MASTERING TRANSDESERT DIFFICULTIES.
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The Success of the Services Across Syria Into Mesopotamia and Persia. How the Cars and Lorries Suffer on the Journey.
mHE Beirut correspondent of The Times has con
tributed to that journal an important account of the desert route from Beirut and Haifa, on the Syrian shore, and from Damascus and Jerusalem to Baghdad, and, by permission, we are able to quote from his 'article. The desert routes were opened in 1923 and have already become economic necessities to Syria, so much so that they have not stopped despite the revolt with its risks and disorders.
There are two groups operating the services. The Nairn Transport Co., which is the pioneer of the transdesert route, carrying the official mails, and is no' taking the southernmost course across the Jordan to Amman Rutba Wells and Rattiadi, where the Euphrates is crossed, and thence to Baghdad. This route is extremely rough and entails heavy wear and... ter of vehicles and tyres. The Eastern Transport Co.-4-which has French connections and enjoys• official patronage and support, and has also had manT difficulties to meet—goes northwards from Beirut to Tripolis, where the route turns inland to Horns, Palmyra and thence down to Rutba Wells, and so on to Baghdad.
The American Service Co. has lately joined forces
with the Eastern,Trattsport
Co., and has followed the same route since November last. At one time the Horns region was disturbed and an attack by insurgents caused convoys to put
back; but the F' renc Ii authorities have now insti
tuted motor machine-gun patrols and have given written assurances of safety to the Nairn Trans port Co., and the latter has decided to adopt the Tri polis-Homs-Palmyra route pending The re-establishment of normal conditions In the Damascus region.
The Times correspondent pays a high tribute to the pluck and resourcefulness of the British drivers in the early period of the revolt on the Damascus route. The first attack occurred on August 20th of last year, at about 35 miles from Damascus. Two ears were in the cotivoy, with Mr. Stephen Bentley, in -charge, driving one and Mr. Murdoch the other. Mr. Bentley was seriously wounded in the shoulder and leg and Mr. Murdoch and some of the passengers were wounded. Mr. Bentley's car was looted, and Mr. Murdoch, in spite of his own injuries, dressed his comrade's wounds and drove him back to Damascus, where every medical care and treatment was given to him, but without avail, for he died next day.
On September 15th the French proVided an armed escort for a large convoy of 13 cars; yet this was attacked 70 miles from Damascus and one French officer was killed and others were wounded, including a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. Three Bedouins were captured and, later, hanged in Damascus. The convoy returned to Beirut and, as Mr. Nairn had made a trial trip via Amman in the previous May. and found the route practicable although exceedingly rough in certain parts, the convoy proceeded to Amman and reached Baghdad four days later, the drivers having covered 1,400 miles.
On September 17th the convoys were deflected to
A lorry with a 4-ton toad in the Syrian desert near Felaja, on its way to Baghdad and Teheran. In the foreground is a chief's tomb.
Amman, where a rest camp was established. This route bristles with difficulties, for there is 40 miles of desert strewn with basaltic boulders as much as 18 ins, in diameter, and there is another section, known as the " Bay of Biscay," nine miles in length, with humps 2 ft. high and 2 yds. apart. The cars, travelling at 5 m.p.h., rolled and pitched like a ship in a heavy sea. Crankcases were cracked and oil lost, and the drivers would stop the leaks with chewing gum and soap, and large quantities of oil had to be carried. In four months 75 springs were broken, 10 radiators ruined by vibration and 10 chassis frames fractured. A set of tyres would last only two trips. From December to February convoys often had to wait beside the Wadis until the waters fell. Each convoy was provided with 10 days' rations, and homing pigeons were employed for reporting progress. The son of King Feisal, on his way to Harrow, took this route.
The Nairn Transport Co. will shortly be putting into service a Pullman bus seating 14 passengers. It is equipped with accommoda
tion for washing. The chassis has six-wheel bogie suspension, is 30 ft. long, has a 110 h.p. six-cylinder engine and an eight-speed gearbox. The six-wheel bogie mounting, so insistently advocated in The Commercial Motor, will greatly increase the comfort, because if an axle lifts S ins, the chassis only, lifts. 4 ins. It is expected that great success,will attend this experiment and that it will be followed by the establishment of a fleet of six-wheel buses to operate between Damascus and Baghdad, whilst between Damascus and
Beirut the seven-seater cars will provide accommodation for the increasing traffic.
The opening of these desert routes has considerably developed commercial relations between Syria, Iraq and Persia, and large orders have reached Beirut in consequence.
The group of illustrations accompanying this article is from another source, and shows a lorry with a fourton load on its way across the Syrian desert bound for Teheran. The crossing of the Euphrates proved to be quite a feat, as the pontoon bridge could not take so heavy and unusual a" load. A raft was roughly constructed of logs of wood, old canoes, etc., and on to this the lorry was raanceuvred. The raft was then hauled across and guided by ropes by natives on the bridge.
After crossing the river a muddy stretch was encountered and this was negotiated on bottom gear with a considerable amount of pushing by natives.
One view shows the boulder-strewn country on the way up the great Paitac Pass in North-west Persia, but on the Iraq side. The vibration of the engine driving on bottom gear would cause other boulders to slip from the side, blocking the" track and hitting the lorry and, of course, the track had constantly to be cleared. This track, which continues to Teheran, is hundreds of years old and has many historical associations and traditions. The civil transport section of India uses it to-day and there are continuous convoys between the capitals of Mesopotamia and of Persia.