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  #1  
Old 28-02-10, 05:38 PM
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Default A relic of the Druze Nation

A recent thread on the Druze prompted me to add this item. Whilst not a badge it was nonetheless of some importance to the Druze and may be of interest to others.



It appears to be of solid silver, and measures approximately 6" x 4". On the reverse of the mount which came with the buckle is a typed memo "The buckle of the sword-belt presented to me by The Sultan Pasha el Atrash, principal prince of the DRUZE nation, shortly after the Battle of the Wadi Sirhan, when we defeated the Wahabite invasion of Transjordania in 1923. Douglas V Duff of the Palestine Gendarmerie."



Sultan Pasha al-Atrash appears to have been a very important figure as regards the Druze nation.

I have not been able to find out much about Wadi Sirhan. Although there are a number of references to a battle, the dates and places are sometimes contradictory. The spelling of placenames and individuals also seems inconsistent. However the following extract from Duff's book "Bailing with a Teaspoon" is relevant:

"Abdullah, a younger son of King Hussein, was given the land east of the
River Jordan, the territories of the ancient Moabites, Ammonites and
Nabataeans, as his quasi-independent principality. Transjordan is the one
exception to our tale of ineptitude in Arab lands. We have succeeded there,
to a far greater extent than elsewhere, because we had some of the very best men in all the Empire acting as our representatives at the court of the Emir. Such stalwarts as Peake, Glubb, the two Kirkbrides, Cox and Foot have,
with a few others, played a noble part, in startling contrast to the generality
of British officials west of the Sacred River.

King Ibn Saoud is the head of a great religious movement which was in
bitter opposition to the form of Islam practised by the rulers of Mecca. The
Wahabite Reform of the Faith is stern and uncompromising, but it appeals
to the puritanical spirit of the fighting Bedouin tribesmen, tinder King Ibn
Saoud it has welded the loose confederation of nomad clans in the Hedjaz
into an obedient and extremely courageous whole, somewhat on the lines of
an extremely efficient and hardy Cromwellian New Model.

At the time of which I am writing, however, King Ibn Saoud had only
newly emerged from the fastnesses of his native Nejd and was attacking the
kingdom of the Hedjaz in which Britain had enthroned the Emir's father,
King Hussein. The Wahabites were swiftly driving the Hashimites out of
Arabia; the stern sectaries were not only victorious at almost every point,
but the former subjects of Hussein were accepting the invaders with alacrity
and embracing their rugged Reformed religion.

The main danger was that a Wahabite expeditionary force might thrust
into Transjordania to expel our protege, the Hashimite Emir. But we moved
no Imperial troops into Transjordania, although a few British gendarmes
were sent to prepare accommodation in case our Force, being a purely
Colonial one and not an Imperial regiment whose presence might have
provoked League of Nations comment, had to be employed. The Arab
Legion, then a far smaller Force than it is nowadays, was told to do all it
could and not ask for reinforcement if it could avoid doing so. There was a
squadron of R.A.F., stationed in Ramleh, near Jaffa, with a few obsolescent
armoured cars, which was moved to Amman in case their use became
imperative. That was all our striking-force.

Fortunately, we had Peake in command of the Arab Legion, Peake
Pasha, as he is widely known, and he worked wonders. It must be remem-
bered that the Legion was in its infancy and that there was always a risk that its troopers, who were mainly tribesmen, might be swayed more by loyalty to their individual Paramount-sheikhs than by their oath to serve the Outlander prince whom Britain had imposed on them. The Arab Legion was
not mechanized then, it consisted of a few squadrons of cavalry and camelry, together with a mixed battery of four guns, two of them lost by the Honourable Artillery Company during the abortive Es Salt Raid in 1918. Another was an ex-Turkish piece; the fourth, of different calibre, had been abandoned by a German battery serving under General Liman von Sanders. There is a good tale, it may be apocryphal, which says that the sabres of the
Legion were donated by a Cairo museum after they had lain disregarded in
its cellars ever since Napoleon's cavalry lost them a century and a quarter
before. The only asset possessed by the Emir's Legion was the indomitable
personality of Peake Pasha moulding the inherent courage of his Bedouins.

"We faced a situation and a problem very similar to those experienced by
the Crusading kings; the princes of Islam were fighting between themselves
and in their warfare anything might happen to the weak and under-garrisoned
coastal strip ruled under the Red Cross of St. George. If a Wahabite army
swept into Amman, the next dawn might find it ravening round the walls of
Jerusalem, while the evening of the same day could see the few survivors
of the British Mandate making their last stand on the beaches of the
Mediterranean.

The emergency sprang on us so suddenly that there was no time to do
more than to hold the threatened breach as best we could.
We had time only to dash out to a valley about fifteen miles from
Amman the capital, and to dig-in, before the fanatical flood of hardy desert
riders broke against us on their surge towards the destruction of the Hashi-
mite principality. We numbered about 400 Arab Legionaries under Peake
Pasha, two R.A.F. armoured-cars and the small advance party of about
a dozen British Gendarmerie. We counted thirteen banners waving above
the heads of the Arab cavalry and reckoned that there were close on five to
six thousand riders, all well armed and superbly mounted, facing us.

We had strung a thin fence of barbed wire across the narrow valley,
which was about 400 yards wide from rock to rock, and 100 yards
behind it we dug a shallow, trench and erected a second fence, both of
them very flimsy, for we had to be economical with our scanty wire. The
enemy came at us in the fashion of the riders of Saladin and of Bibars the
Mameluke, banners waving, swords brandished in the air, lance-heads
glittering, mantles aswirl and head-cloths streaming wildly in the wind of
their own headlong passage. Shrill voices screamed "Attak-hu-Aklar", the
age-old battle-shout of Islam; every rider in the horde desperate to come to
handstrokes with the pitifully small line of heretics and foreign infidels who
faced them.

They struck our further wire like a wave of the ocean hitting the rocks
of the foreshore. Scores went down, horses kicking, men struggling madly to
free themselves, only to be ridden over by their roaring comrades in the rear,
who used them as a ramp to carry them over the apron-fence and on to our
parapet. Rifles, and our heterogeneous selection of machine-guns, about ten
or a dozen of them, did not stop them, though they went down in swathes,
but the second wire fence did, where we of the Gendarmerie pelted the
shrieking, writhing mass with hand-grenades. Two small causeways, left to
span the trench, allowed the old Rolls-Royce armoured-cars to go through
and join in the fray.

I saw men clad in the mail hauberks their ancestors may have used at the
Horns of Hattin, or at the Mameluke's intaking of Antioch, swinging swords
as they tried to reach the Legionaries in the trench. Only a few of the Waha-
bites troubled to use the rifles they all wore slung on their shoulders. A
handful who fought their way over the bodies of comrades blanketing our
wire, died on the bayonets, or beneath the swinging sabres of the Legion. It
was more than human flesh could stand. Suddenly they broke, streaming
away down the valley in full rout.

I found two mail hauberks on the battlefield, one of them was of Cru-
sading chainwork, the other made of the fine Damascene rings the Saracens
once wore. I also found a sword, whose blade was new but whose cross-hilt
bore the mark of two knights astride a single horse, the badge of the Poor
Knights of Christ and the Temple of the Lord, the Knights Templar. I took
away a most noble battle-axe of Frankish origin."

Transjordan was a small nation of only 400,000 people and of these most of them were farmers or nomads. Because of this, there was little infrastructure in place and still less expertise in running a bureaucracy of any kind. Consequently, the Emir ran affairs much as any Sheikh had done before, leaving British officials to handle the problems of defense, finance, and foreign policy. The British appointed a resident to Transjordan, but he was effectively under instructions from the British High Commissioner in Palestine.
In 1921, a police force was organised to help the king with his problems of internal control. It was organised by F. G. Peake, a British officer known to the Arabs as Peake Pasha. This Arab force was soon actively engaged in suppressing brigandage and repelling raids by the Wahhabis. In 1923 the police and reserve force were combined into the Arab Legion as a regular army under Peake's command and helped regular British units fight against further Wahhabi incursions.



If any member can add to or correct my assumptions I would be most grateful.
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  #2  
Old 28-02-10, 06:17 PM
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Very interesting post Peter, Duff certainly got around and two years in a monastery!.All in all a very interesting item and biog.Regards.Phil.
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Old 28-02-10, 06:33 PM
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Peter,

What a magic piece and a magic story. Duff was of course a legend in the Palestine Police.

Is it in a museum or is it yours! I will be visiting the Druze Museum in Lebanon when I am next there and will make some inquiries.

Eddie

Last edited by Eddie Parks; 28-02-10 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 28-02-10, 06:40 PM
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Thanks Phil and Eddie and glad you found it of interest. Yes it's in my possession, and is quite heavy and very impressive close up. Almost medieval in fact, as befits the story Duff told. I found some photos of al-Atrash on the web, who seems to have been a very important Druze leader later in life. If you find out any more about him Eddie on your trip to the museum, or indeed anything else about the Wadi Sirhan, I'd be most grateful.
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Old 12-06-11, 09:23 AM
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Hi Eddie I was prompted to revisit this thread following a recent query on the PG. Did you ever get to the museum?
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Old 13-06-11, 08:53 AM
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Hi Peter

Yes I did but didn't make much progress. There wasn't anybody about who seemed to have any useful information.

Eddie
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Old 25-11-17, 10:58 AM
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Hi Peter
Saw this piece on eBay. Really lovely thing, sadly I can't start to afford it as my new Druze daughter in law is just starting a family!!

Best

Eddie
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