Belgrave of Bahrain
Belgrave of Bahrain
The Life of Charles Dalrymple Belgrave
"Do not let Belgrave go or you will have no-one to defend you from the English." This was the message passed to Shaikh Sulman by King Saud early in 1956. The circumstances in which not only the Egyptian but also the British Foreign Offices, each for their own reasons, wanted the British Adviser out of Bahrain against the wishes of Shaikh Sulman, do not concern us here. What does concern us is what manner of English man this was who, after 30 years as the Adviser and servant of the Ruler of Bahrain, his Prime Minister, Head of Finance, Chief of Police, magistrate and clerk of the works, could call forth such a message from the King of a neighbouring Arab state. How did it come about that he arrived in Bahrain in the first place; and what role did he play in Bahrain's history during his early years here?"
It is an honour and a great privilege to have been invited to take part in this historical congress. I believe that this event is itself a significant step in the history of Bahrain, since, as one who has returned to the profession of history after a career in more active areas, I believe that it is in the consciousness and understanding of its own history, the bad parts as well as the good, that a country can best find its way forward through the tangle of current events. In some ways, this invitation came a year too early for me, because when I received it, I was only just beginning the research for a book about the Adviser -- al Musstashar as he was known in Bahrain -- to be based mainly on his personal diaries, which I have been given permission to use for the purpose -- my other main source being the papers in the India Office Library in London.
Apart from incomplete research, and one's own shortcomings as an historian, there are a number of particular difficulties which face the historian of recent events. The first is that a period which lies just outside the personal memory of all but a very few people, but which touches the lives of many of us quite directly is particularly delicate ground, especially when as in this case, it is little documented. The second is the nature of the main source. For a very reticent man, carrying a heavy load of responsibility at a very early age, a diary can become the repository of the irritations and frustrations of the long hot days, as well as the record of immediate reactions to events and to people, reactions which events and to people, reactions which would often be revised with time. Therefore while I do not think one should conceal facts or comment which throw light on the events or personalities or the relationships of the period, equally I do not think one should seek out quotations merely for the sake of sensationalism. And that is the rule which I have tried to apply in this paper together with an attempt to put extracts form the diary in their historical context. The third difficulty is that the period under review saw the foundation of the modern relationship which has evolved between Bahrain and Britain, a relationship built on equality and trust, whose existence today is I think the best memorial to the man we are discussing, and the one which would have pleased him most. Having myself served as a young man in the British Foreign Service, the last thing I would want to do is to damage that relationship in any way. And that brings me to the fourth difficulty, which is that this is not just the story of one man, but in many ways more the story of two families, the aI Khalifa whom he served faithfully for 31 years. and his own family, especially his wife and descendants. As a member of that family, and one who had great affection and admiration for him, I am particularly conscious of the pitfalls which open in front of the indiscreet cousin. We all have our cousins, some give us more trouble than others. But as an historian I am concerned to describe things as they were and I trust that what I say will be taken in that spirit. My concern is for the history and atmosphere of the times -- times which though recent have changed fundamentally in many ways, whatever the superficial resemblances.
Another point which is important to bear in mind especially when reading old diaries is that over a period of fifty years. the English language, as no doubt the Arabic language, has chaned. Words which were used by the previous generation in a perfectly neutral descriptive sense -- such as native -- have since acquired perjorative overtones. Expressions used quite unselfconsciously 50 years ago amongst certain classes of the English -- such as whether or not a particular person was a "gentleman" now sound faintly ridiculous. And the translatIon of Arabic into English has changed also -- I have adopted the spellings used in the documents. Finally in handling these diaries it has to be borne in mind that the habit of the British serving overseas of writing a daily journal in a duplicate book, was originally a device for keeping members of one's family at home in touch with one's daily doings; not primarily as a record of key events, still less as a source for future historians or justification for one's actions. One practical difficulty is that nine tenths of the diary is taken up with personal and social gossip --"bridge with the Missionaries, what boring women", interspersed occasionally with descriptions or comments of historical significance.
So much by way of introduction. How came Belgrave to arrive in Bahrain with his newly-married wife on March 1st 1926? It requires quite an effort of historical imagination today to realise that only 60 years ago, the British imperial position in the world, and particularly in India and on the routes to India was a fact of life evident to all and scarcely questioned least of all by the British themselves. Nobody at the time would have been surprised when the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, on his famous tour of the Gulf in 1903, said in a speech to the assembled shaikhs in Sharjah "There are persons who ask why Great Britain cntinues to exercise these powers. The history of your states and of your families and the present condition of the Gulf are the answer. We were here before any other power in modem times had shown its face in these waters. It was our commerce as well as your security that was threatened and called for protection. The peace of these waters must still be maintained, and the influence of the British Government must remain supreme." It was Curzon, who visited Bahrain a few days earlier, carried ashore in the chair which still stands in the British Embassy here, who approved the appointment of Captain Prideaux of the Indian Political Service as the first full British Political Agent in Bahrain. By 1926, Prideaux was Political Resident, based in Bushire but responsible to the Government of India for British interests in the whole of the Gulf, and the subordinate position of Political Agent in Bahrain was held by a certain Major Daly. Daly was a peppery and short tempered Irishman who had transferred at the end of the 1914 - 18 war from the Indian army to the British civil administration in Iraq under the League of Nations mandate. Gossip had it that he was moved from there because his impatience to see modem methods of administration had provoked the 1920 rebellion against the British on the Euphrates. By the time he reached Bahrain, three new sources of concern had been added to the traditional interests "to maintain the peace of the Gulf and protect trade" as expressed in the official orders to the Senior Naval Officer. These concerns were -- the rival ambitions of Persia, and of lbn Saud, to fill the vacuum caused by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the newly perceived potential for the development via the Gulf of the air route to India, and of oil. Daly's almost missionary zeal for good government was thus reinforced by the concern of his superiors that in Bahrain as elsewhere in the Gulf, internal administration and stability should be adequate to permit the development of trade, oil exploration and communications, whilst in their external relations, for which the British were responsible under the treaties, the treatment of the Hasawis and of Persian citizens in Bahrain should not provide either Ibn Saud or the Persian government with any pretext to assert jurisdiction or claims there. This was particularly the case in 1922, with the imminent submission to the League of Nations of the Persian claim. And it was this that led the British authorities to overcome their normal reluctance to become embroiled in the internal affairs of Bahrain. As Sir Charles Belgrave himself put it in his autobiography "Personal Column", "Shaikh Isa bin Ali had, very unwillingly, been "persuaded" by the British to retire from active control of affairs after ruling the country for 55 years and his son Shaikh Hamad, who had been heir apparent since 1893, had assumed control in 1923."
In order to support Shaikh Hamad in his newly assumed task of "bringing the Government of Bahrain up to the plane of modem civilisation", the Government of India and their representatives in the Gulf advised him to allow them to engage on his behalf two or three experienced British officials. Initially they took on a chief of customs (de Grenier), to modernise the customs, the sole source of revenue to the State, which hitherto had been farmed out to hindu contractors with predictably unsatisfactory results. Apart from increasing the state revenue, the British had an additional interest in this, as they believed with some justification that a large part of the Gulf arms trade illicitly passed through Bahrain. Secondly, they wished to recruit a Chief of Police. And thirdly, it was Daly's original idea to recruit a financial adviser who would if possible also relieve the Political Agent of some of his court work in discharging the jurisdiction which Britain had asserted over all non-Bahraini subjects. No suitable member of the British establishment in India could be found. Thus it was that on August 10th 1925 the following advertisement appeared in the Personal Column of the Times:
"Young Gentleman, aged 22/28. Public School and/or University education, required for service in an Eastern State. Good salary and prospects to suitable man, who must be physically fit; highest references; proficiency in languages an advantage."
On 17th September 1925 the following telegram was sent from the Secretary of State for India in London to the Viceroy "Shaikh Hamad of Bahrain recently asked the Political Agent, Daly, to seek for British Officer as Financial Adviser similar to (Bertram) Thomas at Muscat. Prideaux (Political Resident then on leave in London) seeks Government of India sanction for engagement of Charles Dalrymple Belgrave, whom he considers in every way suitable. He is administrative officer cadet on leave from Tanganyka preparatory to resignation. Age 31. Arabic, Swahili, French. Served in Egypt in civil as well as military capacity. Passed exams in Indian Penal code; evidence act; criminal procedure and local laws -- salary over 800 Rupees a month."
In the usual bureacratic way, Delhi asked for clarification and detailed proposals; and it was indeed some years before the terms of service were finally settled, or the precise duties clarified. From the diary it transpires that the job offered and accepted was indeed as Adviser to the Bahrain Government, not as a British official or assistant to the Political Agent but the terms of service were to be based "on those of the Indian Political Service. The four year contract was signed on arrival by Belgrave, sealed with the Shaikh's seal, and countersigned by Daly. It provided for renewal "provided the parties agree and the Govovernmnet of India approves". One clause prohibited any "engagement in trade". It look some years to straighten out the equivalent of "local furlough in hill stations"; while the doubts of successive Political Agents as to Belgrave's precise status were only finally set at rest in a letter from the Political Resident to the Political Agent in May 1928, in reply to a request from the latter for approval for the Shaikh's desire to pay Mrs Belgrave's passage to India, where her husband was to go to recruit new policemen; the Shaikh was reported to consider that "it would be unseemly to leave her behind". The Political Resident in his reply was quite clear "Mr Belgrave is a Bahrain Government servant and any action the Shaikh takes is his own business as an independent ruler. Our only concern is to see that he is not fleeced -- and this is not the case". By the time that the date for renewal came round, the Political Agent evidently felt that the Advisor was too inclined to assert his independence of Britain and his sole loyalty to Bahrain and it is reported that he raised some difficulties about obtaining the "approval" of the Government of India. However on 5th May 1929 the PA reported to the PR "I have received a letter from Shaikh Hamad that he is extending C D Belgrave's appointment for a further fourr years "because I have found him doing his best in all matters that are of service to my Government."
The principle of service was indeed the dominant feature of the new Adviser's background and character. His famIly had for centuries been "squarsons" -- owning modest estates in the central shires of England, together wilh the right to appoint whom they chose as Rectors or parish priests of the village of North Kilworth in Leicestershire. In the previous 300 years, they had exercised this right in favour of members of their own family seven times. His father was perhaps the black sheep of the family; a barrister who seldom practised law; an unsuccessful adventurer in the diamond fields of South Africa and the gold mines of California, a writer of incredibly bad novels. His mother, a Quaker of partly Swiss origin, preferred to live at Chatelard on the shores of Lake Geneva, and it was here that the two boys spent their holidays from school in England -- James. the much loved brother, who was to die in air combat over France in 1918; and Charles, never known as such until he was knighted, but always by family and friends as Carol. His grandfather, Captain Thomas Belgrave, Royal Navy, had served as first lieutenant in a ship commanded by one Admiral Dacres, along with his brother as chaplain, and both had married daughters of their commanding officer. Their father-in-law for his part had married the daughter of Sir Hew Dalrymple, one of the least successful British generals in the Peninsula War against the French; and it was after him that Carol was named. His practice of signing himself C Dalrymple Belgrave while in Bahrain was regarded as something of an affectation by the rest of his family. When Carol went up to Oxford University in 1913, it was with the clear intention that he should go into the Church and succeed his uncle as Rector of North Kilworth. Although the events of the Kaiser's war turned him away from this calling, it is likely that in many ways he saw his service to the people of Bahrain in the same light as he would have seen his service to the parishioners of an English village. Certainly he was no stranger to the idea of the relationship between the Squire and the Parson in 19th century England; the former ex-ercising rights of propety and jurisdic- tion over his estates and over all the people who lived on them, the latter apart from his religious duties, con- cerning himself with their physical well being and with the enlightenment and education of the squire's sons; and sharing the squire's social and sporting activities. This relationship has striking similarities to that which he established with two successive Rulers of Bahrain. Commissioned into the army like all his contemporaries at Oxford, Belgrave found himself on a troopship to Egypt, where with his nose for adventure, he applied for and reported in his diary in 1917 "got the Camel Corps job". Here he began to learn Arabic, and saw some active service in Abyssinia. Then as the war was en- ding, he found himself in the Egyptian Frontier Force -still of course under British administration, and as such, was sent as Political Officer to Siwa. This is the oasis far to the South in the Egyptian desert, famous in history as the seat of the oracle of Jupiter Ammon and of Alexander's pilgrim- age, and the scene more recently of some of Colonel Gaddafi's less publi- cised exploits. A more conventional British officer alone in this post, might have confined himself to his primary task of keeping an eye on the Senussi. Belgrave threw himself into the local administration, "cleaning-up" the town and causing the inhabitants to clear out wells, re-establish water irrigation channels and replant date gardens. After 18 months, he caught typhoid and nearly died before being retrieved by armoured car to Mersa- Matruh. A letter from hospital to his first cousin (my father) shows him at 28 uncertain of the future and seeking advice whether to apply for a regular :ommission as an army officer. In the event he returned home and spent a 'fear enjoying the company of his family and of those few of his friends Nho had survived the war, and writing 1 book about Siwa -far the best of the three books he ever published. There followed two years as a prob- ationer in the Colonial Service in Tanganyka, but the prospect of a career in that service satisfied neither his taste for the exotic nor his desire to earn a salary which would convince her father that he was a suitable match for the tall fair-haired daughter of family friends, Marjorie Barrett-Lennard. It was at this point that he saw the advertisement in the Personal Column of the Times and applied for the job, which turned out to be in Bahrain, a place about which, as he says in his autobiography, he knew nothing, and could find out little.
The appointment apparently satisfied his prospective father-in-law, the head of a Norfolk family with a similar "service" background to his own but considerably larger estates. A few days after their marriage, the pair set off for the Near East and after crossing the desert by Nairn car, took ship at Basra. Here we can let the diary speak for itself.
"The Patrick Stewart, cable boat, which brought us from Bushire sighted Bahrain about breakfast time. A long low island with thick palm groves coming right down to the sea, one big town close to the shore, and another town on a smaller island. Lot of sailing dhows off the coast, and water near the shore which was coloured every shade of blue and green and purple. Altogether quite a pleasant looking place. Fairly calm, but M had a bad time in the night. The engines vibrate more than on any boat I have ever been in.
Met by Daly with two cars in which we motored up to the "Residency". It appears to be a huge house, owing to the great wide veranders, close to the sea. Well built and quite pretty drawing room. Mrs D met us here. Lunch and then the others went back to the boat. M didn't feel well so went early to bed. Very seedy, seems to be a continuation of sea effects. Had a long talk with D. The job sounds really crammed with interest so much intrigue and politics that one needs to be awfully careful.
"Rather disappointed to find that they are building a new house for us which will take several months and so meanwhile we are to be protem in a house next door. Gorgeous night, a nearly full moon over the sea. The town, what I saw of it, looked wonderfully clean and tidy, rather like a big town in upper Egypt.
"The view over the sea is lovely, all the time a great traffic of sailing boats, of every sort and size, mostly going over to the other island. We are to go out to supper with the Shaikh at the end of the week, at one of the houses inland. Am feeling just a little nervous of meeting him first. Daly was telling me of his experiences when he took the party about in England."
"In the afternoon went a drive with the Ds in the car out beyond the town past date gardens with streams and springs among them which reminded me much of Siwa. All very clean and pretty. We returned through the town. Very narrow streets, large-high houses -- wonderfully clean. Some houses have handsome carved doors like the ones in Zanzibar, and copper doorknockers on the outside. The houses look ernormously large mainly owing to the big verandas above and below. It was late so we saw no open shops except a few coffee shops." "The house where we are staying is just next door and the new one, being built at a cost of £6,000 immediately opposite it so that we can watch it being done.
Daly and Mrs D are both very small -- and we looked very large compared to others!Good Friday
"Good Friday. Spent the morning with Daly in his office. He talks and I take notes. He wants to get me au fait with all the politics and the endless intrigues of the place before he leaves, one of the most awkward people is the Director of Customs. de Grenier.
"Socially this place seems a wash out.Saturday 3 April
"Worked with Daly all morning and did Arabic all the afternoon. D is awfully good at teaching it and I learnt more in an afternoon with him than during a week at the school. Later we went a picnic to a spring among the date gardens, taking tea in the car. Very pleasant out there and just like Siwa. Daly loves the place, and he has absolutely made it during his five years here. I can see that he feels about it as I did of Siwa and hates anybody to criticize it. He works awfully hard and is intensely anxious that all his work won't be wasted, as it might be if someone came who didn't bother about things. He was pleased to find that I talked much better Arabic than he expected.Easter Sunday
"Wrote letters in the morning for the up mail via Basra and overland which left at noon. It depends whether it catches the convoy at Bagdad as to whether it gets home quickly. In the afternoon we went to tea with the missionaries. A dreadful house, very damp and smelly, and all the windows shut, quite painfully ugly, and a most unpleasant tea. The whole white population were present, afterwards a service at the church -- the sort of performance that simply makes one squirm. Impromptu and very personal prayers, a long solo sung by a female with a dreadful voice and a German accent, and a sermon in broadest American which lasted half an hour. Altogether a most trying experience. Afterwards we motored out to the Shaikh's country house in the middle of the Island where he likes to live among his horses and dogs and camels, hawking and motoring and doing no \vork. We started late so it was dark before we arrived. M and I, Daly, Mrs Daly and the boy and a fellow called Holmes, an Australian, but rather nice who has got an oil concession, and H's Arab agent in two cars. Drove through date groves and gardens and then across a stretch of desert past a great plain covered with burial mounds -- never excavated! We reached the village after dark. Drove past a number of tethered donkeys and camels. A crowd of Arabs round the door of the Shaikh's smaller audience room. The Shaikh greeted us outside. A nice old fellow with a pleasant intelligent expression in white robes and the usual Arab camel hair head ornament. A handsome room, about fifty feet long, no furniture, just carpets and a few cushions propped against the wall, and a big round grass mat in the centre. Sat and talked for some time. I spoke a bit and found I could understand a good deal of the Arabic though its very different to the Egyptian pronunciation. Several not- ables came in and were introduced but only the Shaikh and Holmes' agent stayed inside. The walls were white with square window spaces with most beautiful Arabesque patterns cut out in them. Handsome carved wooden doors and windows along one side of the room, and a very attractive roof made of wood from Zanzibar. Cool and pleasing to the eye. A dozen boys brought in the supper balancing huge trays on their heads. Before dinner the usual hand washing in a brass bowl with brass pitcher of scented water. The food was very good. Two roast sheep in the centre, stuffed with whole roast chickens, stuffed with eggs, reposing on a huge mound of rice. All sorts of risoles, rice with flavouring, sheets of thin beautifully made native bread, some rather messy puddings, dates, greasy soup, and a lot of wasted birds and hard boiled eggs; no spoons or forks. Afterwards more hand washing, sprinkling with scent from a fine old brass scent sprinkler, and incense. Sat and talked for some time, and then motored home. It seems, curious that old Shaikh Hamed who looks like an ordinary Arab, should have an income of between 15 & 20 thousand a year, and should be employing me! After dinner he had a private talk with D and complained, as usual, that one of his people, sort of steward, was robbing him and he had caught him borrowing money in his name. He is swindled right and left and part of my job will be to keep off the people who get money out of him.
"It would take ages to write about all the intrigue and the twisted politics which one needs to know all about here. Certainly there is plenty of subject for a book, but I doubt if people would believe all about it."
Within a few months. the Belgraves had settled into an official and domestic routine, though still living in temporary lodgings at the police fort while their house next to the British Agency was being completed. Belgrave would leave the fort before 7 and walk through the bazaar to his office. startling the clerks by his early appearance. There he would frequently be joined by Shaikh Hamad and his brother Shaikh Abdulla, and together they would settle government business. After breakfast he would sit as a magistrate in his court, see visitors of all nationalities, and usually spend some time with Daly the Political Agent, whose zeal in interfering in the internal affairs of Bahrain, was undiminished by occasional reminders from his superiors that these were none of his business. After lunch, the Belgraves would walk or drive to explore the island. Their evenings were spent in an endless round of visits with the 20 or so other members of the European community, in which tennis and bridge were the main entertainment. Sometimes they were the guests of members of the al Khalifa family or of the leading merchants.
On Wednesday 4th August however an event occurred which, though accidental in itself, finally caused the Britsh to put an end to the ambiguities in the relationships between the Political agent, Belgrave and Shaikh Hamad. Extracts from the diary of the foIlowing month describe what happened, and give an account also of those of the Adviser's day-to-day duties which he was still able to fit in.Wednesday 4th August
"Went down to the office as usual, I was talking to de Grenier outside when Mohamed my head servant rushed up and said that there was a row at the Fort and Daly and the Subadar had been shot. Got a car from Kanoo and motored up through the market. Near the Fort we saw lots of people standing about and at doors of houses. Found Marjorie on the veranda not particularly agitated. Left de G and went through inside the Fort. Heard that while Dalv was in the office with the subadar one of the Baluchi sepoys had shot the subadar and the shot went clean through him and hit Dalv too. He then shot a havildar and attacked D with a bayonet. The men appeard quite quiet. Took the car and went down to the Agency. Found Daly pretty bad with the Doctor doing him up, shot in the ear and bayoneted in five places, the subadar and the havildar hoth in hospital very badly wounded. A huge excited crowd all round the Agency. Motored back to fort; saw the fellow who did the shooting. Had him properly jugged, then had breakfast. Motored down to the office. A real panic in the town. The people got it into their heads that all the officers and white men had been shot and the Levy Corps were on mutiny and going to loot the bazaar. Every single shop had shut in five minutes and a mob of people made for the boats and fled to Muharraq, others rushed off to the gardens outside the town. Got hold of a few influential men and got the place quiet and shops open again. Wrote to Shaikh Isa and told him all that had happened, went round to Shaikh Hamad and told him as he had at once gone to see Daly and was rather scared and furiously angry.Thursday 5th August
Came down and saw Daly in morning and then went to office. He is quite bad with bandages all over. The Subadar's funeral took place in the morning and in the afternoon the Havildar died and was buried in the evening. Very depressing. The widows wail continuously but there does not seem to be anything wrong with the men. Am writing back as diary these days I was so desperately busy with my own work and a lot of Daly's as well and all this extra work. Marjorie came down in the evening to see Daly and then went for a drive with me in the car. The town is full of the very wildest rumours and the people are very panicy. The Shaikh calls every day to see Daly. He thinks the whole thing was a plot and that Haji Sulman, head of Police and the chief man of Levy were all to have been shot. Very hot damp day and yesterday quite the worst day we have had yet. Perfectly quiet and normal at the fort, and the prisoner is in cell just below my dressing room. If there was going to be any trouble it would have taken place before now.Friday 6th August
Spent the whole morning in the Levy Corps taking down all the evidence about the shooting. The accused made no attempt to deny it and said he did it because the Subadar had reduced him from Naik to sepoy. He said he didn't mean to get Daly with a shot but he did mean to get him with his bayonet as Daly called out "catch him". The Guard behaved very badly running away as soon as they heard shots and they were the only people who were around. Daly has called a cruiser as it appears that there is more in it than meets the eye. The mullah who comes from Russian, Persian frontier appears to be at the bottom of it, a nasty fanatical looking fellow with green eyes, rather like a bad edition of a religious picture, long hair and beard and robes. After tea we went over to Sitra island in a joliboat. The wind dropped and the tide was against us so we didn't arrive till 8pm, then had to walk to the Levy post which I looked at and found extremely sloppy and put in order. Stayed there some time and then returned to the boat by which time it was quite dark. The tide was with us but no wind and we ran aground. Really very awkward, spent a long time trying to push off the boat and then walked instead, they carried M but it was quite shallow. Arrived at a village and borrowed a donkey from an old woman who thought we were thieves then with the Nakhuda and the Levy Corps orderly who I had brought, fortunately we went back to Manama, M riding the donkey and I walking -- about 5 miles. Got back at 12.30 and found a perfectly good dinner ready waiting for us. Really these native servants are surprising when there is an emergency. A hot damp night. Gave M the pearl which I bought for her birthday.Saturday 7th August
Daily persuaded us to come down to the Agency as he didn't like the responsibility of Majorie being alone at the fort for so long every day. My own opinion is that there is really no danger at all but Daly has cabled for cruisers and is making a real big show of it all. Both of us are rather indignant at being made to leave the fort. It looks as if we were afraid of being there but really I am perfectly confident that there won't be any more trouble. It was obviously a single outbreak.Monday 9th August
The Cruiser Cyclamen arrived in the afternoon and the Captain, Perryman came ashore in the evening, later he went back and sent a party of sailors and a machine gun along to the agency. M and I motored to the customs to meet them but found they had come direct to the Agency pier. We organised 50 Persians as sort of special police to patrol the town at nights as the people are rather nervy and all the bad hats have taken the opportunity of being up to mischief. Robbers broke into a house opposite the fort and shot the owner in the leg, quite poor people too and a great shame. I went along to the place before breakfast and heard all about it. Imposed on Haji Abbas to take temporary charge of the police. There is decidedly great apprehension in the town, as Daly said in his telegram to Bushire.Tuesday 10th August
Long court before breakfast as I am taking some of the Agency cases too. The Triad with the Senior Naval Officer, Parry is now going to come. Daly very pleased and also rather gratified by getting a wire from the Viceroy enquiring after him and sending condolences to the families of the men who were shot.Wednesday 11 th August
The down mail arrived with Stewart-Horner, Chief Secretary from Bushire, a conceited little rat but quite intelligent. Went to the office of the fort, everything quite normal at the latter. Daly wants to disband the whole Levy Corps and to have Indian Army instead. Sat and talked to Horner all the afternoon and told him particulars of all that had happened.Thursday 12th August
The Triad (Royal Navy Cruiser) arrived. Spent most of the morning taking down evidence in the Haji Sulman shooting case. There seem to be two men, who are mixed up in it. Parry and Perryman came to dinner and afterwards we played Bridge a lively party. Daly criticized Prideaux, they all agreed that the desription of "the appearance of a bishop and with manners and morals of a stable boy" suits him admirably. Daly as he is Ieaving can't mind what he does or sayss. Daly is really making the most of this show, and now the Navy seem to feel that it is up to them to make a splash so they have planned a sort of field day tomorrow by entering the fort and disarming Levies. I have spent many hours at the fort every day -- yet they talk as if to enter the fort it was necessary to have two men-o-war's crews as garrison. Much of this show is intensely comic.Friday 13th August
Motored down to the quay at 7.30. Thereupon arrived the two captains and all the men off both cruisers, bristling with rifles, bayonets, revolvers, machine guns and complete first aid outfit. I cannot imagine whether they really thought there was going to be fighting -- I had been into the fort on my way down! Marched solemnly through the bazaar with the SNO (Senior Naval Officer Persian Gulf) at the head of the troops. Being Friday the bazaar was very empty but a few small boys ran along behind. The sailors seemed very hot and exhausted by the time we reached the plain I walk it every morning to and from my office! They seemed to consider it quite a long march Halted outside the fort, where if there had been any such idea the party would have made a fine target, sent out flanking parties and all sorts of silly fuss. I, with the Captain and the main lot walked up to the fort and into the yard. The Levy men seemed quite interested -- and of course perfectly amiable. Really I felt a fool. Put guards on the arms and a guard on the door, and an officer is in charge of the guard who I said might use my dressing room in the bungalow. Arrested the mullah and removed the other prisoner down to the Agency.Sunday 15th August
Paid out the Levy Corps men. Really they are not such a bad looking crowd. I believe onlv three or four of them were affected but Daly wants them to go, bag and baggage.Monday 16th August
In the Court all day on the Haji Sulman (Chief of Police) case. Heard the evidence for the prosecutor, not very interesting to me as they all said exactly what they told me before. Captain Parry R.N. came to lunch, quite a nice fellow really. Much conversation about the laziness and incapability of Prideaux at Bushire. Started again after lunch and went on all the afternoon. After tea M & I went out a drive up to the Budaiya road and back by Souk al Khamis. Had a look at the house when we came back. Various interchange of telegrams. The Levies are getting tired of waiting here. Daly wants to remove the whole Levy Corps (Baluchis) and get Indians. Prideaux at Bushire thinks we are all making too much fuss over it all. I really think Daly is determined to retire after his 5 years here with big flare up! He is himself much better now, but still gets a lot of fever and does too much. Cool windy day; the Shamaal is blowing again, thank goodness. I went to office in morning and the Shaikh came in. Later he came to call on Daly at the Agency. The Courtyard is positively littered with prisoners in chains and bristling with armed guards and bluejackets. A good deal of it is really enormously comic!Tuesday August 31st
Cast off remainder of the Levy Corps and the Police who are to go. They seemed, like the others, quite happy and glad to get away. The navy marched them down from fort to pier, where I paid them. A number of ladies tried to hurl themselves into the dhows and to go with them but were prevented, really it would be a good riddance to have sent them off too.Wednesday Sept 1st
Got home early from office for once in a way. In the afternoon we drove out with Mahomed Khalil to a place called Kurzakhan where I looked at a water channel that is to be repaired. I walked and M rode a donkey. Really quite interesting and a place I had not been to before. Met out there by the Shaikh of Rifaa, sat for some time in the shade of a mosque drinking coffee and discussing the job with local inhabitants. Then drove back arriving rather late, after dark. Daly in despair having had cable from Prideaux saying that the PR & Secretary arriving on Friday. Daly detests Prideaux and has talked almost unceasingly about him and his innumerable defects so I expect it will be rather a trying visit. The Captain doesn't care for him either, from all accounts he is just the "Cadiz type" very dithery and scared of being responsible and always out to put blame onto his subordinates. Cool weather still.Friday Sept 3rd
Much fuss and arranging for the visit of Col Prideaux the "Laurence" late, as usual, but I had lunch first before going out to meet him. The Shaikha and Shaikh Abdulla called in the morning. After lunch went to the Palace and then drove down with them all to the Customs, went out in the Shaikh's launch to the Laurence, the three Shaikhas and various retinues of their sons. Went aboard. Col Prideaux and a rather tiresome young new under secretary on board. P has a quite deplorable manner with natives and certainly gave the worst impression, appeared to be in a bad temper but actually is always like that. The Shaikh looked miserable and referred everything to me. After an unpleasant half hour the Shaikh retired.Saturday 4th Sept
They are sending 2 platoons of Indian Army here pro tem till we get a new Levy Corps and police, and Parke is to come as soon as possible. I look forward to his arrival. He is to be assistant to Adviser besides O.C. Police so I shall I hope have less work to do.Tuesday 7 Sept
Very late for breakfast -- lunch and called on the Shaikh on the way back after early office and he talked for ages. He is now not a bit shy of saying what he thinks to me about things. An old Merchant called; Yusif Kanoo.Wednesday 8th Sept
The Shaikh came down to the office in the morning. Very amiable, said that he used to spend about Rs 20,000 a month once Rs 30,000 and now, with me managing his accounts he spends about Rs 8,000. A rupee is 1:6. They have lately standardised it. The Shaikh's boys who are at school at Basra have obviously been getting at him and trying not to be sent back to schooI, and he very feebly began making excuses for why they should not go back there perfectly idiotiIc. I shall try hard and prevent them getting their way. Its obviously far better to educate them.
The Barratts have arrived. (Successor to Daly) They are decidedly "proper" people, he tall and thin and military Iooking and she plump and fluffy and, as we soon discovered, quite exceptionally foolish, really most idiotic. She took de Grenier for Daly and the Shaikh's Chauffeur for the Shaikh -- which caused some confusion! Daly handed over in a couple of hours and then went off in the launch to the cruiser on which he goes to Basra, thence by fast mail to Bombay and Mombasa. The Shaikh called earlier to say goodbye and wept copiously. As usual in Arab countries very few of the public came to say goodbue to Daly though he has done wonders for the place and was here 5 years. They are so keen always to greet new arrivals and forget immediately about the others almost before they have gone, of course D was too much the king of Bahrain.
We moved into the new house as the other one was too crowded, its still rather damp but put our beds on the varanda outside. The house is far the finest house I've ever had, really deIightful and so large and important from outside.
I like the Political Resident personally but officially he is an impossible old dawdler. These elderly government officials who are too old for work are a great nuisance, he is hanging on hoping for a K.C.S.I. which doubtless he wiII get. In the afternoon called on Shaikh Hamad with Bassett -- official caII, B wearing uniform and sword. The Shaikh received us outside the palace and had the ponies out for us to see. Prideaux had asked B to enquire what the Shaikh's opinion was about the return of the Dawasir Arabs who were banished. Daly used constantly to say that it would be ruination to let them back, now there is an intrigue afoot, and the Shaikh has been got at, to let them return. He tried to get me to reply for him and when I wouldn't said he thought it might be a good thing. Myself I think its madness.
With the departure of Daly, and the retirement of Prideaux as Political Resident, there developed a less ambiguous relationship between Britain as the protecting power with responsibility for dealings with external affairs and jurisdiction over non-Bahrainis on the one hand; and the internal govern- ment of Bahrain as an independent state on the other. As Sir Denys Bray, the Foreign Secretary of the Government of India, put it in his report on a tour of the Gulf in 1929, "Bahrain has obviously become the keystone of our position in the Gulf our aim should be to demonstrate that an Arab state can advance on Western lines under British protection and yet retain its Arab character. 'The new Resident' the diary reports on 14 January 1929, "very strong on Bahrain being quite independent and my having nothing to do with the govt of India". With occasional lapses due to over-zealous officials or periods of serious instability, this relationship was to last until the total independence of Bahrain was formally recognised in 1971. The position of the Adviser was thus also clarified. As he wrote in his diary on 14th September "I fancy I shall be able to do pretty much as I please with Barrett. He doesn't seem to be of the interfering type; still one never knows. He is tall and thin and plain but thoroughly a gentlemen. She is unbelievably silly." But the final sanction of the Indian army was always there in the background. The next day "An extra busy day, arranging the arrival of the detachment of Punjabi troops who are to be stationed here temporarily . . . the execution of the murderer (of the levy subadar) is to be on Tuesday morning and these men are to shoot him." That done, life over the next few months and years returned to normal, if one can use that expression to include the occasional riot -- by divers over advance payments, or by shop keepers over new laws on the registration of deaths or the administration of estates -- riots often put down with his bare fists by the Adviser in person, with all the force of his six foot two frame, his prowess and boxing at Oxford, his fearless personality, and his relish for a "scrap." But in normal times, it was his patience and courtesy, the fact that he never raised his voice, and that the only sign of irritation was a slight stammer, and that it quickly became clear that he was incorruptible, that made his presence and his role acceptable to the ruling family and to the people in general. In agreeing to his taking 5 months leave after two years service, Shaikh Hamad wrote "He has pleased my people both by the great services he has performed for my country, and with his high standards of behaviour. I thank him for the services he has performed for my country and for the comfort he has brought to my people." Not long after that leave their son was born in the house in Muharraq.22nd April 1929
"The baby began to arrive in the night at about 1 o'clock. I went along in the car to get Dr Rottschafer. Court in morning. I took it alone as Shaikh Sulman did not come in and was in the office until they sent to say that the baby had arrived. It is quite a nice looking little thing, not as unfinished looking as they usually are -- farewell party for the PA. M and the baby are both very well. James Hamad Dacre's health was drunk. Shaikh Sulman brought me in two large sheep which have to be killed and distributed among the neighbours. This was done. If it is a girl only one if any is distributed. The nurse has dysentery! Maglis -- everyone asking about "Hamad." They are evidently very pleased about the name."
The Adviser had a hand in everything; and there were many who thought that he gathered too much power into his own hands. But it is clear from the diaries as well as from the recollection of others who were close to events at that time and later that he saw his job, as one well informed person has put it to me, as being "to administer not to rule." The Authority for the modernisation of the government came from Shaikh Hamad. The Adviser never issued an order or a law. That was done only by the Ruler after consultation with the leading people. The Adviser never made an appointment. He never spent a rupee except that which was within the budget or with the written authoritv of the Ruler.
Together they made up a pretty effective team. By the time the first ten years were up (beyond which Carol had promised his bride they were unlikely to remain in Bahrain) the foundations had been laid for almost all the physical and social features of Bahrain which one takes for granted here today.
In 1937, Belgrave wrote in what appears to have been an account of his stewardship, "During the last ten years, the changes and reforms which were made by Shaikh Hamad when he took over control from his father have become firmly established. In other Gulf states, Bahrain is considered to be very progressive. The wish to be progressive comes from the people themselves. It is not forced on them by government. Bahrain is now the 12th largest oil producing country in the world; as well as having a naval base and a place on the air route. The sudden change from poverty to affluence creates problems and conditions which are almost more difficult to deal with than those resulting from the need for economy. A period of great prosperity provided oil does not run dry, appears to be starting now . . . but it should be remembered that most of the existing improvements in Bahrain, such as electric power, sea roads, causeways, schools and municipalities came into being before the era of oil."
(from Al Watheekah pp 214 -- 200, date unknown)
Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan
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