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, June 1, 2017

Forthcoming lecture - 'Lawrence of Arabia and the Revolt in the Desert' - University of Southampton - Saturday 1 July 2017

The Lifelong Learning programme run by the University of Southampton will be holding a study day entitled: Lawrence of Arabia and the Revolt in the Desert on Saturday 1 July 2017.

I have been asked to present a paper entitled: 'A Yahoo Life' - T.E. Lawrence and the British Military Mission in the Hejaz.

The following description of the event is from the University's website where you can find details of the programme and an application form for places.

To mark the centenary of Sharif Hussein’s forces seizing the Ottoman port of Aqaba on 6 July 1917, this Great War study day focuses upon the Arab revolt against Turkish rule, and the role of archaeologist turned soldier, T.E. Lawrence. The ‘revolt in the desert’ is placed in the context of French and British intervention in the Middle East, notably the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration; the consequences of which still resonate throughout the region known then as the Levant.

Recreated in spectacular style by David Lean in the epic Lawrence of Arabia, the capture of Aqaba opened supply lines from Egypt to Allied forces operating further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine. This effectively ended any lingering threat of a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal. By examining General Allenby’s successful offensive east of Suez in 1917-18, we can assess the military significance of Lawrence’s contribution – to what extent does the legend match reality?

Before convincing Prince Feisal and other tribal chieftains to rise up Lawrence’s involvement in the Middle East was primarily as a scholar, prompting consideration of how pre-war archaeology disguised great power interest in the crumbling Ottoman empire.

Examining Lawrence before and after the First World War offers an additional perspective on continuing conflict in the Middle East and his close connection with Southampton Water. In the 1920s and 1930s, a very public retreat from fame saw the writer of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom assume a fresh identity not once but twice, as a ranker in the Army and then the Royal Air Force. Extended service in the RAF led to a final posting in Hythe, where Lawrence worked on the British Powerboat Company’s latest rescue launches; weekends were spent at Cloud’s Hill, his Dorset cottage, or socialising in London with the likes of Churchill or Shaw. Since his death in 1935 popular interest in Lawrence and the revolt in the desert has never waned; fuelled by fresh revelations about his private life, and an urgent need to comprehend the creation myth upon which Saudi Arabia’s unbending monarchy claims its legitimacy.

This study day recognises our continuing fascination with ‘El Laurens’, and his place in the violent and crisis-ridden history of the Middle East over the past one hundred years.

Professor Adrian Smith, Emeritus Professor of Modern History, University of Southampton
- Welcome/introduction: the Solent, childhood home and workplace of T.E. Lawrence

Dr Christopher Prior, Lecturer in 20th Century History, University of Southampton
- "Immortality I cannot judge": Lawrence, the Middle East and the British Empire in the early twentieth century.

Professor Tim Champion, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology
- 'Archaeologists and great power rivalry in the Middle East prior to the First world War

Anthony Sattin, travel writer, broadcaster, and author of Young Lawrence: a Portrait of the Legend as a Young Man (2014)
- From Carchemish to Cairo: the making of Major Lawrence

Kerry Webber, writer, photographer and designer, currently writing the biography of Colonel Stewart Newcombe
- "A Yahoo Life": T.E. Lawrence and the British Military Mission to the Hejaz

Professor Adrian Smith
- The post war Lawrence: Aircraftman Shaw and the British Power Boat Company

Dr Mark Levene, Reader in History, Southampton University, and author of The Crises of Genocide Volumes I and II
- Conclusion: Thinking beyond Lawrence - the British, their role in Ottoman dissolution and the long-term consequences for the modern 'Middle East'