Letters

1 April 1925

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

[1 April 1925] Baghdad April 1 Dearest Father. I feel that I have been addressing myself to the winds and waves for a long time; I wonder when I shall get your first letter from Australia.

We have been remarkably busy with Secretaries of State. They arrived last Thursday and I met them at lunch on Friday and carried off Mr Amery in the afternoon to look at birds with Hilton Young and Ken and me. That night there was a dinner party at the Residency, Ken and I and Lionel, some Ministers, the AVM and wife and others. It was quite pleasant. Do you know Sir Samuel Hoare? He has a funny little stilted manner and a trick of saying "Yes, yes, yes" at the end of every sentence. After all it's better than saying "No, no, no." But indeed they are all very sympathetic and I do like Sir John Shuckburgh so much. I wish he cut more ice but at least he is very good butter in the sandwich.

On Saturday the King gave an evening party - it being Ramadhan we were spared a state dinner. It was really a very good party, everyone came, including native Jewish and Christian ladies whom I have never seen at a party before, and it was quite well done. One of the features of it was the Minister of Education, a dear old Shi'ah of social distinction which has hitherto been well upheld by his flowing robes and white turban. He now appears in European evening dress and a {bald} bare head and looks a fearful ruffian; but it is Progress with a capital P.

On Sunday I had a busy morning at the museum arranging the Kish finds. No, as you were - that was the Sunday before. I had a rendezvous with the Monkswells and Sir John at the Museum and afterwards took them to see some of the sights of the town, and then I had the Monkswells to lunch and Mr Cooke and the Drowers (Adviser to Justice) to meet them. Lord Monkswell, whom I don't suppose you will even dimly remember as Robert Collier, a Secretary of the Berlin Embassy, is a dull dog. He has long since retired from the diplomatic service and does nothing, absolutely nothing; nor has he a penny, or not more than tuppence. Nevertheless he has just married a new wife and rather a nice little thing at that.

In the afternoon Ken and I took Sir John to Karradah and had tea (out of your thermos) in Haji Naji's gardens and a nice talk, after which we called on Haji Naji who was fasting but very cordial. Mr Cooke and I had taken the Secs. of State and Sir John and all to Kadhimain [(Al Kazimiyah)] on Saturday and been entertained at tea by Saiyid Ja'far who entertained you. All the party are very agreeable sightseers - they enjoy it so much. Nevertheless I was glad to have a quiet party on Sunday evening with Ken and Iltyd and a friendly policeman, Major Wilkins, to dine and play bridge.

On Monday we began again with an official dinner at the Residency to meet the Secs of State and the Cabinet. Ken and I went together and we all did our duty and fielded any Ministers who got washed up into solitude - a strenuous evening. And on Tuesday everyone flew away to Mosul [Mawsil, Al] except Sir John who has stayed to study our difficulties and see what he can do to help. I dined with the J.M. [Wilson]s at the Dunlops (he's the head of the hospital) to meet nice Dr Corner - I don't suppose you remember him in my letters; he is the medical officer at Kirkuk but he was here in the summer and was a member of our swimming parties (oh dear! how Sally and Peter loved them!) He is very much interested in archaeology and has some really beautiful tablets and a collection of coins which he showed us. He is going on leave and I've given him a letter of introduction to Sir Frederick Kenyon. Not to you, for once.

I don't know what is going to be the outcome of the visit of the Secs of State. They have come to try and get through a fundamental change in the organization of the 'Iraq army, but we are all very doubtful whether it promises improvemment and Mr Amery is, I gather, beginning to be doubtful too. We may have to adopt it in order to placate the Cabinet at home, which isn't the best of reasons; on the other hand our visitors, after seeing with their eyes, may introduce substantial modifications.

Tonight I'm going to have a really boring evening. One Sir Montague Barlow, ex-Minister of Labour and a bounder, is staying at the Residency and I have asked him to dinner, with Yasin Pasha and Sasun Eff to meet him - he said he wanted to meet some of the Ministers. He doesn't even play bridge, or very little, but I think I shall make him play as much as he can, otherwise the evening will be so long. Unfortunately Yasin and Sasun play exceptionally well and are not very tolerant of non-experts.

There! long before you get this letter it will be over. Goodbye dearest. Your very affectionate daughter Gertrude.

Previous page