Category Archives: WW1Letters

GWL 15th May 1919

“This is the last I shall write to you from the Caucasus.  I think we shall start in 3 days time.  Anyhow within the week.  There can be no other news.  After much rain we have it fine again and pretty hot, but not too bad.  See you soon.”

{next post 24th June}

GWL 5th May 1919

“Very warm here.  Things seem quite quiet, but there may be something happening to the North of the Caucasus in the next fortnight or so.  It is hard to say.  They say our relief arrives in Batum on the 7th………. When once they arrive, I think it is only a matter of days before our Cadre moves off.  It seems too good to be true.  I shall be very sorry to say goodbye to some people here.  I do hope they will come to Europe some time before the die and that you will see them.  Lord they are a queer mixture.  I have learnt a lot since I have been here……. and I realise as I have never done before what a splendid thing it is to be an Englishman.

“I have just come to the conclusion that I am getting beastly grey.  Not much balder but very grey.”

The activity to the North of the Caucasus probably refers to the ongoing Russian Civil War.  Britain continued to support White Russian forces with arms, money, food and expertise.  Under General Denikin the White forces continued to make significant gains.

{next post 10th May}

GWL 3rd May 1919

“I have come back from Kars.  It has not been the slightest use writing as no posts go from that part of the world except once in a blue moon.  On the whole we had a very comfortable journey, but I hate travelling on these railways.  They only go fast when it is positively dangerous.  The engine driver looks round calmly tells you he cannot stop the train.  All the track is littered with derailed engines & trucks.  Five of us had a saloon carriage with compartments to sleep in, and a saloon for day time.  We arrived in Alexandropol and found that the man we wanted, or rather one of them, was in Kars, so we paddled off there.  Alexandropol is one of the big centres for Armenian Relief and really it is an awful sight.  At present they are feeding 56,000 Armenian refugees there.  All are or have been starving & they expect that about half will die from the effects.  The death rate is now about 120 a day; it has been as high as 400.  I went into some of the compounds and really it is too awful for words.  If those Turks are not made to pay in money and life for what they have done it will be an everlasting disgrace.  You see children and men and women crawling about eating grass.  In Erivan they have dug up their dead and eaten them.  Things should improve a bit now a good deal of flour and food is coming through & thank goodness there is no epidemic.  From Alexandropol to Kars you can only go in daylight, as the Tartar has a cheery habit of monkeying with the rails and when you come along, your train quietly sits down in between them.  On arriving in Kars we were cheered by the news that another man we wanted, having got there first, was 80 miles away in the mountains.  18 feet of snow in the passes and they said he could not arrive for 5 days.  Lord be praised, on going up, he had dug out the drifts and he got back in two days by motor car.  Kars is a very big fortress indeed.  Rather bigger than Port Arthur, I think.  I was offered the military governship of it, but refused.  A very interesting place from the military point of view, but desperately lonely & just now you and I have had enough of being lonely.  The whole impression the country gives you is intensely sad.  Somehow when you look at the place you forget that the people in it are still Armenians.  You only see their ruined homes & churches & you seem to be looking at a dead civilization.  Of course you see prosperous villages, but they are all Tartar.  The Turk took all the farm implements & seed grain from the Armenians & gave it to the Tartar.  Then came massacres.  The result is that the population is physically incapable of work.  There is just a chance that we may be able to get seed so that they can sow before the rain stops.  It is all very terrible and I think it would do a lot of people in England, who do nothing but dance and enjoy themselves, a great deal of good to do a tour in this country.  Tiflis seems quite civilised again after the South.  

Should start home soon.”

Alexandropol, modern day Gyumri in Armenia, was destination to a large number of refugees who escaped from the Turkish genocide of the Armenian population within the Ottoman Empire.  Estimates of the number of Armenians who died during the protracted and systematic attempts to eradicate them range from 1-1.5 million.  The men were generally assassinate.. The women and children were murdered locally by a variety of means including burning, drowning, toxic gas and medical experimentation or were starved to death on the “Death Marches” into the Syrian desert without food or water.

1100px-Armenian_Genocide_Map-en.svg

Armenian corpses

Corpses of Armenian women and children by the roadside

Armenian_woman_kneeling_beside_dead_child_in_field

Armenian woman kneeling by a dead child in the Syrian desert on a “Death March”

{next post 5th May}

 

GWL 24th April 1919

“Very warm.  As a rule now we have a thunderstorm between 2 & 3 PM which makes venturing forth rather uncertain. I forgot to tell you that I went to the midnight mass in the Russian Cathedral on Easter Eve.  It was a most wonderful show.  The singing was magnificent.  All unaccompanied.  I stayed for about 2 hours & then went home.  I think my friend, who went away about the middle of last month, will be back shortly.  He has been fooling round South Russia & I hear from his fellow that he was caught by the Bolshevik in Manipol, I shall be awfully pleased to see him again.  Absolutely no news.  Nothing much to do in barracks or out.  We are all awfully fit these days.  We have a half hour’s walk into the decent part of the town.  I hope the time is getting near now when I shall see you.  Beastly scirocco to-day.”

{next post 26th April}

GWL 22nd April 1919

“Warm.  To-day the local authorities performed their famous trick of cutting off the water! Why heaven only knows.  It hurts us, perhaps, more than the inhabitants, because they do not wash.  The hot weather has rather disorganised the Princess’ family and household.  This morning I arrived at 11.30 for my lesson and they were all still n bed! So I sat in the dining room until what time the good people chose to get up.  Comic crowd.  They lead a pretty hectic existence, I think – people always running in and out.  Here the only time at which you do not call is between 3.30 & 4.30 PM.  Any other old time will do, up to about midnight.  I am afraid the Colonel is very fed up with this place.”

{next post 24th April}