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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to General Clayton


Cairo

10th July, 1917

SECRET

General Clayton,

I left Wejh on May 9th, 1917 with Sherif1 Nasir Ibn Ali Ibn Radhi Beni Hussein of Medina as O.C. Expedition, and Nessib Bey El Bekri as Political Officer to deal with villagers and townspeople. Sherif Feisal's instructions were to open Akaba for use as a base of supply for the Arab forces, and to sound the possibilities of Sherifian action in East and South Syria.

We marched to Abu Raga where we increased our force to 36 men, and thence to the Railway at km. 810.5 which we dynamited on May 19th. Our route then lay by Fejr to Maigua in Wadi Soilan, for Jarf to see Nuri and Nawwaf. We heard however that they were to the North of us, so marched to Nebk (near Kaf) on June 2nd, where we met Auda Abu Tayi, and the Huweitat. Sherif Nasir stayed in Kaf to enrol Rualla, Shererat and Huweitat for the Akaba expedition.

I rode on June 4th with 2 men into Wald Ali2 country, via Burga and Seba Biar to Am El Barida near Tudmor on June 8th. Here I met Sheikh Dhami of the Kawakiba Aneza and heard that Hachim was away N.E. and Ibn Murshid confined in Damascus. I therefore went West with Dhami and his 35 men (whom I enrolled) to Ras Baalbek on June 10th and dynamited a small plate girder bridge there.3 From Ras Baalbek we rode South to El Gabban, in the Ghuta 3 miles from Damascus where on June 13th I met Ali Riza Pasha Rehabi,4 G.O.C. Damascus. Thence I rode to El Rudeine where I met Sheikh Saad Ed Din Ibn Ali of the Leja5 and passed on to Salkhad to see Hussein Bey El Atrash.6 From Salkhad we went to Azrak and saw Nuri and Nawwaf,7 and returned to Nebk on June 18th.

I found the enrolment finished. Nessib Bey El Bekri went to Salkhad with Hussein El Atrash with the instructions attached,8 and with Nasir I marched on June 19th to Bair where we reopened the dynamited wells. From Bair I rode to Ziza and saw Fawaz Ibn Faiz,9 and thence West of Amman to Urn Keis on June 23rd where I looked at railway bridge Z in the Yarmuk valley and saw Shererat and Beni Hassan Sheikhs. From Um Keis I went to Ifdein (Mafrak on the map) the first station below Deraa, and destroyed a stretch of curved rails at km. 173.10 From Ifdein we rode to Zerga, and thence to Atwi, where we failed to take the station, but killed 3 out of the 5 of the garrison, captured a large flock of sheep and destroyed a telegraph party of 4 men repairing the wire. We also dynamited a stretch of line. From Atwi I rode back to Bair, and rejoined Sherif Nasir who had meantime prepared the Western Huweitat. On June 30th we moved to El Jefer, clearing one well, and thence to km. 479 which we destroyed on a large scale, while a column was attacking N. of Maan near Aneyza. We then marched towards Fuweileh, where the gendarmes post had been destroyed by an advance column. They met us with the news of the re-occupation of Fuweileh by the belated relief expedition of 4/174/59 from Maan. We wiped out the battalion on July 2nd (taking the O.C., a mountain gun and 160 prisoners) at Abu El Lissan, and sent a flying column North which defeated the Turkish post at Hisha (railhead 5 miles East of Shobek), occupied Wadi Musa, Shobek, Tafileh, and is now near Kerak to take action there.

From Fuweileh we captured the post of Mreigha and then moved to Guweira where we met Ibn Jad of the Akaba Huweitat, and took 100 men and 5 officers. From Guweira we marched on to El Kethira (wiping out a post of 3 officers and 140 men) and thence to El Khadra in the North of Wadi Ithm, where the Akaba garrison surrendered at discretion. We entered Akaba on July 6th, with 600 prisoners, about 20 officers, and a German unteroffizier well-borer. I rode the same day for Suez with 8 men and arrived at El Shatt on July 9th.

As a result of the journeys and interviews noted above, between June 5th and July 6th, I am of opinion that given the necessary material assistance Arab Forces can be arranged about the end of August as in the sketch map attached. These levies will not (any more than the Hedjaz Beduin) be capable of fighting a pitched battle, but forces 1, 2, 4 and 5 may be able to ensure a cessation of traffic on the railways in their areas, and forces 6 and 7 should suffice for the expulsion of all Turkish posts in their districts, and the occupation of all ways of communication. Force 3 is our striking force (of perhaps 6,ooo not bad men) and may be able to rush Deraat, or at least should cut off the garrison there and hold up the line in the neighbourhood. I would propose to cut the bridge at Hemmah from Um Keis by force 2, if possible, as a preliminary of action, and if Damascus could be taken over by a part of force 3 it would mean a great accession of strength to the Arab cause.

These various operations fortunately need not be accurately concerted. If they took place in numerical order (as in the map) it would be easiest - but there is little hope of things working out just as planned. If they come off the L[ines] of C[ommunication] of the Turkish force in the Jerusalem area would appear threatened - but I do not think the Arabs can be advised to take action unless the E[gyptian] E[xpeditionary] Force can retain the Turks in front of them by a holding attack, to prevent large drafts being sent up to the Hauran. Force 3 is capable of only one effort (lasting perhaps 2 months) and if it is crushed Arab hopes in Syria will depend on the yet untried possibility of action between Horns and Aleppo - on which it is too soon to speak.

Sherif Nasir asked me to discuss with E.E.Force the situation, his needs, and the possibility of joint action by E.E.Force and himself against the Turkish forces in Palestine, as outlined above.

T.E.L.

 

1. Nasir proved most capable, hard working and straightforward during the expedition. I took a personal liking to him, and think him (after Faisal and Shakir) the best of the Ashraf I have had to work with.

2. My object was to meet the Bishr and compose their feud with the Howeitat with a view to working between Horns and Aleppo. The plan failed, but Dhami is in a position to act as go-between, or to provide men to destroy the Orontes bridges when required. He is now in Akaba - a good man.

3. The effect on the traffic was of course very slight, but the Metowila of Baalbek were most excited, and it was to arouse them that I did it. The noise of dynamite explosions we find everywhere the most effective propagandist measure possible.

4. Ali Riza is the well known Turkish Engineer General, President of the Syrian branch of the Arab Secret Society. He informed me that he had only 500 Turkish gendarmes and three unarmed Labour battalions in Damascus, and was not in a position to demonstrate his real feelings unaided.

5. With Saad Ed Din I discussed a provisional plan of action from the Leja when the need arises.

6. Hussein told me the terms on which the Druses are prepared to rise. They seem to me to offer a basis for negotiation.

7. Their action depends on that of the Druses. I am sure that by himself Nuri would do nothing, but he recognizes the certainty of his being involved in the struggle, and is profoundly pro-Arab and pro-Sherif. He is now collecting his annual corn supply in the Nugra, and is playing double till we require him.

8. Nessib El Bekri is volatile and short-sighted, as are most town-Syrians, and will not carry them out exactly - but no other agent was available.

9. Who was fair spoken, but I am convinced pro-Turk at heart. The Beni Saklhad will mostly follow Trad and Ibn Zebbu, who are our men.

10. The curved rails took 3 days to replace: the repair train then proceeded South, and at km. 174 exploded a very large compound Garland mine, and fell off a 15 foot high culvert into a valley. This caused a further delay of two days while the line was being searched.

Instructions to Nesib el Bekri >>

Source: DG 225-30
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 9 January 2006


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