Royal Yacht Squadron

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.’

Clarence Wilson’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 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. ”

Other geographical connections

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