The rail journey from Gallipoli to Cairo
Tuesday 12 December 2006 by Janda Gooding. No comments
George Lambert: Gallipoli and Palestine Landscapes, Exhibition, Gallipoli Mission, Landscape
When the Australian Historical Mission left Gallipoli on 10 March 1919 they sailed up to Constantinople (Istanbul) before embarking on a 1500 mile rail journey that would take them across Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Egypt and into Cairo where they dispersed. The rail link through the Taurus Mountains had only been recently opened and was being used to transport Tukish and Allied troops back and forth across Asia Minor.
For their overland journey the party was assigned two long enclosed horse or cattle trucks in the train. One truck was converted to a mess room and kitchen where Lambert with the help of Sergeant G Hunter Rogers cooked the meals and slept. During the trip Lambert and Rogers frequently served up three course meals and Lambert regaled the group with impersonations of British officers and stories of his time in the Sinai with the Light Horse.
Charles Bean in Gallipoli Mission described the journey as one of "extraordinary interest and, in parts, through scenery both grand and beautiful, in country with a history going back much farther than St Paul; where Assyrians, Lydians, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Arabs, Turks, Crusaders - and in these modern times Napoleon and ourselves - had marched and fought." Along the way they passed trains crowded with Turkish troops who were demobilising.
Lambert described the rail journey (through the Taurus Mountains) as taking them through "what I think is the most spectacular country in all that part of the world that I have travelled in." Fortunately, we have one image from this part of the trip that indicates how Lambert responded to the landscape. At one point the train made a brief halt high up in the mountains. Lambert was able to make a quick sketch of the landscape on the back of one of his Gallipoli paintings. The painting (right) was only roughly sketched in but clearly outlines the form of the place and the distant peak of the Taurus Mountains covered in snow.
As the train wound down from the mountains it passed through Adana and then Aleppo where Lambert was able to make another quick study (left). Changing trains the group passed through Jerusalem and then onto Cairo where they dispersed in early April. Throughout most of April and May Lambert was confined to a Cairo hospital with dysentery and malaria. On 31 May he was discharged from hospital and travelled to Semakh where he resumed his work as a war artist.