Presentation given by Captain Charles Blackmore given on 20 May 2021.
In 1985, four Royal Green Jackets – Capt Charles Blackmore (3RGJ), Lieut James Bowden (3RGJ), Riflemen Chris Shelley (1RGJ) and Mark West (2RGJ) – set out on camels from Wadi Rumm, south Jordan, with members of the Howeitat tribe to retrace some 700 miles of the camel journeys made by Lawrence of Arabia during the Arab Revolt in World War 1. The significance was twofold: such a commemorative venture following the routes described by T E Lawrence and mapped out in Seven Pillars of Wisdom had not been undertaken before, and it was the 50th anniversary year of Lawrence’s untimely death following a motorbike accident near Bovington, Dorset.
What these riflemen learned about Lawrence, and his role in the Arab Revolt, was second only to what they learned about the desert and living as bedu. Dressed as Arabs they rode and walked their camels south east to the Saudi border, across the flint desert or as asuwan as General Sir John Glubb (‘Glubb Pasha’, later the founder of the Arab Legion) described it, before turning north to Syria and returning south via the Dead Sea, Petra, and back to Wadi Rumm. Beset with difficulties from bedu intrigues, camels with dysentery, getting lost and living as nomads for over a month, these camel-riding Green Jackets developed a bond with their Howeitat camel handlers which matched only the historical importance of the arduous journey they embarked upon.
Charles Blackmore’s talk, illustrated with slides, forms the basis of his book about the expedition In the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia.
Charles was commissioned into the Royal Green Jackets in 1978 serving with 3RGJ in N Ireland and Cyprus, the Rifle Depot, 1RGJ in Belfast, seconded to 6th Gurkha Rifles, Staff College, followed by command of R Coy 3 RGJ in Gibraltar and South Armough before leaving the Army in 1993 after 2 years in the MoD. His other 4expeditions include retracing the route of the Retreat to Corunna on the 175th anniversary, and a first crossing of 1000 miles of the Taklamakan Desert, China by camel. Currently he is CEO of the commercial intelligence and investigations company, Audere International Ltd.
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