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he been asking himself. Why should I be spending

my time in laying these death-traps for merchant



276 THE ADEN PATROL

service seamen, regardless of their nationality, when
they have never done me any harm ? But I was
feeling too hungry to discuss the ethics of war.

" Let's go and have some hot cocoa," I said.

At breakfast he told us that he had been eight
years in the English merchant service, and had lived
ashore in England besides. The effect was to give
him a sense of humour such as one does not often
find in a Hun. His captain was a far more typical
specimen, taking life very seriously. He gravely
apologised to us in broken English for not havng
put up a fight, explaining that the Turritella's
gun was such a little one — a G-pounder, I believe —
and he had had it taken below with the idea of averting
suspicion. He brought a dog with him, a small
dachshund, to which he seemed much attached. When
we got back to Aden, and handed our prisoners over
to the military authorities, the last thing he said on
leaving the ship was, " Thank you very much for
all your kindness. And you will be good to the dog ? "
We assured him that the little beast would be well
treated.

The part which I cannot get over is that signal,
" Why did you not stop me when I was passing
Aden?" It was more than clever; it was an
inspiration. If he had elaborated it, if he had said,
"■ You did not order me to stop at Aden, where there
are shore batteries and IJritish men-of-war," he would
have spoilt the eilect. In the form of a trite question,
it had just the flavour of an old tarpaulin merchant
skipper. And then his signalman went and spelt
Aden with a "T." It really was hard lines on Eritz.

In the " Times " of '.Ith March 1918, and in the evening papers
of the previous day, tliore ap])oared a telegram from Melbourne
to the effect that the ( Jorman ollloors of the Tubritklla had been
tried at Mombay for minder, on the ground that some Cliinamen
were left in the wtokohold when the ship was sunk. 1 have been
unable to find any authority for this statement. Nothing is
known ollioially of any sucli trial.



THE RED SEA PATROL



277



CHAPTER XIX

THE TAKING OF SALIF

The purpose of the naval patrol in the Red Sea re-
quires a few words of explanation, involving a brief
survey of the political conditions of Western Arabia.
The subject is not an easy one to compress, for it is
complicated by the fact that it has never been quite
clear who are the governing authorities in the various
parts of the peninsula. Nominally the three vilayets,
or provinces, of llejaz, Asir, and Yemen were part
and parcel of the Turkish Empire before the war,
but it would be an abuse of terms to say that Turkey
was their governing authority. The Turkish conquest
of Arabia dates back to the middle of the sixteenth
century, and no nation has ever disputed her posses-
sions ; it is one thing, however, to conquer a country
by force of arms, and quite another thing to hold it
and administer the affairs of its inhabitants. At
no time has Turkey ever been able to maintain any
real control over the various tribes of the ^\rabian
peninsula. In the seventeenth century she gave up
the attempt, so far as the province of Yemen was
concerned, leaving the country to the guidance of
one, Mansur-al-Kasim, the first of the Imams, or
religious leaders. Ever since then there has been an
Imam of Yemen, directly descended from the said
Mansur-al Kasim, and the present descendant is
virtually the ruler of Yemen to-day.

It was not until 1869, after the opening of the Suez

279



280 THE RED SEA PATROL

Canal, that Turkey again tried to establish her
authority in Yemen by sending an army to Hodeida,
which in due course occupied Sanaa, the capital of
the province. At first the people of Yemen were
disposed to welcome the aggressor, for they were so
utterly weary of fighting with each other, and of
the general state of lawlessness throughout the land,
that even the prospect of alien domination was
preferable to the prevailing conditions. It was not
long, however, before they became even more weary
of Turkish officials than they had been of internecine
strife. In 1891 a rebelhon of the tribes was suppressed
with some difficulty by the Turkish garrison ; in
1904 another rising occurred, and proved equally
troublesome ; in 1911 the Imam rallied the tribes
around him, laid siege to Sanaa, and persuaded
the Turkish miUtary governor that there was no
alternative but to consent to the Imam's terms.
These terms virtually abrogated Turkish authority
in Yemen, abohshed Turkish laws from the province,
and substituted the old Islamic code, known as the
" Sheria." which mainly concerns itself with the
religious exercises of the people, and makes them
liable to pains and penalties if they fail to say their
prayers before sunrise, or do any of those things
which good Mahomedans arc supposed to do. As
the penalties usually took the form of stiff fines, and
the fmes went into the Imam's pocket, he found it
worth while to maintain an elaborate system of
espionage, in order that he might adequately shepherd
his flock, and safeguard their souls from straying
into the paths of unrighteousness. Moreover, the
terms demanded that the Imam should receive, as
the price of his alliance with the SubHme Porte, the
sum of £.T. 1,000 every month, and that certain smaller
sums should be paid ])y Constantinople to various
tribal chieftains, who might become fractious if they
did not receive some little solace of this kind.




281



282 THE RED SEA PATROL

So, for the last three years before the war, Turkish
dominion in Yemen was maintained by means
of good honest Turkish gold. It is difficult to see
where Turkey's quid pro quo came in, for it was
certainly not in the trade of the country, which
is worth very little at present. There are splendid
natural resources to be developed, but development
is impossible so long as every Arab is a law unto
himself, and the caravan routes between the interior
and the coast are continually beset with marauding
brigands. The farmers grow produce just sufficient
for local needs, knowing tliat any surplus would be
wasted, for there is no way of establishing an export
trade under the present conditions. Hides, skins,
and coffee are exported to a very small extent, and
with considerable risk to the traders, the coffee being
sent through Aden for the most part, for the port
of Hodeida in Yemen is wretchedly equipped for the
shipment of any kind of goods. In justice to the
Turks it must be mentioned that in 1911 they started
a big scheme to build a harbour near Hodeida and
link it up with Sanaa by a metre-gauge railway. A
syndicate was formed in Paris to finance the scheme,
and the work was placed in charge of an Italian
engineer, who was replaced by a French engineer
in 1912, when the Turco-Italian War broke out.
This change of engineers was unfortunate, for the
Frenchman apparently had not mastered the art of
dealing with Turkish officials, and the result was that
very little progress was made with the undertaking
By the summer of 1913 some thousands of tons of
railway material were lying on the beach and rusting,
about five miles of single track had been laid, and
another ten miles of embankment had been con-
structed ; but towards the building of the harbour
nothing had been done, beyond putting up a temporary
jetty, and nobody seemed to ])e in the least interested
in the subject. The Paris Syndicate resolved that



THE TAKING OF SALIF 283

they would be wise to cut tlieir losses, rather than
throw good money after bad. 'I'lie Government of
Constantinople, after having spent many thousands
of pounds with no tangible result, shrugged its shoul-
ders, and said " Kismet." And that is the story of the
Sanaa Railway scheme.

The tragedy of Yemen is the tragedy of a fertile
land run to waste. It is the same tragedy as that of ,
Mesopotamia, where an empire, which had endured
for 2,000 years and had been the centre of the world's
civilisation, was converted by the blight of Turkish
rule into a trackless desert, swamped for six months
of the year by the ungoverncd waters of two mighty
rivers, and parched during the remaining six into
a wilderness of barren dust. Yemen has not the
potential wealth of Mesopotamia, but under wise
adminstration it would become a prosperous country,
contributing a substantial increment to the world's
food stores. It has two distinct cHmates — that of
the low-lying littoral belt, which stretches from north
to south of the eastern side of the Red Sea and is
known as the Tihama, and that of the mountains
and high plateau which divide Western Arabia from
the Great Red Desert. Near the sea the Tihama is
almost barren, for none of the mountain streams
can find their way across the entire width of this
plain, except when they are in flood, and consequently
nothing can grow without the aid of artificial irriga-
tion from wells. But farther inland towards the foot
of the mountains the country is well watered, and the
farmers grow millet, wheat, dhurra, sugar-canes,
indigo, and sesame. The last-named, let me explain,
has no connection whatever with hlies, as John
Ruskin would have us suppose, but is an annual
plant with oleaginous seeds, which the natives crush
in a mill, formed of a large, hollow, conical stone,
fixed base uppermost, and a smaller conical stone
loosely fitting into the larger one. The smaller



284 THE RED SEA PATROL

stone is turned by a camel, harnessed to a cross-bar,
the seeds are dropped in at the top between the
two stones, and the oil conies out at the bottom
through a small hole. The oil is used by the natives
for cooking, and the husks are used as cattle-
fodder.

Behind the Tihama are the maritime ranges of
hills. Here the husbandmen of bygone centuries
have built terraces up the steep sides of the mountains,
facing them with solid ramparts of stones, and shaping
them to follow the contours of the ground, so that
some of these terraces contain as much as a broad
acre, while others are only a few feet wide. The
soil is the alluvial deposit washed down by the streams.
It grows wheat, barley, millet, and vegetables of
various kinds, as well as fruits and spices both tropical
and European, including bananas, plantains, cinna-
mon, grapes, apricots, peaches, apples, and quinces.
The chief crop, however, is coffee, and for' this the
soil provides excellent sustenance, while the highland
mists, sometimes amounting to thick fogs, help to
keep the plants irrigated. In spite of brigands and
the absence of roads and railways in the country,
the highland farmer contrives to export his coffee
all over the world, and to make a comfortable living
by his industry.

Beyond the maritime range is the great central
plateau, which forms the watershed of western
Arabia. Here the climate is almost temperate, and
the vegetation changes accordingly. Towards the
southern end of the plateau is Sanaa, the chief town
of Yemen. Not far from Sanaa is the Mareb district,
where the Queen of Sheba is supposed to have dwelt
in the midst of pomp and luxury, though some
commentators insist tliat her home was in Abyssinia,
and that it was from Abyssinia tliat she drew the gold
and rich spices that she presented to Solomon.
However this may be, it is certain that the Mareb



THE TAKING OF SALIF 285

district is the site of a very ancient civilisation, of
whicli tracrs may still be found in the remains of a
vast dam, 1)uilt by the Sabaeans to make a reservoir
of water for tlie needs of their eity and the irrigation
of their land. It was through the bursting of this
dam that the city of Sheba (or Saba) was washed out
of existence, and the surrounding district reduced to
a waterless waste.

Such in brief is the province of Yemen, the most
fertile in Arabia. 1 have dealt with it first in the
list because it is virtually the only part of Arabia
which acknowledges any kind of allegiance to Turkey.
Its ruler is the Imam, whose alliance with the Sublime
Porte was maintained up to the beginning of the war
at the price of £.T. 1,000 per month, plus the doles to
the tribal chieftains, and w hose authority was propped
up by keeping a small Turkish garrison in the province
to supplement the native gendarmerie. Neither
garrison nor gendarmerie have ever made any real
attempt to establish law and order in the country,
or to suppress the brigandage ; nor can we blame
them, for their wages and salaries were always many
months in arrear. At one time the Turkish authori-
ties used to try and collect taxes from the farmers,
but they found that it was necessary to send a whole
battalion to escort the tax-collectors, and so they
gradually gave up the attempt. As for the Imam,
there is evidence that shortly before the armistice he
was conspiring against the Turks, and the reason is
not difficult to guess. The Turkish treasury at Sanaa
was empty, commimication with Constantinople was
precarious, and so there can be little doubt that the
payment of the Iman's monthly honorarium was
seriously behindhand. Moreover, he found that his
authority over the tribes had sult'ered by reason of
his alliance with the Sublime Porte, for the Arab does
not love the Turk. Mr. Wyman Bury, who spent
some years in Yemen upon zoological researches, and



286 THE RED SEA PATROL

published his impressions in a book called " Arabia
Infelix," sums up the position as follows :

" The Turks entered Yemen at a time when
any firm rule would have been welcome, and
got control of a fertile country with a boundless
water supply, if they had only been able to
handle it. Yet they could not improve on the
agricultural methods of the country, and cannot
point to a single public work undertaken, com-
pleted, and maintained for the public weal.
They have no continuity of purpose, and many
schemes of theoretical excellence have been
inaugurated in Yemen to die of inanition for
lack of sustenance and support. . . . The Turkish
authorities had the prestige of their race and
the experience of former rule in Yemen to help
them, yet they have even failed to gain the
toleration of the people they have governed con-
secutively for the last forty years."

In a preface written shortly after the outbreak of
the war, he adds : " Turkey in Arabia will probably
cease to exist — to the advantage of both parties,
for her Arabian provinces are a constant drain on
Turkey's resources, and Turkish rule is the curse of
Arabia."

Of the other provinces of Arabia bordering the
Red Sea it may be said unhesitatingly that they have
ceased to have any truck with the Ottoman (Govern-
ment. To the south of Yemen is the British Pro-
tectorate of Aden, administered by the Indian Gov-
ernment. To the north of Yemen is the province
of Asir, wliich is governed by a native chief called
the Idrisi, so far as it can be said to have any govern-
mcjit at all. lie has always been consistent in his
hostility to the Turkish Ciovernmcnt, and Avhcn the
Imam of Yemen became a protc^ge of Constantinople,



THE TAKING OF SALIF ^St

the Idrisi's hostility was promptly extended towards
him also. At no time has Turkish influence in Asir
made any progress beyond the port of Kunfudah
and its immediate vicinity, and even in this restricted
area its existence has always been precarious. When
the war began the Idrisi definitely declared himself
the enemy of the Ottoman Covcrnment, and com-
menced active hostilities against the Turks.

North of Asir is the province of llejaz — the largest
and at the same time the least fertile of the western
provinces of Arabia. Here the ruler is Hussein bin
Ali, Emir of Mecca, now known as King Hussein
of Hejaz, the acknowledged ally of the Entente
Powers, whose troops co-operated with the British
troops in the conquest of Palestine. Hussein spent
many of his earlier years at Constantinople, and
was regarded by the Ottoman Government as a
man with a peaceable nature, who was likely to
serve Turkish interests in Arabia faithfully and
well. But in 1913 he showed very clearly that he
had ideas of his own, which were distinctly contrary
to Ottoman policy. At the outbreak of war he stead-
fastly refused to help the Turks to obtain recruits in
Hejaz, and in the early part of 191 G he placed himself
at the head of the tribes in a general insurrection
against Turkish rule in Arabia.

Such, then, was the situation in Western Arabia at
the beginning of 1917. On the extreme south a
Turkish force, largely composed of Arab recruits,
had invaded our Aden Protectorate, and occupied
an extrenehed position to the north of Aden harbour.
It would have been a comparatively easy matter to
drive them out of that position, but to follow them
up into the interior through an inhospitable country
would have required more energy, and have entailed
more risk, than the object to be gained was worth.
So we occupied a line of trenches defending Aden
town and harbour, and there we sat and looked at



288 THE RED SEA PATROL

the enemy, occasionallyfgiving him'a few rounds of
shell, just to remind him that there was a war in
progress.

It was quite clear that this force in the Aden
Protectorate must derive its supplies from the in-
terior. So far as food is concerned there was no
mystery in this, for the Turkish soldier always
manages to maintain existence on remarkably little,
and that little would easily be obtained from the
fertile country of Yemen. But the rifles and am-
munition could only be replenished from outside
sources, and there is not the least doubt that the
traffic in small arms across the Red Sea, which the
Turks had negligently allowed to go on without
hindrance in peace time, was serving them in good
stead in war time. It therefore became necessary for
the British Navy to blockade the coast of Arabia.

From the description I have given of the opera-
tions in the vicinity of Aden it is not very obvious
that it was a matter of much moment whether the
enemy was kept supplied with munitions or not.
There was, however, the possibility that, if he could
succeed in equipping a sufficient force, he might
be emboldened to try a raid on the town of Aden
itself. (In fact, he did make one such attempt, but
it was easily repulsed.) IMoreover, there were other
operations within the peninsula to be considered.
In 1915 the Idrisi of Asir, with his tribesmen, made
an attack on the Turkish garrison at the port of
Loheiya, which failed mainly because the tribesmen
showed a strong disinclination to face the Turkish
artillery. In 1916 came the revolt in Ilejaz, led by
King Ilusscin and his sons, which eventually severed
the Turkish garrisons in Arabia from the Turkish
armies in Palestine by cutting the Ilejaz Railway.
Oiir blockade of the coast of Ilejaz was intended to
help King Hussein by persuading the Aral)s that
the Turk stood a very poor chance in Arabia, and



THE TAKING OF SALIF 289

there is no doubt that it has done much towards that
end.

It must be borne in mind that the Arab, as a rule,
is no student of international politics. He has a
keen eye for the main chance, and a very human
tendency to prefer to be on the winning side, but,
until he is quite sure which side that is going to be,
he is quite willing to turn an honest penny by making
himself useful to either side. When I was stationed
at Kurnah in Mesopotamia the Arabs there were
employed by us to make a bund along the river
banks to keep back the floods. Every night, about
eleven o'clock, parties of Arabs would come sneaking
down the river in canoes, presumably from the Turkish
camp some six miles upstream, and would let drive
at us with their rifles. Whereat we would some-
times turn on our searchlights and machine-guns,
until the snipers had vanished as silently as they
had come. One night an Arab was shot, and was
left behind by his companions by some oversight,
for usually they were careful to carry their dead
and wounded away with them. We found the body
next morning, and in the pocket was a bright new
rupee, which he must have received from our Field
Treasure Chest Officer the evening before he was
killed. He was in the pay of the British Gk)vern-
ment for bunding the river in the daytime, and of
the Turkish Government for sniping at the British
by night. Such is the broad-minded impartiality
of the Arab.

The question of money, prosaic as it sounds, was
a very large factor in the political situation in Arabia,
and afforded another cogent reason for a strict
blockade of the coast. IntelHgence reports told us
that the Turkish treasury at Sanaa was empty,
but that the merchants of Hodeida had been
summoned to a conference, and had agreed to the
imposition of a special war duty on imports to provide

19



290 THE RED SEA PATROL

money for the Turkish force in Arabia. A Greek
refugee, who had escaped from Hodeida, told us that
the only money going into the Turkish treasury was
derived from the customs dues collected at Hodeida,
on goods coming from Massowa, Jibouti, and Aden,
and he expressed surprise that we allowed so much
to enter Hodeida. The truth is that the Navy was
considerably handicapped in its work by the experts
in diplomacy, who were all too conscious of the fact
that many vested interests were involved, and
feared to make Great Britain unpopular among the
wealthy and influential Arabs. When, however, it
became increasingly clear that the Turkish forces
relied entirely on customs dues for their financial
support, and that the pecuniary difficulties of the
Turkish Government at Sanaa were alienating the
sympathies of the Imam and other Arab notabilities,
who looked in vain for their monthly " douceurs,"
even our experts in diplomacy were convinced that
a rigorous blockade was the right pohcy.

So the British Navy in 1917 did what the Italian
Navy had done during the Turco-Italian war of
1912 — ^they carried the war into Arabia by blockading
the coast. To attempt anything more ambitious,
such as an invasion of the interior, would have
required a substantial expeditionary force, which
we could ill afford for such a purpose. It was ob-
viously better suited to our means to aid the Arabs
in their revolt against Turkish rule, by removing
from the Turk his one and only means of retaining
any influence in the country, than to provide an
army to wrest it from him by force of arms. We
did, however, take possession of the island of Kamaran
off the coast of Yemen, where there is a quarantine
station for pilgrims on tlicir way to and from Mecca,
consisting of a well-equipped hospital and some
commodious residences for the quarantine officials.
We also made an incursion to the mainland, opposite



THE TAKING OF SALIF 291

Kamaran Island, and, as this was entirely a naval
operation, I propose to tell the story of it in detail.

On the coast which faces the island stands the
small town of Salif, where large rock-salt works
used to be carried on under the aegis of the Turkish
Government. The main difficulty that the industry
had to contend with was the inadequacy of the
harbour, the only convenience for the loading of
steamers being an old wooden pier, which was supposed
to extend to the five-fathom line, though the depth
of water at the end of it has probably been reduced by
constant silting. Some time before the war the Turkish
Government made a contract with Messrs. Sir John
Jackson, Limited, to carry out certain improvements,
and, as the work was still in progress when war
was declared, the contractors had to take their de-
parture in a hurry, leaving behind them a good
deal of valuable plant. It was this plant which
caught the eye of the Commander-in-Chief, East
Indies, when he was cruising down the Red Sea on
his way to Aden, to discuss various matters with
our Political Officer there. Having called at Kamaran
Island, and learned there that the garrison of Salif
was barely a hundred men, he proceeded on his way,
and, on arriving at Aden, discussed the matter fully
with the general officer commanding the troops.
With this officer's concurrence he sent a telegram to
the Government of India, asking that a company of
Indian troops should be detailed to assist in the
capture of Salif and its garrison, in order that the
contractors' plant might be safely recovered .

The reason why the Government of India refused
this request is unknown to me, but apparently they
were nervous lest a landing of British forces on the
mainland should have the effect of upsetting the
friendly tribes in Arabia. Anyhow, the experts in
diplomacy decided against the proposal of military


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