapped, perhaps, to
this extent, that, being an alien to the Turk in language, and to the
Persian in religion, he is looked upon as a pariah, and the hand of
both is ever raised against him.  Being resentful and overbearing, if
not arrogant, in manner, and knowing no legal code beyond that which
a rifle imposes, he seeks to enforce his {232} own arbitrary
ready-made justice, to call it by that name.  So the merry game goes
on, and up amongst the snows of Kurdistan Persian and Kurd and Turk
kill each other on the slightest pretext, and often for no
ascertainable cause.

The Kurd is always well armed, and usually well mounted--often at the
expense of some lowland Persian villager.  He invariably affects the
national costume, which is an abbreviated coat and enormous baggy
trousers, with a capacious Kamarband of coloured silk in which he
carries pipe, knife, and odds and ends.

Ten armed Kurds riding into Bijar, a town of 10,000 inhabitants,
would start a panic in the Bazaar.  Shutters would go up and
shopkeepers would vanish as if by magic, while the small force of
Persian police in the place, who were usually suffering from the
combined effects of malnutrition and arrears of pay, would discreetly
go to cover, and not be seen again until the visitors had departed.
Usually a British military policeman, armed with a stout stick, would
be sent to handle the delicate situation, to see that there was no
looting, and that the King's peace was preserved inviolate by these
quarrel-seeking, pilfering rascals from beyond the hills.

Bijar itself, unhappily for the peace of mind and pocket of its
shopkeeper-citizens and wealthy agriculturists, is unhealthily near
the "Bad Man's Land" of the nomad Kurds.  It is built in a cup-shaped
{233} hollow surrounded by barren peaks, and its altitude (5,200
feet) gives it a rigorous winter climate.  The enclosed gardens which
usually lend a touch of picturesque embellishment even to the meanest
and dirtiest of Persian towns are lacking at Bijar.  It grows wheat
and corn in abundance on the long, wide plateau which stretches
unbrokenly for miles between the bare, rugged hills.  The arable land
is so fertile, and its acreage so abundant, that but one-third is
cultivated yearly.  The average wheat yield is enormous, yet the
people are always hovering on the border-line of starvation, the
result of mismanagement, misappropriation, and all the other evils
which may be grouped together under the head of Persian official
maladministration.

When the British marched into Bijar in the summer of 1918 anarchy and
disorder were paramount.  The Persian Government is supposed to keep
a garrison here, but the oldest inhabitants had never seen it.  If it
did exist, it was carefully hidden away and not allowed to meddle in
such troublesome affairs as Kurdish forays.  The Turks during their
occupancy looted Bijar very thoroughly, and roving Kurds, too, when
short of supplies--and that was often--never forgot to extend their
unwelcome patronage to the local bazaars, on the principle of
"Blessed is he that taketh, for he shall not want."

The Governor was a local resident, and his office an unpaid one as
far as the Persian treasury was concerned; but his power was great
and his rule {234} arbitrary, and the post brought him considerable
emoluments.  He was a timid and vacillating but well-meaning
individual, who always trembled at the knees when brought face to
face with the unusual.  The mere brandishing of a loaded pistol
anywhere in his immediate vicinity would throw him into a paroxysm of
terror.  He spoke halting French, and was afflicted with the
prevailing Persian mania for verse-writing.  Still, he never allowed
his literary pursuits to clash with or nullify his keen commercial
instincts; and he grew daily in affluence.

But even a Persian peasant has his limits of endurance when he finds
himself being ground to fine powder in the mill of oppression and
corruption.  Those of the Bijar district were no exception.  After
having been systematically looted all round, by Turk, Kurd, and
dishonest local officials, they rose in revolt when a demand was made
upon them for the payment of the Government Maliat, or grain tribute.
They followed up an emphatic refusal by threatening to duck the
Governor and his coadjutor, the Tax-collector, in the local
horsepond.  The latter fled the town, while as for the terrified
Governor, he promptly shut himself up, seeking bast (sanctuary) with
an ill-armed following within the sacred precincts of his serai.
From the roof, one of his retinue, using his hands for a megaphone,
sent out an urgent S.O.S. call to the British, with the result that a
compromise was effected; the Governor was rescued from his
undignified plight, and the angry peasants {235} were appeased by his
promise that the collection of the unpopular tax would rest in
abeyance until Teheran gave its decision on the subject.

Our job in sitting down in Bijar was to hold the place against the
Turks and prevent their coming back, to instil a little wholesome
respect for law and order into the minds of the plunder-loving Kurds,
and to stop them from eating up the smaller and unprotected Persian
fry.  To keep the Turk at bay and hold the Kurd in awe, we had
approximately a couple of squadrons of the 14th Hussars, under
Colonel Bridges, a detachment of the Gloucesters in charge of Captain
Stephenson, machine-gun and mountain battery sections, and a couple
of hundred of Persian levies who were commanded by Captain Williams,
an Australian officer.  Colonel Bridges was in command of the whole
force.  The total certainly did not err on the side of numerical
superiority.

The day after I reached Bijar the Governor arrived to pay an official
call.  After the usual formalities as laid down by Persian etiquette
for ceremonies of this kind had been safely negotiated, he begged my
acceptance of a manuscript copy of his poems, and incidentally hinted
that, as the district was in the throes of famine, he would have no
objection to collaborating in the purchasing of wheat with British
money in order to alleviate the prevailing distress.



{236}

CHAPTER XXIII

THE END OF HOSTILITIES

Types of Empire defenders--Local feeling--Dealing with Kurdish
raiders--An embarrassing offer of marriage--Prestige by
aeroplane--Anniversary of Hossain the Martyr--News of the
Armistice--Local waverers come down on our side of the
fence--Releasing civil prisoners--Farewell of Bijar--Down country to
the sea and home.


I have often wondered if the British who stayed at home, through
force of circumstances rather than any reluctance to participate in
the Great War, can have had any conception of the varying types of
men who helped to uphold British interests in this remote and
little-known corner of the Asiatic Continent.  Here, then, are a few
of them taken at random!

There was Hooper, an Australian Captain, who in civil life was a
farmer on a rock-girt island off the Tasmanian coast, and had been
through more than one big push in France.  Williams, also an
Australian officer, was a Rhodes Scholar from the University of
Adelaide.  He commanded Persian levies, made a hobby of dialects, and
was always eager to try his growing wisdom teeth on such abstruse
problems as "How the camel got his hump," or, "Why Jonah gave the
whale indigestion."  But he was a good {237} lad, was this youthful
pedant, a fearless soldier, and an untiring worker who, in a few
months, gained a surprising knowledge of colloquial Persian.  Then
there was Seddon, a Government land surveyor from New Zealand, who
also had looked on Red War in Flanders.  In cold weather, of all
times, he was always shedding surplus garments, until there was a
positive danger of his arriving at the stage of the "altogether."
Seddon was fiercely intractable on the subject of hygiene as applied
to clothing, and would hear of no compromise where his cherished
principles were concerned.  It was said that he was wont to lie awake
at night planning new curtailments in his winter kit.  Still, there
must have been some wisdom in his methods, for, although thinly clad
during the early winter months, he was always in perfect health, and
escaped the pulmonary maladies which proved fatal to so many others
who looked askance at him and his hygienic, minimum-clothing theory.

We had Gordon Wilson who came from the Argentine to enlist at the
outbreak of the War and attempted to leap the age-limit barrier.  His
ardour was somewhat damped on being refused by the Home Authorities.
But, nothing daunted, he went to France, joined the Foreign Legion,
and saw a good deal of fighting.  He was afterwards transferred to a
British Field Battery and given a commission, and lost no time in
winning the M.C.

In the 14th Hussars was a lieutenant named Voigt, {238} an Afrikander
born, who had gone through the South African campaign.  One day,
riding with Voigt and his troop of Hussars in a "punitive" expedition
against raiding Kurds, I asked him casually--and quite forgetful of
the momentous past--with whom he had served in South Africa.  He
replied with the flicker of a smile on his broad, sun-tanned face, "I
was with Louis Botha's commando."  And such is the material out of
which has been woven our thrilling island story!

Up to the moment of the Turkish collapse, towards the end of October,
many of the notables of Bijar were inclined to be dubious concerning
our possibility of success.  These cautious individuals shaped their
conduct accordingly.  They "hedged" very carefully, to use a sporting
phrase, and, in order to avoid all risks, backed both sides.  One
wealthy Persian resident whom I particularly remember was lavish of
lip-service.  He would call round to the Mission Headquarters at
least twice a week to assure us of his ever-enduring devotion, and of
his hopes of success for British arms.  About the same time he would
be sending off a courier to the Turkish commander in our front
telling him that he was his devoted servitor and that it would be a
blessed day for all True Believers when the Infidel British were
driven out of Persian Kurdistan.  So much for Persian duplicity.  Our
"friend" was a confirmed "pulophile," which is an impromptu
Perso-Greek expression for "money-lover," and, while awaiting {239}
our military downfall, he had no conscientious objections to seeking
to rob us right and left in wheat transactions.

On the whole the various Kurdish chiefs kept their peace pact with
the British, and for a time strove hard to walk in the path of
honesty and to cease from annexing their neighbours' flocks and
herds.  But occasionally temptation proved too strong to be resisted,
and there would come a recrudescence of pillaging and violence.  The
Mandumis and the Galbaghis were the chief offenders.  Their subtle
imagination was never at a loss for a plausible pretext to condone
their lawlessness.  Once, when Mandumi tribesmen attacked a British
post at an outlying village called Nadari, a certain Mustafa Khan,
the chief of the guilty raiders, sent a very apologetic letter
pleading for forgiveness, and pointing out that the regrettable
occurrence arose through a "misunderstanding" on the part of his
tribesmen who possessed an inordinate love of well-conditioned sheep.
Times were hard, and if the poor Kurds were not to be allowed to
replenish their larders by the time-honoured method of pilfering,
then, in the name of Allah, he asked, what was to become of them?
This curious and essentially Kurdish plea of "extenuating
circumstances" was backed up by a letter from the tribal Mujtahid, or
priest, who wrote that he was a simple man of God saying his prayers
regularly and knowing little of secular affairs.  His tribesmen had
evidently been maligned by their {240} enemies--"May the Evil One
pluck their beards!"  He had always exhorted his people to remain
friendly with the British, and would continue to do so.

On this occasion Mustafa Khan escaped with a fine and a reprimand,
but he was obviously looking for trouble, and it soon overtook him.
He became very insolent.  Some of his men stopped and robbed the
British native courier, and the Chief sent a message that he would
soon come and raid Bijar itself.  There was nothing to do except to
teach Mustafa Khan a much-needed lesson.  However, before the
salutary drubbing could be administered, Mustafa and his men,
throwing discretion to the winds, and forgetful of their oft-repeated
promises to be of good behaviour, got completely out of hand, cleaned
out several Persian villages, and indulged in a veritable orgy of
lawlessness.

Then Mustafa, with consummate skill, having no case of his own, set
about abusing the other side.  He blamed the hapless villagers, and
accused them of having killed two of his Sowars who had gone into the
Persian village to "purchase" corn.  The villagers in question, he
remarked, were liars, and the sons of the Father of Lies--"May
perdition be their lot!"  But this time his defence of provocation
was found to be unjustifiable; a richly deserved punishment was meted
out to him, and for long afterwards he led an exemplary life.

Nabi Khan was another Kurdish freebooter who gave considerable
trouble before he was finally {241} subdued and made to see the error
of his ways.  From the point of view of stature and general physique
he was one of the finest looking men I have ever seen.  He stood a
good 6 feet 4 inches in his socks, belying the prevailing idea that
the Kurds are of small stature.  In an evil moment for himself, he
threw in his lot with the Turks, and for a brief period made things
right merry for the British.  He fought like an enraged tiger in
defence of his village stronghold, but was put to flight after
suffering severe loss.  He thought the thing out for a couple of
weeks, and then, like the old sportsman that he was, came in and
surrendered, saying that he had lost, and was ready to pay the full
price.  It is easy to be generous to a chivalrous foe, and Nabi had
been all that, so he found that he had not thrown himself upon our
mercy in vain.

I well remember the morning that Nabi surrendered.  His name and his
fame had preceded him to Bijar, and, as he strode down the Bazaar
with a belt full of lethal weapons, his very appearance inspired
terror in the breasts of the pusillanimous Persian traders, and they
bolted for cover like so many scared animals.  In addition to his
stature, Nabi was a man of handsome appearance.  He had a bold, open
countenance, and was brief and blunt of speech.  Brushing past the
startled Persian janitor, whom he disdained to notice, he made a
dramatic entry into the Political Office at Bijar.  Flinging his
weapons on the table, he exclaimed, "I have been {242} foolish; aye,
misguided by evil counsellors; I have lost, and am here to pay the
price.  Do with me what you will.  But you may tell your Shah that I
regret the past and am willing to make amends."  Peace was arranged
with Nabi Khan, and the pact he kept very faithfully, becoming one of
our most ardent partisans in the difficult country and amongst the
turbulent folk over whom he held sway.  He policed his district, and
did it very thoroughly, proving a veritable terror to evildoers; and
he suppressed Turkish propaganda with a vigour that demonstrated his
real earnestness in the British cause.

After the manner of his kind, as a further evidence of his good
faith, and in order to set a time-enduring seal upon his treaty of
friendship, he was anxious to negotiate a Kurdish-British matrimonial
alliance.  After a good deal of preliminary verbal manoeuvring, he
definitely broached the project, and suggested the giving in marriage
of his daughter, a very comely damsel, to the Political Officer.  The
latter was completely taken aback and, not being a Moslem, had
visions of all sorts of unpleasant legal complications should he ever
set foot in England with a supplementary wife.  However, he faced the
trying situation with commendable fortitude, and cast about for a
means whereby he might be enabled to retreat with honour, and without
offending Kurdish susceptibilities.  Nabi was tactfully informed
that, while the offer was much appreciated, the acceptance {243} of a
Kurdish bride would entail no end of complications for at least one
of the parties concerned, as an unsympathetic British law had long
set its face against bigamy.  In fact, isolated enthusiasts in khaki
who, as a relief from the tedium of trench life, had sought to
popularize plural marriages in England had been rewarded by a term of
imprisonment.  This was news indeed for the benevolent-minded Nabi,
but he did not insist further, and the incident terminated happily.

The Kurds are in many respects as simple as European children of
tender age.  They had heard much about the wonderful flying machines
of Faringistan, and, never having seen an aeroplane, were inclined to
be sceptical, and to treat reputed aerial adventures as so many
"travellers' tales."  A Kurdish chief came to call on me one day
seeking enlightenment.  He had seen automobiles, and admitted that
they puzzled his primitive brain.  "Why," he asked honestly enough,
"is the horse put inside the box, and why does this strange creature
prefer petrol to barley by way of food?"  It took a long time to
knock into his head some primitive notion of motor traction.  Then he
inquired, "Is it true that in Faringistan, as currently reported, men
make themselves into birds and soar in the air like eagles?"  The
reply, as they say in Parliament, was in the affirmative, but the
Kurdish seeker for knowledge remained frankly incredulous.  A few
days after the conversation, a youthful Scottish aviator, who was
{244} familiarly known as "Little Willie McKay," arrived by air from
Hamadan in order to give Bijar and the Kurdistan hill-folk a taste of
his quality.  It was a day of days, and inaugurated a new era in the
local Mohammedan calendar, for it marked the flight of the
terror-stricken Faithful towards a place of safety away from the
aerial monster that, appearing from out of a clear sunlight sky,
swooped down on the town.  The youthful McKay was a noted aerial
stunt artist, and he executed an extensive and varied programme for
the edification of those of the astonished onlookers who had steeled
their courage to the point of sticking it out.  The houses are
flat-roofed, and here the spectators assembled to watch the show.  As
the aviator nose-dived occasionally, it was amusing to see the
celerity with which they dropped flat on their faces, fearing lest
they should be caught by the talons of the "man-bird" and carried off
heaven knew where.  Later on, at the local aerodrome, the people
came, timidly enough at first, to peep at the monster; but they did
their sightseeing cautiously from a respectful distance, and it was
only necessary for the engine to throb once or twice fretfully, and
for the propeller to revolve, to bring about an instantaneous
stampede.  Thenceforth no one ever doubted that the British were
miracle workers, and had at their disposal an unlimited supply of
magic to assist in the overthrowing of their enemies.

The Moharran, or anniversary of the death of {245} Hossain the
Martyr, is an occasion for the display of great religious fervour by
the Shi'ite Moslems.  It fell on October 17th, and the Bijar Bazaar
was closed and the houses draped in mourning.  It is perhaps the only
day in the year when the average Persian looks in deadly earnest, and
when his fanaticism is aroused to such a pitch as to make him at all
dangerous to persons of other creeds.  There was a procession through
the streets, and the chief incidents of the martyrdom were re-enacted
by a devoted band of Shias.  The "body" of the Sainted One was
carried on a bier and, in order that the finishing touch of realism
should not be lacking, the covering of the bier was plentifully
bedaubed with blood, while the head of the "corpse" was enveloped in
gory bandages.  The _mise en scène_ was completed by the addition of
a local troupe representing Hossain's wives and adherents who,
according to legend, were also put to death by the hated rival sect,
the Sunnis.  The followers in the procession, in a burst of religious
frenzy, gashed their faces or bodies with swords or knives, and, with
blood streaming from the self-inflicted wounds, were not exactly a
pleasant spectacle to look upon.  A Persian youth employed at the
British Headquarters was one of those who achieved religious merit
and local distinction on the occasion.  Having volunteered for the
role of follower, he had his head cut open by a local barber, and off
he went to join in the quasi-religious ceremony.  In the afternoon he
was back at his job {246} with his poor damaged head swathed in
bandages and feeling very proud indeed of his exploit.

Bijar was very excited by the intelligence that arrived on November
1st.  We received an official notification that an armistice had been
concluded with Turkey, at the request of the latter Power, and that
hostilities were to cease at once.  The Governor made an official
call to offer his felicitations, and to congratulate the British on
their triumph over another of their enemies.  He dissimulated his
real feelings with great artfulness, for while openly professing joy
at our victory he was sorrowing in secret that a Moslem Power should
have been overthrown by an Infidel.  Still, he made the best of it,
and candidly told some of his intimates who were inclined to be
tearful because their religious pride had been wounded by the success
of our arms, that the British, after all, had shown more real
humanity and compassion in dealing with the oppressed Persians than
ever had their coreligionists, the Turks.

The Governor having set the example in offering his congratulations,
all the local notables were quick to follow, and they told us what,
curiously enough we had never realized before--that throughout the
long-drawn-out War they had always ardently wished for the complete
triumph of the British.  We accepted their assurances, although
finding it difficult to reconcile them with many of their actions
when our military fortunes were not of the brightest.

An official communication was sent off by messenger {247} to the
Turkish commander, informing him of the armistice, and inquiring if
he were prepared to abide by its conditions and order a cessation of
hostilities on his side.  But the enemy had evidently had the news as
soon as we had, and decided to end the war then and there.  When our
messenger reached the Turkish position, it was only to find the place
abandoned, the commander and every man having gone, leaving no
address.  The messenger trekked after them for a day, but their haste
was so great that he was unable even to come up with their rearguard,
so he returned to Bijar with the letter undelivered.  And that was
the last we heard of the Turk in the region of Southern Kurdistan.

Everybody in Bijar was now our sincere friend and well-wisher.  The
Bazaar was beflagged in honour of our victory.  Ours was the winning
side, of that there could be no doubt.  The Governor was more
assiduous than ever in his professions of undying devotion, and he
was always planning fresh schemes for manifesting his goodwill and
friendship.  He even hit upon the expedient of declaring an amnesty
for Persians incarcerated in the local gaol.  At his urgent
solicitation, I visited the prison to decide upon the offenders who
were to benefit by this generosity.  It was a filthy, evil-smelling
hole.  Lying upon a stone floor were about a dozen offenders, all
huddled together and chained like so many wild beasts.  There was a
Jew who had been arrested for debt.  He wore round his neck a heavy
iron collar {248} like the joug of the Scottish pillory.  He speedily
divined my mission, and was clamorously insistent that he should be
the first to be set free.  Chained to him were two Persians, one of
whom had been arrested for manslaughter and the other for petty
larceny.

In this foetid den, and near the trio already mentioned, was a young
Persian girl of attractive appearance--an unregenerate Magdalene, as
it turned out, who had been put in chains for a breach of the
somewhat elastic Persian law governing public morality.  She alone
made no protestation of innocence and no appeal for release.  Perhaps
that was why I suggested she should be the first to have her fetters
struck off and be set free.  She seemed dumbfounded at first, but on
realizing that liberty awaited her, she burst into tears, and showed
her gratitude by kissing my hand.  It seemed a pity to leave the
other poor wretches, however guilty they might have been, to rot in
this terrible dungeon; so I availed myself to the full of the
privilege of the amnesty and asked that all should be liberated,
including the loquacious Jew debtor.  This was done, and the poor,
dazed creatures walked out of the prison doors and once more breathed
the purer air of freedom.

With the granting of the armistice to Austria came the welcome orders
for the British force to evacuate Bijar and retire to Hamadan.  On
news of Austria's defection from the side of her German ally becoming
known, the Governor arrived to offer fresh felicitations.  {249} But
a shadow clouded his beaming self-satisfied countenance when he
learned that the British were to withdraw immediately.  He became
greatly perturbed at the news, for he feared the ever-present menace
of Kurdish incursions, and trembled for the safety of Bijar and the
wealth of its Bazaar.  "What will become of us all?" he asked in
despair.  "When the British go, the Kurds will come, and then----"
He made a significant gesture across his throat.

The Governor returned next day with a deputation of the inhabitants
to ask that a British garrison might be left behind to carry out the
duty which really devolved upon the Persian Government, that of
protecting its subjects against acts of lawlessness.  He pleaded hard
and earnestly.  They would find fuel, food, and quarters free for the
soldiers who were to remain.  First he suggested twenty, then a
dozen, and finally he said, "Take pity on us, and send a message by
the lightning-flash (wireless) to the British King asking him to
permit three of his soldiers to remain here to protect the people.
Then the Kurds will never bother us at all."  It was certainly a
tribute to our worth and fighting value.  Gently but firmly the
Governor had to be led to understand that it was impossible.  The
soldiers had homes and wives in far-off Faringistan across the Black
Water; their duty was done, and home they must go.

The deputation set off with bowed heads and {250} sorrowing hearts.
It was kismet, and the decree of Destiny could not be set aside.

The wealthier inhabitants, however, made every effort to save
themselves and their worldly possessions.  All available transport
was bought up at enhanced prices, and an exodus from Bijar preceded
the British evacuation.

On November 7th Colonel Bridges and his column bade farewell to
Bijar.  The inhabitants, or at least those of them who were too poor
to take flight, turned out _en masse_ to speed the parting troops.
They had got to know and to admire the splendid British soldier who
is always a gentleman, who had fought the battle of the Persian
people against Kurdish brigand and Turkish regular, and whose
ofttimes scanty ration he was always ready to share with any roadside
starveling who crossed his path.  The Governor and a numerous retinue
rode for two miles with the head of the column.  On a bare plateau,
exposed to a keen, biting wind, and under a lowering sky, the last
farewells were cordially exchanged.  The Governor told us that the
British had left behind an ineffaceable record for justice and
generosity.  I think it was sincerely meant and devoid of any
exaggeration.

[Illustration: HARVESTING IN PERSIA.]

It took seven days to reach Hamadan.  The snow overtook us on the
second day out, and the bitter Kurdistan winter set in with extreme
severity.  The Indian transport camels, unaccustomed to extreme cold,
and not possessing the thick fur coating of their {251} Afghan
brother, died in numbers, and the Indian Charvadars followed their
example.

From Hamadan there was the long trek down-country and over the
snow-clad Asadabad Pass.  But the weather grew milder and brighter as
we steadily dropped down from the high altitudes, neared the warmer
plains of Mesopotamia, and left Persia behind us.  At last came the
day when our long overland journey was to end, and Xenophon's
war-worn soldiers never cried more exultingly "Thalatta!" "Thalatta!"
at the sight of the sea, than we did on reaching the shores of the
Persian Gulf.



{252}

APPENDIX


THE WORK OF THE DUNSTERFORCE ARMOURED CAR BRIGADE

I am giving the following account of the work of the Armoured Car
Brigade with General Dunsterville's Mission, not only because the
Brigade deserves fuller mention than I have been able to give
elsewhere in this book, but because some description of their
operations will give a better idea of the difficulties of transport,
stores, etc., with which the whole force had to deal.  For my facts
in this instance I have been allowed access to an official report by
the men who actually did the work.

The Brigade, commanded by Colonel J. D. Crawford, was organized in
squadrons of eight cars each.  In addition it had a mobile hospital
of fifty beds, and the usual supply column.

The Brigade had originally been known as the Locker-Lampson Armoured
Car Unit, and its work in Russia in the earlier stages of the war is
one of the most stirring stories of the whole campaign.  For its
present work, it began to mobilize in England during the latter
months of 1917.  The personnel was obtained by the transfer from the
R.N.A.S.  of officers and men who had been serving in the Armoured
Car Unit in Russia.

{253}

Owing to the internal conditions of Russia, the personnel arrived in
small parties at long intervals, the last party leaving Russia as
late as March, 1918.  The unit was made up to strength by the
enlistment of personnel from motor and other munition works in
England.  The cars and material were all to be provided from England,
and the necessary orders for their manufacture were issued without
delay.  The armoured cars were of Austin make, and mounted two
machine-guns in twin turrets.

A demand for the early presence of some cars with the Mission
necessitated the despatch of an advanced party, the last draft of
which landed in May, 1918.

This party consisted of 21 officers, 450 other ranks, with 8 armoured
cars, 24 lorries, 30 touring cars, 44 Ford box vans, 32 motor-cycles,
and other stores and equipment.

That it was impossible to concentrate and fully equip the unit in
England before despatch overseas was unavoidable, but unfortunate
from the point of view of organization.  The delay in the despatch of
the remainder of the unit was a further misfortune.  The absence of
many of the specialist personnel and much of the essential equipment
increased the difficulties with which the Brigade was faced.  Some of
the personnel and considerable equipment never reached the Brigade
until it was withdrawn from Persia.

Of the personnel that did arrive nearly 40 per cent. had only joined
the Army in January, 1918, were {254} devoid of all training, and had
often no mechanical knowledge.

By May 15th the advanced party, together with such cars and personnel
as arrived later, were concentrated at Hinaidi, and preparations for
the move into Persia were rapidly pushed forward.

On May 14th a start was made to establish petrol dumps at
Tak-i-Garra, Kermanshah, and Hamadan, and by May 15th these were
sufficiently stocked to permit of the move of "A" Squadron, which
left Hinaidi on May 17th.  In connection with the establishment of
these dumps it is worthy of note that the Brigade Peerless lorries
were the first heavy lorries to cross the Pai Tak and Asadabad
Passes, in spite of expert opinion that the road was impassable for
heavy lorries.

It will be simpler to follow the actual operations of the Brigade if
each series of operations, although concurrent, are dealt with
separately:

1. Operations against the Jungalis.

2. Operations with General Bicherakoff's Force in the Caucasus.

3. Operations at Baku.

4. Operations at Zinjan.



OPERATIONS AGAINST THE JUNGALIS.

"A" Squadron arrived at Hamadan on June 7th.  At this time General
Bicherakoff's troops were concentrating at Manjil.  The Jungalis
under Kuchik {255} Khan were prepared to permit the Russian forces to
continue their withdrawal to Russia, but were opposed to the passage
of any British troops through their territory to Enzeli, a port on
the Caspian.  General Bicherakoff refused to sever his connection
with the British, and prepared to attack the Jungalis who were
entrenched covering Manjil Bridge.  He applied to General
Dunsterville for such assistance as he could give.

Orders were received by the Brigade on June 8th for all cars to
proceed to Kasvin, to take part in these operations.  The cars were
much in need of overhaul after their long trip from Bagdad, and the
work of getting them ready for the road was pushed forward as fast as
possible, cars as they became ready being sent forward.  One battery
left Hamadan on June 9th, and the whole squadron was on the road by
June 13th.

At this point the Rubberine tyres with which the cars were fitted
gave considerable trouble, and failed to stand the wear necessitated
by running over metalled roads.  The average mileage per tyre worked
out at 60 instead of 500 miles, and spares were soon used up.  To
obtain further supplies from railhead 400 miles distant necessitated
a delay of at least ten days.  By stripping some cars it was possible
to maintain the others on the road, but by June 27th only two cars
were mobile.

As regards the failure of Rubberines, it must be remembered that
these tyres are solely intended for {256} work in action, and not for
long-distance running.  However, pneumatic tyres had not been sent
from England, and efforts to supply the deficiency by local purchase
failed.  Some tyres were purchased, but it was not possible to get
the necessary fittings to enable Warland rims to be efficiently
converted to take the pneumatics.

As soon as the abnormal expenditure of Rubberines was experienced,
arrangements were made to maintain a sufficient supply, and the cars
were not off the road again on this account, although they consumed
in one month 75 per cent. of the estimated year's supply.
Considering that a single Rubberine tyre weighs 200 pounds, the
strain imposed on the transport of the Brigade in maintaining a
sufficient supply was considerable.

From June 13th to July 20th the cars were mainly employed on convoy
duties, and for defensive purposes at Resht and Manjil.

On June 28th one armoured car was in action along the Kasmar road,
supporting infantry who were attempting the rescue of an A.S.C.
officer who had been captured by the Jungalis.  Captain J. Macky was
wounded in this engagement.

On July 20th the Jungalis made a determined attack on Resht, which
they occupied.  They, however, failed to drive back the British
troops camped on the south-west outskirts of the town.  Both the
armoured cars of the Brigade and those of the 6th L.A.M. Battery took
a prominent part in the fighting, {257} and later in the relief of
isolated parties cut off in the town.  The street fighting was heavy
and difficult.  Trenches were dug across the road and barricades
erected, but the armoured cars thoroughly proved their suitability
for street fighting.  Their moral effect materially assisted in
clearing the enemy out of the town a few days later.  Captain G. N.
Gawler was wounded during the fighting.

On July 28th, to relieve the pressure at Resht, and to make troops
available to assist in the defence of Baku, the Brigade offered to
organize a motor machine-gun company from the personnel of "B" and
"C" Squadrons then training at Hamadan, awaiting the arrival of their
cars from England.  The offer was accepted, and the company,
consisting of sixteen machine-guns (with crews), left Hamadan on July
30th.  The machine-guns and ammunition were carried in sixteen Ford
vans, and the personnel in the Brigade Peerless lorries.  It was
decided that half the company should remain at Resht until the
situation there improved, the other half proceeding to Enzeli to be
in readiness to embark for Baku should the situation there permit.



  OPERATIONS WITH GENERAL BICHERAKOFF'S FORCES
  IN THE CAUCASUS.

General Bicherakoff.s troops embarked at Enzeli on July 3rd.  No. 2
Battery, "A" Squadron, was ordered to accompany them.  In order to
avoid {258} possible trouble with the Bolsheviks, they wore Russian
uniform, but later were ordered to discard it.  The force landed at
Aliyat, south of Baku, on July 4th, and proceeded by rail to
Kurdamir, which was reached at midnight, July 7-8th.  The cars were
immediately detrained, and by 4 a.m. two cars were in action on the
Russian right, near Kara Sakal, and remained in action all day
against the Turkish advanced troops.

Two reconnaissances were successfully carried out in this area under
cover of darkness, during the night, July 8-9th, and the Turkish
outposts engaged.  A reconnaissance at dawn, 3.40 a.m., on July 9th,
met with heavy machine-gun and rifle fire.

The Turks attacked the village of Kara Sakal at 5 a.m.  Their advance
was greatly hampered by fire from the cars which covered throughout
the day the withdrawal of the Russian troops in this sector to
Kurdamir.  On two occasions, the Turks having deployed in the
proximity to the road, the cars ran right up into the opposing lines
of infantry, which they enfiladed, forcing the Turks to withdraw.

On July 10th the Russians, after a reconnaissance by the armoured
cars, attacked, but failed to reach their objective.  An enemy
counter-attack was repulsed by the armoured cars, which eventually
covered the withdrawal of the infantry to Karrar.  A determined
attack on the rearguard by enemy cavalry was repulsed by one armoured
car, with heavy loss to the enemy.

{259}

The battery withdrew to Sagiri on the llth, and was employed
continuously in reconnaissance from July 12th to 18th.

Owing to the defection of the troops protecting General Bicherakoff's
right, he was compelled to retire to Ballajari, which was reached
without incident on July 23rd.  The armoured cars formed a portion of
the rearguard and carried out one reconnaissance at Kara Su, without,
however, meeting any enemy troops.

On July 26th one armoured car was ordered to carry out a
reconnaissance along Shemaka-Baku road.  This car failed to return.
A force sent out to look for it found two bodies, which were
identified as the driver of a Ford touring car, and a batman, both of
whom were travelling in Captain Hull's touring car.  Unofficial
reports have been received that a British officer and four men were
prisoners at Elizabetpol.  No details as to what actually happened
are available.

On July 29th the Turks took Adji-Kabul Station, to the south-west of
Baku, and began an encircling movement to the north.  General
Bicherakoff, not wishing to be shut up in Baku, withdrew northwards.
The armoured cars acted as rearguard, Kirdalana being reached at 6.30
p.m.  From hereon the armoured cars travelled by rail to Hatcmas,
which was reached on August 10th.  Although the force was continually
harassed by Tartars, the armoured cars took no part in the fighting.

{260}

On August 11th the cars were sent forward by rail to Kudat, to
operate against the Tartars.  The country being impassable for
armoured cars, they returned to Hatcmas.

On August 12th a general advance was made on Derbend, but the cars
still travelled by rail.  The Bolsheviks retired from Derbend after
desultory fighting, and the town was occupied on August 15th at 9.20
a.m.

The train on which the armoured cars were travelling was smashed in a
collision south of Derbend, and the armoured car personnel were
responsible for the rescue of many men, under conditions calling for
gallantry and endurance.  Two N.C.O's.  received the M.S.M.  for
their gallant behaviour on this occasion.

The armoured cars were not in action again until the attack on
Petrovsk on September 3rd.  The armoured cars preceded the infantry
at 4.30 p.m., and, driving in the Bolshevik troops, engaged a battery
of 6-inch guns at close range, driving the gunners off the guns and
capturing them.  They pursued the Bolshevik troops through the town,
driving some 600 of them into the hands of the Cossacks, who had got
round to the north of the town.

One armoured car was now immobile, owing to back-axle trouble, and
was out of action until September 20th, when necessary spare parts
were received from Baku.

{261}

The cars remained at Petrovsk till September 10th for overhaul, every
facility and excellent workshops being placed at their disposal by
General Bicherakoff.

On September llth the cars were sent to Temi-Khan Shuna, thirty miles
south of Petrovsk, to co-operate in operations being carried out at
that place against a mixed force of 600 Turks and 1,500 Dageshani
Tartars.  The operations fell through owing to an armistice being
arranged on the 12th.  The cars remained at Temi-Khan Shuna to
maintain order until the 19th.

On September 18th three Russian armoured cars, which had been under
the orders of the Brigade at Baku, and had proceeded to Petrovsk when
the evacuation took place, were attached to No. 2 Battery.

On September 27th two armoured cars (one D.A.C. Brigade and one
Russian) were ordered to embark to join Colonel Sleseneff at Briansk.
The cars were disembarked at Starri Terechnaya by 11 a.m. on the
30th, and left for Alexandrisk, which was reached at 6 p.m. the same
evening, moving to Marinova on October 2nd.  Here touch was gained
with General Alexieff by aeroplane.

The advance was continued, Seri Brakovka being reached on the 3rd.

The cars moved to Breedeekin on October 12th, reporting to the
headquarters of the force (General Mestoulov), on the outskirts of
Kislyar, at 8.30 a.m. on {262} the 13th.  An attack on Kislyar was
ordered for the 14th.  One armoured car was ordered to precede the
infantry attack, and clear the enemy trenches at 12 noon, after a
preliminary bombardment.  The car was driven forward until the wheels
rested on the parapet, and the trenches were enfiladed, and the
Bolshevik infantry fled.  The car, whilst returning to bring forward
the Russian infantry, was hit by a direct shell, which killed three
of the crew and wounded Captain Crossing and the driver.  At this
point the Russian infantry panicked, and, failing to restore order, a
general withdrawal was ordered to Breedeekin.

The personnel of the British armoured car was withdrawn to Petrovsk,
which was reached on September 18th.

On October 26th No. 2 Battery, which had served with General
Bicherakoff since July 3rd, was ordered to return to Enzeli to rejoin
the Brigade.

During the whole period, Captain Barratt, R.A.M.C., was mainly
responsible for the medical work with General Bicherakoff's force,
and received the 4th Class of the Order of St. Vladimir for his work.

Captain Crossing, D.S.C., who had commanded this battery, received
the St. George's Cross for gallantry, and also the 4th Class of the
Order of St. Vladimir.

Lieutenant E. W. Wallace also received the 4th Class of the Order of
St  Vladimir, and several St. George's Crosses were awarded to the
men.



{263}

OPERATIONS AT BAKU.

At the end of July the new Government in Baku asked for British
assistance.  One section of No. 1 Battery (two cars) and two sections
of the motor machine-gun company embarked at Enzeli, arriving at Baku
August 5th.  The remaining section of No. 1 Battery and two sections
of the machine-gun company were withdrawn from Resht on August 6th,
embarking the same evening for Baku, which was reached on August 7th.

Owing to the presence of Bolshevik troops in the town, the armoured
cars and machine-gun company did not proceed to the line.  There were
constant threats that the Bolsheviks intended to attempt to turn out
the new Government by a _coup de main_.  The armoured cars "stood to"
every night, whilst machine-guns were located in various buildings
commanding the streets leading to the quarter of the town in which
the British troops were billeted.

In order to stiffen and encourage the local forces, British troops
were sent into the line on August 9th.  One section of the motor
machine-gun company took up positions at Voltchi Vorota on the left
of the line, co-operating with detachments of the Staffords.  Efforts
were also made to organize the Russian machine-guns in this section
of the line, with some success.  (The organization of the Russian
machine-guns was later handed over to Major Vandenberg.)

On the same date two armoured cars and one and {264} a half sections
of the motor machine-gun company were sent to Zabrat, to take part in
operations being carried out against Mashtagi.  These two cars were
constantly in action, handling very severely about 100 Turks who were
found sitting and lying about behind a hedge.

The machine-guns took up positions in the Armenian lines.  These
machine-guns were taken forward, and then covered the advance of the
Armenians.  No serious attack on Mashtagi was, however, at any time
made by the local forces.

One incident in this area is worth recording.  At the request of
Headquarters a Brigade Vauxhall Staff car was lent for the purpose of
taking Tartar delegates to the front line, from whence it was
intended that the delegates should make their way behind the Turkish
lines and arrange terms with the local Tartars.  Through some error,
the car, also containing in addition to the delegates two sergeants
of the Brigade, was sent on through the lines and captured by the
Turks.  Sergeant Miks was captured on this occasion.  Russian born,
he was a local linguist, and had gone through some remarkable
adventures, whilst keeping under observation the movements of the
Bolsheviks in Baku.

On August 14th one section of guns took up a position in the line at
the foot of Griazni Vulkan, to the north-east of Baladjari Station.
The next few days were fully occupied in the construction of
machine-gun emplacements.  Two armoured cars {265} and a half-section
of the motor machine-gun company were retained in Baku in reserve to
maintain order in the town.  On August 24th one of these armoured
cars proceeded to Griazni Vulkan, where it remained in support of the
line.

On August 26th the Turkish attack, the imminence of which was evident
from the daily reconnaissance reports, materialized against Griazni
Vulkan.  The advance took place under cover of heavy and destructive
artillery fire, which caused considerable casualties.  The line at
the point of the attack was held by 150 Staffords and four
machine-guns of the Brigade motor machine-gun company.  The attack
was three times brought to a halt, the machine-guns doing great
execution.  One gun's crew withdrew their gun from its emplacement,
which had overhead cover, and remounted it on top in order to obtain
a greater field of fire.  Enemy reinforcements coming up about 2 p.m.
caused the troops on the right flank to fall back.  The two
machine-guns in this area, however, remained at their posts, and were
last seen still firing, although completely surrounded.

The remainder of the infantry were forced to withdraw, but this order
did not reach the remaining two guns, which only left their positions
when they found small parties of enemy in rear of them.  Fifty per
cent. of the crews became casualties whilst withdrawing.  Lieutenant
Titterington, who was in charge, was compelled to use his revolver.

The armoured car in this sector, which, owing to {266} the impossible
nature of the ground, had not previously been able to come into
action, now covered the withdrawal of the remnants.  These were
reorganized by Major Ruston, a new line formed, and a further
withdrawal carried out in good order to a line some 2,000 yards to
the east.  Fresh gun crews were immediately organized from batmen and
other employed men of the Brigade, and sent forward to man the two
guns that were left.

On August 27th the section of the machine-gun company was withdrawn
from Voltchi Vorota, and received orders to report to the O.C. 39th
Brigade, who took over charge of the Baladjari Sector on the evening
of August 26th.  The new line ran from Baladjari to Vinagradi.  Two
guns were placed in position at Baladjari and two on Vinagradi Hill.

The Turks had suffered so heavily on the 26th that they waited till
the 31st before resuming their attack.  During the interval
reorganization was carried out, and, owing to heavy casualties, crews
were only available for two sections of machine-guns and three
armoured cars.  One armoured car was immobile owing to magneto
trouble, and did not come again into action whilst at Baku.  The
Turks attacked Vinagradi Hill on August 31st, and, as the flanks of
the infantry were too exposed to permit of sustained resistance, they
withdrew shortly after the attack developed.  Orders again did not
reach the two machine-guns in this sector, who maintained their
position single-handed for an hour and a half, {267} inflicting
considerable casualties before they were forced to withdraw, owing to
enemy fire, from the rear.  They took up a fresh position on the
railway-line east of Baladjari.

During the whole of the period of fighting two armoured cars and six
machine-guns (reduced to four after August 26th) remained inactive in
the Mashtagi area.

The capture of Dighiya on September 1st endangered the security of
the force in front of Mashtagi, which accordingly withdrew.  The
armoured cars and machine-guns took up a position about 1,000 yards
south of Balakhani.

The Turkish success made the evacuation of Baku advisable, and orders
were issued for evacuation to take place in the evening.  These were
later cancelled owing to the attitude of the local authorities and
Caspian Fleet, and orders issued for a last stand to be made on the
inner defensive line.

The next few days were spent in building the necessary defences.

On September 1st the Russian armoured car section, consisting of two
heavy cars mounting 3-pounders, and two light cars with maxims, under
the command of Lieutenant-Colonel the Marquis Albrizzi, were placed
under the orders of the Brigade.  They were mainly employed
supporting attacks against Tartar villages on the right flank, which
never materialized.

Between September 1st and 13th a general {268} concentration of the
Turks was noticed south-west of Baladjari.  On the evening of the
12th an Arab officer deserter gave full details of the expected
Turkish attack, which was to take place during the early hours of the
morning on the 14th against the Voltchi Vorota Sector, a feint being
made to hold the troops at Baladjari.  The attack developed as stated
at 6 a.m. on the 14th.  The feint attack in front of Baladjari was
heavily handled by our machine-guns and rapidly brought to a
standstill.  The main attack, however, against the local troops,
progressed satisfactorily.

The two armoured cars from Baladjari were withdrawn to the Seliansky
Barracks at the north-west corner of the town at 9 a.m.  Their
departure opened up the left flank of the position at Baladjari.
This, together with the danger of being cut off by the main attack,
forced the Baladjari detachment to withdraw at 1.30 p.m.  They were
covered by the machine-guns, which retired successfully, the last gun
only leaving when the Turks were within 100 yards of their position,
three members of the crew being wounded during the withdrawal.  They
took up a fresh position on the top of a ridge some 600 yards to the
rear.

At 8 a.m. one armoured car was ordered out along the Voltchi Vorota
road.  It here engaged the enemy single-handed for two and a half
hours, and though shelled intensively, managed to escape destruction
by continuously moving in a figure of {269} eight in the very small
space available for manoeuvre.  This checking of the main attack
allowed the Russian forces to be re-formed in rear and stiffened up
with British troops.  The remaining two armoured cars from Baladjari
were ordered into action along the Baladjari road, with orders to
prevent the troops withdrawing from Baladjari from being cut off.
They were in action in this area the whole day, running up among the
Turkish troops and inflicting very heavy casualties, destroying three
enemy machine-guns and dispersing in panic some Turkish cavalry which
were massing for the attack.

At 11 a.m. the machine-gun section from the Balakhani road was
withdrawn, and remained in reserve throughout the afternoon near
Seliansky Barracks.

At 5 p.m. orders for the evacuation of Baku were received, the
armoured cars being disposed as follows, to cover the withdrawal of
the infantry:

  1 car on the Dighiyar road.
  1  "  "  "  Baladjari road.
  1  "  "  "  Voltchi Vorota road.


The withdrawal commenced at 8 p.m. and was carried out without
incident, the last car arriving at the embarkation point at 10 p.m.

Owing to the still doubtful attitude of the local authorities and
Caspian Fleet, it was considered inadvisable to delay whilst the
armoured cars were embarked, and orders were issued for their
destruction, as well as for the destruction of the motor {270}
transport which had accompanied the Brigade, and which had done most
useful work in rationing the Brigade and other British troops in the
line.  The following cars were consequently destroyed:

  4 Austin armoureds.
  6 Vauxhall tenders.
  3 Ford touring cars.
  2 Ford ambulances.
  18 Ford vans.
  1 Ford van (belonging to Wireless Section).


Kazian was reached on September 16th.

During the fighting leading to the evacuation the Russians' cars
under the Marquis Albrizzi rendered valuable assistance, and covered
the withdrawal of the local troops in the early morning of the 15th,
and were eventually evacuated with General Bicherakoff's detachment
to Petrovsk, where they were attached to No. 2 Battery of the Brigade.



OPERATIONS AT ZINJAN.

During the fighting at Baku a considerable concentration of troops at
Tabriz enabled the Turks to advance towards Zinjan, driving our
outposts at Mianeh across the Kufian Kuh.

Eight more armoured cars from England arrived at Hamadan on September
1st.  In spite of the fact that the majority of the personnel for
these cars had been taken to form the machine-gun company, the
balance of personnel was rapidly organized and "E" Squadron formed.
The cars needed considerable {271} attention mechanically, and this
was rapidly carried out, cars as they were fit for the road being
despatched to Zinjan.

The serious threat to the main communications to Enzeli by this
Turkish advance necessitated the consideration of a general
withdrawal to Hamadan on September llth.  In spite of mechanical
difficulties, the Brigade offered to get the whole squadron to Zinjan
immediately, and, further, to organize from batmen and cooks
sufficient crews to man four machine-guns, the whole being carried in
a Peerless lorry.  This squadron and machine-gun section were
concentrated at Zinjan by September 16th, and their addition to the
small force justified a stand being made north of that place, and the
orders for the evacuation being held in abeyance.  Reconnaissances,
in which one section 6th L.A.M. Battery played a considerable part,
were pushed out as far as Jamalabad, where Turkish cavalry were
engaged.

"E" Squadron had considerable trouble from back axles giving.  The
presence of armoured cars undoubtedly checked the advance of the
Turkish troops beyond Jamalabad.

An additional twelve armoured cars left Bagdad on August 19th,
arriving at Hamadan on September 1st.  These cars also needed
overhauling, and in view of the back-axle trouble experienced by "E"
Squadron it was considered desirable to take down all back axles and
thoroughly overhaul them.  In the meantime the personnel of "D"
Squadron was collected, {272} organized, and trained.  This squadron
was stationed at Hamadan, for fear of any possible advance of Turkish
troops from Urumia via Bijar.

A road reconnaissance towards Bijar was carried out by two armoured
cars on October 3rd.  These reported that the road was impassable,
and the country unsuitable for armoured cars some sixty miles north
of Hamadan.

On the formation of Norperforce on September 14th, it was pointed out
that Persia did not offer opportunity for the employment of a large
number of armoured cars, whilst there was great difficulty in
obtaining the requisite petrol to keep the Brigade mobile.  It was
considered that the armoured-car work could be carried out by eight
cars, especially as the approach of winter would make movement
impossible.  Much of the work would be in the nature of patrol work,
and previous experience had shown that this was very expensive in
Rubberine tyres.  The pneumatic tyres for the cars had not up till
that date arrived from England.

Accordingly, on October 2nd the withdrawal to Mesopotamia commenced.

There are one or two features of interest as regards the rationing
worthy of record.

Owing to the heat and the rapidity with which fresh meat went bad,
considerable difficulty was experienced in rationing convoys, which
might be absent several days from main rationing bases.  No tinned
meat was available, and after several experiments {273} a successful
method of dry-salting and sun-drying mutton was found.  Meat thus
treated proved very palatable when soaked and cooked, and kept even
in the hottest weather for several weeks.

Jam was made from fruit purchased locally, and stored in earthenware
jars, a jam ration being issued to the men the whole time they were
in Persia.  Crushed wheat proved excellent for porridge.

This excellent result was mainly due to the initiative and hard work
of the Brigade Quartermaster, Captain Lefroy and his staff.

To sum up, the Brigade, in addition to entirely supporting its own
personnel in rations, munitions, and stores of all kinds, afforded
very considerable assistance in transport to Dunsterforce.  It
maintained all armoured cars which had arrived from England, working
over 1,000 miles from railhead, and had all available personnel in
the fighting-line as a machine-gun company at Baku, some 800 miles
from railhead.  The whole time it was solely dependent on its own
efforts.

The work was entirely due to the magnificent body of officers and men
forming the unit, who have worked throughout unsparingly in whatever
duty they have been called upon to perform.  The gallantry shown by
the men of the machine-gun company in the fight of August 26th, when
they stayed with their guns to the last, is enhanced by the fact that
practically all these men had under eight months' service in the Army.



{274}



NDX

INDEX


ADJI-KABUL, 207

Afshar tribesmen, 142, 143

Agre Petros, 137

Akhbar, Lieutenant, 15, 29, 55, 67, 58, 101

Alexandria, 10

Ali Akhbar Khan, 79, 90

Aliullahis, 84-86

Ali Elizan Pasha, 159

Allen, Mr., 128

Alvand Mountains, 112

Amarah, 41-43

American Presbyterian Mission, 84, 89, 106, 128

Amory, Captain, 172

Ardabil, 175

Armoured cars, 109, 194, 205, 206, 207, 210, 252 _et seq._

Ashar, 23

Assadabad Pass, 63, 111

Azarbaijan, 133, 157, 163



Bagdad, 47-60

Baku, 63, 67, 135, 190, 206, 207, 208, 212, 226

Baleshkent Pass, 154, 193

Baqubah, 74

Baratof, General, 70

Basra, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 29

Batum, 135

Benik Suma, 177

Bicherakoff, General, 70, 71, 133, 203, 208

Bijar, 227, 232, 246

Bisitun, 107

Bolshevik activities, 63, 64, 66, 67, 71, 72, 134, 135, 204, 211

Bray, Captain, 4

Bridges, Colonel, 250

Byron, Brigadier-General, 3, 10, 23, 36, 55, 75, 87, 100, 196



Cachagli Pass, 178, 179, 182, 183

Calthorpe, Sergeant, 176

Cannibalism, 118, 119

Caspian Sea, 62, 63, 68, 71

Caucasus, 67

Chesney, General, 17

Chihar Zabar Pass, 97

Cinema, native interest in, 26

Cochrane, Captain Basil, 175, 182

Cooper, Captain, 15

Cowden, Miss, 84

Crawford, Colonel, 194

Crossing, Captain, 207



Derhend, 207

Dervishes, 98

Diala River, 74

Donnan, Colonel, 5, 6, 9

Dunsterville Force, 2, 60 _et seq._, 74, 112, 133, 198, 212, 225

Dunsterville, General, 62, 63, 64, 74, 115, 123, 130, 133, 190, 203,
212, 225



Edwards, Mr., 128

Enzeli, 63, 68, 206

Eve, Captain George, 4, 15, 23, 42



Famine, scenes and relief work, 77, 88, 89, 103, 117 _et seq._

Football, native enthusiasm for, 24, 25

Funk, Dr., 128



Gamasiab, 107

German activities, 63, 65, 66, 73, 204

Gilan, 68

Goldberg, Captain, 109

Goupil, Lieutenant, 109

Gow, Lieutenant, 90



Haji Agha, 163

Hale, Mr., 106

Hamadan, 63, 71, 112 _et seq._, 140, 196

Hampshire Regiment, 78, 82, 90, 169, 172, 184, 190, 194

Harunabad, 94

Heathcote, Captain, 172

Hinaida camp, 47

Hooper, Captain, 172, 236

Hussars (14th), 91, 94, 169, 172, 190



Jamalabad, 154, 193

Japanese naval escort, 3, 8, 9

Jelus, 136, 137, 165, 219

John, Captain, 173

Jones, Lieutenant, 170

Julfa, 134

Jungalis, 73, 116, 204, 205, 209, 254



Kalhur Kurds, 99

Kangavar, 110

Kara River, 107

Karachaman, 174, 183

Karangu River, 189

Karasf, 143, 147

Kasr-i-Shirin, 77

Kasvin, 63, 71, 72, 190

Kazemain, 56, 57

Kellik (native raft), 51

Kennion, Colonel, 106

Kerbela, 75

Kermanshah, 66, 72, 90, 92, 104

Keyworth, Colonel, 214

Khaniquin, 75, 99, 104

Khaseki, mosque of, 60

Khazal Khan, 28

Khorsabad, 94

Kirind, 82, 83

Kizil Robat, 105

Kizil Uzun River, 72, 190

Koweit, 17, 18

Krasnovodsk, 67

Kuchik Khan, 72, 73, 116, 127, 133, 158, 198, 203, 208

Kufa (native boat), 50, 51

Kuflan Kuh Pass, 156, 189

Kurdistan, 225

Kurds, 100, 228, 239

Kut, 37, 44, 45



L.C.C. Steamers on the Tigris, 38

Lincoln, Mr., 35



McDouell, Mr., 117

McKay, "Willie," 244

McMunn, Major-General Sir George, 22

McMurray, Mr. and Mrs., 128, 129

Mahidast, 99, 101

Makina, 24

_Malwa_ (P. and O. Liner), 1, 3

Mandali, 99

Manjil, 72

Marjanieh mosque, 59

Marling, Sir Charles, 122

Marriage ceremonies (Persian), 29 _et seq._

Mar Shimon, 137

Matthews, Colonel, 78, 191, 214

Maude, Sir Stanley, 61

Mazandaran, 68

Mianeh, 155, 156, 161, 186, 187, 188

Milman, the "amphibious purser", 6, 7

Mohammerah, Sheikh of, 28

Mussick (native raft), 51

Mustafa Khan, 239



Nabi Khan, 240

Nadari, 239

Nestorians, 136, 219

Newcombe, Major, 23, 42

Niebuhr, 60

Nikhbeg, 154



Orenburg, 67

Osborne, Captain, 149, 155, 156, 163, 167, 171



Pai Tak Pass, 77

Parisva, 112

Pennington, Lieutenant, 166

Persians at cinema, 26

Persians at football, 25

Persian marriage ceremony, 29 _et seq._

Persian native levies, 172, 173, 180, 182, 185, 191, 195

Petrovsk, 207

Pierpoint, Lieutenant, 153, 155, 158

Poidebard, Lieutenant, 153

Pope, Captain, 91

Poti, 135

Presbyterian Mission, American, 84, 89, 106, 128



Resht, 63, 68, 71, 206, 209

Rifle thieves, 79, 80

Roberts, Captain, 169

Robertson, General Sir William, 2

Russia, effect of fall of, on Persian affairs, 70, 135

Russian movements, 63 (_see also_ Bicherakoff, General)



Samarkand, 67

Sarab, 174, 175

Sarcham, 194

Saunders, Sergeant, 176

Seddon, Lieutenant, 237

Senjabi tribesmen, 78, 90

Shahsavan tribesmen, 157

Sharaf Khane, 135

Shatt el Arab, 18, 19, 20

Shibley Pass, 156

Shi'ite sect, 55, 75

Smiles, Colonel, 5, 194

Soane, Major, 227

Staffordshire (North) Regiment, 213, 215

Stead, Mr. and Mrs., 106

Stokes, Colonel, 215

Surkhidizeh, 79

Surma Khanin, 137

Suttor, Captain, 218

Sweeney, Lieutenant, 170



Tabriz, 71, 134, 139, 141, 156, 159, 163

Taranto, 1, 3

Tasbandi, 112

Teheran, 71

Thompson, General, 75, 225

Tiflis, 67, 134

Tigris, River, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40

Tigris River flotilla, 37, 38

Tikmadash, 169, 171

Titterington, Lieutenant, 216

Townshend, General, 44-47

Trott, Captain, 172

Turkmanchai, 176, 183, 184

Turkish activities, 137, 138, 142, 158, 163



Urumia, 135, 168



Van, Lake, 66, 135

Voigt, Lieutenant, 237

"Volunteers of Islam," 66



Wagstaff, Major, 141, 150, 153, 161, 169, 176, 189

Wallace, Lieutenant, 208

Warden, Colonel, 5, 215

Williams, Captain, 236

Wilson, Gordon, 237

Worcestershire Regiment, 191



"Young Persia" movement, 68, 69,72



Zinjan, 141, 149

ENDX

BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD, ENGLAND





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