Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
THE MOTOR DASH ON ALEPPO
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 2.
The Motor Dash on Aleppo - Part 2
After this little delay the column pushed on once more and by evening we had reached the village Seraikin where it was decided to stay for the night. Outposts and machine guns are placed around the camp and everyone took their turns at watching through the night. The village of Seraikin contained an aeroplane depot and we surprised the occupants in time to prevent any planes from rising.
When we arrived at Seraikin we were fortunate in being quick enough to prevent the aeroplanes there from taking off and flying to Aleppo with the information of our proximity. We were specially anxious that the enemy should not know what a comparatively insignificant force was advancing against them. The General wished to use the element of surprise to as much advantage as possible. Near the village we discovered a small gun with a calibre of about 1.5 inches. It was mounted on a small folding carriage something like the German maxim gun tripod. There was also a case of shells. These were something after the style of the Pom Poms and would be under one pound in weight. We put the lot into the back of one of the cars and they came in very useful later on. Next morning we made an early start as usual and proceeded north until we came to Khan Tuman. Here the cars suddenly and unexpectedly ran into a small detachment of Turkish Cavalry. There was a sudden burst of fire from the Lewis Guns and a couple of the Cavalry men fell wounded. Some of the Light Cars then made a rush to head off the horsemen from the direction of Aleppo which they succeeded in doing. The officer in charge and a party of his men were surrounded and they surrendered. A few of the remainder galloped off to the west where they got into some rough timbered country where the motors could not penetrate without a lot of trouble. As they were cut off from Aleppo it did not matter very much what happened to them. After this little episode the force pushed on again and were almost in sight of Aleppo before any serious opposition was encountered.
The flying motor force had been particularly fortunate. First of all the enemy motor vehicles had been encountered and exterminated. Next the aeroplanes had been caught before they had time to rise and then the cavalry patrol had been cut off. So the enemy headquarters had practically received no news whatever of what was happening and the surprise was complete. They were evidently very anxious thinking that something was wrong and were nervous. However, on reaching a position within view of the town it could be seen that the place was alive with troops. Trenches had been dug all round the city and the troops could be seen in these through the field glasses. A couple of armoured cars drove down the road towards the city and encountered a storm of rifle and machine gun fire.
Some batteries of Artillery also opened up with shrapnel and H.E. The general then called a halt and collected his small force under the shelter of a friendly hill for a council of war. He then decided to make as much display of force as possible. The armoured cars manoeuvred on the skyline making as much display and dust as possible. Some of the Lewis guns were taken off the light cars which were also driven about in view. The guns were carried along under cover of some stone walls and rocks so as to get within range of the trenches and make as much noise as possible. In the meantime, our "Brave" allies the Arabs apparently began to think something was doing and could smell loot for the began to collect in thousands on the horizon in every direction. In the distance it looked like an army collecting on the doomed prey.
Several hundred of these Arabs mounted on horseback collected in rear of our cars and one of them who was apparently a man of importance after talking with our interpreter began to harangue his followers with the result that they all sprang into the saddle and rode forward up to the motor car column. Apparently this was not enough for their leader for he began to talk and yell at them seriously for about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour which presumably had the effect desired as they all rode forward on to the skyline. Immediately about ten machine guns and a couple of batteries of artillery opened fire. That was enough. The horsemen all turned tail and galloped until they were out of sight to the yells and jeers of the British and Australian onlookers. It was now our turn to make some show and several parties of machine gunners crept forward with their Lewis Guns. We also carried along our captured Pom Pom and sent across all the little shells from various positions at extreme range. Although they did no damage they made plenty of smoke and noise which was what we wanted for it looked to the Turks that we were bringing artillery up. After this the General decided on a bold stroke and resolved to send a demand to the Turkish Commander in chief to surrender. Accordingly in the afternoon Lieut.. McIntyre of No. 7 Light Car Patrol drove into the enemy's lines in a car under a white flag with documents for the Turkish Commander. No shots were fired at the car, but when the Turkish trenches were reached the car was stopped. McIntyre was blindfolded and taken through on foot to an officer who took him to the Turkish Commander who was very courteous. General MacAndrew's ultimatum requested the immediate surrender of all troops’ arms and war material in the town. In return the General promised safe custody and the best treatment given to prisoners of war.
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Further Reading:The Australian Light Horse - Structure