Friday, 9 June 2006

A TALE OF THE ARABIAN KNIGHTS – A REPORT FROM THE ARABIAN PENINSULA

A NOTE FROM THE PROPRIETORS AND THE EDITOR.

The following report has been made available to this journal from the War Cabinet. We have been requested to observe their conditions in respect of publishing the same, on the grounds of avoiding compromising any operations that may be in progress or are being planned. Both the Proprietors and the Editor of this journal are more than happy to comply with this request; furthermore, they have arranged for any such communications to be reviewed by the War Cabinet prior to publication. The Freedom of speech, the right of every subject of her most Gracious Majesty, has been in no way undermined by the imposition of these conditions which have freely and readily been accepted by the aforementioned officers of this journal.

"A MEAN AND PETTY AFFAIR; UNWORTHY OF NOTICE OR RECOGNITION……"

"We travelled by night. The indifferent stars shone down on our progress with imperious contempt; as we laboured across limitless and unseen horizons to an uncertain goal. We travelled lightly, with no more than sacks of flour and dates and skins of water for sustenance – meagre victuals for our purposeful meandering. We carried only personal weapons – rifles, pistols and for those of a more noble temperament, swords. We had no artillery, no signals, no staff, no quartermaster, no pomp and no circumstance. Such things would have been worse than useless and we hurriedly abandoned such notions as rubbish and beneath our level of existence. We carried no flag and marched behind no band; such petty concerns were the instruments of an organised body and we had no such aspirations. Our loyalty was to each other; the fettering of honour that all men must submit to when faced with adversity. These moral shackles, given freely so that all of a single purpose could pursue a common cause without fear or doubt, became our creed. The social codes and etiquette; so dear and essential in my own time and place were an irrelevance; a sham which had no place under the deserts brazen sky. I had to discard them, and consign their conscious restraint to the recesses of my soul. Into this alien world, so different from my own, I was placed."

"Our mission was a familiar one; the execution an almost mechanical routine. We had an appointment with a railway line; no doubt marked on some officer’s map and with an inflated sense of value of that time and place. Twenty men of the Howeitat, Ali, Hamed and myself made our way by easy stages to the designated point. Several times we saw Turkish Airships, vast bloated things, the colour of dried camel dung and droning like a swarm of flies; the limp flag of the Ottomans always flying at their masts. In the azure blue sky they were easy for our party to see and they either failed to notice us or ignored us as an irrelevance. Patrols of troops caused us more concern but we were able to take advantage of places that no sane army would penetrate; the boulder - strewn slopes and twisting valleys that spelt death to the unwary or unprepared. The Turks assiduously avoided such places; much to our relief and benefit. The camels would protest vehemently and would need to dragged by their head stalls in order to comply with the wishes of their berating masters."

"Finally, after a journey lasting several uneventful and monotonous days, we arrived at our destination. Our arrival was at first light and we had determined to place the charges and be away from the inevitable enemy reaction during the following evening. This meant lying up for the day nearby, with the railway under observation. We would make no move until the day was well advanced and would retire from the scene during the hours of darkness to a safer observation point to witness the effects of our handiwork. This was our pattern and served as a regulation for our efforts. Practise and experience provided the instruction we needed and not that taken from works of theory. The charges were laid – a party of ten men and myself whilst the remainder covered us with the single Lewis gun and rifles, as well as guarding our life-giving camels. A pressure switch that incorporated a unique feature in that they were also steam sensitive operated our explosive devices. This meant that the old trick of placing a flat bed truck laden with slabs of rock would not serve to activate the explosive. Vented steam from an engine, together with the weight of the associated tender would however, do so. The steam switch could be used or ignored, at the discretion of the saboteur. We were after engines alone so had ours permanently engaged. The charges were laid and we were preparing our camp prior to departure when one of the lookouts announced that a Land Ironclad was heading along the line (the Turks had been using these monstrous vehicles for some time in this fashion) towards the point we had just mined. Despite their usually suicidal bravery in battle the men of the Howeitat were reluctant to face such a machine in battle. They considered such a device as an affront to man and went in mortal dread of them. We had no choice in the matter other than to stay as any attempt to escape from our refuge would be instantly seen and we had no illusions as to how long we could last under an assault from such a leviathan. We had to sit tight, to stay exactly where we were and hope that not only did they not see us but that also they had no accompanying infantry."

"Nervously we waited, the iced barb of fear in our stomachs and with throats parched with the desert sun and pure fear. The great machine, clanking noisily and belching great clouds of steam, trundled inexorably towards the spot we had mined. The ground beneath us shook and shuddered as the huge iron beast bore down on us. The strain was intense; the stomach – churning fear of sudden and violent death hovered over us like a waiting bird of prey. The slightest movement and we would be discovered. It then became too much to be borne by mere flesh and blood. One of the Howeitat; driven mad by the tortures of thirst and the prospect of impending death leapt to his feet, drew his scimitar and mauser pistol and with a screaming battle cry, ran down the scree – covered slope to attack the Turkish vehicle."

"He had not gone fifty yards when the great machine stopped and a machine gun hammered out its message of sudden death. His body tumbled to a halt at the foot of the scree, a lifeless jumble of cloth and torn flesh. Some shouted orders were heard coming from the conning tower of the vehicle and the great engine revved to a more urgent tone, belching and hissing with great gouts of steam as it swung about to face us in our woefully inadequate shelter. Before we had a chance to do anything by way of a reaction there was a mighty explosion. As the great machine had pivoted to face us it has obviously driven on to one or more of our mines. The act of revving the engine to give more power had caused steam to be vented straight under the machine, directly on the mines thereby emulating the action of a train. A huge cloud of smoke and showers of debris poured from the sky all around us. As the dust settled and the strident ringing in the ears subsided we were able to view the full extent of our damage. The Land Ironclad lay on its side diagonally across the railway, its destroyed innards belching thick black smoke into the clear desert sky. Small popping noises issued from within as the small arms ammunition caught fire. We stared, stunned by the enormity of our actions."

"Cautiously we approached the destroyed engine – from curiosity as much as anything when a small hatch clanged open. We stood, rooted to the spot as a Turkish officer, clearly dying, attempted to drag his shattered body from the wreckage. The spell broken by his movement, Ali shot him twice and he fell dead, slumped over the hatch. Smiling, Ali walked over to the dead Turkish officer and took his pistol from his hand and his fire scorched fez. Our own man was still alive but was clearly fading fast. His body was torn by the impact of many bullets and his skin was grazed and bleeding. We stood around him and, as if by our collective willpower we could save his life we helplessly watched him pass. Hamed broke the silence "It was his time, we will take his price." We gathered our belongings and after burying our recently departed brother made ready to depart."

"We were twenty three and now twenty two. Our number was reduced by the merest whole denomination. The reassuring creak of the camels saddles assuaged our anguish as we headed away. The pulse of life throbbed inexorably on and the indifferent heavens mocked our grief over such a mean and petty affair; unworthy of notice or recognition…..……."

Our readers must bear in mind that this report has been compiled in conjunction with the War Cabinet and the strictures observed therein. As part of this agreement we are unable to furnish the name of the officer in question although informed sources have hinted that a possible decoration may be awarded.

THIS IS BUT A SMALL PART OF THE TRAGEDY OCCURING DAILY WITHIN THE ARABIAN PENINSULA; A STORY OF THE FEW ATTEMPTING TO TACKLE THE MANY WITH THE AID OF OUR GALLANT OFFICERS.

TO OUR ARABIAN ALLIES – DO NOT DESPAIR, HER MAJESTIES FORCES ARE MAKING READY TO PROVIDE SUCCOUR AND COMFORT AND YOUR SUFFERING WILL BE SOON BE ALLEVIATED.

No comments:

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!