Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
THE DEAD SEA
This is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by Captain E.H. James called "The Motor Patrol". It is lodged in the AWM as AWM 224 MSS 209. This is Part 3.
THE DEAD SEA - Part 3
A few evenings later a big concert was held up in Jerusalem by Lena Ashwell's Players and permission was granted for a car load to go to Jerusalem for the night. Needless to say the car was well filled. On the morning of the 25th July during our morning patrol, we discovered a home made boat and some ogre hidden in the reeds skirting a lagoon along to the mouth Of the river. We had not noticed this boat previously so concluded it must have been brought across the river during the night probably by an enemy agent.
We were anxious to see how the boat was brought into the lagoon,- so a couple of us embarked and pushed off when the boat promptly sank with us both, and we just had time to throw our watches and revolvers ashore as we disappeared below the Surface to the amusement of the rest of the patrol. The boat had only sufficient buoyancy for one parson, so evidently only one had come across in it. We discovered that there was a narrow but deep entrance through the reeds into the sea through which the boat had been brought. We replaced the boat whore We had found it after making it leaky enough to prevent it crossing the river again and reported particulars to the nearest intelligence officer who arranged for a watch to be kept beside the boat for the return of the navigator, but he must have received news of the boat's discovery for he never turned up again. When we returned from the morning patrol, the water had dried on our clothes after the immersion and the white salt had dried and left us white like a couple of ghosts to the great enjoyment of the troops in the vicinity who thought it was some new game for their amusement.
Things seemed to be settling down about this time and no events of importance took place mush in the valley. The enemy made a small demonstration on the 6th September and the whole patrol received orders to cross the river at Hajla Bridge which we did first thing in the morning.
We travelled full speed to the north east where we joined the Central India Horse with whom we crossed the Wady Rame. The enemy however changed their minds and retreated at full speed to the hills again. We received orders to return and were back at our post again in plenty of time for lunch. Nothing more of importance happened until the 13th September when orders were received to leave the Valley. We packed up after having been there for six months to a day. They were the six hottest months of the year and we were not sorry to leave. We were not to see the Jordan Valley any more.
Events were shortly going to happen on the other flank near the Mediterranean Coast and we were to be there in time for the kick off. Orders were received for the cars to proceed singly at half hour intervals so as not to excite any particular interest and we were to take two days over the move. We arrived at Ramleh on the evening of the 15th September and proceeded to Sarona a couple of days later. All movements were now done at night time, so as not to arouse the enemy's suspicions of the concentration on this flank. We now joined the 4th Cavalry Division and on the 18th September the officers were called to a conference where the Commander in Chief (General Allenby) explained that the big smash through the enemy's lines was to be attempted at dawn the next morning.
He explained that speed was to be the essence of the whole operation.
The artillery and infantry were to make a break on the enemy's western flank when the mounted troops and motor units ware to pour through at full spend and take the enemy in the rear.
Lena Ashwell, actress, musician and theatrical manager, organised quality entertainments for the forces on active service, and fundraising events at home. Her major production occurred when her show opened at the Kingsway Theatre, on 29 December 1915. It was a fantasy called 'The Starlight Express' based on Algernon Blackwood’s 'A Prisoner in Fairyland'. Other luminaries involved in this show included Elgar who composed incidental music including songs for soprano and baritone soloists.
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Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - The Dead Sea - Part 3