Colonel Stewart Francis Newcombe was already a legend in the deserts of Arabia before he was joined in Cairo during the early months of the First World War by a group of extraordinary specialists in Middle Eastern affairs. One member of this group was T.E. Lawrence who went on to achieve worldwide fame. Colonel Newcombe's story, like those of other unsung figures in the Anglo-Arabian panoply, has been eclipsed by the legend of ´Lawrence of Arabia´, and has languished in the dusty recesses of regimental records, government files or in the elliptical words of Lawrence’s book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. However, S.F. Newcombe´s untold story is there to be told. IN THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT is a story of extraordinary exploits and courage, coupled with Newcombe's own legendary and inexhaustible supply of energy and of remarkable adventures under the very noses of the Ottoman authorities – full of danger, intrigue and perhaps more surprisingly, of romance during Newcombe's captivity in Turkey.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Christmas Message

What young boy would not want a Christmas letter like this from Lawrence of Arabia? The following is the opening part of a charming letter from Lawrence to his godson Stewart Lawrence Newcombe, the son of S.F.N and Elizabeth. Stewart was variously known as James or Jimmy by the family but also addressed by Lawrence as My Lord Duke, Monster, Horror and Object. This letter was written on 20th December 1934, when Jimmy was 14 years old and Lawrence was only a few months away from leaving the R.A.F, and the fatal bike crash that killed him:
"Dear James, (alias Stewart a word I only cry out when about to be sick - alias Monster, plus or minus other things)
Dear James, as I said before Ahem
Dear James
Third time lucky. We're off. Merry Christmas. No, I don't really mean that. I follow the Golden Rule. May you have a quiet Christmas with nothing abnormal to eat. Avoid gluttony, above all. Remember your figure, and the figures your parents ought to have. If you observe them over-eating clear your throat gently, to attract attention, and say 'A bit high, this bird?' that will put them off it. If they bring in plum puddings and things, remark in a blasé accent ...the normal speech, I mean, of Eton ...'Isn't it jolly, papa, to keep up these old customs? It's like Dickens, isn't it, I mean, what?' That will throw a chill over the whole meal-time - I mean orgy. You owe a duty to your family at Christmas..."