5 April 1917

Following the half-failure of the raid at Abu el-Naam, Lawrence rode out with a second raiding party to make another attack on the railway. Kilometre 1,121 from Damascus was chosen at random to lay a mine. But when the morning train arrived, carrying women and children towards Syria, it passed over the charges without explosion.

“As artist I was furious; as commander deeply relieved: women and children were not proper spoil.”

It was not until after dusk that the raiders could return to the line to investigate why the mine had failed.

“The Juheina were as interested in that as I. Along they came in a swarm and clustered over the metals during the search. They brought my heart into my throat, for it took me an hour to find just where the mine was hidden. Laying a Garland mine was shaky work, but scrabbling in pitch darkness up and down a hundred yards of railway, feeling for a hair-trigger buried in the ballast, seemed, at the time, an almost uninsurable occupation …

“At last I found it, and ascertained by touch that the lock had sunk one-sixteenth of an inch, due to bad setting by myself or because the ground had subsided after the rain. I firmed it into its place. Then, to
explain ourselves plausibly to the enemy, we began blowing up things to the north of the mine … All was done at speed, for we feared lest Turks come after us: and when our explosive work was finished we ran back like hares to our camels, mounted them, and trotted without interruption down the windy valley once more to the plain of Hamdh.”

The next morning would bring the distant sound of a great explosion and then news that a train had indeed detonated the mine. The raiders returned to Abdullah’s camp.

Events of 5 April 1917 as recounted by T. E. Lawrence in Seven
Pillars of Wisdom