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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to C. E. Wilson


[From Yenbo]

6.12.16

Dear Colonel Wilson

I got back yesterday and found your wire saying that I was to wire urgently anything critical. As a matter of fact the only thing urgent is for an air reconnaissance of Bir Said and Bir Jabir and Wadi Safra - and that is not possible till our landing ground here is finished (this afternoon) and I can direct the planes where these places are.* Unless they get a better map or local knowledge the planes simply are flying in the dark, and their reports cannot be much use. As a matter of fact we have never had any news from them at all to date. Perhaps they have none, or else they don't know we are here!

About wiring urgently. It is not possible from the S.N.O.'s ship. Atmospherics are bad just now, and naval messages take precedence, and the S.N.O. has a lot of wiring of his own, of course. I don't suppose my wire of conditions in Feisul's camp will get through for some day yet, and it is a long one of about 400 groups. This state of affairs will continue till we have a station of our own. I am very sorry to hear that the despatch boat is 'off'. It would have meant better touch with Rabegh, and less wiring.

The Minto is coming in today, and I am sending by it direct to Cairo an expansion of my telegram No. 29, which I expect will arrive quicker than the telegram itself via you.** The situation is certainly not good - and in the maze of conflicting reports and obvious exaggerations afloat here one can hardly see more. I am afraid the morale of the Harb is badly shaken, and Feisul's prestige and scope will suffer severely if he is confined to the Juheina only. However as soon as the aeroplanes can find their way about I will get up country again, and try and feel the intentions of Feisul and the Turks a little more closely.*** Feisul treats me very well, and lets me ask hear and see everything, including his agents. Of course I still pass as a Syrian officer, which makes my style a little cramped. My three days nearly knocked me up. To begin with I only got an average of one hour's sleep per 24, then we did some very hard camel travelling, and the alarms and excitements of the camp were great.

As for when I will go up - that depends I'm afraid entirely on how things work out. General Clayton's orders to me were to go ashore and do what seemed best, and it would be hard to be more definite. I do not quite understand what the Sirdar can mean by my superintending the 'supply question'. All that comes is handed over to the Sherif's agent, Abd el Kader, in the steamer, and discharged and stored by him. There is no possible road for us to butt into the matter, nor do I think it desirable. If each ship is given a full list of stores on board for Yenbo, in English or Arabic, then all necessary is the handing over of that list to Abd el Kader, and his receipt that he has had the contents.**** Our interference in matters of internal organization is not encouraged exactly!

I have asked you to let me hear occasionally about Sherif Abdulla and his movements. If he closes with the Turks he might be quite useful to the Wadi Safra operations, and fuller information would enable Feisul to coordinate. Of course it is quite probable that you have no news!

The "old man of the sea" of those Q.F. Mountain Batteries still weights us. If we could only get that responsibility off we would have done all and more than they asked.

One's isolation at Yenbo and lack of touch with everything will make one unable to see what news you need. So will you whenever a thing crops up send me a telegram asking for light on so and so? One gets so used to local things that one forgets they are unknown outside.

Yours sincerely

T.E. Lawrence

I have so much coding and decoding, and local work that I have been unable to write a word of a report which ought to be written on my visit to Feisul. If I can write one I will send it (or a copy, according to postal opportunity) to you.

Have just recd. a telegram from you, and one to Garland asking for news. I'm very sorry, but owing to atmospherics and press of normal work Capt. Boyle had to refuse my messages, and this meant two days' delay. I hope they most of them got off last night.

L.

 

* If they will take me up I will show them the roads.
** This is done to save the great delay of going to Jidda first: and there is not enough news in it to make it worth while sending a copy to you. 
*** Agents were not much good.
****If you think fit, please explain the local conditions to the Sirdar. Abd el Kader is as efficient and reliable as any British Officer.

Source: DG 211-2
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 2 January 2006


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