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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

Letter in which Bell provides an overview of her recent activities, such as her attendance at the trooping of the colour by the British battalion in honour of King Faisal's birthday. She also discusses the King and Queen, noting that King Faisal is suffering from dyspepsia, and expresses her pleasure at Sir Henry Dobbs' recent honour whilst noting her disappointment that the Iraq civil service has not been similarly recognised.
Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Cornwallis, Ken
Naji, Haji
Dobbs, Henry
Cooke, R.S.
Clayton, Iltyd
Hussein, Feisal bin al-
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper
Iraq ยป Baghdad

33.315241, 44.3660671

Baghdad June 3. Dearest Father. Last week I got your letter of April 20 and now the next one will I expect be from London for I don't think the mouldy Egyptians will send anything you post at Port Sa'id [Port Said] by overland mail. Oh I'm glad you are not such weeks away.
I am dreadfully distressed - and I'm sure you will be too - at the news of Anthony's death which Mother gave me in her letter of May 21. It's a terrible tragedy. Their relations to one another were so beautiful and I was most truly devoted to him, as I am to her. I admired him and loved him. I'm afraid - this is a sordid consideration, but it's there - that she will be left rather badly off and how I wish she could keep Watford! They were so pleased with it, weren't they. I've telegraphed to her and I'm writing to her. His having been so far away makes it all the worse. I think and think of her.

Well, there it is - I return to smaller matters, though not without adding that it was always comforting to me to think of those two as people with whom the world had gone well. There aren't so many.

On Friday afternoon Iltyd and I went and walked in Haji Naji's gardens, and eat fruits with Haji Naji afterwards. He was insistent that we should "enjoy ourselves among the apples" and took us into the orchard to see the heavily laden trees. We did enjoy ourselves; the nightingales were singing and it was pretty to see the boughs drooping with fruit. I have two nightingales' nests in my own garden. I am very fond of Iltyd; he is a delightful companion. I shall miss him when he goes to Mosul [Mawsil, Al], as I fear he soon will for they are sending some more of his artillery ('Iraq Army) north to frighten the Turks and encourage the 'Iraqis.

Another of my boon companions is Lionel who is really a delicious creature. He drops in very often for tea and we go for a walk afterwards. I hope he will pay us a visit this autumn at Rounton. You will like him. He wants me to come home with him and Mr Cooke via Constantinople [Istanbul], leaving Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)] on July 4 and getting to England about the 20th which is about the time I'm thinking of arriving. As a matter of fact I think I shall go straight home. The other route is rather more expensive and I don't think I have the energy to travel about in the heat.

On Sunday afternoon we went for our first bathe, Ken and I, Mr Cooke, Iltyd and Squadron Leader Bass. It was very nice and we are now going to do it often, in fact Mr Cooke and I and an R.A.F. man called Briant bathed again on Tuesday. We have found a very nice place high up the river, or rather we haven't found it for we used to go to it sometimes last year, but we have found a good way to get to it by car and I have had a little reed hut made there to undress in. My new puppy, Petra, proves to be a determined swimmer - but she inflicts terrible wounds on us by trying to scrabble onto our shoulders while we are swimming and so nearly drowns us that I scarcely dare go out of my depth.

I had a dinner and bridge on Sunday evening - Ken and Iltyd and a nice R.A.F. man, Group Captain Brooke.

This morning I went with Ken at 6 a.m. to the trooping of the colour by the British battalion in honour of the King's birthday. It was clouded by a very sad event which had happened the day before, the sudden death of the Colonel, Weldon, from heat stroke. I didn't know him, but those who did liked him. I can't think how he managed to get heat stroke for it hasn't been particularly hot, in fact till the last few days rarely over 100.

The King is not very well. He is suffering from dyspepsia, due, I think (between ourselves) mainly to domestic worries. I have been to tea with him today and he told me all about it. I was thankful to hear that the Safwat family are to take a house in the town - they have lived so far in the palace compound. I think that's the root of the trouble though the Queen is also being silly and tiresome. I was glad that the King unburdened his heart today - he hasn't done it before. I think I can be a little helpful, in fact I think I was a little helpful today. Anyhow it's a good thing that he should talk to someone who wishes to be helpful.

It's terrifically difficult to take an oriental woman, born and bred in Mecca [Makkah], transplant her into what are practically European conditions and expect her to adapt herself at once. That's her side of it.

I am very glad about Sir Henry's well deserved honour but disappointed that the 'Iraq civil service has not got more recognition, especially Ken who deserves it more than anyone.

I'm afraid you are back to rather difficult conditions - will they ever improve? I wonder what you think of the budget.

I've got rather Bellated with my letters so this must suffice. Tell Mother I didn't get the promised number of the Yorkshire Post. Perhaps it will come by sea. Your ever affectionate daughter Gertrude

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