Welcome to Rainer's
Overland Mail Baghdad Haifa Pages


Motoring Makes a Bid


Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), Saturday 1 September 1923, page 3

National Library of Australia



It is within the realms of probability that the motor van may yet be used to shorten the mail route between England and Australia.

Following the conquest of the Sahara comes news that a Buick overland route from the Mediterranean to Bagdad and India has been found practicable as the result of three trial trips, and a contract to carry the mails by this route has been granted to Mr. Norman Nairn, of Beirut, by the Irak Government. For two years Mr. Nairn has been carrying the mails daily between Haifa and Beirut, a distance of 110 miles, delivering the Egyptian mail in 19 hours, as against three days to four days under the old conditions.

The new route to be opened will reduce the time for transit of letters to Bagdad from London by 13 days— eight as against 21 previously. The service, which will be a weekly one, will also bring Port Said within a three-day journey of 'Bagdad.

The Syrian Desert differs from the usual conception of a desert, inasmuch as it is not a sandy, arid waste, and for nearly three-parts of the 425 miles fast progress can be maintained. The rougher portions consist of shingle and rock. On one of the trips the flooding of the Euphrates had so nearly enveloped Ramadie as to give it the characteristic of an island. No boats being available, it was necessary to swim the river to secure transport and fuel, the cars eventually being conveyed across in huge punts. Past Ramadie the going is very mountainous and rough, and it is only on this stretch that travel had to be cut down to a walking pace.

The total journey on the direct route from Beirut to Bagdad is 603 miles, and it is expected that regular crossings of the desert section will be accomplished in 16 hours; thus the cars will not have to spend a night in the wilds.

Trouble, however, is not anticipated from the Bedouins as for the various chieftains will have a certain interest in the success or the enterprise.

The cars used on the three trial trips were six-cylinder seven-seater Buicks and no mechanical trouble was experienced, while the average water consumption per car was only three gallons. This is a very big consideration in a venture of this kind, for there is only one available water supply in the desert— at Rutba Wells. All the cars are to be equipped with special condensers and large-capacity radiators, to ensure the minimum wastage of cooling water, and they will also be fitted with refrigerators — to carry food and iced drinks — puncture-roof tyres, and hoods lined with asbestos.

So much faith have the organisers in their ability to keep to time that the five years contract into which they have entered provides for fines in proportion to the number of hours behind schedule.

Although there is but little vegetation en route there are vast herds of gazelle, and large numbers of bustard, sand grouse, and other game which can be used to supplement the ordinary food carried.

In addition to saving much valuable time in carrying the mails and linking up various places the enterprise has also an historical and political aspect.

It will open up such places as Damascus, Jerusalem, Baalbek, Palmyra, Babylon, Bagdad, and the Euphrates and Tigris, while the recent discoveries at Ur of the Chaldees is also expected to give an additional incentive to tourists. Prom the political point of view Mr. Nairn says it will lead to a peaceful penetration of the desert tribes, while the water power of the Euphrates and Tigris could be utilised, arid by irrigation the eastern part of the Syrian Desert could be made to grow practically anything.