Untold lives blog

94 posts categorized "Qatar"

19 November 2019

Annals of the Middle Eastern Press in the India Office Records (Part II)

The India Office Records (IOR) that are related to the Gulf and the Middle East contain some articles, clippings and extracts from the region’s early press materials.  Here at the BL-Qatar Foundation partnership programme, we created a list of Middle Eastern press materials for copyright purposes.  To put these materials together we needed to trace their history answering the who, when and why.  Even though the extracts available in the IOR come from early 20th century editions, our research established that a number of press materials were in fact 19th century items.  Following on from part I of this blog, this part examines examples of these items.

The press in the first half of the 19th century was a medium that served governments’ interests.  One of the earliest examples available in the IOR is the Ottoman language official gazette Takvım-i Vekayi (Calendar of Affairs, Istanbul, est. 1831).  The paper was initiated by Sultan Mahmud II as part of his reform policy, and was undoubtedly influenced by the Egyptian official gazette al-Waqa’i‘ al-Misriyya (Egyptian Affairs, Cairo, est. 1828) initiated by Muhammad Ali Pasha.  Takvım-i Vekayi became the official medium of publicising new laws and decrees issued by the government.  It also played a crucial role promoting the Ottoman Tanzimat (reforms that were carried out between 1839 and 1876).

Translated extract from Takvım-i Vekayi about railway construction in AnatoliaTranslated extract from Takvım-i Vekayi about railways in Anatolia IOR/L/PS/10/166, f 139r

The second half of the century witnessed the publication of many private sector and independent newspapers.   Nationalism, independence and relations with Europe were the most compelling questions of the time.  Some publications adopted a liberal voice against the traditional Ottoman authority, such as the private daily Ottoman language gazette İkdam (Istanbul, est. 1894), founded by Ahmet Cevdet Oran.  Among its lead columnists was Ali Kemal effendi, great grandfather of politician Boris Johnson.  İkdam was known for being critical of the İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti (Committee of Union and Progress). 

Extract from the Oriental Advertiser about the Damascus-Mecca RailwayExtract from the Oriental Advertiser about the Damascus-Mecca Railway IOR/L/PS/10/12, f 222r

Another example is the weekly English language Levant Herald (Istanbul, est. 1859).  This was published by British subjects and circulated in the UK and Europe.  Both publications were severely critical of the Ottoman Government, particularly the policies of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Letter concerning an article in the Levant Herald about the Hedjaz Railway FundLetter concerning an article in the Levant Herald about the Hedjaz Railway Fund IOR/L/PS/10/12, f 176r

Other materials available in the IOR come from 19th century Egypt.  Among the prominent Arabic language publications is the weekly, later daily, al-Ahram (Alexandria and Cairo, est. 1875), founded by the Lebanese brothers Bshara and Salim Taqla.  Among its early writers were the renowned Muslim scholars Muhammad ‘Abdu and al-Afghani.

Report of an article in al-Ahram  concerning Bedouin tribes buying cereals from IraqReport of an article in al-Ahram concerning Bedouin tribes buying cereals from Iraq IOR/R/15/2/178, f 351r

Another Egyptian example is al-Muqattam (Cairo, est. 1889), founded by Ya‘qub Sarruf, Fares Nimr and Shahin Makariyus.  Al-Muqattam was openly pro-British.  Its rival, al-Mu’ayyad (Cairo, est. 1889), founded by Mustafa Kamel, was a popular pan-Islamic, anti-British newspaper, with lead columnists such as Qasim Amin and Sa‘d Zaghlul.  

A correction of information published in al-Muqattam relating to an alleged dispute between Saudi Arabia and KuwaitA correction of information published in al-Muqattam relating to an alleged dispute between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, dated 1937, IOR/R/15/5/121, f 11Ar

Extract from al-Mu’ayyad about the situation in Iraq 1910An extract from al-Mu’ayyad about the situation in Iraq, dated 1910, IOR/R/15/5/26, f 71r

Among the English language press in Egypt was the weekly, later daily, Egyptian Gazette (Alexandria, later Cairo, est. 1880–).  This Gazette was used to spread British propaganda in Egypt.

For extracts of these and other materials, I encourage readers to visit the Qatar Digital Library.  Part III of this blog post will explore the 20th century Middle Eastern press materials found in the IOR.

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language
British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership


Further reading:
IOR/L/PS/10/166 ‘File 3047/1909 'Railways: Asiatic Turkey; railway construction in Asia Minor'
IOR/L/PS/10/12 ‘File 3142/1903 'Hedjaz Railway'
IOR/R/15/2/178 'Articles in Press on Gulf Affairs'
IOR/R/15/5/121 ‘I Riyadh (VII) Colonel Dickson’s v[isit] to Riyadh (Includes visits of other Europeans to Riyadh’
IOR/R/15/5/26 'File X/3 Disorders & Raids near Basra & in Koweit [Kuwait] Hinterland'

Anthony Gorman and Didier Monciaud. The Press in the Middle East and North Africa, 1850-1950: Politics, Social History and Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

 

28 August 2019

Annals of the Middle Eastern Press in the India Office Records (part I)

Cataloguing the India Office Records (IOR) that are related to the Gulf and Middle East region brought to my attention a rich corpus of press materials that might otherwise be lost.  These materials are published in various languages, and come from a number of regions within the Middle East and the wider Arab World between 1800 and 1950.  The materials found in the IOR are mostly in the form of newspaper articles, clippings or extracts.  Some of these remain in their original language, and the rest are translated into English.

Extract from newspaper al-Iraq 9 February 1939

IOR/R/15/5/126, f 263r Noc

Here at the BL-Qatar Foundation partnership project, we created a list of Middle Eastern press materials for copyright purposes.  Putting the materials together produced a wide cross-section of press publications in the Middle East at the time.  So far, the list includes 140 titles of newspapers, journals and periodicals.  The majority of these, 33 titles, come from Iraq, including the Basra Times, Al-Ikha' Al-Watani, Al-Nas and Al-Ba'th Al-Qawmi.  The next largest group comes from Egypt, with 28 titles, including the Egyptian Gazette, La Bourse Egyptienne, Al-Shabab and Al-Shura.  From Iran, the list has 25 titles including Asr-e Azadi, Journal de Téhéran, and Atish.  And the last two large groups come from Syria (14 titles), including Al-Ayyam, Alef Ba’, and Bureau Arabe de Damas; and from Lebanon (13 titles), including Sawt Al-Ahrar and Al-Nahar.  The rest of the titles, including Al-Forkane, Bahrain Diary, Al-Qabas, Berid Barca, Muscat News, Al-Jami'a Al-'Arabiyya, Sawt Al-Hijaz, Yeni Gazette, and Al-Iman, come from Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen respectively.

Translation of article from newspaper Berid Barca 30 November 1937IOR/R/15/6/345, f 97v Noc

The majority of the press materials preserved in the IOR appear in English translation.  However, tracing the history of the press in the region we find that Arabic was the dominant language of the press, as in the examples of the Syrian daily newspaper Fata al-'Arab and the Saudi weekly newspaper Um Al-Qura.  On the other hand, Persian was the language used in most of the Iranian press as in the example of the daily newspapers Iran-e Ma, and Rahbar.  Ottoman was the main language used in the Ottoman Empire press, as in the examples of the daily newspapers Takvim-i Vekayi and İkdam.

Translation of extract from newspaper Um al-Qura April 1934IOR/R/15/6/163, f 18r Noc

Further, English and French were the prominent languages in titles that were either influenced or set up by the British or the French.  Examples of these are the daily newspapers The Iraq Times and L'Orient (today L'Orient-Le Jour).  Besides, there is one record of a Lebanese newspaper named Athra that was published in Arabic, Assyrian, English and French.

Front page of newspaper Athra 15 April 1939IOR/R/15/5/127, f 120r Noc

Indeed, it is due to British officials’ concern and interest in what role the press played in the region that we encounter this large amount of press materials in the records.  The practice of clipping and attaching press materials to India Office correspondence paved the way for us to explore all these aspects of the Middle Eastern press from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Parts II and III of this blog will focus on the content of the press materials examined here.

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language
British Library Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
IOR/R/15/5/126 'File 2/1 I PROPAGANDA (Absorption of Kuwait by Iraq)'
IOR/R/15/5/127 'File 2/1 II IRAQ PROPAGANDA. (Absorption of Kuwait by Iraq). Relations etc.'
IOR/R/15/6/163 'File 6/27 Foreign Interests: Sa'udi-Yemen Dispute'
IOR/R/15/6/345 'File 11/2 Diaries and Report: Arabia Series'
Anthony Gorman and Didier Monciaud. The Press in the Middle East and North Africa, 1850-1950: Politics, Social History and Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

 

16 May 2019

Celebrating King Edward VIII’s Birthday at the Bahrain Political Agency

On 23 June 1936 the Bahrain Political Agency held an official ceremony in celebration of King Edward VIII’s birthday. Announcing it as an official holiday, the Agency made a series of arrangements to mark the occasion. It is clear that the Agency was keen to make the occasion as inclusive and organised as it could be. Arabic invitation cards were ordered from the Times Press Limited at Baghdad and Basra.

Letter from the Times Press Limited about order for Arabic invitation cards IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 30

Arabic document connected to order for invitation cards IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 32

The Agency sent personal invitations to members of the Bahrain Government including Shaikhs ‘Abdullah bin ‘Isa and Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.

Personal invitation to member of the Bahrain Government IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 37

Messrs Jashanmal (now Jashanmal Department Stores, Bahrain) supplied the Agency with refreshments including Nice biscuits, sherbet, chocolate, crystallised cherries, and Mackintosh toffees. Whereas Messrs Ashraf Brothers (now Ashrafs W.L.L.) supplied coffee, rose water, nuts and plates.

Order to Messrs Jashanmal for refreshments IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 43 
 

Order to Messrs Ashraf Brothers for coffee, rose water, nuts and plates.IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 44

To ensure everyone’s loyalty to the British Crown, the Agency invited representatives of various ethnic and religious communities living in Bahrain including Arabs, Persians, Hindu and Jewish. Indeed this could also display a British attempt to show an inclusive policy towards everyone in Bahrain.

List of names of people delivering speechesIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 60

A list of names was circulated among the invitees. In turn, each invitee left a note near his name either to confirm or apologise. In some cases, certain individuals sent letters of apology, like the one sent by Mr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Qusaibi.

List of names circulated among the inviteesIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 48

Letter of apology from Mr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-QusaibiIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 45

On the day, the Agency received its special guests by placing a guard of honour to wait for them at the door. After serving coffee and other refreshments, a number of invitees read out their letters of congratulation. The assistants of the heads of the Manama and Muharraq Municipalities read out the letters on behalf of their municipalities.

Letter of congratulation IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 54

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 55

Others read out their letters on behalf of their companies or communities. These include Mullah Hasan bin al-Shaikh al-Majed, representing the Arab Bahrainis; Ghanshamdas Dhamanmal Isardas, representing the Hindu; and Mir Daoud Rouben, representing the Jewish community in Bahrain.
 

Letter of congratulation IOR/R/15/2/1663, f 58

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 59

Further, both Haji Abdun Nabi Bushehri, representing the Iranian Shi‘a community; and Haji Muhammad Tayeb Khunji, representing the Iranian Sunni community read out their tabriknameh [congratulation letters] in Persian.

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 56

Letter of congratulationIOR/R/15/2/1663, f 57

The language used in these letters reflected the purpose of the invitation in the first place. The letters were in praise of the British Empire, and all wishing King Edward VIII to live long and be prosperous. The similarity of their wordings display nothing but loyalty to the British Crown. Ironically, only six months after the occasion, Edward VIII abdicated on 11 December 1936 and soon his loyalty to the British Crown became a matter of dispute among many.

Ula Zeir
Content Specialist/ Arabic Language
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership Programme

Further reading
IOR/R/15/2/1663 'File 20/1- Vol: III Ceremonial and Celebrations: New Year's and King's Birthday's Celebrations.'
Edward VIII

09 May 2019

King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part Two

We continue our story about King Charles & Mr Perkins, a science fiction/historical novel written by retired British diplomat Albert Charles Wratislaw.  Robert Perkins, a former army officer of the First World War, inherits his father’s time machine and travels back in time to October 1666.

John Ogilby presenting a book of subscriptions for a survey to Charles II and his queenJohn Ogilby presenting a book of subscriptions for a survey to Charles II and his queen. Maps.Crace.Port.2.58 Noc
Images Online 

During his year in Restoration England, Robert becomes a favourite at the royal court.  He politely declines the advances of Barbara Palmer, Countess of Castlemaine, warns Charles about the Dutch navy’s unexpected raid on the Medway and, in an interesting subplot, pays several visits to John Milton, helping him to get his recently completed Paradise Lost past the Church’s censors.

Robert finds himself in trouble when George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, tricks him into accepting the challenge of a game of tennis with the King.  Determined not to lose a thousand pounds to Buckingham, Robert tries to narrowly beat Charles, in the hope of sparing the latter’s embarrassment and retaining his own position at court.  Late in the final set, in a fit of rage following some grossly unfair decisions by the biased umpire, Robert unleashes an aggressive serve which hits Charles square in the solar plexus. Robert is immediately banished to the Tower. 

Portrait of George Villiers 2nd Duke of BuckinghamGeorge Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1675 NPG 279 © National Portrait Gallery, London

During his imprisonment in the Tower, Robert receives a visit from his doppelgänger: his ancestor George Perkins, owner of Eastern Manor, Suffolk, and Member of Parliament for the borough of St Edmundsbury, who had chanced to witness the fateful tennis match during a visit to Whitehall.  Robert accepts an invitation to stay with George for a month at the family estate following his release from the Tower.  After a pleasant stay in his ancestral home, Robert returns to London and, upon checking his funds, discovers that he is virtually penniless.  When he attempts to trade in a Perkins family heirloom (a Commonwealth pendant that he had taken back in time with him in case of emergency), his jeweller, an Alderman of the City of London, has him arrested, claiming that the pendant was made on his premises ten years earlier for George Perkins.  Robert is taken to Newgate Prison before facing trial several days later at the Old Bailey, where he is sentenced to death for stealing the diamond pendant from the house of his ancestor.  In a final twist, Robert is saved from certain death when he is transported back to the present day a few seconds before being hanged at Tyburn.

Plan of Newgate Prison Plan of Newgate Prison Maps.Crace.8.84  Noc Images Online 

As is to be expected, the language of the novel is rather dated, as are its attitudes towards women.  It is not a great work of literature by any means, but it appears to be well-researched, and it is significant for being the first and (to this writer’s knowledge) only science fiction novel to have been written by a former British consul.

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part One
A C Wratislaw, King Charles & Mr Perkins (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1931)
Details of A C Wratislaw’s career, including photographs, can be found here and here, on the Levantine Heritage Foundation’s website.

 

07 May 2019

King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part One

Many former British diplomats have written memoirs but few have become writers of fiction, and fewer still have written works of science fiction.

Albert Charles Wratislaw (1862-1938), son of clergyman and Slavonic scholar Albert Henry Wratislaw, was born in Bury St Edmunds and entered the British Levant Consular Service in 1883.  He served in Europe and in the Middle East, including diplomatic posts in Crete, Basra, Tabriz, and Beirut.  Towards the end of his career he was a commissioner with the Turco-Persian Boundary Commission.  He retired in 1920 and published his memoir, A Consul in the East, in 1924.

Photograph of 'Ashshār creek, Basra,India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F111/33, f 730: photograph of 'Ashshār creek, Basra, by A C Wratislaw, c 1898 Noc

For his second book Wratislaw seems to have taken inspiration from H G Wells.  Published in 1931, King Charles & Mr Perkins is a science fiction/historical novel, which begins in Wratislaw’s home county of Suffolk shortly after the First World War.  Its narrator is Robert Perkins of Eastern Manor, who learns in the opening chapter that, in addition to inheriting the family estate, he has become the owner of a time machine that was invented in secret by his late father.  With his father having died before beginning to test the machine, it falls to Robert and his cousin George to see whether the invention actually works.  The two cousins settle on the year 1666, and proceed to try out the machine with their Aunt Jane’s pug, Macheath.  After the dog returns home a couple of weeks later – in one piece but noticeably more stuck-up, with a new collar inscribed ‘Ye Kinge his Dogge’ – Robert makes the journey to London, October 1666 (the date is chosen to avoid the aftermath of the Great Fire), taking Macheath with him.

King Charles and Mr Perkins title pageKing Charles & Mr Perkins by A C Wratislaw, published in 1931 Noc


Immediately after his arrival, Robert meets and befriends the young John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, who later introduces him to Charles II, so that the King can be reunited with Macheath, or Fidelio as he calls him.  Later in the novel, Macheath is mauled to death by the King’s jealous spaniels, which Robert regards as a very bad omen for his own prospects.  Robert soon becomes a regular at the royal court, gaining a reputation as a fiercely competitive tennis player, and becoming a favourite of the King.

Portrait of Charles II by DucarelPortrait of Charles II by Ducarel 1767 Images Online Noc

However, Robert sows the seeds of his own downfall when he feuds with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, and makes himself an enemy of London’s merchants by proposing to the King that he impose a tax on the City of London as a means to raise urgently required funds.  It is Buckingham who emerges as the chief architect of Robert’s fall from grace when he tricks Robert into accepting the challenge of a game of tennis with the King.  Robert is placed in an impossible position, forced to choose between beating the King at tennis and paying Buckingham a thousand pounds…

To be continued!  King Charles & Mr Perkins - Part Two

David Fitzpatrick
Content Specialist, Archivist, British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
A C Wratislaw, A Consul in the East (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1924)
A C Wratislaw, King Charles & Mr Perkins (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1931)
Details of A C Wratislaw’s career, including photographs, can be found here and here, on the Levantine Heritage Foundation’s website.

 

29 January 2019

The shooting of the British Consul General at Isfahan and Sowar Chowdri Khan

Persia (Iran) declared its neutrality in the First World War on 1 November 1914.  Nevertheless, owing to its oil deposits and proximity to British-ruled India, Persia became a battleground for the Great Powers during the War.  In January 1915, the Germans launched a major infiltration campaign in British occupied southern Persia.  German agents sought to instigate popular rebellion amongst the local population against Allied forces, and to sabotage and destroy British installations and interests.

Map of ‘Persia & Afghanistan’, April 1908 Map of ‘Persia & Afghanistan’, April 1908 (IOR/L/PS/10/332, f 77) Open Government Licence

On 2 September 1915, Thomas George Grahame, British Consul General at Isfahan, and Chowdri Khan, one of the Indian sowars (cavalry soldiers) composing his escort, were attacked in a lane after riding out on horseback from the Consulate.  This attack resulted in the wounding of Grahame and the death of Khan.  The incident was viewed by Charles Murray Marling, HM Minister to Tehran, as being part of a German campaign of assassinations.
 

Map of British consular jurisdictions in Persia, 1907 Map of British consular jurisdictions in Persia, 1907 (IOR/R/15/1/710, f 10) Open Government Licence

Grahame sent an account of the incident to Marling.  He recounted that he saw a man walking in front of him in the lane, who suddenly turned around and stepped to the side of the path.  Grahame ‘saw his arm raised, heard a shot and felt a twinge under [his] left arm’.  He saw the man moving in the direction of Chowdri Khan, as Grahame’s frightened horse broke into a canter.  He then saw another man, who ‘raised both arms as if to give a signal to some one unseen’ as Grahame passed him.  As Grahame galloped away he ‘heard three shots fired – presumably on Chowdri Khan’.

First page of statement by Thomas George Grahame, British Consul General at Isfahan, 2 September 1915

Second page of statement by Thomas George Grahame, British Consul General at Isfahan, 2 September 1915 Copy of statement by Thomas George Grahame, British Consul General at Isfahan, 2 September 1915 (IOR/L/PS/10/490, f 249-250) Open Government Licence

Grahame wrote that he sought help for Chowdri Khan from two policemen and another Indian Sowar he passed on his way back to the Consulate, from where orders were given to find and assist Chowdri Khan.

Resaidar Malik Rab Nawaz Khan, of the 11th King Edward’s Own Lancers, Native Officer in charge of the Isfahan Consulate General Guard, stated that Sowar Khan Mohamed Khan was the first to be ready to search for Chowdri Khan.  He left the Consulate alone, ‘regardless of dangers’, and found Chowdri Khan, ‘wounded, but still alive’.

Khan Mohamed Khan tried to carry Chowdri Khan to the nearby Church Missionary Society Hospital, but after going 200 yards his strength failed him.  Some Persians came to his assistance and Chowdri Khan was carried to the Hospital, but after a few minutes, he died.

The Resaidar stated that he hoped that Khan Mohamed Khan’s ‘promptitude and bravery’ would be ‘recognised in a fitting manner’.

First page of  statement by Resaidar Malik Rab Nawaz Khan, 11th King Edward’s Own Lancers, 6 September 1915

Second page of statement by Resaidar Malik Rab Nawaz Khan, 11th King Edward’s Own Lancers, 6 September 1915 Copy of statement by Resaidar Malik Rab Nawaz Khan, 11th King Edward’s Own Lancers, 6 September 1915 (IOR/L/PS/10/490, f 252-253) Open Government Licence

Grahame learnt that seven shots in total had been heard from the CMS Hospital.  The first was the one fired at Grahame, but the rest appeared to have been fired by two other men ‘lurking about in the lane’.  According to one informant, ‘two of these three men were wearing German badges’. 

This incident was soon followed by the British Vice-Consul at Shiraz being shot and killed in the street on 7 September.  By the end of 1915, the situation in southern Persia had deteriorated so badly for the British that they decided they needed to raise ‘a force for the restoration of law and order’, the South Persia Rifles.

Susannah Gillard
Content Specialist, Archivist
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
India Office Records files which can be viewed on the Qatar Digital Library:
British Library, File 3516/1914 Pt 14 'German War: Persia; general situation' IOR/L/PS/10/490
British Library, File 3516/1914 Pt 9 'German War: Persia' IOR/L/PS/10/486
Touraj Atabaki, ‘Persia/Iran’, 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 2016).
Touraj Atabaki (ed.), Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers (London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006).
Donald M. McKale, War by Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I (Kent, Ohio; London: Kent State University Press, 1998).
Denis Wright, The English Amongst the Persians During the Qajar period, 1787-1921 (London: Heinemann, 1977).

 

13 December 2018

The Red Sea to India non-stop: Amelia Earhart, Southern Arabia, and British Obstructionism

On 15 June 1937, Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, landed at Karachi airport in their specially modified Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane.  They had been flying for over thirteen hours and travelled more than 1800 miles from Assab, in Eritrea.  By doing so they’d completed the first ever non-stop flight from the Red Sea to India, as Karachi was a part of then.

Amelia Earhart standing under the nose of her Lockheed Model 10 Electra planeAmelia Earhart standing under the nose of her Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane via Wikipedia

Earhart had flown from Assab that morning and had used Aden as a checkpoint along the way.  Permission had also been given to land at the British enclave should it be necessary.  From Aden, however, the Americans were restricted to flying a course along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  This restriction has often been attributed to Saudi refusal to grant permission to fly over its territory, but the region in question was not, and still is not, part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The flight would have passed over the Hadhramaut, at the time under a loose British protectorate, and the territories of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, where British influence and control was strong.  In December of the previous year, the United States Embassy in London had written to the Foreign Office giving details of Earhart’s plans for a round-the-world flight and requesting permission to fly through and land in British territories along the way.  The matter was passed on to the Government of India, who agreed to the flight, with certain restrictions, but envisaged complications with the stretch along the South Arabian coast.

 Extract from a letter from the US Ambassador to London to the British Foreign Secretary

Extract from a letter from the US Ambassador to London to the British Foreign Secretary Extracts from a letter from the US Ambassador to London to the British Foreign Secretary, IOR/L/PS/12/1981, ff. 296-297

Civil aviation was in its infancy at the time and the British had been developing an air route along the Arab side of the Persian Gulf from Baghdad.  For various strategic and pragmatic reasons the British had gone to some lengths to establish control over the air space in the region, securing agreements with the Arab Sheikhs that gave them a good deal of authority over the management of air traffic.

Map showing some of the Royal Air Force routes from the United Kingdom to Far East Asia, via the Arabian Peninsula and IndiaMap showing some of the Royal Air Force routes from the United Kingdom to Far East Asia, via the Arabian Peninsula and India, IOR/L/PS/12/2054, f. 134

The Sheikhs of Bahrain and Sharjah had agreed to delegate to the British the authority to refuse private aviators permission to fly through or land within their territories.  The British had so far failed to obtain the same from the Sultan of Muscat.  Earhart’s requested flight was seen as an opportunity to gain this further degree of control in the region.

The attempts of the Political Agent in Muscat, Major Ralph Watts, to secure the Sultan’s agreement to delegate such authority to the British were unsuccessful, however, and instead efforts were made by the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf and the Government of India to try to dissuade the Americans from looking to fly through or land in the Sultan’s territories.  They were told that there was little hope of obtaining permission from the Sultan and the country in question was described as “desolate, inaccessible and entirely unsuitable for any emergency landings”.  Those that did land risked death or injury at the hands of “wild tribesmen”.

Al-Hawtah, capital of the district of Lahej Al-Hawtah, capital of the district of Lahej, part of the “desolate” and “inaccessible” country the British warned of, part of 'An Account of the British Settlement of Aden in Arabia, compiled by Captain F.M. Hunter

It was this obstructionism from the British, rather than Saudi refusal, which compelled Earhart to follow a line just off the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, rather than over land.  An obstructionism given in response to the Sultan of Muscat’s refusal to relinquish yet more power to the British.

John Hayhurst
Content Specialist, Gulf History – BL/Qatar Foundation Partnership

 

27 November 2018

A policeman's lot in Bahrain - not a happy one

Bahrain’s first British Inspector of Police resigned from his post after only three months, and was then accused of racial prejudice towards Arabs.

By 1945 hundreds of oil workers – European and American - had flooded into Bahrain, and the local Bahrain State Police could not cope.  The British Government’s solution was to second a contingent of serving British Police Officers to work in the country.  Advertisements were placed, and applications came in from members of Constabularies across Britain.

British Colonial Police style five pointed starBritish Colonial Police style five pointed star considered for use in Bahrain IOR/L/PS/12/3951A, f 483 (detail) .

Unusually for the era, the positions involved working directly for an independent Arab government.  Candidates at Sergeant and Police Constable level were therefore asked by India Office interviewers whether they had any ‘colour prejudice’.  Perhaps unwisely, two admitted to having ‘some prejudice’ - one man stating that he didn’t like saluting Arab officers.  Both were dismissed from the process.  However, there is no evidence that the same question was put to candidates at Inspector level.
Some of the successful applicants were helped by having language skills acquired in the course of wartime military service in the Middle East.

The most important appointment was that of Inspector, who was to command the detachment.  The choice fell eventually on Charles Henry Crowe, who was based at Tower Bridge Police Station, London.  Crowe had experience of plain clothes work in the detection of betting and gaming offences, and had received a number of commendations.

Uniforms and equipment having been selected and paid for by the India Office, the detachment (one Inspector, one Sergeant, and six Constables) arrived in Bahrain in August 1945 – the hottest part of the year.

Inspector Crowe’s resignation letterInspector Crowe’s resignation letter: IOR/L/PS/12/3951A, f 9 (detail)

Three months later, Crowe resigned.  His resignation letter lists a number of grievances: a promised refrigerator failed to materialise; he had often been kept waiting by the Arab Superintendent, Sheikh Khalifah, for up to fifteen minutes, sometimes standing, while the Sheikh conversed in Arabic with visitors; the same official appropriated a car intended for the Inspector; the accommodation was not up to scratch; and the uniforms were inadequate: by November, the detachment were still wearing pith helmets in the evenings, which was ‘a source of amusement to Europeans’.  Crowe was also critical of Charles Belgrave, the Sheikh of Bahrain’s British-born Adviser, who was in overall charge of the country’s police.

Inspector Crowe’s resignation letter (conclusion)Inspector Crowe’s resignation letter (conclusion): IOR/L/PS/12/3951A, f 9v (detail)

Belgrave responded by claiming that Crowe had been entirely unsuitable for the post.  He had not liked the cut of the uniform with which he was provided, had objected strongly to shaking hands with ‘natives’ (Arab Police Officers), and had been overly conscious of his rank and social position.  Without authority, he had paid a visit to the brothel area, and lectured a number of ladies of the town through an interpreter, which ‘caused a considerable commotion’ next day, and had been ‘associating with various undesirable members of the community’.  For all these reasons, the decision was taken to dismiss him from his post, and Crowe only resigned after being tipped off by friends at the Cable & Wireless office that a telegram had come ordering his dismissal.

Letter from Charles BelgraveLetter from Charles Belgrave, Adviser to the Government of Bahrain, concerning Inspector Crowe’s resignation: IOR/L/PS/12/3951B, f 30 (detail)
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Letter from Charles Belgrave conclusionLetter from Charles Belgrave, Adviser to the Government of Bahrain, concerning Inspector Crowe’s resignation (conclusion): IOR/L/PS/12/3951B, f 34 (detail)
The copyright status is unknown. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item.

Belgrave’s lengthy response probably had more to do with avoiding criticism from London over his role in the affair, but clearly the post-war oil-era Gulf wasn’t for everyone.

Martin Woodward
Content Specialist, Archives
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
London, British Library, Coll 30/210(2) 'Bahrein Oil: Employment of U.S.Provost Personnel for Control of American labour.' IOR/L/PS/12/3951A
London, British Library, Coll 30/210(2/1) 'Bahrain: appointments to Bahrain State Police'  IOR/L/PS/12/3951B
Digitised versions of both these files are published in the Qatar Digital Library.

 

 

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