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 3.
The Motor Dash on Aleppo - Part 3
There was no sign of the car with the white flag returning and it was decided that McIntyre must have been taken prisoner but after about four hours absence he returned with a reply.
This was to the effect that the Turkish Commandant of the town could not reply to the demand as he would have to communicate with Constantinople for instructions. However, the reply showed weakness. We found out afterwards that the Turks chief fear was of the hoards of Arabs hovering around as these gentry were always ready to fall on the defeated side and cut the throats of as many as possible. The Turks were very nervous about these fellows and although we found them useless as fighters they were indirectly of use on account of their reputation. That evening as we stood on the hills watching the city fires began to break out everywhere, explosions occurred in the city and railway stations and yards.
Then we knew that the bluff had worked and the Turks were preparing to evacuate. We could see railway trains leaving the other side of the town. The sky was lit up over the town all night. Next morning we drove into the city without opposition and as the last train drove out of the town with Turkish troops on one side the armoured cars and Light Car Patrols drove in along the road on the other side to the accompaniment of cheers and the usual banging of rifles of the inhabitants. As we drove into the town an enterprising moving picture operator took views of the column entering and a few days afterwards we saw views of the entry of the town at the local cinema theatre.
A peculiar feature about the operations of the day before during the manoeuvring of the cars outside the town was the fact that although the enemy batteries shelled us heavily and although nearly every one in the Light Car patrols received a pellet of some description, nobody was hurt.
Some of the bullets seemed to have no penetrating power and did not even penetrate the uniforms. Lieut. Cornwall picked a pellet out of his Sam Brown belt that would have gone through the region of the heart if it had only had enough power. Numbers of splinters and pellets next day were dug out of the woodwork on the cars while one driver got one on the knuckles of his hand when driving, making him momentarily release the steering wheel with a yell but beyond a slight cut his hand was uninjured. We came to the conclusion afterwards that the shrapnel must have been stuff that had been kept for many years and had lost its power, fortunately for us.
However, Aleppo was the Grand Finale of the best stunt we had had. By this time the advance men of the Mounted division were well on our heels and we soon had a strong force in the town, although nothing like the number of troops that had just left it. For the first couple of days we had to quieten the Arab and Bedouin looters who started to rob all the inhabitants of the town as soon as the Turks withdrew but we soon had these fellows under control.
The capture of Aleppo took place on the 26th October. The Turks withdrew to the North West and established a line of trenches about 15 miles out. The division followed took up positions outside the town across the road to Alexendretta. The armoured cur batteries and light car patrols taking up their share of this work.
The armoured cars attempted a reconnaissance a few days afterwards to test the Turkish defences. They found that the enemy had blown up all the culverts and bridges along the road and had dug trenches and pits at narrow crossings to make it difficult for vehicles to traverse. They got wall shelled all along the road and found that the enemy was in strength and after about an hour of this they returned to camp intending to try other routes later on but on the 31st October at noon an Armistice was declared with Turkey and all fighting was off.
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Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - The Motor Dash on Aleppo - Part 3