The Caucasus - After The Armistice
( Originally Published 1923 )
The Czar's Imperial train Journey to Tiflis Georgia and its capital British Advanced Headquarters My duties and establishment The Azerbaijan frontier - Conditions in Tiflis The main chain of the Caucasus The Georgian Road Queen Tamara's summer palace The Russo-Georgian frontier -- Russian brigands The Ingoush tribe Orders to equip a train and go to Kars Snowed up Conditions at Kars Escape from Kars Report to Commander-in-Chief at Batoum Further orders
WE left Batoum for Tiflis at sundown on March loth. The Imperial train itself in which we travelled is worth description, as it would have been a most luxurious and comfortable way of travelling in any country at any time, and in this out-of-the-way part of the world, at the end of the war and revolution, it was indeed a pleasant surprise.
The car we occupied ran on two six-wheeled 'bogies', and consisted of a small open observation-platform at the end, with a roof over it, opening into the saloon, very nicely but in no way extravagantly built, a sofa being fixed at one end and a table large enough to dine eight people running down the centre. Large plate-glass windows and electric light were fitted throughout the carriage, which contained five separate single-berth state-rooms opening into the corridor, and at the end a bath-room with the great luxury of a shower-bath. Immediately in rear and communicating with the main carriage was the kitchen-coach, with good cooking-stove and accommodation for servants, whilst both in front and in rear of these two coaches were others for the escort, consisting on this occasion of one hundred British infantry. This was very necessary at that time, as only the previous day a train had been stopped and robbed, and the country was infested by bands of Bolshevik and other classes of brigands capable of any atrocity.
On this occasion our escort was much too strong for these gentlemen, and we ran through to Tiflis in fourteen hours without incident, instead of the two, or even three, days which the journey might otherwise have taken, although the actual distance is very little over 200 miles. We were now, of course, in Georgia, and reached Tiflis, the capital, about g a.m.
Georgia; for over i,000 years an independent kingdom, with its own Czar, until merged in Imperial Russia in i800, did not take kindly at first to the Bolshevik revolutionary principles, and is at heart always desirous of re-establishing its independence. The people, however, are imbued with Socialistic ideas, with the result that they manufactured a revolution of their own and established a Georgian Republic. The feature of this movement was the nationalization of property, whereby, in theory, the nation was to own everything for the people's advantage; whereas, in practice, it seemed to result in everyone who owned anything losing it, without those who previously owned nothing becoming any better off. And it seems needless to remark that that state of affairs pleased nobody, except certain officials who alone profited thereby. This was the extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs in the early part of 1919, and it cannot be said that they have much improved up to the present (October, 1922).
Tiflis itself is a most interesting city, and even at the time with which we are dealing it was hard to imagine, when there, that one was in the Caucasus. The town is finely sited astride the Koura River, which, rising on the old Russo-Turkish frontier, flows through Georgia and its eastern neighbour, the old Russian province of Baku (now the Republic of Azerbaijan), and falls eventually into the Caspian Sea, about too miles south of the town of Baku.
The Advanced Headquarters of the British Forces was at this time in Tiflis, and the Intelligence Branch occupied a good house in the upper and residential quarter of the town. Here I was allotted a room and reported to my immediate Chief, General Beach, who was in charge of the Intelligence Branch, and whom I had previously known in Persia when he occupied an identical position on the Headquarters staff of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force at Baghdad. From him l quickly learned the general situation, of which the most vital part was that much was going on all round us with regard to which our information was by no means as ample or reliable as we could wish, and it was therefore very desirable that we should augment it by every means in our power.
During the few hours I was at Batoum I had applied for and obtained two Ford cars, and had had my pick of some of the best and most experienced drivers and campaigners whom I had ever seen, they having come on to the Caucasus from Salonika after the Armistice, and having been through the Macedonian campaign as well as the original most arduous retreat through Serbia. My two cars and the men having come up to Tiflis by train, I quickly got my guns prepared, and in a few days we were ready to go anywhere.
It appeared that my immediate duty would be to go out to whatever districts were most interesting, and of which we had but meagre information, to have a good look round and to report what was going on. Nothing could have suited me better, nor could any more congenial task have been allotted to me. In the meanwhile I was told that in a short time I should probably have to go farther afield, and that I was therefore to get together and train a party which would be capable of going right away into the wild frontier countries and of remaining for a considerable time in disturbed districts, to form a centre for reports, etc.
For this purpose 'authority' was given me to draw upon the troops for a certain 'establishment', who were described with the subtle and entirely unconscious humour which is to be found in many military documents, as follows:
'Colonel R -- - -'s Establishment, to consist of 1 personal officer (1) 1 interpreter, 1 clerk, 1 N.C.O., 3 cars and drivers, 2 horses, 1 groom, 1 cook, 1 mess waiter, 2 batmen -14 in all.'
This being the number authorized, it followed that I was entitled to draw pay and rations for fourteen and to select my own men. I set to work at once, knowing well what was wanted, and in a few days I had them in training. Of course, fourteen really tough fellows were required who could go anywhere and do anything without expecting three meals a day and a bed at night, which were about the only things they could be quite certain they would not get.
I fancy that even in Tiflis, at that time, the more enterprising element, which is never lacking amongst our troops, had heard some tales as to previous 'stunts' of the same sort connected with myself; as when volunteers were called for it became a question of selecting the fittest men for the job from among the many that offered themselves, and a better lot than those we at last got together it would be impossible to find. The interpreter, however, was the only one who corresponded in any sense to his official description. The others, instead of being cooks, or waiters, or farriers, or anything else, were just bright fellows with plenty of devil in them, who were ready to take on any job; and if they didn't know anything about it, they were ready to learn. So they were put to work at once to learn their duties, in order that our party might be ready to start off 'on our own' at any moment, whilst I took on some preliminary intelligence work, which was badly wanted and proved very interesting.
The first point upon which it was desired to acquire reliable information was the actual state of affairs existing on the frontier between the new Socialistic Republic of Georgia and its neighbour on the east, the new Tartar Republic of Azerbaijan. Although we had representatives in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku, they did not appear to be any too comfortable there. It was evident, also, that all these old countries were 'in the melting-pot', and that new combinations were springing up all over this part of the world. It was therefore important to know what was going on under the surface, in order to arrive at an intelligent forecast of what policy these new governments might be expected to pursue in the face of the various possible decisions, as to peace conditions, at which the Allies might eventually arrive. My instructions in this case were to start in the early morning and to cross the Georgian frontier into Azerbaijan, and drive as far as I could on the road to Baku, and to return the same night and report. I therefore started next morning with one car only and a very light load, taking only one driver and my interpreter, and finally returning safely to Tiflis at 11.30 p.m., full of valuable information, after sixteen and a half hours on the road. The next few days were devoted to training the men, in which task the three regular machine-gunners there were amongst them proved most useful. The state of affairs in Tiflis at this time was really interesting. The people were the usual mixed crowd with which I had become familiar in Mesopotamia, but there was in the Caucasus a much higher percentage of Central Asian Tartars, and, of course, many more Russians, whilst superimposed on all these we now had Georgians, Ossitines, Ingoushes, Avars, and many more of the tribes from the wild hill-countries lying to the north of the great Caucasus Mountains.
The Georgians are a type quite by themselves. They had at this time what they were pleased to call an army. This consisted of very small and indifferent bodies of cavalry, artillery, and infantry, the officers of which swaggered about the town in magnificent uniforms, covered with cartridge-cases, inlaid daggers and pistols, very tight waists, and long skirts to their coats, finished off with Persian lamb (astrakhan) caps, collars, and cuffs. There had been, before the revolution in Georgia, a fine aristocracy of landowners, wealthy and well educated, many of them Russian princes, and a refined and hospitable people. But their fate had been tragic, for the old owners of the land had no money left at all, and lived by selling their personal belongings, whilst princesses went out as housemaids, or accepted gladly any post where they could earn enough to keep their parents or children alive. It was a repetition of what happened in France at the time of the French Revolution, though in Georgia the aristocrats were not killed (at least, not often), but the people were content just to let them starve. These poor Georgian nobles, however; were so proud that they would not accept any help at all from us, nor even let us give them wood for firing.
One most pathetic story came to my knowledge which well illustrates the sad state of these cultured families, upon whom, through no fault of their own, fell the cruellest effects of the revolution. One night, some of our officers told me, they had 'asked themselves' to dinner with a charming Georgian family whom they knew to be actually starving in their own great house, with-out food, light, fire, or money to buy any of these things. Our men said they would bring their own food and fuel, if they might have the use of the big kitchen of the house to cook it in. So they collected provisions from everyone, and took care to take with them a supply which would leave over sufficient to keep the whole family for a week, until they could offer to come again without hurting the feelings of their hosts. A true and, I think, pretty story of the spirit which distinguishes the British Army, and which makes them welcomed the world over.
My next expedition was more interesting than the last, as rumours had been reaching us of the actions of some of General Deniken's volunteer Russian Army, portions of which were at this time operating on the northern slopes of the Caucasus, far from their headquarters, and were reported as not being under effective control. I was instructed to cross the main Caucasus range and to get in touch with these Russians if possible, and to report as to the conditions then obtaining in those parts, of which no definite information was forthcoming.
In order to make clear what this order meant, it will be necessary to give a short description of what the main chain of the Caucasus Mountains is like, for, although the name of the great range is well known, few people have ever heard about that most interesting country, and fewer still have ever been into its remoter valleys or seen the many tribes of widely varying races who inhabit them.
The main range of the Caucasus Mountains can be taken as about 600 miles long, and is in many places 100 miles in breadth, stretching practically the whole distance from the Black Sea to the Caspian. Throughout the whole range it is traversed by only one road passable by wheeled vehicles. This pass is known as the Georgian Road, and reaches a height at the summit of upwards of 8,000 feet. There are a few mule-paths which cross in other places, but for over 100 miles there is no path under 10,000 feet, and for 400 miles there are but very few, the only easy communication from north to south being along the shore of the Caspian Sea, where the railway now passes north from Baku to the Steppes of Southern Russia. The main peaks of the Caucasus Mountains are Mount Kazbeck, 16,500 feet, under which passes the Georgian Road about the centre of the range, and Mount Elburz, slightly the higher of the two, about 120 miles to the northwest. The aver-age height of the range for many miles is nearly 14,000 feet, and nowhere else in the world can be found such a formidable and continuous mountain barrier, extending from sea to sea.
This is the explanation of the extraordinary diversity of races and languages which is to be found amongst the peoples inhabiting its remote valleys, between which there is little, if any, intercommunication. In every migration which has taken place of conquering or conquered races from Asia to Europe, the varied hordes of Medes, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs, from the south, and of Mongols, Scythians, Turks, Tartars, and Slavs from the north, have surged up against the vast barrier of the Caucasus like angry waves against a rocky coast, and each and all of them have left their representatives in the isolated valleys, where they retain to-day the salient physical characteristics and language of their race.
It is even said that there is a valley in the westward portion of the southern slopes where is to be found to-day an isolated tribe whose language is the Gaelic of Scotland, and amongst whom the bagpipes and the kilt have come down from their ancestors of long ago, who are said to have been a party of Scottish Crusaders who lost themselves in these mountains in their endeavour to find their way back to Europe from Palestine by land.
The whole range is, of course, capped by perpetual snow, and although every effort is made, by means of snow tunnels and constant labour, to keep the Georgian Road open in winter, yet it is frequently impassable, and at the time I received orders to cross, it was months since any vehicle had achieved the passage. Under these circumstances we set out from Tiflis in the early morning of March 18th in a very chastened spirit, with great doubts as to our competence to get over the pass at all, and still greater doubts as to the possibility of our being back in Tiflis on the night of the next day, which formed the two principal features of my official instructions. Of course, no question of what our reception the other side might be entered into the official picture at all, and though I had my own doubts about that also, I kept them strictly to myself.
Having made sure the car was sound all over and petrol plentiful, and having borrowed all the furs which we could raise, I left Tiflis at daybreak, accompanied by my driver and interpreter only, in a Ford van, less its hood, and all the weight it was possible to dispense with.
On leaving the Koura valley we followed the course of a stream into the heart of the mountains until we found ourselves confronted by a sheer precipice of rock, in which zigzags were cut ever rising till they were lost in the clouds overhead. Over the bridge we then went, to start the real climb to the snow-fields far above us.
The climb appeared endless, and actually is, I believe, nearly 3,000 feet, until, all at once, a sharp turn, and we were facing a great snowfield extending for miles on either hand, whilst immediately above us, appearing, in fact, almost over our heads, towered a great snow-peak, many thousands of feet (actually over 91000 feet) above the snow-slopes upon which we then found ourselves. This was the great peak of Mount Kazbeck, with the exception of its neighbour, Mount Elburz, and Mount Demavend above Teheran, the highest peak between the Himalayas in India and the Andes in South America higher by 1,500 feet than any peak in Europe.
Night had now. fallen and a brilliant moon lit up the whole snow landscape, the vast sea of cloud which had been above our heads all day being now behind and far below us. The bright moon on the snow made it as light as day, and we paused a moment to admire this truly magnificent scene, and also for a more practical purpose -- namely, to put on all the furs we could lay our hands on. It was freezing hard, and the frost not only made the snow shine and sparkle with wonderfully beautiful effect in the moonlight, but also froze our breath, till I found my moustache a solid block of ice.
After another hour's climbing in the bitterest cold, we at last reached the summit of the pass, marked by a stone building covered entirely by the snow. We did not stop here, however, but, as our motor was pulling well, kept on in the hope of reaching a less arctic climate in which to pass the night.
The descent on the northern side proved even more interesting than the ascent, and we were able once more to appreciate the endless resources of Imperial Russia. In the places where the snow was thickest there were 'tunnels' built, over which the snow had drifted and slid from above till it had reached incredible depths and lay as deep as forty feet and more in many places. These tunnels were built many years back, and so solidly are they constructed that they will last for as many more, the entrances being of brick and the roof consisting throughout of planks laid on enormous wooden beams which are single baulks of sound timber, sawn square, each eighteen inches thick and more than twenty feet in length. These tunnels are erected at the most exposed points, and some of them are several yards in length.
We descended rapidly, finally reaching a small village at 11 p.m. Here we found a hovel into which we could creep with all our belongings and our lamps and primus stove for a cup of hot tea, after which we enjoyed a well-earned sleep on the cushions we had kept unfrozen, if not warm, all day by the very practical means of sitting on them.
Whilst boiling our humble kettle, to my intense surprise we received a visit from a Georgian General, who was making a round of the frontier posts, and lodging for the night in a similar hovel to ourselves, not many yards away. He expressed himself delighted to see our party, and having shown him our credentials, he gave us the various reports he had received from the country over the frontier, and at the same time promised to detail an officer to go with us to the Georgian frontier post next morning, ten miles farther on down the pass, for which we tendered him our sincere thanks, and a good day's work was at last finished.
Next morning we were astir at daylight, and the Georgian officer having duly appeared, we set off down the pass at a fine speed, the road being quite good and the gradient very favour-able. Within a mile or so of Kazbeck village, where we had spent the night, we entered the famous Dariel Gorge, a truly remarkable spot. The Terek River, which eventually falls into the Caspian Sea, and whose upper waters we were then following, here runs for three miles through a narrow gorge, not more than fifty yards in width at its narrowest point. The sides are perpendicular cliffs rising sheer for 1,500 to 2,000 feet, and about the' centre, where the gorge is widest, rises a most extraordinary isolated rock with perpendicular sides. In ancient days a twisted road, traces of which still remain, climbed in zigzags to the summit, where are still to be seen the ruins of a palace, 500 feet above the level of the gorge below. This was built, and occupied as a summer residence, by the great Georgian Queen Tamara, who in the twelfth century first extended the Georgian kingdom from the Black Sea to the Caspian.
A more unique site for a summer palace can, I think, hardly' exist anywhere, as in the great heats of summer not only is the gorge entirely sheltered from the sun by the height of its encircling cliffs, but a cool and gentle breeze blows always through it, of which the lofty site of the palace insures its occupants reaping the full advantage. Immediately beyond Tamara's palace the river takes a sharp 'S' turn, and the cliffs approach so close as hardly to leave room for the river and the road as they pass out side by side on the same level. Here is the Georgian frontier post, and here our officer left us, with many injunctions to keep a sharp look-out, as things were 'queer' down below.
From this point the cliffs receded and the valley widened out, whilst many tributary streams came in and our river grew fast. To our astonishment, however, we saw no sign of a Russian post, nor of any frontier patrol, although on reaching a village called Lars, some fifteen miles after crossing the frontier, certain suspicious-looking objects hanging from the trees, affording a much appreciated repast to many carrion crows, brought home to us the fact that there were indeed queer characters about. Shortly afterwards, on halting in the' village street we were approached by some villainous-looking specimens of humanity, who announced themselves as an 'outpost' of Deniken's volunteer army. It only needed a glance to 'size them up', as we had been prepared for some time, by the absence of any guards or patrols, for the kind of thing we were likely to find namely, just a rabble, without any pretence of discipline, living on the country by extortion and crime, and entirely out of touch with the military chiefs in whose name they purported to be acting.
We therefore continued our way without taking any notice of them as they all spoke at once, and there appeared no one of them with any authority, from whom could be obtained an explanation of the objects decorating the trees in the village street, a matter as to which it was clearly our duty to obtain information. A mile or so farther on we saw an inhabited village across the river, where there seemed to be some kind of guard kept, and I therefore crossed the river and approached, announcing that I was a British officer come from Tiflis to inquire into the state of the country,
The village was one of those of the Ingoush tribe, whose country lies to the east of the pass, the tribe of the Ossitines lying to the west, and the head-men of the Ingoushis immediately assembled and greeted me with great cordiality. They told me the ruffians we had seen in Lars had been there about a month, and had not only looted the entire village, but had hung the principal inhabitants on the trees in their own village street, after they had surrendered all the property they possessed. The speakers themselves had thus far escaped only by calling in all the armed tribesmen from the surrounding country and putting up a good fight in defence of the passage of the river, a form of reception these particular Russians had no use for.
Having assured them the matter should be reported in the proper quarter, and having also taken a photograph of these village heroes, and enjoyed some fresh milk and eggs with which they insisted upon supplying us, we started on our return journey as quickly as possible, realizing that it was then past midday, that it was a far cry to Tiflis, where we were due that night, and that the high pass had to be recrossed on the way.
Returning through Lars, we were prepared to meet any kind of trouble, and, seeing the road clear, drove fast, pistol in hand. The Russians, however, were possibly either drunk or frightened, or more probably both, as none of them showed themselves in the street. We therefore kept on at our best speed over the frontier and up the gorge over the pass. Night overtook us long before we were clear of the mountains, but we finally reached Tiflis safely shortly after midnight, both to our own great satisfaction and to that of our comrades who were anxiously awaiting us.
Next morning, the 20th, I received a cable from the Commanderin-Chief at Constant, instructing me to proceed at once to Kars, on the Turco-Russian frontier, about 17o miles south-west of Tiflis, to examine and report by wire as to the situation there, as the Turks were thought to be about to give trouble; and although we had a battalion of the Rifle Brigade there already, more troops could be sent if really needed. We therefore set to work at once to prepare a train, and got a locomotive, a closed cattle-truck for the men, and what had been a private four-wheeled railway-carriage for myself, with a float, or open truck, for our cars. Having obtained an ample and very neccessary stock of provisions, we left Tiflis on March 22nd, on what was my first independent railway trip in those parts in my own train.
My party on this occasion consisted of two cars and drivers, two machine-gunners, one interpeter, one batman (soldier servant), one N.C.O.(corporal), and myself eight in all with our arms, my two machine-guns, and a good supply of ammunition, the whole covered by our British flag, which flew proudly on my little railway carriage.
We did some excellent travelling in our little train until we got within twenty-five miles of Kars where we ran into a really bad snow-drift which completely blocked the line.
We were very lucky in that, where we struck the beginning of this great drift, we were within a quarter of a mile of a dump of ammunition and stores which the Turks had been obliged to leave behind in their retreat, and which was now guarded by a party of our Rifle Brigade, with two officers, who occupied a small hut with snow nearly up to the roof. The officers came to see me in my snow-bound train, and we learned from them that General Thompson, whom I had met in Persia after the evacuation of Baku, and who was now in military command in these parts, was coming up twenty-four hours behind us, also hoping to get to Kars. I therefore wired at once to him from the military post to stop him if possible at Alexandropol. However, just at night-fall on our second night in the drift we could see his train coming over the snow behind us, and he joined us with his men in the cutting we were doing our best to clear. He had fifty Gurkhas with him, whom our party was right glad to see, and whom we knew the small party which was in a tight place ahead of us in Kars would heartily welcome, as they also would the two trucks of provisions we had on our train, both being very badly needed at that moment by the troops ahead. Both train-parties therefore turned to and worked with a will both day and night, and progress was good, but we did not get clear of the drift till the 26th, our fifth day after leaving Tiflis.
After the General's arrival I spent part of my time in his car, which had an arrangement of pipes so that it was water-heated, and I had dinner with him one night, but mostly I stopped in my own carriage after dark, as the cold was terrible outside and it was a very difficult matter to get from one train to the other. The dump produced some excellent sheepskins, which served to stop up the windows of my carriage and to cover the floor, in both of which were many gaping holes which let. the arctic air in, so that I lived in my great fur coat under a pile of sheepskins; these, however, though certainly warm, had many drawbacks easily to be imagined.
On reaching Kars on the 26th, we found things in a very queer state, and the General, having taken stock of the position, left the next day, as he was due to meet the Commander-in-Chief at Batoum on April 1st. I remained at Kars, gathering every kind of information, and sent off a long cipher cable on the 28th to catch the Commander-in-Chief at Batoum, with details as to what was going on, and saying that I proposed to go on another seventy miles to the Turkish frontier beyond Sarikamish, where I thought I could learn still more.
About midday on the 30th, when I was just starting to go on to the frontier, I acquired documentary evidence of great importance as to the Turkish military support of the Tartars at Kars; and whilst considering this, I also observed certain facts myself which caused me (instead of going forward as the railway people expected) to go over to the 'points' when our train was coming off the siding where it had been standing, and, having then run the train right across on to the main line, to get off back the way we had come, as hard as we could go, to try and catch the Commander-in-Chief at Batoum before he left on the 2nd. For this I had very good reasons, and luckily acted instantly, without giving any sign of my intentions.
The first indication I got of trouble was that I saw through the window of my carriage some very Turkish-looking Tartars take a locomotive off a siding and run it down to the 'points', where a short branch ran to the boiler-filling pump, the only place where 'running' and unfrozen water could be obtained for the locomotives. These men looked to me so suspicious that I watched them carefully, and saw them, as soon as the front wheels of the locomotive had passed the 'points', deliberately force the lever over, and by so doing derail the locomotive, blocking the access of all other locomotives to the water-supply. Then they moved to another locomotive on another siding; with the obvious intention of carrying out a similar manoeuvre at the main-line points, and so blocking the main line to Alexandropol and Tiflis, which was, of course, a single track only, and formed our only means of communication with our base.
It was the merest chance that I happened to notice them at all, as the whole thing was done quite quietly, and, had I not been of a suspicious turn of mind, I should never have watched them nor immediately have grasped their intentions. However, by the time they reached the second locomotive our train was already on the move, and I was standing over the points, with my pistol drawn and very much in the mood to use it. They had evidently had their orders to let our train go on towards the Turkish frontier, which was known to be our intention, for they made no attempt to interfere with the train passing on to the main line; but as the engine passed the points, going backwards pushing the train, I leapt on to the footplate and kept the throttle open and the reversing-gear in action, so that we did not stop and reverse, as they expected, to go on to the frontier, but continued to go backwards all the way to Alexandropol. Here the engine-driver disappeared and was seen no more, having suffered a severe nervous shock from the contemplation of my automatic pistol all through the journey. I should imagine the Turks' disgust at the failure of their scheme must have been great, but it was nothing at all in comparison with my satisfaction at defeating their plans, for I had no doubt, under the circumstances, that my cable had no chance of getting through, and that the only chance of communicating with the Commander-in-Chief was to go myself, and to go quickly, before it became too late.
Every sign on our return journey through Kars Province con-firmed my convictions, as bodies of Tartars were everywhere on the march towards the Armenian frontier outside Alexandropol, where many thousands of Christian Armenian refugees were collected in a loop of the frontier river outside the city. Here they were already, as we passed, being 'sniped' at by the Moslems rapidly mustering on the high ground on the western bank, who were obviously bent on their annihilation.
We made a stop of half an hour only at Alexandropol, where we were lucky to obtain an engine-driver, in the person of an Armenian, any of whom could be trusted to make their way as rapidly as possible out of the neighbourhood. We then carried on successfully to Tiflis, where we arrived about i p.m. on April 1st, it being necessary at every halt on the road to guard our train by force from the thousands of refugees who struggled to board it. A few hours at Tiflis, to report to Advanced Headquarters, and having left my men and train there, I went on by myself and reached Batoum at i p.m. on the 2nd, arriving only just in time to catch the Commander-in-Chief, to make a personal report and to show him the documents in my possession, before he sailed at 3 p.m. that day.
Having taken much responsibility in leaving my post, the kindness of his reception was the greatest possible relief to me. But it was a far greater satisfaction to see the grasp of the entire situation which he already had, and the instant action which he unhesitatingly took. General Thompson, who left Kars three days before I did, had already placed him in possession of the apparent state of affairs existing in Kars Province, of which my news and the documents I brought provided both amplification and verification. Within ten minutes of my reporting to him telegraphic orders were on their way to Tiflis for the immediate dispatch to Kars of the reinforcements necessary to control the situation and for the action which should be taken to that end, which precautions proved immediately effective.
After a roughish three weeks it was a pleasure indeed to lunch with the Chief on his ship and to hear all the news, and before he left, at 3 p.m., for Constant, I received his orders to go back and pick up my party at Tiflis, and then, if possible, to reach the frontier through some other line of country this time, but in any case to meet him at Kars on April 27th (only three weeks later), by which time the situation could not fail to have developed further throughout all the Turkish frontier country.
Adventures In The Near East:
Eastward Bound To The Tigris
Mesopotamia, The Land Of The Rivers
Persia: The Road And The Famine
The Caspian Sea - Advance To, Relief Of, And Siege Of Baku
Evacuation - The Steamer Armenian
Homeward Bound The Armistice
Intelligence In Transcaucasia (february To August, 1919.)
East Again - Salonika, Constant, And Batoum
The Caucasus - After The Armistice
Eastern Anatolia - Trebizond And Erzeroum
Read More Articles About: Adventures In The Near East