Extracts from memoirs and diariesby Ian Irvine / January 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen writes in his Middle East Diary 1917-1956:
“It would have been better for our country and perhaps for the world if CM Doughty, [TE] Lawrence and Gertrude Bell had not been such admirable and persuasive writers.” Doughty (1843-1926) was the author of Travels in Arabia Deserta, which greatly influenced Lawrence and Bell.
In April 1916, Gertrude Bell arrives in Basra to take up the post of Senior Political Officer. Over the next 10 years she would design the constitution, select the leadership and draw the borders of the new state of Iraq. Nearly 18,000 British troops had just been captured by the Turks after a siege at Kut, 40 miles from Baghdad. She writes to her mother:
“We rushed into the business with our usual disregard for a comprehensive political scheme. We treated Mesopotamia, as if it were an isolated unit, instead of which it is part of Arabia, its politics indissolubly connected with the great and far reaching Arab question…
“Well that’s enough of politics. But when people talk of our muddling through it throws me into a passion. Muddle through! Why yes, so we do—wading through blood and tears that need never have been shed.”
In August 1920, TE Lawrence writes: