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and machine-guns. He had to drop back a bit, but
he kept his maxim searching up and down the Bul-
garian trenches, while his 3-pounder, at a range of
1,500 yards, was peppering one of the enemy's obser-
vation posts. All the time he moved his car back-
wards and forwards to baffle the enemy's artillery,
and by this means contrived to keep in action all
day until half-past five in the evening.

The enemy was still held at bay between Roobla
and Vizirul, but this did not compensate for the fact
that he had been successful everywhere else, and
had advanced so far on either flank that the Russian
forces at Vizirul were in danger of being surrounded.
On the evening of 28th December the colonel received
orders to evacuate Vizirul during the night, and, with
a view to making a demonstration. Lieutenant Hunter
and Sub-Lieutenant Kidd were sent with a couple
of cars up to the Russian first-fine trenches. There
they stopped their engines, and the Russian infantry
silently pushed them into No Man's Land. At mid-
night the Russians crept out of their trenches, and
the retreat began, while the two cars kept up a



232 THE NAVY IN ROUMANIA

merry tattoo with their maxims, to give the enemy
the impression that they were about to receive a
furious onslaught. For three-quarters of an hour
they blazed away, and then began slowly to follow
the Russian troops. Kidd led the way, and, as ill luck
would have it, missed the line of the road in the
darkness and slid into a ditch. Hunter came up
behind and found that Kidd's car was damaged suffi-
ciently to make its extrication a matter of impossi-
bility vmder the circumstances, so there was nothing
for it but to salve the gun, demolish the engine,
radiator, petrol-tank and coils, and abandon the
wreck to the enemy. Some of the crew managed to
get into Hunter's car, and some had to walk, but all
of them managed to overtake the Russian rearguard,
and reached Locul Sarat at five o'clock in the morn-
ing. They had the satisfaction of knowing that the
retreat had been completely successful, and that out
of the whole Russian force at Vizirul, only one man
had been wounded during the evacuation.

The battle of Vizirul was over, and, though the
arms of the Allies had suffered another reverse, the
defeat reflected as much credit upon the armoured
cars of the Royal Naval Air ^Service as if they had
participated in a glorious victory. The bare recital
of the facts is sufficient to indicate how invaluable
were the services of these cars to the Russian army
at a very critical juncture, and if further testimony
were needed it can be found in the words addressed
by the General Commanding the 6th Army to Com-
mander Gregory on New Year's Day — three days
after the battle ended. " I am proud to have under
my command such a brave and splendid force as the
British Armoured Car Division, and I thank our
British comrades very much for their help in all
these fights of the last few days, and in the Dobrudsha.
. . . The squadron of cars commanded l)y Lientenant
Smiles saved the left flank of my army twice in



THE BATTLE OF VIZURAL 233

forty-eight hoars at Vizirul. It is an achievement
for which I can find no adequate words of praise. 1
wish you all a happy New Year, and 1 want to take
an early opportunity of rewarding the gallantry of
the men under your command by conferring on them
the Crosses and Medals of St. George."

The reader will probably have observed that Lieu-
tenant Smiles went into action on the day following
that on which he was wounded, lie himself speaks
lightly of his wound, but others have expressed a
diiierent opinion. The fact is that he persuaded
Petty Officer Classey to join in a conspiracy of silence
about it until the battle was over, for the Irish blood
in him revolted from the prospect of being cooped
up in a hospital when there was real fighting to be
enjoyed. Some days later the story reached the
headquarters staff at Galatz, and the Chief of Stall"
sent for Commander Gregory and asked him for the
name of the British officer who went on fighting after
he was wounded. For his share in upholding the
highest traditions of the British Navy and the pres-
tige of British arms in Russia and Roumania, Lieu-
tenant-Commander Smiles has been awarded the
Distinguished Service Order.



THE ADEN PATROL



235



CHAPTER XVII

AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE IN SOMALILAND

On 9tli May 1916 some Somalis belonging to the
Warsangli tribe arrived at Aden with a report that
their tribe was being attacked at Las Khorai by
some of the Mullah's dervishes. Now Las Khorai
lies on the northern coast of Somaliland not far from
the boundary between British and Itahan territory.
It is not linked by telegraph wire nor by wireless
station with the civilised world ; it has no regular
mail service ; its sole means of communication is the
sailing dhow, which may take as much as a fortnight
to reach Aden or Berbera, if the wind happens to be
unfavourable. Fortunately for its inhabitants, the
wind on this occasion was favourable, so that the
news of the dervish attack reached Aden within three
days of its commencement. On Saturday evening
6th IMay 1916, some 2,000 dervishes swooped down
from the mountains and surrounded the little village,
with the intention of completely annihilating it and
all its inhabitants. They set about the work deliber-
ately and systematically, believing that they had
plenty of time in front of them. On the morning of
Wednesday 10th May up came H.M.S. Northbrook,
like a bolt from the blue, and the inhabitants of Las
Khorai were saved.

The genesis of this incident can only be explained
by going back a few years, and giving a brief sum-
mary of the history of British Somaliland. At the
end of 1869 the Suez Canal was declared open, and

237



238 THE ADEN PATROL

the high road to India and the Far East thenceforward
lay through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. At
that time the Khedive of Egypt claimed sovereignty
over Berbera and the villages along the coast of
Somaliland, and kept garrisons in them as a token
of his sovereign rights. But in 1884 the Khedive was
confronted with a mighty problem consequent upon
the rise of the Mahdi in the Sudan, and therefore the
Egyptian garrisons were withdrawn from Somaliland,
and the country was, metaphorically speaking, put
under the hammer. As a country it was not a desir-
able purchase for anybody, but it happened to be
situated on the flank of one of the narrow parts of
the high road to India, and consequently the British
Government felt that they had no option in the
matter ; the creation of a British Protectorate in
Somaliland was inevitable. So in 1884 we occupied
Zeila, Bulbar, and Berbera ; in 1888 we settled a
boundary between British and French Somaliland ;
in 1894 we made an agreement with Italy, and in
1897 one with Abyssinia, to settle the other
boundaries ; and so British Somaliland became an
accomplished fact. But it was not long before our
troubles began.

Of the early history of the " Mad " Mullah very
little is definitely known. He was born in the Dol-
bahanta country about 18G5, spent some of his boy-
hood at Berbera and Aden, and as a youth is sup-
posed to have found employment in one of the ocean
liners plying between l^urope and the East. Accord-
ing to Mr. Drake-Brockman (in his l)ook on British
Somaliland) it was the life on board ship which first
impressed on the mind of the young Mahomed bin
Abdillah the value of discipline in dealing with large
bodies of men, and very probably gave him an in-
sight into human nature such as the ordinary shore-
goer does not often acquire. I lis wanderings took
him to many cities unknown to the Somali peasant,




239



240 THE ADEN PATROL

and threw him into contact with many different
races professing the 3Iahomedan faith. While still
a young man he conceived a desire to make a pil-
grimage to ]\Iecca, and there he came under the in-
fluence of Mahomed Saleh, the head of a sect which
enjoins a strict adherence to the laws of the Prophet.
]\Iany of these laws were unknown to the Somali s
until they were introduced by ^lahomed bin Abdillah,
who, after his return to his native country, embarked
on the career of a mullah— a wandering preacher —
and started to preach the doctrines he had learnt
at Mecca.

It is noteworthy that one of the principles of the
sect is total abstinence from kat. The practice of
taking this drug is widespread among the Arabs,
and in Arabia, where the plant is grown extensively,
the tender leaves are eaten as though they were an
ordinary food. The effect of them is said to be
stimulating, as well as intoxicating, with the result
that the Arab is content with remarkably little sleep,
and is able to spend most of the night in sociable con-
versation. One would suppose that in course of time
Nature must assert herself and demand full payment
for this encroachment upon the hours of sleep ; but,
according to Paul Emile Botta, the I'^rench natura-
list who visited the Yemen about the middle of the
nineteenth century, this is not the case. He says
that the kat-eaters live to a ripe old age, and that
their health does not seem to suffer in the least. He
cites the example of the despatch runners who can
keep on the move for several days and nights con-
tinuously M'ith no other nourishment than a bundle
of kat-leaves. But the plant is none the less a drug,
and appears to have some of the properties of opium
in that it is said to induce pleasant dreams.

If the puritnnism of IMahomcd bin Abdillah had
ended in a crusade ngainst the use of kat the British
Government would have had no cause of complaint,



AN OUTPOST OF laiPlRE 241

but unfortunately it went a good deal further.
Among the laws which he imported into Somali-
land was a penal code against theft — the loss of the
right hand for the first oifenee, and the left foot for
the second. Mutilation and torture for the most
trivial misdemeanours became part of his regime, for
he soon found that terrorising gained him more ad-
herents than could be secured by preaching. It is
said that the penalty for disobedience to his com-
mands on the part of one of his followers is instant
death, and that sometimes this penalty is extended
to the whole of the man's family, presumably on the
principle that the disobedience might have been in-
fectious. The epithet " Mad " which has been
assigned by the Somalis to Mahomed bin Abdillah,
is supposed to have originated from certain disagree-
able eccentricities of the man. For instance, he
would wake up in the morning and order 300 women
to be put to death, because he had been told in a
dream that they had refused to pray. There are
many stories of this character, and, if they are true,
they suggest that the Mullah was seeking a method
of working upon the superstitious nature of the
Somalis. In this he was quite successful, for he was
soon credited with superhuman powers, and all sorts
of legends have been invented about him. He wears
round his neck an amulet, which is said to contain
a complete copy of the Koran, and the natives be-
lieve that this amulet is a charm which preserves him
from death at the hands of his enemies.

It was in 1899 that he gave the first intimation to
the Government that he was going to be a thorn in
their side. In August of that year he collected a
strong force, marched to Burao, occupied the town,
and declared himself the Mahdi. He used Burao as
a convenient centre from which he could carry out
raids against the various tribes, murdering them
without discrimination, and looting their livestock.

16



242 THE ADEN PATROL

Here was a vocation which always makes a strong
appeal to the Somali character, and so it was not
long before the Mullah's band of followers was
largely augmented, and became a formidable force.
Those of the natives who felt no longing for a career
of brigandage and murder, but preferred to seek
their livelihood by the more humdrum method of
breeding sheep and cattle, naturally resented these
raids upon their property, and appealed to the British
Government for protection. It was then that we
realised that the establishment of a protectorate in
Somaliland, which we had undertaken so light-
heartedly, promised to give us plenty of food for
thought.

In May 1901 Colonel Sir E. J. Swayne was sent
with native levies to drive the Mullah out of Burao,
and, heavily defeating him three times, forced him
to flee across the Sorl Haud into Italian territory, to
take refuge among the Mijjertein tribe. Six months
later, however, he was back again at Burao, raiding
the friendly tribes as happily as ever, and reducing
them to a state of destitution by the wliolesale cap-
ture of their sheep, cattle, and camels. In May
1902 Colonel Swayne made another effort, this time
supplementing his Somali levies with a detachment
of King's African Rifles, recruited from the Yoas of
Nyassaland. Again the Mullah fled across the Sorl
Haud into Itahan territory. Permission was obtained
from the Italian Government to follow him, but on
6th Octol)cr 1902 one of our detachments fell into
an ambush, wliich the Mullah had prepared for them
at Erigo, and, tliough after a liot fight we put the
dervishes to flight, we lost 101 killed and 85 wounded,
with the result that we were unable to follow up the
Mullah when he retired to (ialadi, on the borders of
Abyssinia and Italian Somaliland.

The following year Major-(ieneral Manning took
charge of the operations, having a combined force of



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 243

British and Boer mounted infantry, Indian troops,
and African troops. He pushed right across Itahan
SomaUland from the sea, and linally concentrated his
various detachments at Bohottle ; but he never
managed to get to close grips with the Mullah, Our
force was raised to 7,000 men, and Major-Cieneral
Sir C. C Egerton took command ; but the game of
hide and seek went on as before. 'J he Mullah had
established himself in the Nogal Valley, and we had
made all preparations to meet liim there, when we
heard that he had seized and occupied the Italian
coast town of lllig. In January 1904, however, we
did manage to secure a pitched ])attle at Jidbali ;
where we routed the dervishes, killing over 1,000 of
them. Unfortunately, however, the Mullah was not
present at the battle. By May 1904 he was again
a refugee among the Mijjertein tribe, and, as there
was no prospect of being able to catch him, it was
decided to leave him there. Though the operations
had lasted intermittently for over three years, we
were really no nearer to our goal at the end of them
than we had been at the beginning.

During the next few years the Mullah remained
very quiet, and we had serious hopes that we had
heard the last of him. But in 1908 he quarrelled
with his friends the Mijjerteins— possibly because
they had grown weary of feeding him and his fol-
lowers gratuitously — and in 1909 he was at his old
games again, raiding the friendly tribes in British
Somaliland. It was then that we seriously consi-
dered the question whether we could undertake the
task of protecting and administering the interior of
the country. It must be borne in mind that our
imperial aims in Somaliland extended no farther than
the sea littoral ; that, so long as the coast was
secured to us, the rest of the country was of very
little concern to us. To protect the coastal tribes
was a simple matter, but to aliord adequate protec-



244 THE ADEN PATROL

tion to the tribes in the interior would necessitate
building a railway, making roads, and keeping mili-
tary garrisons at strategic points throughout the
country. At that time (1909) the revenue of the
protectorate was £30, COO, and the expenditure had
crept up steadily until it had reached £134,000, so
that we were dropping £104,000 a year on the ven-
ture. Nor was there any prospect at that time of
commercial developments which would raise the
revenue. A railway from Berbera to Harrar in
Abyssinia was suggested as a means of bringing the
interior of the protectorate within easy access, and
at the same time of catering for the trade of Abys-
sinia ; but it was vetoed on the ground that to com-
pete with the French railway from Jibouti to Adis
Ababa would be poor policy at a time when the
entente cordiale had just been firmly cemented. The
final result of our deliberations was that we decided
that we could not undertake the responsibility of
safeguarding the tribes in the interior, and that the
best we could do for them was to provide them with
rifles and ammunition, so that they could protect
themselves, if they chose to do so, from the Mullah's
incursions. In 1910 we withdrew all our outposts, and
restricted }3ritish administration to the coastal towns.
Doubtless the theory that by arming the natives
we should enable them to defend themselves was
sound enough as a theory, but in practice it was
found to be full of complications. For rifles can be
used as weapons of attack as well as of defence, and
no sooner were the British garrisons withdrawn from
the interior than the tribes were blazing away at
each other as hard as they could go. Some of them
had ancient feuds, which had been quietly smoulder-
ing during the past few years ; others imashamedly
took up the l)rigandage business as being the most
lucrative of all trades in Somaliland. The Somali
lias an accjuisitive nature, and when he sees a Somali



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 245

of another tribe in possession of a fine flock of sheep,
he loads his rifle and gets to work without waste of
time. The best hunting-ground was aiiorded by the
caravan routes, where all sorts of useful articles were
to be picked up from the caravans, in addition to the
sheep, cattle, and camels accompanying them — all
by the simple process of murdering the owners.
One tribe showed more than usual enterprise by cross-
ing the border into Abyssinia, and raiding the
Ogaden tribe in that country. In fact, they all be-
came so busy that they almost forgot their troubles
with the Mullah and his dervishes.

The Government tried various measures to save
the country from this state of chaos. They invited
the headmen of the various tribes to Berbera, and
spent wearisome days in examining their respective
claims, and in arbitrating thereon. They persuaded
them to shake hands with each other, settle their
differences, and promise to be good children for the
future. But within a week or two they were going
for each other again as vigorously as ever. To solve
the caravan problem, the Government tried an old
expedient — making each caravan pay a small fee for
an escort to be provided by the tribe through whose
country it was passing. It promised well at first,
but escorts are but human after all, and when one
of them made the discovery that by expending a
few rounds of ammunition they could get not only
the fee but the caravan as well, the system suffered a
severe blow to its prestige.

Finally, in 1912, the Mullah himself became active,
and raided the Dolbahanta tribe so effectively that
they were reduced to starvation, and came in large
parties to the coast towns begging the Government
to give them food. Then it was realised that the
policy of non-intervention in the interior was not
altogether satisfactory, and that something must be
done to remedy the anarchic condition of the country.



246 THE ADEN PATROL

The device adopted was the estabhshment of a
small striking force, to be based on the coast, but to
be capable of moving quickly into the interior in order
to impress upon the friendly tribes that intertribal
fighting and raiding caravan routes were not re-
garded with favour by the Government. It must
be understood that the Camel Constabidary were
never intended to be a military force in any sense ;
they were commanded, not by military officers, but
by civilians ; their orders were to preserve the peace
among the friendlies, and not to risk an engagement
with the Mullah's dervishes. If they received news
at any time of any considerable dervish force in their
vicinity, they were to retire immediately and fall
back on the coast.

The Camelry Corps was a distinct success for the
purpose for which it was intended, and within a few
weeks after its inauguration it established such a
peace and calm among the tribes as they had not
known for the past two years. But it did nothing
towards solving the dervish problem, which remained
as before. The Mullah, however, was not so power-
ful as he used to be ; his force was being continually
depleted by desertions, for he found that in this
irreligious age the preaching of pious maxims was
not so effective as it ought to be in securing the
fidelity of his followers. Materialism was their be-
setting sin ; what they wanted was a plentiful supply
of good fat sheep, rather than a bunch of quotations
from the Koran. About this time he opened negotia-
tions with the Commissioner, declaring an earnest
desire for peace, doubtless because he had begun to
have misgivings as to his ability to continue the
struggle. His letters are picturesque examples of
the epistolary art, but arc rather too lengthy for full
fjuotation : " Praise be to (Jod who created, who
leads and misleads, who gives and withholds, who
raises up and casts down, who gives life and death.



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 247

Prayers and salutations to our Prophet Mahomed.
Thereafter. This is an answer to the words sent hy
the British." He says all this, while we should be
saying, " Dear sir, 1 am in receipt of your com-
munication, etc." Then he goes on to declare that
his one and only desire is for settlement and peace,
and to explain that recent regrettable incidents were
due solely to some of his dervishes getting out of
hand, and carrying out raids contrary to his orders.
The Commissioner, however, knows the man he has
to deal with, and answers cautiously: "You say that
you desire peace, and again I inform you that the
British Government is willing to talk of peace, if your
words are not words of deceit. You know very well
that on former occasions you have spoken words of
peace, and afterwards you and your people made
war without cause, and much evil was done in the
war."

In January 1913 a letter was received from the
Mullah, complaining that his solicitations for peace
were met with " bad answers and unsuitable words,"
and repeating that his dervishes had got beyond his
control, so that he had been obliged to take from
them their arms and their horses. " And I inform
you that I am disposed to make peace and settle-
ment, and I therefore have returned to you the
cows which the dervishes have taken from your sub-
jects." (He did, as a matter of fact, return a small
part of the looted stock.) At the same time he was
writing a letter to the Gadwein tribe, which he did
not intend the Commissioner to see, Ijut which hap-
pened to find its way to Government House. Here
are a few extracts from it :

"Thanks be to God, prayers and salutations
to the Prophet. . . . The object of this letter is
twofold. One is to give you salaam ; may God's
mercy, blessing and salaams be upon you ; and



248 THE ADEN PATROL

the other is to inform you that you are oppressed
from all sides. ... I also inform you that it is
no offence in you to light the infidels and hypo-
crites, for fighting them is the duty of every
Moslem. You are Moslems, and they are in-
fidels. ... I also inform you that I am a pil-
grim and a holy fighter, and have no wish to
gain power and greatness in this world. . . .
And now, O my brothers, this is a time of
patience, this is a time of oppression, this is a
time in which corruption and adultery spread,
this is a time in which the infidels defeat the
Moslems. . . . This is the end of all things.
May God guide us. May God prosper our ends,
for the sake of the Prophet and his companions.
... I also beg that 1 may be with you, and
that you may be with me, and the first thing
should be a visit between us."

And so, towards the end of his letter, he gets to
business, and proposes an alliance between dervishes
and Gadweins to fight those infidels, to whom he had
just been writing a request for peace.

In August 1913 a bad disaster befell the Camel
Corps, which was then based on Burao. A report
was received that dervishes were raiding the friendlies
between Idoweina and Burao, and the acting Com-
missioner, Mr. Archer, ordered Mr. Corfield, the
commandant, to make a reconnaissance in force.
Mr. Corfield, accompanied by Mr. Dunn, his second
in command, and by Captain Summers, a military


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