24 January 1916

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

[24 January 1916] Jan 24 Dearest Father. I can't write through censors and I must therefore send you a private word by bag, enclosed to Mr Hogarth to tell you what I'm doing - it is of course only for you, Mother and Maurice. There is a great deal of friction between India and Egypt over the Arab Question which entails a serious want of cooperation between the Intel. Deps. of the two countries. The longer it goes on the worse it gets and meantime we are losing invaluable opportunities for information by the fact that Barah [i.e. Basrah[?]] thinks us fools if not knaves and we reciprocate at any rate in the first item! It's absurd of course; we are all well meaning people trying to do our best, but they don't realize what Arabia looks like from the West and I daresay we don't realize how it looks from the East. When I got Lord H.'s [Hardinge] message through Domnul I suggested that it might be a good plan if I, a quite unimportant and unofficial person, were to take advantage of the Viceroy's invitation and go out to see what could be done by putting this side of the case before them and hearing that. My chiefs here approved, I cabled to Domnul and received from him an enthusiastic reply. So I'm going - whether much good will come of it I don't know, but it's worth trying and at any rate I shall learn a good deal for I hope they will let me dig into their Arab files and see what can be added from them to our knowledge. I don't suppose I shall be in India more than 10 days or a fortnight - I shall go straight up to Delhi to Lord H. If they will let me I would very much like to go to Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] for a week or two on my way back; I haven't any doubt that it would be useful to come into direct touch with the people there in the I.D. but it all depends on what is happening by that time in Mesop. - the situation of our troops is still far from satisfactory. I shall very probably spend a few days at Aden [('Adan)] before I return here as there is a good deal of information about tribes and people which we want from there and don't seem to get. It will all be interesting - I feel a little anxious about it, but take refuge in my own extreme obscurity and the general kindness I find everywhere. I think they will probably pay my journey, if not I shall go all the same because I think it's a good thing to do - in which case you will understand why my bank is called upon to honour a big cheque to the P. & O. Coy. I expect you will approve of my proceedings as usual! I shall find Domnul at Delhi which will make everything easy, otherwise I don't think I should have the face to set out on a political mission. We want to establish here a permanent Intelligence Bureau for the Near East, which shall endure after the war is over - it would be invaluable; but it could not work properly without the sympathy and help of India and that is the chief matter which I wish to discuss with the Viceroy. If he approves I can make schemes at once with the permanent people. I leave on the 28th by the Malta and reach Bombay about the 8th if she is not late it reaching Port Said which the P. & O. ships generally are nowadays. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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