A ship lost in the desert: What happened to the sailors of the Ayesha? (Part 3-Final part)

in #history3 years ago (edited)


The city of Constantinople (Modern day Istanbul), picture taken circa 1910. We will get there in our story.

Hello there! It hasn´t been a smooth ride since I left steemit and I thought I had left for good, but it seems I keep coming back. This time however, I´ll be studying in the university while posting, so I won´t bind myself to time constraints to post articles anymore. I will however, finish all the sagas I left hanging, including this one. My apologies for taking 4 months to do so.

These are the first 2 parts of the story, in case you didn´t read them:
A ship lost in the desert, Part 1
A ship lost in the desert, Part 2

Hellmuth Von Mücke (1916).
Source: Wikipedia

We left the sailors surrounded by sharks, and with only one boat left, remember? But fortunately, despite all the sharks, every men was rescued and crammed into the remaining boat. The boat was so low in the water than to prevent it from sinking every non essential had to be thrown overboard, including provisions and water. After 3 tortuous days of more sailing, they finally arrived to Kunfiddah(currently it´s called the port of Jizán). There, in a tea house they met a retired turkish official called Sammy Bae, and his young arab wife. They had been stuck there for weeks. They learned that the sea to the north was blocked by warships, and that the british were secretly providing the arabs with rifles for an uprising against the turks. The bedhouin tribes were still independent and in disarray, but it was only a matter of time before the whole of arabia would rise against the Ottoman Empire. The sailors understood that they had to leave at once, but the route towards the railway crossed Holy Land, which was closed to Christians, and could prove fatal. However they had 50 men, and 4 machineguns... they might just do it. After their fellow seamen Kyle died of malaria, they honored him and buried in a grave and then decided to move on.

A caravan through the desert. Not actual picture, illustrative purposes.

Camels were bought for the march across the desert, and off the caravan of sailors went. But they had never been in camels before and the weird motion of the camels made some men "land sick" for the first time in their lives. Nevertheless, they rode for more than 12 hours a day. Sammy Bae and his young wife were exceptional guides through the desert, but when they arrived to the region where the railway was supposed to begin, they didn´t know they were walking into big trouble. Mecca, the arab capital city, was also the center of the resistance. The Emir of Mecca supported the uprising, and viewed himself as future king of all the land that would be taken from the Ottomans. His elder son was receiving weapon shipments from the british, while the younger son favored the kidnapping of important Ottoman diplomats to force them to negotiate.

The first of April, 1915, as the sailors were travelling amongst the dunes near the Mecca, shots were fired. Startled, the sailors threw themselves to the ground, using the camels as cover. They barely had time to mount unleash the machine guns(remember, there were no automatic rifles back then, so these machineguns were heavy and had to be mounted on tripods on the sand).
Machine gun, WW1. Source

One of these machine gunners, Leutenant Schmidt, received a shot in the stomach, and was carried to the back, but he died soon after. A massive sand dune and the sailor´s machine gun fire was all that kept their agressors at bay. After half an hour, and once a scouting party from the sailors, made of 5 people arrived at the top of the dune, their unkown agressors seemed to withdraw. Pinkert, who was amongst the scouting party, had been a former Legionnarie, so he had experience in desert fighting. He returned to their men with a capured british rifle, it was now clear that the attackers were not bedhouins, as they were exceptionally well armed and highly organized.
On the second and third day after the incident, it was clear that the enemy was shadowing them, and some shots were fired to drive away their scouting parties. This enemy was also patient. Were they waiting for the sailors to run out of ammo? Their water was also running low, their position was desperate. Suddenly, 2 finely dressed men appeared from behind a dune. They wanted to negotiate. Von Mücke went towards them. One was dressed in expensive european clothing, he translated for them. Abdullah, the Emir´s son had sent them.

German WW1 MG 08/15 Machine Gun video - how does it work?

With his army´s might he "forced" the bandits to flee, he said. The sailors were distrustful because they didn´t heard of any shooting that was not done by them, but decided to accompany the envoys to the Mecca. How could they afford not to? They arrived to Abdullah´s camp on the outskirts of the Mecca, a well fortified camp in which hundreds of bedhouins rested, all armed with british rifles, just like the one Pinkert captured. Even though they were greeted as friends, sometimes the sailors could hear them talking and plotting behind their backs in a dialect they didn´t understand. Abdullah promised them safe passage to the port of Mecca. But everytime the sailors tried to explore the camp surroundings, a bedhouin unit cut them off and "respectfully" explained that they were not to wander off alone, "it was not safe". They realized they were in fact prisoners, but the arabs didn´t know that the sailors knew that. Since they had some freedom of movement inside the camp and around Mecca´s port, they sent Pinkert to secretly hire a boat with a good pilot who could smuggle them out of there.

The approximate path the sailors took towards Mecca. In red: the stretch path taken through the desert with no interference. In yellow, the path taken while under fire. In green, the path while "escorted" by Abdullah to his camp. And in blue, the path they took from Abdullah´s camp to Yidda´s port. Drawn by me by hand using google earth and historical data.

When Abdullah left to Mecca to see his father, the sailors seized the opportunity and sailed off the very same night. To their surprise, even though it was night, the sea was pretty deserted, no british gunboats, no searchlights, no anything. Von Mücke was unaware that he had just damn good luck, and in the meantime the British had taken their ships to the Mediterranean for a landing on Turkey´s coast. They sailed more than 500 miles north along the coast, towards the port of Al Wajh. According to the ship´s arab smuggler pilot, the railway reached to the outskirts of Al Wajh.
Von Mücke believed him, he had to believe him, what would he do otherwise?

The approximate path the sailors took from Yidda to Al Wajh. Drawn by hand by me using Google Earth
On April 29th they reached Al Wajh. To that date, it had been 6 months since they landed on the desert the first time. But the railway was still out of reach. Dissapointed but not beaten, they gathered and continued marching through the arid land. Most of the sailors didn´t care at this point if the rail station was somewhere in the desert or not, they were just glad to be walking closer and closer to home. They walked, and walked, and after 2 more weeks in the desert, nobody believed the scout when he said that he could see a railway station on the binoculars at the end of the valley. But there it was indeed. Spring had come in Germany, and the sailors had no idea how famous they had become. As they rested in the train steaming towards their home, they admired the landscape. The journey was fairly easy, and they received a constant stream of food and beverages. In the last stretch from Syria to Konstantinopel, the train stopped at every station and some group of locals always wanted to get photographed with them.

Lieutenant Mücke being received in Constantinople.jpg

Von Mücke, being received in Constantinople with great honor. Source.

On Konstantinopel they were outfitted with brand new uniforms. Konstantinopel(modern day Istambul) was really close(reltively speaking) to Germany, but what they were not told is that the Arabs, Australians and the British were landing at the same time at Gallipoli. So with the excuse of rejoining their former outfits, they were redeployed in a torpedo boat from Konstantinopel towards Gallipoli. The Australians comprised the bulk of the forces attacking the position, but the Turks were not caught off guard, and the landing was a disaster for the allies. It would cost the Australians tens of thousands of lives, amongst them, the lives of the Australians of the same regiment who sank the Emden in the first place. Coincidentally, the sailors arrived the very same day the allies were defeated there. Oddly, and even though they didn´t actually participate in the battle themselves, the sailors were paraded in the Kaiser´s uniforms, bearing the sunken Emden´s imperial flag, and were lauded as if they had thwarted the allied landing and saved the city themselves. Thousands and thousands of people went to the parade to see them. The date was 23rd of May, 1915.

Von Mücke and his men in the parade. Source: gettyimages.ie

After a short period of R & R, the sailors, back on the ready again, were dispatched to various war fronts, and most of them were killed in the war soon after. Von Mücke was shocked, not because Germany was about to lose the war, but about how the war itself treated his mates with the utmost unkindness, even after all they went through. He retired soon after the war ended and devoted to his family. His experiences in the war changed him, and he´d become a pacifist. He took a public and vocal stand against all war, specially against Hitler. But there were no room for pacifists in the interwar period, and as soon as Hitler came into power, Von Mücke was stripped of all his titles and condecorations, and banned from working. But the fact that he couldn´t provide for his family any more didn´t stop Von Mücke´s speeches, so he was confined to a concentration camp on 1939. The news that his eldest son died in WWII sent him further into depression, but his will to live was stronger. This was a man who crossed most of the world on foot. After the war ended he was released from the concentration camp and funded the peace movement, and protested against Germany´s rearmament just before the Cold War. He was downplayed and declared senile, and died of heart failure soon after, long forgotten by the general public. It was 1957 the year when the world lost a great warrior with a conscience.

distance adan governorate to istanbul.jpg

Calculated distance from the nearest place where the sailors landed to Istanbul(Konstantinople), which is where the sailors exited the train and rejoined their regiments. Please ignore the blue line, as it marks a modern driving route through roads that didn´t exist at that time. That´s the extent of the trip these sailors made through land(although not in a straight line). Source: https://www.distance.to/

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