Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
THE BATTLE OF MEGIDDO
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 4.
THE BATTLE OF MEGIDDO - Part 4
One of our machine gunners found a sheep on the journey up and soon had it skinned and cut up in professional style. Nobody asked any questions as to how the sheep was found, but it certainly tasted all right.
Next day our orders were to push on to El-Kuneitra but to leave two gun cars with their crews at Tiberias to guard the town which was rather an important point in our line of communications. The road to El-Kuneitra was in very bad condition and the transport of the retreating Turks had not improved it, but we arrived there at dusk and camped for the night. Next morning, at daybreak, again we were off to Kaukab where we stayed the following night, but not to sleep as we were getting very close to our destination, the City of Damascus; the oldest city of the world; and a great Turkish stronghold. We placed our guns in position for the night but were undisturbed. The next day was a great day for our army. As soon as it was light enough to see we started on a road reconnaissance. We found a good track and proceeded with all vehicles to Kiswe, a few miles south of Damascus. Coming over the hills we got a magnificent view of the great city about ten miles away in the hollow. The morning mists were just rising and the view was beautiful. We could see the minarets and towers peeping through the green foliage. Numbers of streams of fresh water winding through the orchards and vineyards and in every direction could be seen thin columns of dust rising through the green trees as bodies of troops armoured cars transport, and cavalry were all converging along every possible road and track towards the one centre. Every now and then a puff of white smoke could be seen as a shell would burst in the distance. The night was a never-to-be forgotten one. Away on the horizon (always well out of range) were hoards of Lawrence's Arab "allies" hanging around for their share of loot when the city fell. Within an hour the leading regiments were in the city. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade secured positions above the Abana Gorge the night before where they inflicted terrible losses on the retreating enemy. This completed the enemy's discomfiture and at 11 a.m. we formed a grand procession through the city. The whole of the native population turned out to see us come in and expressed their feelings by firing their guns into the air; and, as every member of the city seemed to have a rifle or gun of some description, the row can be imagined. We drove through the street that is called Strait. By this time our other cars from Tiberias had joined us and we made a good show with the cars of the other armoured car batteries as we did the Conquering Hero Stunt up to the Town Hall where we stopped for a while for the chiefs to take over the keys of the Town etc. While waiting we did not forget to try the fruit and the other dainties on sale in the Bazaars. Damascus is certainly best from the distance; just far enough away not to notice the filth and smells. Most of us thought we knew enough of the east but Damascus certainly beat all the other cities that we had been in for smells.
We did not think it possible to get such a variety of stinks in one town.
The streets were certainly not made for motor traffic and our drivers had to keep their eyes open when moving about in the town. Holes full of filthy water abounded everywhere. Some of the streets were pitched, but the pitchers were laid anyway; some on top of each other. One of our drivers just missed a manhole in the street with the cover missing. The hole was a well about 10 ft. deep. An electric tram ran through the city but it puzzled everyone how it kept on the rails as these in some cases bulged nearly a foot above the level of the road and in other places were lost in a sea of mud. Our drivers had to give these rails a wide berth as they would drag the tyres off the wheels if caught in them.
We received orders to proceed to the north end of the city to camp for the night. We tried to get through the gorge where Colonel Scott's Light Horsemen had their picnic the night before, but found it impossible to get along until we had spent an hour or so clearing the track of dead men and horses which were heaped across the road everywhere. We had to lever smashed up vehicles of all descriptions into the river while there were machine guns lying about in hundreds. The gutters literally ran with blood. Through the narrow gorge ran a railway line, a river and a road and there was no room for anything else. The railway was blocked with a smashed train of trucks. The river was a racing torrent full of debris and the road was a conglomeration of vehicles and bodies. Eventually we cleared a track through the mess and arrived at our camping position on a hill overlooking the town. Next day we had to patrol the road from Damascus back to El-Kuneitra as the Commander in Chief was motoring up to enter the city officially. We stayed at Damascus far a couple of weeks and took the opportunity to do a number of necessary repairs to our motor vehicles and equipment in between a lot of necessary road patrolling along the various routes, but chiefly between Beirut on the coast and Damascus.
In the meantime, the 5th Cavalry Division under General Macandrew had pushed on from Damascus and had reached Baalbek en route for a dash at Aleppo, the Headquarters of one of the Turkish armies and the junction of the Mespot and Syrian Railway systems on the main line from Constantinople. One of our cars had already been attached to this division for some days and on the 19th October orders were received for the whole unit to join the 5th Cav. Division. We accordingly pushed right away and arrived at Zahli (the Junction of the Beirut and Aleppo made) about midnight. We stayed here until daylight and rushed on with all speed to the north joining the division that afternoon.
And now began what was (from the motor unit's point of view) the most eventful part of the campaign, and it was probably the first time in history that a complete series of operations were carried out on motor vehicles against an opposing army.
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Further Reading:The Australian Light Horse - Structure
Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - Megiddo - Part 4