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Persia and the Persian Question, volume I

by George N. Curzon

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Chapter 17

THE ARMY

Prince Henry. — I did never see such pitiful rascals!

Falstaff. — Tut! tut! good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder, they'll fill a pit as well as better. Tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.

SHAKESPEARE. — Henry IV., Part I., act iv., sc. ii.

FROM the time when Persian soldiers were first seen in Europe, and when, according to Herodotus, who gives a most minute account of their organisation and equipment, 'the Persians at Plataea were not one whit inferior to the Greeks in courage, and warlike spirit,'[489] down to the present day, when he would be a bold critic who would institute even such a comparison, the Persian army has in many and shifting phases afforded material of interest to the traveller and the historian. The vision of the 10,000 Immortals, marching in serried ranks, with the golden pomegranates flashing on their spears, has early impressed our imagination; and in the distant galleries of time few echoes ring more loudly than the clash of Persian and Grecian onset upon the fields of Marathon and Thermopylae, of Cunaxa, of Issus and Arbela. These illustrious memories we must here relinquish, nor does space admit of our recovering from the oblivion with which they have been long overlaid, the armaments and tactics, the marches and combats, of the Parthian and Sassanian kings.[490] It was not till the dawn of the seventeenth century that the foundations of a modern standing army were laid in Persia, or that the military ideas of the West were perfunctorily grafted on to the Oriental stock. Here, in brief retrospect, our study of the Persian army may begin, the moment when a European turn was given to its organisation being also the moment when the connection between itself and England, that has had so many and fateful vicissitudes,


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originated. A hurried survey will carry us through a period of alternate splendour and disgrace, during which the Persian army, at its prime under Shah Abbas the Great, sank to its lowest ebb under Shah Sultan Husein, emerged again with a recrudescence that is one of the most startling phenomena of history under Nadir Shah, again spent itself in internecine conflict, and was again revived by the genius of the first Kajar sovereign, Agha Mohammed. At this point, where the present century opens, commences the yet unexhausted epoch of submission to foreign leading-strings, in the futile effort to infuse some stability into the mobile and dissolvent atoms of an Oriental fabric; and the ninety years which have yet run betray a panorama of successive experiments, as the figures of French, English, German, Italian, Austrian, and Russian officers pass across the stage, that is not the least quaint or characteristic among the features that mark the tentative Europeanisation of Iran. For a third of this epoch, the figure of England looms largest upon the scene, and the narrative of the connection of Great Britain with the armies of Persia, which seems to have insufficiently attracted the gaze of historians, is among the most interesting chapters of the relationship, diplomatic as well as military, between the East and the West. Of this period, so intimately bound up with our imperial policy in Persia down to the present day, I shall require to say something. Finally, I shall come to the Persian army as it now exists, and shall endeavour, by means of information derived partly from Persian officers possessing the fullest acquaintance with the subject, partly from official reports and documents, supplemented by my own inquiries in the country and by the experience resulting from frequent personal observation, of the Persian troops and equipment, including a visit to the arsenal and a special parade of the garrison at Teheran, to furnish some criterion of its practical value as a weapon either of offence or defence. Upon this question I have been astonished to find the most conflicting opinions expressed by European writers. Some have seen in the Persian army a possible auxiliary of the greatest value, or an enemy too dangerous to be ignored. Others have scarcely found language strong enough in which to denounce the administration and deride the material. As the question of the actual capabilities of Persia in both respects is one that is likely to play some part in future political developments, it is desirable that the truth should, as far as possible, be known, in order that no


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party in England may base an action or initiate a policy upon erroneous data. Not being a military man myself, I shall, in cases, where a civilian judgment is worthless, support myself by professional authority which none will dispute. If my remarks are anywhere found to grate upon Persian susceptibilities, or to constitute a delineation unflattering to the rulers of that country, suffer me to take shelter behind the motto, Amicus Plato, magis amica veritas.[491]

It was to the brothers Sherley, Sir Anthony and Sir Robert, circ. 1600 A.D., that Persia owed her first practical initiation into the military science of Europe. According to the ingenious Herbert, the Persians 'got the use of cannon from the vanquised Portugal,' and 'the use of musquets they have had onely since the Portugals assisted King Tahamas (i.e. Shah Tahmasp) with some Christian auxiliaries against the Turk, so as now (i.e. 1627 A.D.) they are become very good shots.'[492] But if already acquainted with gunpowder and with the new weapons of war, it was from the adventurous English knight-errants that they learnt how to make proper use of the discovery. Upon their advice Shah Abbas, for the first time in modern Persian history, laid the foundations of a regular army by incorporating a large force of infantry armed with muskets. A contemporary writer says of this event: —

The mightie Ottoman, terror of the Christian world, quaketh of a Sherly fever, and gives hopes of approaching fates; the prevailing Persian hath learned Sherleian arts of war, and he which before knew not the use of ordnance, hath now 500 pieces of brasse, and 60,000 musketiers; so that they, which at hand with the sword were before


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dreadful to the Turks, now also in remoter blowes and sulfurian arts are growne terrible.[493]

Pietro della Valle, who was in Persia at the time, speaks of the newly enrolled infantry as fusiliers, owning their origin to Sir Anthony Sherley, recruited from the lower orders of the country, and receiving their pay quarterly from the king. He describes them as a very useful body, 20,000 strong, and adds that 'in the beginning they were on the foot, but were afterwards mounted and armed with matchlocks and a fork to fire from.' From another source we learn that after Sir Anthony's departure Robert was made 'Master General against the Turks;' and that upon his return to Persia from a mission to the European powers in 1612, he brought with him from England 'Captain Thomas Powel of Hertfordshire, who was Colonel of 700 horse under the Persian.' It is interesting at this early date to read of English officers in the service of the Shah; and to know that English counsels were responsible for the earliest modern reform in the military organisation of Persia.

Nevertheless, throughout this and the succeeding century, the Persian army retained for the most part its original and almost immemorial organisation as a loose collection of irregular cavalry contingents. Even under Shah Abbas, when the army was at its best, there prevailed the most complete ignorance of scientific warfare, and battles were little else than desultory cavalry engagements on a large scale. In the campaign against Ormuz, which the Persians waged in conjunction with the English in 1622, the latter were amazed at the ignorance and backwardness of their allies.[494] Chardin says that, at the death of Shah Abbas, the effective strength of the army was 150,000 (50,000 Royal troops and 70,000 Provincial troops); Pietro della Valle says it consisted of 97,000 cavalry; but Herbert, though he advances larger nominal totals, also supplies a becoming corrective.


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Upon muster the Persian King can march 300,000 horse and 70,000 foot or musquetoons. Such force as he can readily advance but seldome exceeds 50,000, enough to find forage or provant in such barren countreys.

So rapid, however, was the decline in military strength and efficiency under the nerveless rule of the later Sefavi sovereigns, that Chardin, who was present at a review held before Shah Abbas II. in 1666, said that the same troops passed and repassed from ten to twelve times; and that a Persian naively remarked to him, 'We have a good army for reviews, but a bad one for war.' How bad a one did not fully appear till the Afghan invasion early in the following century, when the whole flower of the Persian army, over 50,000 strong, allowed itself to be worsted, and Isfahan to be beleaguered and ultimately taken, by less than half the number of Afghans, ill-equipped and exhausted with long marching and fatigue. On this occasion the Persian artillerymen are said to have discharged 400 shots from each of 400 cannon, and not to have killed 400 Afghans in all.

Less than twenty years after this disaster we are confronted with the astonishing spectacle of a Persian conqueror overrunning Central Asia, upsetting kingdoms and empires, and in the eighteenth century presenting the phenomenon in Asia that Europe owed to Napoleon in the nineteenth. Hanway, who saw the army of Nadir Shah on the march, said that it consisted of 200,000 men, the cost of maintaining whom, officers included, was 100 crowns, or 25l., a year apiece; so that the total military outlay was 5,000,000l. annually. It was, indeed, by exceptional generosity to his soldiers that Nadir ensured their enthusiastic loyalty, just as it was to his own military genius, to the terror of his name, and to the contemptible inferiority of the majority of the foes whom he encountered, that must be attributed his victorious career. I think it would be an unfair inference to draw from the conquests of Nadir, that the Persians only 150 years ago were the possessors of qualities which they have since entirely lost or abandoned. The bulk of his army were not Persians, but were drawn from the warlike tribes of his vast dominions, from Kurdistan and Georgia to Afghanistan and Beluchistan. The overthrow of the Mogul Empire, long tottering to its fall, was in no way a remarkable military achievement; and that, where his cavalry could not operate with advantage, the generalship or the


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resources of Nadir were unequal to the situation, was shown by his unsuccessful sieges of Busrah and Baghdad, neither of which possessed fortifications of any strength. How completely the Persian army still retained its cavalry organisation is shown by the statement of Nadir's biographer, however exaggerated, that out of the 160,000 persons, soldiers and camp-followers, who composed the invading army at Delhi in February 1739, there was not a single individual on foot.[495]

The military spirit which the genius of Nadir Shah had to some extent revived was kept alive by the Kajar monarch, Agha Mohammed Shah, whose quite uncommon attainments have been somewhat obscured in history by the brutal ferocity of his acts. But it sank to a very low ebb under his successor Fath Ali Shah, who liked to stay at home and multiply the royal stock, and whose idea of kingly majesty was summed up in receiving a foreign ambassador in a blaze of jewels upon the Peacock Throne. He is even said to have tumbled off his horse with fright at the only engagement in which he assisted. In his reign, however, the military interest was shifted from Teheran to Tabriz, and from the sovereign to the Heir Apparent, Abbas Mírzá; and the rivalries of England, France and Russia, ushered in that epoch of foreign, and especially of British, military tutorship, of which I have undertaken to speak in outline.

It was to Abbas Mirza, the Vali-Ahd, residing at Tabriz as Governor-General of Azerbaijan, that Persia owed the reintroduction of European discipline, to which, since the abortive experiment of the Sherleys, exactly two centuries before, she had been a stranger. Stationed in the frontier province, which from the opening years of the century was exposed to the full brunt of Russian attack (Persia and Russia being then at war), he realised that without foreign assistance he could make no headway against a European foe. It was from Russian instructors that the first lessons in the simplest platoon exercises were taken; the Prince labouring so zealously that, in order to overcome the prejudices of his countrymen, he donned uniform and went through the daily drills himself, compelling his nobles to


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follow his example. Then followed the short period of French ascendency in 1807-8, and the mission of General Gardanne. Napoleon having promised the fullest military assistance, the latter brought with him a staff of seventy commissioned and non-commissioned officers, who set to work in Azerbaijan and Kermanshah in the drilling and instruction of large bodies of troops, with whom they attained some success. Of these the best known names were those of Trézel, Bernard, Lamy, Bontems, Fabrier, Reboul, Verdier.

England having tardily awoke to the danger involved in this rapid Gallicisation of the country upon which she had already spent such extravagant sums, Sir Harford Jones was sent out in 1808 by the British Government to oust the French and to negotiate a new treaty with Fath Ali Shah. In these objects he was entirely successful; and his treaty, which was signed in March 1809, contained a clause providing for an annual subsidy of 200,000 tomans, and as many British officers and troops, free of charge, as were required. It was in fulfilment of this contract that Sir John Malcolm, starting from India on his third mission to Persia in the following year, took with him a number of Anglo-Indian officers, who passed into the Persian service, and among whom were included the distinguished names of Christie, Lindsay, Monteith, and Willock. Sir Gore Ouseley, following Sir H. Jones from England, in 1811, was also accompanied by some English officers (one of whom was Major D'Arcy, afterwards D'Arcy Todd) and a detachment of English sergeants of the 47th regiment, to discipline the Persian infantry. Major Christie, of the Bombay army, undertook the charge of the latter body, or serbaz; Lieutenant Lindsay, of the Madras army, raised and commanded a corps of artillery, and worked with the most untiring zeal under the liberal patronage of Abbas Mirza. The latter, however, positively declined to humour his officer's partiality for a shaven chin among the Persian artillerymen, until one day a powder-horn exploded in the hands of a gunner and blew off his beard, after which unmistakable admonition of Providence, smooth chins became universal. Lindsay (afterwards Sir Henry Lindsay-Bethune) for nearly forty years from this date filled an important position in the Persian army, of which he subsequently rose to be Commander-in-Chief. Standing 6ft. 8in. in height, he reminded the Persians of their national hero, Rustam. In recognition of his services he was afterwards made a Baronet by the British Government, and received the local rank of Major-General


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in Asia, as well as a salary of 2,200l. a year while in Persia. He finally died, and was buried in the Armenian cemetery at Teheran in February, 1851. In 1812, a rumour having reached Tabriz of reconciliation between Great Britain and Russia in Europe, Sir Gore Ouseley ordered the English officers in the Persian service to take no further part in the Perso-Russian campaign still proceeding in Azerbaijan. Abbas Mirza, however, pleaded so urgently, that two officers, Christie and Lindsay, and thirteen sergeants were permitted to stay. Christie paid the penalty with his life, being killed by a Russian officer while lying wounded on the ground, on the battle-field of Aslanduz, in October 1812. He was succeeded in command of the Persian infantry by Major Hart, of the Royal army, who, till his death of cholera at Tabriz in 1830,[496] occupied a position unequalled by that of any other British officer in Persia. He acquired an extraordinary influence alike over the king, who entrusted him with the money for the payment of the Azerbaijan troops, 'having more confidence in the honour of an English major than in that of his own son; over Abbas Mirza, who never failed to support him, even when he ordered the Royal Princes to mount guard, and gave them no rations but dry bread for three days; and over the Persian soldiers, who, in spite of the strict discipline that he enforced, regarded him with respect and admiration. The termination of the Perso-Russian War by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, was followed by a third Anglo-Persian Treaty, signed at Teheran in November 1814, in pursuance of the terms of which the British Government continued to supply officers for drill and discipline, arms and munitions of warfare, and the material and workmen for a foundry at Tabriz, where guns and shot of every description were cast, gun-carriages built, and very tolerable powder manufactured at a cost of 4d. per lb., in a mill outside the town.[497] The war with Russia being, however, at an end, and no immediate peril overhanging, Abbas Mirza, who was


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lacking in stability of character or purpose, began to lose interest in army reform, and even treated his English officers with some suspicion. In 1815, in consequence of a dispute between Persia and England about the continuance of the subsidy, all English non-commissioned officers in the Persian service were ordered by the British Minister to leave the country, and here, accordingly, though some commissioned officers, e.g., Hart and D'Arcy, remained, the first period of British military tuition may be considered to have come to an end.

Nothing showed the meanness of Fath Ali Shah more clearly than his insistence, in the face of national danger, that the defence of Azerbaijan, which was the theatre of war, should be confined to Azerbaijan troops. Sooner than incur the expense of raising and disciplining a national army, he preferred to see his prestige shattered, and his kingdom dismembered. The army of Abbas Mirza, of which we have been speaking, consisted of 12,000 men, raised in corps of 1,000 each from different tribes or localities in the province. These were known as the serbaz, i.e. those who staked or played with their heads, a charming euphemism for the profession at that time of a Persian soldier. In addition, Abbas Mirza had a regular brigade of cavalry, 1,200 strong, and a corps of horse artillery (Lindsay's command) with 20 field-pieces. The Persian army consisted, in addition, of a force of 8,000-9,000 janbaz, i.e. those who staked or played with their lives, who were attached to the king, and were inferior to the serbaz, both in pay, clothing, and discipline. These were recruited from the outlying districts and tribes, and included two Bakhtiari regiments, who were reported as very tractable by their English officers. How great a difference existed between the army thus composed, and that of the preceding century, will have been made evident by the details and figures which I have given of its organisation.

It might be thought that by the institution of a regular army on the European plan, and by the employment of European officers, armaments, ammunition, discipline, and skill, Persia would have gained considerably in military strength. Such was not the case. The English officers found the men docile and intelligent; but the Persian officers could not be otherwise described than as the greatest rascals in the world. Led by such superiors, what could be expected of a force brought face to face


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with European troops? Under these circumstances sauve qui peut was apt to be the general order, and a Persian infantry soldier is said to have naïvely remarked to his English commander, 'If there were no dying in the case, how gloriously the Persians would fight!' But it was in its effect upon the military spirit and resources of the country as a whole, that the disastrous consequences of the change were most seriously felt. Prior to the reign of Fath Ali Shah, the military strength of Persia had consisted in its inexhaustible supplies of light horsemen, furnished by the tribal chieftains, who, on the feudal basis of a military contribution, preserved a nominal independence. Each of these great khans or Ilkhanis lived in state and in comparative isolation from the central authority, among his own clansmen, keeping large studs of the finest breeds of Persian, Turkoman, and Arabian horses, and encouraging the spirit of horsemanship and patriotism among his followers. This system was absolutely broken down by the policy or the fears of Fath Ali Shah, who set himself to disintegrate the authority of these feudal barons, and shearing the locks of the Persian Samson, found, when it was too late, that he had sacrificed his strength. It is said that when General Yermoloff, the Russian Commander-in-chief in Georgia, heard that Abbas Mirza had begun to form a regular army, he exclaimed, 'God be praised! I shall be able to get at them now, which I never could do before.' Not less emphatic was Malcolm, who saw clearly that in a country as backward as Persia, and possessing governing institutions and a national character so foreign to the civilised idea, it was to an irregular army alone that the safety of the kingdom must be confided:

An army cannot be maintained in a state of discipline and efficiency for any length of time unless its pay be regular and its equipments complete; and this can never be the case except in a state where the succession to the throne is settled, where the great majority of the population are of peaceable habits, and where establishments are permanent and the laws respected and administered upon principles well understood, and not liable to be altered at the will of the sovereign and of his delegates. That a regular army, by the influence of its example and habits of order, may be instrumental in promoting civilisation, there can be no doubt; but this change must coincide with many other reforms, or every effort to render it effectual to the great end of national defence will prove abortive, and terminate in disappointment.[498]


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The highest authority, however, that I can quote is that of Sir H. Rawlinson, who was himself some years later an officer in the Persian army, and who enjoyed unrivalled opportunities of forming a judgment upon the matter. These are his words: —

It can be proved that whatever benefit Persia may have derived, as far as regards the centralisation of the power of her monarch, from the introduction into her armies of European discipline, she has been, as a substantive power, progressively weakened by the change, and rendered less capable of sustaining pressure from without. ... To a nation devoid of organisation in every other department of Government a regular army was impossible. It thus happened that, notwithstanding the admirable material for soldiery which was offered by the hardy peasantry of Azerbaijan, and the still hardier mountaineers of Kermanshah; notwithstanding the aptitude of the officers to receive instruction; notwithstanding that a due portion of physical courage appertained generally to the men, the disciplined forces of Persia were from the epoch of their first creation contemptible. Beyond drill and exercise they never had anything in common with the regular armies of Europe and India. System was entirely wanted, whether in regard to pay, clothing, food, carriage, equipage, commissariat, promotion, or command. At the same time a false confidence arose of a most exaggerated and dangerous character; the resources of the country were lavished on the army to an extent which grievously impoverished it; above all, the tribes, the chivalry of the Empire, the forces with which Nadir overran the East, and which, ever yielding but ever present, surrounded, under Agha Mohammed Khan, the Russian armies with a desert, were destroyed. Truly, then, may it be said that, in presenting Persia with the boon of a so-called regular army in order to reclaim her from her unlawful loves with France, we clothed her in the robe of Nessus.[499]

After the disappearance of the greater part of the English detachment in 1815, Abbas Mirza once again hankered for the fleshpots of France; but his resolution to employ officers of that nationality was soon abandoned, and Colonel D'Arcy was sent instead in charge of some Persian youths for instruction in England. Some French officers were, however, engaged to train the Kurds in the army of Mohammed Ali Mirza, the eldest son of Fath Ali and Governor of Kermanshah, and a regiment of lancers was formed in Azerbaijan by a Colonel Drouville[500] and was passed on in a state of decline to Lieutenant Willock.


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Then ensued a long period of apathy, until, in August 1826, Russia having for some time assumed an attitude of studied provocation, war again broke out on the N.W. frontier. The effects of the preceding lethargy were soon visible. Persia cut a very sorry figure on the battle-field, and, after the war had lasted for a year and a half, and had resulted in sufficient Persian discomfiture, it was closed by the Treaty of Turkomanchai in February 1828. After the death of Hart in 1830, Colonel Shee was the only remaining English officer of any rank in the Persian service.[501] He and some English drill sergeants, among whom was Sergeant Gibbons, whom I have before now quoted, accompanied Abbas Mirza on his campaign in Khorasan in 1831-2; but the successes of the Prince in that expedition, in which he successively reduced Kerman, Kuchan, and Sarakhs, had a most unfortunate effect upon the temper of the Persians, who became inflated with unreasonable pride, and thought themselves good enough to conquer any enemy without European assistance. One of the most curious elements in the Persian army at this time was a corps known as the Russian Deserters, being the half of a battalion who had been taken prisoners by the Persians on the march to Shisheh in 1826, and had enlisted in the service of their captors. They were commanded by a Colonel Samson Khan, a Russian serjeant-major who deserted his countrymen, married the daughter of the Vali of Georgia, and betook himself to Persia. These Bahaderan (or grenadiers) were well paid, and fought well for their new masters, until finally disbanded about 1840. Colonel Stuart described them in 1835 as 'wearing heavy shakos with high green plumes, red coutees with wings of blue cloth and white lace, loose white trousers and high boots.'[502]

The expedition of Abbas Mirza into Khorasan and against Herat, the siege of which place was only raised because of his death in the autumn of 1833, had re-aroused the languishing solicitude or alarms of the Indian Government, and a more decisive step in support of British interests was now taken by the Governor-General, Lord W. Bentinck. A considerable supply of arms and accoutrements was despatched to


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Persia in 1832-3; and in March 1834, six months before the death of the old king, Fath Ali Shah, there arrived in Teheran a large detachment of officers and sergeants from India, with ample provision for every branch of the military service. Included among the officers were the names of Sir Justin Sheil and Sir H. Rawlinson (both of them afterwards Ministers to the Persian Court), Colonel Farrant (afterwards Chargé d'affaires), Colonel Passmore, in command, Colonel Stoddart (murdered in Bokhara in 1842), and Colonel D'Arcy Todd, who was placed at the head of the artillery. Colonel Sheil was sent to recruit a regiment among the Shekaki tribe in Azerbaijan; Major Rawlinson was given the command of regiments drawn from the two famous Kurdish tribes of Kalhur and Guran, and in 1836 marched with part of the army of Bahman Mirza, Prince Governor of Kermanshah, through Luristan and Khuzistan to Shushter.[503] Sir H. Bethune was now again in Persia, and, upon the death of the old king, was placed in command of the army, which safely and expeditiously conducted the new sovereign, Mohammed Shah, to the capital, and seated him upon the throne. In the same year (1835) he crushed the rebellion of the king's uncle, Husein Ali Mirza, the Firman Firma, at Shiraz. In the re-awakened burst of military activity, a sum of 2,800l. was granted to him for two years for the re-establishment of a foundry; and he was authorised to lay out 400l. in the purchase of musical instruments! Two thousand rifles and accoutrements and 500,000 flints were despatched from England as presents for the Shah; and Lieutenant Wilbraham and eight sergeants of the Rifle Brigade came out in 1836 to instruct the Persians in the use of the European arms. Such were the character and the dimensions of the last serious attempt made by the British Government to remodel the army of Persia.

A very good account of the army at this period has been left by Colonel Stuart, who came to Persia in 1835 as private secretary to the British envoy, Sir H. Ellis.[504] The relics of old and the introduction of new uniforms, the varying age and character of the weapons employed, and the bizarre combination of Eastern and Western ideas, rendered it a decidedly peculiar institution. When the envoy reached Zinjan, he was


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met by an ishikbal, consisting of 'twenty regular lancers commanded, in English words, by a sergeant of our 4th Light Dragoons, and forming part of a body of 100 men raised in the Khamseh district, drilled and disciplined by Mr. Farrant. They wore red jackets, loose blue trousers, and Persian caps; and were armed with swords, holster pistols, and lances with red and blue pennons.' The Khamseh Lancers, however, were soon voted too expensive a luxury by the king, who found that their keep cost 4l. daily; and, accordingly, they were disbanded, and Colonel Farrant was told off to instruct the Royal Bodyguard, or gholams.

This second English experiment was even less successful than the first. Persia was not at the time face to face with an overwhelming national danger; and the new sovereign, Mohammed Shah, was inflamed with preposterous ideas of personal military renown. The British officers were not well received from the start, and were subjected to constant humiliation from the spite and jealousy of their Persian colleagues. They were not even informed beforehand when reviews were going to take place. Among the regiments whom they were expected to lick into shape, they found it difficult to contend with the turbulence and rascality, the thieving and drunken propensities, of the recruits. After three months' hard work, Sheil wrote, 'I begin to think it hopeless to endeavour to establish a nizam (regular army).' And again: —

With no power except that of the lash and such authority as from personal character they could acquire for themselves — no control over the pay or rations, which were always embezzled, or over promotion, which was always bestowed from corrupt motives — it is not surprising that the English officers did not effect more than was done. If they could not enable the Persian troops to contend successfully with the regular troops of other nations, they at all events gave the Persian artillery and infantry the means of beating an unlimited number of Afghans, Koords, and Toorkomans, or irregular Persian troops.[505]

It was owing, however, to political and diplomatic rupture in the first place that the experiment broke down. In the second year of his reign, Mohammed Shah commenced the execution of a design long cherished by himself, but avowedly repugnant to England, by marching against Herat. The growing ascendency of Russia, and the strained relations with Great Britain, were illustrated


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by the insulting dismissal of all English civil and military officers from the royal camp in the summer of 1836; and when, after two years of ineffective protest and diplomatic duelling, Sir J. McNeill finally hauled down his flag and quitted Persia, all British officers in the Persian service were ordered to do likewise. Thus abruptly and futilely terminated the last appearance of British officers upon the parade grounds or battle-fields of Persia. Failure though the experiment may have been, viewed in the light either of immediate consequences or of its bearing upon Anglo-Persian relations, it yet remains true that, such as it is, the Persian army, even at this day, exists only by virtue of what British officers did for it in the past; and that though other nationalities may have stepped in to claim, or more frequently to ruin, the harvest, yet whatever of drill, or discipline, or efficiency, is still found among the soldiers of the Shah, has sprung from the seeds which were so laboriously sown for thirty years by the exertions, and were even watered by the life-blood, of Englishmen.[506]

Upon the retreat of the English detachment, the French, who seem throughout the century to have occupied a position analogous to that of a second string in a racing stable, again appeared upon the scene. Sir H. Layard encountered them in the Shah's army at Hamadan in 1840;[507] and his companion, Mr. Mitford, was in their company at Teheran a little later.[508] The


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experiment was a complete failure and was sooner or later abandoned; nor would it be worthy of mention, even among the forgotten episodes of history, had not one of this French contingent been General Ferrier, who, after leaving the Shah's service, made the journey through little-known parts of Persia and Afghanistan, that resulted in his interesting work 'Caravan Journeys,' wherein may be found one of the most notable tributes to British rule ever paid by a rival pen. The estimate of the material with which they were called upon to deal entertained by the French officers may be judged from the saying of one of their number quoted by Binning: — [509]

Les soldats n'ont ni discipline, ni respect, ni obéissace pour leurs chefs. Ces derniers n'ont aucun sentiment de leurs droits, de leur devoir, de leur dignité, et sont incapables de guider ou de reprimer convenablement leurs subordonnés.

The French having disappeared, the Persians in their search for military pastors and masters descended a little lower in the international scale; and about the middle of the century the military science of Europe was represented at Teheran by a number of Italian officers, refugees from Naples and Venice, and by a few Hungarians and Austrians, lent to the Shah by the Emperor of Austria. The latter appeared upon the scene in 1852, in the person of four officers, a doctor, a chemist, and a mineralogist. Two died in Persia; the rest vanished in 1858 and 1859. The Italian refugees arrived in 1854, six in number, and lasted a longer time; for between the years 1865 and 1870, Mr. Mounsey speaks of them as appearing in plain clothes, without swords, but armed with stout sticks, with which they belaboured the men; a spectacle calculated to draw tears even from a civilian. In 1859 another French mission turned up, under Major Brognard, who brought with him four commissioned and four non-commissioned officers, a bandmaster, and a mechanician for the arsenal. All left in 1861.

Dissatisfied with these experiments, and disgusted at the calamitous defeat experienced by a Persian army at Merv in the autumn of 1860, the Shah now bethought himself again of his ancient allies and once more applied for British assistance. It was characteristic of the attitude of the British and Indian Governments


[page 587]

towards Persia at this time, and of the superb indifference displayed by both to British interests in Central Asia, that the proposal fell through owing to a petty squabble as to the share of the expense to be borne by the Indian and Persian exchequers.[510] Once again, in the year 1870, the request was renewed; but the criminal reign of masterly inactivity being then in its prime, it was again refused, the plea for rejection being the charge that Persia was engaged in hostilities against British allies in the shape of Afghanistan and Beluchistan. As late as 1874, Sir H. Rawlinson still recommended 'an experimental contingent force of 10,000 men raised, armed, fed, paid, clothed, disciplined, and commanded by British officers;' but his voice was as that of one crying in the wilderness, and the demand is one that, so far as we can judge, is not likely to be immediately renewed, and might now be attended with difficulties that would not have been encountered at an earlier juncture. Vain though the experiment of a regular army may have been in the earlier years of the century, the presence of British officers with the Persian troops could not fail to have been attended with salutary political consequences; whilst there are districts in Persia where their labours, if energetically supported, might have resulted in an invaluable addition to the defensive strength of the kingdom.

On the occasion of his second visit to Europe in 1878, the Shah was particularly impressed with the reception accorded to him, and with the sights arranged for his edification, in Vienna; and the result of this satisfaction was an arrangement by which a large staff of Austrian civil and military officials was again placed at his disposal for a period of three years, in order to reorganise both branches of the Persian public service. Eleven officers, including a colonel, a major, three captains, and five lieutenants, arrived in Teheran in January 1879; and the scheme propounded for their employment was the formation of seven battalions of 800 each, or a total force of 5,600 men, in the province of Irak, Sultanabad, being the organising headquarters, and a year being allowed, at the end of which time the troops were to be presented in spick-and-span order to the Shah.


[page 588]

Needless to say, this brave forecast was not realised. The Austrian officers, who do not appear to have been of a high stamp, made little or no attempt to learn the language, squabbled with each other and with the Persian Government, and finally, for the most part, retired in disgust. After their disappearance, a number of non-commissioned officers of the same nationality were either engaged or kept on as drill instructors to the Persian infantry and artillery; and a relic of the Austrian régime still survives in the person of the Austrian corps, consisting of Persians who were drilled by the Austrians as officers of regiments belonging to the so-called Corps d'Armée d'Autriche, which has since been disbanded and resolved into the territorial elements from which it sprang. The officers linger on, but no longer receive any pay.

Simultaneously with the introduction of the Austrian element, the steadily increasing influence of Russia at Teheran was exemplified by the appearance upon the scene of Russian officers, uniforms, equipment, and drill. Colonel Dumantovitch, an officer who had served under General Tergukasoff in the early Turkoman campaigns, with three commissioned and five non-commissioned officers, was engaged to organise a regiment on the Cossack model at Teheran. Very effectively did the Russians proceed with their work. One thousand Berdan rifles, costing 3l. apiece, and some steel cannon for two light field batteries were presented gratis to the Shah by his very good friend the Emperor of Russia; swords were manufactured at Teheran on the Russian pattern at a cost of 12½ krans, or 7s. apiece; the men were dressed and accoutred without the smallest deviation from the model of the West; and the Shah could presently congratulate himself upon a faithful reproduction of the genuine Caucasian article. At the present moment there are three of these Persian Cossack regiments, drawing pay for a nominal strength of 600 each — i.e., 1,800 men; though in reality they consist only of two regiments of 600 each — i.e., 1,200 men, represented, however, as three regiments with a reduced strength of 400 each. Their full complement of Russian officers is one colonel, three captains, one lieutenant, and ten non-commissioned officers; but when I was in Teheran these had been reduced to one colonel, one captain, one lieutenant, and six non-commissioned officers. I shall have something more to say about them when I come to an enumeration of the component


[page 589]

parts of the existing army. In the present year it has been decided to raise a fourth and similar regiment of Persian Cossacks among the Kurds, Timuris, and other tribes of the north-eastern frontier.

In addition to the Russian officers, relics of the successive waves of foreign military importation which I have described still survive in Persia in 1891 in the person of seven Austrian officers, six of whom are generals, and one a major, a French bandmaster dignified with the rank of a general, an Italian and a Bulgarian chief of instructors, an Italian head of police, and two Prussian officers, acting as professors in the Royal College. This is the flotsam and jetsam that the receding tide of polyglot military influence has left stranded upon the dubious shore-line of Teheran.

From this brief historical retrospect of the Persian army in the past, and particularly during the nineteenth century — the information contained in which I have derived from a great number of sources that have nowhere else been collated — I turn to an account of the Persian forces as they now are. Roughly speaking, the army in Persia may be said to consist of three constituent parts:

1. A large number of irregular cavalry furnished by the frontier, or nomad, or warlike tribes, and commanded by their chieftains or khans. These must by no means be confused with the irregular horse, as the term is employed in the military annals of England or India. In Persia they are in no sense a drilled, organised, or disciplined body of men, but consist of rude tribal levies, raised without fixed method from such districts or clans as possess fighting material, horses, and a frontier to guard; and while the staple of which they are formed is masculine and robust, yet, in the absence of discipline, and still more often of pay, they are apt to constitute a greater danger than protection.

2. A semi-regular army of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, equipped, clothed, and drilled on more or less European lines, and constituting the bulk of the defensive forces of the kingdom.

3. An irregular infantry militia (tufangchis, or matchlock men, shamkhalchis, and jezailchis), raised and supported by local districts and cities for the protection of life and property within their own borders. Nominally, this is a large force, only called out in cases of dire emergency. In reality, it is an insignificant and


[page 590]

contemptible body of men, armed with obsolete weapons and performing with much reluctance the duties of local guards.

The numbers of these various elements are as follows. I am obliged to adopt a probably unprecedented classification, and to arrange them under four headings, representing respectively: — (1) the hypothetical Army List of the Persian Government, which is an official record based upon imagination; (2) the nominal strength liable to be called out for active service; (3) the number alleged to be habitually under arms; and (4) the actual number at present serving with the colours. There is probably no other army in the world that can be depicted by its apologists or its critics as figuring in so many categories.

The theoretical Army List of the Shah, published in the 'Sal Nameh,' or 'Annual Official Gazette,' gives the total of the Persian army as 200,000 — 150,000 in the regular army and 50,000 in the militia or reserves. These figures may be dismissed without either comment or examination.

The nominal strength liable to mobilisation is as strength follows: —

Irregular or Nomad Cavalry

16,350

Camel Artillery (Zamburakchis)[511]

80

Semi-regular Cavalry

2,493

Austrian Corps

169

Regular Infantry

63,700

Militia

3,600

Artillery[512]

4,000

— — —

 

90,392

I next come to the third heading, containing the alleged effective strength under arms: —

Irregular Cavalry

12,427

Austrian Corps

169

Semi-regular Cavalry

2,493

Militia

2,000

Regular Infantry

25,000

— — —

Artillery[513]

1,800

43,889

Finally, deducting for false, returns, deficient complement, and men on leave, the number actually serving with the colours at the present moment is believed to be about 30,000 men.[514]


[page 591]

I pass on to say a few words in explanation of the various items in the above lists, commencing with the irregular cavalry. Their elementary constitution I have roughly sketched. The best of them are the Kurds in the north-east and north-west, the Timuris in the east, and the various Iliats, or nomad contingents — such as the Bakhtiaris, — in the south-west. Sir H. Rawlinson, speaking from personal experience, once described the tribes on the western frontier, 'those inhabiting the range which runs from Ararat to Shiraz, as the very beau idéal of military material, the men being athletic, strong, hardy, and active.' The contribution of each tribe or district is regulated by the number of families or tents, and has varied greatly at different epochs. The commanding officers are generally the chief khans of the tribe, or one of their near relations, with the title of sertip or serhang, irrespective of the number of men under their command. Subaltern officers are usually designated yuzbashi or panjabashi — i.e. 'head of 100' (centurion) or 'head of fifty' — and also naib, or lieutenant. The officers have no regular pay, but when away from their camping grounds and on active service receive rations. The subalterns and men receive pay varying from 65 krans (1l. 17s.) to 1,000 krans (28l. 10s.) per annum, the latter being the pay of the royal gholams, or Shah's bodyguard, who are mostly khans and men of means. They also receive rations, 6½ pounds of barley, and 13 pounds of straw per diem. Including pay, rations, and allowances, the pay of the irregular cavalry soldier ranges from 4l. 12s. 6d. to 3l. 12s. per annum. The sowar, or trooper, usually sells his fodder, and accordingly his mount is apt to present a lean and woebegone appearance. But these very animals, as soon as they get a little food into them, are capable of astonishing feats of endurance. They are all entire horses, not, as a rule, above 141 hands in height, but hardy, active and sure-footed, and commonly fast. They are great weight carriers; for all the worldly goods of the sowar, his bedding, and the night clothing for his horse, are


[page 592]

packed into the saddle-bags which he throws across its back. In the thick felts which cover it from head to tail, the Persian horse is quite independent of the stable. These excellent animals can be purchased anywhere for very cheap sums, from 6l. upwards, and, when in marching trim, they easily accomplish from 24 to 30 miles in the day in any weather, over a country that would break the heart of a more highly-bred beast. Their riders have no uniforms, but provide their own mounts, kit, and arms, the latter consisting, as a rule, of a native rifle, a short, straight sword, and a pistol. They are for the most part splendid horsemen, being trained to ride from childhood, and being able to perform remarkable feats of agility or marksmanship while proceeding at full gallop. Herodotus said that the ancient Persians taught their sons three things — to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth.[515] Though the


[page 593]

last-named precept has long ago been expunged from the ethical code of their descendants, the Persians still observe the first prescription, while at 'drawing the long bow' they are unequalled in the world. These irregular cavalry are the sole modern survivors of the mounted hosts that scattered the legions of Rome, that followed the banner of Tamerlane, and that crossed the Indus with Nadir Shah. Numerically weak, ill-armed, and undisciplined as they now are, they might vex, but could not withstand, a European army. It is conceivable, however, that if one half the trouble and one quarter the money were expended upon them that have been squandered upon the nizam, or Persian infantry, they might still be consolidated into one of the most formidable bodies of light cavalry in the East. The latest list of territorial distribution which I have been able to procure divides the levies of the various squadrons — varying in strength from fifty to seven hundred men — as follows: twenty-three Azerbaijan squadrons, twenty-four Khoragan, one Astrabad (Yomut Turkomans), one Shahrud, one Kerman, five Gilan and Mazanderan, four Irak (including the Bakhtiari), four Burujird, four Khamseh, six Teheran, three Arabistan (Feili and Bakhtiari Lurs), four Kazvin, five Kermanshah, one Gulpaigan, one Kamareh, two Luristan, one Shiraz, one Hamadan.

What I describe as semi-regular cavalry consists of certain regiments, drilled, equipped, and armed after European patterns. Of these there are now three regiments, one at Isfahan and two at Teheran. The first-named is called the Foj-i-Fath-i-Nasiri, and is under the supervision of the Zil-es-Sultan. In pursuance of the Prince's well-known partiality for the German military system, the soldiers of this regiment are accoutred so as to imitate the Prussian Uhlans. They serve only six months in the year, and receive only six months' pay, which, in the case of the privates, amounts (rations included) to 233 krans (6l. 13s.) apiece. Both officers and men provide their own horses; but they are equipped, lodged, and armed at the expense of the State, privates and non-commissioned officers receiving one uniform per annum, or, if their services are required for more than six months in the year, two uniforms and rations for the extra period. The numbers, military ranks, pay, and rations of this regiment are set forth in the following table: —


[page 594]

REGIMENT OF ISFAHAN

Rank and number

Muwajjib,

annual pay per man

Jireh,

daily rations per man — wheat

Alik,

daily horse allowance

Totals for Regiment

per annum in krans

Grand total of pay and allowances per annum

Barley

Straw

Muwajjib

Jireh

Alik

 

 

krans

lbs.

lbs.

lbs.

 

 

 

krans

1

1

1

2

4

1

1

 

8

8

1

1

1

1

4

 

16

16

8

525

Sertip (General)

Serhang (Colonel)

Nazem (Inspector)

Yawar (Major)

Sultan (Captain)

Ajudan (Adjutant)

Beirakdar (Flag-bearer), with rank of Sultan

Naib awal (1st Lieut.)

Naib doyum (2nd Lieut.)

Polis mayur (Provost?)

Tabib (Surgeon)

Mushrif (Accountant)

Vekil-i-Kul              ü

Vekil Bashi              î

Sergeants

Vekil awal                ì

Vekil doyum            þ

Sarjuki (Corporals)

privates

6,000

4,000

3,200

1,800

1,200

1,800

1,200

 

1,200

840

1,800

3,000

3,000

420

380

 

370

346

334

320

78

39

19½

19½

19½

 

4⅞

4⅞

19½

19½

 

156

78

39

39

19½

39

19½

 

19½

39

39

 

312

156

78

78

39

78

39

 

19½

19½

39

78

78

13

13

 

13

13

13

13

6,000

4,000

3,200

3,600

4,800

1,800

1,200

 

9,600

6,720

1,800

3,000

3,000

420

1,520

 

5,920

5,536

2,672

168,000

362 tons of wheat, at 30 krans per kharvar of 650 lbs.

= krans 37,440

724 tons of barley at 15 krs. per kharvar, 37,440

1,448 ″ straw at 5 krs. ″ 24,960

krans 62,400

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

232,788

37,440

62,400

332,628

Seeing, however, that the regiment is only called out and paid for half the year, the actual cost is as follows: —

Krans

Pay

Rations

Horse allowance

î                                                 þ

half the above amounts

ì                                                 ü

116,394

18,720

31,200

Surgeon's allowance

1,200

Uniforms

18,000

Barracks

5,000

190,514

= £5,443

The two Teheran regiments are the so-called Persian Cossacks, who are supposed to be the peculiar glory of the capital and the pride of the Shah. One of these regiments is composed of men of the Muhajer tribe, and is designated therefrom; the other is called the Bumi regiment. Both are under the immediate supervision of Russian instructors; but, for some unexplained reason, the Muhajers get better pay than the Bumis and are regarded as the senior regiment. I saw these men upon


[page 595]

parade and frequently in the streets. They have a smart and workmanlike appearance, being dressed in a facsimile of the Russian Caucasian uniform, consisting of a shako, and long brown tcherkess or pelisse, drawn in by a belt round the waist. Thanks to the unremitting exertions of their Russian instructors, they are probably the best stuff in the Persian army; though the detach-


COSSACK REGIMENTS OF TEHERAN

Rank and Number

Muwajjib,

annually per man

Jireh,

daily rations per man

Alik,

horse allowance per diem

Totals for regiment per annum

Grand total of pay and allowance per ann.

Barley

Straw

Hay

Muwajjib

Jireh

Alik

I. MUHAJER REGIMENT

 

 

 

The first and second lieutenants, the N.C. officers, and the privates, 589 men altogether, receive daily rations of 3¼ lbs. of bread, 2½ oz. of cheese, 6½ oz. meat, and, in summer, 5½ oz. of grapes, once a week, rice and curry. Rations are compounded for at 8 shahis per diem

Horse allowance is compounded for as follows:

Barley, 15 krans per kharvar (650 lbs.)

Straw, 4 krans ditto

Hay, 10 krans ditto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

krs.

lbs.

lbs.

lbs.

krs.

krs.

krs.

krs.

1

1

2

4

1

8

 

8

 

1

 

1

1

 

4

8

560

Sertip (General)

Serhang (Colonel)

Yawar (Major)

Sultan (Captain)

Ajudan (Adjutant)

Naib awal (1st Lieut.)

Naib doyum (2nd Lieut.)

Mushrif (Accountant)

Tabib (Surgeon)

Vekil-i-Kul (Col. Sergeant

Vekil (Sergeant)

Sarjuki (Corporal)

privates

14,000

3,000

2,400

1,800

1,800

1,200

 

840

 

1,500

 

3,000

400

 

350

315

300

39

19½

16¼

13

13

 

 

13

 

16¼

 

78

39

32½

26

26

19½

 

19½

 

26

 

32½

13

 

13

13

13

19½

8

4⅞

 

4⅞

 

 

8

 

14,000

3,000

4,800

7,200

1,800

9,600

 

6,720

 

1,500

 

3,000

400

 

1,400

2,520

168,000

589 men at 8 shahis per man per

diem =85,994 krs. per annum.

662 tons barley, 34,250 krs.

1,324 ″ straw, 22,830 ″

331 ″ hay, 11,415

68,495 ″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

223,940

85,994

68,495

378,429

II. BUMI REGIMENT

1

 

 

 

560

Sertip (General)

Other officers and N.C. officers, same as I.

privates

12,000

 

Same as I.

180

 

Same as I.

 

 

Same as I.

 

Same as I.

 

 

 

12,000

 

Same as I.

 

100,800

 

Same as I.

 

Same as I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

154,740

85,994

68,495

309,229

Extras for I. and II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Russian Instructors (1 colonel, 2 captains, and some N.C. officers); pay, rations, and allowances

Interpreter, with rank of general

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

None

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

39

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

78

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

19½

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

660

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

80,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8,000

 

660

88,660


[page 596]

ment that was sent against the Yomut Turkomans near Astrabad in 1889, is said to have borne its due share in the general ignominy. The men supply their own horses, but receive an extra allowance of 100 krans per annum for 'wear and tear' of animal. Barracks[516] and stabling are provided at the Government cost. The privates of the Muhajer regiment receive pay and rations to the annual value of 655 krans (18l. 14s.); those of the Bumi regiment to that of 535 krans (15l. 6s.). The subalterns, non-commissioned officers, and privates receive also per annum one uniform of European cloth, one uniform of Persian woollen stuff, two uniforms of thin cotton, and one pair of boots, amounting in all to an annual value of 100 krans. Their arms and accoutrements, viz., Berdan rifle, sword, saddle, and bridle, are also furnished by the State. One of the chief causes of the superior efficiency of these troops is that the men are paid, from the Persian Treasury it is true, but through the hands of the Russian officers. The latter, however, do not control the promotion, which is a corresponding source of weakness. I append the foregoing table of the two regiments. To sum up, the annual cost of the two regiments, if kept at their full complement, would be as follows: —

Krans

Krans

Instructors

80,000

Interpreter

8,660

Regiment I.

 

Pay

223,940

 

Rations

85,994

 

Horse allowance

68,495

 

Medicines

1,200

 

Wear and tear of horses

58,900

 

Uniforms

58,900

 

— — —

497,429

Regiment II.

 

 

Pay

154,740

 

Rations

85,994

 

Horse allowance

68,495

 

Medicines

1,200

 

Wear and tear of horses

58,900

 

Uniforms

58,900

 

— — —

428,229

Barracks and stables maintenance

10,000

1,024,318

or £29,266


[page 597]

Neither regiment, however, is kept up to its full strength; and they have sometimes been less than 300 strong; although no corresponding reduction takes place in the number of superior officers and instructors. The average annual expenditure is reduced by the deficient complement to about 20,000l. About 30 of the privates have been taught music, and form a military band.

The regular infantry rest upon a territorial and tribal organisation. They are recruited in no fixed numerical proportion, but in the most arbitrary fashion from provinces, districts, villages,


[page 598]

or tribes, the selection of the individual and the command of the whole being left to the chief or governor of the area concerned. Some districts, accordingly, supply far more than their due quota, others much less. There is great lamentation when the order for a levy of recruits comes round, the lot of the Persian serbaz being so supremely unattractive that few would voluntarily espouse it. As a rule the villagers settle among themselves the choice of recruits, clubbing together in order to pay an allowance to the courageous individual (or to his family in his absence) who is willing to go. This informal payment is known as khaneh-wari (i.e. home pay), and varies from 3 to 20 tomans a year, the average being 8 to 10 tomans, or about 3l. 10s.; but the soldier cannot count upon it with certainty, and in many cases it is not paid at all. Service is for life, unless the soldier can scrape together sufficient money to buy a discharge from his colonel, or can bribe a substitute to take his place; and the ranks contain, on the one hand, beardless boys of fifteen or sixteen, and, on the other, many greyheaded and toothless old dotards who can scarcely hobble through the movements on parade. Christians, Jews, and Parsis, as well as the cultivators of crownlands, are exempt from military service. Theoretically, out of every three years the infantry soldier is supposed to spend two on service and one at home. But if this were so, a far larger number would be found with the colours than is actually the case. As a matter of fact, considerably more than half the regiments are disbanded; and of those that are mobilised, few display more than two thirds of their nominal strength. In the case of each infantry regiment the latter consists of ten companies, each of 100 officers and men — i.e. a total of 1,000. The actual strength is ten companies, with an average of seventy each, or a total of 700. The complement of officers is as follows: — One commanding officer (sometimes sertip = general, sometimes serhang = colonel), two majors (yawar), one adjutant (ajudan), ten captains (sultan), ten first lieutenants (naib-i-awal), ten second lieutenants (naib-i-doyum), ten ensigns (begzadehs), one quartermaster (vekil-bashi — a captain or lieutenant), one bandmaster (a captain or lieutenant). The non-commissioned officers of each company are: one sergeant, four corporals (sarjuki), and eight chiefs of tens (on-bashi).

The following is a table of the nominal pay of the Persian infantry. While on active service all three allowances are supposed


[page 599]

to be received; when not on active service the last alone, not, however, entirely in cash, 30 out of the 80 krans being so paid, and the equivalent of the remainder being supplied in two kharvars of wheat. A deduction of 20 per cent. is also uniformly made on the salaries of all officers from the rank of major upwards: —

Rank

Military pay

Rations

Home pay

Krans

Krans

Krans

Private

70

90

80

Corporal

80

90

80

Sergeant

90

90

80

Sergeant-Major

190

138

80

Ensign

190

126

80

Second Lieutenant

190

126

80

First Lieutenant

280

126

80

Captain                î

Adjutant

Standard Bearer      ì

580

540

80

Second Major

1,000

1,140

80

First Major

1,200

1,140

80

Colonel (Serhang)

4,000

1,860

0

3rd Class Sertip

7,500

3,000

0

2nd Class Sertip

9,000

3,960

0

lst Class Sertip

12,000

6,000

0

Outside the capital the Persian soldier is seldom seen in a complete uniform.[517] Articles of private clothing fill the gaps left by the inadequate or absent official garb. The ordinary uniform for regiments of the line is a tunic of coarse blue serge, with a brown leather belt, trousers of the same, and a shako of black lambskin with a brass badge in front; but it is rare to find a soldier who possesses the entire equipment. Theoretically, every private is supposed to receive two suits of cotton, one suit of cloth, and two pairs of boots per annum; whilst, every two years, when the regiment is disbanded, he is entitled to a bonus of six months' pay to help him home. The former he seldom receives; the latter never. I have seen soldiers in many part of the world, but rarely have I seen such creditable specimens of manhood so woefully attired, or so dismally furnished.


[page 600]

Army reform has been essayed by the present Shah, but has shared the same premature fate as have the majority of his ill-digested undertakings. The Amir-i-Nizam, whom he put to death in 1851, had turned his statesmanlike attention to the military, in common with the other resources of the country; and, had he lived, the army of Persia might to-day have been a very different body to that which it is. Again, in 1875, the Shah, under the influence of the powerful minister, Mirza Husein Khan, who then guided his counsels, promulgated what we should describe as a new army warrant, containing the most extensive reforms and involving a practical reconstruction of the entire army. Conscription was ordered, and the term of compulsory service fixed at twelve years. A permanent peace-strength of the army was instituted; promotion according to length of service was guaranteed; and provision was made for regular payment and retiring pensions. In common with most reforms in Persia, these salutary measures remained a dead letter, and have never been carried into execution. The old haphazard system continues, and will survive till it crumbles under the iron heel of a conqueror.

In 1886, the Persian Army List gave the territorial distribution of the regiments of the line as follows. Allowance must be made for the customary exaggeration, the majority of the regiments being unmobilised.

Name and District of Regiment

Garrison stations

26

Azerbaijan Regiments (nominally 800-1,000, really 600-700 strong)

Tabriz Teheran, Miandoab., Ardebil, Suj Bulak, Meshed, the Russian and Turkoman frontier

12

Khorasan Regiments (Karai-Tursbiz, Bostam, Semnan, 2 Kain, 3 Kerman, and 3 regiments of Tufangchis, 1 Kerman and Beluchi, 1 Astrabad, and 1 Meshed)

Sarakhs, Astrabad, Kain, Nasratabad, Teheran, Beluch frontier

7

Mazanderan Regiments

Astrabad

1

Gilan

Enzeli

5

Isfahan

Isfahan and Mohammerah

5

Khamseh

Meshed and Kelat

4

Dermvend

Teheran

3

Kazvin

Teheran

4

Kermanshah

Kurdish frontier

6

Kezzaz and Ferahan

Bushire, Bunder Abbas

1

Gerrus, 1 Kamareh, 1 Gulpaigan, 2 Luristan, I Malair, I Nihavend, 4 Hamadan, I Kurdistan

Shiraz

The personnel of the artillery is officially supposed to consist of fifteen battalions, and of the following regiments, more than half


[page 601]

of which are never embodied: thirteen Azerbaijan regiments, and one each from Khorasan, Astrabad, Shahrud and Bostam, Kerman, Isfahan, Burujird, Khamseh, Karaghan, Arabistan, Kazvin, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Gerrus, Kezzaz, Luristan, Malair, Nihavend, Hamadan, Teheran, Saveh, and Shiraz. Artillerymen receive double the pay of the soldiers of the line, but the same rations. The scale is as follows: —

Rank

Military pay

Rations

Home pay

Krans

Krans

Krans

Private

140

90

80

Corporal

160

90

80

Sergeant

180

90

80

Sergeant-Major

380

138

80

Ensign                 î

Second Lieutenant  ì

380

126

80

First Lieutenant

560

126

80

Captain                î

Adjutant

Standard Bearer      ì

1,160

540

80

Second Major

2,000

1,140

80

First Major

2,400

1,140

80

Colonel

5,000

1,860

0

3rd Class Sertip

7,500

3,000

0

2nd Class Sertip

9,000

3,960

0

lst Class Sertip

12,000

6,000

0

Of the arms it is impossible to speak with much respect. I have given the figures of guns available for use — i.e. alleged to possess carriages and to be in a more or less serviceable condition — as 164. There are four Russian guns of 8.7 centimètre calibre on the Krupp model. These are the best. The Austrian régime has left its mark in the shape of a large collection of muzzle-loading Uchatius guns, which are stored in the various arsenals in Teheran and the provincial capitals. Thirty of these are 7-centimètre mountain guns for mule batteries, divided between Teheran and Tabriz. At Teheran there are also eight Uchatius of 9-centimètre and ten of 1-centimètre calibre, as well as 72 rifled brass guns, made at Teheran, but possessing no carriages, and 350 venerable smooth-bores of every pattern and calibre from 24-pounders to 12-pounders, without carriages and absolutely worthless. A few of them are exhibited in the artillery square at Teheran, with the object of demonstrating to the inhabitants the overwhelming defensive strength of the place. At Tabriz, in addition to the mountain guns mentioned, there are eight Uchatius


[page 602]

of 9-centimètre, at Isfahan eight of 8-centimètre, two of 7-centimètre, and 17 others at the various frontier posts; while at the latter are also distributed 200 old smooth-bores of the antiquated and valueless character already described. The superior guns are seldom, if ever, taken out of the arsenal, and the men are consequently quite untrained in working them. Of regular field batteries with full complement of horses there are none. I saw a large number of steel shells in the arsenal, the material of which I was informed had come from mines in Mazanderan.

The arms of the line are even inferior to those of the artillery. The bulk of the infantry are armed with the old muzzle-loading percussion-cap musket known as Brown Bess, which was in use in England before the Crimean war and in Prussia till 1863. In the frontier provinces, such as Seistan and Khorasan, the militia still carry matchlocks of a palaeozoic pattern, which they fire from pronged rests, projecting like hayforks from the underside of the barrel. Stored in the Teheran arsenal for great occasions, and for occasional use on the Kurdish or Turkoman frontiers, are 10,000 breech-loading Werndl rifles, for which, however, there is said to be no reserve supply of ammunition, and which have rusted and deteriorated from long disuse. There are also 20,000 chassepôts and 30,000 tabatières (transformed muzzleloaders), which had been captured by the Germans in the Franco-German war of 1870, and were sold by them to the Shah during his first visit to Europe for 16s. each. They and their ammunition are equally contemptible. The bulk of the latter is manufactured in Teheran, near to which there is a powder factory, while small arms are fabricated in the arsenal opening on to the Meidan.[518]

I paid a visit to the Arsenal, where I was courteously received by two Austrian officers and conducted round the premises, consisting of a series of workshops opening on to garden courts. The Shah was about to pay his annual visit of inspection, and accordingly everything was in spick and span order. Here are an iron foundry, the chief products of which appeared to be copies of florid European statuettes for the decoration of gardens and public places; a percussion-cap factory, bought in France and conducted by an Austrian; and shops for the


[page 603]

manufacture or repair of belts, straps, and saddlery, with ox and buffalo hide from Hamadan, of musical instruments and water-cans, and of common swords for use on the parade ground and in the streets, the better blades being of Russian steel. Three hundred men were said to be employed in this arsenal, but a very small proportion of these appeared to be in the building. When I ventured to remark upon the inferior quality of a good many of the articles, I invariably received the same reply — viz., that they were 'seulement pour l'exercice,' and that all the best arms and accoutrements were hidden away for critical emergencies. What can be the efficiency of an army that rarely sees or handles the weapons which it would require to use in time of war, I leave my readers to conjecture.

On the various occasions when I came across the Persian soldiery, I used frequently to examine their muskets, which I almost invariably found to be not only of antiquated pattern, but in a state of great dirt and decay. The serbaz take no pride in their arms. Colonel Stuart mentions them as using their firelocks as leaping poles in crossing a stream. I have seen somewhere a story of a Persian infantry soldier who was handed a rifle with ejecting process, and who, when the empty cartridge flew back and hit him in the chest, fell over, convinced that he was mortally wounded. When their rifles finally become so choked with dirt as not to go off, the nipple is unscrewed, the barrel is planted in water, and a ramrod with a rag is worked up and down the barrel, which is then left in the sun to dry. Poor as is the execution which he can effect with this venerable weapon, it may be inferred that, when on great occasions the serbaz finds a breech-loading rifle placed in his hands, he is quite as likely to inflict mortal damage upon himself as upon the foe.

The Sal Nameh still continues to present on its imaginary roll-call the small corps of Zamburakchis (literally wasplets) or camel artillery, which was one of the military fancies of the earlier Kajar kings. They consisted of a small body of men, in orange uniforms, with green and red flags, mounted on camels, and working swivel-guns from their backs. In the time of Fath Ali Shah they always fired a royal salute when the king mounted or alighted from his horse.[519] Though still existing on paper, this


[page 604]

superannuated and utterly useless contingent may be eliminated from consideration, as certain never again to be mobilised.

Of the Austrian corps I have already spoken. The idea was that this corps, in reality a small brigade organised on the Austrian model, should serve as the nucleus of a new system for the whole army. In common with most other schemes of Persian reorganisation, the scheme came to nothing, and its only survivors are the young European-trained native officers, who are drafted as instructors into the various infantry regiments.

A Diplomatic Report in 1886 returned the army expenditure of the preceding year as 613,000l., plus 81,000 kharvars of grain, valued at 55,000l., or a total of 668,000l. I have seen other reports in which the total varied from 585,000l. to 850,000l. The revenue tables, which I publish elsewhere, return the expenditure for 1889 as 1,800,000 tomans, or 524,000l. But I cannot be sure that these figures are quite exhaustive; and in Persia I received, from a reliable source, the total of 2,500,000 tomans as the real annual outlay on the army. This was equivalent, at the then rate of exchange, to 714,000l., which we may accept as the mean annual charge. If we contrast this with the five millions sterling of Nadir and further remember that a large fraction of the smaller sum never reaches the army at all, we may find a far from imperfect clue to the lamentable decadence of the military resources of Iran.

Having now analysed and explained in detail the various ingredients of the Persian army, I pass on to say something of the system as a whole, of military administration in Persia, and of the personnel, both of the officers and the men.

Of the Persian officers as a class no one has ever been found to speak except in terms of contempt. Ignorant of military science, destitute. of esprit de corps, selected and promoted with no reference to aptitude, they are an incubus under which no military system could do otherwise than languish. When it is known that the command of regiments is sometimes inherited, sometimes vested in the hands of infants, and commonly bought and sold, a high stamp of officers is an impossible result. The theory would appear to be that an officer in Persia, like a poet elsewhere, nascitur, non fit. A child of eleven years or age was, at the time of my visit, a field marshal in the Persian army and, at the Royal levée which I attended at Teheran, stood between the Commander-in-Chief and an


[page 605]

octogenarian veteran, no mean type of the system which prevails through the entire hierarchy from general to ensign. Patronage and promotion in a regiment are in the hands of the colonel, who makes such a good thing out of the distribution, that the goodwill, so to speak, of his post is a marketable commodity, like that of a public-house in England, and has to be purchased for a fixed sum upon appointment. He sells commissions to his subordinate officers, he sells exemptions from service and discharges to the private soldier, he makes his mudakhil out of the rations and pay, and he frequently only advances a portion of the latter, subject to a usurious discount. Cases are well known of men being appointed generals or colonels whose whole life has been spent in civilian avocations, and, when a regiment is raised, it not infrequently happens that of the officers not one has ever worn a uniform or attended a drill. To obtain the higher commands large sums, varying from 200l. to 700l. or even 1,000l., are paid by the would-be sertips or serhangs. If the superior ranks are more commonly filled by men of good family, frequently, as I have pointed out, by hereditary descent, the lower grades of commissioned officers, from the yawar or major downwards, are drawn from the middle and lower classes, and occupy no social position whatsoever. Finally, it may be said of the Persian officer, that on the battle-field he suffers from an ineradicable disposition to run.

It should be said, however, in justice to the Shah and his son, the Naib-es-Sultaneh, that efforts have been made by both to turn out, by means of properly organised instruction, a superior body of officers to that which has hitherto existed. The Royal College, which was started by the present sovereign soon after his accession, somewhat upon the model of a French lycée, and which I visited and have described, contains a military department, where, under the instruction of two Prussian officers, military science is taught. I found thirty pupils in the Artillery, and forty-five in the Infantry class.

Not satisfied with this establishment, or anxious to emulate it, the Naib (who is Commander-in-Chief) started a separate military college in 1885, which contains 150 pupils, and entails an annual charge upon the military budget of 10,000 to 12,000 tomans. The curriculum is exclusively military, and the design is to turn out an improved type of officer. There is not the slightest necessity for two of these institutions, and there is


[page 606]

already some jealousy between them, the pay, uniform, &c., which are part of the endowment of the king's college, acting as an attraction which the Naib's college cannot equal. What the type of officer may be that the latter will ultimately produce remains to be seen. The cadets that I saw were very young boys.

While I am upon the subject of military reforms, I may mention two other schemes whose inauguration followed the first European journey of the Shah, and was itself speedily followed by their collapse. One of these was a Staff College, under a Danish officer. The other was a military hospital with twenty beds. An annual endowment was granted by the Shah, and regularly disappeared into the pockets of the hospital superintendent; and no provision appears to have been made for staff, medicine, or treatment. One day the Shah announced his intention of visiting the hospital, which, as usual, was empty. The superintendent was equal to the emergency. Twenty soldiers were hurriedly brought in from the barrack or bazaars, placed under the coverlets and instructed to groan when the sovereign walked in. Nor could anyone complain, seeing that the experiment was equally agreeable to all parties.

The average stamp of Persian officer being what I have described, it is not to be wondered at that his quality reacts with disastrous force upon and is reproduced in exaggerated proportions among the men. During the half-century since the Persian serbaz has ceased to be put through his exercises by British drill sergeants, and in the absence of any equivalent tuition, and the chronic stint of equipment, rations, and pay, he has sunk to a very low position in the scale of efficiency, courage, and fighting power. Military service is distasteful to him from the start. He is rarely, if ever, a volunteer. Ill-fed, ill-clad, and unpaid, in the intervals of service, and often while actually with the colours, he ekes out a scanty subsistence by plying the trade of a butcher, or porter, or moneychanger, or common labourer in the bazaars; from which employment he emerges on parade days, struggles into a uniform supplied from the depot, and, his perfunctory duty fulfilled, returns to his civil avocation. Even the men in uniform and actually embodied are usually to be seen slouching about the bazaars anyhow, and doing nothing. It is perhaps in respect of his pay that he is most to be pitied; for the money leaves the State chest in the first place, and


[page 607]

it is only because of the organised peculation of his superiors that it percolates in such attenuated driblets, after long periods of time, to the miserable private. Small wonder if, when the occasion arises, he wreaks a sweet revenge upon his own commanding officers by showing the white feather. Though in the Russian campaigns in the first quarter of the century the Persian infantry sometimes fought well, cases of amazing cowardice were frequently forthcoming. Upon one occasion a corps of the Hamadan regiment ran away at the sound of their own signal gun. It was from no mean experience of similar incidents that a Russian officer once ventured on the paradox: 'Persia can be conquered with a single company without firing a shot; with a battalion it would be more difficult; with a whole regiment it would be impossible, for the entire force would perish of hunger.' In the various fights that have taken place since the second Russian war, the Persian army has covered itself with singularly uniform disgrace. The siege of Herat by Mohammed Shah, in 1837-38, owed its miserable failure at once to the gallantry of Eldred Pottinger and to the astounding incapacity of the beleaguering force. In the short Anglo-Persian campaign of 1857, 10,000 Persian soldiers fled before 300 English red-coats on the Karun. In 1860 the Persian army sustained an ignominious defeat at the hands of the Merv Turkomans; and a well-disciplined European force of about 15,000 to 20,000 men could probably overrun and conquer the whole country, so far as actual fighting was concerned, without difficulty.

At Teheran I witnessed, by the kind invitation of the Commander-in-Chief, a special parade of the city garrison, nominally 7,000 men, but not at that time more than 4,000 strong, in the Meidan-i-Mashk or Champ de Mars, on the west side of the Meidan-i-Tupkhaneh. In addition to the infantry two batteries of artillery, including a mule battery, 400 of the Persian Cossacks, and a corps of cadets from the Military College, were on the ground. A riderless horse, furiously galloping about, reminded me of a precisely similar incident at the great review held before the Shah in Windsor Park in 1873, when a Persian officer was deposited upon mother earth in sight of the whole field. The infantry battalions marched past in four companies of 120 each, or a total for the regiment of 480 men. Three Azerbaijan regiments, two of Turkish nationality, which have always supplied the best fighting substance to the Persian ranks, made by


[page 608]

far the best exhibition. They were composed of fine stalwart fellows, well built and powerful, and with a higher average of stature, in all probability, than any British regiment of the line. But the equipment of the greater number, and the marching, were deplorable in the extreme, and it was sad to see such good stuff so hopelessly misused.[520]

Elsewhere on the road from Meshed to Teheran I met a regiment of several hundred men on the march. From van to rear it must have struggled over a length of road of about six miles. The men were in every nondescript variety of costume, with casual fragments or interpolations of uniform showing between. They shambled along on foot in singles, couples, or groups, their arms, kit, and cooking-pots in the case of the less poor being packed upon asses, in that of the majority being carried on their own backs. A few led horses and camels were employed to carry some of the camp equipment. The officers, in mufti, were encountered at intervals, leisurely ambling on mediocre steeds. In the absence of any provision for transport or commissariat, regiments on the march help themselves as best they can from the country or villages which they traverse. They are consequently regarded as an unmitigated curse by the peasants, and my native servant told me at Yezdikhast that on a former occasion when he visited the place he found the plank bridge withdrawn and the village in a state of triumphant isolation, owing to the passage of a Persian regiment, against whose exactions the inhabitants protected themselves in this thoroughly mediaeval fashion. Sir H. Layard was at Hamadan in 1840, just after a Persian army had passed that way, and the picture drawn by him of devastated fields, pillaged bazaars, ransacked dwellings, and cut-down orchards justified his concluding remark that 'Hamadan looked as if it had been taken and sacked in war.'[521] It was the same practice, a cen-


[page 609]

tury earlier, that drew from the reflective Hanway the following ratiocination: —

It seemed to be established as a custom in Persia for military people to pillage wherever they go, at least to compel the peasants to procure provisions for them. This is the occasion of the latter being deaf to all importunities on any principle of humanity or the laws of hospitality.[522]

 

It remains only to add that of army administration there is practically none. Arrangements for commissariat or transport do not exist, there is no ambulance corps, contracts for clothing are sold to the highest bidder, and the last thing in which there is any uniformity is uniform. In fact a more irregular army, in the most literal sense of the word, does not exist on the face of the globe. Irregular in its enlistment, dress, arms, ammunition, discipline, and service, it would be strange if its conduct were not irregular also.

For the lamentable condition of the Persian rank and file, the system, and not the individual, is indeed primarily responsible. Military administration falls under the same category as civil administration in Teheran, presents the same features and is disfigured by the same vices. A smart, or imposing, or plausible appearance covers deception and fraud, and the canker of peculation eats its way into the vitals of the service. This applies equally to pay, to armament, and to organisation. Commissions, as I have pointed out, are bought and sold. If a seeming paradox may be permitted, the soldier has even to pay for his pay; for a certain portion is deducted by his superior officer as discount upon anything approaching punctual payment. The secret of a reorganisation of the Persian forces would be a Government guarantee of regular pay. In peace the army is now a loose aggregation of slovenly units, in war it degenerates on the least provocation into a rabble. But by such simple means, and with capable officers, it might in a few years be converted into a creditable body of men.

That there is no intrinsic improbability in such a transformation, but, on the contrary, that there is in the personnel and stamina of the Persian recruit the basis of a military establishment of quite uncommon excellence, may be proved by the opinions of a long succession of competent authorities.


[page 610]

Sir H. Rawlinson spoke as follows at the Royal United Service Institution in 1858: —

As an animal a Persian is the finest creature in the world, for an Oriental he is so certainly. They are fine muscular men, and their powers of endurance are quite exceptional.

And again, in 1879: —

There are no people in the world who afford better rough material for military purposes than the Persians. The physique of the men is admirable, and their power of endurance is great; the absence of all habits of intemperance is very important,[523] while the general intelligence and personal courage of the men is beyond all praise. If the Persian material were placed at the disposal of a European power who would encourage and take care of the men, and develop their military instincts, a fine working army, very superior, in my opinion, to anything that Turkey could produce, might be obtained in a very short period of time.

With regard to the endurance and marching powers of the Persian infantry soldier, Sir H. Rawlinson stated that he once calculated the daily distance travelled in a continuous march of 2,500 miles made by the army of Abbas Mirza, and found that it averaged 21½ miles, a performance which he rightly described as quite unique in history.[524] Upon one occasion the men of his own regiment, being disbanded, reached their homes, which were 154 miles distant, on foot on the third day.

Sir J. Sheil, speaking from an even longer experience, said: —

Though the Persian never attains the wonderful precision of an English soldier — I doubt if he ever could — he has a very satisfactory readiness in comprehending and attaining the really essential points required in a regiment of infantry. A single battalion has a perfect facility in forming a line, or square, or column, even when unaided by European officers; but when it comes to be increased to a large body, and is required to move, then indeed it is chaos; they settle the difficulty by not moving at all.[525]


[page 611]

I might also quote the opinions of Sir F. Goldsmid, Colonel Val. Baker, and Captain Napier, who spoke in a similar sense; but I will content myself with citing the verdict of Sir C. MacGregor, who turned a critical eye upon every branch of the military establishment that he encountered in Persia, and who, in his blunt but expressive way, said of some regiments that he inspected outside Meshed: —

They are all composed of more or less fine material. To look at them without the eye of a soldier was simply to condemn them as a rabble of dirty, slouching-looking ragamuffins; but regarded as food for powder by one who knows the style of article required, they are by no means to be despised. They are dirty, slouching-looking ragamuffins certainly; but, brought into trim by English officers, they would very soon become fine soldierly fellows. ... They are, taken as a general rule, men of fine physique and very hardy muscular frames, and just the fellows to make into very fine soldiers, but they are shockingly neglected by the Government. ... God has given the Shah as fine a body of men as could be wished for, but he does nothing whatever for them.[526]

From this collection of expert opinion, which I make no apology for having quoted, seeing that a lay judgment on the matter might be open to suspicion, it will be seen that, wretched as is the Persian army at the present time, contemptible as is its equipment, and low as is its morale, there exists in the country, and particularly in the Western provinces, the material out of which, under a more salutary régime, a Persian soldiery might again be created, worthy of its ancestral renown. I confess that, so long as the present system continues, I do not see much chance of such a consummation. Elementary reforms — such as the issue of a single and simple manual of drill (to consolidate and supersede the discordant fragments of half a dozen different systems), the entire overhauling of the arms and ammunition, the institution of a proper code of military punishment, the promulgation of some system of promotion other than one based upon bribery and corruption, a permanent organisation of the regular infantry, and a resuscitation, under less haphazard conditions, of the powerful force of irregular cavalry which the country is still capable of producing, and better tuition for officers of all classes — might be introduced, and are sorely needed. But as long as the whole administration remains


[page 612]

rotten at the core, and the army is regarded as a profitable source of plunder for embezzling officials, instead of an instrument of national defence and an outlet for the manhood of the nation, so long will disgrace attend the Persian arms, and the Lion and the Sun be no more than a boastful symbol of disaster.

Sir H. Rawlinson has hazarded a prediction as to the future of the Persian army, which I must cite as a justification of hopes that might otherwise be thought premature. He said in the lecture before referred to: —

Persia can never become a rich, or a producing, or a manufacturing country;[527] but it will doubtless be turned to great account some day or other as a nursery for soldiers. The Persian, considered as a mere animal, is so very superior to any other Asiatic, to an Indian, or Turk, or even Russian, that it is impossible to avoid foreseeing that, as any European war becomes developed in the East, the military resources of Persia must be called into action. In fact, it seems that we could not have a more formidable engine of attack and offence launched against India than a Persian army commanded by Russian officers. In the same way we could not have a more efficient instrument of defence than the same army led by British officers or by officers acting in our interests.

The march of time and the revolution of Fortune's wheel have rendered it unlikely that Great Britain will ever enlist in her service the stalwart Turks of Azerbaijan or the hardy Kurds of the Turkoman and Kurdish frontiers. If these are fated to be the mercenaries of a foreign power, it will be neither from Calcutta nor from London that they will draw their pay. But it may well be that the nomad tribes of the south, from the Persian Beluchis on the east to the Iliat Bakhtiari and other Lurs on the west, may one day stand in line with British red-coats in the defence of their native country.


[page 613]

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