The occupation of Merga and Oweinat
by the Sudan Defence Force, 1934

Unpublished SDF Operations Diary &
photographs by F.G.B. Arkwright

Anthony and Philip Arkwright, sons of Francis Godfrey Bertram Arkwright have found the photographs presented below in a family album, and have very kindly consented to their reproduction here. These photographs have never appeared in any publication. My sincere thanks to Anthony and Philip for sharing these unique historical photographs with all of us ! The text accompanying the photos (except my notes in italics) is taken from the Sudan Defence Force, General Staff report "Occupation of Merga and Oweinat, 1933-34", housed in the National Archives (formerly Public Records Office), London (document ref: WO 32/3535), suplemented with extracts from the R.A.F. report on the Occupation of Kharkour Murr, Jebel Uweinat (document ref: FO 141/599/4).

Please note and respect that contrary to other photos on this website, no photograph appearing on this page may be copied, re-used or directly linked for any purpose without the explicit written consent of the copyright holders, Anthony & Philip Arkwright.

(Click on the images to see larger versions)




During the course of 1933, as a result of air and land expeditions in the Libyan Desert by Squadron Leader Penderel, Royal Air Force, and Major Bagnold, a party of Italians was discovered in occupation of the wells at AIN DOUA at Jebel OWEINAT. Periodic air reconnaissances by the R.A.F. from Egypt ascertained that the Italian party, consisting of about 30 men with a survey party, were making a more or less permanent base and had constructed an aerodrome at AIN DOUA and another at SARRA Wells, 215 miles west of OWEINAT. Representations were made by the Residency to the Foreign Office with the result conversations were held with the Italian Government in Rome in December, 1933. These conversations broke down as the Italian Government claimed not only Jebel OWEINAT but all country West of Longitude 27 and South to include MERGA but not including BIR NATRUN. In order to substantiate our claim in further conversations, the Foreign Office gave instructions that MERGA and KHARKOUR MURR Wells at OWEINAT should be occupied as soon as possible, unless already held by the Italians. Air reconnaissance was first made to ascertain whether either place was held by the Italians.



Date. Event. Remarks.
Dec. 21st. Foreign Office Telegram No.109. to Residency - requesting Sudan Government to occupy MERGA and the Royal Air Force from Egypt to occupy OWEINAT.  
Dec. 23rd. Telegram to O.C. Western Arab Corps from Headquarters, S.D.F. - warning him of possibility of having to send No. 2. Motor Machine Gun Battery to MERGA, and asking him questions re forming of petrol dumps and suitability of cars. EL FASHER was chosen as a base for the proposed operations because:-

(a) There is a Motor Machine Gun Battery stationed there

(b) It is Corps Headquarters with mechanical transport workshops

(c) DONGOLA was sugested as a base but it would have to be established first and there is no railway
The S.D.F. had not yet received orders from the Sudan Government to take action, therefore only a warning order could be issued this day.
Dec. 29th. The Air Vice Marshal, Middle East, held a discussion with the Kaid el 'Amm at which the Air Staff Officer and Chief Staff Officer were present. It was agreed at this conference that the Sudan Defence Force would occupy MERGA and Headquarters, Middle East, would be responsible for KARKOUR MURR Well at OWEINAT until taken over by the Sudan Defence Force by Feb. 12th.
Jan. 5th. No.2. Motor Machine Gun Battery under the command of El Bimbashi G.L. Prendergast (companion of Bagnold on all major expeditions, later to become O.C. L.R.D.G.), with S.D.F. Wireless set and four Thornycrofts left EL FASHER at 1400 hours for MALHA. Headquarters, S.D.F. received definite orders at 1230 hours Jan. 4th. from the Sudan Government to occupy MERGA by Jan. 10th, but that air reconnaissances for BOTH BIR NATRUN and MERGA were to be completed before occupation by ground forces. This naturally entailed a complete reorganisation of loads as aviation petrol had to be carried in addition to the large quantities of M.T. spirit.
Jan. 10th. R.A.F. left MALHA, landed on Battery, refuelled, completed reconnaissance of BIR NATRUN and MERGA according to plan and reported no living thing seen and returned to BIR NATRUN. Battery reported 60 miles South of Wadi SHAU at 0800 hours.  
Jan. 11th. Message received from No.2. M.M.G. Battery asking Headquarters to reconsider further action owing to continuous difficulties with Thornycrofts and his doubts as to whether his transport could get through without the aid of his battery man power. Permission granted to O.C. No.2. M.M.G. Battery to return to EL FASHER, picking up his transport on the way.  

Khartoum - Wadi Halfa, Jan. 13-16th.

Date. Event. Remarks.
Jan. 12th. Operation Instruction No.1. issued to O.C. No.1. M.M.G. Battery, KHARTOUM. No. 1. M.M.G. Battery was ordered to proceed to WADI HALFA to endevour to reach MERGA via LAQIYA OASIS in view of the difficulties of No.2. M.M.G. Battery, who were to return to EL FASHER. No.3. M.M.G. Battery was warned to be ready to take over the task of occupying OWEINAT in place of No.1. M.M.G. Battery.
Jan. 13th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery, under command of El Bimbashi F.G.B. Arkwright left for WADI HALFA.

No.2. M.M.G. Battery met El Bimbashi C.G. Henfrey with transport near JEBEL MUTAK, and formulated a plan whereby it would be possible to proceed to MERGA with reduced loads and personnel. Surplus to return with unwanted Thornycrofts.
Jan. 14th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery arrived WADI HALFA Operation Instruction No.2. gave No.1. M.M.G. Battery the task of opening up communications with MERGA via LAQIYA prior to its main and eventual task of occupying OWEINAT.
Jan. 15th. No.2. M.M.G. Battery reached BIR NATRUN  
Jan. 15th. KHARKOUR MOUR Well occupied by flight R.A.F. from Egypt. There were no Italians in occupation.  

Bimbashi (Captain) Francis Godfrey Bertram Arkwright, before departing from Khartoum.
  No.1. M.M.G. Battery transport en-route from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa.
  Thornycroft lorry approaching the ferry at Wadi Halfa.
Ferrying No.1. M.M.G. Battery to the west bank of the Nile at Wadi Halfa.

Occupation of Karkur Murr by R.A.F. 45 (Bomber) Sqn, Jan. 15th - Feb. 14th.

Report on the Reconnaissance and Occupation of KHARKUR MURR, JEBEL OWEINAT

By: Flying Officer A.H. MARSACK
No. 45 (Bomber) Squadron
Royal Air Force, HELWAN

Date: 26th February, 1934.


from National Archives file FO 141/599/4 (Foreign Office correspondence, Sarra Dispute), including photographs.

Two Fairey IIIF Aircraft, one fitted with W/T, Pilots - Flying Officer A.H. MARSACK and Sergt. CHEESE-WRIGHT, left HELWAN for Terminus Landing Ground, KHARGA, at 0800 hours, 11-2-34. On arrival at Terminus Landing Ground, KHARGA, the Fairey IIIFs joined a detachment of No. 216 (Bomber Transport) Squadron, commanded by Squadron Leader D.S. EARP, D.F.C.

Between 11-1-34 and 15-1-34, dumps were prepared by No. 216 (Bomber Transport) Squadron detachment, and on the 16th January (Note: the report says 16th but as following day’s events are also dated 16th, and the S.D.F. report gives the date of the 15th, it should clearly read 15th January) two Fairey IIIFs, pilots as above, passengers - Squadron Leader EARP, Sergt. IVEMAY and Sgt. EADES, W/T Operator, left from a landing ground approximately 70 miles North East of OWEINAT, to carry out a reconnaissance of KHARKUR MURR. Course was set for CHUNK HILL and from there to KHARKUR MURR.

Innumerable wadis exist in this area, and it was very difficult to decide which was KHARKUR MURR. Each wadi was carefully reconnoitered from the air, and I located water. Subsequently a landing was made at a spot which appeared to tally with the site suggested by Dr. BALL of Survey Department of EGYPT. This site was found to be very rough and a better one was selected, a ‘T’ put out, and the second Fairey IIIF landed.

Aerial photos of Jebel Uweinat taken during the reconnaissance flight

It was then decided to carry out a reconnaissance on foot of the wadi thought to tally with the Geographical Journal description of KHARKOUR MURR, to search for water, and to instal the Royal Air Force Ensign. After about 30 minutes of walking East of our aircraft, a comparatively flat sandy gully was discovered dotted with dead and dying acacia trees and clumps of desert grass, and we commenced to explore the upper reaches of the gully for water. Numerous dry water holes were seen which, judging by the age and types of plants in the bottom, must have contained water less than two years ago. As the top of the gully was reached, all vegetation became sparse and eventually we gained access to the floor of volcanic rock where it ceased altogether. (Note: evidently the first landing was made in Karkur Delein, the wadi immediately to the West of Karkur Murr)

We returned to the aircraft and decided to do a further reconnaissance for water by air. The W/T Operator in the other Fairey IIIF had reported seeing what looked like a rectangular white tent in a wadi further East of our present position. The two aircraft took off again and flew over a wadi where numerous car tracks were seen and where vegetation was on a more generous scale. A canvas topped van with a small open car next to it was observed in the West side of the Wadi, and on flying lower, we observed four or five Italian soldiers around it. The cars were pointing in the direction of the mouth of the wadi, and as there were no signs of tentage, etc., we came to the conclusion that they were merely paying a visit. The two Fairey IIIFs then returned to the Landing Ground South of the “L”.

On 16th January, 1934, one Fairey IIIF, followed by a Vickers Victoria, proceeded to KHARKUR MURR and, having ascertained that the Italian party had left, the IIIF landed along the car tracks, close to the dried up water course. A suitable stretch of land was then found upon which the Vickers Victoria landed. Officer Commanding No. 216 (Bomber Transport) Squadron detachment accompanied me on foot in the direction of where water had been seen.

After reaching the entrance of the wadi, vegetation became noticeably greener and thicker, and well worn deep animal tracks were found passing between large granite and sandstone boulders, giving the indication of the presence of not far distant water. A stone shelf rose abruptly to 3 feet above our path where numerous pools were found surrounded by reeds and a miniature type of buffalo grass.

The lower pools of Karkur Murr (Ain Prince)

A high rock overlooking all these pools was selected and the Royal Air Force Ensign hoisted upon it. We returned to our aircraft, and by this time the remaining three Vickers Victorias and the Fairey IIIF had arrived from he Gilf Landing Ground. A suitable site affording a clear view of all approaches, and at the same time, protection from the prevailing wind, was found and the camp prepared.
Karkur Murr Landing Ground and R.A.F. camp

No. 216 (Bomber Transport) Squadron withdrew the following morning and returned to HELIOPOLIS.

From the outset of British Occupation of KHARKUR MURR, the Italian Detachment at AIN DOUA has evinced a keen interest n all our activities, but in the early days of our presence there, they appeared to be at a loss to understand our motive.

For the first three weeks we were visited about three times a week although on most occasions the object of the party appeared to be to take readings with their dipstick in our No. 4 well (Note: the upper spring, Ain Murr) which corresponds in many ways to the type of well at AIN DOUA and actually formed the only certain supply of good water we had. It is extremely unlikely that No. 4 could be reached from AIN DOUA or its southerly foothills by any other route without a really hazardous climb.

The upper springs of Karkur Murr (Ain Murr). Officer on centre photo is Lt. Terabini.

As the well at AIN DOUA has shown definite signs of dwindling to some extent as time has gone on, I am of the opinion that some of the detachment would have been sent to KHARKUR MURR (which they always refer to as AIN PRINCE), and have the advantage of being in easy access to the top of KHARKOUR TELH where gazelle and other small game abound. The very wide mouth of KHARKOUR TELH can be reached from AIN DOUA by a hard stretch of gravely sand to the North of JEBEL OWEINAT (a journey upon which I have accompanied Major ROLLI, Commandant of Zone, during some shooting). KHARKOUR TELH has, actually half way up the wadi, a large area of hard sand and gravel which would form an ideal landing ground, protected on its Northern, Eastern and Western sides by low foothills. I took the opportunity of marking out this ground some days later for Royal Air Force use. (There is no water here.)

Karkur Talh

On Friday, 19th January we received our first visit from the Italian detachment of Compania Sahariana at AIN DOUA. At 0800 hours the dust of a car in the desert was observed near the foothills of KHARKOUR MURR, and shortly afterwards the car, a Fiat, drew up by our aircraft and an Officer came at once to our camp. After breakfasting with me, he invited the detachment to visit AIN DOUA in the Fiat Six Wheeler. The party with him on that occasion at KHARKUR MURR consisted of one Italian driver and four Tripolitanian Arab soldiers.

The distance of 40 kilometres from KHARKUR MURR to AIN DOUA, with the exception of approximately 150 yards of track due south of the TRIPLE PEAK, is composed of hard gravel surface, and we completed in just over one hour.

Some distance away from AIN DOUA camp a sentinel, noticeable by his white and baggy “shorwad” was discernable on a high peak some 200 to 300 feet above camp. The camp, composed of brown tropical tents, was situated on the flat gravel ground at the entrance to the Ain or spring. The two wells were pointed out to me; one the largest, roughly 12’ x 7’ and from 2 to 3 feet deep, and the other about 3’ x 5’ and 9” deep. The latter well appeared to have been used by their domesticated fowls. The former and larger well seemed to be about 8” lower than high water mark, and I was informed that this had been the case for over twelve months.

At the present time most of the personnel at AIN DOUA are accommodated in tents but a small semi permanent building about 12’ x 12’ immediately behind a rock is under construction in stone, and one could notice further sites being marked out in other places.

The Italian camp at Ain Doua

A regular run from KUFRA to OWEINAT is maintained for the purpose of keeping AIN DOUA supplied with provisions, petrol, etc. The 380 kilometres of track from KUFRA can be done in a day, i.e. seven or eight hours running time by C.S. cars, and by air in two hours. Major Rolli made a definite statement that no water of any kind is to be found on the journey. Petrol delivered to AIN DOUA for aircraft and transport comes in 50 gallon iron drums and originally received at BENGHAZI by tanker from ITALY.

A certain number of 50 gallon drums of the same type as the above were observed which were said to contain a reserve supply of water in the region of 500 gallons. They were stored on the ground behind a rock. No reserve food supplies were seen.

A large landing ground about one mile West of AIN DOUA has been constructed with white concrete pillars. It is marked AUENAT in raised white letters. Aviation petrol is stored here in 50 gallon drums and pumped into aircraft as required.

Aerial views of the Ain Doua camp and landing grounds

On or about 5th February, 1934, a party of officers and men believed to have come by road and air arrived at AIN DOUA, their last stop of importance having been KUFRA. They were commanded by Colonello De Agostini who, I was led to understand, commands that Department of the Government of TRIPOLI responsible for map making. An invitation was sent to me to have dinner with them, and, in the course of conversation, I formed the opinion that their motive was to commence a survey of JEBEL OWEINAT and some areas South of it, aided by two aircraft. The party is n possession of numerous boxes of instruments (Note: clearly the Monterin expedition). Subsequently I heard that they intend to pay a visit to MERGA if possible and SARRA was also mentioned.

Throughout our occupation of KHARKUR MURR, the Italians have extended great hospitality towards us, and the question of boundaries and territories was never mentioned.

Careful reconnaissances were carried out on foot to most of the neighboring wadis of KHARKOUR MURR and, with the exception of KHARKOUR TELH, they were found to present a very dry appearance, with no traces of water. The flourishing vegetation and the profusion of healthy trees in KHARKOUR TELH should indicate the presence of water not very far from the surface, a condition which must have existed for a considerable time as most of the trees there are three to four times larger than in any of the other wadis visited.

Environs of Karkur Murr

A number of gazelle were seen from time to time and provided excellent fresh meat, but KHARKOUR TELH seemed to be the better part of OWEINAT for them. “Widdan”, Barbary or Mountain Sheep are supposed t be plentiful in some parts, but only one was shot during the Occupation. The shaggy nature of their coats ensures a complete harmonisation with the surrounding rocks. … Addax tracks were seen and Count Almasy reported seeing a solitary animal in September of last year.
The only other edible animal whose tracks were seen was the Hyrax or Coney which have their habitations on the rocky ledges and are only about after dusk, thus little opportunity is offered of a shot at them. The only snakes seen were of a non-poisonous variety. The Italians report that scorpions have never been found.

Wadi Halfa - Selima - Laqiya - Selima, Jan. 17-29th.

(SDF Report continued...)

Date. Event. Remarks.
Jan. 17th. No.2. M.M.G. Battery reached outskirts of MERGA but could not locate entrance to oasis.

No.1. M.M.G. Battery left WADI HALFA for SELIMA to form advanced base and to open up Northern L. of C. to MERGA. They did 50 miles with several delays.
Jan. 18th. No.2. M.M.G. Battery entered MERGA at 1100 hrs. found it deserted and marked out landing ground.

No.1. M.M.G. Battery reached a point 20 miles East of SELIMA.
Jan. 19th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery arrived at SELIMA. One battery car broke axle (back). Landing ground marked out and stores dumped.  
Jan. 20th. In view of the later occupation of KHARKOUR MURR Well by No.1. M.M.G. Battery, a reconnaissance of the route for 50 miles was carried out to-day. Found unsuitable for Thornycrofts, two of which had to be abandoned and salved the next day.  
Jan. 21th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery remained at SELIMA to overhaul cars.  
Jan. 22nd. No.1. M.M.G. Battery left SELIMA 1400 hours for LAQIYA OASIS and made 35 miles.  
Jan. 25th. O.C. No.1. M.M.G. Battery reconnoitered entrances to LAQIYA AMRAN without success.  
Jan. 28th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery arrived at SELIMA. As No.1. M.M.G. Battery were eventually to occupy OWEINAT and the northern L. of C. to MERGA via LAQIYA from WADI HALFA appeared now to be impracticable, the Battery was ordered to return to SELIMA, the advanced base. The Battery had been through a hard time: the cold at nights was intense, and their days were larely spent in pushing vehicles through sand and over rocks, all their efforts to find an entrance to LAQIYA had failed and personnel were consequently somewhat depressed.
Jan. 29th. Mr. Sweeting, Sudan Surveys, arrived at SELIMA with a maintenance convoy from WADI HALFA, in order to navigate the Battery accross the LIBYAN Desert to OWEINAT. El Bimbashi WALCH, who was in charge of maintenance from WADI HALFA, had fully established SELIMA as an Advanced Base by this date. The Base at WADI HALFA had been established on the West bank of the Nile: all vehicles and stores have to be ferried accross from railhead on the East bank. A workshops lorry had been specially purchased and set up at the base. Between the base and the Advanced Base, convoys of camels and heavy Thornycroft lorries were operating more or less continuously.

No.1. M.M.G. Battery arriving to Selima.
The Selima advance base.
  Maintenance huts.
Officer's Camp at Selima.
  Canvas swimming pool.
  Capt. F.G.B. Arkwright and Sargent O'Neill.
Note: photos taken on the Laqiya reconnaissance are indistinguishable from those taken on the way to Uweinat and are probably mixed into the next section.

Selima - Oweinat, Jan. 30th. - Feb.9th.

Date. Event. Remarks.
Jan. 30th. A convoy under O.C. No.1. M.M.G. Battery and Navigating Officer left SELIMA at 1230 hours to proceed to a point at Lat. 21.52. Long. 27.22 half way to OWEINAT on Bagnold's Northern route in order to establish a petrol dump. This dump is known as JENA. Progress 48 miles. One Thornycroft stuck badly three times.  
Jan. 31st. No.1. M.M.G. Battery proceeded a further 45 miles and abandoned Thornycroft and then proceeded a further 18 miles. Camped for night. On this day the record distance of 13 kilometres in 3 hours was accomplished.
Feb. 1st. No.1. M.M.G. Battery proceeded a further 36 miles and established JENA, at approximately 21.51 North 27.20 East. Eight cars returned to bring up stores from the abandoned Thornycroft, while O.C. Battery and Navigating Officer reconnoitred Bagnold's "Easy Gap" in the sand dune belt. All cars at JENA by nightfall.  
Feb. 1st. No.1. M.M.G. Battery arrived at SELIMA having dumped 1,260 gallons of petrol at JENA.  
Feb. 6th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery left SELIMA for OWEINAT and did 115 miles. No.1. M.M.G. Battery took with it a maintenance convoy under El Bimbashi Walch and the Navigating Officer. All loads were lightened and only essentials carried. For example - no tents were taken by this convoy, consequently much better progress was made. The tyres were let down to their extreme limit.
Feb. 8th. Gap in sand dune found and No.1. M.M.G. Battery proceeded a further 57 miles. Going varied from sand dune to sand sheet with occasional rocky patches. Continuous sticking in sand sheet.  
Feb. 9th. No.1. M.M.G. Battery arrived OWEINAT 1500 hours, and proceeded to take over from R.A.F.  

Camps en-route. Note the sole machine gun car at left. Arkwright and O'Neill (?) in centre photo.
A cold morning. O'Neill in centre.
  Morning drill.
"Continuous sticking in sand sheet." (Not much changed since those days ...)
JENA dump (?).
On the way...
Navigating Officer Sweeting.
  No.1. M.M.G. Battery in sight of Jebel Uweinat.

Camp at entrance of Karkur Murr, Oweinat, Feb.10-14th.

Date. Event. Remarks.
Feb. 12th. Navigating Officer and wireless set and personnel of R.A.F. left OWENAT at 1300 hours, on a direct bearing on BURG ET TIYUR. At the same time O.C. No.2. M.M.G. Battery left MERGA for BURG ET TIYUR with El Bimbashi Henfrey and two Thornycrofts which were to be evacuated.  
Feb. 14th. Flight of R.A.F. left OWENAT for EGYPT.  

Arrival to Karkur Murr base camp. Note parked RAF aircraft in background.
SDF Camp at Karkur Murr shortly after arrival (from RAF Report)
        Sweeting, Arkwright, Flying Officer A.H. Marsack (?) and unidentified RAF officer.

At this point the SDF Operations Diary ends, subsequent events are based on Arkwright's photographs, references in Almasy's "Recentes Explorations..." and the notes left on the summit of Jebel Uweinat.

Evolution of Karkur Murr Camp.


The same campsite as seen in October 2004:


Trek to Bir Murr and other valleys.

Trekking up Karkur Murr towards Bir Murr.
  F.G.B. Arkwright
Karkur Murr, the rocky step half-way between the lower and upper springs.
Bir Murr.
  Inscription of the No.1. M.M.G. Battery on the rock at Bir Murr.

Arkwright and Almásy have visited together the wadi to the west of Karkur Murr (named Wadi Wahesh by the 1968 Belgian expedition), and found several rock art sites there (Almásy, Récentes Explorations..., p. 80-81), however apparently no photographic record exists of this visit.

Meeting the Almásy Party (March), the Monterin party (April) and Italian officers.

In March 1934 Almásy led a group of Egyptian and expatriate notables to the Gilf Kebir and Jebel Uweinat. During a short stay at Karkur Talh, Almásy succeeded in shooting a Waddan (barbary sheep), and also met with Arkwright. Almásy records in 'Recentes Explorations...' that he made several long treks on the south side of the mountain accompanied by Arkwright, who also showed Almásy a rock shelter he discovered at Jebel Kissu. Almásy copied and reproduced this site (not too accurately) in 'Recentes Explorations...' giving Arkwright full credit for the discovery.

The camp of the Almásy party at Karkur Talh, with some Italian officers also present (Almásy at left).
  The Almásy party, left to right Almásy, Heinrich Heller (?), Sgt. O'Neill, Hans-Joachim von der Esch, Prince Abd el Moneim.
The Almásy camp by Hassanein's giraffe rock. Note Chianti bottle on table, Almasy with camera in centre and photographing rock pictures on the rocks at left.
The rock art site discovered by Arkwright at Jebel Kissu.
  Almásy's rather inaccurate copy of the same scene.

Apparently despite the icy official atittudes, the relations continued at Uweinat between the British and Italian officers in the same good spirit Bagnold and company experienced two years earlier.

Arkwright and O'Neill meeting Italian officers at Ain Doua.
  O'Neill with italian officers.
  Italian cars at the entrance of Karkur Ibrahim

Thanks to the efforts of Alessandro Menardi Noguera, it is possible to identify the Italian party photographed with Arkwright at Ain Doua: the two persons to the right dressed in civilian suits are Prof. Umberto Mònterin, geologist from Turin University (tall with moustache) and Ing. Renato Tedeschi (short with a white jacket), a geographer from Rome University. It is the only published Mònterin portrait while in Libya. The tall officer on the right of Arkwright is Major Ottavio Rolle, comander of the Kufra garrison, and the officer on the left is Lt. Terabini of the Alpine Corps.

    Left to right: Lt. Terabini, O'Neill, Major Ottavio Rolle, Arkwright, Umberto Monterin, Renato Tedeschi

In the Arkwright album there is one page of photos showing Kufra, and a campsite possibly near Wadi Sora at the Gilf Kebir. The Ford model A-s appearing on the photos seem to be that of the Almásy party, certainly not the Battery vehicles. Neither Arkwright or any other British officer appears on any of the photos (nor anyone else recognisable), and it is extremely unlikely that Arkwright would have been to Kufra as a guest of the Italians. It is more plausible that Almásy, who is known to have visited Kufra a week earlier, gave these photos to Arkwright. While the photos lack military value, nevertheless it is an interesting addition to the enigmatic picture of Almásy's loyalties. (Certainly in sharp contrast to the Foreign Office assessment of his motives during the same trip.)

    Photographs of Kufra Oasis in the Arkwright album (plus camp at the Gilf Kebir ?)

Ascent of the peak of Jebel Uweinat, 2nd April.

During our first ascent of the peak of Uweinat in November 2001, we have found the damaged note left by the No.1. Motor Machine Gun Battery party in Bagnold's cairn. Research stirred by this find uncovered the SDF report in the Public Records Office, and identified F.G.B. Arkwright as the person likely to have left the note in 1934. Subsequently, in 2002 October we have located the collapsed cairn of the 1933 Marchesi party, and in it the damaged but partially legible peak log. This log confirmed, that on the 2nd April, 1934 F.G.B. Arkwright, Sargent O'Neill and 16 native soldiers reached the summit. Subsequently two other SDF parties made it to the peak in the heat of the summer, following Arkwright's departure. In the Arkwright album, four shots document the ascent:

On the way up...
  The "Three Graces" from the summit.
Party on the summit, Bagnold's cairn in centre.
  Wiew to the South.
The 2001 document
hires (1200x1800)
  Page 3. of the peak log
hires (1200x889)

The Boundary Commission

In July 1934, Arkwright left Uweinat for a well earned vacation on the Mediterranean coast at Mersa Matruh. He passed command to Bimbashi E.T. Wyatt (who led a party to the peak of Uweinat on the 12th August, as attested by the peak log). Following the Rome treaty in August fixing the frontier between Libya and Sudan along longitude 25 East, a boundary commission was formed, led from the British side by Wyatt, and colonel De Angostini from the Italian side. Sweeting returned to Uweinat to join the Commission. Two photographs (both taken with De Agostini's camera) were published in "L'illustrazione Italiana" (Vol. LXI, 7 October 1934) showing both the British and Italian team members at a newly erected boundary post (positively identifying Sweeting on the Arkwright photographs).

Sweeting and Wyatt.
  The Italian party,
De Agostini in right centre.


Following the Uweinat operation, F.G.B. Arkwright continued as a career officer in the British Army. Attaining a rank of Lt. Colonel, he was killed in action near El Alamein on the 1st of July, 1942, as commanding officer of the 4th County of London Yeomanry. He was awarded the MC for gallantry on active service prior to his death and the DSO posthumously. His gravesite remains unknown, he is listed on the El Alamein War Memorial.

Prior to his military career, F.G.B. Arkwright was a first-class cricket player in the mid-twenties.


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    The fascinating story of intrigue and espionage, revealed through a series of hitherto unpublished letters by W.J. Harding King
  • Operation SALAM
    László Almásy’s most daring Mission in the Desert War
    The story of one of the most daring secret operations of the Desert Campaign in the Second World War. A mission far behind the enemy lines, thousands of kilometers through the most arid corner of the Sahara desert, in order to deliver two German spies into the very heart of British-held Egypt.