Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
AFTER THE ARMISTICE
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 1.
AFTER THE ARMISTICE - Part 1
Because an Armistice was on it did not mean that work sassed for members of the motor units. As a matter of fact, the numbers of duties to be attended to seemed to increase rather than otherwise.
Car crews had to be out on outpost duties the same as usual and relieved one another for day and night shifts as the front lines were kept intact and no armed bodies were allowed to approach. Numerous trips were undertaken to quell disturbances caused chiefly by bodies of unfriendly Arabs and tribesmen in the various villages and towns in the vicinity.
In fact, we came to the conclusion that the whole population of Asia Minor and Syria were more or leas cutthroats and robbers. The tribe that was strongest generally murdered and robbed the weaker ones.
The Light Car Patrols owing to their mobility were gradually taking over the job of policing the occupied territory and had to take numberless excursions by night and day in all directions on both real and false alarms. One of the first undertakings of the British at Aleppo was to get the Railway intact and trains through running to Damascus again. Several of the bridges had been blown up and most of the locomotives had been damaged before the Turks left the town.
A small shunting engine had been overlooked and this came in very useful for moving construction material. Several German motor lorries with flanged wheels to use as rail motors were also discovered and in a very few days, Major Alexander the CRE had the line clear for the first train from Damascus and a daily service was soon in vogue.
Several miles north of Aleppo was Muslemeye which was a very important point on the Railway line as the junction of the two lines from Constantinople and Baghdad took place there. At this junction was stationed a large German Mechanical Transport Depot with stores and workshops. In the yards we were surprised to see quite a number of the German army lorries which we had put out of action several months previously on the Amman & Es Salt road. They were in for reconstruction, but practically nothing had been done to them and they were in the same state as we had left them on the road. Some with their water jackets smashed and others with the gear boxes blown in. We could imagine the tremendous amount of work the enemy had put in getting these vehicles back over the road and then on to the rail again, only to be abandoned once more several hundred miles north.
On the 24th November, we had an interesting trip into the enemy country under arrangements made between the British, French and Turkish authorities.
Our instructions were to make a road reconnaissance up to the town of Erzin which is west of the Taurus Mountains in Asia Minor as it was proposed to send Ambulances to this point to pick up sick and wounded prisoners in Turkish hands and bring them back to our own hospitals before the weather became too wet for travelling. We accordingly took a couple of our own cars and borrowed one of the Rolls tenders from the 11th L.A.M.B.S. and drove westward over the Hills of Bailin to the Mediterranean at Alexandretta (about 100 miles) where we stayed for the night in a liquorice factory on the sea coast.
In the morning we picked up the English base Commandant and the French Military Governor (as Alexandretta was in the French sphere.)
We made an early start and drove north under a white flag until we came to the Turkish line of trenches where we were halted. The Turkish Authorities had been advised and had raised no obstacles to the expedition. After a short delay we crossed the Trenches picked up a Turkish officer as a guide and drove along the coast for a while then proceeded inland passing numbers of Turkish and Armenian villages (most of the latter being deserted and looted). There were very few travellers on the roads and the few that we passed ignored us probably thinking we were German. We arrived in time to have a late lunch at Erzin and after Interviews between the British & Turkish local authorities who all seemed to talk in French we drove back to Alexandratta arriving at the French lines before dark. We found the tracks rough but quite negotiable for motor ambulances provided the weather was dry but quite hopeless after any heavy rain and we made our report accordingly. Next morning we left Alexandretta and got back to Aleppo in the afternoon.
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Further Reading:The Australian Light Horse - Structure
Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - AFTER THE ARMISTICE - Part 1