Geography

The connections to the United States

The famous and the no-so famous

There are many connections of the Parker expedition. The expedition was reported in US newspapers more than anywhere else and certainly the largest and most sensational reports were those which appeared in American newspapers. The coverage started as early as 1909 but was at its height after the Haram al-Sharif incident in April 1911.

The New York Times was one of the first US newspapers to cover the incident and its aftermath. On 4th May 1911, the paper carried a report headlined ‘Fears Diggers Took Ark of Covenant’. Three days later, they ran a double-page spread headlined ‘Have Englishmen Found the Ark of the Covenant?’ and a sub-heading of:

‘A Mysterious Expedition, Apparently Not Composed of Archaeologists, Hunts Strange Treasure Under the Mosque of Omar, Sets the Moslems in a Ferment, and May Cause Diplomatic Incident’

Many of the American newspapers that covered the story the most heavily were part of the so-called yellow press. They would carry stories under large, lurid or sensational headlines and would often incorporate graphics and images. Often, they were less interested in the truth of the story than telling an exciting one. They would often include fake interviews or information within their reports. Another innovation which they pioneered were large Sunday supplements. The best-known proprietor of such papers was William Randolph Hearst. He was one of the most significant newspaper owners of the 20th century and the inspiration for the film Citizen Kane. The Parker expedition was precisely the sort of story that Hearst’s newspapers thrived on. His first newspaper was the San Francisco Examiner. On Sunday, 28th May 1911, the Examiner included a full page about the expedition.

One of the issues with much of the coverage being in the yellow press is that much of what they reported was simple invention or exaggeration. One newspaper said that, when discovered, the robbers ‘loaded a vast amount of objects they had recovered on an armored train which was in waiting on the railroad outside Jerusalem’.

There was also a wonderfully inventive account of Ava Astor’s supposed conversation with Montagu Parker. The article suggested that if Parker found the Ark, she might agree to marry him. It quoted her as saying, ‘Well bring back the Ark and I will—talk to you again.” The yellow press were well known for inventing quotes as so this is most likely some fantastically inventive journalism. Having said that Ava Astor and Montagu Parker did know each other. She spent much time in England and he was a frequent visitor to America. Ava’s first husband was John Jacob Astor, commonly known as Jack. He was part of the immensely wealthy Astor family whose fortune was built on real estate in New York. Jack and Ava married in 1891 but after thirteen years together, their marriage was foundering. Ava spent a great deal of time in England with a country estate at Sutton Place in Surrey and a townhouse in Grosvenor Square. Jack and Ava separated and divorced in 1909. Her divorce settlement of $10 million from her husband would be worth $300m today. Ava Astor was not merely rich but was one of the most beautiful women of her age.

The Times Dispatch Nov 1912

Many newspaper reports described Parker as a favourite of hers. The American newspapers were much less circumspect than the English ones of the time and, following her separation, regularly wrote about her suitors. One article in the Oakland Tribune said of Parker:

‘His attentions during the recent visit of Mrs Astor were indefatigable, while in his company the beautiful American seemed to lose that wearied look she continually wears, and occasionally smiled, something she rarely does.

Many newspaper reports claimed that the Armour Family of Chicago, who made their fortune in meat packing, and Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough, were investors in the expedition. Once again these stories probably started with more than a grain of truth. Parker knew and socialised with Consuelo Vanderbilt. In 1908 shortly before the expedition Consuelo travelled back from England to New York on the Cunard liner Lucania. Newspaper reports describe how Parker accompanied her as a member of her party.

The trouble with all these stories is that there is no evidence in the records of the expedition to back them up. Neither the Armour family nor Consuelo Vanderbilt are recorded as investors in the expedition. One of the expedition members later wrote about an encounter with a rich American who wanted to invest:

‘Never shall I forget the face of a noted American financier when he came to the Ritz one morning with an open cheque book, and having intimated that he wished to be in the show, was politely told that his money was not required. He had to have two cocktails before he could believe it, and even then it broke him up completely.’

The records of the expedition do show that there were two American residents who were shareholders in the expedition. They were two Finnish nationals who had emigrated to Calumet Michigan. They in fact played key roles in getting the expedition off the ground. Their names were Arne Basilier and Uno Montin and they were related. Arne Basilier had emigrated to Calumet from Finland. On a trip home to Finland in 1907 he met a Finnish biblical scholar for lunch at the elegant restaurant of the Hotel Kämp in Helsinki. Dr Valter Juvelius told Arne about his research and how he had uncovered secret cyphers in the Old Testament which showed where the Ark was hidden. However, the scholar needed investors to be able to pursue the project. Arne said that his stepfather, who was a businessman, had connections and would be a good person to raise the money. That individual was Johan Millen and he went to England and there met Montagu Parker and the rest, as they say, is history.

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The connections to Finland

Biblical scholars and poets

Finland played a pivotal role in the Parker expedition from the start with Valter Juvelius to the less well known role of Pertti Uotila.

Valter Juvelius

Valter Henrik Juvelius was Finnish. He was born in 1865 in Pyhäjoki on the Baltic coast of northern Finland. After finishing school, Juvelius took up his father’s profession and worked as a surveyor for many years. A few years before the expedition he gave this up and studied for a doctorate at the Finnish Imperial University. While studying for his doctorate, Juvelius became interested in kabbalist ideas that there were hidden messages within the Old Testament text. His thesis was not directly about the existence of the cypher but it was closely related. It covered the time of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the exile in Babylon. It was during this period that he said he discovered the hidden cyphers. Juvelius submitted his thesis in 1907 and, after completing his doctorate, became the head of a Workers Education College.

Juvelius’ other great passion was poetry and the Finnish language. He wrote poetry in Finnish. His most famous poem Karjalan Kunnailla (‘O Hills of Karelia’) is still well known in his home country. He also translated many foreign poets and authors into Finnish including Goethe, Burns and Byron. At the start of the 20th century he lived in Viipuri. The town is close to Saint Petersburg, is now known as Vyborg, and has become part of the Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation.

Juvelius said that during his studies he discovered the secret cyphers in the Old Testament. The cypher or, more accurately, the cyphers that Juvelius claimed to have discovered were based on the number seven. This number is highly significant in the Bible, as it is considered a holy number, reflecting perfection. He documented cyphers in the book of Ezekiel, the book of Deuteronomy, the book of Leviticus and finally the Wisdom of Sirach.

The cyphers only work in the language the text was first written in. Hence the emphasis that it was from an old unvowelled version of the books of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Biblical Hebrew is different from the Hebrew in general usage today. One of the critical differences to modern Hebrew is that the alphabet only has 22 letters. It does not contain any vowels. These have to be inferred or vocalised from the text and context of the word. It is not certain where Juvelius found his unvowelled Bible. An expedition member told Rudyard Kipling that Juvelius found the cypher in a document in Saint Petersburg. As we know, Juvelius lived within the Russian Empire and Saint Petersburg is less than 100 miles from his home. The Saint Petersburg Imperial Library contained two of the oldest Hebrew Bible manuscripts in the world: the Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus and the Leningrad Codex. Both contain the book of Ezekiel.

In late 1907 Juvelius finished documenting the cyphers.  The hidden cyphers were a series of cryptic statements which Juvelius interpreted to say where he believed the Ark was hidden. He concluded his findings by saying,

‘To find the Jews’ temple archives would be an enormous gain for science (and) it might be worth while to fit out an expedition to find the archive.’

The question for Juvelius was how to achieve this. He could not fund the expedition himself and he had no contacts in Constantinople. While he was trying to work out what to do he met an old friend in Helsinki. Pertti Uotila was fifteen years younger than Juvelius. Their families were friends and Juvelius had known Uotila since the younger man was a child. Uotila’s father was a landowner, lawyer and professor at Helsinki University. He was also a poet and translator. Pertti was his eldest son and was born in 1880. Despite the age gap, Uotila and Juvelius became good friends. They shared a common interest in the Finnish language. Pertti Uotila was a poet, like both his father and Juvelius. He also worked as a journalist.

The two friends met for a meal in the elegant restaurant of the Hotel Kämp in Helsinki. Uotila brought along a friend of his, Arne Basilier. He was Finnish but had been working as a chemist in America. Over the meal, Juvelius told them about his discoveries. Uotila was interested in helping his friend secure funding to test his theories. Basilier told Juvelius he knew someone who could help. He suggested involving his stepfather, Johan Millen. So started the process which led to the Parker expedition.

Pertti Uotila

Pertti Uotila was known by different names during his life, including Bertil Oskar Lemmitty Favén, Pertti Faven, Bertil Faven and Oskar Nevanlinna. As well as helping to introduce Juvelius to Millen, Uotila was a participant and investor in the project. As a young man, Uotila was a socialist, and in 1905 he helped translate the hymn of the left, the Internationale, into Finnish. Pertti’s younger brother was Antti Favén a painter who had studied in France and became a well-known Finnish impressionist artist.

Uotila accompanied Juvelius on the expedition to Jerusalem and ended up spending much more time than his friend in the city. Juvelius had to leave Jerusalem at the end of 1909 and he was now restricted to a remote role. Pertti Uotila agreed to stay in Jerusalem to represent him. He stayed there till the end of the expedition.

When he left for Jerusalem, he had recently sold his family estate, including agricultural land and forests. He had capital and invested some of this in the exploration company. When he finally returned home he was close to bankruptcy and divorced. Soon after, he too joined up to fight in the First World War. As Finland was part of the Russian Empire, he became an officer in the Russian Imperial Cavalry. He 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. After the Finnish Civil War, Uotila fought against Bolshevik Russia for several more years in the so-called Tribal Wars.

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The connections to Switzerland

A Psychic and a Winter Holiday

The Foxwell psychic

Most of the accounts of the Parker expedition focus on the work of Juvelius in directing the work towards the supposed hiding place of the Ark. However, they were wary of being solely reliant on Juvelius, so Parker recruited a ‘thought-reader’ to travel to Jerusalem in the party. His name was Otto von Bourg, also known as Stauffiger and Stassieger. Otto von Bourg was born around 1873 in Wiedlisbach, near Berne in Switzerland. He said that, as a child, he had a vision that allowed a village near where he was born to find two buried silver church bells. These had supposedly been hidden during the French Revolutionary wars decades before. In his vision, von Bourg identified their hiding place and guided the authorities to the bells.

Von Bourg moved to England at the end of the 19th century to train as an accountant. He swapped from the mundane and set up as a clairvoyant and psychic in London. He made his reputation in the 1901 case of a missing stockbroker. Percy Foxwell had gone missing on the way home to Thames Ditton, having telegraphed his wife, saying he would not be back for dinner. The stockbroker then seemed to vanish without a trace. In a seance which von Bourg held with Foxwell’s wife, a Maori spirit helped guide von Bourg to a small stream about a mile from the house, leading to the Thames, with grass banks and a drooping tree overhanging where the body was.  The case made his reputation and he traded on it for the rest of his career. Arthur Conan Doyle who was a firm believer in spiritualism spoke very positively about von Bourg.

Advert by Von Bourg

Von Bourg spent considerably more time in Jerusalem than Juvelius and was there when they dug in the Dome of the Rock. One syndicated report of the incident, whose authors must have spoken to von Bourg, downplayed the cypher’s value and said it was the Swiss psychic who led the expedition to the hidden treasures under the Mosque of Omar.

It said that t was the crystal that ‘Mr Van (sic) Bourg had “revealed” to Parker the whereabouts of the hidden treasures of King Solomon and the presence near Jerusalem of a quantity of sacred articles buried by other ancient Jewish kings, to which a vague clue had been given by a certain cipher which was supposed to indicate the right place to dig.’

A Winter Holiday

In 1912, two expedition members Robin Duff and Cyril Foley took a winter holiday to Engelberg in the Swiss Alps with a friend Jimmy Lumsden, where they met Rudyard Kipling. Cyril Foley says that he ‘might almost say that he (Kipling) was a friend of mine’. He wrote an account of the discussions they had. The three friends were in the middle of a discussion about winning the international bobsleigh race when Kipling came up to them to ask a question.

He rushed up to Duff and said he had a question for him as he was a cavalry officer. Kipling said he was writing about a cavalry advance and wanted to know what order the officer would give to speed up in the circumstances. Duff answered and Kipling ‘By God, that’s it’ and rushed off.

Kipling later wrote to a friend about his discussions with ‘a big sleepy man in the Guards who had been on that mad treasure hunt for King Solomon’s treasures in Jerusalem’. As we know that he met Duff at this time who was a tall man and in the Life Guards this must be Robin Duff. He recounted Duff’s explanations of their work in the Pool of Siloam and the cyphers and explained why Juvelius had had to leave Jerusalem. he did not mention malaria but instead said that Juvelius got into trouble with the Ottoman authorities because of his behaviour with local women. ‘Hence trouble with the Turkish authorities and the final elimination of Jurisius (sic)’

Rudyard Kipling

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The connections to Egypt

A transit place that drove some mad

Egypt was a stopping point for the expedition on many of their journeys across the Mediterranean.

On the first expedition the group travelled by train across France and took the P&O steamer India from Marseilles to Port Said, Egypt. They arrived there on the 27th July 1909. In Port Said, Juvelius and the Pearson civil engineer, Walsh, joined them. The larger party transferred to the Water Lily, Wilson’s steam yacht. Clarence Wilson had bought the yacht earlier in the year and refitted her for the Mediterranean trip. Two days later, the party sailed up the coast to Jaffa.

In autumn 1911 five months after the Haram al-Sharif incident the expedition tried to return to Jerusalem. When the Dorothy arrived in Jaffa, Parker found the Ottoman authorities in turmoil. As a result, they had appointed no inspectors, still less been ready to send them to Jerusalem. News of the expedition’s return quickly reached Jerusalem and created a stir. The new Governor, Cevdet Bey, reported the disquiet to Constantinople and the party were expelled. They were forced to sail to Egypt.

Wilson, von Bourg, Uotila, Griffin and the gangers were in Egypt. Wilson stayed at Shepheard’s Hotel, the best hotel in Cairo. They were stuck there for months and it was there that Clarence Wilson went mad and had to be brought back to England.

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The connections to India

A sick leave and an investigation

There are a couple of connections of the Parker expedition to India.

Montagu Parker

In 1906 Montagu Parker was serving with the Grenadier Guards but all was not well. He was suffering because of his service in the Boer War. In 1906 he took sick leave from the army. He was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia due to ‘exposure and the hardships of active service during the South African campaign’.84 His symptoms included insomnia, fevers and digestive problems. Neurasthenia was a recognised condition in the British armed forces from the late 19th century until the end of the First World War. During this period, the British army also used the term shell shock to describe the same symptoms. However, shell shock was diagnosed in other ranks, and neurasthenia was generally diagnosed only for officers. Today we would say that Parker had post-traumatic stress disorder. The remedy which the doctors agreed on was that he should take an extended leave from England and spend this ‘in the East or on a long sea voyage.’ Parker did this and circumnavigated the world, spending a good amount of time in India.  He spent time in Simla.

Headline in San Francisco Chronicle from Sep 1907

All-India Sufi Conference

Following the Haram al-Sharif incident in 1911 there was a great deal of anger against the expedition.  On the 26th August 1911, Sir Gerard Lowther (the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire) wrote to the Foreign Secretary in London about the trials in Beirut resulting from the Haram incident. He also reported that the consul in Beirut had received a visit from the Secretary of the influential All-India Sufi Conference. The conference had delegated the Secretary to travel from India to Jerusalem to investigate the alleged theft of ‘ancient moslem relics’.

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The connections to Ireland

In the 19th century Ireland was not separated politically. It was a single country ruled from London. The major Irish connection is with a part of Ireland which is still part of the United Kingdom. So the map does not reflect this and refers to the Republic of Ireland.

An Irish emigrant and an aide to the viceroy

Samuel Wilson

Samuel Wilson, was born in County Antrim in Ireland. He was the sixth son of a farmer. In 1838, when criminals were still being transported, two of Samuel’s elder brothers emigrated to Australia. The brothers had read about the healthy climate and opportunities in the new colony for settlers with capital. Despite stiff opposition from their parents, the brothers sailed to Australia. A third brother joined them a few years later and together they bought a farm north of Melbourne. Their decision to leave Ireland was probably a good one. In the 1840s, Ireland suffered its worst-ever natural disaster, the Great Famine. Around one million people died of starvation and associated diseases during this period and another one million emigrated from Ireland.

Samuel Wilson was still a child at this point but when he was 22 he sailed to Australia at the height of the Australian gold rush. He made a fortune in Australia through sheep farming. In 1874 his annual income was estimated as almost £100,000 and came back to the northern hemisphere a very wealthy man. In 1881 he contested the Londonderry county as a Conservative candidate. He was unsuccessful but was later elected an M.P. for Portsmouth.

Cyril Augustus Ward

Cyril was born in 1876, the fifth son of the 1st Earl of Dudley. His elder brother became the 2nd Earl of Dudley on his father’s death. He became a Conservative politician and served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1902. He makes a small appearance in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

2nd Earl of Dudley

Cyril Ward served as an aide to his brother during his time in Ireland.

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The connections to Australia

One of the richest families in Australia

The Wilson family was the largest source of funds for the Parker expedition. By the end of the expedition they had invested over 40% of the capital invested in the venture. This money came from a fortune made in sheep farming in Australia.

Samuel Wilson, was born in County Antrim in Ireland. He was the sixth son of a farmer. In 1838, when criminals were still being transported, two of Samuel’s elder brothers emigrated to Australia. The brothers had read about the healthy climate and opportunities in the new colony for settlers with capital. Despite stiff opposition from their parents, the brothers sailed to Australia. A third brother joined them a few years later and together they bought a farm north of Melbourne. Samuel Wilson was still a child at this point but when he was 22 he sailed to Australia at the height of the Australian gold rush. He initially worked on the goldfields around Ballarat but soon joined his brothers in farming. They prospered and by 1874 Samuel Wilson farmed almost 3 million acres of land, owned about 600,000 sheep and had built a fortune. In 1875 he bought Ercildoune farmstead near Ballarat and made it into one of the most important and (now) historic farmsteads in Victoria. He also owned the Yanko farms in New South Wales.

He had four sons who were all born in Victoria Australia: Gordon, Wilfred, Herbert and Clarence. He also had several daughters, two of whom survived to adulthood.

Samuel was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1875 and a few years later brought his family back to the northern hemisphere to England. He rented Hughenden Manor, once the home of Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria’s favourite prime minister and sent all four sons to Eton.

Gordon made his name at Eton where he helped stop an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria. He later joined the army and married Lady Sarah Spencer-Churchill the youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. One of her brothers was Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of Winston Churchill. It was not just the sons who married well. Clarence’s sister Maud married the 15th Earl of Huntingdon who claimed descent from Robin Hood.

All four sons volunteered for service in South Africa during the Second Boer War. Gordon served with Colonel Baden-Powell at the siege of Mafeking. Lady Sarah remained with him for much of the siege.

Clarence was wounded twice in early 1900. The second time so severely that he was invalided back from South Africa. In February 1901 his brother Wilfred was mortally wounded in an attack on Boer positions at Hartebeestfontein in the Transvaal. There is a stained glass window in memory of him in All Saints Church in Learmonth in Victoria paid for by his brothers. Herbert Wilson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry.

All brothers were accomplished horsemen. Herbert, or Bertie as he was commonly known, was considered to be one of the finest polo players of his age. He was a member of the team which won a gold medal in polo at the 1908 Olympics in London.

Clarence Wilson was a part of the expedition throughout and the singest biggest investor in the expedition. He also provided the transport for the expedition to get to and from Palestine. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the expedition used two of his steam yachts, the Water Lily and the Dorothy. He persuaded his brother Gordon to join him in Jerusalem from late 1910 to April 1911.

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The connections to Denmark

The businessman and the widow

There were two connections of Denmark to the Parker expedition.

Johan Millen

The first was Johan Millen who was a key mover in the expedition. Although he was a Swedish national he was described as a resident of Denmark in all of the formal documents which set up the syndicate. Johan Millen was the stepfather of Arne Basilier who met Valter Juvelius for lunch in Helsinki. Arne suggested that his father had connections and could help raise finance for the expedition. Millen met with Juvelius and later wrote that Juvelius’ presentation of his work to him ‘was so factual, clear and compelling that he did not for a moment doubt it’. There were many motivations that drove individuals to join the Parker expedition. For Millen, the first person to help Juvelius, the inspiration was his devout Christian faith. Millen wanted to prove the doubters of the Bible wrong. He believed that finding the Ark would do that.

Millen had explored several other routes to secure funding in England before he met Parker. He approached the Duke of Norfolk for investment. He had also tried to get financing from British newspapers. He approached a well-known writer and journalist called William Le Queux. He approached Sir C. Arthur Pearson the owner of the Standard newspaper who agreed to provide funding for the expedition. However, in the meantime Millen secured funding through the syndicate and withdrew his offer to Le Queux. It was not a complete waste of time for Le Queux, he decided the idea would make a great book. He later published the book as a Daily Mail sixpenny novel in Britain entitled The Treasure of Israel. In America it was entitled The Great God Gold. Many of the detail in the book were borrowed from Juvelius’ proposal.

Olga Andersson

The second was a shareholder in the company which the expedition set up in 1911. Her name was Olga Andersson and she was listed on the share register as a widow living at 4 Herluf Trolles Gade in Copenhagen. She was a very small shareholder with only 25 shares in J.M.P.F.W Ltd. Given the nature of the shareholders in the company it is highly likely that she was a friend or relative of one of the members. This is most likely to be Johan Millen, however, this cannot be certain.

Note: In most documents Olga is described as a widow but in some as a spinster.

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The connections to Italy

Gun-running in the Italo-Turkish War

On the 26th September 1911, the Italian government sent an ultimatum to the Ottoman government, demanding they hand over Libya. The Austrians persuaded the Ottomans to offer the Italians essentially the same arrangement as Britain enjoyed in Egypt but Italy refused to accept the offer. Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire and an invasion fleet headed to North Africa.

At the very same time the Parker expedition was sailing across the Mediterranean on Clarence Wilson’s yacht The Dorothy to try and return to Jerusalem. They may well have seen the Italian fleet heading for North Africa.

The expedition was stopped at Jaffa and could not return to Jerusalem so they headed to Egypt while they tried to negotiate their return.

The Italians had quickly captured Tripoli but were having difficulty extending their control beyond the principal cities and a narrow coastal strip. The Ottoman forces increasingly fought a guerrilla war against the Italians. Britain was officially neutral and would not let arms be transmitted from Egypt to neighbouring Ottoman forces. However, this did not stop weapons and soldiers from getting across by land and sea.

Italian infantry entrenched near Tripoli

The Italians tried to stop this smuggling at sea, and they captured several ships bringing weapons. Parker, bored with waiting in Egypt, borrowed Wilson’s yacht. The Dorothy sailed into the war zone on the Tripoli coastline, proudly flying the Royal Yacht Squadron flag. Parker passed through the Italian naval vessels without challenge. He did not restrict himself to just cruising along the coastline to observe any action. Parker took part in running guns to the Ottoman forces using the perfect cover. In the following months, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire wrote several communique to the Foreign Office about Parker. He described him as a not very reliable person:

“I am afraid that young Parker is engaged in a fresh gun-running or money running expedition. It is not very nice to think that a yacht that carries the white ensign should be thus employed, and I think that the R.Y.S. would be much annoyed if they knew it. ”

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The connections to Libya

Gun-running in the Italo-Turkish War

Libya is a modern country and so the connections are to the area which is now known as Libya. At the start of the expedition the area was a part of the Ottoman Empire.

On the 26th September 1911, the Italian government sent an ultimatum to the Ottoman government, demanding they hand over Libya. The Austrians persuaded the Ottomans to offer the Italians essentially the same arrangement as Britain enjoyed in Egypt but Italy refused to accept the offer. Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire and an invasion fleet headed to North Africa.

At the very same time the Parker expedition was sailing across the Mediterranean on Clarence Wilson’s yacht The Dorothy to try and return to Jerusalem. They may well have seen the Italian fleet heading for North Africa.

The expedition was stopped at Jaffa and could not return to Jerusalem so they headed to Egypt while they tried to negotiate their return.

The Italians had quickly captured Tripoli but were having difficulty extending their control beyond the principal cities and a narrow coastal strip. The Ottoman forces increasingly fought a guerrilla war against the Italians. Britain was officially neutral and would not let arms be transmitted from Egypt to neighbouring Ottoman forces. However, this did not stop weapons and soldiers from getting across by land and sea.

Italian infantry entrenched near Tripoli

The Italians tried to stop this smuggling at sea, and they captured several ships bringing weapons. Parker, bored with waiting in Egypt, borrowed Wilson’s yacht. The Dorothy sailed into the war zone on the Tripoli coastline, proudly flying the Royal Yacht Squadron flag. Parker passed through the Italian naval vessels without challenge. He did not restrict himself to just cruising along the coastline to observe any action. Parker took part in running guns to the Ottoman forces using the perfect cover. In the following months, the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire wrote several communique to the Foreign Office about Parker. He described him as a not very reliable person:

“I am afraid that young Parker is engaged in a fresh gun-running or money running expedition. It is not very nice to think that a yacht that carries the white ensign should be thus employed, and I think that the R.Y.S. would be much annoyed if they knew it. ”

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