On the morning of 26 March – at the same time as Sir Archibald Murray was mounting his first (failed) attack on Gaza – Lawrence was at last sufficiently recovered to set out on his first raid against the railway. With a reconnaissance party of about 30 Arabs, he
departed Abdullah’s camp for the station at Abu el-Naam.
Lawrence found around 300 Turks at the station. So when Sherif Shakir arrived with 300 reinforcements – too few to attack the station – a hurried change of plan was forced. Instead, the Arabs set out to mine the railway line to the north and south.
“I dismounted and fingered its thrilling rails for the first time during the war. Then, in an hour’s busy work, we laid the mine, which was a trigger action to fire into twenty pounds of blasting gelatine when the weight of the locomotive overhead deflected the metals. Afterwards we posted the machine-gunners in a little bush-screened watercourse, four hundred yards from and fully commanding the spot where we hoped the train would be derailed. They were to hide there; while we went on to cut the telegraph.”
Events of 29 March 1917 as recounted by T. E. Lawrence in Seven
Pillars of Wisdom (1926).