As for the climate, I don’t think it is any worse than the plains of India. When it is properly drained the fever will be much less: and under peace conditions the water can be properly purified and the heat dealt with. The obvious port is Basra; it is said that the bar outside Fao could easily be dredged to 26ft. The only other really good harbour is Koweit, I gather: but our game is to support the independence of K.: make it the railway terminus, but by using Basra you make your rail-freight as low as possible and have your commercial port where you can directly control matters.
I wish they would get a move on in the Dardanelles. It seems to me Germany is running a fearful risk by committing herself so deeply into the interior of Russia at this time of year. The only explanation I can find is that at each rush she has been much nearer to cutting off a Russian army than has transpired and so is tempted on: nearer perhaps than the Russians ever intended, which may be the reason of the Grand Duke’s removal to the Caucasus.
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TO HIS MOTHER.
For the men, newspapers would be as welcome as anything. I think Papa might divert those weekly papers from Agra here, as they get a large supply in the Regimental Reading Room at Agra.
What strikes me about the 1/4th is that they are played out. They’ve no vitality left in them. Out of about 300 men there are seventy sick, mostly with trifling stomach or feverish attacks or sores, which a robust man would get over in two days; but it takes them a fortnight, and then a week or two afterwards they crock up again. One notices the same in their manner. They are listless and when off duty just lie about. When I see men bathing or larking it is generally some of our drafts. I hope the cold weather will brace them up a bit. I do wish I had more gifts in the entertaining line, though of course there are very few men left to entertain when you’ve allowed for all our guards and the men just off guard.
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The house is two-storeyed, with thick brick walls, built round an open well-like court. There is a broad verandah all round the court, on to which every room opens. There is also a balcony on the W. side overlooking the river. We sleep on the roof a.p.u. The sun sets right opposite this balcony, behind a palm-grove, and the orange afterglows are reflected all up the westward bend of the river, which is very lovely: though personally I like the more thrilling cloud sunsets better than these still rich glowings of the desert.
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