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 2.
AFTER THE ARMISTICE - Part 2
On the 4th December, we had another interesting trip and under orders from the G.O.C. we proceeded to Katna a railway town to take over from the Turks a train load of Guns and Machine Guns from the Turkish Southern line. These were to be handed over to us under the terms of the Armistice.
We arrived at Katna in the morning expecting the train to be in about midday and waited all day in the teeming rain without any sign of it. Late in the afternoon a message was received that the train was delayed owing to the lack of fuel, and the firewood gathered along the route was wet and unsuitable. We camped on the railway platform for the night and next morning the train slowly steamed in.
We went through the inventory of the guns and stores on board and found these correct. The Turkish officer in charge seemed to be quite pleased to hand over his charge. He said he was finished with military duties and was going back to his farm. He had had quite enough of war and handed to the writer his dagger as a souvenir. We placed a guard on the train which was the first one through from the Turkish direction since the Armistice and after about an hour's wait to get up a sufficient head of steam the train slowly proceeded on to Aleppo.
We drove there by road and arrived a couple of hours ahead of the train. Two days later we received orders at midnight to turn out and kill or capture a party of bandits who were attacking our telegraph linesmen along the road about 60 miles west. The night was bleak, cold, wet and miserable but after about five minutes grumbling the unit was going full speed, splashing through sheets of water and mud and all soaked through to the skin, only to arrive at our destination (with the first streaks of dawn) to find that the bandits had bolted to the mountains hours before, probably long before we started. However, this was only what we expected, so we picked up the linesmen and returned to our camp near Aleppo.
On the 11th we had a different sort of turnout. All care and guns were cleaned up and polished and everyone had his best uniform on for the occasion as this was the day of the Grand procession through the city on the official entry of General Allenby (the Commander in Chief). The inhabitants had to be impressed properly and the mounted forces with the various motor units in full strength made a good display as they paraded through the principal streets.
Two days later, we had another excursion after bandits in the direction of El Hamman; this time we managed to capture one of them. We brought him in and handed him over to the authorities to deal with.
The weather at this time of the year being the wet season, was very cold and miserable and the members of the patrol were feeling it very severely after their long sojourn in the extreme heat of the Jordan Valley. Many of them who managed to survive the malaria while in the hot and unhealthy parts were now succumbing to it although in a district where malaria was not prevalent, and one after another the men were being drafted off to hospital. Fortunately, we were able to get sufficient reinforcements to carry on with.
On the 28th December, the unit drew patrol and supplies for ten days and received orders to move north about 100 miles to the Turkish town of Ain Tab which was to be the centre of our operations until further orders. Ain Tab is at the foot of the mountains and is a very cold place in the winter and as it happened to be nearly mid winter we arrived there at the coldest time of the year. We drove into the town at 4 p.m. and were met by Major Mills, the British Representative there.
We were allotted quarters in an American school which was empty and were glad to get under a roof once more. We soon had some firewood brought up and a cheerful fire burning. Next morning when we woke up a snow storm was in full progress and the ground was under a mantle of white. Motoring was more or less out of the question and we hoped that no orders for any more moves would be received for some time. New Years Day broke out fine end we took the opportunity of sending back to Aleppo to bring up further supplies of petrol. The following night the car returned to Ain Tab with supplies after a very rough trip; the driver reported that the rains had washed innumerable stones on to the roads and he had had no fewer than fourteen punctures on the trip back. We found out afterwards that the stones were not wholly responsible for our tyre troubles so the tyres themselves were somewhat to blame. The M.T. stores had received a consignment of tyres of American manufacture which had been seat up from Egypt and these we discovered were far from being up to the standard of the quality of the usual tyres or British manufacture which we had received previously.
This day the 2nd January, was a day of gloom with the unit. Sergeant J. Langley the gallant N.C.O. who had led his car into numerous fights and who was the admiration of the whole unit, died at Aleppo hospital from malaria. He was a man of splendid physique, young, healthy and full of vigour, yet he died the second day after going to hospital. He received a bar to his D.C.M. the week previously. He was buried with full military honours at Aleppo Cemetery.
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Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - AFTER THE ARMISTICE - Part 2