I've been working over the past few months on a new programme for HistoryHit.TV, "Archaeologist Spies of World War One". It is an intriguing and complicated history, covering an international sphere of operations and several different wartime fronts.
The programme concentrates on a network of archaeologists who had (mainly) travelled and excavated in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East before the war; when many of them volunteered for military service at or soon after the outbreak of war, their skills were valued, and they were swept into "special service".
I've been researching archaeologists' public visibility before, during and after this period over the past few years – you can see the results of this in my new book Archaeologists in Print (UCL Press). So it was interesting to discover, when doing some preliminary research for the programme, that before entering the war officially (though he had already been involved in war related activity), David George Hogarth gave a series of public lectures on Ottoman Turkey in relation to the ongoing conflict in the UK in early 1915. One of them, in Sheffield, was organised by the "War Lectures Committee" of Sheffield University.
Archaeologists' popular books were also referenced in newspapers as the areas in which they had travelled became more militarily important. At the end of 1914, Hogarth's 1902 popular geography book The Nearer East, a volume of Heinemann's "Regions of the World" series, was referenced in an article in The Sphere for its relevance to understanding the most likely routes Ottoman forces (only recently allied to the Central Powers) would take to get to Egypt via the Sinai Peninsula.
Reginald Campbell Thompson's unusual memoir A Pilgrim's Scrip was published by John Lane The Bodley Head in early 1915. Thompson's evocative description of Port Said, at the head of the Suez Canal and an important naval base and steamship alighting point, was reprinted in an article in The Globe: "a place of passage, a khan at one of the world's toll gates, to pass the night and change the order of a journey."
Shortly afterwards, Thompson's archaeological colleague Leonard Woolley arrived in Port Said to head up a small intelligence headquarters there. Woolley recorded his wartime exploits in his own post-war memoirs, injecting at the end of his life light-hearted and humourous notes into an otherwise extremely serious subject. Woolley's wartime raid in a Port Said flat, recounted by Stephen Smith in "Archaeologist Spies of World War One", was posthumously published in 1962 in his memoir As I Seem to Remember. (Unlike many of his archaeological contemporaries who were more involved in processing information, mapping, and breaking codes, Woolley was actively running agents and arranging drops. Those who worked with him put their lives on the line more than once.)
Woolley's intelligence activity ended in August 1916, when the yacht he used for operations hit a mine and he was picked up by Ottoman forces. His time as a prisoner of war began. In 1921 Oxford-based publisher Basil Blackwell issued From Kastamuni to Kedos, a volume of reminiscences, poems and drawings edited by Woolley of life as prisoners of war at three different camps in Ottoman Turkey.
Archaeological interest was not abandoned during this time. Kastamuni records Woolley providing lectures on archaeological topics ("The Hittites", "Roman Frontier Problems" and "The Evolution of Religion in the Old Testament") as well as modern languages ("Hindustani and Arabic") to his fellow POWs. Dramatic productions also took place, with "Woolley & Co" highlighted for admirable work in costumes and props.
When they died, many of the archaeologists in "Archaeologist Spies of World War One" were commemorated in part for the roles they played in intelligence during the war. This intense experience in their lives has been for the most part superceded by their archaeological and (for T. E. Lawrence & Gertrude Bell particularly) their political work in the post-war period. But in the early 1980s journalist H. V. F. Winstone's book Illicit Adventure provided the first broad history of this wartime network.
Perhaps the best acknowledgement-summary of the work of archaeologists in intelligence comes from Leonard Woolley himself. He wrote the Preface to his 1920 memoir Dead Towns and Living Men in 1918, while still a prisoner in Turkey:
The war brought the archaeologist out in a new light, and his habit of prying about in countries little known, his knowledge of peoples, and his gift of tongues, were turned to uses far other than their wont."
Read Archaeologists in Print online (free) via UCL Press.
"Turkey and the War" Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 20 Feb 1915.
"Books Worth Reading" The Globe, 20 Feb 1915.
"The Situation in Egypt" The Sphere, 14 Dec 1914.
Hogarth, David George. 1902. The Nearer East. London: William Heinemann.
Thompson, R. Campbell. 1915. A Pilgrim's Scrip. London: John Lane Bodley Head.
Thornton, Amara. 2018. Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People. London: UCL Press.
Winstone, H. V. F. 1982. The Illicit Adventure: The Story of Political and Military Intelligence in the Middle East from 1898 to 1926. London: Jonathan Cape.
Woolley, C. Leonard. 1920. Dead Towns and Living Men. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Woolley, C. Leonard (Ed). 1921. From Kastamuni to Kedos: Being a Record of Experiences of Prisoners of War in Turkey. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Woolley, C. Leonard. 1962. As I Seem to Remember. London: George Allen & Unwin.