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.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The green, green grass of home...

Informed viewers of the Rory Stewart programmes on Lawrence will of course have noticed the error made in the first few minutes of the first programme. Stewart stated that Lawrence was born into a middle class family in Oxford where he later went to school and university. As any Lawrence follower will know, he was born in Wales. One other error, repeated twice, was that while Lawrence was working with the Arabs his two brothers were killed on the Western Front. Of course, these events took place while Lawrence was behind his desk at the Military Intelligence Department based in the Savoy Hotel in Cairo. His brother Frank died in May 1915 and Will in September of the same year. It was to be a full year later that Lawrence made his first visit to the desert in October 1916 and the famous meeting with Feisal. Nevertheless, it seems that the programme was generally well received and Stewart's enthusiasm for his subject was refreshing. These errors did not detract from the general message of the film, which was well expressed, despite perpetuating the myth that there was only one member of the British Military Mission to the Hejaz driving the revolt forward. It is interesting to note that Stewart Newcombe was also born in Wales, although like Lawrence this gave him no particular claim to be called Welsh. Interesting still when you consider that the other famous railraider, Captain Henry Hornby, was also from Wales. Now there's a coincidence! 

The photo above shows Newcombe standing on the left wearing a white robe and Hornby on the far right in British military uniform and Arab headdress.