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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper
Allenby, Edmund
Clayton, Iltyd

30.8566696, 32.3191456

Fri. Oct. 3. [3 October 1919] Went out to Matariyah to see Sir
Alexander Baird. He talked a great deal about his very remarkable
daughter Nina who died of typhoid two months ago. By her personal
influence with the Arabs she kept the villages round Matariyah quiet
during the disturbances. The most famous of her exploits was the
prevention of a massacre of Armenian refugees. The villagers had
been ordered out, for what purpose they did not know, by some of the
agitators of the Azhar. She heard that a procession of two to three
thousand was coming into Matariyah, rode out to them, joined the
procession and induced General Mudge to ride with her. Then
saying that she thoroughly enjoyed a demonstration she trudged
them off along the roads, intercepted the Azhar men who had come
down by train to meet and direct the operations of the fallahin and by
telling them that the General and his machine guns were waiting for
them, headed them back to Cairo. After demonstrating, at a brisk
walk, for some hours the peasants were only too happy to go back to
their homes. Miss Baird invited them to come out the following week
to continue this pleasant occupation but they had had enough of it and
it ended there. \n\nSir A. talked much of the Egyptian situation. He
has a wide personal knowledge of Egyptians of all classes, but no
views, except of the most general kind, of how to solve existing
problems. Roughly speaking he gives the familiar description of
native grievances - manners, manners, manners, small insults, small
rudenesses, offhand dealings with people of consideration, and
growing more and more irritating with the increase of the small class
of British official of the wrong kind. It was so unlikely that we should
learn the necessity of sweet speech that the wholesale abolition of a
large part of the British Civil Service was the only remedy that
appeared to offer hope. As for war grievances, Sir A. set them down
in the following order. A. Forced subscription to the Red Cross funds
demanded from natives who knew no more than that they
represented money which was to be paid to the English and who,
even when told they were for the Red X were not greatly enlightened.
B. Requisition of dhurra and other foodstuffs for military purposes
without immediate payment. Often the payment was not made for a
long period and the peasant could not afford to wait. C. Requistioning
of domestic animals. Even though these were paid for the grievance
remained as the peasant did not want to part with his donkey or what
not. D. Petty tyranny on the part of the 'umdahs in selecting men for
military service in camel and labour corps. As for the tale that the men
in Palestine and Syria were badly kept or looked after, he believed it
to be greatly exaggerated if not entirely baseless. He thought it would
be found essential to make the native ministry responsible to the
Legislative Assembly otherwise the blame attaching to all the
misdeeds of native officials must continue to be borne by us. He was
convinced that Lord Allenby had no other course than to bring back
the exiled deputation at once. Before I left there came in a man called
Mr Anthony who runs the Crown Lands round Zeitun and is said to be
very knowledgeable. Sir Alexander mentioned that there were a
number of business men who had long been settled in Egypt and
knew the country extremely well. Their opinion, he thought, would be
of great value to the British Government but it was never asked.
\n\nOn my return to Cairo I went to G.H.Q. to talk to the C.G.S. about a
reconnaissance ordered by the W.O. along the 'Azraq-Burqah line for
a railway to Baghdad. Col. Newcombe came in and helped in the
discussion. He brought his wife to see me after lunch, a C'ple
[Istanbul (Constantinople)] Jewess who aided him to escape when he
was a prisoner with the Turks. General Clayton also came. Major
Waley, second to Col. Meinersthagen [i.e. Meinertzhagen], sent me
all the necessary permits and I left by the 6.15 train for Kantarah
[Qantara, El]. There I found a motor which took me to the station E of
the Canal. We got off about 11.30

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