Friday, 9 November 2012

Day 4 - Siddons Fort

On April 18th 1918 Reverend V D Siddons flew along the Hejaz railway south of Ma'an and drew a sketch map from his tiny plane cockpit. This map showed three significant military features along a 25 km stretch of the railway.

Siddons joined the army three years before the outbreak of war. During this time he was training to be a Methodist minister. After serving with army regiments in France he transferred to the middle east and then became a member of the famous "C" Flight of 14 Sqn RFC in the Hejaz, where they and a few British troops were co-operating with the Arabs.  He was stationed in the Hejaz for two years, the last six months of which he commanded the RAF (as it had become) detachment in that area.  For his work he was awarded the DFC and was Mentioned in Despatches and also awarded the Order of Al Nahda by the King of the Hejaz.

Today we went to the third feature from that original map, sadly not available, that we have visited in our past few seasons here in Jordan. As a consequence of his efforts which led us here, we have named today's feature Siddon's Fort.

This consists of a rectangular walled enclosure of around 30 metres in length, containing two distinct circular features. To one side is a stone marked path leading from the railway, and near the end of this path just west of the main enclosure is a smaller, secondary feature. The aerial photograph, taken a couple of years ago from our helicopter trip through Jordan, shows the features clearly. It also shows the smaller feature intact, and sadly since that was taken it has been trashed, probably by a large vehicle driving straight through it.

The team today began excavating and recording this site. The walls of the main structure and the interior features are banked with rubble and sand, and the whole enclosure contains many layers of windblown sand. The first job was to pick out bits of the site to investigate and then set about clearing.

In the meantime the detectorists swept the sit and revealed a small amount of both incoming (303 machine gun rounds) and outgoing (Mauser cartridges) fire. The small rough diagram shows the general pattern of these finds. 

It looks likely that a small exchange of fire occurred with x's marking the general location of incoming rounds and circled x's showing the return of fire. It's possible that one of the armoured vehicles used by Lawrence and associates in the Hejaz Armoured Car Company sped past this site travelling from the North East towards Tel el Shahm, machine guns blazing, to be met by hasty resistance from the stationed forces.

Also included in the images from today are pictures of the very long King's Highway we travel down each day in minibus and 4x4, and a typical desert lunch eaten by members of the group at some point during a long days work in the field.

1 comment:

  1. I remain fascinated and awe-struck by the fact that Siddons drew a map under what must have been very challenging and uncomfortable conditions. What a pioneer he was; it is very suitable to call a feature after him that he did so much to help identify: excellent idea. His is such an interesting story altogether.
    Great photos again this year, Roger! Lots more, please!