Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
THE DEAD SEA
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 DEAD SEA - Part 2
In spite of his wound however, he managed to get away to hide in the scrub during the day and crawled down to the beach at night lima, where he slept and rested for about twenty four hours. He put his foot into the water and left it there. The next evening he managed to crawl to a spot where he could light a fire and there he was found by the boat's crew. The doctor told us afterwards that they managed to save the foot after all.
They were afraid that gangrene had set in but it appeared that the wound was filled with almost solid salt from the Dead Sea, the healing properties of which had saved the foot.
The Dead Sea Post was quite an Interesting place from many points of view and we had numbers of episodes of various types to keep us from becoming dreary.
One morning the enemy dragged an old camel gun down the hills opposite to us and began to bombard the post at extreme range for an hour or two until pursuit was arranged and he was chased back over the hills again. The shelling did not do any harm as all the missiles exploded either in the water or in the mud behind. Another morning several of us who were standing on the water's edge wore surprised to see a large column of water shoot up into the air stout half a mile out to sea.
Some of the members of the unit (who had at one time been members of the Submarine miners Corps) immediately came to the conclusion that a mine had gone off under the water and were marvelling where it could have come from, when a few minutes afterwards another explosion was heard from behind and a column of mud from the land side shot up into the air about a quarter ff a mile behind us.
We then discovered that an enemy aeroplane was dropping bombs from a great height. He was flying so high that he could not be heard and barely seen even with the glasses. As his nearest shot was over a quarter of a mile from its target, he did not cause much anxiety to anybody.
Amongst the stuff left behind at the Dead Sea Post when captured, were all the parts of a large steam tug which had been taken to pieces at Haifa and transported overland in sections by the Germans and Turks. It must have taken a large amount of labour and time to do this as every piece had to be brought by road over the steep hills for something like 100 miles.
All the parts were there except the engines and these could not be found. These had either not been brought or had been sunk in the water. Divers were sent down to search but no trace could be discovered. The British authorities decided to assemble the boat as all the parts were so conveniently left for them, and internal combustion engines from some of the Tractors were to be installed. Some shipwrights were brought down and the frames and plates of the boat were all riveted up. When we left the Jordan Valley some months afterwards the hull seemed to be all ready for launching but we never heard whether this had ever been done.
On the 14th July (a few days after our move to the Dead Sea post) our two cars on morning patrol work at about 5 a.m. noticed movements of enemy troops some miles east of the Jordan. This information was immediately sent back to Headquarters and in the meantime parties of the enemy could be heard being engaged by our outposts. Apparently there was to be another attack on the river front. Sergeant J. T. Langley (a Bendigo boy) was In charge of the morning patrol that day and after sending back full particulars of enemy movements, he reported to the officer in charge of the lower Bridge-head asking permission to cross and engage the enemy in front. This was granted to him and he immediately took his two cars across the bridge proceeding to some hills about a mile to the east where he dismounted his Lewis guns and carried them to a spot commanding the approaches in his direction. He left his two cars below headed for the bridge ready to move off in a hurry if necessary.
Meanwhile he entrenched and waited. Shortly afterwards a column of pack horses came along and a Machine Gun Section. These were allowed to get well into range when both Lewis Guns opened on to them with deadly effect. The horses were stampeded and some of them killed.
Meantime one of the enemy machine guns managed to get into action and a duel began in which the Turkish machine guns came off worst. Some time afterwards the rest of the Patrol came up to relieve the morning men but when they arrived the ground in front was strewn with enemy debris. The remaining men of the Turkish section in front of us fled abandoning their machine guns and equipment which were captured. In that engagement we fired 5000 rounds out of our Lewis gone and two of the barrels were so damaged is the rifling owing to the continuous fire that the had to be renewed. Beyond this the only damage suffered by the patrol was some slight injury to the casing on one of the Lewis guns by an enemy bullet. The Turks retired from this attack along the line leaving large numbers of dead and prisoners.
Sergeant J. Langley was awarded the D.C.M. for his conduct during this attack and that was the end of the second big attack on the Jordan Valley. The enemy now seemed to lose all interest in us for a couple of weeks and we arranged a big cricket match between the Australia Light Cars and the Garrison of the post who consisted of English units. This was looked on as a test match and created a lot of interest for miles around. The weather of course was intensely hot us usual, out the fielders were able to have a swim in between each batsman's hand. I'm pleased to say that Australia won this test by 110 to 36 runs.
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Further Reading:The Australian Light Horse - Structure
Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - The Dead Sea - Part 2