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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



2 November 1917
On this day, Colonel Newcombe and a small detachment of camel-mounted raiders were captured during a daring operation behind enemy lines just two days after a successful cavalry charge by 800 men of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade had overrun the unwired Turkish trenches of Beersheba in what was the opening move of the 3rd Battle of Gaza.

Newcombe's plan was simple: to take seventy heavily armed camel-mounted men through the desert in a wide sweeping arc behind enemy lines and to take and hold the Beersheba to Hebron road, cutting communication lines and holding up the retreating army until relieved. If possible, it was also hoped that an accompanying Arab Sheikh would be able to convince friendly Arabs in the hills to join the band of desert warriors. As in all operations, flexibility would be the key. This audacious plan, bearing many of the hallmarks that would later be adopted by the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS during the Second World War, was