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. ”