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Dead Sea combat a strange part of WW1

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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Sep 2005 22:21    Onderwerp: Dead Sea combat a strange part of WW1 Reageer met quote

Wederom oud nieuws maar toch informatief.

Dead Sea combat a strange part of WW1

By Ed O'Loughlin
November 11, 2003

You can't sink lower than this. At 400 metres below sea level the shore of the Dead Sea is the lowest point on God's earth, although from the look of the place you might think you were on some other world entirely.

Above the sea's blue, deceptively placid surface, bare towering walls of grey and red rock form the deepest section of the vast tectonic fault that stretches southward, via the Great Rift Valley, all the way to Lake Malawi in southern Africa.

For tens of thousands of years the River Jordan has emptied itself into this dead-end lake, now around 65 kilometres long and 18 kilometres wide. With only the desert sun to drain the lake, millenniums of evaporation have distilled the Jordan's trace levels of salt and minerals into a thick soup seven times more concentrated than normal seawater. Here you float so high in the water you can easily capsize.

At the southern end of the lake a moonscape of dried salt has eroded into pillars - Lot's Wife - and Israeli signposts point passers-by towards the presumed site of the lost city of Sodom, destroyed by God for its eponymous proclivity. There is no sign at all of Sodom's twin lost city, Gomorrah, and sadly not even the Old Testament dares record what its sin was.

The water in the Dead Sea is so rich in salt that nothing can live in it except mutant bacteria.

In short, it is truly dead, and it goes nowhere. Strange then, that the Dead Sea was until recently a theatre of warfare, and stranger still that the only surface-to-surface campaign on these waters was fought by Australian airmen, 86 years ago.

This strange and little-known episode in the cluttered military history of the Middle East was played out in 1917 during World War I, when British imperial forces under General Edmund Allenby were fighting their way through the then Ottoman Empire province of Palestine.

Although navigation on the Dead Sea has traditionally been uncommon - boats capsize easily, salt fouls hulls and the density of the water makes even small waves dangerous - the Turks found it easiest to supply Jerusalem with grain by sending boats across it from what is today Jordan. To disrupt this traffic Allenby turned to Squadron Leader Richard Williams, commander of the 67 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Better known at home by its then unofficial title of 1st Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, this was one of the precursors of the modern Royal Australian Air Force, which Williams himself went on to command.

The main surviving popular account of the strange events that followed is in the book Aces and Kings by Les Sutherland, then an observer with 1st Squadron AFC. According to Sutherland, initial bombing raids against the Ottoman port at El Bahr and aerial strafing attacks on the boats themselves had little effect: "The skippers learned to zigzag and they often escaped, with the result that Johnny Turk continued to get his grain." So, Williams instructed his mechanics to strip the wings and tail from an obsolescent Martinsyde bomber and replace its wings with floats. Slow and clumsy as an aircraft, the Martinsyde proved a fast and agile catamaran.

Christened "Mimi", the Australian aircraft went into action at a depth that would crush a submarine.

According to the official history of The War in the Air (relayed to us by Cameron Riley of, the first operation took place on March 1. At various times she was piloted/helmed by Captain J. A. D. Dempsey and Captain P. D. Drury and her crew chief was 1st Air Mechanic Doig.

Sutherland wrote: "She must surely have been the weirdest craft ever seen on those age-old waters. The quarry was easily overhauled, then the pilot would stand up on his seat and open fire with his Lewis gun over Mimi's tail - or stern. Probably her most effective weapons were her noise and her awe-inspiring appearance as, riding on a swirling mass of salt foam, she bore down on the enemy.

"Very soon the grain fleet was in such sore straits that reinforcements were sent to it from the far-away Bosphorous. Bigger, faster and better-armed motor boats were transported to Jerusalem by rail and then carried by road to Jericho and to the Dead Sea. And then, just when Mimi was proving too good even for these reinforcements, Allenby settled the whole Turkish grain problem. He captured Jerusalem."

Australia's short-lived Dead Sea navy was not without precedent or sequel. Ancient scrolls found in caves over the Dead Sea depict boats possibly transporting goods, stone and the bitumen.

Ik neem aan dat niemand een foto heeft van dit ding?
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Geregistreerd op: 2-2-2005
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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Sep 2005 22:56    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Ik kende het hele verhaal niet, leuke bijdrage weer!
Met hart en ziel
De enige echte
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