False rumours of looting in Iran

A Christian missionary with Reading connections wrote to report on how the war had affected her in Persia (Iran). Persia was theoretically neutral, but there was a certain amount of military activity.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER FROM MISS BIGGS, ISPAHAN.

Here at Ispahan practically all our property is intact. We received rumour after rumour of damage and looting, but most of it has proved false. All our personal property is safe, except things stored in the boys’ school. The Persians under German command commandeered the school as barracks, and have done a good deal of superficial damage. Except for this and the Russian Red Cross having occupied our women’s hospital and Dr Stuart’s house, everything is locked up and sealed as we left it.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

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“A rotten job”

More news about the impact of the war in British India and also independent Iran comes from the missionary sponsored by St John’s Church, Reading.

EXTRACTS FROM A LETTER TO THE VICAR FROM THE REV. A.I. KAY, dated June 1st, 1916.

Miss Biggs left Amritsar on April 2nd and according to the newspapers the British party reached Ispahan [now Isfahan, Iran] on May 16th and received a great ovation and welcome from the Russians and the populace. It was a very plucky thing for Miss Biggs and Miss Stuart to return so soon to Ispahan, and it was with considerable anxiety that their friends watched their return. However, their safe arrival has justified their confidence and although no other Persian Missionaries are returning to Persia from the Punjab at present, yet events in Persia seem to be going against the Germans and Turks and before long we hope the whole country will once again be open to Missionary work…

I must not close without referring to what is after all my main work now. At the beginning of April I became Acting Chaplain once again for Amritsar. I enjoy this work very much though the hot weather is not a time when a padre’s heart may be rejoiced by large congregations. Instead of getting the soldiers to Church for the Parade Service we arrange Services in the Barracks and the Fort, and early on Sunday mornings there is a good turn-out of men in shirt sleeves, who take a hearty share in the short Services.

I have the greatest admiration for the present garrison troops in India. They are on a rotten job; they would all like to be at the Front; instead they have to put up with a monotonous life which is at times made well nigh intolerable by the heat. In Amritsar a detachment of the 23rd Batt[alion] of the Rifle Brigade is stationed at present. They are all old men, most of them with sons at the Front; some of them over 50 and a few over 60 years of age. When the men come back from war, I hope the garrison troops of India will march side by side with the men from the Front, for many of them have suffered and some have died.

Reading St John parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

Missionaries told ‘not a hair on your head shall be injured!’

The impact of the war in the Middle East was explained to Reading people when a missionary sponsored by St John’s Church wrote home with details. The city he calls Yezd is usually known as Yazd.

NEWS OF ‘OUR OWN MISSIONARY’

Following upon the occupation of Ispahan [now Isfahan], the old capital of Persia, by the Russian forces on March 12th the British Minister at Teheran has consented to the return of C.M.S.

Missionaries to the city. Dr. Emmeline Stuart and Miss J. Biggs have proceeded thither from India and Dr. D.W. Carr, the Acting Secretary of the Mission, is on his way there from England. A telegram from Teheran on April 28th stated that the staff of the Society from Yezd, who had retired within the Russian sphere of influence, would be leaving for their station on May 2nd. Dr. White wrote from Teheran on March 9th:

That the people of Yezd need us very badly and are prepared to give us a great welcome we have heard from various sources. Only last week, among numerous letters from Yezd was one from a large landowner, in which he said how very badly the people needed their hospital and doctor. He went on to say, ‘If you will only come back I will guarantee your safety; in fact, not a hair on your head shall be injured!’ Another Yezd grandee who has been living in Teheran and has just been appointed to a high office in Yezd came to see me before he left and pressed me to go back with him, and said, ‘As soon as I arrive in Yezd I shall begin an agitation to bring you all back again.’

Reading St. John parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)