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   Chapter 5 THE ADVANCE ON THE EUPHRATES

War in the Garden of Eden By Kermit Roosevelt Characters: 36592

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Early in March we got orders to return to Baghdad, where all the armored cars were to be concentrated preparatory to an attack on the Euphrates front. There was much speculation as to our mission. Some said that we were to break through and establish connection with General Allenby's forces in Palestine. While I know nothing about it authoritatively, it is certain that if the state of affairs in France had not called for the withdrawal from the East of all the troops that could be spared, the attack that was launched in October would have taken place in March. We could then have advanced up the Euphrates, and it would have been entirely practical to cross over the desert in the cars by way of Tadmor.

When we got word to come in, the roads were in fearful shape and the rain was falling in torrents, but we were so afraid that we might miss the attack that we salvaged everything not essential and started to fight our way through the mud. It was a slow and wearisome process, but we managed to get as far as Bakuba by evening. The river was rising in one of its periodical floods and we found that the pontoon bridge had been cut half an hour before our arrival. No one could predict how long the flood would last, but the river rarely went down sufficiently to allow the bridge to be replaced within a week. At that time the railroad went only as far as Bakuba, and crossed the river on a wooden trestle, so I decided to try to load the motors on a flat car and get across the Diyala in that way.

After having made arrangements to do this I wandered off into the bazaar to get something to eat. In native fashion I first bought a big flap of bread from an old woman, and then went to a pickle booth to get some beets, which I wrapped in my bread. Next I proceeded to a meat-shop and ordered some lamb kababs roasted. The meat is cut in pellets, spitted on rods six or eight inches long, and lain over the glowing charcoal embers. In the shop there are long tables with benches beside them. The customer spreads his former purchases, and when his kababs are ready he eats his dinner. He next proceeds to a coffee-house, where he has a couple of glasses of tea and three or four diminutive cups of coffee to top off, and the meal is finished. The Arab eats sparingly as a rule, but when he gives or attends a banquet he stuffs himself to his utmost capacity.

Next morning we loaded our cars successfully and started off by rail for Baghdad, some thirty miles away. The railroad wound across the desert, with here and there a water-tank with a company from a native regiment guarding it. As we stopped at one particularly desolate spot, a young officer came running up and asked if we would have tea with him. He took us to his tent, where everything was ready, for he apparently always met the two trains that passed through daily. Poor fellow, he was only a little over twenty, and desperately lonely and homesick. Many of the young officers who were wounded in France were sent to India with the idea that they could be training men and getting on to the methods of the Indian army while yet recuperating and unfit to go back to the front. They were shipped out with a new draft when they had fully recovered. This boy had only been a month in the country, and ten days before had been sent off in charge of his Sikh company to do this wearisome guard duty.

We spent a few days in Baghdad refitting. The cars were to go out camouflaged to resemble supply-trucks, for every precaution was taken to prevent the Turks from realizing that we were massing men for an attack. The night before we were to start, word came in that the political officer at Nejef had been murdered, and the town was in revolt. We were ordered to send a section there immediately, so Lieutenant Ballingal's was chosen, while the rest of us left next morning with the balance of the battery for Hit. The first part of the route lay across the desert to Falujah, a prosperous agricultural town on the Euphrates. Rail-head lies just beyond at a place known as Tel El Dhubban-the "Hill of the Flies." From there on supplies were brought forward by motor transport, or in Arab barges, called shakturs. We crossed the river on a bridge of boats and continued up along the bank to Ramadie. Here I stayed over, detailed to escort the army commander on a tour of inspection.

The smaller towns along the Euphrates are far more attractive than those on the Tigris. The country seems more developed, and most inviting gardens surround the villages. Hit, which lies twenty miles up-stream of Ramadie, is an exception. It is of ancient origin and built upon a hill, with a lovely view of the river. It has not a vestige of green on it, but stands out bleak and harsh in contrast to the palm-groves fringing the bank. The bitumen wells near by have been worked for five thousand years and are responsible for the town being a centre of boat manufacture. With the bitumen, the gufas and mahelas are "pitched without and within," in the identical manner in which we are told that the ark was built. The jars in which the women of the town draw water from the river, instead of being of copper or earthenware as elsewhere, are here made of pitched wicker-work. The smell of the boiling bitumen and the sulphur springs is trying to a stranger, although the natives regard it as salubrious, and maintain that through it the town is saved from cholera epidemics. We had captured Hit a few weeks previously, and the aeroplanes flying low over the town had reported the disagreeable smell, attributing it to dirt and filth. "Eyewitness," the official newspaper correspondent, mentioned this in despatches, and when I was passing through, a proclamation of apology was being prepared to soothe the outraged and slandered townsfolk.

A water-wheel on the Euphrates

After taking the army commander back to rail-head, we retraced our steps with all speed to Hit, and thence the eight miles up-stream to Salahiyeh. The road beyond Hit was in fearful shape, and the engineers were working night and day to keep it open and in some way passable. In the proposed attack we were to jump off from Salahiyeh, and it was here that the armored cars were assembled. Our camp was close to a Turkish hospital. There were two great crescents and stars laid out for a signal to warn our aeroplanes not to drop bombs. One of the crescents was made of turf and the other of limestone. The batteries took turns in making the reconnaissances, in the course of which they would come in for a good deal of shelling. The road was unpleasant, because the camels and transport animals that had been killed during the Turkish retreat from Hit were by now very high. For some unknown reason there were no jackals or vultures to form a sanitary section. After reconnoitring the enemy positions and noting the progress they were making in constructing their defenses, we would make a long circuit back to camp.

One unoccupied morning I went over to an island on the river. Its cool, restful look had attracted me on the day I arrived, and it quite fulfilled its promise. Indeed, it was the only place I came across in Mesopotamia that might have been a surviving fragment of the Garden of Eden. It was nearly a mile long, and scattered about on it were seven or eight thick-walled and well-fortified houses. The entire island was one great palm-grove, with pomegranates, apricots, figs, orange-trees, and grape-vines growing beneath the palms. The grass at the foot of the trees was dotted with blue and pink flowers. Here and there were fields of spring wheat. The water-ditches which irrigated the island were filled by giant water-wheels, thirty to fifty feet in diameter. These "naurs" have been well described in the Bible, and I doubt if they have since been modified in a single item. There are sometimes as many as sixteen in a row. As they scoop the water up in the gourd-shaped earthenware jars bound to their rims, they shriek and groan on their giant wooden axles.

On the night of March 25 we got word that the long-expected attack would take place next morning. We had the cars ready to move out by three. Since midnight shadowy files had been passing on their way forward to get into position. One of our batteries went with the infantry to advance against the main fortified position at Khan Baghdadi. The rest of us went with the cavalry around the flank to cut the Turks off if they tried to retreat up-stream. We were well on our way at daybreak. The country was so broken up with ravines and dry river-beds that we knew we had a long, hard march ahead of us. Our maps were poor. A German officer that we captured had in some manner got hold of our latest map, and noting that we had omitted entirely a very large ravine, became convinced that any enveloping movement we attempted would prove a failure. As it happened, we came close to making the blunder he had anticipated, for we started to advance down to the river along the bank of a nullah which would have taken us to Khan Baghdadi instead of eight or ten miles above it, as we wished. I think it was our aeroplanes that set us straight. I was in charge of the tenders with supplies and spares, and spent most of the time in the leading Napier lorry. Occasionally I slipped into an armored car to go off somewhere on a separate mission. The Turks had doubtless anticipated a flanking movement and kept shelling us to a certain extent, but we could hear that they were occupying themselves chiefly with the straight attacking force. By afternoon we had turned in toward the river and our cavalry was soon engaged. The country was too broken for the cars to get in any really effective work. By nightfall we hoped we were approximately where we should be, and after making our dispositions as well as the circumstances would permit, we lay down beside the cars and were soon sound asleep. At midnight we were awakened by the bullets chipping the rocks and stones among which we were sleeping. A night attack was evidently under way, and it is always an eerie sensation. We correctly surmised that the Turks were in retreat from Khan Baghdadi and had run into our outposts. In a few minutes we were replying in volume, and the rat-tat-tats of the machine-guns on either side were continuous. The enemy must have greatly overestimated our numbers, for in a short time small groups started surrendering, and before things had quieted we had twelve hundred prisoners. The cavalry formed a rough prison-camp and we turned in again to wait for daylight.

At dawn we started to reconnoitre our position to find out just how matters stood. We came upon a body of two thousand of the enemy which had been held up by us in the night and had retreated a short distance to wait till it became light before surrendering. Among them were a number of German officers. They were all of them well equipped with machine-guns and rifles. Their intrenching tools and medical supplies were of Austrian manufacture, as were also the rolling kitchens. These last were of an exceedingly practical design. While we were taking stock of our capture we got word that Khan Baghdadi had been occupied and a good number of prisoners taken. We were instructed to press on and take Haditha, thirty miles above Khan Baghdadi. It was hoped that we might recapture Colonel Tennant, who was in command of the Royal Flying Corps forces in Mesopotamia. He had been shot down at Khan Baghdadi the day before the attack. We learned from prisoners that he had been sent up-stream immediately, on his way to Aleppo, but it was thought that he might have been held over at Haditha or at Ana.

We found that a lot of the enemy had got by between us and the river and had then swung back into the road. We met with little opposition, save from occasional bands of stragglers who concealed themselves behind rocks and sniped at us. Numbers surrendered without resistance as we caught up with them. We disarmed them and ordered them to walk back until they fell in with our cavalry, or the infantry, which was being brought forward in trucks. As we bowled along in pursuit the scene reminded me of descriptions in the novels of Sienkiewicz or Erckmann-Chatrian. The road was littered with equipment of every sort, disabled pack-animals, and dead or dying Turks. It was hard to see the wounded withering in the increasing heat-the dead were better off. We reached the heights overlooking Haditha to find that the garrison was in full retreat. Most of it had left the night before. Those remaining opened fire upon us, but in a half-hearted way, that was not calculated to inflict much loss. Many of the inhabitants of the town lived in burrows in the hillsides. Some of these caves had been filled with ammunition. The enemy had fired all their dumps, and rocks were flying about. We endeavored to save as much of the material as was possible. We were particularly anxious to get all papers dealing with the Arabs, to enable us to check up which were our friends and which of the ones behind our lines were dealing treacherously with us. We recaptured a lot of medical equipment and some ammunition that had been taken from our forces during the Gallipoli campaign.

Haditha is thirty-five miles from Khan Baghdadi, and Ana is an equal distance beyond. It was decided that we should push on to a big bridge shown on the map as eight miles this side of Ana. We were to endeavor to secure this before the Turks could destroy it, and cross over to bivouac on the far side. The road was in fair shape. Many of the small bridges were of recent construction. We soon found that our map was exceedingly inaccurate. Our aeroplanes were doing a lot of damage to the fleeing Turks, and as we began to catch up with larger groups we had some sharp engagements. The desert Arabs hovered like vultures in the distance waiting for nightfall to cover them in their looting.

That night we camped near the bridge. At dusk the Red Cross ambulances and some cavalry caught up. The latter had had a long, hard two days, with little to eat for the men and less for the horses, but both were standing up wonderfully. They were the Seventh Hussars and just as they reached us we recaptured one of their sergeants who had been made prisoner on the previous night. He had covered forty miles on foot, but the Turks had treated him decently and he had come through in good shape. We always felt that the Turk was a clean fighter. Our officers he treated well as long as he had anything to give or share with them. With the enlisted men he was not so considerate, but I am inclined to think that it was because he was not accustomed to bother his head much about his own rank and file, so it never occurred to him to consider ours. The Turkish private would thrive on what was starvation issue to our men. The attitude of many of the Turkish officers was amusing, if exasperating. They seemed to take it for granted that they would be treated with every consideration due an honored guest. They would complain bitterly about not being supplied with coffee, although at the time we might be totally without it ourselves and far from any source of supply. The German prisoners were apt to cringe at first, but as soon as they found they were not to be oppressed became arrogant and overbearing. At different times we retook men that had been captives for varying lengths of time. I remember a Tommy, from the Manchesters, if I am not mistaken, who had been taken before Kut fell, but had soon after made his escape and lived among the Kurdish tribesmen for seven or eight months before he found his way back to us. Quite a number of Indians who had been set to work on the construction of the Berlin-to-Baghdad Railway between Nisibin and Mosul made good their escape and struggled through to our lines.

It was a great relief when the Red Cross lorries came in and we could turn over the wounded to them. All night long they journeyed back and forth transporting such as could stand the trip to the main evacuation camp at Haditha.

By daybreak we were once more under way. Under cover of darkness the Arabs had pillaged the abandoned supplies, in some cases killing the wounded Turks. The transport animals of the enemy and their cavalry horses were in very bad shape. They had evidently been hard put to it to bring through sufficient fodder during the wet winter months when the roads were so deep in mud as to be all but impassable. Instead of being distant from Ana the eight miles that we had measured on the map, we found that we were seventeen, but we made it without any serious hindrance. The town was most attractive, embowered in gardens which skirt the river's edge for a distance of four or five miles. In addition to the usual palms and fruit-trees there were great gnarled olives, the first I had seen in Mesopotamia, as were also the almond-trees. It must be of great antiquity, for the prophet Isaiah speaks of it as a place where kings had reigned, but from which, even in his time, the grandeur had departed.

The greater part of the enemy had already abandoned the town, but we captured the Turkish governor and a good number of the garrison, and many that had escaped from Haditha. The disaster at Khan Baghdadi had only been reported the afternoon before, as we had of course cut all the telegraph wires, and the governor had not thought it possible we would continue the pursuit so far. He had spent most of his life in Hungary and had been given this post only a few months previous to our advance. From the prisoners we had taken at Haditha we had extracted conflicting estimates as to the time when Colonel Tennant, the commander of our air forces, had been sent on, and from those we took at Ana we received equally varying accounts. The cars had been ordered to push on in search of the colonel as long as sufficient gasolene remained to bring them back. Captain Todd with the Eighth Battery was in the lead when some thirty miles north of Ana they caught sight of a group of camels surrounded by horsemen. A couple of belts from the machine-guns scattered the escort, and Colonel Tennant and his companion, Major Hobart, were soon safe in the turret of one of the cars.

From some of our Turkish

captives we heard about a large gold convoy which had been sent back from Ana; some said one day, and others two, before our arrival. The supply of fuel that we had brought in the tenders was almost exhausted, so that it would be necessary to procure more in order to continue the pursuit. Major Thompson, who was in command of the armored-car detachment, instructed me to take all the tenders and go back as far as was necessary to find a petrol dump from which I could draw a thousand gallons. I emptied the trucks and loaded them with such of the wounded as could stand the jolting they were bound to receive because of the speed at which I must travel. I also took a few of the more important prisoners, among them the governor of Ana. He was a cultivated middle-aged man who spoke no Arabic but quite good French. It was mid-afternoon when we started, and I hadn't the most remote idea where I would find a sufficient quantity of petrol. During the run back we were sniped at occasionally by Turks who were still hiding in the hills. A small but determined force could have completely halted the cars in a number of different places where the road wound through narrow rock-crowned gorges, or along ledges cut in the hillside and hemmed in by the river. In such spots the advance of the armored cars could either have been completely checked, or at all events seriously hampered and delayed, merely by rolling great boulders down on top of us.

When we had retraced our steps for about sixty miles I was lucky enough to get wind of an enemy petrol dump that our men had discovered. It was a special aeroplane supply and the colonel of the infantry regiment who was guarding it had been instructed to allow none of it to be used for automobiles. He showed his desire to co-operate and his ability to read the spirit rather than the letter of a command by letting me load my tenders. The L.A.M. batteries were well regarded and we everywhere encountered a willingness to meet us more than half-way and aid us in the thousand and one points that make so much difference in obtaining results.

By the time that we had everything in readiness for our return run it was long after dark and the men were exhausted. I managed to get some tea, but naturally no sugar or milk. The strong steaming brew served to wash down the scanty supply of cold bully beef. Fortunately it was a brilliant starlit night, but even so it was difficult to avoid ditches and washouts, and the road seemed interminable. Not long after we left we ran into a couple of armored cars that had been detailed to bring the rescued aviators back, after they had been reoutfitted and supplied as far as our limited resources would permit. During the halt I found that my sergeant had produced from somewhere or other an emergency rum ration which he was issuing. An old-army, experienced sergeant always managed to hold over a reserve from former issues for just such occasions as this, when it would be of inestimable value. I had been driving all day and had the greatest difficulty in keeping awake. Twice I dozed off. Once I awakened just as the car started over the edge of an embankment; the other time a large rock in the road brought me back to the world. It was two o'clock in the morning when we wearily crept into Ana.

The expedition to capture the gold convoy was to start at four, so after two hours' sleep I bundled into one of the Rolls-Royces and the column swung out into the road. Through the mist loomed the sinister, businesslike outlines of the armored car ahead of me. Captain Carr of the Thirteenth L.A.M.B.'s[1] was in command of the expedition. Unless we were in action or in a locality where we momentarily expected to be under fire from rifle or machine-gun, the officer commanding the car and his N.C.O. stood in the well behind the turret, steadying themselves with leather loops riveted to its sides. On long runs the tool-boxes on either side of the well formed convenient seats. When the car became engaged the crew would get inside, pulling the steel doors shut. The slits through which the driver and the man next him looked could be made still smaller when the firing was heavy, and the peep-holes at either side and in the rear had slides which could be closed. The largest aperture was that around the tube of the gun. Splinters of lead came in continuously, and sometimes chance directed a bullet to an opening. One of our drivers was shot straight through the head near Ramadie. The bottom of the car was of wood, and bullets would ricochet up through it, but to have had it made of steel would have added too much weight. The large gasolene-tank behind was usually protected by plating, but even so was fairly vulnerable. A reserve-tank holding ten gallons was built inside the turret. We almost invariably had trouble with the feed-pipes leading from it. During the great heat of the summer the inside of the turret was a veritable fiery furnace, with the pedals so hot that they scorched the feet.

Forty miles above Ana we came upon a large khan. These road-houses are built at intervals along the main caravan routes. Their plan is simple: four walls with two tiers of rooms or booths built into them, enclosing an open court in which the camels and horses are tethered during the night. The whole is strongly made to resist the inroads of the desert tribesmen. As we drove to the heavy gate, a wild clamor met our ears from a confused jumble of Jewish and Armenian merchants that had taken refuge within. Some of them had left Ana on their way to Aleppo before the news of the fall of Khan Baghdadi had reached the town. Others had been despatched by the Turks when the news of our advance arrived. All had been to a greater or lesser degree plundered by the Arabs. Most of the baggage animals had been run off, and the merchants were powerless to move. The women were weeping and imploring help, and the children tumbled about among the confused heaps of merchandise. Some of the Armenians had relations in Baghdad about whom I was able to give them bits of information. All begged permission to go back to Ana and thence to the capital. We, of course, had no means of supplying them with transportation, and any attempt to recapture their lost property was out of the question.

A few miles on we made out a troop of Arabs hurrying inland, a mile or so away from us, across a couple of ravines. They had some of the stolen camels and were laden down with plunder. Two of our cars made a fruitless attempt to come to terms with them, but only succeeded in placing a few well-aimed bursts from their machine-guns among them.

We now began to come up with bands of Turks. We ran across a number of isolated stragglers who had been stripped by the Arabs. A few had been killed. They as a rule surrendered without any hesitation. We disarmed them and told them to walk back toward Ana. Several times we had short engagements with Turkish cavalry. As a general thing the ground was so very broken up that it was impossible to man?uvre. I was riding a good deal of the time in the Ford tender that we had brought along with a few supplies, and when one of the tires blew out I waited behind to replace it. The armored cars had quite a start and we raced along to catch them. In my hurry I failed to notice that they had left the road in pursuit of a troop of cavalry, so when we sighted a large square building of the sort the Turks use as barracks, I made sure that the cars had been there before me. We drove up to the door and I jumped out and shoved it open. In the yard were some infantry and a few cavalry. I had only my stick-my Webley revolver was still in its holster. There was nothing to do but put on a bold front, so I shouted in Arabic to the man I took to be the officer in command, telling him to surrender, and trying to act as if our forces were just outside. I think he must have been more surprised than I was, for he did so immediately, turning over the post to me. Eldridge, the Ford driver, had succeeded in disengaging the rifle that he had strapped in beside him, and we made the rounds under the escort of our captive.

One wing of the post was used as a hospital, under the charge of an intelligent little Armenian. He seemed well informed about the war, and asked the question that was the universal wail of all the Armenians we encountered: "When would Great Britain free their country, and would she make it an independent state?" There was a definite limit to the number of prisoners we could manage to carry back, but I offered the doctor to include him. His answer was to go to his trunk and produce a picture of his wife and little daughter. They were, he told me, in Constantinople, and it was now two years since he had had leave, so that as his turn was due, he would wait on the chance of seeing his family.

When the cars came up we set off again in pursuit of the elusive gold convoy. We could get no accurate information concerning it. Some said it was behind, others ahead. We never ran it down. It may well be that it was concealed in a ravine near the road a few yards from where we passed. Just short of a town called Abu Kemal we caught three Germans. They were in terror when we took them, and afterward said that they had expected to be shot. Under decent treatment they soon became so insolent that they had to be brought up short.

A "Red Crescent" ambulance

During the run back to Ana we picked up the more important of our prisoners and took them with us. Twenty-two were all we could manage. I was running one of the big cars. It was always a surprise to see how easy they were to handle in spite of the weight of the armor-plate. We each took great pride in the car in which we generally rode. All had names. In the Fourteenth one section had "Silver Dart" and "Silver Ghost" and another "Gray Terror" and "Gray Knight." The car in which I rode a great deal of the time met its fate only a few days before the armistice, long after I had gone to France. Two direct hits from an Austrian "eighty-eight" ended its career.

It was after midnight when we got back to our camp in a palm-garden in Ana. Although we had not succeeded in capturing the gold convoy, we had brought in a number of valuable prisoners, and among other things I had found some papers belonging to a German political agent whom we had captured. These contained much information about the Arab situation, and through them it was all but proved that the German was the direct instigator of the murder of the political officer at Nejef. An amusing sidelight was thrown in the letters addressed by Arab sheiks through this agent to the Kaiser thanking him for the iron crosses they had been awarded. There must have been an underlying grim humor in distributing crosses to the Mohammedan Arabs in recognition of their efforts to withstand the advance into the Holy Land of the Christian invaders.

On our arrival at Ana we were told that orders had come through that the town be evacuated on the following morning. Preparations were made to blow up the ammunition dump, which was fortunately concentrated in a series of buildings that joined each other. We warned the inhabitants and advised them to hide in the caves along the hillsides. We ourselves went back to the camp which we had occupied near the bridge the night before entering Ana. During the afternoon Major Edye, a political officer, turned up, travelling alone with an Arab attendant. He pitched his camp, consisting of a saddle and blanket, close beside us. He was an extraordinarily interesting man, with a great gift for languages. In the course of a year or so's wandering in Abyssinia he had learned both ancient and modern Abyssinian. There was a famous German Orientalist with whom he corresponded in the pre-war days. He had mailed him a letter just at the outbreak, which, written in ancient Abyssinian, must have been a good deal of a puzzle to the censors.

The main explosion, taking place at the appointed time, was succeeded by smaller ones, which continued at gradually lengthening intervals throughout the night. General Cassels, who had commanded the cavalry brigade so ably throughout the advance, wished to return to Ana on the following morning in order to check up the thoroughness with which the dump had been destroyed. He took an escort of armored cars, and as I was the only one in the batteries who could speak Arabic, my services were requisitioned. As we approached the town the rattle of the small-arms ammunition sounded like a Fourth of July celebration. The general noticed that I had a kodak and asked me to go out into the dump and take some photographs. There was nothing to do but put on a bold front, but I have spent happier moments than those in which I edged my way gingerly over the smoking heaps to a ruined wall from which I could get a good view for my camera. As I came back a large shell exploded and we hastily moved the cars farther away.

I went to the mayor's house to find out how the town had fared. He was a solemn old Arab, and showed me the damage done by the shells with an absolutely expressionless face. The houses within a fair radius had been riddled, but the natives had taken our warning and no one had been killed. After a cup of coffee in a lovely garden on the river-bank, I came back to the cars and we ran on through to Haditha. Here we were to remain for a week or ten days to permit the evacuation of the captured supplies.

Thus far we had been having good luck with the weather, but it now began to threaten rain. We crawled beneath the cars with our blankets and took such precautions as were possible, but it availed us little when a veritable hurricane blew up at midnight. I was washed out from under my car, but before dark I had marked down a deserted hut, and thither I groped my way. Although it was abandoned by the Arabs, living traces of their occupancy remained. Still, even that was preferable to the rain, and the roof proved unexpectedly water-tight.

All next day the storm continued. The Wadi Hauran, a large ravine reaching back into the desert for a hundred and fifty miles, became a boiling torrent. When we crossed over, it was as dry as a bone. A heavy lorry on which an anti-aircraft gun was mounted had been swirled away and smashed to bits. The ration question had been difficult all along, but now any further supply was temporarily out of the question.

Oddly enough, I was the only member of the brigade occupying Haditha who could speak enough Arabic to be of any use, so I was sent to look up the local mayor to see whether there was any food to be purchased. The town is built on a long island equidistant from either bank. We ferried across in barges. The native method was simpler. They inflated goatskins, removed their clothes, which they had fastened in a bundle on top of their heads, and with one hand on the goatskin they paddled and drifted over. By starting from the head of the island they could reach the shore opposite the down-stream end. The bobbing heads of the dignified old graybeards of the community looked most ludicrous. On landing they would solemnly don their clothes, deflate the skins, and go their way.

The mayor proved both intelligent and agreeable. The food situation was such that it was obviously impossible for him to offer us any serious help. We held a conclave in the guest-house, sitting cross-legged among the cushions. In the centre a servant roasted coffee-beans on the large shovel-spoon that they use for that purpose. The representative village worthies impressed me greatly. The desert Arabs are always held to be vastly superior to their kinsmen of the town, and it is undoubtedly true as a general rule; nevertheless, the elders of Haditha were an unusually fine group of men. We got a few eggs, which were a most desirable luxury after a steady diet of black unsweetened tea and canned beef. We happened to have a sufficient supply of tea to permit us to make an appreciated gift to the village.

My shoes had collapsed a few days before and I borrowed a pair from a Turk who had no further use for them. These were several sizes too large and fashioned in an oblong shape of mathematical exactness. Even in the motor machine-gun service, there is little that exceeds one's shoes in importance, and I was looking forward with almost equal eagerness to a square meal and a pair of my own shoes. The supply of reading-matter had fallen very low. I had only Disraeli's Tancred, about which I found myself unable to share Lady Burton's feelings, and a French account of a voyage from Baghdad to Aleppo in 1808. The author, Louis Jacques Rousseau, a cousin of the great Jean Jacques, belonged to a family of noted Orientalists. Born in Persia, and married to the daughter of the Dutch consul-general to that country, he was admirably equipped for the distinguished diplomatic career that lay before him in the East and in northern Africa. His treatises on the arch?ological remains that he met with on his many voyages are intelligent and thorough. The river towns have changed but little in the last hundred years, and the sketch of Hit might have been made only yesterday.

Within three days after the rise, the waters of the Wadi Hauran subsided sufficiently for us to cross, and I received orders to return to Baghdad. The rain had brought about a change in the desert since we passed through on our way up. The lines of Paterson, the Australian poet, kept running through my head:

"For the rain and drought and sunshine make no changes in the street,

In the sullen line of buildings and the ceaseless tramp of feet,

But the bush hath moods and changes, as the seasons rise and fall,

And the men who know the bushland they are loyal through it all."

The formerly arid floor of the desert was carpeted with a soft green, with myriads of little flowers, all small, but delicately fashioned. There were poppies, dwarf daisies, expanses of buttercups, forget-me-nots, and diminutive red flowers whose name I did not know. It started raining again, and we only just succeeded in winning our way through to Baghdad before the road became impassable.

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[1]

Light Armored Motor Battery.

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