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level, is a good deal more habitable than Bushire in
the summer.

There were, however, other points about Shiraz
which recommended it to Herr Wasmuss, and these
must be mentioned in order to explain the part he
plays in the story. Ihis ancient centre of Persia's
civilisation happens to be the headquarters of the
Gendarmerie of the province of P'ars. The force
consists of about 1,7('0 officers and men, the oflieers
being partly Persian and partly Swedish, Their
duties are to patrol the caravan routes, restrict the
activities of Arab brigands, and collect the revenue



176 THE NAVY IN THE PERSIAN GULF

of the country. How much of the money collected
finds its way into the Exchequer I do not know, for
the Gendarmerie always had a substantial claim
against the Persian Government for arrears of pay.
This circumstance proved useful to Kerr Wassmuss,
who was always well supplied with funds, and found
that a judicious distribution of them went a long
way towards securing the good-will both of officers
and men. Travitz, the Swedish Commandant at
Shiraz, became a confirmed Wassmussian, and
through him the subordinate officers were influenced
in the same direction.

Another influential friend of Wassmuss was the
Governor-General of Ears, Mukhbir-us-Sultaneh. He
had spent some years in Germany, where he had im-
bibed the national belief that the Germans are the
chosen people of the earth. He gave himself body
and soul to the new propaganda, and wrote letters
to all the local khans (Arab chiefs) expatiating on
the virtues of the Teuton and the vices of the British.
It must be understood that all this was happening
in peace time, in the days when we innocently be-
lieved that we could make friends with the Germans,
when Herr Wassmuss himself was a member of the
English clu})s at Shiraz and Bushire, and was treated
with all that spirit of camaraderie, of which the
Englishman abroad is capable.

The intrigues of Herr Wassmuss extended beyond
the borders of Persia to the Trucial Coast and right
round to JNIuscat, })ut for the moment we are con-
cerned only witli his activities so far as they alTected
l^ushirc. In July 1<)13 an incident occurred, which
had an important bearing on subsequent events, and
threw another valuable friend into tlie arms of the
German consul. 1 his was Bais Ali, the chief of the
Tangistani tribe, who lived at Dilwar, a coastal
viflage about twenty miles south-east of tlie town t)f
Bushire. The trade, profession, or occupation of



THE TANGISTANI RAIDS 177

Rais Ali is not easy to define. He was not a pirate
himself — nothing so vulgar — but he was a kind of
officer commanding piracy, and he derived his in-
come, I suppose, partly by trading in pirated goods,
and partly by blackmailing the pirates. He made
Dilwar a pirates' nest, and organised pirates' expedi-
tions to the pearl fisheries. In July 1913 we hap-
pened to be looking for a notorious pirate, and at
last traced him to his lair at Dilwar. There a British
man-of-war demanded that he should be handed
over, but Rais Ali, who, it must be said, showed com-
mendable loyalty to his friends, refused point blank
to do anything of the kind. Whereat the man-of-
war proceeded to argue the point with the aid of
naval guns, and in a few hours Dilwar was looking
very sorry for itself, while the assortment of pirate
dhows anchored there was soon floating about in
the form of match-wood. Then Rais Ali gnashed
his teeth, and swore eternal enmity against the
British. Herr Wassmuss heard of the incident, and
said to himself that really Rais Ali must be a very
nice man, whom it would be a plcasmc to know. So
he opened his arms wide to the Arab chief, hugged
him to his breast, and poured words of consolation
into his ear.

A year later, in July 1911-, Herr Wassmuss had
news from Germany which caused him to leave
Bushire in a hurry. He had not reached home when
war was declared, and consequently he was delayed
en route, but eventually he found his way to Berlin.
He did not stay there long, however, for the Ger-
man Government knew where he was likely to make
himself most useful to them, and packed him off
again back to Persia via Constantinople. His mis-
sion, as revealed by papers in his possession, was
definite enough. He was to raise Persia and Afghan-
istan against the British, and to tamper with the
loyalty of the troops in our Indian .\rmy. They

12



178 THE NAVY IN THE PERSIAN GULF

sent with him another German, called Linders, but
his career was soon cut short. He was captured by
Haidar Khan, one of the friends of the British, was
handed over to us, and sent to India to be interned.

One of the first persons that Ilerr Wassmuss
approached on his return to Persia was Rais Ali, the
pirates' friend. In December 1916 the two were
busy formulating plans for a general anti-British
rising in Persia. In his house at Shiraz the great
Wassmuss, clad in the garb of a Persian gentleman,
received the Arab chief in state. With Teutonic
thoroughness he had not only discarded his European
clothes, but he had thrown off his European religion
at the same time, and declared himself a convert to
the faith of Islam. He greeted Rais xA.li with Eastern
salutations, refreshed him with Eastern sweetmeats,
and got to business. The outcome of the negotia-
tions was an agreement that Rais Ali would lead his
Tangistani tribesmen against Bushire, and massacre
every English man, woman, and child in the place.
If Herr Wassmuss was at any time troubled with
scruples about the ethics of conspiring with an Arab
cut-throat to murder defenceless civilians, his new
religion would be invoked to quiet them, for did not
the great Prophet himself engage in wholesale mas-
sacres whenever he found them necessary to prove
the triumphant progress of the faith ?

So Rais Ali's share in the proceedings was definitely
settled. Of the tasks allotted to Mukhbir-us-Sul-
taneh, the (iovernor-(icncral, to Pravitz, the Com-
mandant of Gendarmerie, and to the various other
friends of Wassmuss, I have no definite knowledge.
Suffice it to say that a blood feud between two of the
local Khans was turned to account, that one of the
disputants, the Khan of Borasjan on the road be-
tween Bushire and Shiraz, was joined by two other
Khans, to form an anti-Britisli alliance, while the
other disputant, Ismail Khan, was joined by our



The tangistani raids 179

friend Ilaidar Khan, to form an anti-German alliance.
But where the anti-Hritisli Khans secured an advan-
tage was in the reinl'orcements they received from
deserters of the Gendarmerie, who had good German
money rattling in their purses, and had been promised
that there was more to come. They were also
presented with good German rilles, so that they had
every reason to feel pleased with their prospects.

There followed a delay of six months, possibly
caused by the necessity of waiting for further con-
signments of rifles, and it was not until July 1915
that word was passed to Rais Ali that the time had
come for him to fullil his compact. On the 12th of
that month the first Tangistani raid was made on
Bushire, and, though the attack was repulsed, two
British officers and one sepoy lost their lives, and
two sepoys were wounded. It seems fairly evident
that this attack was made prematurely and without
adequate preparation, for the defending force at
that time was very small.

Finding that we could obtain no reparation from
the Persian Government, we immediately took steps
to secure the safety of the inhabitants of Bushire.
We sent a naval and military force to take possession
of the port and town, and set to Avork upon a system
of defences. We also took steps to punish the Tangis-
tanis, by sending a naval squadron commanded by
Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Wake, to Dilwar, where
we landed a small detachment of Indian troops and
a party of seamen. The naval guns drove the 1'angis-
tanis inland, but during the next two days (14th and
15th August) they returned several times to the
attack, only to be driven off by rifles, machine-guns,
and the shell-fire from the ships. The fort and
village of Dilwar were destroyed, and the casualties
to the enemy were heavy. Our own casualties were
slight, but unfortunately included the commander
and one of the lieutenants of the Juno. On the



180 THE NAVY IN THE PERSIAN GULF

night of the 15th the force was re-embarked, partly
because the heat was too intense to allow of the
operations being protracted, and partly because
there was a danger that Rais Ali might adopt the
offensive defensive scheme, and make another attack
on Bushire during the absence of our ships and
troops.

Some such idea must have been in his mind, for
he soon began a series of night raids, which suggested
the prelude to a more serious attack. Our line of
outposts was provided with acetylene searchlights,
but at first these proved very unsatisfactory because
they had a mysterious way of refusing to work as
soon as the first rifle-shot was fired. The probable
explanation is that they were manned by Eurasians,
who had no great liking for the sound of rifle-fire.
The Senior Naval Officer was requested to provide
seamen to man these lights, and thenceforward they
gave entire satisfaction. It was during one of
these night raids that Wassmuss sullered a heavy
blow in the loss of his cherished friend Rais Ali. The
Tangistani chief had boasted that it was his own rifle
which killed the two British officers on 12th July,
and it is probable that all the crack shots defending
Bushire were longing for the chance of revenge.
When one of the searchlights illumined the features
of Rais Ali, his doom was scaled. His faithful fol-
lowers removed him from the battle-field, but he is
said to have died of his wounds very shortly after-
wards.

The town of Ikishirc stands on what would be an
island, were it not for a low-lying tract of sand
which joins it to the mainland, 'i his causeway is
known as the " IMashilah," and is from five to seven
miles across. During high tides it is occasionally
inundated, and at all times the area of firm dry
sand is narrow. The prcsonec of British warships
made it impossible for the Tangistanis to approach



THE TANGISTANI RAIDS



181



Bushire by sea, and so the Mashilah offered the only
possible line of advance. Its main drawback from




the invader's point of view is that not an inch of
cover can be found anywhere until the island of
Bushire is reached. Round the edge of the island



182 THE NAVY IN THE PERSIAN GULF

on the Mashilah side is a line of low cliffs, which
form a kind of natural rampart. These cliffs, how-
ever, are intersected by numerous nullahs, or gullies,
sloping down from the island to the JMashilah. At
the top of them are loose rocks and boulders, and
at the foot of them a belt of palm-trees extends for
some distance. It the Tangistanis could contrive to
cross the Mashilah under cover of darkness, they
would be able to take up a strong position on the
edge of the island, and to find shelter from our fire
by dodging behind the rocks and palm-trees. And
this is exactly what they did.

The ships lying off Reshire Point were the Juno,
Pyramus, and Lawrence. It would be idle to pre-
tend that they were enjoying life, for no one does
that at Bushire during the hot weather. The shade
temperature was always hovering in the vicinity of
100° Fahrenheit, and the atmosphere was always
damp and sticky. Their routine was largely made
up of rehearsals for the Tangistani performance,
which they knew to be imminent. Parties were
landed on the beach, and in the comparatively cool
hours of the early morning they went through their
field exercises, practised the art of bringing a machine-
gun into action rapidly, and received instructions about
the handling of it under fire. The rehearsals were
conducted by Captain George Carpenter, R.M.L.I.,
of H.M.S. Juno, in conjunction with the gunnery
lieutenant of that ship. By tapping the resources of
the three ships the Navy managed to provide a field
force of seven officers, 153 men, and four maxims,
as well as supplying to the Russian Consulate a guard
of twenty men and a maxim, and a further six men
to work the searchlights.

On the night of 8th September Captain Carpenter
landed with three officers and sixty men of H.M.S.
Pyramus, spent the night at the base camp near
the Telegraph Station, and at six o'clock next morn-



THE TANGISTANI RAIDS 183

ing was busily engaged in putting them through
their exercises. When they returned to the camp
for breakfast they found that a message had just
come in from Brigadier-General Brooking, who was
in command of the troops at Bushire, ordering them
to proceed to the reserves' camp at Imam Zada.
This suggested that something must be happening,
so they sent for their transport carts, swallowed their
breakfast, and got under way. In that region the
sun begins to get hot at six in the morning, by seven
it has become unpleasant, and by eight it is beyond
the pale of printable language. The glare of it
strikes against the white dust on the track, so that
the most capacious sun-helmet does not avail to
shield the eyes. Here and there rehef is found in a
cluster of green palms, such as shade the British
Residency and a few other European dwellings, but
the general aspect at this season is of a parched and
dreary land, unredeemed by God or man. I remem-
ber the first time I landed at Bushire I had just been
re-reading Omar Khayyam's ecstasies about his
Persian garden, and my hopes ran high at the pros-
pect of setting foot in Persia. But I landed at the
wrong place. If I had gone to Shiraz, there, per-
haps, I might have seen the real thing, and might
even have feasted my eyes upon a " moon of my
delight who knows no wane." That is one of our
misfortunes in the Navy — we seldom have the
chance of seeing the best of the countries we visit.

The men of H.M.S. Pyramus trudged on steadily,
while the perspiration dripped from their faces and
soaked through their cotton clothes, until they
reached the camp at Imam Zada. Here they found
another message from the G.O.C. ordering them to
advance farther east to a tower near the village of
Zangena, and there take up the best position they
could find, in order to command the two gullies lead-
ing down to the Mashilah at that point, i he British



184 THE NAVY IN THE PERSIAN GULF

outposts were situated at intervals along the edge
of the Mashilah as far as a point south of Zangena,
and then stretched across the island to the sea on
the west side. The village of Halilah was suspected
of harbouring enemy agents, and was therefore shut
out beyond our line of defences. To man these out-
posts and to provide supports and reserves, we had
only two small detachments of Indian troops —
Rajputs and Ghurkhas. The latter had been on
duty all night, and consequently the general did not
want to use them if it could be avoided. We had,
however, a big pull over the enemy in the possession
of artillery, consisting of field and mountain guns,
and we had also a small body of cavalry ready to
move out on the Mashilah as soon as the Tangistanis
showed signs of retreating.

The general had seen at once that the troops
holding the outposts were insufficient to drive off the
enemy, who were over 600 strong, and that he must
call up his reserves from Reshire, including the naval
party. It took an hour or so to bring them up,
and in the meantime the Rajputs at the outposts
clung on grimly, for they knew well enough that
they were not likely to receive quarter if the Tangis-
tanis once got in among them. The batteries were
also busily engaged, though there was always a
danger that an enterprising rush on the part of the
enemy would sweep right over them, or that a flank
attack might get in behind them.

The men of the Pyramus, now painfully conscious
that each one of them was carrying his rifle and
equipment, while some of them had the additional
burden of machine-guns and ammunition-boxes, had
reached within 800 yards of the objective when they
came under heavy rifle-fire from Tangistanis hidden
behind rocks 300 yards away. They were ordered
to lie down and take breath, and then the advance
was continued by means of short rushes in the



THE TANGISTANI RAIDS 185

orthodox style. It is an exhilarating exercise when
carried out on the fields of good old P^ngland, but
the effect is very dilfercnt when a tropical sun is
beating down on one's head, and a choking dust is
filling the mouth and nostrils. It is no disparage-
ment of Tangistani marksmanship to record that
our casualties from heat stroke exceeded those
caused by bullets.

They got to the tower at last, and mounted a
maxim there. Another maxim was got into position
at the left end of the line, but the gun on the right
could not find cover of any kind, and was subjected
to a tornado of bullets from the enemy.

The gun's crew had to fall back from it, but Cap-
tain Carpenter called for volunteers to bring it into
action, and Lieutenant-Commander Dorman and
Yeoman of Signals Wood immediately went forward
to it. Wood was mortally wounded as soon as he
reached it, and fell right across the gun. Carpenter
then saw that the enemy's fire was too accurate, and
that he could not afford to risk further casualties in
his small force, so he called to Dorman to come back.
There was no danger of the enemy capturing the
gun, for the two other maxims completely covered
their line of advance. So there the little force re-
mained, taking what cover they could find, and
seizing every chance to pot a Tangistani when he
was rash enough to show himself. Carpenter sent a
message to the G.O.C. informing him of the posi-
tion of affairs, and asking for a stretcher-party to
remove the wounded and heat-stroke cases. The
G.O.C. sent back word telling him to hang on until
the reserve infantry arrived to clear up the situation,
and that medical assistance would be sent as soon
as possible.

Soon after ten o'clock Lieutenant-Colonel Lane
came up with the reserve infantry, and charged right
into the enemy, who promptly broke and fled, and



186 THE NAVY IN THE PERSIAN GULF

that was virtually the end of the business. The
naval party moved forward with their machine-guns
to hold the gullies, and proceeded to deal with any
stray Tangistanis found lurking among the palm-
trees. The cavalry moved on to the Mashilah and
got right into the fleeing tribesmen, while the artil-
lery lengthened their range and played havoc with
them all the way across. The Arabs brought up
donkeys to remove most of their dead and wounded,
but we collected between fifty and sixty of them near
the edge of the Mashilah.

So ended the great coup which Wassmuss had been
planning for months beforehand. Its failure must
have been a serious blow to his prestige, for, although
there were plenty of alarums and excursions during
the succeeding months, and various tribesmen showed
a good deal of unrest, there was no other concerted
effort against Bushire. The little colony of British
subjects went about their vocations with untroubled
minds, and slept peacefully in their beds. Captain
Carpenter was awarded the D.S.C. for his services at
Dilwar and Bushire, and was shortly afterwards pro-
moted.



THE NAVY IN ROUIMANIA



187



fB^




IJ T.A( h SJ.A



THK NAVY !N IJOIiMANlA



CHAPTER XIV

THE BATTLE NEAR TOPALUL

The British Armoured Car Force of the Royal Naval
Air Service had seen quite a lot of the world before
they found their way to Roumania. They had done
their bit in Belgium, they had wandered thence to
Russia, and they had sampled the roads of Persia ;
in fact, a kind of supernatural instinct seems to have
led them to all the best places for a lively scrap, and,
as soon as the liveliness was at an end in one quarter
of the globe, they were ofi' to another.

In the late autumn of 191G they had abandoned
Persia, having come to the conclusion that it was
completely played out as a theatre of war, and they
had assembled at Odessa, wondering where they
should go next. They definitely belonged to the
Russian Army, and they made up their minds that
it was up to the Russian Army to keep them supplied
with jobs. Roumania had just entered the lists, and
for a time things seemed to be going well with her,
until General Mackensen began his great push in
the Dobinadsha, and then the British armoured cars
said to themselves, " Here is a job for us," So they
appealed to the powers that governed the Russian
Army at that time, and obtained permission to
transfer themselves to Roumania, and there attach
themselves to the Russian forces operating in that
country.

Of course they knew in their hearts that an
armoured car is not really the same thing as a ship,

189



190 THE NAVY IN ROUMANIA

but when the white ensign is fluttering above it, they
think and talk of it as though it were a ship. The
man who said that R.N.A.S. means Really Not A
Sailor was no psychologist, and failed altogether to
appreciate the psychological effect of the white
ensign. When an officer in command of a car re-
ceives his instructions, he calls them his Sailing
Orders, and sometimes the officer who writes them
out in his best official language, heads them with
the words "Sailing Orders" in black and white.
But, on the whole, they are very carefvil with their
official reports, and all such expressions as " Put the
helm hard over to starboard," or " Proceed full speed
astern," have been translated into the lingo of the
motor garage.

Towards the end of November 1910 they found
themselves at Hirsova on the Dobrudsha side of the
Danube, where General Sirelius of the 4th Siberian
Army ( orps told them that they were just in time
for a big battle, and that he wanted them to take
an important part in it. Things had been going
badly of late, for General Mackensen had been
mopping up Roumanian divisions on a wholesale
scale, and walking through the Dobrudsha as though
it were the Unter den Linden. But there was just
a possibility that the advance had been too rapid,
and that a counter-attack might find the enemy un-
prepared, and with his supply columns many miles
to the rear. A Russian force, sweeping down be-
tween the Danube and the Black Sea, might be able
to cut ofl the enemy's forces, which had crossed the
river and were operating against Bucharest, and
cheery optimists among the Russians even contem-
plated the recapture of Ccrnavoda bridge and of the
port of ("onstanza.

The push wns timed to start on 29th November,
and the force of armoured cars was ordered to be in
readiness to lead the attack. But when tlie day



THE BATTLE NEAR TOPALUL 191

arrived all these orders were cancelled unceremoni-
ously, and the cars were told to proceed across the
Danube to a destination near Bucharest. The truth
of the matter was, that the Roumanian Army defend-
ing Bucharest had failed to hold their positions, and
the capital was in imminent danger. 1 he general in
command of the Russian forces co-operating with
the Roumanians had at once sent out an S.O.S. signal,
of which the eliect was, " For Heaven's sake send us
the British armoured cars." Commander (iregory,
in charge of the force, at once sent scouts to examine
the state of the roads, for it is one thing for a general
at Bucharest to say he wants armoured cars, and
another thing for the people in the cars to get them
to him. The scouts all reported that the roads lead-
ing to the pontoon bridge across the Danube were
too bad for any parliamentary language, and quite
unfit for motor traffic. So Commander Gregory
went to the Chief of Staff of the 4th Siberian Corps,
and told him tliat it was beyond human possibility
to comply with the latest order that the force had
received. Incidentally he relieved his mind by
pointing out that he had been given nothing but
contradictory orders, one on top of another, for the
past six weeks.

Now, when General Sirelius heard from his Chief
of Stall' what Commander Gregory had been saying,
he smiled blandly, for the truth (^f the matter was
that he did not want to part with the British armoured
cars. Already the Bucharest army was taking from
him all the best of his reserve battalions, which were
to have enabled him to carry out the great push
through the Dobrudsha, and was transferring them
across the Danube to the defence of Bucharest. The
result was that the great push had to be postponed,
and the general intended to wait until fresh reserves
could be sent up to him. But here again his inten-
tions were frustrated, for it was not many hours


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