Interesting passage on Lawrence of Arabia, desert codes, telegraph wires and railways on page 249 in Codebreakers, the highly readable book on Room 40 and WW1 Codebreaking by James Willie and Michael McKinley (published by Ebury, 2015).
Pulling down telegraph poles? This of course makes sense as often the telegraph poles followed railways, so it was easy to cut these wires or pull these poles down (by camel!) under the guise of Lawrence attacking the railway again. All part of the annoyance and disruption value of guerrilla warfare but with a higher aim, reading the enemy’s codes.
A clever way to force the Turks to rely on wireless, much easier to intercept at a safe distance and then decrypt or decode than tapping telegraph wires.
Overall Codebreakers is a very interesting book on WW1, picked up in my local branch library (childhood habits die hard!) but certainly worth buying in paperback. It covers naval and submarine warfare, Zeppelin raids, the Western Front, Ireland, German espionage and sabotage in America and its legacy, the seeds of WW2 codebreaking and breaking the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park.
Found whilst ploughing through endless old railway modelling magazines that I have been given to pass on to railway modelling family members. Have found a few novel ideas to share over the next few months.
A good 1970 photo by N. V. Salt of one of the locomotives on this famously ambushed railway – see previous blogposts such as
Kieran is one of the small team of builders of the striking Hallat Ammar 19 September 1917 desert train ambush diorama which is currently in the Lawrence of Arabia: Shifting Sands exhibition at the National Civil War Centre.
“This is a fantastic idea for adapting a scenario. I’m one of the builders of the Hallat Ammar diorama shown on the NQM blog – see also my own, rather inconsistently maintained blog is http://gotflag.blogspot.com.2
“It’s very rewarding to see that the diorama has prompted some gaming of Lawrence scenarios – I was slightly upset to se the glass case go over the display, unfortunately we didn’t get any games in on the board before hand.”
“Keep up the good work, looking forward to reading more.” Kieran
You can see more of the finished diorama in Kieran’s photographs, including a few construction pics. Elsewhere on his occasional blog you can see the locomotive models being made (before he wrecked or blew them up!) and much more besides.
I was quite curious where Kieran’s blog name from. The short embedded clip from Eddie Izzard on Kieran’s Do You Have A Flag? website explains it. Watching it, I can’t help thinking that Eddie Izzard is so much of the same 60s / 70s Airfix generation as myself and many of us, in fact he is probably a glammed up version of Harry Pearson in Achtung Schweinhund.
A few more Lawrence links about the Hallat Ammar train ambush, rapidly approaching its centenary on 19 September 1917 / 2017
A few more interrupted railway ambush gaming scenarios inspired by this real event in the next few months.
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on his occasional Sidetracked blog, 21 August 1917
I like Kieran’s comment about the frustration of not having enough time to get a game in on this superb desert terrain before the glass lid went on. In my Borrowers inspired brain, maybe when the lights go dim at night at the National Civil War Centre, out come the tiny tents, the campfires, the singing on each side, the camels lie down and all is well and calm until they are back in their fighting positions by opening time, just as before. But if you look carefully enough …
Seasoned railway modellers might not be inspired by seeing trains blown up or derailed.
However I spotted an interesting photo on the Not Quite Mechanised website by Chris Kemp of a detailed desert train in a diorama model at the ‘Shifting Sands: Lawrence of Arabia’ exhibition at Newark’s National Civil War Centre.
With my Train In a Tin, a bit of sand, some Tiger.com cocktail stick palm trees, a scattering of desert hexes on my Heroscape hex board and the old OO / HO Airfix Bedouin Warriors and / or French Foreign Legion, this could be an interesting desert scenario variation of my recent ACW Battle of Pine Ridge River.
Interesting. Thanks Chris Kemp on the NQM Not Quite Mechanised website for another interesting blogpost that sparks some more gaming scenario ideas
Adding to the Wild West movie inspired T.E. Lawrence myth, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia 1962 film features an exploding desert train on the Hejaz Railway. (Clips available on YouTube). 1962 – there was a year, Lawrence of Arabia in the cinema, Donald Featherstone’s War Games published …
Skim reading this Great Arab Revolt Project GARP website
This article features the following interesting perspective:
“To understand why the rail line was never permanently closed by military action we need to know something of railway features. Once built they are: easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, difficult to destroy, easily repaired, seldom interrupted through accident, produce very little “road-kill”, require small manpower to operate, are inexpensive to maintain after the original capital expenditure and, rolling stock (the engines and carriages) is generally plentiful.
Railways can move large tonnages and civil or military passenger numbers over vast distances relatively quickly, including the return of casualties to hospital facilities. Although used with success earlier, the American Civil War 1861-65 proved the strategic and tactical use of railways.
Note, damaging or destroying one train has not destroyed a rail network.”
From The Hejaz Railway, GARP website article by Neil Dearberg, 2010
Running steam locomotives with their need for wateringpoints through a desert is a considerable challenge, one that would have affected building parts of the Wild West railways too.
The GARP gallery also features ruined and intact station buildings.
A Bit of Imagi-Native Distance: The Brontes do Lawrence of Arabia!
Without wishing to trivialise real past events and politics in the Middle East over recent years and the past century, this is all fascinating stuff for the desert Imagi-Nation games scenario from the Brontes onwards to a steampunked early train Stevenson’s Rocket kit from Dapol / Airfix. Hmm ..
The Brontes travelled on trains and featured Byronic Victorian desert nations loosely based on those Africa and Arabia. I’m sure that the Bronte sisters and brother Branwell would have found Lawrence of Arabia a fascinating and emotionally complex heroic figure for their novels.
“From June 1836 to September / autumn 1836, Northangerland was in control of the new French style Provisional Government of the Grand Republican Union (formerly the Verdopolitan Union). He has direct control over Angria where his allies (Ashantees,French and Bedouin forces) wreak a reign of terror. The Arab troops are led by Lord Jordon, in Byronic ‘Turkish’ dress and known as Sheik Medina.” (From my Charlotte Bronte as Gamer post Man of TIN blog)
Zamorna’s European enemy Lord Jordan (in his Arabian guise of Sheik Medina) is the Byronic head of an Arabian army invading, with a combined African, French and Scottish force, the Bronte Imagi-Nation of Angria. He is defeated and killed at the ‘Battle Of Leyden’ in Angria in the Bronte Year of 1837.
Definitely a possibility of being Sidetracked by that one …