« PreviousContinue »
complete inability to learn a P. and me with considerably
single word of Arabic (none of us talked Turkish), despite the praiseworthy offorts of P.'s Egyptian soldier - servant to instruct him in that language. After breakfast we marched on past Tafas, the scene of the fighting of the previous day. Outside the village were the naked bodies of three or four Turkish soldiers, who had been found by the Arab inhabitants hiding in some outhouses that morning, and who had been summarily executed and their bodies stripped in revenge for the murders of women and children. One could scarcely blame the Tafas villagers, but, at the same time, there was something revolting in the sight of these Turks, naked and unburied, lying where they had fallen on the Deraa road. One, a boy who looked about seventeen, was actually in his death-agony as we rode up, and died just afterwards. A few hundred yards away was a listless sorrowful group of women of the place, mourning their dead offspring, and over everything there was an air of tragedy and hopelessness. Altogether a pitiable seene.
A mile or two farther on we heard that the Arab leaders and L. were in Deraa, where they had arrived just before the G.O.C. of of the British Cavalry Division, who was now there also. Just after this news reached us we came on an Indian cavalry pioquet, and then on a party of British motorcyclist orderlies, and finally on a British General and his Staff. The latter greeted
less cordiality than that with which we greeted them. To us they represented the outward sign of the accomplishment of our task and our own safety. To them we represented as embarrassing a situation as ever confronted a British General. Our column was an Allied column, composed in the main of Arabs with some French; we few British officers, so far as we were under anybody's orders, were directly under Allenby's G.H.Q.; the Arab leaders were being hailed by the hundreds and indeed thousands of desert Arabs and local inhabitants who pouring into Deraa, not only as military conquerors, but as political and national saviours; L. was looked upon as the direct representative of that far-off country whose support had assisted the freeing of Arabia, and the British General and his Staff were regarded as very incidental adjunots to that victory. Add to this the fact that there existed such a thing as a Sykes-Picot agreement, and that there was a town which obviously some one was soon going to capture, called Damascus, and you have a really complicated situation, which a British divisional General without previous instructions, already exhausted by days of continual fighting and pursuit, was hardly competent to unravel.
To order our buccaneers to quit the town of Deraa would probably result in armed eonfliot with the now wildly excited and exultant Arabs, and cer
tainly produce complications oraters. Sick and wounded with "authority," in view of Turks and townspeople were the alliance with King Hussein, everywhere, and it was not as well as the presence of French for a day or two that the troops in the column. To allow Arab doctors, who really both the British Division and worked well, managed to colour column to remain in Deraa leet all of them and attend would as surely lead to trouble, to their needs. The town was since a British Division, com- chock-a-blook with Arabs from posed, to use an Irishism, mainly the surrounding districts, who of Indian troops, would not long galloped about the roads and tolerate the presence, cheek paths with complete disregard by jowl with them, of a force of their own and every one who disregarded all established else's necks. Food for the military etiquette: who slept troops, including the British, and fed themselves, and watered was dangerously short, and and picketed their animals the problem of feeding and where they listed; took the watering the animals was very food and forage they re- great. In these circumstances quired, wherever and when the Arabs showed both organiever they found it, and con- sation and humanity in being stantly discharged their rifles able to feed somehow the hunin the air as a light-hearted dreds of prisoners who were feu de joie. Moreover, the now collected in the town. Arabs cordially dislike Indians, and have a distinet colourprejudice against them. In deed, in the short hour or so that the two forces were in Deraa, some Arab soldiers and an Indian cavalry picquet nearly came to armed blows, and more serious trouble was only averted by L. The latter immediately afterwards went to see the G.O.C. of the British Division, and, after considerable discussion, it was decided that the Arabs should "administer" Deraa, and that the squadron of Indian cavalry, in charge of some stores, which the Division was to leave behind when it continued its pursuit of the Turk, should bivouac outside the town.
Deraa was wholly unpleasant. Every hundred yards or 30 were dead Turks and bomb
It is scarcely necessary to say that the Turks had left the town in a state of indescribable filth. Nothing, to my mind, so illustrates the progressive decay of Turkish military morale as the squalor and dirt of their captured lines in 1918, as compared with the comparative cleanliness of their trenches in Gallipoli in 1915. When I saw, too, the Turkish prisoners at Deraa, they did not appear to belong to the same nation who faced us at Helles. I suppose it will never be known the extent to which the flower of their army was killed in action, died of wounds, of sickness, or exposure, in 1915; but, contrary as my opinion may be to that of the experts, I always believe that the Palestine victories were partly won on the old
Peninsula, and by the Russian retreat, and in doing so put the victories in the Caucasus; and coping-stone on several years I remember that day at Deraa of dogged determined effort conjuring up for a moment towards the attrition of the the well-remembered picture Turkish army. J., on whom of the River Clyde and "Lanca- the burden and heat of the shire Landing," and thinking day as regards the military how much we all owed to the 'advice' to the Arabs had spirit that the immortal ship fallen, and who is one of the symbolised. finest British regular officers that I have ever met, as well as L., must have felt an especial pride and joy that day. Deraa was the coping-stone of their effort.
There was one feature of Deraa which made us all very proud: in the station was a quantity of rolling-stook and at least two engines in good order, which, but for our last demolition on the Damasous line, would have carried hundreds, if not thousands, of Turks northwards, probably eventually to join Mustapha Kemal and add to present-day difficulties in Anatolia. Other rolling-stook had been similarly imprisoned west and south of Deraa.
That alone justified the high value which many of us have set, myself for example, in a certain green-benched chamber to which I have access, on the military achievements of the Arabs; and, after all, the success of our column, however much directed by British effort, was really and truly an Arab success. No sneers by Continental editors, no deprecatery references by British military authorities-though never by Lord Allenby-many of whom cannot understand because they would be incapable themselves of directing desert warfare, to L.'s "exaggerated ideas of Arab possibilities," can alter the fact that our column helped Allenby's victory and disorganised the Turkish
Whilst the British and Turkish authorities were conferring that morning, P. and I, with the sure instinct of old soldiers, had chosen the most substantial and cleanest building (it was a very relative term!) in Deraa for our lodg ing. Hastily surrounding it with sentries, baggage, and other impedimenta, we set a party of Egyptian soldiers to work to brush and scrub floors, passages, and walls, and soon Ahmed and P.'s servant were arranging our effects in a high, cool, whitewashed room that had apparently been a German officers' mess.
The next day was uneventful, but on the 30th L. came to tell us that he and Sherif Nasser and S. were leaving in a car for Damascus, to be followed by Prince Feisul, J., and Y. The Camel Corps and Gurkhas were to return to Palestine, and I was given the choice of going with them or accompanying L. I chose the former course, as my term of detachment from my own battalion was nearly up, and, confession of materialism
though it be, I was more truth, and stammered out, anxious to get a hot bath, "I can't sufficiently apologise, some fresh clothes, and a sir, to you." Worst blow of taste of civilisation than to all, see the glories and plunge into the politics of Damascus.
garrison battalion private soldier, a perfect "Old Bill" type, just outside Jaffa itself, who, armed with a red flag, was prepared to keep native traffic from using a certain bridge, and had waved the flag in question fiercely at me as I rode in front of the company, roared out in a most threatening voice, "You black
It took P. some days to collect enough rations and forage for his men, but finally we left on October 2nd, and reached Jaffa seven days later, meeting on the way with much humorous comment from various British units. Few suspected P., S. H., and me to be can't yer see my flag?" British officers. One motor- My dignity was outraged for oyclist orderly shouted, one the whole day, and it was not day near Nablus, at S. H., until shaved, comparatively "Come off the road, old clean, and fitted out with Isaacs"-a reference to that various needed garments "off officer's patriarchal beard. the peg" in Jaffa, I was eating An Indian cavalry officer tried a most excellent dinner with to arrest our thirty Gurkhas, the "great ones" at E.E F., on the ground that they must G.H.Q. (then at Ramleh, near be deserters because they Jaffa), that I regained my were marching with "ragged equanimity. Two days later Arabs," and, being young, I was in Cairo, and a week was very embarrassed when later on my way home on we haughtily told him the leave.
A PILGRIM OF PEACE.
BY C. E. MONTAGUE,
As the Sister went out of the ward she paused to look back, with the knob of the door in her hand.
"Boys," she said, in the voice that made babes of us all, "five minutes to get into bed." We knew that five minutes, no more and no less, it would be. The door closed behind her, the little pat noise of it putting a kind of full stop to her words.
Of thirty wounded men in the ward, twenty-two had been up for the day. We were the blest. But bliss was precarious. If we were not good, the Sister might keep us in bed in the morning. So we eagerly slipped off and folded our sooks and red ties and blue tunies and slacks. The shirt did not have to come off. A shirt by day, it was a nighty by night-a good plan, I can tell you, when any delay may oost dear. In five minutes, dead, the door opened; the Sister looked down the long ward.
I lay next but one to the door; so I saw what she saw. There were twenty-nine faces duly laid on their pillows, Some seven looked dull and bed-weary. Twenty-one others -I throw myself in, for I felt like it too-looked shiny and young with the glee that you feel when the life in you has taken heart to go on with a will, after a check. A twentyA twentyninth face, in the bed on my
right, was right, was a model in wax, awaiting only some one final touch of rigidity and refinement. Into the thirtieth bed, at the dim far end of the ward, a vast bulk, in a white shirt less vast, flew through the air from afar with astonishing momentum and dived in fear and shame under the blankets.
The Sister took it all in. A Sergeant-Major had been lost to the world when she turned out a girl. But not one to rule men wholly by terror. She went first to the wax-faced man on my right that always lay on his back with his eyes. open, scrutinising the ceiling. He turned his face a few degrees at the touch of her hand on his wrist and smiled a little. He had a great dignity then, the austere prestige of the dying, who are an esoteric patriciate, lifted above desire and fear and all quarrels.
The Sister went on to the far end of the ward where the meteoric giant had gone to earth under his blankets. His great shafts of limbs were convulsing them now, in his efforts to settle down for the night; the bed looked like a small linen bag with a large and terrified oat imprisoned in it and plunging. The plunging instantly stopped when the Sister began tucking in the disarranged elements of the bed.