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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Naji, Haji
Suwaydi, Naji al-
Cox, Percy
Cornwallis, Ken
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Eskell, Sassoon
Saud, Abdulaziz ibn
Askari, Ja'far al-
Cox, Louisa Belle
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

March 30 Baghdad. Darling Father. I'm writing to you in a great perturbation of spirit because we are in the middle of a terrific cabinet crisis brought on, I'm sorry to say, by very hasty and ill judged action on the part of the King. He took offence at the inaction of the Cabinet with regard to the Akhwan raid and without telling anyone or consulting anyone called up 5 of the Ministers and said he had lost confidence in them and would ask them to resign. This they have finally done after two days of indecision during which Mr Cornwallis and Sir Percy have tried to find ways for him to get out, all of which he has refused to take. Two of the 5 are very important people, Naji Suwaidi and the big Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] man, 'Abdul Latif Mandil, and on the top Sasun Eff has resigned also - I can't blame him, but I feel sure the King won't accept his resignation if he can help it. The Akhwan raid was a very bad business; our tribes lost over 200 killed and all their tents and animals, but there was absolutely nothing the Cabinet could do until we knew how far Ibn Sa'ud himself was implicated in the matter - and if he was implicated it was up to us to take action. Yesterday Sir Percy had a perfectly admirable telegram from Ibn Sa'ud - telegrams take some time because they go to Bahrain by camel and are telegraphed from there - saying he knew nothing whatever about the hostilities, expressing his deep regret and adding that he had sent instant orders to his people to come back. I won't say he is blameless in the matter but I feel convinced that Sir Percy can bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion for Ibn Sa'ud worships him {almost} only second to Allah. Meantime it's difficult to see how Faisal is going to right himself. If he climbs down he'll look very foolish and if he persists he will be very foolish. This is all private of course. Sir Percy, that great master of wiles, may yet find a way out. He and the King are flying to Ramadi [Ramadi, Ar] tomorrow to lunch with 'Ali Sulaiman - perhaps flight will bring counsel.
And now I must come to what is for you far the more important part of my letter. During the last fortnight I have come definitely to the conclusion that I can't go on leave this summer. Things are too much in the melting pot. Sir Percy is obviously immensely relieved that I'm not going, but I'm not going to telegraph to you because it might prevent you from coming out and I not only want dreadfully to see you but also the little holiday will be immensely to the good. I shall very likely fly over arriving on the 29th April, but you are not to mention this to anyone because I only fly in my capacity as an officer and there might be a fuss if it were known about beforehand. Also it's not certain. I may come by motor, via Aleppo [Halab] in which case I should make to be in Jerusalem [(El Quds esh Sherif, Yerushalayim)] a day before you so as to welcome you. If I fly back I should leave Ramleh [Ramla (Ramle)] on May 27 so that I should come down to Egypt with you and see you off. Since I made up my mind I've been feeling rather homesick, but I haven't any doubt that I'm doing what I ought to do. We've put our hand to this plough and at any rate Sir Percy thinks that I'm some help to him in his difficult furrow. I'm perfectly well and I shall go up to Sulaimani [Sulaymaniyah, As] for a month in the middle of the summer. I might possibly come home for a bit in the autumn so that it would only be 6 months' difference. Only dearest, I hope you and Mother and Maurice won't be much disappointed. I do love you so much and I hate staying away so long.

Well now we come to the sordid but serious question of clothes - of course I've made no provision for the summer. I've written to Marte (78 Grosvenor St) by this mail telling her that if she is in time to catch you - which she may be if the mail gets across without delay - she is to send out by you 2 washing gowns, an evening gown and a hat. The hat is almost the most important; my summer hats are literally dropping to bits having been worn for 2 summers. If however you have left before this letter arrives Mother will open it and will tell Marte to post the things I've asked her to send me as quickly as she can so that I may find them here if possible when I get back. Anyway I've told her to post some additional things here to carry me through the summer. But please, if you possibly can, bring me a hat. Elsa might choose it if the combination with Marte fails - she is on the telephone by the bye. I think a ribbon hat would be "strongest", black or mauvy blue and mushroom in shape. There! you'll do your best I feel sure, and if you can't do anything I must just wear the topee I shall come over in.

Also will you please bring me a tube of ink tablets for my fountain pen. I'm almost out of them. When you reach Jerusalem you will either find me there or exact information as to when I shall arrive.

We were very busy last week saying goodbye to Sir Aylmer who left 3 days ago. He is really a loss for he had established such good relations with the King the Arab General Staff and everyone. The King gave him a farewell dinner to which we all went. It was very well done and very pleasant. I sat by Sir Aylmer opposite to the King and we talked across the narrow table. At the end the King told me that he was going to make a short speech of thanks to Sir Aylmer which I was to translate to the company. This I accordingly did; Sir Aylmer replied and Ja'far interpreted for him. A lot of the notables were there and after dinner I siezed the occasion to have an agreeable talk with people of all sorts of political complexions - it's such an advantage to meet and talk at a purely social function. The King lunched twice at the Residency last week, the second time to meet Sir Aylmer. These functions are very difficult. Lady Cox speaks no Arabic and very little French and leaves him high and dry. I was sitting opposite to him on both occasions and had to carry on a conversation across the table while all the people round him talked English together! I don't know which of us was more glad when it was over.

Admiral Slade is here staying with the Coxes. We all went down to tea in the Naqib's garden, and he dined with me one night to meet Mr Cornwallis and others. We had an amusing evening. I've had a fearful amount of entertaining to do for there were people going and coming from Persia who were hospitable to me when I was there in 1918, and I had to ask them to lunches and dinners. I liked seeing them but I'm pretty busy getting the big report for the Secy of State into shape, over and above all my other work, and dinner parties on the top are rather a strain. We had a luncheon party also in Haji Naji's garden for which I issued the invitations - Ministers and Advisors with their wives (the Advisors' wives). It was very agreeable. Also I dined one night with Ja'far to meet a man who has just come back from Constantinople [Istanbul], Sabih Beg. He is intelligent and cultivated and will play a part here I should think. They are coming back continuously now, these educated, travelled people; I do welcome them for they are exactly the sort we want. A man came in to see me the other day, Amin Pasha, who talked German almost like a German. I don't think, as a matter of fact, he is much good at anything else but it was fun comparing notes with him about Germany where he had lived for years. I've taken Mrs Davidson and Mrs Bourdillon to several tea parties with the ladies of the town. It's very nice having these two so ready to be interested and the Arab ladies love seeing them.

- The King has just telephoned to ask me to go to Ramadi with them tomorrow but I've refused. It's too late (9 p.m) to make arrangements with the R.A.F. and I haven't finished my work for tomorrow's mail. Added to which I'm feeling a great deal too worried.

Oh dear! how nice it will be to talk to you instead of writing. I'll continue my life and times to Mother next mail. Perhaps we shall have got out into smoother waters by that time. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

Of course all the above politics are private. Your letter and Mother's of March 8 and 9 got here extremely quickly, arriving March 20. Also I've received a lovely photograph of Hugo's wedding. I think that is partly what made me feel homesick. You all look such darlings and my two sisters so specially delightful. As for Elsa I never [saw] so nice a picture of her.

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