Archaeologist Spies of World War One


Winifred Lamb was recruited in the final stages of World War One for Room 40 in the Admiralty where she worked alongside (Sir) John D. Beazley. Her work there is discussed by me in the History Hit programme, “Archaeologist Spies of World War One“. Archaeologists excavated the ancient past during peacetime, but in war they had a different mission – to play a vital role in modern military intelligence.

Historian of archaeology Dr Amara Thornton explores a network of archaeologist-spies, codebreaking, mapping and running agents, and with expert contributors delves into the extraordinary double lives led by the critical players in the international theatres of World War One.

Lamb later worked as the Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and excavated in Greece through the British School at Athens.

Other members of the BSA also worked in intelligence during World War 1. They included David G. Hogarth, Alan J.B. Wace, Ernest A. Gardner, Harry Pirie-Gordon, and Richard M. Dawkins. Their work is explored in Sifting the Soil of Greece. 


Winifred Lamb: the need for a biography

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I have been reflecting on why Winifred Lamb deserved a biography.

First, she pursued two parallel careers (captured in the sub-title). She was an active field-archaeologist during the inter-war period at sites that included Mycenae and Sparta, and her own excavations on Lesbos, Chios, and later at Kusura in Turkey. At the same time she was the honorary keeper of Greek antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum over nearly a 40 year span.

Second, she was closely involved with the on-going work of the British School at Athens (and contributed to its Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1936). She was also involved with the establishment of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara after the Second World War.

Third, she worked alongside some key figures in the discipline of archaeology. Among the names was Sir John Beazley with whom she worked in Naval Intelligence (Room 40) during the First World War. Sir Leonard Woolley introduced her to the Turkish language section of the BBC during the Second World War.

Fourth, she was one of a small group of women who worked at the British School at Athens immediately after the First World War. She was also one of the first women to excavate in Turkey in the 1930s.

Brian Shefton: Classical Archaeologist


Oxford University Press has published a series of essays on refugee scholars who found a home and a welcome at the University of Oxford from 1930.

My contribution was on Professor Brian Shefton (1919-2012), who was brought to England with his parents in the summer if 1933. His father, Professor Isidor Isaac Scheftelowitz, initially found a home at Montefiore College in Ramsgate before moving to Oxford in the summer of 1934. Brian was a scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Paul Jacobsthal and (Sir) John Beazley. His studies were interrupted in 1940 when many refugees of German origin were interned on the Isle of Man. Brian enrolled in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army serving in Yorkshire and Scotland. In 1944 he transferred to the Education Corps.

At the cessation of hostilities Brian returned to Oxford to complete us studies, and in 1947 obtained a School Scholarship at the British School at Athens where he assisted with the excavation of Old Smyrna. During this period he collaborated with colleagues at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) on the publication of some of the pottery from the Agora excavations. One of his significant publications from this time was on the monument to Kallimachos from the Athenian Acropolis.

Nike from the Kallimachos monument on the Athenian Acropolis © David Gill

In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in Classics at Exeter, and in 1953 moved to King’s College, Newcastle (now Newcastle University). One of his achievements was the creation of the Greek Museum (now incorporated in the Great North Museum). Among his research interests was the distribution of Greek and Etruscan material in Central Europe, a topic no doubt inherited from Jacobsthal.

Brian Shefton lecturing at the opening of the Great North Museum © David Gill

Gill, D. W. J. 2017. “Brian Shefton: classical archaeologist.” In Ark of civilization: refugee scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945, edited by S. Crawford, K. Ulmschneider, and J. Elsner: 151-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Humfry G.G. Payne

Grave of Humfry Payne, Mycenae © David Gill

British archaeologist, Humfry Gilbert Garth Payne, was director of the British School at Athens from 1929 until his death in May 1936. His widow, Dilys Powell, arranged for him to buried in the cemetery at Mycenae. Payne is known for his work on Corinthian pottery and his excavations at the sanctuary site of Perachora.

Notice the copy of Powell’s The Traveller’s Journey is Done (1943) that has been placed at the grave.

Barton-upon-Humber and David G. Hogarth

David G. Hogarth
Barton-upon Humber © David Gill

The church of St Peter’s at Barton-upon-Humber is celebrated for its Anglo-Saxon tower. The archaeologist David G. Hogarth (1862-1927) was born in the adjacent vicarage; his father the Reverend George Hogarth was vicar of the parish (1858-89).

St Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber © David Gill

Hogarth was educated at Winchester, and then read classics at Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1887 he was admitted as the first Oxford student at the newly opened British School at Athens where Francis Penrose was the Director. He excavated with Ernest Gardner at Old Paphos on Cyprus.

Hogarth was appointed the fourth Director of the British School at Athens (1897-1900). In 1899 he directed the British excavations at the Greek settlement of Naukratis in the Nile Delta. Hogarth became a director of the Cretan Exploration Fund, excavating near Knossos, then at the Dictaean Cave at Psychro, and at Kato Zakro.

He subsequently excavated on behalf of the British Museum at Ephesus, and in 1908 succeeded Arthur Evans as Director of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. In the years leading up to the First World War he excavated at Carchemish (with T.E. Lawrence). Hogarth then prompted through the Palestine Exploration Fund the archaeological survey of the Sinai peninsula (‘The wilderness of Zin’).

In 1915 Hogarth was invited to join the Arab Bureau in Cairo, holding the rank of Lt-Commander in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). He provided key intelligence for Allenby’s attack through Gaza and the subsequent capture of Jerusalem. He was later invited to join the peace conference at Versailles.

His post-war research was on the Hittites that took him back to his early travels in eastern Anatolia.

Hogarth died in November 1927 in Oxford.

  • David Gill, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) [ODNB]
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