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Major William Boyd Kennedy Shaw OBE (26 October 1901–23 April 1979) was a British desert explorer, botanist, archaeologist and founding member of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) during World War II. He was known, variously as Bill Shaw or Bill Kennedy Shaw, but preferred the latter form of his name, which he always used in his writings.

Life[edit | edit source]

Kennedy Shaw was the son of Colonel F. S. Kennedy Shaw, of King's Orchard, Teffont Magna, Wiltshire.[1][2] He was educated at Radley College.[3]

In the 1920s and 1930s Kennedy Shaw contributed to the exploration of the Libyan Desert in the area around the south western corner of modern Egypt with his particular interest and skills as a botanist, archaeologist and navigator. He made three major trips:

During the winter of 1927/1928 Kennedy Shaw and Douglas Newbold, on leave from the Sudan Government service travelled the Arba’in slave road from Selima and Bir Natrun and covered 1000 km on camel.

In October 1930 Kennedy Shaw accompanied Ralph Alger Bagnold on a trip from Cairo to Ain Dalla, into the sand sea, past Ammonite hill then past the Gilf Kebir south to Uweinat and on to Wadi Halfa, returning via the Arba’in slave road via Salima oasis, Kharga and then Aysut.

He also travelled with Bagnold in 1932 from Cairo to Kharga, to Uweinat, Sarra, Tekro, Uweinat, El Fasher, Bir Natrun, Merga, Laqia, Selima, Wadi Halfa, Dakhla, Bahariya and Cairo, a total distance of 6000 miles.

During World War II, Bagnold travelled to Jerusalem where Kennedy Shaw was working for the Palestine government to recruit him as the Intelligence and Chief Navigation officer in the British Army's new Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) being formed by Bagnold. Kennedy Shaw served initially as a lieutenant in the General List. He transferred to the Intelligence Corps in 1940 and the Special Air Service in 1944. He reached the rank of major, being mentioned in despatches during his service. From 1944 to the end of the war in Europe he served as the GSO 2 (Intelligence) at SAS Brigade Headquarters. He was also an author who wrote one of the earliest books on the LRDG, "Long Range Desert Group"(1945) which was subject to pre-publication approval by the War Office who required changes to be made to his text; in particular the actual codenames of the operations he described and some real names of individuals involved in special operations. He also wrote several articles in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). The Greenhill Military Paperbacks edition of his book contains supplementary notes on his life and has updating amendments to his original text, commissioned by the publisher from authorities on the subject, which notes and explains the original excisions.

He died in Lichfield in 1979.

For his services during the Second World War, Kennedy Shaw received the Officer grade of the Order of Oranje-Nassau, with sword, from the Queen of the Netherlands.[4]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Burke's genealogical and heraldic history of the landed gentry (1965), p. 102
  2. Quarterly journal of forestry: Volumes 40-42 (1946), p. 64: "Kennedy Shaw, W.B., O.B.E., Teffont Magna, Salisbury"
  3. Radley College, Register, 1947
  4. "No. 239587". 1 July 1952. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/239587/page/ 

References[edit | edit source]

  • Long Range Desert Group about the LRDG by Bill Kennedy Shaw
  • Libyan Sands, Travel in a dead world about the travels of R.A.Bagnold by Ralph Alger Bagnold
  • The Long Range Desert Group about the LRDG by David Lloyd Owen
  • The Hunt for Zerzura and World War II about members of the Zerzura Club in World War II by Saul Kelly
  • The Secret Life of Laszlo Almasy by John Bierman

External links[edit | edit source]

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