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In the Hands of the Arabs

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In the Hands of the Arabs
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Author(s): Zetton Buchanan
Date Published: 2012/01
Page Count: 188
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-733-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-734-0

A woman in Iraq

This book of a woman’s ordeal at the hands of Arabs in post First World War Mesopotamia (now modern day Iraq) is such a riveting account that to describe too much would be to spoil the experience for the reader. The young wife and mother, Zetton Buchanan, had joined her husband, Captain ‘Billy’ Buchanan of the RAF, on his eastern posting with a degree of expectation and sense of impending adventure. Nothing she could have imagined would have prepared her for the events that followed. This is a touching and inspirational first hand account of a young woman’s ability to cope with tragedy and overcome astonishing difficulties. Although the narrative takes place in the 1920s there is much with the pages of Zetton Buchanan’s book that resonates with the experiences of many in this still troubled land. A recommended read for those interested in women’s issues.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

The sound of firing was now continual, and mingled with it were the shouting of men and stamping of horses, a deafening noise. Then Billy, Bradfield, and Wrigley all came hurriedly into the room together.<br>
I looked at them.<br>
‘Where are your rifles?’ I screamed.<br>
Billy said one word: ‘Gone!’<br>
Very briefly they told me how, after they had fired their last shots, they had been surrounded and their arms snatched away. The levies had practically all deserted and given up their weapons without a struggle, only a few standing firm to the end. The few prisoners whom we had at the Qeshlah had been set free by the tribesmen. Nisbett had been shot at the gate. Newton was on the roof—they did not know that he had been killed. They had fought their way into the room, unarmed as they were, to gain a breathing-space for the final struggle.<br>
What struck me then at the moment, as it does now with much greater force when I am able to think over the tragedy quietly, was the utmost calm and bravery that all the three men with me showed in this awful hour. It was this splendid behaviour of theirs which had led me to believe, up to the time when they told me of the loss of their rifles, that things were not looking quite so black.<br>
But now what could I think? The end could not be far off.<br>
A pathetic object, to add to our misery, was Captain Wrigley’s black dog, Girlie, which followed her master about to the end. The last I saw of her was in a terrible state, all covered with mud and blood, as she wandered into the room looking for him.<br>
Now that we were all together, and with us the Armenian boy and cook, we took up our position in the corner of the room farthest from the door, in two lines of three each. I was nearest the angle of the room, next me cook, and then Gosdan. In front of me stood Billy, then Bradfield, and then Wrigley.<br>
We waited for what seemed like a minute, with an appalling din going on outside. Then Bradfield turned to Billy and said: ‘I must try to stop this.’<br>
He went out of the room, and we could hear his voice shouting in Arabic. Then came two distinct shots.<br>
‘Bradfield, Bradfield,’ I screamed, ‘come back!’<br>
But there was no answer.<br>
‘I’ll go out and see,’ said Wrigley a moment later.<br>
He went straight out.<br>
I never saw either of them again alive.<br>
The moment he had gone, a horde of tribesmen suddenly burst into the room. Seen at close quarters, they were short-built men, dirty, and repulsive looking. Their abbas were tucked in at the belt to keep them out of the way. They were armed with curved knives, daggers, and rifles. The noise of shouting increased in volume.<br>
They were firing aimlessly. The flashes from the rifles showed up in the growing dusk. The heat of the room was terrific.<br>
Billy turned to me and said, ‘Come on, Zett, we must finish it. Got my revolver?’<br>
I had taken the revolvers from where I had put them, under the mattress. I handed Billy the Colt and kept the Browning myself. He told me what I already knew, that all the ammunition there was for the Colt was five rounds. There was plenty for the Browning; but it was little more than a toy.<br>
‘Don’t fire until I tell you,’ said Billy.<br>
They were now right on us, surging around us. Some were busy looting, dragging out whatever they could lay hands upon, shouting, yelling, and quarrelling among themselves. The whites of their eyes gleamed horribly.<br>
Then one Arab got sideways, and I felt him catch hold of me. He tried to pull me out of the corner. Then I screamed.<br>
My husband fired—the Arab fell.<br>
Then we put up a fight on our own in the failing light.