BIGGIN HILL AIR CADETS GROUNDBREAKING TREK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.
On April the 15th 2014 eighteen cadets and 6 staff under the leadership of Flt Lt James Dyer departed from the squadron headquarters at the former RAF station of Biggin Hill for a unique adventure in the deserts of Jordan.
This 10 day expedition was the brain child of Flt Lt Dyer following a 20 year idea to one day trek in Lawrence of Arabia’s footsteps. The plan was to undertake a challenging trek across the desert from Wadi Rum to the village of Mudawarra, both these locations played a role during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18, Lawrence spent numerous nights camping and based himself in Wadi Rum and he attacked the railway station and Turkish Garrison in Mudawarra, writing about destroying a train there in his epic telling of his activities, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Once the team arrived at their base camp in Wadi Rum, the team undertook desert acclimatization, and a programme of training in desert trekking and survival skills, this also including specific training in collecting footage and photographs for a film and presentation project that the team planned to undertake.
Following this training the team set of very early on the 3rd Morning to start their trek, they faced a variety of terrain from the enormous sandstone edifices in Wadi Rum, through the remains of volcanic magma, and a whole series of cannons until they crossed into the Rub el Khalid (The Empty Quarter) with its wide open flat desert and huge dunes.
After over 100Km of trekking, spending nights under the stars and coping with highest temperatures of 42’C the team crossed the final dried lake bed to their last night in the desert camped up on the dunes at the edge of Mudawarra!
It was an excited team of cadets who returned to the base camp after a whistle stop tour of Mudawarra station and the old ruined garrison, happy in the knowledge that they had done something unique and testing!
Throughout the expedition planning and undertaking the team found out about and explored Lawrence’s life and experiences, during the expedition they discovered exactly the conditions he and his men fought in and visited the exact places where he operated, by reading extracts from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom they connected with Lawrence and his activities.
The expedition has been a great success and the team is now working on a way of presenting their experience, through presentation to parents, a couple of visual and creative media productions and a presentation to the Lawrence of Arabia Society at the prestigious symposium in Oxford in September.
The feedback from all involved has been positive, the cadets enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot about themselves, expeditioning, experience of a developing world country and the Bedouin culture and the ability to survive in such a hostile environment, the staff found the experience a challenge but with the understanding of the power of overseas expeditions in developing young people and how that fits with the aims of the Air Training Corps, they have also started thinking about the next one!!
As with all expeditions they take an enormous amount of work to draw together and cannot happen without the support of a variety of organizations, this one is no different and we would like to thank the Squadron Committee, the Ulysses Trust, HQ Air Cadets and Wing Commander Roger Davis, the Lawrence of Arabia Society and the support of all the cadets parents and guardians.
Flt Lt James Dyer FRGS
2427 (Biggin Hill) Sqn ATC