LAWRENCE'S AIR FORCE

Lt Wilkinson and Capt Henderson at the ALG at Baidha 2Lt Wilkinson and Capt Henderson at the ALG at Baidha having just landed in the BE2c, which would have to be picketed-out overnight.  'X' marks the location of petrol and stores.
Advanced Landing Ground at Gayadah 45 miles west of the Hejaz Railway Station The Advanced Landing Ground at Gayadah which lay some 45 miles west of the Hejaz Railway Station at El Ula.  Note difficult surrounding terrain and the two BEs.  Eight RFC men were living under canvas at this lonely outpost.

On 26 April 1917, a special reconnaissance and attack was made on El Ula Station and adjacent lines.  4 Two machines were involved, 4478 flown by Capt Stent with 1/AM Pound and 2Lt Siddons in 5421 with Lt Lane as observer.  Bombs were dropped, photos taken and the targets machine-gunned but, on the return flight, 4478 had to force-land in the Wadi Hamdh owing to a cylinder departing from the others.  In these circumstances, pilots would always keep an eye open for the sandy/scrub wadis which ran between the mountains and provided the only acceptable landing area on which to put down.

COMING AND GOING

To graphically illustrate the daily problems air and ground crews faced, is shown by the events detailed below, following the attack:

Thu 26 April 1917 Attack on El Ula Station.  Siddons and Lane 5421, return to Um Jarad ALG and back to Wejh.  Stent and Pound 4478, down in the Wadi Hamdh.  Henderson 4488, flies to Um Jarad to search for 4478.
Fri 27 April 1917 Henderson locates 4478, lands nearby but damages a wheel.  Siddons 5421, flies to Wadi Hamdh taking food and water and stays overnight.  Stent and Pound fly 4488 back to Wejh.  Crossley tender carrying a replacement engine, leaves Wejh to recover 4478, but breaks its differential in Wadi Hamdh.
Sat 28 April 1917 Siddons and Henderson 5421, fly food and water to Wadi Hamdh and return to base.
Sun 29 April 1917 Stent 4488 to Wadi Hamdh with further food and water and back to base.
Mon 30 April 1917 Stent 4483, to Wadi Hamdh with water and replacement parts for the tender but crashes on rough ground and machine wrecked. However, rear axle of tender under repair, but vehicle also needs replacement crown-wheel and pinion.

Reconnaissance party on Harreyey Hills in a Crossley tender
A ground reconnaissance party surveying a route across the Harreyey Hills, using the ubiquitous Crossley tender.  All the axles are fitted with twin wheels which was essential for this terrain.

Tue 1 May 1917 Stent overnight in the Wadi Hamdh.
Wed 2 May 1917 Henderson 4488 to Wadi Hamdh to locate Stent who is found and returns to Wejh in 4488.
Thu 3 May 1917 Stent flies 5421 to Wadi Hamdh with crown-wheel and pinion for the tender and Henderson returns in 5421. Tender repaired over two days and replacement engine fitted to 4478.
Fri 4 May 1917 Lt W L Fenwick flies 4478 back to Wejh.
Sat 5 May 1917 Tender fully repaired, loaded with damaged engine from 4478 and reaches base also carrying Stent.
Sun 6 May 1917 Another tender party of Henderson, Lt Stafford, Sgt Wright and 1/AM Warr, left Wejh to salvage 4483; Capt Lawrence went with them.
Mon 7 May 1917 Tender reached 4483.
Tue 8 May 1917 Tender started back for Wejh towing 4483. Took two days, arriving back on Wed 9 May. Here endeth 14 days of problems!

We can now get on with the war! Lawrence was keener than ever to extend sabotaging the railway line north of El Ula, towards Tebuk. He also wished to move up towards Palestine and so on 9 May, he left Wejh for the long camel journey northeast-wards to cross the railway near Dizad, where he blew up the line, and turn northwards to meet Auda Abu Tayi the leader of the Howeitat. Lawrence the enigma, the scholar, the arabist, the dreamer had gone north!
At Wejh, 'C' Flight continued about its business. On 11 May, instructions were received that the damaged 90hp RAF engine from 4478 was to be returned to 'X' Aircraft Depot in Alexandria and that four new much-needed engines were being despatched to the Flight. Four days later, Capt Stent with obs 1/AM Shaw (4488) and 2Lt Batting with Sgt Courtnadge (4478), flew to Um Jarad each carrying 12 bombs. The next day they flew towards El Ula camp, but 4478 had to force-land again short of the target,with yet another cracked cylinder. Stent proceeded and dropped all his bombs onthe target, hitting the station and outbuildings and attacking a train, which immediately departed south as soon as the first bombs were dropped. Stent then returned and landed near 4478, ascertained the problem, flew to the ALG, collected a mechanic and a replacement cylinder and flew back to the downed machine. Repairs were carried out and both machines flew back to base.

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