Railway unit in Syria

Accession Number F07010
Collection type Film
Measurement 11 min 35 sec
Object type To be confirmed
Physical description 35mm/b&w/silent
Maker Dennett, Raymond Alexander
Place made Syria
Date made 30 March 1942
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


In the ancient town of Bilbos is the headquarters of a Company of the Royal Australian Engineers (RAE). This Company is one of four which comprise the Australian Railway Construction and Maintenance Group, and is now employed in constructing one of the most difficult stretches of railway line in the world. Their section is over 60 miles of the roughest and most rugged mountain coastal country through which a railway line could be constructed. The route passes through towns whose origins date back to four thousand years BCE. The terrain was so forbidding that the French, after having surveyed it in 1924, abandoned the project. Construction of the railroad was handed over to the South African and Australian Construction Companies whose experience had been gained under similar conditions in their own countries. The work was commenced on 1 February 1942, and they proposed to have the track ready for use by the middle of the year. The following records were filmed between 15 and 18 March, 1942. The problem of labour is supplied by the local population, chiefly Lebanese and Bedouins. Each Company employs approximately 2,000 labourers, which are split up into gangs of from 50 to 100 under the direct supervision of a senior sapper. The structures such as bridges and culverts are given over to sappers who are in charge of skilled native masons. The latter's trade has been handed down through the generations. Their forefathers were the builders of the walls and cities that sheltered the Phoenicians, Romans and Crusaders, the ruins of which may still be seen standing along the route today. These skilled labourers receive twice as much (two Syrian Pounds per day) as the ordinary native labourer.

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