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Howard Carter Intelligence war service in Cairo


domsim
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Dear all

I am currently reading TGH James’ biography of Howard Carter ‘Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun’.  In it James has a very small section on Carter’s war work saying in spring or early summer of 1915 he ‘became attached to the Intelligence Department of the War Office in Cairo. It was not a military appointment, and he carried no military rank.’

 

James quotes a letter from Carter dated 4 June 1915 ‘using official Intelligence Department writing paper, he says: ‘I am a fixture here [Cairo] for the summer and possibly longer-We must all do the best in the terrible struggle-to win we shall even if the last drop of blood is necessary…..’

 

James then says ‘the precise nature of Carter’s war work is a mystery. In a late autobiographical essay he talks of being ‘tired of war work and secret ciphers..’.  James then quotes another letter from Carter dated   October 1917 ‘at present I am nearly dotty. They don’t or won’t give me any more war work in Cairo, so here I am [in Luxor]. Glad to say well occupied with drawing and painting.’

 

James characterises Carter’s war service as ‘intermittent and undemanding’ he was in England in the summer of 1916 and back measuring tombs in Thebes in the autumn of the same year and seems to have come and gone as he pleased. There is also a funny story about Carter’s possible involvement in the demolition of the German Archaeological Institute dig house behind the Ramesseum on the west bank at Thebes/Luxor in November 1915.

I wondered if anybody (Russell or Dave?) had come across any references to or by Carter in their trawls of Egyptian Intelligence works/files. I did a search of the forum and found no further references to his activities.

 

All the best

Dom

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While not my main area of interest, I do give a course to our engineering, etc., students on the development of archaeology and Carter and Tut feature on this - so I would love to know more on this aspect of his life! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dom

 

Nothing immediately comes to mind but will dig into the refs I found at the time and get back to you if there is anything there. 

 

Regards

Dave

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A blog from the National Archives: Digging for King and Country

http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/digging-king-country/#more-19769

The article does not mention Carter, but there are some National Archives  Foreign Office files quoted which perhaps may be the type of files to look for more information about Carter.

 

Cheers

Maureen

 

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Hi Maureen

 

great thanks for the heads up-something to check next time I am Kew.

 

Best wishes

Dom.

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On 9/26/2017 at 12:15, Maureene said:

... A blog from the National Archives: Digging for King and Country

http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/digging-king-country/#more-19769

 

Thank you so much! Only on Tuesday past I was explaining to my Turkish students why such groups as the Society of the Dilletanti found it so difficult to get to and work in the Levant, and soon I will be talking of Wooley and Carchemish - and why no serious archaeological scholars from the west were allowed anywhere near the site of Ur and other such places  until after 1918! 

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Dom

 

Tried exploring the Luxor thread. Tenuous but have Aubrey Herbert being there in March 1915 (before heading to the Dardanelles). Not sure what intelligence activity was taking place there.

 

Dont think Carter was active Intelligence wise in 1917. Best I've got so far is he was part of a revolving civilian cipher pool (which I had never heard of before) in Cairo during the Dardanelles campaign. Will keep looking and post if I find anything further.

 

Regards

Dave

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Hi Dave

 

Thanks for that-I think the cipher angle is probably correct as this is what is mentioned in Carter's biography see post above where he says: ‘tired of war work and secret ciphers..’.

 

Interesting that Herbert is in Luxor in 1915.

 

All the best

Dom.

 

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4 minutes ago, domsim said:

Interesting that Herbert is in Luxor in 1915.

 

 

 

 

Duh! just remembered of course Aubrey Herbert was Lord Carnavon's half-brother

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  • 3 years later...

Hi Dave

I've come back to this and am hoping to do a bit more research now things have opened up. Have you a reference for the cipher pool you mentioned and does it actually mention Carter? Sorry- this hadn't sunk in at the time.

Hoping to look at the Aubrey Herbert angle. According to Sheffy's Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign Herbert was on the cusp of being 'moved' from EEF Intelligence to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force intelligence because he and Stuart Newcombe didn't get on. I think Herbert was probably on leave down in Luxor. He does mention an archaeologist friend in connection with his trip to Luxor in his book Mons, Anzac, Kut and I wonder if this is Carter?.

all the best

Dom.

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On 30/09/2021 at 14:10, domsim said:

Aubrey Herbert

Too long since I've read the book, so I can't remember, but perhaps you might pick up a cross-bearing from Margaret Fitzherbert's The man who was Greenmantle: a biography of Aubrey Herbert. (London: Murray, 1983). Out of print, but readily available at a reasonable price, especially if you go for the slightly later Oxford University Press paperback edition.

sJ

 

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Hi sJ

Yup am in the process of getting a second hand copy. Also planning a visit to the Somerset Archives to look at Herbert's diaries and letters.

Best wishes

Dom.

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Dom

I am away from home at the moment and don't have access to my normal ref’s. Dont remember where I pulled this from. Will dig in when I get back and let you know. 
regards

Dave

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Hi Dave

No worries and thanks for replying. Much appreciated

best wishes

Dom

 

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Thanks Maureen-always interesting to see Archaeologists up to this sort of stuff!

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I worked up on the Syria Turkey border in 1994 and we lived next the site at Carchemish at Jerablus that Woolley mentions-the bridge he describes is still there-attached some grainy photos I took:D The site is so big that the citadel is in Turkey and the outer town is in Syria. The border is formed by the course of the railway. The citadel is the light coloured hump behind the bridge in the top photo and the lumpy topography to the right of the bridge in the second photo.

Baghdad railway bridge3.jpg

Euphrates and bridge.jpg

railway bridge.jpg

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On 04/10/2021 at 11:49, MaureenE said:

 short account by Leonard Wooley, another archaeologist, of his time in the Intelligence Corp,

I added some info on Woolley on this old thread about HM Yacht Zaida, which Woolley 'commanded' on spying missions.

Charlie

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  • 9 months later...

Just picked this site up. Looking for some info regarding Howard Carter. Family legend has it that my grandfather was batman for Carter during WW1 but we've never found any evidence. My grandfather was in the Duke of Cambridge's own regt, 19th battalion. Any help would be good. No idea where to begin.

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Hi and welcome to the forum.

To start with this is unlikely as Carter was not in the armed forces in WW1 and wouldn't have had a batman-he seems to have worked in cyphers in the Intelligence  department in Cairo (see my original post #1 starting the topic-which includes his known record from WW1).

Duke of Cambridge's regiment 19th battalion from the Long long trail on this website: https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/the-duke-of-cambridges-own-middlesex-regiment/

 

19th (Service) Battalion (2nd Public Works Pioneers)
Formed in London in April 1915 by Lt-Col. John Ward MP. Moved to Hornsey.
July 1915 : moved to Aldershot and came under command of 41st Division as Pioneer Battalion.
2 May 1916 : landed at Le Havre.
November 1917 : moved with the Division to Italy but returned to France in March 1918.

 

Carter's war work was in Cairo- 19th battalion were on the western front & Italy in Europe. Carter returned briefly to UK during the war. It would be interesting to know how this legend started!

You can search for any surviving documentation such as pensions, service records and medals on the various family history websites.

 

hope this helps.

 

best wishes

Dom.

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Hi Dom,

Thank you for this information. I have no idea how the family legend started. My granddad died before I was born. My mum was a very honest lady so I'm sure was only retelling what she'd been told, that Carter had wanted her dad to go with him to Egypt but he refused as my mum & and aunt were tiny babies at that time. While I felt some of the story may have been embellished I also felt there'd be no smoke without fire. An aunt & uncle were born before the war so would be old enough to have some knowledge of what was going on at that time. I only recently found a record of Harry to find which regiment he was in (presuming I have the right Harry). There is nobody alive now to ask sadly. From your reply I can only presume it was a fancy story that mum was told by her older sister or brother and sadly there's no truth in it. Quite appropriate that it lasted from 1922 to 2022!

Thank you, I think!

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Hi

No problem-there are a quite a lot of stories like this-there may be a kernel of a truth in it. The wish for Carter to want thim to go out to Egypt is entirely plausible, this might have been to help Carter in his archaeological work in some capacity rather than for any military reasons. Carter continued doing archaeology into 1915 in and around the Valley of the Kings. He then returned to matters archaeological in 1917.  It would be interesting to know what your grandfather did for a living and use that to try and find a link with Carter?

 

best wishes

Dom.

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As far as I'm aware he did farm work and later became a cobbler. He was able to pretty much make shoes in a shed in his back garden, like a great deal of men did locally. No one had much money but all had decent shoes I'm told. So I don't see any connection there with Carter. If only we could go back in time and ask people, it would be lovely to know the truth of it all but I suspect we never will. 

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Any connections with Norfolk? Carter was bought up there at Swaffham.

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