At the time of the outbreak of World War One, Lewen Weldon was stationed in Egypt where he was employed in surveying the region. Quickly stationed on a converted German cargo boat, the SS Aenne Rickmers, now an early-type aircraft carrier, along with a colourful and international crew to act as Intelligence Officer for the area, it is in Hard Lying: An Intelligence Officer on the Levantine Shore 1914-19 that Weldon retells a tale of high wartime adventure on the seas managing the ‘agents’ in the area and throughout the Mediterranean.
Weldon’s narrative begins with the outbreak of the war. The changes in attitude from the hostilities before Britain entered the war, and the about-change following the announcement of their involvement, not only showed the passions of the people of the various countries involved in the war and how highly Britain was regarded at that time. From here Weldon takes to the seas and highlights not just the dangers of nighttime beach landings, which would already have been a precarious venture at any time, but also to avoid capture from the Turkish soldiers in the area. Often throughout Hard Lying, we are reminded that all too often the agents being landed on the shores were captured, tortured and executed.
However, Hard Lying (which takes its name from a special allowance to those serving on small craft, such as Torpedo Boats) takes the reader on many of these adventures with a very much self-depreciating wit, which often lies very subtly behind many of the escapades. However, there is also great sadness and tragedy within the pages, with the landings at Gallipoli taking very much centre stage midway through the book, one can only imagine the horrors witnessed and the emotions even when witnessed from a ship at sea. What the reader also experiences is the early days of modern naval warfare, as this was also a period which saw the introduction of submarines as instruments of war.
Although with every page there is a different adventure, comical escapade and an almost ‘blasé faire’ style of narrative that keeps the reader at a safe distance from the real dangers of the pages, Hard Lying is a tale of high adventure and one that deserves to be on everyone’s bookshelf, read repeatedly.
- Hard Lying: An Intelligence Officer on the Levantine Shore 1914-19 by Lewen Weldon is published by Eland Books (£14.99). To order a copy go to www.travelbooks.co.uk