Sunday 18 December 1921

My man woke me up at 7 a.m. this morning, which made it rather a rush to get to Church by 7.30 but I managed it. Even that early the beggars were out and crying “Alms for the love of Allah”. Most are blind and ragged, with long staves and holding bowls for alms – but this morning near Exchange Square was a small boy about 11 I suppose, naked except for a loin cloth, crying bitterly and sitting down by the wall. It was jolly chilly, too, but no-one took any notice of him. He was just a professional beggar. The crying boy beggar is often to be seen.

In the morning did the Kut I.W.T. a/c in which we have 'spotted' another fraud. But I do wish these frauds wouldn't keep happening when I have so much work to do.

Wrote all the afternoon and at 4.00 had Rice and Major Middleton–West to tea and after indulged in a long theological discussion and nearly got late for Church again. It was a splendid evensong tonight. The Church was full and one man (a civilian) had actually brought his two little kiddies; a rare sight in Baghdad are British kiddies. Barkham is getting the choir into good shape and it is a topping service considering we are in the very centre of Mohammedanism and where at one time it was considered a virtuous act to slit a Christians throat.

Monday 19 December 1921

The whole of today I have been engaged in writing my report on the results of the audit of the a/cs rendered by the troops which were employed on the Persian Lines of communication. It is not generally known that up to April 1921 our troops held a line 500 miles long extending through Persia to the Caspian Sea. It ran through the most mountainous country over high passes which for months in the winter was snowbound and no movement possible. Thousands of coolies were employed doing nothing but keeping the road clear of snow and thousands more guarding our huts and stores from the depredations of a people whose chief occupation was thieving. The whole operation was undertaken to keep the Bolshevik out of Persia and it achieved its object, but it was a costly one to us in money. The report when typed covered ten foolscap pages.

We are all still very busy and working long hours but I am hoping that we have now broken the back of the work and that an easier time may be coming. And then, given good weather and good health, there ought to be a good prospect of keeping happy and fit until the gorgeous day when I turn my back on Baghdad.

Tuesday 20 December 1921

Today I completed my first year abroad – a year during which I have traveled nearly 8000 miles and seen India, Egypt, Persia and Mespot, or as it is now called Iraq. While I have been away I have been through extremes of temperature, 130º in the shade at Baghdad and 5º of frost (27º Fahr.) at Basrah and walked about in the sun when the temp registered in the sun was 170º. I have been choked by dust and waded through streets where the mud was 12 inches and more in depth. I, a bad sailor, have gone through a 4 days storm in the Bay of Biscay, and flown in an aero plane at 120 miles an hour and nearly a mile up in the air. It has been a wonderful year and full of interest and I have had splendid health (my ten days in Hospital doesn't count) – and a tremendous amount of work to do. It has been a year of education. I have learnt a lot of things and realized what Empire means which one can never learn or realize in England. I have lived in the wonderful sunshine of the East and its colour and glamour – and, the other side of the picture, its dirt and stink. I have lived for my year in a society comprised of men, and away from my dear ones. For a year I have not touched a woman's lips.

Wednesday 21 December 1921

Today commenced my second year from home. The past year hasn't been a long year, looking back and I hope this one will be even shorter. In a few days I shall be in 1922, the year when I hope to return home. I am full of thankfulness for my good health in the past year and pray God I may have the same good fortune in this.

When roads are bad and work is heavy one goes little distance from one's billet and life tends rather to be monotonous, but interesting questions are always cropping up and it is great good fortune to be among such good fellows as I have had the privilege of meeting. Golf, tennis, badminton, motoring and racing have all helped to make life bearable; but all sports are indulged in out here, bar skating!

Yesterday night we had some more rain – not much – but enough to make things very dirty again. I really think that the rain brings more discomfort than the heat but after the greatest discomfort is that which is with us not that we have gone through and which is past.

We had quite a jolly guest night tonight and Cook, the pianist from Ordnance was a guest, so we had some songs and the evening passed pleasantly. But my thoughts were in England all today and tonight, the anniversary of my departure from home.

Thursday 22 December 1921

One result of the heavy work at the Office and of the small staff I now have (owing to forced reductions by W.O.) is that I am quite unable to get out on inspection duty. By rights I should be going all round this cold weather inspecting a/cs on the spot – but during wet weather this is no joke and I'm quite glad of the excuse to stay at home. I'm hoping to get up to Mosul, however, before we evacuate in April next, on a short visit. These are the days one is grateful for a comfy billet. This morning the lawns at GHQ were covered with a white frost. I have a nice room at GHQ but it has no fireplace and I get my warmth from an oil-stove. I have a larger stove for my room at the billet which warms the room very quickly, but the great boon of the mess room is the big coal and log fire which is lit every night from 7 p.m. We each have a specified allowance of oil and coal and wood, so it doesn't do to be wasteful or you'd be without warmth for the end days of a week. Standing on the low hob at the side of the fire is a kettle of water with which, when so inclined, one makes a hot toddy just before turning in.

Friday 23 December 1921

Today unfortunately it rained again, just as we had hoped it was going to dry up for Xmas. This had put the Ky-bosh on the Races – so that's one of the Xmas arrangements gone. It will also make the Xmas football matches rather a mud-lark and transport and communication very difficult for those who make the week a merry-go-round. In the afternoon our cook killed our Xmas turkey – one of the hen birds – it weighed 10 lbs trussed. After tea I went out and had my Xmas haircut and bought in a supply of tobacco as I wasn't sure whether N.A.F.F.I. would be open Xmas week.

(All GHQ are having a week's holiday except the Audit staff, who are only having Boxing Day and January 2nd.)

Rice and I had an early dinner and went to hear Padre Alexander (one of my old 'mess-mates from “J” Mess) deliver his lecture on “The Incarnation”. Though rather long – it lasted 2 hours – it was a very well thought out and well rendered lecture and dealt with the subject from a common-sense point of view. It helps a man to understand these things when there is reason to back up faith and it makes one's religion an actual thing which carries conviction.

Saturday 24 December 1921

Things slacked off a bit at the office today it being the first day of the Xmas holiday. I am greatly hoping that I may manage to get clear this Xmas with a bit of luck. In addition to the two days holiday we are only working from 9 till 1 (officially) during the week.

Yesterday some of the other members of the mess – the “Xmas Decorations Committee” they called themselves – went out into the bazaar and bought a lot of coloured paper. We started last night making them into chains and completed it this afternoon. We got in a lot of palm-tree fronds which are about 12 feet long and cut down some orange trees and while some put up the paper chains in the mess-room, others made a double archway of palm fronds and orange branches to the mess-room entrance and fixed up palm fronds all round the room inside. We bought new electric bulbs for our lamps and new bunting and stretched yellow bunting around the room. Spiller and Rice made a large “Merry Xmas” motto over the Mess-room fireplace and I repaired two or three of the mess-room chairs which had become damaged.

Having given the room a thorough clean out, we brought down additional articles of our own furniture and repositioned the mess furniture. Luxon and I brought down several of our carpets and saddlebags and placed some on the mess-room floor (the mess carpet being a little shabby) and others on tables, chairs and settees. By the time we had finished we had absolutely changed our mess-room into a most charming place and resting from our labours at 6 p.m. with a whisky and soda by our side, surveyed our handiwork with satisfaction. I had also gone to GHQ garden and picked another big handful of chrysanthemums with which we filled every vase and bowl we had, and also some lent ones. Just fancy us (7 or 8 men) sitting down and making paper chains and mottoes! But we have our reward and it was a real treat sitting down to dinner and afterwards around the fire tonight.

After dinner I played cards until ten minutes to 12 and won four rupees which will go to swell my mite in tomorrow's collection at Church for the Waifs and Strays. At quarter to eleven I was 11 Rupees down and won 15 Rupees (= £1) during the last hour.


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