15-20 April 1917

In the days following his return to Wejh, Lawrence set out to Major Joyce – now the senior British officer in Wejh – his new theories about the strategy of irregular warfare formulating during his days in Abdullah’s camp.

“We could develop a highly mobile, highly equipped striking force of the smallest size, and use it successively at distributed points of the Turkish line, to make them strengthen their posts beyond the defensive minimum of twenty men …

“We must not take Medina. The Turk was harmless there. In prison in Egypt he would cost us food and guards. We wanted him to stay at Medina, and every other distant place, in the largest numbers. Our ideal was to keep his railway just working, but only just, with the maximum of loss and discomfort … but he was welcome to the Hejaz Railway, and the Trans-Jordan railway, and the Palestine and Syrian railways for the duration of the war, so long as he gave us the other nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of the Arab world.”

By now, however, preparations were advanced for a major offensive against the railway at El Ula and Medain Saleh to force the surrender of Medina.

“Neither my general reasoning … nor my particular objections had much weight.”

With his fellow British officers engaged in planning the forthcoming offensive on the railway at El Ula, Lawrence was left to pursue the idea of advancing on Akaba from inland. Auda’s presence in Wejh meant the attack could now be discussed in detail.

“I was working out with Auda abu Tayi a march to the Howeitat in their spring pastures of the Syrian desert. From them we might raise a mobile camel force, and rush Akaba from the eastward without guns or
machine-guns …

“Our march would be an extreme example of a turning movement, since it involved a desert journey of six hundred miles to capture a trench within gunfire of our ships: but there was no practicable alternative … Auda thought all things possible with dynamite and money, and that the smaller clans about Akaba would join us.”

Events of 15-20 April 1917 as recounted by T. E. Lawrence in Seven
Pillars of Wisdom