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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎163v] (326/434)

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The record is made up of 1 file (214 folios). It was created in 31 Aug 1933-20 Mar 1939. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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3. Throughout the conversation I tried to do two things : to distinguish
clearly between the innocence of the Saudi Government and the responsibility
of Mr. Philby, and to speak of Mr. Philby’s action with what seems to me the
proper mixture of seriousness and ridicule. I told Fuad Bey that Mr.
Philby was an old colleague and acquaintance of mine. Everyone knew
that he enjoyed being obstinate and tiresome, particularly when His Majesty’s
Government were concerned—a quality of which there was clear evidence
in the Saudi reply to my letter, as in the nonsense about his readiness to show
his British passport (Fuad Bey laughed at this and did not deny that the ar
gument was Philby’s). It was not a question of our punishing him for an
offence but of our making it clear to the Saudi Government that his action
might have brought them under the suspicion of committing a serious diplo
matic impropriety. He had obtained an armed “ escort ” from the Saudi
authorities for the purpose of topographical work in Najran. The
results of this work would be interesting to him as an explorer, but they
would also be of great use to the Saudi Government, and Mr. Philby was in
a way acting as their employee. (Fuad Bey did not object to this statement,
but on the contrary nodded assent.) In any case, I went on, the “ escort ”
was provided for this specific purpose, but Mr. Philby, carefully concealing
his intention both from the Saudi Government and from the British autho
rities, used it for a quite different purpose, viz., to enter the Aden Protectorate
two hundred miles away. In fact, Mr. Philby had played a nasty trick upon
the Saudi authorities and we expected them to make this quite clear to him.
4. Fuad Bey took no exception to anything in my statement, which I
said I mu^tt follow up with a letter ( a copy of this letter is enclosed) to make the
point about Shabwa quite clear. He did not say that any action would be
taken, but Ibn Saud will not be pleased at the dust which Mr. Philby
has raised at this moment, when he is on his best behaviour towards His
Majesty’s Government. If he had an inkling beforehand of what was in
Mr. Philby’s mind he cannot have reaslied what it would involve. On the
other hand as an oriental he cannot feel called upon to be very harsh with
a man who is a British subject and in receipt of a pension from British sources
and whom, in his opinion, we could punish ourselves if we wished. More
over he cannot fail to be flattered if Mr. Philby tells him, as he doubtless will,
that Ibn Baud’s name and “ escort ” were sufficient to ensure safe entry into
a town which it is difficult to enter from the direction of the territory of which
the British claim that it forms part. But Ibn Saud has now no doubt about
our attitude in regard to the Aden boundary, and he will not lightly let
Philby loose with an escort again. I felt that the best line to take was
that Mr. Philby had abused the confidence placed in him by Ibn Saud. This
argument might even appeal to (VTr. Philby himself, who seems to have a
sense of loyalty towards Ibn Saud such as he does not feel towards His
Majesty’s Government; but that would involve an admission that he was
in the wrong, and Mr. Philby is never in the wrong.
5. I will not fail to carry out your instructions to report any explanation
which Mr. Philby may give. I foresee that he will dramatise himself as a
Prometheus, bringing the fire of archaeological knowledge from Shabwa
with His Majesty’s Government in the part of Zeus, and H. M. Minister as
the vulture with no other business in life but to peck at Mr. Philby’s long-
suffering liver, already deeply pitted from similar heroic experiences in India
and Iraq and Trans-Jordan.
6 . Copies of this despatch and enclosure are being sent to H. M Chief
Commissioner at Aden. 6
Enclosure 1 to S. No. (13).
Personal letter from the British Legation, Jedda, to His Royal
Highness the Amir Feysal, Mecca, No. 2211/316/62, dated 29th
December 1936.
Since I had the honour to receive Your Royal Highness’s personal letter
about Mr. Philby’s journey, No. 2/9/6, dated 21st December, I have had

About this item


The file contains the Foreign Office confidential prints of the Arabia Series for the years 1933 to 1938. It includes correspondence, memoranda, and extracts from newspapers. The correspondence is principally between the British Legation in Jedda and the Foreign Office. Other correspondents include British diplomatic, political, and military offices, foreign diplomats, heads of state, tribal leaders, corporations, and individuals in the Middle East region.

Each annual series is composed of several numbered serials that are often connected to a particular subject. The file covers many subjects related to the affairs of Saudi Arabia.

Included in the file are the following:

  • a memorandum on Arab Unity produced by the Foreign Office dated 12 June 1933 (author unknown), folios 11-13;
  • a memorandum on petroleum in Arabia produced by the Petroleum Department dated 5 August 1933 (author unknown), folios 23-26;
  • a record of interviews with Ibn Sa‘ūd, King of Saudi Arabia, conducted by Reader Bullard and George William Rendel between 20 and 22 March 1937;
  • a memorandum on Yemen by Captain B W Seager, the Frontier Officer, dated 20 July 1937;
  • several records of proceedings of ships on patrol in the Red Sea, including that of HMS Penzance , Hastings , Colombo , Bideford , and Londonderry .

Folios 213-15 are internal office notes.

Extent and format
1 file (214 folios)

The file is arranged chronologically.

Physical characteristics

Foliation: the main foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the front cover with 1 and terminates at the back cover with 217; these numbers are written in pencil, are circled, and are located in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. side of each folio. An additional foliation sequence is also present in parallel between ff 2-215; these numbers are also written in pencil, but are not circled, and are located in the same position as the main sequence.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎163v] (326/434), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/310, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 29 February 2020]

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