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.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

All things Lawrentian

On the track bed of the Hejaz Railway, Wadi Rumm, Jordan

Yesterday was a sad day for members of the Lawrence fellowship with an announcement for the T.E. Lawrence Society that Lawrence's authorised biographer, Jeremy Wilson, had passed away. 

I last saw Jeremy talking to Professor Ali Alawi at the Society’s symposium held at St. John's College, Oxford, last September and failed to find an opportunity to talk to him, so busy was he meeting old friends and colleagues. But I have happy memories of working with him on the committee of the Society many years ago under the chairmanship of Philip Kerrigan when Jeremy had been co-opted back onto the committee, this time as website coordinator, but of course he was much more than that. Minutes of our meetings are peppered with comments regarding assistance from Jeremy on items outside of his role: "Jeremy offered assistance with this, should Pat need it", "Jeremy advised that there was probably an example of her [Sarah Lawrence] handwriting in the Bodleian Library", "Jeremy stated...", "Jeremy circulated copies...", "Jeremy suggested...", and so on. 

Even Lawrence had to step back from the leadership of the Arab Revolt lest his presence hinder their development and soon the Society was left to find its feet and direction in a new millennium. And a good job they have made of it too, if the last well-attended symposium is anything to go by. The breadth of knowledge in the speakers and the enthusiasm for facts presented in a scholarly and professional way was an encouraging sign for the future of the Society and in Lawrence studies in general. 

Over sixty years ago Richard Aldington wrote a highly contentious biography of Lawrence whose subtitle was A Biographical Enquiry. Its publication was accompanied by marketing material that asked the question: ‘Is this the end of a legend?’

Jeremy and his wife Nicole have made an enormous contribution to furthering the knowledge and appreciation of the man behind the legend, a man who continues to fascinate and intrigue us and whose words and actions are just as relevant today as they were one hundred years ago when that legend was born. This is in no small part to Jeremy's guidance, wisdom and influence on all things Lawrentian. 

Vale, Jeremy.

Photo courtesy of Jeremy's website:

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