5 BAGHDAD & THE JOURNEY TO BAKU 18 May – 5 Aug 1918

May 18, 1918 Go ashore again, about four miles this side of Baghdad, at a camp at Hinaidi.

May 19, 1918 Some of the fellows leave for another camp nearer the ‘line’. Myself and seven others, including my pal Joe, remain behind for a special course of Machine Gun instruction.

May 19, 1918 Whit Sunday Joe and I walk to canteen and buy lots of stuff including , condensed milk, peaches, pears (tinned), custard powder, chocolate, which melts before we can get back to camp, butter (tinned) etc. There is no issue of butter or margarine, as it is too hot to be able to issue it out. Make a good custard and buy the Baghdad Times, and lie on our beds on the ground and try to read, but the flies are too troublesome. Custard and peaches for dinner, too hot for anything else. Cover our knees up to keep the flies off, and lie down again with a towel to wipe up the perspiration.

May 20, 1918 Whit Monday Temperature 110 degrees in the shade. Always have to wear our sun helmets and spine pads when outside the tents. Four of us get a Ford and go into Baghdad for a look round.

May 23, 1918 Instruction on the machine gun. Reveille at 4.30 am.

May 27, 1918 Small mail arrives. Temperature 115 degrees in shade. Drink quarts of water daily. Water kept in canvas bags, ‘charguels’, to keep in cool.

May 28, 1918 Go to Karradah, on river bank and visit a few cafes, in the cool of the evening.

May 29, 1918 Commence a months special course of training on the machine gun. A party of eight leave here every morning, for MGC training camp about two to three miles away at Karradah. Our hours there are 5.15 am to 7.45 am, then breakfast afterwards 9.15 am to 12.30 and then walk back to our camp. Breakfast in Sergeants Mess consisting of porridge and milk, eggs and bacon.

June 1, 1918 To Baghdad again in car to buy books, for notes on machine gun.

June 2, 1918 Sunday. Writing notes on gun. Do some washing and have a bath.

June 8, 1918 Vaccinated again.

June 16, 1918 Sunday. We do not go to MGC camp on Sundays so have a chance to wash. Up about 5 am. Wash shorts, shirt, socks, towel. Make another custard for dinner. Terrible hot 118 degrees in shade.

June 22, 1918 Finish at MG School. Passed as instructors.

June 25, 1918 Leave Hinaidi. I driving a heavy lorry with wireless installation aboard. Joe is driving another fitted up as a water tank. Spend the night out. Have to stop at a place where there is water so consequently are swarmed with mosquitos etc.

June 26, 1918 Arrive at Rus, a terribly dry and dusty hole, nothing to see but tents and dust.

June 29, 1918 Leave Rus for Persia. Joe and I together on a Ford lorry. We load it up with rations and wood to make fires with, for making our tea.
Driving all day. Roads very dusty and rocky. Stop just before dark at river, which runs across our track. There are about fifteen cars in the convoy and after getting them all lined up, we commence preparing something to eat and drink. Afterwards, get our blankets out and lie down for the night.

June 30, 1918 Up before daylight, get water from river and boil for tea. Start the ‘Ford’ up and commence another days journey. Have a few stoppages for tyres. Four of the ford cars in convoy have a puncture within one mile. We run into some loose wire on the road and get it all twisted round the wheels and cuts the back covers, hinders Joe & I one hour.

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On the move in Mesopotania (Iraq) July 1918
(Click photo for full screen image.)

July 1, 1918 Get our water on the fire and blankets tied up whilst the moon is shining, so that we can all move off as soon as daylight comes ,which takes a very short time in these parts. Roads or rather tracks are terribly rough. Joe and I are being thrown off our seats. Several of the cars break springs. Going up passes over the hills. Have to push the cars up a little way then rest to let the engines cool. Looking out for a stream, of any description, where we can get water and stay the night.

July 2, 1918 Still on the road. Our ‘Ford’ runs well but we have lost the ‘ silencer’. In Persia. All the people look starved. Pass the rock on which King Darius carved a picture of the kings that he had conquered in this country about 200 BC. Pass through the Persian town of Kermanshah a very dirty place swarmed with flies.

July 4, 1918 Arrive at Hamadan and form a camp. Joe and I end our trip on the ‘Ford’.

July 5, 1918 Several fellows keep arriving in lorries. Big petrol fire.

July 6, 1918 Move our camp to the other side of Hamadan. Joe and I join our two other pals and manage to get a tent on our own. Everyone is allowed 10/- a day for food, as it is impossible to bring rations from the stores in Mesopotamia. We have Persian bread, dark brown stuff, with plenty of grit in it and this with the other things we have to eat makes us come to the conclusion that the natives must have ‘insides’ like cast iron, for the food we eat soon tells on us, and the result is shown by over half of fellows going on ‘sick parade’ every morning.

July 8, 1918 Myself and the three others in the tent commence instructing on the machine gun.

July 9, 1918 Still ‘carrying on’ with the lessons. We divide the fellows up in three classes according to what they know about the gun. I have the ‘mediums’, Joe has the ‘duds’.

July 10, 1918 Machine gun drill before breakfast and lectures afterwards. I feel very bad.

July 14, 1918 We ‘four’ are made Staff Sergts and together with the Sergt Majors form a mess, and fit up a table and forms in a house that is close at hand to have our meals in.

July 17, 1918 Small mail arrives. Writing home. It is very hot in the day and so cold at night that we cannot get warm.

July 20, 1918 Routine as usual. Joe and I walk into the town of Hamadan and go through the bazaars. All the natives are poorly clad, or not clad at all, and look half starved, which they are, and everywhere seems full of disease. We have been taking great care not to eat anything that is likely to be harmful to us such as, cherries, peaches, plums, grapes, sweets etc on which the flies abound, but have been quite unsuccessful. Knowing that we cannot make ourselves any worse, Joe and I have several ice-creams.

July 27, 1918 Firing practice with the machine guns. I am fed up with not feeling fit, having now been bad for three weeks but still manage to get about.

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Baghdad and the journey to Baku – 18 May to 5 August 1918
(Click map to see detail)

July 29, 1918 Hear about something doing in Northern Persia and Russia.

July 30, 1918 Leave Hamadan in heavy lorries. We have a machine gun crew of six each to look after. Get a terrible shaking up in the lorry.

July 31, 1918 Arrive at Kasbin and hear bad news of our fellows being killed near Baku in Russia and have orders to move on again.

Aug 1, 1918 At Mendgil, a place where there is always a hurricane blowing. We all feel so tired and fed up after all the shaking up we have had.
Too windy to light a fire so try to go to sleep but the wind blows our blankets about and we can hardly see for dust in our eyes.

Aug 2, 1918 Still on the lorry. Arrive at Resht a very damp place. Marshes all around. Rice is largely grown here. At night try to sleep again still feeling bad and fed up. Blankets soaked with dew. Go through a great forest where several of our fellows have been killed by hostile natives who climb up in the trees which overhand the dark road. Have to mount our machine guns on top of the lorries.

Aug 3, 1918 Safely through the forest, arrive at Enzeli, a port on the Caspian Sea, and a very pretty place. See some decent trees (not dates) and grass. Some men from the Staffords join us. Preparing for ‘ doing a bit’ at Baku which we hear is now surrounded by Turks. We are going to try and protect the oil wells some hopes! Still feeling bad. Go aboard the Russian boat ‘Slava’. Manage to get a place on deck to put our blankets. Get some melons which abound in this place. Very bad climate, damp heat.

Aug 4, 1918 Sail for Baku. Out at sea , getting ready for the night. Rough sea commences and waves come over the deck and swamp everyone. Fellows are sea sick and spend the rest of the night standing about in our wet clothes.

Aug 5, 1918 Drying ourselves a little. Very nice morning. Arrive at Baku. A glorious sight to see some good stone houses again and some decent people. March through the town headed by the band. People cheering us. Go to the Hotel Metropole and sleep on top of the roof. Very nice climate here.

Click here for the sixth instalment: 6 BAKU AND THE TURKISH FRONT 5 Aug – 11 Nov 1918

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