Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Safia Speaks of ( wrote a comment on my post of Yousef Al Musulmani that she knew about many young Westerners joining the Libyans in their plight and inquiring if I knew “…anything about the British soldier Stuart Smallwood, who became a Muslim and joined the Ottoman Turks in their fight against the Italian invaders in Libya in 1912”
At the time, the answer was no, I didn’t. I remembered that there was a film made in the sixties, featuring a story of a British who joined the Libyans and fought with them, and married a Bedouin girl. I have seen the film, starring John Wayne and Sophia Loren, and I think it was called the Black Tent, and at the time I thought it was pure fiction.
However, I wanted to know if there was any trace of this story anywhere. I started with the easiest available on the net – Google search engine, and there again I find my second option is back to a post that Safia Speaks published on Wednesday, March 29, 2006, featuring a review of a diary of the Turkish-Italian war in Libya between October 1911 and November 1912 which was written by Enver Pasha. It seemed that this Enver Pasha told of the story of the British soldier that fought with the Libyans in his diary.
My first option of my search (and many other results after the second) was a Turkish site. I looked at this site, and I don’t speak Turkish, but I figured out that this site actually told the story of Enver Pasha. Frankly, I became more interested in the story of Enver himself.
I made a printout of the main text and asked my good Turkish friend Erkan to translate the text for me into English. Arkan looked up the site himself and became interested and promised me to make the translation in few days, which I’m still waiting for.
But who was this Enver Pasha? Then, I remembered of course, it’s the difference in pronunciation. THIS IS MAJOR ANWAR BEC المقدم أنور بك who was commander of the armed Turkish-Libyan forces in Derna with his deputy MUSTAFA KAMAL المقدم مصطفى كمال to become later on the Great MUSTAFA KAMAL ATTATURK. AND THEN, it hit me that YES, I KNEW about the English lieutenant John Smallwood, Alias Osman Effendi, who perished in the valleys of Derna on a mission of reconnaissance near the Italian fortifications in Derna.
But let’s read a witness’s account of this man and who he was..…

Georges Remond, French Journalist, arrived in Derna on 14th April, 1912 and stayed for about three weeks, wrote his observations about Ain Mansour Camp معسكر عين منصور , which included the story of JOHN SMALLWOOD…….

“On the 8th of May, the English lieutenant John Smallwood disappeared. (This gentleman) who already became a Moslem and had a new name for himself as ‘Osman Effendi’, was definitely assassinated by the Italians. He was on a mission of reconnaissance, and some Libyans were sent to trace him and came back saying that they found traces of blood fifty meters near the Italian fortifications.

This Moslem Englishman was quite a unique character. He was blond, very thin, his nose was fractured during a boxing match and his body was covered with tattoos. He was extremely brave and looked at life as a sport game. He insisted everyday to show his daring and bravery. He would go at times during perfect daylight to prepare his tea in front of the Italian lines, or sneak under darkness to the town of Derna and the Italian fortifications.
The last time he left the camp in the company of a Bedouin, he was intending to take some photographs near the Italian fortification in Derna under moon light, and he promised to give me these photos to publish in my journal, but he never came back. I can imagine that he dared to come very close to the Italian lines, he was gunned down with his Libyan companion, that they tried to crawl back to the camp and probably fell down in a ravine. The Italians would have found their bodies the following day and they were transported back to Derna. At least these are the interpretations made by the tracer people who were sent to find out their fate.

In the evening, people of the Ain Mansour Camp gathered around a poet from the tribe of Brassa قبيلة البراعصة who recited a poem of praise in the memory of this Moslem Englishman and his Libyan companion who died for the cause.”

Regarding Anwar Pasha and his deeds in Cyrenaica, that’s another story…...


Anglo-Libyan said...

Dear Gheriani,
I know a bit about the movies:
The Black Tent is a British film that I watched for the first time many years ago and I watched it again only few months ago on Film 4, it stars Anthony Steel as the English soldier and Anna Maria Sandri as the Libyan girl he marries, it was made in 1956 and it features the fantastic ruins of Sabrata,nice film that shows many women dressed in beautiful Libyan costumes, it even features a Libyan dance.

The film that stared John Wayne and Sophia Loren is: The Legend of the Lost which is about a lost treasure in the Sahara desert, it was made in 1957 and I did watch it many years ago. I read somewhere that John Wayne & Sophia Loren were staying at a hotel in Sebha when they were making this film and that to this day the room where Sophia Loren stayed is called Sophia Loren's Room and that the hotel staff still proudly point this out to people that stay there.

Omar Gheriani said...

Thank you Anglolibyan for your info.
I must have seen the Black Tent of Anthony Steel and Anna Maria Sandri, but if it was showing the ruins of Sabrata, it had no connection to Stuart Smallwood then. Incidentalyy, Smallwood is reffered to only by Enver Pash diary and George Remond articles and book. I found no other trace.

Anglo-Libyan said...

I am not sure if The Black Tent was based on a true story but the funny thing in this film is that most of it is filmed in the sahara desert yet they would suddenly be in Sabrata as if it was in the middle of the desert, they must have used both locations separately to film then just put them together.
Thank you for your gret posts.

mani said...

That is an amazing piece of History

Thank you gheriani

Desert Rose said...

Hi there Gheriani!
Good info and I thank you for sharing.
Have you come across anything about Libyan doctors who graduated from Constantinople? My grandad was one , Im writing a book about him and still missing parts of the jigsaw.