Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East [80r] (160/220)
The record is made up of 1 file (110 folios). It was created in 27 Aug 1893-19 Dec 1918. 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 Documents collected in a private capacity. .
This transcription is created automatically. It may contain errors.
to the Mission, to enable it to speak with authority on military matters and,
if necessary, to estimate the amount of assistance required to make the resources,
of Ibn Saud adequate to the task in view.
It was consequently not a little disappointing to find that, when, at last,
the train was laid and ready to fire, not only was the charge proposed consi
dered excessive, but doubts had arisen regarding the value of the objective,
itself. It was, indeed, perfectly clear that the achievement of the proposed
object by Ibn Saud would but confirm the King in his folly and make a recon
ciliation between him and his nearest powerful neighbour impossible and, that
being so, the purely military advantages likely to accrue from the capture of
Hail were not such as to warrant any serious effort on our part.
However that may be, the first efforts of the Mission were directed to the
task of forming an estimate of the relative strength of the two Central Arabian
chiefs in men and armament. As regards Ibn Saud, we knew, at the outset,
that he had, some twelve months before, received from us four Turkish moun
tain guns, four Maxims and 3,000 rifles with corresponding quantities of
ammunition, and that four of his men had been instructed at Basrah in the
handling of machine guns.
At the very outset of our journey, namely, at Uqair, we were not a little
surprised to find the whole of the local garrison—some 50 men—armed with
modern rifles, and we were informed that the garrison at Qatif had also been
armed out of the gift intended for another purpose; but a worst shock awaited
us at Hufuf, where, after considerable reluctance on the part of the local
governor, Abdulla ibn Jiluwi, we were permitted to inspect the military
equipment stored in the fort. Here we found all the four maxims still in the
cases in which they had arrived a year before, two of the mountain guns and
a considerable stock of rifles* and ammunition. To add to our disappointment,
we were informed that three of the four men, who had been instructed in the
use of machine guns at Basrah, were dead, while the fourth, w r ho was present,
made it quite clear, by a practical demonstration, before us that he had for
gotten all he had learned.t
The information gleaned at Hufuf was not a little disconcerting and
seemed to indicate that Ibn Saud was economising his military resources to
meet postwar developments; but I think, on the whole, that this view’ was a
little unjust to Ibn Saud, regarding the internal state of whose territories we
then knew' next to nothing. I'orAnstance, it soon became quite clear that Hasa
could not be left unprotected, while the Ajman continued to threaten its north-
orn boundaries. Nevertheless, Ibn Saud’s dispositions were justly open to
the criticism that, whatever his policy might be, he had not taken full
advantage of the addition to his armament, which he had received from us; it
was clear that the making of such gifts to him with no guarantee of their
effective utilisation constituted a w’aste of resources.
1 did not lose the opportunity of taxing Ibn Saud with his neglect of the
resources placed at his disposal for the purpose, I said, of enabling him to
prosecute an offensive against the common enemy. He replied that our gift of
the previous year had not been accompanied by any such condition—and, so
far as I have since been able to ascertain, he was right on this point—but he
admitted the general impeachment and accepted my suggestion that, at any
rate, the machine guns w’ould be more effective in active operations against
the enemy than in their packing cases in the fortress of Hufuf. He accord
ingly agreed to send for them and they duly arrived at Riyadh and eventually
accompanied Ibn Saud as far as Buraida, but no further.
As regards his armament generally, we ascertained by enquiry from Ibn
Saud and others that, in addition to the machine guns already mentioned,
there w r ere 10 or 12 serviceable though, owing to lack of trained personnel,
not very effective guns of the Turkish mountain-gun type (T-pounders), of
w’hich about six w’ere in the Hasa or at Qatif. Of rifles, i.e., modern wea
pons, Ibn Saud admitted to having about 6,000, inclusive of those received
from us, with an adequate supply of ammunition, but I assumed his
figures to be below the mark, as he obviously had everything to gain and
nothing to lose by minimising his own and exaggerating his enemy’s
resources. I accordingly fixed my estimate at 8,000 modern rifles,
to say nothing of less effective weapons, which would doubtless appear in
considerable numbers in case of need.
Little reliable information was forthcoming with regard to Ibn Rashid’s
armament. It was known that the fortress of Hail contained a number of
guns, while the information I was able to collect, supported by the intrinsic
probabilities of the case, led me to reject reports—emanating, I think, from
*From such information as I could collect, I estimated the total number of modern rifles
in the Hasa, Qatif and Uqair at between 600 or 700. I think it was probably nearer 1,000.
+ He and a few others subsequently profited by Colonel Cunliffe Owen’s instruction and
became more or less competent to handle the machine guns.
About this item
The file contains correspondence, memoranda, maps, and other papers relating to Middle Eastern affairs and a few other miscellaneous matters. The majority of the file concerns discussions of and proposals for the post-war settlement of Near Eastern territories, including Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula. The basis of these discussions was the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.
Other matters covered by the papers include events in Siam [Thailand] and Burmah [Myanmar] and the colonial rivalry in the region between France and Britain, the Baghdad Railway, and relations with Ibn Saud in Arabia, including a report on the 1917-18 mission to Najd by Harry St John Philby (folios 67-98).
Folios 99-110 are six maps with accompanying notes that show the various proposed territorial settlements and spheres of influence in the Near East and one showing Britain's global colonial possessions.
Memoranda and correspondence comes from officials at the Foreign Office and 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. . Other correspondents include French and Italian government officials.
- Extent and format
- 1 file (110 folios)
The file is arranged in roughly chronological order, from the front to the back.
- Physical characteristics
Foliation: the foliation sequence (used for referencing) commences at the front of the envelope with 1, and terminates at the inside back last page with 110, 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.
Pagination: the file also contains an original printed pagination sequence.
- Written in
- English and French in Latin script View the complete information for this record
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- Miscellaneous correspondence, reports, maps and other papers concerning the Middle East
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