Archive relating to the Royal Navy service of Midshipman Francis Wyatt Rawson Larken.
Comprising 3 autograph manuscript journal books together with related material.1928-51 Stock Code: 142568
"The Trucial Sheikhs and their followers … came onboard … All were fine upstanding men"A fascinating and unpublished primary source - and as such rare in private hands - being the manuscript journal books kept by a Royal Navy midshipman during a tour of the Gulf in 1930-31; including a compelling account of a visit to Dubai and an on-board reception for the Trucial Sheikhs, part of a broader British policy of "courting" local rulers; all three volumes scrupulously maintained in the best traditions of the service.
The background to the Effingham's visit to the Gulf was the necessity for Britain to establish landing areas, anchorages and fuel depots along the coast of the Trucial States, as an alternative air route from Britain to India was sought that circumvented Persia. "In the second half of the 1920s, as the British attempted to develop the India route via Persia and then the Trucial Coast, their long-term policy in the region seemed to promise diplomatic advantage in negotiations. However, as aviation represented an unwelcome incursion into local sovereignty, it caused local opposition. Unable to resort to their traditional 'gunboat diplomacy,' the British found their influence greatly below what they had presumed. When they were forced to develop a collaborative relationship with local elites, it became apparent that a balance of power had emerged" (Crompton). The Arabian route of Sharjah-Yas (Abu Dhabi)-Bahrein-Kuwait-Basra was eventually adopted in 1932.
Throughout the journals Larken proves himself to be a shrewd and alert observer. Perhaps the most interesting entry centres on the visit to the Effingham by the Trucial Sheikhs on 17 December 1930: "At 1020 the Trucial Sheikhs and their followers numbering in all some 200 came onboard. The object of this visit is to impress the Sheikhs with the might and length of the British Navy's Avenging Arm! The truce which they hold with the British Government and which binds them to peaceful ways is sometimes overlooked by them and though it does not so much matter their fighting among themselves it becomes more serious when they interfere with white men. This is especially vital at the moment as we are preparing an Indian Air Mail Route down the Arabian Gulf of the Persian Gulf for when our agreement with the Persian Government comes to an end it will in all probability not be renewed."
Larken goes on to describe how the Sheikhs are given a tour of the ship: "There were some 8 or 10 of the higher cast sic. on board and these were taken round the ship by the Admiral and the Captain while their followers stayed on the Quarter Deck. A torpedo was fired also a full charge round from a gun They all then congregated on the Quarter Deck where the band played. They then left in their respective barges ornate and rather splendid motor dhows, the various Sheikhs receiving salutes the number of guns ranging from 6 to 1 in ratio to their importance. They brought us gifts of Beef and Melon Jelly (neither of particularly sanitary appearance) and they were sent away with Gold Flake Cigarettes and chocolate. Every man carries his broad curved belt knife heavily set with worked silver and the chief ones wore splendid 'Bournous' of gold work cloth. All were fine upstanding men very much like the Sheik of fiction In the evening a searchlight display was given for the further impressment of the Arabs".
While Larken does not name them individually, the rulers who visited the Effingham would have been Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum (18781958) of Dubai, Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi (d. 1951) of Sharjah and his cousin Sheikh Sultan bin Salim Al Qasimi (18911951) of Ras al-Khaimah, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan (190589) of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi (190281) of Ajman, Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Sharqi of Fujairah, and Sheikh Ahmad bin Rashid Al Mualla (190481) of Umm Al Quwain.
Crompton makes an interesting point concerning the advent of aviation in the region: "As aircraft appeared particularly wonderful in a technologically underdeveloped and deeply conservative environment such as the Trucial Coast, they could help to boost British influence there. Being faster than any form of transportation ever seen on the Coast, aircraft were also more disturbing and disorienting. By moving through the air, a heavy machine was bound to inspire greater awe than would one moving on land. By its seemingly supernatural qualities, aviation allowed the British to participate in what Ziauddin Sardar describes as 'the white man as god syndrome.' By this, the 'white man' is seen as 'the god of scientific wonder and superior technology. The bearers of such advancement must be a thing of wonder for the unsophisticated Other incapable of conceiving such refined marvels for themselves. Among the Trucial inhabitants, aviation had implications which brought forth both positive and negative responses to Britain's demands for cooperation. In the Trucial experience, British Naval vessels had always doubled as weapons, and the potential of civil aircraft to perform such a dual role but one that was potentially far more intrusive raised disturbing questions regarding sovereignty and security. Naval force had limitations of reach".
Wyatt Larken was the eldest son of Admiral Sir Frank Larken (18751953). After service as a midshipman he was promoted lieutenant in 1933, commander (1944), and captain (1950). He saw WWII service on seven different vessels and shore establishments, and during the Korean War commanded the aircraft carrier Theseus and the minelayer Apollo. From 1952 until his retirement in 1955 he was deputy director of naval ordnance. The journal books also cover service on the ships Valiant, Malaya, Queen Elizabeth, and Viceroy, throughout the Mediterranean, East Africa (Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Mauritius, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Mombasa, the Seychelles, and the Maldives), as well as Burma (Myanmar) and the Andaman Islands. Full details are available on request.
Provenance: by descent from the Larken family.
Wyatt joined the Effingham at Portsmouth on 22 April 1930; her cruise of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf lasted from 21 October to 19 December 1930, when she sailed for Karachi. During this time she visited Aden, Muscat, Sohar, Sur, Khasab and Khor al-Jarama in modern Oman, as well as Dubai and the island of Sir Abu Nu'ayr in what is now the UAE. Wyatt's log for this leg of the journey occupies more than 50 pages, which also includes an account of attending a lecture on drilling in the oil fields of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, of a short trip through the swelteringly hot Elphinstone Inlet (Khor Ash Sham), of a visit to the Sheikhs and Wali of Khasab, and of another to the Sheikh of Dibba ("a remarkable figure of a man tall and holding himself very well it is said that a short while ago a white died mysteriously in his territory, an event with which his name is connected"). The charts and plans include the Gulf of Aden, the Shatt al-Arab, the "Area cover'd by Interests of Anglo-Persian Oil Co", and route charts of the Effingham's sea passages, with the "Persian Gulf Cruise" on a separate chart. There is also a good photograph of the Effingham anchored at Basrah.
Journal for the use of Midshipmen (s. 519)
Vol. I: Sept. 5th 1928 March 7th 1930
Service with Valiant, Malaya, Queen Elizabeth, and Viceroy
Vol. II: March 8th 1930 Feb. 13th 1931
Service with Viceroy, Malaya, and Effingham (April 9th Feb. 13th)
Service with Effingham from Feb. 13th 1931 to 2nd July 1931
Included with the journals is a group of memorabilia from Larken's career:
(i)Larken's personal bicorn hat, epaulettes and sword belt: black felt bicorn hat by Gieves Ltd with gilt braid and button; gilt braid epaulettes by Goode's Officers Stores (Portsmouth), leather sword belt with gilt metal buckle, in maroon velvet-lined metal case with Gieve Matthews & Seagrove Ltd brass plaque and a further brass plaque engraved 'F. W. R. Larken', 220 x 460 x 220 mm
(ii) Commander's Standing Orders for the HMS Theseus (1 March 1951). Larken's personal copy as commander. 223 mimeographed typescript leaves, signed by Larken in blue ink on first leaf, string-bound in original blue cloth-backed boards with pictorial collotype label mounted to front board. Folio (210 340 mm).
(iii) Silver cigar case, engraved with names of British soldiers including P. H. Graves-Morris (1907-1991) and one name in ?Chinese, cedar lining, 50 x 190 x 130 mm; Brig. P. H. Graves-Morris DSO MC distinguished himself in the Eritrean Campaign (1940-41) and with the Chindits in Burma
(iv) A collection of 6 printed books from Larken's personal naval library, including "H.M.S. Theseus Goes East" (Portsmouth, 1951), this copy dedicated to Larken as commander and executive officer; and the Admiralty's "Regulations and Instructions relating to His Majesty's Service at Sea" (London 1806), previously owned by the Royal Navy commander Alexander Milner (active 17951812) with his signature on the title-page
3 volumes, small folio (330 x 200 mm). Original sand-coloured half diapered cloth, dark green moiré-effect cloth sides, red skiver labels gilt, original printed paper labels to front covers (each bearing Larken's name in manuscript), red speckled edges. Ruled HMSO journal books with entries on approximately 135, 125, and 55 pages. With 28 charts and plans and 55 technical drawings on card in pen-and-ink and watercolour, mounted on stubs, nearly all full-page, 27 original silver gelatin print photographs mounted on interleaves (many depicting ships at sea), and a few other typescript documents bound in; additional items as listed above.
Spines toned, labels chipped, some mottling and general signs of handling, internally clean, overall very good.
Teresa Crompton, "British Imperial Policy and the Indian Air Route, 1918-1932", doctoral thesis, Sheffield Hallam University, January 2014.
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