LAWRENCE'S AIR FORCE
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|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.|
|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.
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.
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!