« PreviousContinue »
amuses me to think that & which an attack oould be made.
at great height, seeing nothIf romance olung to the ing, and returned no doubt to walls of
of Azrak, dramatio report at Ammon, “Nothing possibilities attached to our unusual.”
Thas did a young own position. Here were we, officer's slackness help in the four British and one Egyptian subsequent downfall of a whole officer, and eight British other Turkish army. For if we ranks, comprising the air had been discovered there, it mechanios and the drivers and is almost certain we should crew of an armoured car and never have reached Deraa, the Ford tender, whioh arrived line would not have been out, that morning In addition, and after Allenby's great atthere were the Sherif Nasser tack muoh more of the Turkish and his two slaves, and H.'s army would
would have escaped Egyptian servant. Our near- northwards, to join eventually, est help in the case of attack perhaps, Mustapha Kemal in would be from the escort to Kurdistan. the hamla, still a
In addition to ourselves, two of miles away, and small there were a few miserably in numbers at that. Forty poor Bedouin Arab families in miles away, and between dig and around Azrak, of a low and the nearest British post type of intelligence, and it in the Jordan Valley, were a seemed to
me that there division and a half of Turks at & danger of some of Ammon. Azrak was oomprised them telling the Turks of our in the area of their aeroplane existence at Azrak. L. always patrol (it had indeed been assured me there was none; bombed during the previous and certainly, by the wonderwinter, when L. was there), ful influence he so soon and in view of the possibilities quired over all of their race, of an attack from a British or he turned their rather sullen Arab mobile column, already acquiescence in our presence referred to, on their loft flank on
on the day of our arrival at Ammon, it would seem & into active interest and supnatural thing to soout the port before we left, wbilst only watering - place from other nomad Arabs and even
peasants from the Hauran to and the Egyptian Camel Corps the North oame to see L. after and Gurkhas arrived, bringing the first day or two, and “ Bivies” and other luxuries. brought in some cases eggs, The same day A. D. was to tomatoes, grapes, and melons have flown over from Allenby's for our delectation. Never- G.H.Q. for a final conference, theless, with £E.10,000 or but, being siok, sent another £E.15,000 on L's head, there Staff officer, who had nothing was a risk, and I once asked to do with “Hedjaz operaL. what he would do if the tions," in his stead. UnfortuTurks from Ammon sent a nately, the latter, who had raiding party on horses or never before been up in the oamels by night to attaok us air, had suffered severely from at dawn. Owing to the lie air-siokness on the way, and of the ground our single consequently his system was armoured car would be little not in a oondition to stand the or no use against a surprise shook of being told by L., attack, and apart from the when he had asked what was oar we had no means of de- our scheme of defence at Azrak fenoe. L. replied, “The answer—"our advanced base," as he is, they_won't send such a professionally termed it—that party. They are much too # We haven't any; you see,
i. afraid of the Arabs.” I was the Turks will never come never entirely convinoed, and, and look for us here." He until the hamla and column retired gracefully on his 'plane, arrived, I used to wake by escorted by another 'plane, instinot just before dawn, and fully convinced, I feel sure, steal out so as not to wake that the "whole outfit," as L. or the armoured car orew Australians say, would inevit(after our first night's misery ably end in prison at Constannear the pools, we slept round tinople. On the 12th our the armoured on high medico joined us, and the same ground some three - quarter day arrived Prince Feisul himmile from the oasis), to soon self, and the main body of the the surrounding country for column. possible enemies as soon as the All was now ready, and the sun's rays pieroed the mist, excitement and strain were but they never oame.
beooming unbearable. That Very beautiful was the pale- night we had a reunion of the pink of the desert and dark- Britith mission over a meal green of Azrak, with the far- that might almost be dignified off outline of Gebel Druz in by the title of a mess, followed the baokground, at rise of sun. by that glorious period of On the 9th August nobody conversation or contemplation, arrived, but on the 10th our scoording as to whether the two 'planes safely reached individual is a talker or not, Azrak. On the 11th J. and under the velvety sky, in an F. S. arrived by oar, and Y., atmosphere neither too hot nor P., and S. H, with the hamla, too cold, and with an exhilara
tion reminiscent of the ozone J., the Doctor, and I rode in of the sea in the soft breeze one of these tenders ; but I that one gets only in great am not sure, in view of the treeless spaces on land after constant stoppings and surgundown. I do not think veyings of the route and the sufficient tribute has ever been general strain of proceeding paid to the desert night, by oar in roadless and though I personally know of practically unmapped country, few more pleasant things on if those in oar had any earth (save in winter, when advantage over those it is bitterly cold). In most camels. The column did ninewarm olimes the charms of teen miles that day, and the temperate night after General Nuri, the Arab comthe fieroe day are marred by mander of the force, looked mosquitoes and other obnoxious justifiably pleased. We halted inseots. Except quite close to in a wadi with excellent camel. water, as, for example, in the and even mule-grazing, a great oasis proper at Azrak, no advantage in view of our very living thing, inseot or animal, small supply of grain. On disturbs the peace of the desert the 15th we marched at 5 at night. Jackals and foxes A.M., the column swinging are found only near water or along in fine style in the cultivated land, never in the cool of the morning. About desert proper.
A windlegg 10.30 J. and I, after & spindesert night has for me the glorious after the shingle of charm of complete peace and the desert-in oar Rolls-Royce calm.
tender over some hard mud On the 13th the Egyptian flats that we passed, came Camel Corps and Gurkhas in touch with the Egyptian marched out with two ar. Camel Corps demolition party, moured oars to attempt the and learnt that they had been first demolition of the railway unable to effeot their purpose south of Deraa, with instruo- owing to the opposition of tions to join us in two days a big band of local Bedouin time; and at 5 A.M. on the Arabs, who threatened both 14th the rest of the fight- to warn the Turks and attaok ing column marched, the the demolitionists as well, Shereefian troops on their using the very human if selfcamels in long pioturesque ish argument, “You are too lines of single file (which small to do any good, or for would cause a hostile 'plane us to throw in our lot with to imagine them to be Bedonins you. If and when we on the move), followed by the Feisul and L. it will be difFrenoh gunners, partly on ferent. They doubtless have camels, partly on mules, with an army. You are just a the British
armoured oar little band." To do these men sometimes in front, sometimes justice, they kept their promise behind, and the “ tenders” of telling the Turks nothing where the best "road"
the demolitionists would
withdraw unseen, and thus about 7.30 P.M., they made avoid Turkish reprisals for straight for the cisterns, where not keeping them (the Turks) animals and men, Arabs, informed of the presence of French Colonials, Egyptians, raiders. The rest of the jour- and British, watered indis
, ney that day was over very criminately, in a way that rough and broken ground with would have turned the blood numerous wadis, and a very cold of a British A.D.M.S. or trying one for the three ar- sanitary offioer. Then hundreds moured oars and seven tenders. of little fires were lit in all In the afternoon we passed directions, producing in the Um El Jimal and El Baek, bright moonlight an extrawhich, uninhabited to-day, are ordinarily arresting effeot, . the remains of Roman villages The unsentimental reader may or forts surprisingly little al- ask why, oonsidering we were tered since the Roman times. now but fifteen miles or 80 They are on the edge of the from Deras, our objective, fires “better country," with fair or lights were allowed at all. grazing even in August, that The answer is that our original eventually merges into the column had increased by half as rich plain of the Haaran, and much again, owing to its addifrom now onwards our tions of local Ruweilah Arabs trek the desert was definitely and a sprinkling of Druses, left behind.
both sets of tribesmen well We oaught a glimpse of the mounted on true Arab horses, railway and Mafrak Station with modern rifles slung across in the far distance. At Mafrak their shoulders, and dressed in that day, M. in one of our & wonderful variety of vivid. 'planes brought down a Tur- coloured robes — brown, blue, kish 'plane. At dusk we and BO on – with gorgeous reached the Wadi El Butm, horse - trappings.
To have and from there to our halting asked or commanded these place at El Umteiye was a wild undisciplined warriors to dreary orawl through the semi- take such military precautions darkness over villainous ground would have been to court disfor oars, which involved oon- aster - at best losing their stant stops and removal of services, at worst, perhaps, boulders. El Umteiye, another sending them to warn the deserted Romanfortified village, Turks.
You cannot monkey contained the first rain-water with an Arab's customs, one oistern that we had come to of which is to have a fire to sinoe Azrak, the mules having sit round at night. Though, been watered the previous even. from personal observation, I ing from fantassis or oameloan soaroely put the fighting water-tanks, and the men from value of these troops of irregwater-bottles, the oamels of ular horse as high as some of course not requiring water; their admirers, such
as L., and as soon as the main body with, of course, a hundred marohed somewhat wearily in times greater knowledge than
mine, did, their moral value at a good bridge just north to us was oonsiderable. From of where the previous unsuothis period on some of them cessful attempt had failed, and always marohed with as, and oatoh up the column next day. their presence not only exer- We know the railway in these oised & most salutary effect parts was held by small and on the not too friendly vil- badly-construeted blockhouses, lagers of the Hauran, who manned by Turkish garrison could have given us many un- troops, but otherwise our inpleasant stabs in the back, formation was soanty. At bat made our forse from the 2 P.M. we sallied forth, reaching air look far more imposing the railway in about threethan it was. It must have quarters of an hour, and made puzzled the Turkish and straight for å blockhouse in Boohe aviators to our front of us. It was garrisoned column one day at its normal by seven Turkish soldiers, who strength of about 900, and gallantly advanoed to meet us the next swelled to nearly and lined some pathetically 2000 by the addition of 1000 inadequate trenohes. Only & Raweilab horsemen who came few minutes sufficed to enable and melted away, and returned the armoured cars to get into as the spirit moved them. & position to enfilade them,
To return to El Umteiye, when four of the Turks ran L. and his fierce - looking away into the blue, where we bodyguard of fifty or sixty did not pursue them, as prisoners speoially - tried Arabs on the were a real hindrance, and the fastest oamels obtainable in remainder, one of them being all Arabia, with silver-studded wounded, advanoed towards as saddles, glided in about 9.30 with uplifted hands. L. having P.M. Silhouetted against the out the wires, assisted by the moon as they oame over a rise, armoured-oar officers, then set their appearance made the to work to lay a charge 8oene more like Russian ander the bridge, which was ballet than ever, whilst the close to the station on the whole colour - scheme of El north, whilst J. and I tried our Umteige that night would prentice hands at the new game have delighted Bakst.
of "planting talips.” “Tulips' The morning of the next were little charges of explosives day, the 16th, was spent in placed under the centre of an conferenoe, the upshot of which iron sleeper, which, when they was the decision that General had gone off, not only bent the Nuri and the main column sleeper into an aro, but irreshould at once continue their mediably bent and twisted the maroh to the main Damasous rails on each side and drove a railway north of Deraa, whilst furrow across the bank. Thus L., J., and myself, in two twelve "tulips" meant twentyarmoured oars and a tender, four rails to be replaced. This should go and cut the railway partionlar species of explosive south of Deras that afternoon art, as well as its name, was