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officer, who was not placed in command because no
military operations were anticipated, took with him
116 rank and file, and proceeded towards Idoweina,
where he heard that the dervishes were encamped.
Having located them and discovered their overwhelm-
ing numbers, he should have fallen back to Burao,
but he allowed his valour to outrun his discretion.



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 249

His aim was to intercept the dervishes so that they
could not drive their looted stock back to their own
grazing grounds in the Nogal Valley ; })ut his force
was hopelessly inadequate for such a purpose. In
the stilt fight which ensued he was killed by a bullet
through the head, Captain Summers was wounded
three times; and, of the 116 rank and file, 30 were
killed and 21 wounded. The dervish losses were .395
killed and an unknown number wounded. The fight
lasted for five hours, and there is not the least doubt
that the Camel Corps would have been utterly
annihilated if it had not so happened that the der-
vishes ran short of ammunition. Their force was
over 2,000 strong, and they fought with that utter
disregard for death which always characterises them.
The maxim gun belonging to the Corps was put out
of action by a bullet early in the fight ; the heat was
intense, the men had no Avater ; and, Avhile some of
them behaved splendidly, others bolted into the
bush at the first approach of the dreaded dervish.
Mr. Dunn finally succeeded in withdrawing the rem-
nant of his force and all the wounded to Burao. And
so ended the battle of Dul jMadoba. Its effect only
served to emphasise the fact that we had no ade-
quate force to protect the tribes of the interior from
dervish raids, and that the Camel Corps could not
be safely maintained so far from the coast. Burao
was evacuated, and the Corps withdrawn to Sheikh.
Meanwhile the dervishes had walked off with 5,000
camels and 30,000 sheep.

As a result of the battle of Dul Madoba the strength
of the Camel Corps was increased to 350 men, and the
Indian troops in the country were gradually in-
creased to 700. But, in spite of these measures, the
dervishes continued their depredations, and in
March 1914 actually made a flying raid on Berbera,
firing into the town, and withdrawing before there
was time to realise what had happened. The object



250 THE ADEN PATROL

was doubtless to terrorise the friendlies, and impress
their minds with the idea that the British were quite
impotent before the mighty hosts of the Mullah.
To some extent this object was successfully attamed.
At all events, the dervish problem had to be consi-
dered anew, for it had become very evident that at
the end of fifteen years no real progress had been
made towards its solution.

Then some one had an inspiration. Here was a
country in which ordinary military operations were
severely handicapped by the absence of all means
of communications. Why not attack the Mad
Mullah with aircraft ? The proposal was to send
out two or three airships of the Parseval type, drop
bombs on dervishes, stampede their cattle, and pre-
vent them from gaining access to the wells. The
Admiralty were approached on the subject, and
finally decided to send out Lieutenants Boothby and
Davis to reconnoitre and report as to the possibilities
of aircraft work in Somaliland. These officers left
London in IMay 1914, the intention being that, if
they reported favourably, the erection of sheds for
the airships would be commenced in September at
the end of the hot weather. But before this inten-
tion could be carried out an event occurred in Europe,
which completely upset many of the best-laid schemes
of mice and men.

The outbreak of war necessarily relegated the
problems of Somaliland to the lumber-room of uncon-
sidered trifles. It was natural, therefore, that the
Mullah should seize the golden opportunity for mak-
ing himself more cantankerous than ever. Finding
that the supply of rifles and ammunition from Abys-
sinia was not always satisfactory, he began to in-
trigue with the coastal tribes with a view to securing
an alternative source of supply l)y means of dhows
from Arabia to one of the coastal villages, and thence
overland to his haroun. Thus he wrote to the Musa



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 251

Arreh on the coast, inviting them to join in the
crusade against the infidels, and salting his letter with
many little homilies to improve their minds :

" This letter is sent to the followers of Islam.
Salaams to you all, and to all believers. Further,
I let you know that your deeds have spoiled my
life and also yours ; and you have broken the
oath that was between us. You have forsaken
the true religion and done evil before Allah. By
going to the English you forsake Islam and
become infidels. ... I advise you to return to
the true God, and to the Mahomcdan religion,
and the Shariat. . . . Do not join the British
Government and the religion of the unbelievers,
for, if you do, and if you forsake your religion
before you die, you will go to hell."

And so on.

One imagines a tall, stately man, with a com-
manding presence, thin, clear-cut features, resolute
mouth and chin, eyes glowing with the fire of religious
fanaticism. It comes as a shock to us to hear that
the Mullah is not in the least like this. I cannot give
a faithful portrait of him, for I have never had the
pleasure of meeting him, and apparently he does not
encourage photographers at his Court. But there
is one fact which completely dispels all our precon-
ceived notions of what he ought to be like. The
horrible truth is that he has grown too fat. This
may be mere vulgar obesity caused by overfeeding,
but, according to another report, it is the outcome
of a peculiar disease, reported to be fairly conmion
among the Dolbahanta tribe, which results in an
abnormal swelling of the flesh, beginning at the
ankles and gradually extending to the whole body.
Whatever may be the cause, the ]\Iullah has been
afflicted with a superfluity of girth for several years



252 THE ADEN PATROL

past, and is said to require six men to lift him on to
his horse. Probably this is the reason why he has
changed his tactics, and decided that he can no
longer rely upon a policy of elusiveness, but must
be prepared to resist capture by other means. He
is reported to have built a mighty fortress round his
haroun at Taleh, with walls twelve feet thick, and
there it is surmised that he would stand his ground
if an expedition were sent against him.

Though he himself is no longer agile, his dervishes
are as active as ever, and early in 1915 they occupied
Jid Ali, only twenty-five miles from the coast, and
established a fort there. This manauvre compli-
cated the situation considerably, for it not only ex-
posed the coastal tribes, such as the Warsangli, to
periodic raids, but it also necessitated on our part a
blockade of the whole coast to prevent the dervishes
from obtaining supplies by swooping down upon the
seaside villages. At the same time it was reported
that the Gadwein tribe had been seduced by the
Mullah's allurements, and had gone over to the der-
vishes en bloc. The Warsangli, fearing that der-
vishes and Gadweins might combine in a vigorous
attack upon them, besought the Commissioner for
assistance. For the moment no more could be done
than to keep them well supplied with ammunition,
but the Commissioner took an early opportunity of
recommending that the fort of Jid Ali should be de-
stroyed by a military force.

The first proposal was to land 1,000 men on the
coast north of Jid Ali, together with two or three
naval guns, and march them inland through a pass
in the chain of mountains which separates Jid Ali
from the sea. But upon more mature consideration
it was decided that the escarpment was too steep for
heavy transport, and tliat the only method of attack-
ing Jid Ali would be by marching a force to Las
Dureh, and thence to an advanced base at El Afwcina.



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 253

H.M.S. Philomel was sent to patrol the coast, taking
on board l!;e C onimissioner to make a reconnaissance.
The elTect of this was excellent, for the presence of
the warships put fresh heart into the Gadweins, and
made them resolve to sever their allegiance with the
dervishes. They proceeded to collect their livestock
and to drive them along the coast westwards. The
dervishes followed up, and attempted to persuade
them to linger yet awhile in brotherly love, using
their rifles as the most eloquent means of persuasion.
But when H.M.S. Philomel dropped a few shells
into them they realised that this is a hard, cruel
world, in which brotherly love has but small in-
fluence over the actions of man. The Gadweins got
away with most of their stock, and settled down in
the vicinity of Las Dureh.

The next report upon the situation was to the
effect that the dervishes had gone back to their
haroun at Taleh, leaving only a small garrison at Jid
Ali to hold the fort. To the Commissioner and to
the officer commanding troops in Somaliland this
report suggested a new idea. They had proposed to
invoke the aid of the Egyptian Army Camel Corps
and two battalions of Indian infantry for the expedi-
tion against Jid Ali via Las Dureh and El Afweina.
It now occurred to them that this would be makmg
heavy weather of the destruction of a fort held by a
mere handful of dervishes, and that they ought to go
for a more ambitious scheme whose object should be
the final solution of the dervish problem. El Afweina,
the proposed site of the advanced base, is almost
equidistant from Jid Ali and Taleh. Why not
accumulate a substantial force there, send a small
detachment against Jid Ali, and use the remainder
for a bold stroke against Taleh — a surprise attack,
which might very well catch the IMullah napping.

It was a brilliant conception, but unfortunately
there were too many other things going on in the



254 THE ADEN PATROL

world at the time. London received the suggestion
without the least sign of emotion or enthusiasm, and
sent back a wet blanket by return of post : " You
will be aware that at the present moment it would
be an impossibility to obtain for Somaliland the men
and material required for carrying out your pro-
posals." So matters had to remain in statu quo for
the time being.

Then came reports tliat the Mullah was negotiating
with Prince Lij Yasu of Abyssinia, that the latter
had embraced Islam, that two of his JMahomedan
councillors were in high favour at Court, and that
his envoys had twice been to Taleh from Adis Ababa.
How far these negotiations proceeded I do not
know ; it is sufficient to say that in the early part of
1917 Prince Lij Yasu was deposed from the throne
of Abyssinia, and that the British Government
accorded prompt recognition and friendship towards
the queen chosen to reign in his stead. Meanwhile
the dervish prol)lcm in Somaliland never allowed its
rulers a dull moment, and in 1916 it reached another
crisis, consequent upon the return of the dervishes
to Jid Ali.

The Warsangli tribe, who had l)ccome emboldened
by a few months' imnmnity from danger, suddenly
conceived the idea that it would be rather fun to
assume the olTcnsive against the dervishes. So they
organised a raid upon dervish cattle, and did fairly
well out of it. But the dervish is not the kind of
fellow to take that sort of thing lying down. Betri-
bution followed surely and swiftly, and the only
things which saved the Warsangli tribe from ex-
termination were firstly their good fortune in getting
a dhow througli to Aden within three days, and
secondly tlie pr()ni])fncss with wliich H.M.S. North-
brook responded to the call for help.

It was about 8 o'clock on the morning of 10th May
191G when the Nortiibrook arrived off Las Khorai,



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 255

and no sooner had she come up than several natives
were seen to phinge into the water and start swim-
ming as fast as tliey could towards the ship. They
were in such a state of panic and excitement that it
was diflicult to get out of them a connected yarn
when they arrived on board. For the moment, how-
ever, Commander Turton was mainly interested in
the report that the dervishes, on seeing the approach
of the NoRTHBROOK, had commenced to retreat in a
westerly direction towards the mountain pass lead-
ing to Jid Ali. He promptly turned the North-
Brook's head to westward, and followed the line of
the coast, until he came up with a compact mass of
men hurrying along the stretch of plain which divides
the chain of mountains from the sea. The range
was just over 6,000 yards, and the shell was lyddite.
After the first round the compact mass was com-
pact no longer, but small groups showed themselves
from time to time, each one of them receiving its
dose of high explosive, until hnally the pass was
reached. Here the North brook hove to, and, as
the rabble came together in that narrow neck, whose
range was calculated to a nicety, so the shells dropped
plumb on top of them. It was diabolically easy —
so easy that the sporting instinct must have revolted
from it, even as our men at Omdurman sickened at
the sight of the havoc that their own machine-guns
created. After twenty-four rounds the Northbrook
ceased fire. The number of her victims will never
be known, for many dead and wounded were carried
off by their comrades ; the only available evidence
of the result of those few minutes of gunnery was
afforded by the 171 corpses lying at the entrance to
the pass. The dervishes paid a heavy price for
their raid on Las Khorai.

The price, however, was not excessive, for they
themselves had shown no mercy. When the North-
brook had returned to the village, parties were sent



256 THE ADEN PATROL

ashore to investigate the extent of the damage. The
place had been completely sm-roimded by the der-
vishes, who had captured the w^estern part of the
village at once, and had proceeded deliberately to
murder some 300 women and children, whom they
found there. But the rest of the village had put up
a stout defence, and had kept the enemy more or less
at bay from Sunday morning until the warship
brought deliverance on Wednesday morning. The
fighting had been intermittent, so tliat the casualties
were not heavy, considering the duration of it.
According to the Warsangli Sultan, his tribe had lost
thirty-two men killed and had accounted for ninety-
three dervishes, but he altogether ignored the
wounded, as the Somali native usually does. What
the condition of these wounded must have been may
be gauged by the fact that the dervishes captured
the only fresh-water well near the town, so that the
Warsanglis had been practically without water for
four days, and had had a very meagre supply of
food.

The rest of the work of the Northbrook was
necessarily of the nature of first aid. Water and
food were landed to satisfy the immediate needs, and
the ship's doctor with a reinforced stall" made a tour
of the village. The woimdcd had been utterly
neglected, not the smallest attempt having been
made to alleviate their suliering, with the inevitable
result that all the wounds inflicted during the early
part of the fight had become gangrenous. Stab
wounds were more frequent than bullet wounds, and
it is significant of the cheerful disposition of the
dervish that as many as fifteen stabs were sometimes
found in one person. For five hours Dr. McCowen
laboured beneath a tropical sun, treating some sixty
cases with dressings and antiseptics. It speaks
well both for his skill and for the healthy constitu-
tions of tlie Warsanglis, that, when he returned



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 257

live days later, he found nearly all his patients
doing well.

Sympathy with the Warsangli tribe over this affair
may well be overdone by unsuspeeting sentimentalists.
The truth is that this tribe deserved a great deal of
what they got, for there was a time when they were
intriguing both with the JMullah and with his friend
Prince Lij Yasu of Abyssinia. In faet, their Sultan,
Mahmood Ali Sherri, was a brother-in-law of the
IMullah, and the pair of them were thiek as thieves
until the dervishes built the fort at Jid Ali. The
fort was too elose to Las Khorai to please the War-
sanglis, for no Somali tribe has mueh faith in the
good friendship of any other tribe, and least of all
in that of the dervishes. Even so it was the height
of stupidity on the part of Mahmood Ali Sherri to
make an unprovoked assault upon the dervishes, and
to raid their cattle, seeing that their forces were
sulTiciently numerous to overwhelm his own. The
slaughter of the women and children is revolting
enough, but unfortunately it has always been a
common feature of Somali warfare, and there is not
the smallest doubt that the VVarsanglis would have
done the same to dervish women and children, if the
tables had been reversed. The net result of the
tragedy must be regarded as salutary, for the War-
sanglis learnt that the less they had to do with the
dervishes, either in fighting or in intriguing, the
better, and the dervishes learnt that it was wiser to
leave the coast tribes severely alone so long as there
was any chance that the British Navy might be
hovering in the vicinity.

A touch of comedy was added to the business by
the receipt in London of a letter concocted jointly
by the Sultan of the Warsangli and a learned member
of his tribe living at Aden, by name Haji Aden Ali.
The letter was addressed to the Secretary of Slaves,
London, but eventually found its way to the Anti-

17



258 THE ADEN PATROL

Slavery Society. With all its quaint phraseology, it
presents a very genuine expression of gratitude for
the salvation of the tribe.

" Surely we have found in Commander Turton
a saviour of our place and people. God may
give him long life and prosperity to enhance such
heroic works. . . . Praise and gratification have
been in the mouth of us all since the success
achieved by the genius and talents of Com-
mander Turton, R.N, of II.M.S. Northbrook.
The results of his success are truly colossal for
us. . . . May God keep the British flag for ever
and perpetual upon us, under whose shelter we
are happy and thriving in content."

Three months after the raid on Las Khorai the
new Sultan of the Warsanglis, Ina Ali Shirreh, came
to Berbera with a report that the dervishes had now
occupied Baran in force, and that the Mullah was
trying to compel the Warsangli tribe to join him, and
begged that British troops might be stationed at
Las Khorai. The request was granted, a double
company of Indian infantry being sent to garrison
the fort there. Although the dervishes had not
attempted any second raid on the place, they had
been active enough in other directions, and their
occupation of Baran, which lies due south of Las
Khorai across a range of mountains, was quite suffi-
cient ground for alarm.

It was at the end of January 1917, some six months
after the British garrison had been established at
Las Khorai, that I visited the place. The Navy's
mission on that occasion was of a peaceful nature.
An epidemic of scurvy had broken out among the
Sikhs stationed in the fort, and their commanding
officer had sent a dhow to Berbera asking for aid.
We called at Berbera to pick up Dr. Whitehead (at-



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 259

tachcd to the Colonial OfTicc) and proceeded at once
to the scene of the trouble. On arrival we found
that the epidemic was fairly widespread, but not
severe. Our ship's stock of lime-juice, of which we
happened to have a plentiful supply, came in useful
as a palliative for the lighter cases, while the more
serious cases were taken on board and put into hos-
pital at Berbera.

My impressions of Las Khorai remain fairly vivid
in my mind. Groups of reed-huts dotted promiscu-
ously over the plain, the ruins of some stone buildings
whose history 1 never learnt, a whitewashed stone
house politely known as the palace of the Sultan,
and a whitewashed tower in the centre of the fort.
Between the sea and the long chain of mountains,
which skirts the coast at varying distances from the
shore, is a wide stretch of sand, almost bare of
vegetation, affording a dreary foreground to the
vista of mountain peaks. Upon such a landscape
the square white tower of the fort, with the ensign
floating at its mast-head, stands out conspicuously.
Here indeed is an outpost of empire, many weary
miles from everywhere, and unconnected by any of
those hnks by which the progress of science has
brought most of the distant places of the earth with-
in call of civilisation.

As I stood on the poop gazing at that white tower,
while the ship was being brought to anchor, my
thoughts were of the white man's burdens, which
seem to liave a way of accumulating as soon as he
undertakes the tasks of empire. Here were we
plunged into the responsibility of administering the
aiiairs of a most unpromising country, simply be-
cause it lies upon the high road to India. What were
the possibilities of turning to good account this slice
of North-East Africa, which circumstances have
forced upon us ? The commercial products are live-
stock, hides, frankincense, and myrrh, 'jhe exports



260 THE ADEN PATROL

of livestock just suffice to supply the needs of Aden ;
the hides of the sheep and goats reach as far as the
American market, where they are used for making
glove-leather and glace kid ; the frankincense, myrrh,
and other gums find their market in various countries.
Recently there have been attempts to develop a trade
in fibre from the sansevieria tree, which, it was
hoped, would run a good second to Sisal hemp, but
so far the exploitation of this product has not ad-
vanced very far. There is, however, a gleam of hope
in another direction. When 1 was at Berbera I
heard much talk of the discovery of oil-fields at
Agagwein, twenty-eight miles south-east of Berbera.
If this discovery proves to be of value, the whole
economic situation may be changed, and Somaliland
may be converted from a burden into a valuable
asset of the British Empire. But to return to Las
Khorai and its fort.

I lantled in the evening, carried pickaback through
the surf by a Somali native (for there is no pier), and
found most of the villagers lined up on the beach,
the arrival of a ship being naturally an event in local
history. Thence I was escorted to the fort to view
all the improvements which have been made in its
defences and accommodation. A perimeter of sand-
bags had been built around the whole enclosure, with
a wide ditch outside the perimeter, and barbed wire
entanglements beyond the ditch. Within the peri-
meter are barracks constructed out of sandbags and
beams of wood, and a special bungalow built of the
same materials for the Suljadar Major, and designed
by himself. It has a verandah with real wooden
steps leading up to it — quite a triumj)!! in architec-
ture, for to make something ornamental out of sand-
bags cannot be easy. U'he two English oflicers live
in tiie tower itself, on the first floor, where they have
furnished their mess-room in a severely simple
lityle, with a plain deal table, two plain deal stools,



AN OUTPOST OF EMPIRE 261

and two deck chairs. The walls arc surroiuulcd with
shelves to acconiinodatc the lihrary and a plentiful
supply of groceries, for they may have to last out
for three months without seeing a ship or any other
emissary of civilisation. Fresh meat they can get at
any time, for sheep are pastured on the mountain
slopes to southward, while fresh milk is provided by
three cows kei)t inside the fort. But the dillieulty
is to procure fresh vegetables, even potatoes pre-
senting a serious problem, for they go bad very
quickly in that climate. Hence the scurvy.

I was eager for information about the Mullah,
whose horde of dervishes seemed to be in uncomfort-
able proximity just across the mountain range. 1
gleaned a little gossip about German agents in Abys-
sinia providing him with ammunition, and had re-
tailed to me a rumour that he had been provided
with a piece of artillery and a German gun's crew to
handle it. But the officers of the Las Khorai gar-
rison seemed to take only a perfunctory interest in
these matters. That the dervishes were within an
easy day's march of the fort, that they could muster
several thousand rifles if they chose, that Las Khorai
is about a hundred miles from the next outpost, that
there were no other means of communication than a
sailing dhow which might take several days to carry
a message, that these two young English officers were
alone in their desert surroundings, far removed from
other white men — these were matters to which ap-


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