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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
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1 letter plus envelope, paper

33.223191, 43.679291

Nov 13. On the Tigris Dearest Mother. I left Baghdad 9 days ago and have been steaming slowly down the Tigris with the I.G.C. on his luxurious ship. I eat, sleep, read novels and talk to the General - such a rest cure could not be devised elsewhere. Today, at 'Amarah ['Amarah, Al], I got your letter of Sep 17 and this ought to reach you at Xmas - many good wishes. A few days before I left we had a wonderfully moving function whereat the C. in C. read to the public his proclamation on the declaration of the armistice with Turkey. The square was crowded with troops and notables; men and boys had climbed into the trees and were standing in the galleries of the minarets. When the C in C had finished a sailor broke the flag on the big flagstaff in the centre of the square. We wrote the heading to a new chapter that day and I wondered what my Moslem friends were thinking. First, I believe, in all their minds was satisfaction that they at least had backed the right horse. Next a profound recogniton that the sword of Islam was shattered and this must have been very bitter to the divines and doctors of the law. Finally, and shared by all, the hope that we would give them prosperity in the future. My gardener, a man of Baghdad, wholly illiterate and speaking a dialect which even I find hard to understand - and I ought to know Baghdadi - said to me next day: "Salub, in the time of the Turks there was cheapness, but we had no money. Now it's true that all is dear, but look at the wages we get." So that they do realize that the scale of wages had outstripped the cost of living.
We stopped at Sunnai'at Bellow Kut [Kut, Al (Kut al Imara)] as we came down and walked over the battlefield. First our lines of trenches, then No Man's Land, then through the Turkish trenches, battered by our bombardment. Behind them was the Turkish burial ground where the Arabs had rifled the graves. It was strewn with bones and skulls and scraps of equipment. The whole area is still covered with live shells and live bombs.

At Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] we shall hear the terms of the German armistice: we know that the Emperor has fled. What a drama, good Heavens! We have had 5 day's rain and it looks like more - almost unheard of at this time of year. The country is wonderfully green in consequence - like our hopes. Your ever affectionate Gertrude

I dined with the C in C the night before I left to meet the Turk commander from Mosul [Mawsil, Al], a French speaking pleasant young man.

[Note on back of envelope] Just got your letter of Sep 27 with delicious tale about Gilbert Russell.

IIIF Manifest