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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence, report, 15 March - 7 April 1917

RAIDS ON THE RAILWAY
[Arab Bulletin, 13 May 1917]


 

I. - Abu Mark'ha to Abu el-Naam

From March 15 to March 26 I stayed in Sidi Abdullah's camp. On Monday, March 26, we started off at 7.50 a.m. for the railway at Abu el-Naam. With me were Sherif Fauzan (Hurith, Emir of el-Modhiq), Sherif Suleima (Abdilla), Sidi Raho (Algerian officer in French service), and Mohammed el-Gadhi (Juheinah). We were joined shortly by Mufaddhil, a Selqa Anazeh Sheikh. Total force, about thirty men. We went away down Wadi Ais till 8.5o a.m., when we turned slightly to the left, after rounding the mouth of Wadi Tleih coming from the north-west. At 9.20 a.m. we crossed to the right bank of the wadi, under a rock wall, and at 9.30 a.m. reached a corner and bore more to the right. This is El-Marraha. At 10 a.m. we turned a little to the left, and came out of the narrows on to a broad plain, formed by the confluence of the wadis from right to left. Just in front of us was Bir el-Amri, about twenty feet deep; water slightly brackish, but abundant. The hills on the right, beyond the bend of the wadi, are high. At 10.40 a.m. we halted under a great sidr tree, and spent the mid-day there. Wadi Ais proved almost luxuriant with its thorn trees and grass. There was a cool east wind, and the valley was full of white butterflies and the scents of flowers.

We mounted again at 3.40 p.m., and at 3.50 p.m. reached an old wall, which deflects the stream of the wadi to its left bank, and guards an earth terrace, about five feet high, on its south side, against floods. The wall is constructed of chosen unhewn blocks, about a foot square each, and tolerably coursed. It is about a mile and a half long, and fairly solid. Its present greatest height is about four feet, but it must go down some considerable depth below the wadi bed, to withstand the floods. In the terrace, about 400 yards wide, partitioned off by the wall, are remains of fields, house-foundations, and a large sunk water-basin, of correct masonry. At 4.10 p.m. we left Wadi Ais, which turned off northwards on our left towards Murabba. We went up a narrow valley into Jebel Serd. At 4.45 p.m. a valley came in on the right; at 5.5 p.m. we reached an easy watershed and crossed the heads of a valley flowing north to Wadi Ais. At 5.15 p.m. we crossed a second watershed, also easy, and went down a small valley into W. Serum at 5.25 p.m. We camped here for the night, watering from Ghadir Seriarn (Moeit Hefna), ten minutes away in the foothills east of us.

Tuesday, March 27

Started at 5.35 a.m. and crossed El-Mauggad to the north end of J. Serd, and went up and down its first spur by a very steep, sharp path (there is a much better road for guns, ten minutes south of our road, over J. Serd). This took us down into a deep wadi, which we crossed, and thence over a second wadi (Seil el-Howeiti) and a low divide, giving on a side valley, up which we wound to another steep saddle at 7.3 a.m., and a nasty descent into a long rough narrow valley leading down into Wadi Turaa, which enters Hamdh opposite the mouth of W. Tubja. We reached this W. Turaa at 7.45 a.m., and camped at 8.25 a.m. near Bir Fueir. W. Turaa is a plain, bearing north-west, full of trees, and grass, with a sandy surface, much cut up with seils. One of these had filled in the well this year, but waterpools exist in plenty in the hills, so that the many tents in the valley have no lack of water. Wadi Turaa is the best way down to Wadi Yambo, and Ras el-Fura (Kheif Husein) is about two days camel from here. The flat-topped straight-sided hills on the north bank of the valley are J. Um Rutba. The valley is Urwa dira.

We started again at 4.20 p.m. and at 5.5 p.m. turned 6o° up a valley. At 5.20 p.m. about 120° and at 5.30 p.m. 6o° again, up the Upper course of W. Turaa, a broad smooth road, for half an hour till we lost the way, and wandered about the foothills, like Virgil's crippled snake, till 6.40 p.m., just across the watershed of W. Turaa and W. Meseiz. Our guides were at fault in bringing us (to be near some tents) too far north from our first entry into the Turaa plain. The quickest and best road is straight across to Ain Turaa, and up the east branch of the wadi direct to the watershed.

 

Wednesday, March 28

Rode at 5.5 a.m. past north end of J. Tareif and down W. Meseiz, which is a steep, loose ramp of shingle and stones, scored deeply by water, unfit for wheeled traffic, into the great plain of el-Jurf, across which W. Meseiz cuts its way east to join W. Gussed, flowing north from J. Agrad. At 6.15 a.m. we were well into el-Jurf, and going due east, with J. Antar, a castellated rock with a split head perched on a cone, most conspicuous about ten miles off to the south. J. Jeddah, a group of needles, lay about six miles off down W. Gussed beyond Aba el-Hellu. We rode 90° till 7 a.m. and then 140° till 7.40 a.m., and camped under a tree in Wadi Gussed. It is very fertile in a wild way - indeed all the Jurf is. We were camped nearly at the south end of a tongue of hills, which walls off el-Jurf from the Hamdh valley. To the south el-Jurf opens into el-Magrah, up which the railway climbs to a watershed near J. Bueir, and one comes down to join the Hamdh at Abu el-Naam; and our own Wadi Guad, rising a little further west, in the foothills of Azrad (where is water in themail), runs down north to join the Hamdh near Jedahah, after giving the waterhole of Ahu el-Hella on its passage through the hills. J. Tareif, prolonged by Azrad, forms a blank wall of hill to Bowat. There is no way up it for camels into the valleys beyond, except a difficult pass just south of our camp.

In the afternoon we went up the Dhula of Abu el-Naam, just behind the camp, and examined the railway and the station at 6,ooo yards. It has two large basalt and cement two-storeyed buildings, a circular water-tower, and a small house to the west; and about the houses were many bell tents and shelter tents. The perimeter was heavily entrenched, but there were no guns visible, and we only saw about 300 men. A trolley went off north with only one man on it, to the bridge over W. Hamdh, which Dakhilallah had attacked. It was a large bridge, of about twenty arches of white stone, and next to it were some shelters, and on the top of a coal-black mound just north of the bridge, some dozen white tents, with Turkish officers lounging in chairs beside them. At 2 p.m. a train (locomotive reversed), came in from the south. It had four water cisterns (improvised iron tanks on trucks), and four box-wagons, and after watering, went off north. The station of Istabl Antar was clearly visible on the Ras el-Magrah, but Jedhah was behind hills. Returned to camp at sunset, after sending snipers to Istabl and Jedhah to stop night patrolling. The Turks had been very active lately by night, but we succeeded in confining them to stations by the simple means of firing shots in the air near the stations at night. They expected an attack, and therefore concentrated the men in the G.H.Q. and stood to arms in the trenches all night.

 

Thursday, March 29

Up at 5.20 a.m. Very cold, with a restless dawn wind blowing down el-Jurf, singing in the great trees round our camp. We spent most of the day admiring Abu el-Naam from the hill-top. The garrison paraded, and we counted them as 390 infantry, and twenty-five goats. No camels or horses, except the two or three near the well, which we captured subsequently. A train came in from the north, and one from the south. That from the south went on and contained baggage and women. The northern train stayed all day and the night in the station. At midday we heard from Sherif Shakir, who was coming up with the main body (we were only the reconnaissance), that he would arrive at sunset, and we wandered out across el-Jurf to the last foothills of Dhula Abu el-Naam, till we found what seemed to be a good gun-position, about 2,000 yards west of the station. There were no Turkish outposts to be found, except that on the bridge. Behind the station is a steep hill, J. Unseih, about 400 yards distant, and we decided to put 400 men into it, to take the Turks in the rear.

The hills about us were typical of the Eastern Hejaz hills. They were of glistening, sunburnt stone, very metallic in ring when struck, and splitting red or green or brown as the case may be. The upper part of the hill is a cap, of an outcrop of base rock, and the lower screes are hard at the foot, where they are packed with a thin soil, but loose and sliding on the slopes. From them sprout occasional thorn bushes, and frequent grasses. The commonest grass sends up a dozen blades from one root, and grows hand-to knee-high, of yellow-green colours. At the head are empty ears, between many feathered arrows of silvery down. With these and a shorter grass, ankle deep, bearing a bottle-brush head of pearl-grey, the hillsides are furred white, and dance gaily in the wind. One cannot call it verdure, but it is excellent pasture, and in the valleys are great tufts of coarse grass, waist high, bright green in colour till it fades to a burnt yellow, and growing thickly in all water-lined sand or shingle. Between these tufts are thorn trees from eight to forty-feet in height, and less frequently sidr trees, giving thick shade, and dry sugary fruit. Add some brown tamarisk, broom, a great variety of coarse grass and flowers, and everything that has thorns, and you exhaust the usual vegetation of the Hejaz. Only on steep hillsides is there a little plant, hemeid, with fleshy green heart-shaped leaves and a spike of white or red blossom. Its leaves are pleasantly acid, and allay thirst.

Shakir arrived at 5 p.m., but brought only 300 men, two machine guns, one mountain gun, and one mountain howitzer. The lack of infantry made the scheme of taking the station in rear impossible, since it would have left the guns without support; so we changed ideas, and decided on an artillery action only. We sent a dynamite party to the north of the station, to cut rails and telegraph at dawn. I started at 8 p.m. with a company of Ateibah and a machine-gun, to lay a mine and cut the wire between Abu el-Naam and Istabl Antar. Mohammed el-Gadhi guided us very well, and we reached the line at 11.15 p.m., in a place where there was cover for the machine-gun in a group of bushes and a sandy valley bed about four feet deep, 500 yards west of the rails. I laid a mine, and cut the wire, and at 1 a.m. started back for the main body with a few Ageyl, but did not get in till 5 a.m., through various accidents, and was not able to go forward to the artillery position till 6.30 a.m. I found the guns just ready, and we shelled the station till 10 a.m., when Shakir found that the Ateibah infantry had no water, and we retired to W. Gussed without molestation. Girbis are mostly unobtainable in the eastern Hejaz, which makes it difficult for an Arab force of more than a dozen men to remain in action for half a day.

The results of the bombardment were to throw the upper storeys of the large stone buildings into the ground-floors, which were reported to contain stores and water-cisterns. We could not demolish the ground-floors. The water-tank (metal) was pierced and knocked out of shape, and three shells exploded in the pumping room and brought down much of the wall. We demolished the well-house, over the well, burned the tents and the wood-pile and obtained a hit on the first waggon of the train in the station. This set it on fire, and the flames spread to the remaining six waggons, which must have contained inflammable stores, since they burned furiously. The locomotive was behind the northern building, and got steam up, and went off (reversed) towards Medina. When it passed over the mine it exploded it, under the front bogies (i.e. too late). It was, however, derailed, and I hoped to see the machine-gun come into action against it, but it turned out that the gunners had left their position to join us in our attack on the station, and so the seven men on the engine were able to ‘jack' it on the line again in about half an hour (only the front wheels were derailed) and it went off towards Istabl Antar, at foot-pace, clanking horribly.

The north end of the station now surrendered, and about 2oo of the garrison of the north end rushed in driblets for the hills (J. Unseila) and took cover there. I examined the prisoners (twenty-four in number, Syrians, of 130th Regt.), and also the brake-van of the train. The box-body had been lined with matchboard, at an interval of about four inches, and packed near the floor with cement (loopholed) and above with shingle, but it was burning hotly, and the Turks were too close for me to obtain accurate details.

We fired altogether fifty rounds (shrapnel) from 2,200 and 900 yards and about ten belts of machine-gun ammunition. Deserters reported about thirty dead (I saw nine only) and forty-two wounded. We captured the pedigree mare of All Nasir (the Egyptian 'Bab-Arab' in Medina) and a couple of camels from the well-house, and destroyed many rails. Our casualties were one man wounded. Had there been enough Arab infantry to occupy J. Unseila, which commanded the trenches at 400 yards (plunging fire), I think we could have taken the entire garrison. The Ateibah were not asked to do very much, and I do not think would have done it if asked. The Juheinah and the gunners behaved very well, and I think that the attack - as an experiment - justified itself. It had the effect, in the next three days, of persuading the Turks to evacuate every outpost and blockhouse on the line, and concentrate the garrison in the various railway stations. This action facilitated the work of the dynamite parties.

 

Friday, March 30

We marched back to el-Jurf, and camped in the middle of it from 12.30 p.m. till 3 p.m. We then rode up the Wadi Meseiz (gradually turning west and south) till the watershed at 5.15 p.m., and at 5.30 p.m. had crossed the divide into W. Turaa, and rode down it till 6.30 p.m., when we camped at Am Turaa, just where the eastern Wadi Turaa enters the great plain of Bir Fueis. The march (like all Shakir's marches) was very fast. The water of the W. Ain is very good, and fairly plentiful.

 

Saturday, March 31

Left el-Ain at 5.45 a.m.; rode across the plain, up the side of the wadi and over an easy pass (to the right) into Seil el-Howeita. From this we took the easy southern road into el-Muaggad, and stopped from 8.30 a.m. till 3.45 p.m. in Wadi Serum. We then marched to Bir el-Amri at p.m. and camped there.

 

Sunday, April 1

 

Rode from Bir el-Amri to camp at Abu Markha from 6 a.m. till 8.30 a. m.

Abu Markha to Abu el-Naam: 14 hours, 20 minutes.

Abu el-Naam to Abu Markha: 13 hours, 15 minutes.

 

II. - Abu Markha to Madahrij

After returning from Abu el-Naam with Sherif Shakir, I stopped a short while with Sidi Abdullah, and on Monday, April 2, marched at 2.20 a.m. for the railway to the north of Hadiyah. I took with me Dakhilallah el-Gadhi with 40 Juheinah, and had as well Sultan el-Abbud (Ateibah), Sherif Abdullah, and Sherif Agab (two sons of Hamza el-Feir), and Mohammed el-Gadhi. A machine-gun with six men and seven infantrymen (Syrians) came along also, as my hope was to derail a train with a Garland mine, and then attack it from a previously prepared machine-gun position. Sherif Shakir rode the first half-hour with us.

We marched down Wadi Ais by the same road as that to Abu el-Naam to the village site at 6.20 p.m. Instead of leaving Wadi Ais at this point, we turned north with the valley, and camped at 7 p.m. opposite Magreh el-Semn, under hills on the left bank of the Wadi.

 

Tuesday, April

Marched at 5.20 a.m. up the wadi at 50° till 5.35 a.m., and then swung round towards 20° in a curve till 6 a.m., aiming direct at J. Shemail, a great mass, which deflects the valley westward. At 5.40 a.m. we were opposite the mouth of W. Serum, and at 5.55 a.m. passed Bir Bedair on our left. At 6 a.m. we were opposite the point of J. Shemail, and the wadi, which had been clear and broad and shingly, narrowed down. At 630a.m. Wadi Gharid came in on the left (it is the quickest way to Abu Markha, but steep), and at 6.40 a.m. we were opposite Bir Bedia, in the mouth of Seil Bedia on the left of our road. Seil Bedia rises near Seil Osman. The wadi now widened out and became full of large trees, and more green than any wadi I had seen in the Hejaz. It has come down in flood twice this year, and affords splendid pasturage. We were now going about 400 and at 7.15 a.m. reached Bir el-Murabba, in a broad part of Wadi Ais, where it became a small and very beautiful plain. We then turned 600 and marched down the wadj till 7.45 a.m., when we halted opposite the mouth of Seil el-Howeiti (from J. Serd). At 1.15 p.m. we marched again, and at 1.45 p.m. reached Ribiaan, the last well in Wadi Ais. The well is lined with a rough stone steyning, and is about ten feet in diameter and fifteen feet deep; water very slightly brackish. Wadi Ais at this point leaves the hills, and enters a great open plain, studded with low mounds. This plain is the common bed (or united beds) of, amongst others, Wadi Ais, Wadi Hamdh, W. Tubja, W. Turar, and W. Jizal (Gizal or Qizal, since the ق is pronounced ج by the Juheinah and eastern Billi). In the north the plain is bounded by J. Gussa, on the Billi bank of the Hamdh. On the west, to Wadi Ais, by J. Jasirn (Kasim, Qasim or Gasirn to taste; it is a ق), and south of Wadi Ais by J. Um Reitba, continued in J. Tareif and J. Ajrad. On the east it is bounded by J. Nahar, the east bank of W. Jizal, and then by el-Mreikat, J. Jindal, and J. Unseih. On the south it runs down into el-Jurf and el-Magrah, and J. Antar is clearly visible from the mouth of Wadi Ais, forming the southern boundary of the plain, miles away towards Medina. We left the direct road a little, when we mounted at 2.10 p.m. and marched a little way north-east. At 2.40 p.m. we left Wadi Ais and crossed a low bank into el-Fershah, a parallel wadi, in which were many tents of Harb and Anazeh, come by permission into the Juheinah dira for pasture. We camped near them (they refused us hospitality) at 3.20 p.m.

 

Wednesday, April 4

Rode at 5.3o a.m. and at 6.15 a.m. crossed the level bed of Wadi Turaa, and Wadi Hamdh at 6.45 a.m. The Hamdh was as full of aslam wood as at Abu Zereibat and had the same hummocky bed, with sandy blisters over it - but it was only about 200 yards wide, and shallow. We halted at 8 a.m. in W. Tubja, which was a sort of wilderness garden, with a profusion of grass and shrubs in which the camels rejoiced. The weather was very hot, with a burning sun that made the sandy ground impossible for me to walk on barefoot. The Arabs have soles like asbestos, and made little complaint, except of the warmth of the air. There had been thunder all yesterday, and half a dozen showers of rain last night and today. J. Serd and J. Kasim were wrapped in shafts and sheets of a dark blue and yellow vapour that seemed motionless and solid. We marched across W. Tubja again at 1.20 p.m. About 1.40 p.m. we noticed that part of the yellow cloud from J. Serd was approaching us, against the wind, raising scores of dust-devils before its feet. It also produced two dust-spouts, tight and symmetrical - stationary columns, like chimneys - one to the right and one to the left of its advance.

When it got nearer, the wind, which had been scorching us from the north-east, changed suddenly, and became bitterly cold and damp, from the south-west. It increased greatly in violence, and at the same time the sunlight disappeared and the air became thick and ochre-yellow. About three minutes later the advancing brown wall (I think it was about 1,500 feet high) struck us, and proved to be a blanket of dust, and large grains of sand, twisting and turning most violently with itself, and at the same time advancing east at about forty miles an hour. The internal whirling winds had the most bizarre effect. They tore our cloaks from us, turned our camels sometimes right round, and sometimes drew them together in a vortex, and large bushes, tufts of grass, and small trees were torn up clean by the roots, in a dense cloud of the soil about them, and were driven against us, or dashed over our heads, with sometimes dangerous force. We were never blinded - it was always possible to see seven or eight feet each side - but it was risky to look out, since one never knew if one would meet a flying tree, or a rush of pebbles, or a column of dust

This habub lasted for eighteen minutes, and then ceased nearly as suddenly as it had come, and while we and our clothes and camels were all smothered in dust and yellow from head to foot, down burst torrents of rain, and muddied us to the skin. The wind swung round to the north, and the rain drove before it through our cloaks, and chilled us through and through. At 3 p.m. we had crossed the plain and entered the bare valley of W. Dhaiji, which cuts through J. Jindal at its southern end from the railway to the Hamdh. It is fairly broad at first, sandy, with precipitous rock walls. We rode up it till 4 p.m. and left our camels in a side valley, and climbed a hill to see the line. The hill was of naked rock, and with the wet and the numbing cold the Ateibah servant of Sultan el-Abbud lost his nerve, pitched over a cliff, and smashed his skull to pieces. It was our only casualty on the trip

When we got to the hill-top it was too thick weather to see the railway, so I returned to the camels, and shivered by them for an hour or two. We were stumbled upon by a mounted man, with whom we exchanged ineffectual shots, and were annoyed by this, as surprise was essential, and we could hear the bugles of Madahrij sounding recall and supper in the station, which was also an irritation. However, at 9 p.m. the explosives came up, with the rest of the party, and I started out with Sultan, Dakhilallah and Mohammed el-Gadhi for the line

We had some delay in finding a machine-gun position, for the railway runs everywhere near the eastern hills of the valley, and the valley is about 3,000 yards broad. However, eventually, we found a place opposite kilometre 1121, and I laid a mine (trigger central, with rail-cutting charges 15 yards north and south of it respectively) with some difficulty owing to the rain, at 12 p.m. It took till 1.45 a.m. to cover up the traces of the digging, and we left the whole bank, and the sandy plain each side, as covered with huge footmarks as though a school of elephants had danced on it, and made tracks that a blind man could have felt. I wiped out most of those on the embankment itself, however, by walking up and down in shoes over it. Such prints are indistinguishable from the daily footmarks of the patrol inspecting the line.

We got back to the new position at 2.30 a.m. (still raining and blowing and very cold) and sat about on stones till dawn, when the camels and machine-gun came up. Dakhilallah, who had been guide and leader all night, now sent out patrols and sentries and outposts in all directions, and went on a hilltop himself with glasses to watch the line. The sun fortunately came out, so we were able to get dry and warm, and by midday were again gasping in the heat. A cotton shirt is a handy garment, but not adaptable to such sudden changes of temperature.

 

Thursday, April 5

At 6 a.m. a trolley with four men and a sergeant as a passenger came from Hadiyah (Haraimil) to Madahrij, passing over the mine without stopping. A working party of sixty men came out of Madahrij, and began to replace five telegraph poles blown down near the station the day before by the habub. At 7.30 a.m. a patrol of eleven men marched south along the line, two inspecting each rail minutely, one walking along the bank in charge, and then at fifty yards interval right and left of the line, looking for tracks. At kilometre 1121 they found abundance of the latter, and concentrated on the permanent way, and wandered up and down it, and scratched the ballast, and thought for a prolonged period. They then went on to near J. Sueij (Sueij, Sueik, or Sueiq, to taste) and exchanged greetings with the Hadiyah patrol. At 8.30 a.m. a train of nine trucks, packed with women, children and household effects came up from Hadiyah, and ran over the mine without exploding it, rather to our relief, since they were not quite the prize we had been hoping for

The Juheinah were greatly excited when the train came along, and all rushed up to Dakhilallah's lookout, where we were, to see it. Our stone zariba had been made for five only, so that the hilltop became suddenly and visibly populous. This was too much for the nerves of Madahrij, which called in its working party, and opened a brisk rifle fire on us, at about 5,000 yards. Hadiyah (or rather its outpost on a hilltop) was encouraged by this to take a share. As they were about 1,200 yards off, they retained their fire, but played selections on the bugle from 8.30 a.m. till 4p.m

This disclosure of ourselves put us in rather an unfortunate position. The Juheinah and myself were on camels, and therefore pretty safe, but the machine-gun was a sledge-maxim (German) and very heavy. It was on a mule, and the mules could only walk. Our position was between Madahrij (200 men) and Hadiyah (1,100 men), with Hadiyah in Wadi Tubja, behind our backs. I was afraid of their trying to cut us off in the rear, and after consulting Dakhilallah we rode past Madahrij to the head of W. Um Reikham, which runs into Tubja just north of J. Jindal, and sent the mules with an escort of fifteen Juheinah back to Wadi Ais. Had the Turks attacked us, the few Juheinah with me would not have been enough to cover the retreat of the gun: and the gunners were Meccan tailors, inexpert in handling it

Dakhilallah, Sultan Mohammed and myself then rode back to the head of Wadi Dhaije, and camped at 9.40 a.m. under some good shady trees, from which we could see the line. This appeared to annoy the Turks, who shot and trumpeted at us incessantly, till about 4.30 p.m. No trains passed during this time - I fancy our presence held up the traffic, for a lone engine came down from the north to Madahrij, and there was also heavy smoke from Hadiyah station

At 4.30 p.m. the Turkish noise stopped, and we got on our camels at 5 p.m. and rode out slowly across the plain towards the line. Madahrij revived in a paroxysm of rifle fire (4,000 yards, no damage) and all the trumpets of Hadiyah began again. Dakhilallah was most pleased. We went straight to kilometre 1121, and made the camels kneel beside the line, while Dakhilallah (whose strong piety has a vein of humour) called the idhan, and led the sunset prayer between the rails. As soon as it got dark the Turks became quiet, and I dug up the mine (a most unpleasant proceeding: laying a Garland mine is shaky work, but scrabbling along a line for 100 yards in the ballast looking for a trigger that is connected with two powerful charges must be a quite uninsurable occupation), and I found it had sunk a sixteenth of an inch, probably owing to the damp ground. We replaced it, and then fired a number of charges along the rails between us and Madahrij with great effect. We also cut up a good deal of telegraph wire and a number of poles, and at 7.30 p.m. rode off down W. Dhaije again. At p.m. we reached the Tubja Hamdh plain, and galloped across it furiously, passing Wadi Hamdh, W. Turaa, W. Abu Marra, and reaching El-Fershah and the machine-gun camp at 12.15 a.m.

 

Friday, April 6

Started at 6 a.m., reached Rubiaan at 7 a.m., and left it at 7.15 a.m. Wadi Ais had been down in flood since we left, and the surface was all shining with white slime and pools of soft grey water. The camels slipped over this most amusingly, and most of the party went down. Dakhilallah therefore drew us up a mouth of Seil Howeiti, and across its delta, and over a little pass into the eastern bay of the plain of Murebba in Wadi Ais. We crossed this, passed Seil Badia, and halted at 9.15 a.m. in the mouth of W. Gharid. We mounted again at 2.45 p.m. and rode slowly (everything was stiff and tired) to the bend of Wadi Ais by the ruins at 4.45 p.m., where we camped for the night. Our two messengers who had been left in Dhaije came in late, and reported that the mine (which we had heard explode very vigorously at 7.30 a.m. this morning) had gone off north and south of a locomotive with rails and about 300 soldiers, arriving from Hadiyah to repair our damage. The quantity of Turks frightened our men away, so I cannot say if any inconvenience was caused the train; but the break in the line was not repaired for five days, which looks as though something had delayed the enemy.

 

Saturday, April 7

We started at 1 a.m. and slept the rest of the night in Marraha from 2.30 a.m. till 6 a.m. Then rode and reached Abu Markha at 8 a.m.

The results of this trip were to show me the rare value of Dakhilallah and his son. Their humour makes railway-breaking a pleasure to them; their authority keeps the Juheinah in better order than ever I have seen; and old Dakhilallah has grown grey in successful ghazzus, and is as careful and astute as any raider could be.

It also showed that Garland mines, properly laid, are impossible for the Turks to detect. Eleven men searched for my mine for twenty minutes. Also that the Turkish garrisons suffer badly from nerves; and that a machine-gun party to deal with stranded locomotives may require great mobility in retreat or advance, and should be, if possible, mounted on the same kind of animal as the tribal escort.

 

T.E.L.


Source: SD 83-95
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 25 June, 2006


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