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'File 8/15 Arab Series - 1933-1939' [‎194r] (387/434)

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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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I much regret that I have so far not had the opportunity of meeting Your
Excellency as you were home on leave during all the time I was at Aden. I am
looking forward however to hearing your views on the matters discussed in this
P. S .—The latest Naval Intelligence, just received, indicates that during the
period 1st September 1936 to 6th May 1937, approximately 3,525 Yemeni subjects
went to Eritrea on enlistment by the Italians as labourers, and that of these
approximately 1,168 returned to the Yemen bringing back with them a total sum
estimated at about 1,690,962 lire.
Enclosure 3 to Serial No. (65).
Letter from Governor, Aden, to His Excellency the Naval Commander-in-
Ohief, East Indies Station, Colombo, No. C.-689, dated the ]9th June

I have the honour to refer to Your Excellency’s secret and personal letter
No. E.I.-3464 [Enclosure 2 to Serial No. (65)], dated 5th June 1937, and to thank
you for the assistance that you offer in the use of Red Sea Sloops in dealing with
the developments of the situation in southern Red Sea and in the neighbourhood
of Aden. There is no doubt that the Italians are endeavouring to forward their
interests in the Yemen by every means available short of direct and open inter
vention. Their propaganda work in the Yemen, and especially in the coastal
Tihama, is increasingly active, and the frequent rumours of their occupation of
islands in the Red Sea are a sign of the general apprehension that prevails.
The engagement of Yemenis as labourers and sometimes as soldiers, to which you
refer, is one of the methods that they adopt to increase their influence.
Unfortunately it is not within our power to stop it. The recruitment of Arabs
from southern Arabia for Italian Colonial Force is a practice of long standing
which commenced before the Great War and has continued at intervals since
that time. It has been increased since the autumn of 1935 owing firstly to the
Abyssinian war and more recently to the need for labour for carrying out the
extensive works, of development that Italy is undertaking at Massawa, Assab
and other places in her East African possessions. The Italians offer good wages
which appeal to the inhabitants of poor countries such as the Yemen and also
the Aden Protectorate. Arabs coming back from Italian employment frequently
bring stories of ill-treatment, but they are generally prepared to undergo this
for the sake of their financial gain. Incidentally a good deal of the money that
they bring with them is smuggled, as the Italian authorities have forbidden the
export of lire.
2. I do not think that the short periods for vdiich the labourers work are
altogether the result of Italian design. It is customary for such labourers to
Avork for a comparatively short time and to return to their families with the
money earned, and in this respect the Italians allow them to follow their incli
nations. The Yemen is an independent State, and it is not possible for us to
prevent this labour recruitment, nor would it in any way add to British popu
larity in southern Arabia if we were to debar its people from taking advantage
of an opportunity of making money. It is this desire to make money that is the
dominating motive with these people and although the Italians no doubt wish to
extend their influence through them, the reports that they bring are by no
means always favourable.
3- We have recenly had reports of t he appearance of vessels, suspected of
being Italian, off the coast immediately to the east of Perim and within the
limits of the Aden Protectorate. It is thought that these ships may have been
sending munitions into the southern Yemen by this route. I have sent a Political
Officer to Hie district to make further enquiries and H. M. S. “ Londonderry ”
intends to watch this coast when she is in the neighbourhood.
4. I realise that some of the stories that reach us may be exaggerated or
untrue, but I nevertheless feel that there is increasing evidence of Italian
designs to obtaining control of both coasts of the southern Red Sea and to
establish themselves in the Yemen. I have recently sent a despatch, dated 26th
May 1937, to the Colonial Office regarding the internal situation in the Yemen,
and I attach a copy of it for Your Excellency’s information.

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' [‎194r] (387/434), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/R/15/2/310, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 18 February 2020]

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