An Important Imperial Camel Corps Lawrence of Arabia’s Attack on Mudawara Railway Station
RARE – Distinguished Conduct Medal
DCM.Awarded to “50303 L.CPL G. CRICHTON NO 7 COY I.C.C.
Sergeant George Crichton originally enlisted into the Lanarkshire Yeomanry, during the Great War he saw service with the Corps of Hussars, Royal Scots and Imperial Camel Corps.
Posted to No.7 Company of the Imperial Camel Corps, seeing service in Egypt and then Palestine, his Company along with men of the 10th totalling about 300 were selected to accompany Lawrence of Arabia and his Arabs on a daring attack on Mudawarra Railway Station.
D.C.M. – ”Edinburgh Gazette 12 January 1920 “50303 L/Cpl G Crichton No.7 Coy ICC.
“For conspicuous gallantry during the capture of Mudawarra Station on the 8th August 1918. He showed great dash and initiative and his great knowledge of explosives was invaluable. The complete demolition of wells and engines in a very short space of time was much due to his devotion to duty.”
Arriving at Akaba the I.C.C. took on additional ammunition, water and supplies and met up with Lawrence and his men. The objective of the attack was to seize Mudawarra and destroy water supplies and equipment. Then destroy the main railway bridge at Kissir and the rail bridge and wells at Jurf station. During darkness the attack began the Turkish troops put up a strong defence with hand to hand fighting.
The task complete Crichton underwent his specialist task of setting charges on the wells, pump engines, water towers and supplies. At dusk the order was given to blow the charges and the ICC were given the order to Walk March and left.
After the war George Crichton returned to home life and remained with the Lanarkshire Yeomanry, even when they converted to the Royal Tank Corps.
The Action at Mudowwara:-
Mudowwara lay on the Hejaz railway, Lawrence’s favoured hunting ground, and possessed the only significant water supply to cover 150 miles of the line south of Maan. As a result, Lawrence had made two or three attempts to mount an attack on the station in September 1917 but, for assorted reasons, they never got off the ground. And it was only in August 1918 – via the suggestion of his friend Colonel Dawnay – that he got clearance to use two companies of the Imperial Camel Corps, under Colonel Robert Buxton, for a renewed initiative:
‘Dawnay and I sat down with a map and measured that Buxton should march from the Canal to Akaba; thence, by Rumm, to carry Mudowwara by night-attack; thence by Bair, to destroy the bridge and tunnel near Amman; and back to Palestine on August the thirtieth’ (Revolt in the Desert refers).
Here, then, Lawrence’s first mention of Buxton and the Imperial Camel Corps, but such were the achievements of this irregular force over the coming weeks – achievements in which Lawrence shared for he delighted in riding alongside them – that he would dedicate an entire chapter in Revolt in the Desert to their story. In late July 1918, he visited Buxton and his men for the first time:
‘Accordingly I went down to Akaba, where Buxton let me explain to each company their march, and the impatient nature of the Allies whom they, unasked, had come to help; begging them to turn the other cheek if there was a row; partly because they were better educated than the Arabs, and therefore less prejudiced; partly because they were very few. After such solemnities came the ride up the oppressive gorge of Itm, under the red cliffs of Nejed and over the breast-like curves of Imran – that slow preparation for Rumm’s greatness – till we passed through the gap before the rock of Khuznail, and into the inner shrine of the springs, with its worship-compelling coolness. There the landscape refused to be accessory, but took the skies, and we chattering humans became dust at its feet.’
And of the subsequent attack on Mudowwara, Lawrence later wrote:
‘Next morning we heard by aeroplane how Buxton’s force had fared at Mudowwara. They decided to assault it before dawn mainly by means of bombers, in three parties, one to enter the station, the other two for the main redoubts.
Accordingly, before midnight white tapes were laid as guides to the zero point. The opening had been timed for a quarter to four, but the way proved difficult to find, so that daylight was almost upon them before things began against the southern redoubt. After a number of bombs had burst in and about it, the men rushed up and took it easily – to find that the station party had achieved their end a moment before. These alarms roused the middle redoubt, but only for defeat. Its men surrendered twenty minutes later.
The northern redoubt, which had a gun, seemed better-hearted and splashed its shot freely into the station yard, and at our troops. Buxton, under cover of the southern redoubt, directed the fire of Brodie’s guns which, with their usual deliberate accuracy, sent in shell after shell. Siddons came over in his machines and bombed it, while the Camel Corps from north and east and west subjected the breastworks to severe Lewis gun fire. At seven in the morning the last of the enemy surrendered quietly. We had lost four killed and ten wounded. The Turks lost twenty-one killed, and one hundred and fifty prisoners, with two field-guns and three machine-guns.
Buxton at once set the Turks to getting steam on the pumping engine, so that he could water his camels, while men blew in the wells, and smashed the engine-pumps, with two thousand yards of rail. At dusk, charges at the foot of the water-tower spattered it in single stones across the plain: Buxton, a moment later called “Walk-march!” to his men, and the three hundred camels, rising like one and roaring like the day of judgment, started off to Jefer. Thence we had news of them. They rested a day, revictualled, and marched for Bair where Joyce and myself had agreed to join them.’
And so it was, Lawrence rejoining the men of the Camel Corps for several days, a period in which he would undoubtedly have sought out information about the attack on Mudowwara It was also during this visit to the Camel Corps that Lawrence observed with pride how well the men were progressing, largely thanks to Buxton having made some useful changes:
‘Consequently, our Imperial camel Corps had become rapid, elastic, enduring, silent; except when they mounted by numbers, for then the three hundred he-camels would roar in concert, giving out a wave of sound audible miles across the night. Each march saw them more workmanlike, more at home on their animals, tougher, leaner, faster’.
Encouraged by the victory at Mudowwara, Lawrence guided the Camel Corps towards their next target, the railway viaduct at Kissir, south of Amman, a journey entailing another 120-mile journey behind enemy lines, a daring enterprise best summed up by Buxton: ‘It is not unlike an attempt on the part of the Huns to blow up Waterloo Bridge, as it is many miles at the back of their lines and within five miles of their Army headquarters’. But with the promise of Arab support, Lawrence’s leadership and an element of surprise, ‘the matter should not be difficult’. As it transpired, two enemy aircraft soon ended any notion of surprise, while the presence of three large Turkish patrols led both men to conclude that any attack would now end in serious casualties, and since Lawrence had assured Allenby that he would keep such grim statistics to a minimum, he agreed with Buxton that the attack be cancelled.