In the Clutch of the Turk can be found in






Battle Stories, October 1929

Benge Atlee
gives us another most thrilling tale
of the pilot Burke who flies after a
traitor and finds he is trapped

In The Clutch of the Turk

THE Sirhan desert shimmered under the heat. The palms of Azrak moved listlessly in a wind so hot it seemed from hell. In the largest "house of hair" in the Arab encampment three men sat talking earnestly; Colonel T.E. Lawrence, the little Irish leader of the Arab Revolt; Lieutenant Gerald Burke, R.A.F., one and only aviator with the Arab forces; and Auda abu Tayi, fighting sheik of the Howeitat.

Auda, the old warrior, was breathing fire. Outside stood twenty of his men at whose head he had just ridden thirty miles through the genenna of that August day—twenty fagged men and twenty broken camels.

"By Allah and by my very Allah," he cried, little white spots of froth spurting from his cracked lips, "the dog has deserted us! I was riding close by Minifer. And I saw him with his men—may pigs defile their mothers' graves! And he had his face toward the Turks! It was too late then to head him off—though I tried, until the Turkish bullets were tossing up the sand in waves under my camel's feet. He has gone over to them, may he perish! By the face of Allah, did I not say he was a traitor! Did I not warn you against that snake, Hussein ibn Zaid!"

"Aiee, O father of wisdom and strength," replied the little man in the white kaftan, softly. "But that does not alter the fact that he is now on his way to Turkish headquarters at Deraa with his information. No use to cry over the dead camel. We must stop him."

"Stop him!" almost shrieked the furious sheik. "As well stop the eagle! At this minute he must be beyond Nisib on his way to Deraa!"

Lawrence smiled quietly, and there was in that smile the confidence that had won his way for him with these turbulent tribes of Araby. "We can send the eagle to stop the eagle." He jerked a thumb at the airman.

Old Auda's face fell. In his rage he had forgotten that such things as airplanes existed. "Wellah," he laughed sheepishly, "my mind is as a little child's." And then turning eagerly on Burke: "You will go and stop the dog—and save my honor, el Bourque?"

The airman grinned. "Always willing to do anything in reason, O sheik!"

Lawrence turned on him. "If he gets into Deraa with his information of our layout and plans we're lost, Burke. Better get off at once. Take some bombs with you. May be able to stop him with them if no other way."

Burke rose to his feet. "I'm off," he said.

"May the world be wide to you!" cried old Auda, enthusiastically.

"Allah send it," Burke replied, and hurried out of the tent.

TEN minutes later he was aloft and headed westward toward the Damascus-Medina Railway fifty miles away. Hussein ibn Zaid, one of the minor sheiks of the Weled Ali, had come into Azrak a month before with soft words and promises. Although the rest of his tribe still adhered to their Turkish allegiance he, by Allah, had come to throw his lot into the keeping of el Auruns (Lawrence). So he said. But Auda had muttered darkly in his beard over the coffee, growling that the Weled Ali were the sons of liars and deceivers. It had taken the whole of Lawrence's consummate tact to keep the peace, but he had insisted that a Weled Ali repentant was worthy of reception into the Arab cause. For four weeks Hussein had eaten the bread and salt of the Revolt at Azrak, and incidentally used his eyes and ears as only an Arab can. Having drunk to his fill at the well of information, he had slipped away silently in the night, and here was Auda to testify to his treachery. Burke knew full well that if the fellow got to Deraa and poured his story into the ear of Djevid Pasha, the Turkish general there, that not only the advanced Arab force at Azrak, but the whole Revolt itself would be put in jeopardy. For Lawrence, these last few weeks, had been organizing a bold plan of campaign that depended for its success on its secrecy, and which, if the Turks knew about it, they could meet with great peril to the Arab cause.

Burke's old B.E. airplane winged steadily westward. Even at this altitude of five thousand feet the air was furnace-like in one's face. Below, the bare, brown earth was an oven, and he marveled at the fortitude of Auda and his men who had ridden through that hell all day to bring their tidings. And presently, far ahead, the rails of the Damascus-Medina line glimmered through the ground haze. Alongside the railway, Burke knew, lay the camel route to Deraa. And northwards, between Nisib and Deraa, he would find his quarry.

He swung the plane's nose slightly to the right, in a few moments was flying directly above the gleaming rails a thousand feet up. The Turkish garrison at Nisib gave him a nasty five minutes with their anti-aircraft gun, filling the air around him with the white puffs of shrapnel, but he knew that gun and its gunners. They had potted at him so many times without success that now they couldn't raise his blood pressure one degree. But once out of its range he flew even lower, so that the low hills on each side of the track were level with his wings. Intently he scanned the road below. Odd groups passed—some going north—some south; a detail of Turkish sentries guarding the right of way and on the lookout for one of Lawrence's devastating dynamiting parties; a few small groups of Bedouins. But so far no sight of the cavalcade of Weled Ali. And then, suddenly, rounding a bend in the hills, he saw them a mile ahead. He looked to his bomb release. It was correct. Rattled a few rounds through his Vickers. Shoved the throttle full on.

They heard him coming. He saw them stop to search the sky, saw the sudden confusion in their ranks as they spotted him so close. But before they could so much as make up their minds what to do he was on them.

He had no bomb sights. Such refinements were beyond the facilities of that old ship, and he had to judge by eye. So he let only one bomb go as a sort of feeler. Splashing the sand up within a dozen yards of the closely huddled camel riders, it sent them flying in all directions. He banked about sharply. He had spotted Hussein ibn Zaid's flaming red kafieh, and he knew his quarry. He swept even lower, dragged on the makeshift bomb release again. But the wires did not respond quickly enough and the thing crumped at least a hundred feet beyond the flying rider. Cursing, he swung on one wing and came at it again. Hussein was urging his camel up a narrow, precipitously walled ravine i...

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