Request a high resolution copy

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Letter in which Bell writes of her recent ill-health and of flooding in Iraq, enclosing a cutting from the Baghdad Times relating to this. She provides a brief update on her own activities, noting that she has written an annual report for the Secretary of State and that she will be dining with archaeologist Professor Ernst Herzfeld that evening whilst also remarking upon the concern of local officials for her health. Includes short post-script written on the 29th of March adding that has recovered and is returning to the office.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Hashimi, Yasin al-
Dobbs, Henry
Cox, Percy
Herzfeld, Ernst
Cornwallis, Ken
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad March 28 Darling Father. I write to you from a sofa of sickness from which however I am rapidly preparing to rise. It is nothing but a little cold with a touch of laryngitis which entirely extinguished my voice for two days. Most tiresome. I caught it dining with the King on the 22nd, a little Bridge party in which I was the only European - Sabih Beg, Yasin Pasha and the King's entourage. It was horribly cold and the Bridge wouldn't finish and I couldn't go away. It was cold because a flood was coming down. That night the Maude Bridge was swept away - a great misfortune, for it will take two or three months to mend - and two days later on Saturday the dykes burst 17 miles above the town on this bank and we now have 300 square miles under water, stretching away from the east {bank} dyke of the town. If you want to go to Ba'quba [Ba'qubah] you must ferry across 4 miles of lake. I enclose a cutting from the Baghdad Times which tells you about it. Rather stupidly I yielded to curiosity on Sunday and rode out to see the waters. I found some officers of the Arab Army in need of a messenger so I galopped [sic] about getting bags and things for them, and then I met the King and stopped and talked to him so the net result was I stayed out too long. Then I had a dinner party - and behold no voice next day. It was rather a nice dinner party - Colonel Borton, the A.V.M.'s second in command, who is I am sorry to say leaving and brought his successor, Air Commodore Charlton, a very delightful person. The other guests were Mr Davidson Mr Cornwallis and Dr Sinderson with his very dear little wife. Sir Henry, who had flown up to Arbil [(Hawler)], came in on Monday to tell me the news - he had it all his own way for I couldn't speak above a whisper; and Mr Davidson came in regularly to see if I wanted anything, so did Mr Cornwallis who also dined last night to keep me amused. They are dears. Mr Davidson is dining tonight with Professor Herzfeld an archaeologist friend of mine and the first German I've seen since the war. He is going to make an archaeological journey in Persia. Lots of Arabs have been in to inquire after me today - fortunately my voice was beginning to come back. The King sent his chief Chamberlain and my Minister, Yasin Pasha, also presented himself. You see the King and the Cabinet don't take it so to heart when I've a cold in London.
I've been putting in the time writing the annual report for the Secretary of State, a prodigiously difficult job. But I think the worst crux is now behind me and since we shall have Easter holidays from Friday to Tuesday I hope to make some progress with it. Sir Percy is coming by this air mail and should be here on Easter Sunday. With his help I think I shall be able to settle all my future plans. I'm going to ask you to bring out for me a hat and some gloves - I'm writing to Elsa on the subject. This year, knowing the ropes, I shall send some clothes to Ernest by post so I shan't want any from home. Whether I fly or motor I can take very little with me.

March 29. [29 March 1923] I suddenly find the post closes today tomorrow being Good Friday, so I must be content with this scrap. I'm much better this morning and am going into office for a bit. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

IIIF Manifest