Secrets of Espionage Hidden in Family Papers: Charles Boutagy and the Nili Network during World War I
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On the night 27 January 1917, Charles Boutagy, member of a prominent Arab Anglican family in Haifa, and Aaron Aaronsohn, founder of the Jewish Agricultural Experiment Station and ringleader of the Nili espionage ring, disembarked from a torpedo boat anchored off the coast of Atlit, south of Haifa. The boat, named the Arbalète and captained by Captain Smith, had originated in Port Said; it was used to ferry British intelligence assets to the Palestinian and Syrian coast, where they would collect information on the Ottoman-German positions and relay it back to the Arab Bureau in Cairo. The men came ashore at night so as not to arouse the suspicions of the Ottomans or anybody residing on the coast near the determined location. Boutagy mentions this incident in his memoirs: “The French Admiral placed the French torpedo boat, ‘Arbalette’ [sic] at my disposal. It was to take Selim Dardas and myself to Haifa to accomplish my mission.”[1] He does not, however, mention Aaronsohn.

Charles Boutagy devotes many pages of his memoirs to discussing how he was recruited by the British intelligence, how he built his relationship with representatives of the British intelligence apparatus, and especially his relationship with T. E. Lawrence, with whom he met in Cairo multiple times, for long hours. Yet it is striking that Boutagy does not mention the names of members of the Nili espionage group. I believe that their names have been omitted to perform a kind of political cover-up. The memoirs were likely written after 1948, after the family had fled Haifa and Palestine. Most of the members of the family left for Australia, though some of the family migrated to Lebanon for a time. It strikes me as reasonable that the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict led Boutagy the memoirist, or whoever may have revised the memoirs, to omit any name directly connected to the Zionist Nili network.

The Nili network was established by Aaron and Sarah Aaronsohn in 1915 in the Zichron Ya’akov colony, south of Haifa, to gather intelligence about the situation in Palestine and transmit it to the British. In all, its members grew to close to thirty. And though Boutagy does not mention the names of members of the Nili group, he does mention the names of ships that were used to transport agents from Egypt to the Syrian coast and then to Cyprus numerous times. Among the most prominent was a ship named the Managem. It is worth mentioning here that it was during one of the Managem’s voyages on which Aaronsohn and his friend Liova (Levi) Schneerson were passengers that Aaronsohn opened a Torah and his eye fell upon Samuel 15:29 – “Netzakh Yisrael Lo Yishaker” . . . “the Glory of Israel will not lie” – from which he drew the Hebrew acronym that would become the name of the group: Nili. By tracing the vessels and voyages that Boutagy mentions in his memoirs and triangulating them with references in other sources, we are thus able to know that Boutagy participated in the recruitment of a number of the members of the Nili network and that he met them individually or as a group

By returning to the literature that has been published by Israeli scholars in recent years – especially papers and documents of the movement and of the Aaronsohn family preserved in the family’s home in Zichron Ya’akov, which has been turned into a museum[2] – there are clear references to meetings and joint activities where Charles Boutagy was in attendance. Charles Boutagy’s name is found a number of times within the Hebrew sources that treat the issue of the Nili group and its activities, including its development and growth in a very short period of time during World War I.[3] Here, I will try to link what Boutagy records in his memoirs and the information found in these sources.


The Boutagy Memoirs


The Boutagy (also spelled Butaji) family is from Haifa, and played a very important role in the city’s economic, social, and political life, and in its Masonic community, during the Ottoman and British Mandate periods. Charles’s father, Theophile Seraphim Boutagy, was a well-known personality in late Ottoman and British Mandate Palestinian society. He lived in Haifa, where he served as translator (dragoman) for the American consulate. He studied at the American University in Beirut and was fluent in Arabic, Turkish, English, Italian, and German. Theophile was also a fixture in Haifa’s commercial world, serving as an agent for the Thomas Cook and Sons Company,[4] before going on to establish the Boutagy and Sons Company, which imported and serviced office and home appliances and electronic devices. Boutagy and Sons was known in particular for offering His Master’s Voice brand gramophones, which spread – along with its famous logo of a dog peering curiously into the horn of a phonograph – throughout Palestine and Transjordan, in addition to importing and servicing radios, which contributed significantly to the flows of information of all kinds – from news to music to artistic and cultural programming – to those who owned them or listened to their broadcasts beginning in the period preceding World War II. Boutagy reaped great wealth from this vast trade, opening branches in Beirut, Nablus, and Jerusalem, in addition to the main branch in Haifa. His son Charles was also the owner of the Windsor Hotel in Haifa, considered a luxury hotel at the time.

Several years ago, I received a number of packages of family papers belonging to the Boutagy family in the mail. They were sent by Eddie Palmer, whose uncle, Charles Boutagy, was the owner of the papers that we will presently turn our attention. Eddie lived in Australia and had come to learn that I had an interest in the history of Haifa and its surrounding areas, and had thus sent the papers my way. Included in these papers were: the memoirs of Theophile Boutagy, doyen of the family, and of Theophile’s son Charles, both of which were written in English; and scattered sheets of a diary that Theophile had kept at various times; photocopied passages from the Reverend Rafiq Farah’s History of the Episcopal Church (Tarikh al-kanisa al-usqufiyya, published in Jerusalem in 1995);[5] and a number of photographs of the family and their shops in Haifa, dating from the late Ottoman period until 1948.

My attention was drawn in the memoirs of Charles Boutagy to the relations established between him and British intelligence in Egypt during the First World War. He describes these relations from beginning to end, their development and expansion to form a web that linked individuals from Palestine and Syria, enlisting them in the work of collecting information and transmitting it to the central British intelligence service offices in Egypt. There, specialists analyzed it and passed it on to the military leadership, in order to organize against the military movements of the joint German-Ottoman forces. Britain was then in dire need of any information that could aid in its military plans vis-à-vis the German and Ottoman forces. Boutagy was put to work gathering information to serve the landing operations at the shores of Atlit, south of Haifa.

Charles Boutagy’s affinity for the British was evident in his membership in the Evangelical Episcopal Church in Haifa (an Anglican church) and in his unwillingness to join the Ottoman military, instead resolving to flee Haifa and Palestine and heading to Egypt, where he joined thousands of other Syrians and Palestinians who had fled Ottoman military service and realized that there was no returning to their homeland until after the war had reached its conclusion. The British enlisted a large number of these Palestinians and Syrians, including Charles Boutagy, in their war effort. No doubt, the Ottoman commanders were aware that a large number of Arabs and Bedouin from the Negev and the Sinai were beneficiaries of money and weapons provided by British intelligence agents to undertake espionage and intelligence work on their behalf.

Our discussion of Charles Boutagy’s work for British intelligence can be roughly divided into two periods: the first from 8 December 1914 to 11 December 1916; and the second from 12 December 1916 to September 1917. During the first period, Boutagy was trained in the collection of intelligence and how to transmit it to the British, drawing on his ability to speak three languages: Arabic, English, and French. From a closer look at Boutagy’s memoirs, it seems that he gained wide experience in the fundamentals of intelligence work and areas connected to it. Specifically, they refer to the recruitment of others, in large numbers, to gather information in the field and the transfer of this intelligence to the intelligence headquarters in Cairo, where it could be analyzed and put to use back in the field. It is during the second period, from late 1916 to 1917, that we can trace Boutagy’s involvement with the Nili group.


Boutagy in Cairo


Immediately upon his arrival in Cairo, Charles Boutagy met with Frederic John Scrimgeour, a doctor from the Scottish Mission Hospital in Nazareth and a friend of the Boutagy family.[6] Charles asked Scrimgeour to help him secure residency in Egypt, as he was not yet eighteen years old.[7] Scrimgeour was successful in arranging this. Equally significantly, it was through his relationship with Scrimgeour that Boutagy came into contact with Brigadier-General Gilbert Clayton, one of the senior employees in the Arab Bureau in Cairo.[8] Knowing that Boutagy was in need of employment, Scrimgeour recommended him to Clayton for work and arranged a meeting.

In his memoirs, Charles Boutagy describes his first meeting with Clayton on 8 December 1914 as follows:


First of all the Captain [i.e., Clayton] wanted me to tell him all I knew about the Turks in Palestine. I told him that the Turks were preparing about fifty thousand soldiers, an expeditionary force around Gaza and Beersheba, with which they wanted to attack Egypt through or across the Suez Canal in order to gain their own territory. That before I left Haifa, they made every household hand over what four-gallon empty paraffin tins they had which the Turks wanted to use to transport water across the desert with. They commandeered as many camels, horses, mules and donkeys as they could and were moving troops all the way from Constantinople [i.e., Istanbul] to Beersheba and that the Germans had supplied them with General Lehman Von Saunders[9] [sic] and tens of other German officers as well as non-commissioned officers. I even mentioned that there were two German ships lying at anchor off Haifa. The Captain was pleased with all the information I gave him. Lord Kitchener was still in Egypt.[10] The information was passed on to him and to the General Officer Commanding, at that time, Sir John Maxwell.[11]


            Having proven his ability to provide useful intelligence to the British, Boutagy “asked General Clayton as to what job he could offer me. He said that the best he could do was to nominate me as a second class interpreter at the Citadel of Cairo at a wage of English pounds 15 per month that would equal 375 franks as against the 200 which was my last wage I drew from Schmidt.” The Schmidt to whom Boutagy refers was the owner, along with Fritz Keller, of a shop in Haifa where Boutagy was employed before leaving for Egypt. Boutagy continued: “So Captain Clayton gave me a letter to the Officer Commanding of the Citadel and asked me to report to him the following day, 9th December [1914].”

This letter, though Boutagy never delivered it to the citadel, led to his first meeting with T. E. Lawerence. Boutagy writes:


That very same evening, whilst we were having dinner at my Uncle’s house,[12] an officer to see me. He said that his name was 2nd Lt [Second Lieutenant] T. E. Lawrence from the Military Intelligence office.


Lawrence told Boutagy that “he had just come back Captain Clayton’s office [and] that [he] had now changed his mind. He said instead of reporting to the Citadel I should report to him at his office on 9th December.”[13] Boutagy recalled:


On the 9th December, 1914, I reported to 2nd Lt T. E. Lawrence at the Military Intelligence office. He introduced me to Major S F Newcombe who was in charge and to Captain Lloyd (the son of the then Prime Minister of England), Lawrence was number three. We sat around a table and they informed me that their ambition was to form a network of spies to get as much information as possible about the enemy’s (the Turks) movements and that would cover the area up to Istanbul. They asked me if I would go back to live over there and send them what information they wanted by hiding my reports under a rock at the beach (at a spot to be fixed) [near Atlit] from which spot their ships could pick it up at night.

I told them that for me to return to Haifa was out of the question. First of all the Kaimakam [qa’imaqam] there had warned me through my father that the Germans had blacklisted me because I sang God Save the King. Secondly, that I was of military age and, if caught, would be sent to do my military service, a thing I did not wish to do.


According to Boutagy’s memoirs, his relationship with Lawrence developed from there:


Lawrence took me to give me one or two lessons. He drove me to Kasr el Nil Bridge over the Nile in Cairo and showed me that if a bridge is supported by an arch above the bridge, where to place the dynamite to blow it up. And if a bridge is supported by an arch below its surface, where to place the dynamite in order to blow up the bridge. All these lessons where in case I landed on one place on the Turkish coast. My territory was from Port Said to as far as Mersina. Lawrence took me out to one of the fields. An R E Sergeant was with us. He taught me how to climb a telegraph pole, cut off the line and rethread the line so that the Turks would not know where it had been cut. And other lessons as well.


I asked Lawrence to supply me with a cruiser to go to Haifa. He gave me a letter to C. L. Woolley,[14] who was an intelligence officer in Port Said, to arrange for a cruiser to take me to Haifa to accomplish my mission, after which [it would] return me to Port Said.

When I got to Port Said and reported to Lieut. C. L. Woolley, he went to see the Admiral in charge of the Port Said Station, as well as the French Admiral. The allies had not yet reached an agreement as to who should be the Admiral in charge of the blockade of the Turkish coast. Actually, having heard that the Turks were collecting 50,000 troops in the Sinai Desert in order to attack Egypt, Lord Kitchener started to prepare enough troops and men of war to attack the Dardanelles. That meant that every man of war and other ships lying in Port Said or Alexandria were under orders to be ready. Consequently, neither the British nor the French had any ships free to place at my disposal through Lieut Woolley.



These are some of the passages that Charles Boutagy devoted to the issue of espionage in the service of the British army. There are many other references his intelligence work for the British without any clear indication of the dates. Still, however, it is possible to trace a number of the relationships that he built with informants, Arab and otherwise, on behalf of the British army. In doing so, I found that the name Charles was mentioned a number of times, in particular his meetings with Aaronsohn and his sister Sarah, as well as other employees working for the British army. I will briefly convey what a number of Israeli scholars have written regarding the Nili intelligence network and Boutagy’s involvement with it starting in late 1916.


Boutagy’s Involvement with the Nili Group


On 12 December 1916, Aaron Aaronsohn met with Charles (Charlie) Boutagy in Port Said, Egypt. Boutagy carried letters and briefs written by Alex Aaronsohn, Aaron’s brother, that had caught the eye of British intelligence in Cairo. Boutagy and Aaron suggested arranging a meeting attended by Alex and Colonel Newcombe.[15] Alex Aaronsohn was upset, though, that the British had not treated him with greater confidence. Indeed, the British were initially wary of those who volunteered to provide intelligence for free.[16] Aaron Aaronsohn asked to be taken on board a British boat heading from Port Said to the Syrian or Lebanese coast, in order to land off the coast at Atlit where the Jewish Agricultural Experiment Station was based. When he was rebuffed, Aaronsohn sent a letter on 20 December to Brigadier Walter Gribbon of the British War Office in London,[17] explaining the cooling of relations between him and the British, in whose interests he had had worked as a spy. But after following this with another letter complaining of ill treatment, Aaronsohn apparently set about improving the relationship and returning it to its previous state.

Meanwhile, Aaronon and Boutagy were joined in Port Said by Rafael Abu al-‘Afiya. Abu al-‘Afiya, a Jew born in Jerusalem in 1890s, was interested in partaking in espionage activities and joined the Nili group on 20 January 1917. The three intended to travel to the Syrian coast on board the Cheauveau, a French vessel, but the sea off of Port Said was stormy and the Cheauveau’s captain was unable to leave the harbor, instead returning with them to shore.

As they waited for a second opportunity to travel, scheduled for 25 January 1917, Aaronsohn went to spend some time in Cairo. There he met with William Stanley Edmonds of British intelligence, who informed him that one of the members of the Nili group had just arrived in Port Said from the desert. Aaronsohn knew that he meant Yosef Lishansky and returned to Port Said to visit him in a hotel. Aaronsohn was accompanied by Charles Boutagy. Lishansky showed Aaronsohn a bullet wound that he had received from a Bedouin in the desert and, wanting to inform Aaronsohn of developments, asked that Boutagy leave the room. With that, Lishansky told Aaronsohn that Avshalom Feinberg, one of the founders of the Nili network, had been mortally wounded by a Bedouin on 20 January.

It is worth noting here that Feinberg himself was a friend of Charles’s father, Theophile Boutagy. The roots of this friendship were in Haifa, which Feinberg had visited several times and where the two had met. On the basis of this relationship, Charles Boutagy had served as an intermediary between Feinberg and Leonard Woolley.[18]

On 27 January, Boutagy and Aaronsohn departed as planned, embarking on the Arbalète, which – as described at the opening of this article – deposited the men off the coast at Atlit two days later. By 19 February 1917, Boutagy had returned to Port Said and Lishansky had recovered. The two embarked on a new ship named the Managem under the command of Captain Morewood.[19] The ship brought Lishansky and others to Atlit before continuing on to Famagusta, Cyprus, and returning to its base on 1 April 1917.[20] Between February and October 1917, the Managem sailed many times between the harbor at Port Said and the coast by Atlit on its way to and from Famagusta. The Nili men traveled on board, along with war materiel and documents.

The Managem was a small boat, built in 1904 as a survey vessel. It was pressed into British naval service to mislead the Ottomans into thinking that it was a civilian boat, not a military vessel. Its cargo-carrying weight did not exceed 206 tons, and it was not built to withstand the winds and storms that could suddenly kick up along the eastern Mediterranean, including along the coast between Port Said and northern Syria around Mersin.[21] In April 1917, a new captain, Lieutenant Kane, was appointed to the Managem, while Captain Lewen Weldon represented British intelligence on board. One of Weldon’s tasks was to deposit agents and spies on the shores of Palestine and Syria and to transmit telegraphic messages from the ship to British central intelligence in Cairo.[22]Among the ship’s crew were three Syrians who knew the Syrian coast in great detail. Captain Smith was also on board to deliver materials written in Hebrew and French that contained sensitive information about the joint Ottoman-German movements in different locations in Syria.

The Managem’s activities off the coast of Atlit took place on nights without moonlight, planned around the new moon, in order to prevent the discovery of the ship or those disembarking from it. Those who went ashore near Atlit were headed for the Jewish Agricultural Experiment Station established by Aaronsohn. The Managem, and other ships, however, faced the difficulties associated with high waves and the possibility of running into the remnants of the Atlit Crusader castle. Often, it had to turn back and try again. It was agreed that the Managem would drop anchor at nine o’clock at night until two in the morning, and signals were determined to coordinate between the ship and agents ashore at the Experiment Station. Usually, the Managem would pass by the Zichron Ya’akov colony, where it could be seen from the Aaronsohn family house, which was situated atop a hill, and preparations could be made for the landing operation.

When the ship returned from the north to Atlit, and the waves were calm, it would anchor about two and a half miles out and the crew would send out a small boat to reach the shore. Because the landing operation was not a one-off, but recurred frequently, the colonists at Atlit, led by its Jewish mukhtar David Gruber and a number of employees of the Agricultural Experiment Station, would give gifts and tobacco to the Ottoman soldiers and policemen in the two closest police stations in the area in an effort to win their trust and prevent them from suspecting any unusual activities in the area.[23]

In July 1917, however, the Managem began to face a new threat: the presence of German submarines in the Mediterranean, one of which was active in the area of Atlit. The captain of the Managem now had to avoid this submarine so as not to tip off the Germans or their Ottoman allies. Because of these hazards, the British considered landing the Managem off the Lebanese coast, at Tyre or between Sidon and Beirut, where there was no large concentration of Ottoman soldiers. A plan was also hatched to involve members of the Ghanim family, a family of Lebanese origin residing in Haifa, in the gathering and transmission of information; one of the family members worked with the Nili group at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Atlit, so the Ottoman military would find no reason to suspect him. It also seems clear that the family had strong links to the Boutagy family in Haifa. This possibility was set aside, however, because of its complexity and the danger of being discovered by the Ottoman authorities.




In early September 1917, a carrier pigeon fell into Ottoman hands with a piece of paper attached to its leg. The Ottoman authorities suspected that the message was sent by Sarah Aaronsohn, Aaron’s sister, who was very active in the Nili espionage network. Their suspicion only increased with their discovery of a large sum of British money in possession of somebody in one of the markets in Ramla, Palestine. After gathering intelligence, a group of Ottoman police went to Zichron Ya’akov and surrounded the Aaronsohn family’s house. Sarah was arrested and subjected to a harsh investigation. When she learned that they were going to transport her to Nazareth for further questioning, she committed suicide by shooting herself. The Ottoman police set out to capture other members of the Nili group, who fled or tried to flee when their affairs were discovered, and word spread that the police had identified the names of those belonging to the group. The arrested members were sent to Damascus to be hanged on the gallows in al-Marja Square. Thus the espionage ring came to an end. As for Aaron Aaronsohn, who was outside Palestine at the time, he met his end in 1919, after the end of the war, when a plane that was carrying him from France to Britain crashed. The cause of the crash was unknown.

Charles Boutagy survived the war and the family maintained its place among the merchant elite of Haifa during the Mandate period. The memoirs of Charles Boutagy, as well as those of his father Theophile and other papers belonging to the family, shed light on the Boutagy’s success in establishing a strong relationship with the British starting from the First World War and continuing through the Mandate period. This can be seen in the not insignificant number of pages that Charles Boutagy devoted in his memoirs to detailing his involvement in collecting intelligence on behalf of the British intelligence office in Cairo during the war. From another perspective, these memoirs also contribute to our understanding of the views and tendencies of this family, which played a (limited) political and important commercial role in Palestine, and especially in Haifa, during the Mandate period. Finally, the subject of espionage during World War I is in need of further study, and would certainly benefit from comparing and combining British, Arab, and Zionist sources. This article and the sources upon which it is based may, I hope, be seen as an initial effort in this regard.


Johnny Mansour is a historian who lives in Haifa. He is a lecturer in the history department of Beit Berl Academic College (BBAC).



[1] The quotes throughout this article are taken from the unpublished memoirs of Charles Boutagy, titled Memoirs of Charles V. Boutagy during His Lifetime in Haifa.

[2] For more information on the Aaronsohn family house and the museum it now houses, see (accessed 11 April 2016).

[3] Foremost among the Hebrew sources that deal with Charles Boutagy’s repeated meetings with Aaronsohn and his comrades in Port Said and Atlit is Eliezer Livneh, Nili: toldoteha shel he‘azah medinit [Nili: A History of Political Daring] (Jerusalem: Shoken, 1961).

[4] This account is based on the personal papers of Theophile Boutagy, which appear to have been written in 1941, three years before his death, and are held by his daughter, Hilda.

[5] For an English translation, see: Rafiq A. Farah, In Troubled Waters: A History of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, 1841–1998 (Leicester: Christians Aware, 2002).

[6] Frederic John Scrimgeour (1878–1948) was born in Dundee, Scotland. He worked as a doctor in the Scottish Mission Hospital in Nazareth, Palestine, from 1904 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he was pressed into service by the Ottoman authorities as a military doctor and then with Ottoman naval intelligence, since he knew English. However, he joined the camp of General Allenby, commander of the British forces, and was later appointed in charge of public health for the occupied enemy territories. He spent his time during the war in Cairo, but returned to the Scottish Mission Hospital in Nazareth from 1918 to 1921, after which he returned to Scotland and then moved to Canada. In 1913, he published an account of Palestine, Nazareth of To-day (Edinburgh: W. Green, 1913). An Arabic edition, translated by Hazza‘ Abu Rabi‘, was published in 2011.

[7] Or so Boutagy contends in his memoirs.

[8] Gilbert Clayton (1875–1929) was one of the most prominent members of British intelligence during World War I. He worked in the Arab Bureau, which was established by the British in Egypt to collect information in the Middle East, especially any intelligence regarding the disposition of the Arabs toward the Ottoman Empire during the war, and to encourage them to supporting Britain. After the war, he served as the Civil Secretary for Palestine (1922–1925) and was as a diplomat in the Arabian peninsula (where he was involved in negotiating the 1927 Treaty of Jidda, served as envoy to Ibn Sa‘ud in Najd, and negotiated with the Yemeni leader Yahya Muhammad Hamid al-Din) before serving as High Commissioner of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia in Iraq from 1928 until his death of a heart attack in 1929. The diary of his diplomatic activities in Najd and Yemen was published posthumously: An Arabian Diary, ed. Robert O. Collins (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969).

[9] Otto Liman Von Sanders (1855–1929) was a senior German officer during the First World War, sharing in the leadership of the Gallipoli battles alongside the Ottoman army in 1915. He assumed leadership of the joint Ottoman-German forces during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in 1918, though he, like his predecessor General Erich von Falkenhayn, was defeated by the British forces under the leadership of General Allenby. After the war he was arrested in Malta and briefly held on charges of committing war crimes before being released. He published his memoirs in 1927, translated into English as Five Years in Turkey (Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1927).

[10] Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850–1916) had served in Egypt since 1883, becoming the commander-in-chief of its army in 1892 before being dispatched to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War and then serving as commander-in-chief of the Indian Army in 1902. In 1911, Kitchener returned to Egypt as Consul-General and in 1914, at the outset of World War I, he was appointed Secretary of State for War.

[11] John Greenfield Maxwell (1859–1929) was a senior British army officer, commanding British forces stationed in Egypt between 1908 and 1912 and returning to command the army there once again during World War I, from September 1914 until March 1916.

[12] Here Charles means Dr. Shukri Butaji, who had taken up residence in Cairo before World War I.

[13] Lawrence’s papers, held in the special collections of the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, include material relating to Boutagy in several files from 1967: Photocopies of letters, 1967 (MS. Eng. c. 6751, fols. 122–3, 130–1); and Photocopy of lecture, 1967 (MS. Eng. c. 6751, fols. 136–46).

[14] Sir Charles Leonard Woolley (1880–1960) was a British archaeologist – among his most prominent excavations was that of the Bablyonian city of Ur in Iraq, a joint project of the British Museum and the University of Pennsylvania. During the First World War, the British army placed him in charge of preservation of cultural heritage in the areas occupied by the British military. He joined Lawrence in the ranks of the intelligence service during the war. He was captured by Ottoman forces in the summer of 1916 and spent the remainder of the war in an Ottoman military prison, about which see: C. Leonard Woolley, ed., From Kastamuni to Kedos: Being a Record of Experiences of Prisoners of War in Turkey, 1916–1918 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1921).

[15] Shmuel Katz, The Aaronsohn Saga (Jerusalem: Gefen, 2007), 79.

[16] Yigal Sheffy, British Military Intelligence in the Palestine Campaign, 1914–1918 (London: Routledge, 2014), 77.

[17] Walter Gribbon worked for the British intelligence in Egypt. On his relationship with Aaronsohn, see: Anthony Verrier, ed., Agents of Empire: Anglo-Zionist Intelligence Operations, 1915–1919 – Brigadier Walter Gribbon, Aaron Aaronsohn, and the NILI Ring (London: Brassey’s, 1995).

[18] On this relationship, see: Ronald Florence, Lawrence and Aaronsohn: T. E. Lawrence, Aaron Aaronsohn, and the Seeds of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (New York: Viking, 2007), 92.

[19] Anita Engle, The Nili Spies (London: Routledge, 1997 [1959]), 91.

[20] Andrekos Varnava, “British Military Intelligence in Cyprus during the Great War,” War in History 19, no. 3 (Jul. 2012): 353–378.

[21] See “World War 1 at Sea – Ships of the Royal Navy,” accessed 13 April 2016, online at, which cites Frederick James Dittmar and J. J. Colledge, British Warships, 1914–1919 (London: Allan, 1972).

[22] Sheffy, British Military Intelligence, 158.

[23] Livneh, Nili, 137.