Geography

Odessa, the pearl of the Black Sea

At the time of writing this Odessa or Odesa, depending on whether you prefer the Russian or Ukrainian spelling of the city, has not faced attack by Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army. However, unless the so-called special military operation fails even further, it is almost certain the Odessa will face an attack.

The city’s history goes back to the Greeks but it has been ruled by the Golden Horde, Lithuania and the Ottomans.  Russia captured the area that is now Odessa from the Ottoman Empire in 1789. The city was developed by the Duc de Richelieu, an emigre French nobleman who had served in the Russian army after fleeing Revolutionary France. However, during the late 19th century, the city arguably reached its heights. During the late 19th century Odessa was the fourth largest city in the Russian Empire after Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw.

Hotel Bristol in Odessa

Odessa is a strategically important city that is a gateway through the Black Sea to the outside world. It has been fought over many times. It was shelled by the British and the French during the Crimean War. Following the Bolshevik Revolution it was occupied by an Austro-Hungarian force, then a Greek and French force supporting the anti-Bolshevik White Russians. The Soviets then fought the White Russians and the Ukrainian People’s Republic for control, with the Soviets ultimately prevailing. During the Second World War Odessa was attacked by Romanian and German forces and endured a 73-day siege in 1941. Odessa has also been the scene of countless other events in the history of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union including the mutiny of the sailors on the battleship Potemkin, immortalised in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 classic Battleship Potemkin.

It was a very European city with a large Jewish population. It was also the site of an annual mass event from the late 19th century to the start of the First World War. Every year thousands of Orthodox Christians used Odessa to leave the Russian Empire to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. They typically were impoverished peasants who travelled from their villages in the interior of Russia’s Empire to the port of Odessa to embark for the Holy Land.

Russian pilgrims at the River Jordan

Russian pilgrims at the Jordan river

The Russian Compound was built in Jerusalem to accommodate the pilgrims. In 1911 10,000 such pilgrims filled the city. One of them was Rasputin the infamous Russian monk. He had been sent away from Russia to get him away from the Imperial family. On his way to Odessa he stopped off at the Pochayiv Lavra monastery. Rasputin wrote an account of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem and wrote (or his ghost-writer wrote for him)

“As soon as I left Odessa, on the Black Sea… there is a stillness in the sea and the soul rejoices with the sea and sleeps in peace; the little swells shine like gold thread, and one desires nothing more.”

Others had different opinions of the conditions on board. The Russian authorities subsidised the boats. However, they were often overcrowded and any poor weather led to seasickness and unbearable conditions on board. Another account by Stephen Graham, the English travel writer, who knew Russia well, and one year travelled with the pilgrims:

All about me clustered and chattered motizhiks and babas, village men and village women, stariks and startiskkas, grey-bearded grandfathers and wizened old grandmothers—all in their everyday attire. They looked as if they had left their native fields and hurried to the boat without changing a garment or washing a limb. They were nearly all in deeply-wadded overcoats (touloopi) or fur-lined jackets (poluskubi), and wore heavy, long-haired sheepskin caps or peak hats; and the women wore bundles of four or five petticoats, and who knows how many layers of thick homespun linen over their upper parts, and with thick grey shawls over their heads. For most of the pilgrims came from the cold interior of Russia and had little notion of the changing of climate.

Once they arrived in the Holy Land, most of the pilgrims would walk from Jaffa to Jerusalem. They were filled with religious devotion and would visit multiple Christian sites in the Holy Land. They would return to Russia in possession of mementoes the pilgrims believed would help ease their path to heaven. These could be shrouds washed in the river Jordan or measured against the stone where Jesus’ body was supposedly washed after his crucifixion. They would also return with earth from the Holy Land, which would be put in their coffin when they died. The influx of pilgrims was a tremendous economic benefit for the city. Candlemakers, icon painters, shroud makers and olive wood trinket-makers worked all year round to meet the demand at Easter. Even though the pilgrims were poor, beggars flocked to Jerusalem during this annual pilgrimage. They left at the same time as the pilgrims returned to Russia.

In 1911 the Russian pilgrims were in Jerusalem at the same time as the Parker expedition and their disastrous attempt to find the Ark of the Covenant using a route from the Dome of the Rock. There were riots and Ottoman troops sealed off the Russian Compound in order to ensure that there was no violence against the Russian pilgrims. There were also rumours that the Russian pilgrims had been armed and planned to massacre the city’s Muslims.

Separately Odessa was also the route many Jews escaped from the genocidal pogroms launched by the Russian Tsarist governments in the late 19th century. Tsar Alexander III came to the throne in 1881 when revolutionaries assassinated his father, Tsar Alexander II. None of the assassins was Jewish, but this did not stop the new Tsar from instituting sweeping anti-Jewish laws and encouraging or directing violent pogroms against Jews. Between 1888 and 1914 two million Jews left the Russian Empire, some settled in Europe and 85% went to the United States. Some also went to the Ottoman Empire and many of these used Odessa to flee the persecution. Odessa itself was not spared pogroms and in the largest, the 1905 pogrom, over 400 Jews were killed and 1600 Jewish properties damaged or destroyed.

Who knows what the immediate future will hold for Odessa and Ukraine but it will almost certainly continue to be a critical juncture between Russia and Ukraine and the outside world.

Fighting for and against Russia

In March 2022 there is a war raging in Europe, though Vladimir Putin denies that Russian forces have invaded Ukraine and are instead engaged in a ‘special military operation’. He also justifies his peacekeeping mission by saying that Ukraine is not a real country but a historical part of Russia. Russian spokesmen have also threatened Finland and Sweden with ‘military and political consequences’ if they were to join NATO. As anyone with the briefest knowledge of history knows that borders have shifted as Empires wax and wane. The Ottoman Empire used to rule parts of Ukraine but no one seems to be suggesting that Turkey should still control these. These border shifts apply equally to countries such as Sweden and Finland. Indeed the relationship between Russia Sweden and Finland is an interesting one and curiously impacted on members of the Parker expedition.

Finland was once ruled by Sweden and this status only changed during the Napoleonic Wars. Russia initially joined the alliance of European monarchs opposed to Napoleon. However, after a series of disastrous military defeats by the French celebrated in streets names and stations across France Tsar Alexander I made peace with Napoleon at Tilsit and switched sides

Tsar Alexander used the peace with France to try and make gains for Russia. He pressured Sweden to switch sides and join the alliance against Britain but when they refused Russia attacked Sweden and the two countries fought a war between 1808 and 1809. The end result of the war was the loss of Finland for Sweden and the creation of the Grand Duchy of Finland as an autonomous part of the Russian Empire. It stayed that way for a century.

The events which changed it were the seminal early events of the 20th century, namely the First World War and the Russian Bolshevik Revolution. So when the Parker Expedition took place the Finns on it came from within the Russian Empire. They were Valter Juvelius and Pertti Uotila.

The expedition fizzled out shortly before the First World War and the decision of the Ottoman Empire to side with Germany and so against Russia and Britain made all the members of the expedition enemies of the rulers of Jerusalem. Most of the members of the expedition also joined up to fight in the war. In the case of Pertti Uotila this was for Russia against Germany.

Pertti Uotila (front) in the uniform of a Pihkova/Pskov Dragoon officer

He went to St Petersburg and trained at the famous Nikolai Cavalry College. On graduation he became an officer in the Pihkova/Pskov Dragoons in the Russian Imperial Cavalry and fought in the disastrous Russian campaigns against Germany. The losses the Russians suffered were significant contributory factors to the two revolutions in 1917, which saw first the Tsar overthrown and then the Bolsheviks seize power. Finland took advantage of the instability and declared independence from Russia. This led to a bloody civil war in Finland, with Red versus White. As with most civil wars, it was brutal, with atrocities committed by both sides. The war also drew in the Bolsheviks, the Germans and the Allies. Despite his youthful socialism, Uotila fought for the right-wing Whites, who eventually proved victorious.

Pertti Uotila in Finnish cavalry officer’s uniform

After the Finnish Civil War, Uotila fought against Bolshevik Russia for several more years in the Heimosodatot or Tribal Wars. The British opposed the Bolshevik Revolution and supported those fighting against it. They landed a force in Murmansk in Northern Russia to help in the fight. Winston Churchill said the policy was ‘to strangle at birth the Bolshevik State’. Many groups including the Germans were fighting here and their identity was not always clear.

Uotila’s friendship with the Old Etonians, made in the heat of Jerusalem, now proved crucial in the cold of the Artic Circle. The British did not want any weapons they provided to local forces to reach either Bolsheviks or the Germans, so they were initially suspicious of a group of Finns fighting in German-supplied uniforms. Out of these strange-looking soldiers stepped Uotila to help sort matters out. He negotiated with the Royal Navy officers and convinced them that they should supply his Finnish forces with arms and munitions. His connections to the British establishment were vital in persuading the Royal Navy officers they could trust him. One of the foremost proponents of Britain’s policy in Russia was Winston Churchill, former First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1918 he was minister of munitions. Pertti had spent time in Jerusalem with Gordon Wilson, who was married to Winston Churchill’s aunt.

These battles were not Uotila’s last fight with the Russians. After the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. Two weeks later, the Soviets marched into Eastern Poland, as agreed with Germany. They also invaded Finland, and the two unequally matched nations fought the three-month Winter War. Uotila, now almost sixty, rejoined the Finnish Army. Despite the mismatch in sizes, the Finns were largely successful in defending their country against its much larger neighbour.

Finnish forces in the Winter War

The connections to Russia

Pilgrims, pogroms a mad monk and the seceding Finns

The Grand Duchy of Finland

Several members of the expedition were Finns and at the time of the expedition Finland was part of the Russian Empire.

Sweden were the rulers of Finland until the start of the 19th century. During the Napoleonic Wars, Russia initially fought against Napoleon. However, after a series of crushing defeats, celebrated in street names and stations across Paris, Russia swapped sides. Russia then demanded that Sweden do the same and ally with them against England. When Sweden refused, Russia declared war and captured Finland. Finland became an autonomous province within the Russian Empire. However, Russian was never adopted as the primary language.

Valter Juvelius lived in Viipuri, a town which today is known as Vyborg, is close to Saint Petersburg and now part of the Russian Federation.

As Finland was part of the Russian Empire it was involved in the First World War against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empires. Pertti Uotila joined up and became an officer in the Russian Imperial Cavalry. He fought in the disastrous Russian campaigns against Germany.

1916 painting of Pertti Uotila and his brother

Pertti (front) is in the uniform of a Russian Pihkova lifeguard dragoon

Pogroms

The expedition arrived in Jerusalem at a time the city was expanding rapidly. Immigration drove most of this. There were many sources of this immigration, some came from other parts of the Ottoman Empire, but many were from outside and they came from all faiths. Certainly, Jewish immigration was a large driver. The Yemeni Jews were small in number, but they were joined by large groups driven by the same way as the Sephardim several hundred years before; persecution of Jews by Christian European monarchs. In the late-nineteenth century, the ruler was Tsar Alexander III of Russia. Chaim Weizmann described the results:

“I can remember the stampede — the frantic rush from the Russian prison house, the tremendous tide of migration which carried hundreds of thousands of Jews from their ancient homes to far-off lands across the seas. I was a witness in boyhood and early manhood of the emptying of whole villages and towns”

The vast majority of these migrants did not go to Jerusalem or the Holy Land. Between 1888 and 1914, two million Jews left Russia, and of this 85% went to the United States. However, some did come to the Holy Land. In this wave of immigration, between 1881 and 1903, which has become known as the First Aliyah, nearly 35,000 Jews arrived in Palestine.

Easter Pilgrims

As well as people who came to live in Jerusalem, there were the pilgrims who visited the city briefly. The biggest group of these were Russian pilgrims. Every year thousands of Russian Orthodox Christian pilgrims would flock to the city. They were mostly impoverished peasants who travelled from their village in the interior of Russia to the port of Odessa to embark for the Holy Land.

The Russian government subsidised the boats. They were often overcrowded and any poor weather led to seasickness and unbearable conditions. Once they arrived in the Holy Land, most of the pilgrims would walk from Jaffa to Jerusalem. They were filled with religious devotion and would visit multiple Christian sites in the Holy Land. They would return to Russia in possession of mementoes the pilgrims believed would help ease their path to heaven. These could be shrouds washed in the river Jordan or measured against the stone where Jesus’ body was supposedly washed after his crucifixion. They would also return to Russia with earth from the Holy Land, which would be put in their coffin when they died.

The mass of pilgrims was a tremendous economic benefit for the city. Beggars flocked to Jerusalem during the annual Russian pilgrimage and disappeared again when the last boat has gone home. This influx was even though the Russian peasants were poor themselves. Candlemakers, icon painters, shroud makers and olive wood trinket-makers worked all year round to meet the demand at Easter. Not all returned to Russia. Some died in Jerusalem, happy in the belief that this would also speed their passage to heaven. Others fell victim to the temptations of the city. Rasputin, who performed the same pilgrimage in 1911, and who knew more than most about temptation, said that nuns should not go to Jerusalem ‘so huge is the seduction, so envious the enemy’. Many sadly ended up in poverty or prostitution.

Rasputin

After the members of the Parker expedition were discovered digging in the Dome of the Rock riots broke out and wild rumours flew around. One of these was that the Russian pilgrims had been armed and planned to massacre the city’s Muslims. At the same time after one day of disturbance troops sealed off the Russian Compound in order to ensure that there was no violence against the Russian pilgrims.

Finnish Independence

In 1917 following disastrous battlefield losses Russia experienced two revolutions. The second one brought the Bolsheviks to power and ended Russian involvement in the First World War. Finland took advantage of the instability and declared independence from Russia. This led to a bloody civil war in Finland, with Red versus White. As with most civil wars, it was brutal, with atrocities committed by both sides. The war also drew in the Bolsheviks, the Germans and the Allies. Pertti Uotila fought for the right-wing Whites, who eventually proved victorious.

After the Finnish Civil War, Uotila fought against Bolshevik Russia for several more years in the so-called Tribal Wars. The British opposed the Bolshevik Revolution and supported those fighting against it. They landed a force in Murmansk in Northern Russia to help in the fight. Winston Churchill said the policy was ‘to strangle at birth the Bolshevik State’. Many groups were fighting here and their identity was not always clear. Uotila’s friendship with the Old Etonians, made in the heat of Jerusalem, now proved crucial in the cold of the Arctic Circle. The British did not want any weapons they provided to local forces to reach either Bolsheviks or the Germans, so they were initially suspicious of a group of Finns fighting in German-supplied uniforms. Out of these strange-looking soldiers stepped Uotila to help sort matters out. He negotiated with the Royal Navy officers and convinced them that they should supply his Finnish forces with arms and munitions. His connections to the British establishment were vital in persuading the Royal Navy officers they could trust him. One of the foremost proponents of Britain’s policy in Russia was Winston Churchill, former First Lord of the Admiralty. In 1918 he was minister of munitions. Pertti had spent time in Jerusalem with Gordon Wilson, who was married to Winston Churchill’s aunt. This was not Uotila’s last fight with the Russians. After the Soviet Union signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. Two weeks later, the Soviets marched into Eastern Poland, as agreed with Germany. They also invaded Finland, and the two unequally matched nations fought the three-month Winter War. Uotila, now almost sixty, rejoined the Finnish Army. Despite the mismatch, the Finns were largely successful in defending their country.

Pertti Uotila

The connections to Germany

How the war changed everything

Funding for the expedition

When Valter Juvelius completed his cypher work he wrote on the final page:

‘it might be worthwhile to fit out an expedition to find the (Temple) archive. The Deutscher Palästina Verein in Berlin might be for this purpose be most adapted for (the) same.’

Reports say that as a result Johan Millen went to Germany to seek funding, but was unsuccessful. Whether he approached the Deutscher Palästina Verein for funding is unclear. Millen did not approach the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, so similarly in Germany he may have approached other individuals or groups. According to Cyril Foley the Germans were interested but could not persuade the Ottoman government to grant permission to dig. So Millen went to London and was eventually put in touch with Frederick Vaughan, George Seymour Fort and Montagu Parker.

The subsequent attitude of the expedition to Germany was one of hostility and suspicion. After the Haram al-Sharif Incident in 1911 Millen claimed that German newspapers wrote ‘polemics of a particularly reckless and indiscriminate nature’. He also singled out Gustaf Dalman, who he described as a German professor who had criticised the expedition. It is certainly true that Dalman was very critical of their work and about the damage that the expedition would cause in relations with locals. Juvelius similarly complained that immediately after the event, ‘a real storm of hatred was raised against us in Berlin’s German-Jewish newspapers.’

Juvelius and Millen wrote their accounts during the First World War and some of their anti-German rhetoric may have reflected opinions of the time. In his book On the Right Tracks Millen wrote how he believed the English and Swedes were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. The Germans, by contrast, were the descendants of the blood-thirsty Assyrians.

Closeness in the Edwardian era

In contrast to this vehement Germanophobia many members of the expedition had close links to Germany and its royal family before the war.

In June 1903 Robin Duff married Lady Juliet Lowther. Lady Juliet was a favourite of the British royal family. King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria all attended the wedding at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London. The Press Association reported that

‘on the marriage yesterday of Lady Juliet to Mr Robert Duff, Count von Bernstorff, Councillor and First Secretary to the German Embassy, conveyed to the bride the sincere congratulations of His Majesty the German Emperor, and presented her with a bouquet on behalf of the Emperor. The King and Queen, with Princess Victoria, were present at the ceremony at St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London.’

German Crown Prince

In 1910 the German Crown Prince and his wife came to England. They attended the London Horse Show and Lady Juliet spent time with the Crown Prince. Newspaper reports wrote about how she was almost as tall as him, dressed in white with a big, feathered hat and ostrich boa, and stood laughing with him. Four years later the Crown Prince was in command of the German 5th Army which attacked the British in the fields of northern France and Belgium. On the 16th October 1914, Lady Juliet’s husband Robin Duff was killed in action trying to stop the Germans outflanking the British Expeditionary Force and reaching the Channel.

Cyril Foley was similarly close to the German royal family. He was a very keen sportsman and shot regularly including with the German and British royal families. In his autobiography he recounted an incident in which both royal families were shooting at Sandringham. They had hoped to be hunting but there was a hard frost so they had to shoot hares instead. Some of the German party became overcome with enthusiasm and instead of staying in their places pursued the hares. During this period one of them accidentally shot King Edward VII. He received a pellet in the nose before lunch. Foley did say that he could personally vouch ‘for the safe shooting of the German Emperor and the Crown Prince, and, in addition, they both shoot quite well.’ He added ‘The German Emperor, considering that he had to shoot practically with one hand, was quite effective’. Such connections reflect how close European royalty and aristocracy were before the First World War.

Accommodation in Jerusalem

When the expedition arrived in Jerusalem they had the German Crown Prince to thank for their headquarters. They stayed at the Fast Hotel and set up their headquarters in the Augusta Victoria Hospice. The Hospice or to use its German name Stiftung, was built following Kaiser Wilhelm II’s visit a decade before the expedition. During the imperial stay, Wilhelm’s wife, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, said she wanted to leave a lasting legacy on the Mount of Olives. The resulting building looks like a Teutonic medieval fortress, more suited to the Rhine than Jerusalem. It had stunning views across the city and its tower is visible from as far away as Jordan. The Hospice’s architectural design would probably have been of less interest to the expedition members than its electric lighting and plumbing, including European-standard baths and lavatories. These were the first of their kind in Jerusalem.

Augusta Victoria Hospice in Jerusalem

The expedition members returned to the Hospice during the second expedition between 1910 and 1911 and they were staying in it when they bribed their way into the Dome of the Rock. The German deaconesses at the Stiftung had always spoken enthusiastically about their English gentlemen residents. However, they grew suspicious of where the Englishmen were disappearing to, night after night, dressed in local Arabic attire. The Superintendent heard rumours about what they were up to and challenged them that they were digging in the Haram. They falsely denied any such wrongdoing. The records of the Stiftung show that they checked out on the 18th April 1911.

As mentioned earlier the expedition first stayed at the Fast Hotel. This was also a German establishment. The Fast Hotel was located outside the city walls a few minutes walk from the Jaffa Gate. Alexander Howard built the hotel in the 1890s as a high-quality hotel for the increasing number of Europeans who were coming to Jerusalem. He commissioned Theodor Sandel of the German Templer Colony to design his new hotel. Sandel was a well-respected architect and designed many important buildings in the city. He designed a three-storey building, which could accommodate 125 first-class guests. It was built around a courtyard containing a tree-lined garden. According to an advert in a local newspaper, the hotel could provide ‘hot and cold baths ready at all times’. Unfortunately, Howard went out of business at the turn of the century and after a series of owners, in 1907, Alexander Fast & Sons bought the hotel. The Fast family were German Templers, like the architect. The Templers were break-away German Lutherans who wanted to promote the rebuilding of the Temple, to bring about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

For decades the Fast Hotel was one of the best in Jerusalem. It was the place to stay for the great and the good visiting Jerusalem. During the First World War, it hosted senior German officers helping the Ottomans fight the British. Every evening, during the campaign, groups of German officers would meet in the hotel to drink and talk. By 1917 the campaign was going badly and late one evening, a rather drunk, monocled, Prussian officer stood up. He proposed that the German Army should hand over the organization of its campaign to Thomas Cook & Sons.

The hotel continued to play a split role in the run-up to the Second World War. Waldemar Fast, one of the grandsons, ran a travel business out of the hotel in the 1930s. He was an enthusiastic Nazi, having joined the party in 1934. During the 1930s the hotel was a centre of anti-Jewish activity in Jerusalem. At the start of the Second World War Waldemar volunteered to join the SS and served as a spy in the SD. He managed German agents across the Middle East, including Palestine. He was interrogated by the British at the end of the war and listed his occupation as Hotel Proprietor. Following these interrogations, he was not charged with any war crimes.

The Fast Hotel in 1910

The connections to Kenya

The Hon. Cyril Augustus Ward

The connections of the Parker expedition to Kenya centre on Cyril Augustus Ward. He was a member of the expedition party in 1909.

He was also a gambler and a gambler and a poor one; by 1914 he was between £15,000 and £16,000 in debt. This amount is the equivalent of £1.7 million in 2021. It was an extraordinary achievement to have built up such a level of debt given his family situation. His father was extremely wealthy and Cyril Ward reputedly received £100,000 in the will. However, Ward found many occasions to lose money. In 1914, he lost £825 playing the card game chemin-de-fer. Fortunately his wife, formerly Baroness Irene, came from a wealthy background and reputedly had an income of £5,000 a year herself. She paid off his debts and took control of his income. Ward assigned all his future earnings to his wife and she gave him an allowance of £500 a year.

After the First World War he returned to his losing ways. Ward had to file for bankruptcy and appeared at the London Bankruptcy Court in November 1923. He had assets of £57 and debts of £3,367. Ward informed the court his debts were due to ‘losses by gambling and speculations on the Stock Exchange and to having lived beyond his means.’ Ward added that he was without funds as his wife had stopped his allowance and he was living on the charity of his brother-in-law. It was a humiliating downfall for the brother of a wealthy earl. Soon after he left for Africa and settled in Kenya. He lived the classic expatriate lifestyle there. Ward joined the Rift Valley Sports Club, was a well-known golfer at Njoro and was one of the first regular customers of the Kenya Brewery.

A document from the Rift Valley Sports Club records the following mundane interactions:

13 Apr 1928 – ‘On this day we the undersigned took the liberty of taking a table from the dining room to the verandah for our lunch. We found this to be most comfortable cool and quiet. We realise that this is not possible every day owing to climatic conditions but we do urge that when possible a certain number of tables should be provided on the verandah for lunch or any other meals which may be suitable. The accoustics in the dining room are so bad that it is a great relief to be able to have meals in quietude.’ [signed by Cyril A. Ward, V.F.C. Peto, R.S. Muttlebury & unknown]’

17 Mar 1928 – ‘This morning I tried to get on by telephone to the Club for half an hour with no result. I suggest that either the telephone be moved or an extension bell be fitted to where it can be heard.’ [supported by C.B.P. Fitzgerald & D.C. Venning]

Cyril Ward died on 11 Jan 1930 in Nakuru in Kenya.

 

The connections to the Netherlands

Two Dutch Baronesses

Baroness Irene

There were very limited connections of the Parker expedition to the Netherlands. The main one was a link to Cyril Augustus Ward

Cyril Augustus Ward in Jerusalem

Cyril Augustus Ward was the fifth son of the 1st Earl of Morley. He served as an officer in the Royal Navy and in April 1904 he married Baroness Irene de Brienen. She was the daughter of a wealthy Dutch aristocrat, Baron Arnoud Nicolaas Justinus van Brienen. Irene was born in the magnificent manor house of Huys Clingendael in Wassenaar a suburb of the Hague on 5 November 1883. Irene had one sister Marguerite who was generally known as  Daisy.

Marriage Certificate

Irene’s marriage to Cyril Ward was a difficult one. He was a gambler and a poor one; by 1914 he was between £15,000 and £16,000 in debt. This amount is the equivalent of £1.7 million in 2021. It was an extraordinary achievement to have built up such a level of debt given his family situation. His father was extremely wealthy and Cyril Ward reputedly received £100,000 in the will. However, Ward found many occasions to lose money. In 1914, he lost £825 playing the card game chemin-de-fer. Fortunately his wife, formerly Baroness Irene, came from a wealthy background and reputedly had an income of £5,000 a year herself. She paid off his debts and took control of his income. Ward assigned all his future earnings to his wife and she gave him an allowance of £500 a year.

After the First World War he returned to his losing ways. Ward had to file for bankruptcy and appeared at the London Bankruptcy Court in November 1923. He had assets of £57 and debts of £3,367. Ward informed the court his debts were due to ‘losses by gambling and speculations on the Stock Exchange and to having lived beyond his means.’ Ward added that he was without funds as his wife had stopped his allowance and he was living on the charity of his brother-in-law. It was a humiliating downfall for the brother of a wealthy earl. Soon after he left for Africa and settled in Kenya where he died in 1930.

In 1934 Baroness Irene remarried another naval officer, but a slightly more senior one; Vice-Admiral Hon. Arthur Charles Strutt. They did not have any children. Baroness Irene lived an extremely long life. She was born on 5 November 1883 and died on 21 April 1974.

Baroness Daisy

Baroness Irene’s father did not have any sons and bequeathed the manor house and estate to whichever of his daughters did not marry.  This was Irene’s sister Daisy and she laid out beautiful Japanese gardens on the estate.

Daisy spent a great deal of time in England and, perhaps, helped by her sister’s connections mixed in high society. She was friends with Lady Sackville-West and her daughter Vita and Alice Keppel, the former mistress of King Edward VII. During the First World War she did a great deal to help British soldiers who were interned in the Netherlands, which was neutral. She opened her estate and housed many wounded British soldiers there.

Unfortunately through these friendships and actions she became caught up in a bizarre libel case in 1918 in the United Kingdom. A right-wing English MP named Noel Pemberton-Billing was sued for criminal libel in a complicated case involving the dancer Maud Allan, homosexuality and the Germans blackmailing what Pemberton-Billing described as ‘47,000 highly placed British perverts’. In her evidence in the case Maud Allan was asked whether she mixed in the highest social circles and she said that she had danced for the King and Queen at Lord and Lady Dudley’s. This would actually be the Earl of Dudley, Cyril Ward’s elder brother and Baroness van Brienen’s brother-in-law.

The evidence later went on to hear claims that Alice Keppel was in the Netherlands during the war acting as a go-between with the Germans and that in the Netherlands she met ‘a certain Baroness’. This is assumed to be Daisy van Brienen. The entire case is a truly bizarre one.

Maud Allan performing Salome

 

The connections to Monaco

Gambling and private yachts

There are a couple of connections. One of the expedition members was a regular visitor to and gambler at Mont Carlo and the expedition also used Monet Carlo as a departure place to sail for Jaffa.

Cyril Foley

Cyril Foley was not as well off as many of the other members of the expedition. One way he supported himself was gambling. Foley would go to Monte Carlo almost every year, both for the social scene and to gamble. He was the rarest of gamblers: a successful one. Each year Foley would bring £200 as capital and for several years multiplied this by ten. He made over £11,000 in the years before the First World War. This amount is worth around £1.3 million in 2021. Foley was a very disciplined gambler. He said he looked on the casino as a mechanical and sinister monster over which he had one advantage, that he could refuse to play with it at any time. Foley possessed the rare strength of will to stop when winning. Foley observed others who did not have the same discipline as he did. He wrote about Gordon Bennett, the Editor of the New York Herald. Bennett had the habit of getting drunk every year on the occasion of a big dinner party that Bennett gave at the Hotel de Paris. Foley says he and a friend watched over him like Good Samaritans. Bennett was playing roulette and won. He picked up his winnings and promptly threw it all in the air. Bennett intended to put the winnings on random numbers on the board. Some did fall on the board, but much fell in other gamblers’ laps or on the floor.

Cyril Foley at a house party with Queen Mary

Other times, when Bennett would pick up coins to play, he would drop coins on the floor. Foley said that there were women who quickly congregated like vultures around such individuals. They would have sticky substances on the bottom of their shoes. ‘One stamp, off to the lady’s cloakroom, louis (coin) removed, sticky substance renewed, and back again… The vultures gathered around him and reaped a tremendous harvest. At one time there was a sort of step-dance going on behind him, and the procession to the cloakroom became a queue.’

Cyril Foley’s yacht

In late September 1911, the expedition left England to return to Jerusalem. They had left Palestine in the aftermath of the Haram al-Sharif incident and the upheaval that that sparked.

Parker, Clarence Wilson, von Bourg and Uotila all set off. The party included a new engineer called Griffin and four foremen to supervise work. The group travelled overland from London to Monte Carlo and then took Wilson’s new yacht bound for Jaffa. Since they had last travelled across the Mediterranean Wilson had sold the Water Lily and bought a larger, 338-ton steam yacht called the Dorothy. It was on this that the party headed back to Jaffa.

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The connections to the UK

Floreat Etona

The connections to the UK were very strong.  The bulk of the expedition party came from the United Kingdom, the syndicate was formed in London and the company which was later set up to manage the expedition was also founded in London.

The expedition members from the UK were born into families with wealth and status at the centre of the British upper classes. Most had also been educated at Eton College. Eton College was the most prestigious. King Henry VI founded the College in the 15th century. His goal for the College was to educate poor children around Windsor Castle, the king’s principal residence. However, over the years, the College changed its role. Its purpose became, and in no small degree still is, to create the next generation of English gentlemen. At the College they learned this role and to rule their estates and the Empire. A contemporary of Parker’s at Eton wrote:

‘Etonians imbibe a certain sense of the effortless superiority which haunts every imperial race. To be an Etonian seems better than to become great or successful. Boys are lulled into a sense of unassailable primacy which they extend later to the Empire.”

The network of connections the boys made while they there were at Eton was paramount to their futures. They formed many of these connections through the various sports they played. Many at the College reserved the greatest passion and effort for sport. These included cricket, football, rowing and the sport peculiar to Eton, the Wall Game. The formative experience for young English gentlemen who attended Eton is neatly summed up in the words of sixth stanza of the school song, the Eton Boating Song:

‘Harrow may be more clever, Rugby may make more row,
But we’ll row forever, Steady from stroke to bow,
And nothing in life shall sever, the chain that is round us now,
And nothing in life shall sever, the chain that is round us now”

Eton School Uniform in the late 19th Century

Four of the initial members of the expedition attended Eton. Besides Montagu Parker, there was Cyril Foley, Clarence Wilson and Robin Duff. They were all upper-class young men. One other common factor was they were mostly younger sons, not necessarily destined to inherit their father’s titles. Montagu Parker was the second son of an earl. Cyril Foley was the second son of a general and the grandson of a baron. Clarence Wilson was the third son of a rich, knighted member of parliament. For such men, not meant to inherit their family estate and title, the question was what they did with their lives. Robin Duff was an exception, as he was a first son.

Several of the Englishmen who took part in the Parker expedition joined elite military units after Eton. these included the Grenadier Guards, the Horse Guards and the Life Guards. Several of them served in South Africa during the Second Boer War. In the years before the expedition the army careers of many of the individuals were petering out and they needed something else to do.  The expedition provided a perfect opportunity.

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The connections to Turkey

The mapping tool has current countries and not those that existed just over a century ago. So the title is somewhat misleading as Turkey did not exist as a country at the time of the expedition and so the connections of the expedition were really with the Ottoman Empire which was ruled from Constantinople, the modern-day Istanbul. The expedition to Jerusalem was to a city which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. However, this post will focus on the connections to the Ottoman Imperial government. The connections to Jerusalem and other parts of what was Palestine will be dealt with in a separate post about connections to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The Sublime Porte

In November 1908 the syndicate sent a small party to Jerusalem to explore Juvelius’ cyphers. The three individuals in the party were Parker, Hoppenrath and Juvelius. After they left Jerusalem Parker went to Constantinople. He installed himself in the best hotel in the city, the Pera Palace Hotel. The hotel was built at the end of the 19th century for passengers arriving on the recently completed Orient Express. It was the first hotel in the city to have electricity, running water in all rooms and an electric lift. Years later, Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express there. When he arrived, Parker sent a letter to Ziya Pasha, the Ottoman finance minister, saying that, following long research, he believed he had found a ‘very important treasure within the Ottoman Empire’. He wrote in French as this was the language of diplomacy at the time. Parker unashamedly used all devices to get the Ottoman authorities to take his approach seriously. He used his military rank and position and signed the letter as the Honourable Captain Parker of the Grenadier Guards. He also played up his British establishment connections. His father had been a government minister and his elder brother was a member of the House of Lords.

Constantinople

1908 was a challenging time to negotiate an agreement with the Ottoman authorities as it was a time of great upheaval in the Empire. A hereditary dynasty of sultans had run the Empire for centuries. The sultan was Abdul Hamid II, who had ruled since 1876. During his reign, the Ottoman Empire had contracted and had lost significant amounts of territory. The Ottoman government struggled with the level of national debt and there was great unrest about the resulting level of taxation. There was also a sense that the Ottoman Empire was slipping further behind Europe. The discontent prompted challenges to the centuries-old system of rule. The Young Turk revolution broke out, led by elements in the military. In the summer of 1908, they forced the sultan to give up absolute power and become a constitutional monarch. The sultan reinstated the 1876 constitution and Parliament. None of this upheaval stopped Parker. He was successful in his negotiations with the authorities in Constantinople. On the 26th November 1908 he signed two agreements with the Ottoman Imperial government. Ziya Pasha, the finance minister, signed on behalf of the Ottoman government and Parker signed the contracts as a resident of the Turf Club, Clarges Street, London.

The two contracts Parker signed were in Turkish and French, the latter still the international language of diplomacy. The first contract dealt with the purchase of the land for the excavations. The syndicate would pay the Ottoman government to purchase or expropriate the land required. They would have exclusive use of the land for the period of the excavations and then hand it back at the end. The second contract had twelve key clauses detailing the close collaboration between the expedition and the Ottoman authorities. All the costs of the excavations would be paid by the syndicate. The Ottoman authorities would provide ‘the military force necessary’ for Parker’s and his workers’ safety, the cost of which would be met by the syndicate. The Jerusalem governor was also required to ‘help facilitate through all means the task of the Hon. M. Parker’. The contract specified the Imperial Ottoman government and syndicate would split the fruits of the excavations.

The contract also provided that the Ottoman Imperial government could appoint two commissioners to oversee the work. the two commissioners appointed were Abdulaziz Mecdi Efendi and Habip Bey. They were both members of the Ottoman Parliament and were happy to accept the generous salary and easy life.

Because of the Ottoman regime’s instability, Parker had to negotiate with a succession of prime ministers and ministers in Constantinople. He secured unprecedented cooperation from the Ottoman Empire, probably helped by some generous bribery. Parker had to negotiate annual extensions to the contract. The last one allowed them to dig in 1911.

Djavid Bey

After the 1911 Haram al-Sharif incident the Ottoman Imperial government instituted a major inquiry into what had happened and this reported to the Ottoman Parliament. The ministers of war, interior and justice jointly agreed to set up just such an inquiry. They appointed a high-level group from around the Empire. It began its work on 30th April. Officials went to Jerusalem to interview all concerned and establish the facts of what had happened. A week later, on the 8th May, the Ottoman Parliament held an emergency debate on the Haram al-Sharif incident. Two notables, who were the representatives from Jerusalem, attacked both the Jerusalem governor and the Imperial Ottoman authorities. Ruhi al-Khalidi made a harsh, at times sarcastic speech. He said that the issue was a mysterious one which started like a tale from One Thousand and One Nights or Alexander Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo.

At the same time as the inquiry was going on Parker was in Constantinople negotiating that the expedition could return to Jerusalem to resume their work. The Ottoman government agreed to this.

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The connections to Papua New Guinea

The Colonial Administrator

Picture of Tree Houses in Papua New Guinea

The syndicate which was set up to go and find the Ark of the Covenant was entitled the J.M.P.V.F. Syndicate. The F in the name denotes George Seymour Fort. He had worked throughout the British Empire including in New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Africa. He made his money in mining in Southern Africa and also later wrote an autobiography. In it, he described his time in Papua New Guinea:

‘One day I would be Clerk of the Court to a trial of white men, on another in charge of a landing party to prevent inter-tribal fighting, on another I might be racing up an unknown river to stop a cannibal feast.’

Seymour Fort had a 15% stare of the syndicate and was an influential member of the syndicate. He was also a shareholder and director of the company which the expedition set up in 1911 to take over the expedition.

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