9 March 1917

“Dear Colonel Wilson,

“Please excuse what is going to be a hurried note. MacRury got here this morning, and his news is rather sudden. I hoped to get it up to Newcombe, but cannot, as he is coming in, without saying by what road …

“In the circumstances … I got Feisul to take action. In spite of General Clayton’s orders I told him something of the situation. It would have been impossible for me to have done anything myself on the necessary scale. One must inform one’s G.O.C.! …

“I’m afraid it will be touch and go.

“I am taking some Garland mines with me, if I can find instantaneous fuse, and if there is time, will set them, as near Medina as possible: it is partly for this reason that I am going up myself, and partly with a view to smashing Hedia, if it can anyhow be done.

“Feisal will do everything he can. Only it’s fearfully short notice.”

(T. E. Lawrence to Colonel Wilson, The Letters of T. E. Lawrence, edited by David Garnett, published by Jonathan Cape, 1938)

In the evening of 8 March, an urgent message from General Clayton in Cairo announced that intelligence had been received suggesting that the Turks had been ordered to evacuate Medina and take up a new defensive position near Maan.

For General Archibald Murray, commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, who was planning an imminent attack on Gaza, the
arrival of a large Turkish force in the area posed an unforeseen nuisance! Clayton issued orders that every effort must be made to hold the Turks within Medina or to destroy them as they withdrew.

In Wejh, Lawrence found himself temporarily the senior officer. He decided to ride to Wadi Ais to spur Abdullah into action against the nearby railway.