Percy Sykes
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Percy Sykes

Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes
Percy Sykes.jpg
Brigadier Sir Percy Sykes with officers of original Mission Bandar Abbas, April 1916. (Standing) Major E Howell, Captain Durham, (Seated) Major G. Blair (Staff Officer) Brig General Sir Percy Sykes, Captain R.C. Ruck.
Birth namePercy Molesworth Sykes
Born28 February 1867
Died11 June 1945 (1945-06-12) (aged 78)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch British Indian Army
RankBrigadier General
Unit16th Lancers, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queens Bays)
Commands heldConsul-General Khuzestan,
Battles/warsSecond Boer War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George

Brigadier-General Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes, (28 February 1867 - 11 June 1945) was a soldier, diplomat, and scholar with a considerable literary output. He wrote historical, geographical, and biographical works, as well as describing his travels in Persia.

Early life

Percy Sykes was born in Brompton, Kent, England the only son of Army chaplain Rev. William Sykes (b. 1829)[1] and his wife Mary, daughter of Captain Anthony Oliver Molesworth, of the Royal Artillery, descended from Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth.[2][3] William was the second son of Richard Sykes, of Edgeley House, Stockport, owner of the Sykes Bleaching Company; Percy Sykes was thus the nephew of Richard Sykes the rugby player who founded towns in America, and cousin of Sir Alan Sykes, 1st Baronet who was MP for Knutsford, Cheshire.[4][5]

He was educated at Rugby School and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.[6]

Military career

Sykes was commissioned into the 16th Lancers, but transferred to the 2nd Dragoon Guards in 1888. He was posted to India and made several journeys through Persia and Baluchistan. He was sent on a secret mission in November 1892 when he went to Uzbekistan on the Trans-Caspian Railway.[6] Promotion to lieutenant followed on 26 April 1895, and to captain on 8 December 1897. During the Second Boer War he served as second in command of the 9th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry until September 1901.[7] He later served with the Intelligence Department[8] and was wounded in the leg.[9] He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1902 Coronation Honours list on 26 June 1902[10][11] In late 1902 he transferred to the Indian Army, and was Consul at Kerman in Persia. Over the next few years he made extensive journeys in the Middle East and was appointed consul-general for Kh?zest?n in 1906.

In 1915 Sykes was knighted.[9] While stationed in Persia he was given the temporary rank of Brigadier-General, he was placed in command of the South Persia Rifles that he raised himself.[12] His forces, consisting of some four hundred and fifty men, supported the Russians at Isfahan against Bakhtiaras and restored some order to the country. Once stationed at Isfahan, Sykes used numerous excuses to remain, including a supposed Russian request that the South Persia rifles be used as a garrison for Isfahan.[12] By 1917 numerous British authorities were calling for his removal save Lord Curzon. Despite this, Sykes was finally recalled in 1918.[12]

Later life

Sykes retired from the army in 1924, retaining the honorary rank of Brigadier-General. From 1932 until his death he was honorary secretary of the Royal Central Asian Society, now known as the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. The society has in its gift an award called The Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal.[13]

The Royal Geographical Society awarded him the Back grant in 1899 and the Patron's Gold Medal in 1902.[14]

Family and legacy

In 1902 he married Evelyn Seton, eldest daughter of Colonel Bruce Seton of the Royal Engineers and they had six children. His daughter Rachel married Sir Patrick Reilly the diplomat.

Percy's family later introduced the "Sykes medal", awarded to those who contributed to the understanding of Persia and Central Asia.[15]


  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1902). Ten Thousand Miles in Persia. John Murray.[6]
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1910). The Glory of the Shia World. Macmillan Publishers.[6]
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1914). Lectures delivered to the Persia Society, 1913-1914. Morrison & Gibb.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1915). A History of Persia. MacMillan.[6]
  • "Through Deserts and Oases of Central Asia". MacMillan. 1920.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1921). A History of Persia (2nd ed.). MacMillan.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1922). Persia. Oxford University Press.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1926). The Right Honourable Sir Mortimer Durand. Cassell & Co.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1930). A History of Persia (3rd ed.). MacMillan.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1934). A History of Exploration. George Routledge & Sons.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1936). The Quest for Cathay. A. & C. Black.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1938). À La Recherche du Cathay. Payot, Paris.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1939). Explorers All, Famous Journeys in Asia. George Newnes.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1939). Sir Percy Sykes (ed.). The Story of Exploration and Adventure. George Newnes.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1940). A History of Afghanistan. MacMillan.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1949). A History of Exploration. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Sykes, Sir Percy (1958). A History of Persia (3rd edition, with supplementary essays ed.). MacMillan.


  1. ^ Two Hundred Years of the S.P.G.: An Historical Account of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1701-1900, Based on a Digest of the Society's Records, vol. I, Charles Frederick Pascoe, 1901, p. 929
  2. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 2003, vol. 2, p. 2720
  3. ^ Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, fortieth edition, Sir Bernard Burke, Harrison, Pall Mall, 1878, p. 835
  4. ^ Alumni Oxonienses: The Members of the University of Oxford 1715-1886, later series, S-Z, ed. Joseph Foster, Parker & Co., 1888, p. 1380
  5. ^ Two Hundred Years of the S.P.G.: An Historical Account of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1701-1900, Based on a Digest of the Society's Records, vol. I, Charles Frederick Pascoe, 1901, p. 929
  6. ^ a b c d e
  7. ^ "No. 27454". The London Gazette. 15 July 1902. p. 4511.
  8. ^ Percy Molesworth Sykes, Y.M. Choueiri, A Global Encyclopedia of Historical Writing: A-J, ed. Daniel R. Woolf, (Routledge, 1998), 871.
  9. ^ a b Hugh Leach and Susan Marie Farrington, Strolling About on the Roof of the World: The First Hundred Years of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, (Routledge, 2003), 185.
  10. ^ "The Coronation Honours". The Times (36804). London. 26 June 1902. p. 5.
  11. ^ "No. 27456". The London Gazette. 22 July 1902. p. 4669.
  12. ^ a b c Bureaucracies at War:The British in the Middle East in the First World War, John S. Galbraith and Robert A. Huttenback, National and International Politics in the Middle East: Essays in Honour of Elie Kedourie, ed. Edward Ingram, (Routledge, 2013), 117-119.
  13. ^ "RSAA Awards". RSAA. Retrieved 2013.
  14. ^ "Royal Geographical Society". The Times (36716). London. 15 March 1902. p. 12.
  15. ^ RamHormozi, H. (2016). Averting An Iranian Geopolitical Crisis: A Tale of Power Play for Dominance Between Colonial Powers, Tribal and Government Actors in the Pre and Post World War One Era. FriesenPress. ISBN 9781460280669.


External links

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