Lawrence in 1918

Lawrence of Arabia
TE Lawrence (1888-1935)

Thomas Edward Lawrence was in some ways a "James Bond" character, a British Intelligence Army Officer in Cairo during WW1 (1915-1918). Earlier a top languages and archaeology scholar at Jesus College in Oxford. Became chief liaison officer to the Arabs following the Arab Revolt in Mecca in July 2016. Was closely involved in the taking of Aqaba in July 2017, then Damascus in October 2018, highly decorated by both the French and the English, became good friends with British Army General Allenby, King Faisal of Jordan, Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw.

He referred to himself as asexual, he never married, and after being whipped by the Turks when they captured him temporarily in November 2016, he tended to "spiritualize" that encounter. Many have thus called him a masochist, with a high tolerance for pain. Idealized as a major "hero" in the American press, at the end of the war.

Wrote an autobiography "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" from Proverbs 9:1.

Portrayed in an unrecognizable way, according to his brother, by Peter O'Toole in the 1962 movie "Lawrence of Arabia". Most of the movie is fictional when it comes to dialogue and person to person encounters, and written to suit an "early 1960's" anti-war theme, showing most of the British, particularly General Allenby, as ruthless, dishonourable and out of touch. Click here for some thoughts on the characters in real life. Lawrence's close companion in the movie, Sherif Ali of the Harith tribe, portrayed by Omar Sharif, is a fictional character, an amalgamation of Arab leaders, one of whom was Sharif Nasser who led the charge of 400 camelmen at Aqaba alongside Lawrence. Nasser was the 28 year old cousin of Prince Faisal of Mecca, who was only 31 in 1916. However Prince Faisal is portrayed in the movie by another actor, Alec Guinness, who because of his age had to portray Faisal as he was in his late 40s, much older than Lawrence, teaching him carefully, somewhat like an Obi Wan Kenobi. George Lucas and Steve Spielberg who both praised the movie highly, employed the themes in Star Wars and Indiana Jones.
Yes, the regular roar of camels at times throughout the movie, do sound like Chewbacca's growl.

Click here for TE Lawrence's Wikipedia entry.

The following biographical notes, useful if you've just watched the movie are from TE Lawrence's diary web page.

1888 August 16 T. E. Lawrence (Thomas Edward or 'Ned') born at Tremadoc, Caernarvonshire in Wales. He was his parents' second son. His elder brother Bob (M. R. Lawrence) had been born in Dublin, Ireland, on 27 December 1885.

1889 The Lawrence family move to Kirkudbright in Scotland.

December 10th Will (W. G. Lawrence), the third Lawrence son, born at Kirkudbright. He would be the closest of the Lawrence brothers to T. E.

1891 The Lawrence family move to the Chalet du Vallon in Dinard, Brittany, France.

1893 Frank (F. H. Lawrence), the fourth Lawrence son, born. In order to avoid liability to French military service for boys born in France, the family had moved temporarily to St Helier in Jersey. Frank was given 'Helier' as a second name.

1894 The Lawrence family move to Langley Lodge near Totton in Hampshire, close to the New Forest and Southampton Water. Lawrence and his brothers receive private tuition.

1896 The Lawrence family move to 2 Polstead Road, Oxford, where there are good schools. T.E. Lawrence and his elder brother Bob enrol at the City of Oxford High School for Boys, a fee-paying day school.

1900, May Arnold (A. W. Lawrence), the last of the Lawrence sons, is born.

[1905?] Because of tension at home Lawrence runs away from home and serves for a few weeks as a boy soldier with the Royal Garrison Artillery at St Mawes Castle, in Cornwall. He is bought out.

1906, summer Lawrence sits the Senior Oxford Local Examinations, the examination for school-leavers aged 18. Unlike the modern British equivalent, which is very specialised, the exams cover a wide range of subjects. Lawrence is placed in the first class overall. Only 12 of the 4,675 candidates gain higher total marks. He shares first place in English Language and Literature, and third place in Religious Knowledge, gaining a distinction in these subjects.

In the summer holiday Lawrence goes on a cycling tour in Brittany, visiting medieval castles.

1907, October Lawrence becomes an undergraduate at Jesus College, Oxford University, where he will study modern history. By virtue of his academic ability and birth in Wales he has been awarded a Meyricke Exhibition.

1908, summer In the university long vacation Lawrence makes a cycling tour in France, visiting medieval castles.

1909, summer In the university long vacation Lawrence visits Crusader castles in Palestine and Syria, travelling largely on foot. The object of the journey is to collect information about the castles for a thesis which he plans to submit as part of his final examinations for the BA degree.

1910, summer Lawrence wins first class honours - the highest grade - in his Oxford BA degree, having submitted a notable thesis titled The influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture - to the end of the 12th century (published after his death as Crusader Castles).

During the summer Lawrence decides to carry out postgraduate research at Oxford on medieval pottery, a subject that has long interested him. In the event, this project will never be fulfilled, because Lawrence will become a field archaeologist.

December Lawrence sails for Beirut. He will study Arabic at Jebail (near Beirut) as a preliminary to joining a trial season's excavations to be conducted by the British Museum at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria. This work will be unpaid, but he has been awarded a postgraduate research scholarship at Magdalen College, Oxford.


March 11 to July 8. Trial season's excavations at Carchemish, working under D. G. Hogarth and R. Campbell-Thompson. July 12-28 Walking tour visiting castles (Lawrence's diary of this tour published after his death as The Diary of T. E. Lawrence, 1911). August 12 Lawrence leaves Beirut for England. End-November The British Museum has decided to continue the Carchemish excavations. Lawrence leaves England for Jerablus to prepare for a second season.


January To gain experience of field archaeology, Lawrence works briefly at excavations led by Flinders Petrie at Kafr Ammar in Egypt. Afterwards he returns to Jerablus. March - June Second season's British Museum excavations at Carchemish, led by Leonard Woolley. Lawrence is mainly responsible for pottery and photography, but also plays an important role in managing the locally-recruited workforce. Lawrence remains in Syria and Lebanon during the summer. September-November Third season's British Museum excavations at Carchemish. End-November Lawrence and Woolley leave for England.


January 9 Lawrence leaves England for Jerablus to prepare for the new season's excavations. March-June Fourth season's British Museum excavations at Carchemish. End-June Lawrence leaves Jerablus for a brief visit to England, accompanied by two head-men from the excavations: Hamoudi and Dahoum. August Lawrence returns to the Middle East. September-early December Fifth season's British Museum excavations at Carchemish.


January-February Woolley and Lawrence, under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund, travel to the Sinai Peninsula to join a party of Royal Engineers commanded by Stewart Newcombe. Their role is to provide 'innocent' archaeological camouflage for a British military survey of a Turkish-controlled area. During this period Lawrence visits Akaba and Petra for the first time. Early-March Woolley and Lawrence return to Jerablus. 22 March-May Sixth season's British Museum excavations at Carchemish. Late June Lawrence returns to Oxford. He and Woolley prepare their archaeological report on the Sinai expedition, to be titled The Wilderness of Zin. August 4 Outbreak of war. War is declared, but the Turkish Empire is not at first involved. Lawrence, on Stewart Newcombe's advice, decides to join up later, when his specialist Middle-East knowledge will be useful to the war-effort. Meanwhile, he works at Oxford on his survey of antiquities examined during the previous winter's Sinai expedition, a task which keeps him busy until September. October 21 Lawrence joins the "Geographical Section of the General Staff" (GSGS) as a civilian. He works there on maps of the Middle East, and is soon in uniform with the rank of Temporary 2nd Lieutenant-Interpreter. November Following Turkey's entry into the war, Lawrence expects to be transferred to Cairo. However, he is held up in London preparing a route-report of northern Sinai: the 190-page Military Report on the Sinai Peninsula. December 9 Lawrence is posted to the Intelligence department in Cairo. He travels out with Stewart Newcombe, overland through France and by steamer from Marseilles to Port Said. December 15 Lawrence reaches the Cairo Intelligence Office at a time when co-operation with the Arabs seems to offer a promising opening to the British in the Middle East. He takes up duties as 'bottle-washer and office-boy pencil-sharpener and pen wiper', interpreting information and writing 'little geographical essays'.


January 5 A memorandum from the Cairo Intelligence Office urges a military landing at Alexandretta, a town of great strategic importance. This would distract the Turks from a large-scale attack on the Suez Canal. It would also, Lawrence hoped, provide the trigger for an uprising in the Arab provinces of the Turkish Empire. The proposal meets with approval in London. Lawrence would later claim that the Alexandretta scheme 'was, from beginning to end, my invention, put forward necessarily through my chiefs'. In fact, the idea had been canvassed before his arrival in Cairo, although he undoubtedly gave it new impetus. March 1915 Lawrence composes Syria: the Raw Material, a perceptive analysis of what was then known as Syria (including modern Syria, Jordan, and Israel) in political, social, and religious terms. It would later provide the basis for several chapters in Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He wrote: 'the only imposed government that will find, in Moslem Syria, any really prepared groundwork or large body of adherents is a Sunni one, speaking Arabic, and pretending to revive the Abbasides or Ayubides.' April 1915 The Intelligence Department begins to issue daily Intelligence Bulletins, 'for the edification of twenty-eight generals' [Lawrence]. His duties now include work on maps, examining aerial photographs, preparing Intelligence Bulletins, and interrogating prisoners. May 9 Lawrence's youngest brother, Frank, is killed in action at Richebourg l'Avoué on the Western Front. August 1915 Lawrence goes to Athens for a week in order to improve liaison with the Levant branch of British Intelligence. September 1915 Lawrence's brother Will is killed, having served as an RFC observer in France for less than a week.


January 1916 Russia begins to advance on the Caucasus front. Lawrence sends information about disaffected Arab officers in the Turkish forces defending Erzerum, and by doing so may have played a small part in the fall of the city. March 18 Lawrence is awarded the French Légion d'Honneur for his work in the Cairo Intelligence office. March 20-May 26 Lawrence and Aubrey Herbert are sent on a secret British mission to the Turkish Headquarters outside Kut in Mesopotamia, in an attempt to buy the release of Townshend's army. However, no attempt to save the beleaguered force succeeds, and Townshend is forced to surrender. Lawrence's secondary purpose during this journey to Iraq is to assess the potential for an Arab rebellion there. June 5 Sherif Hussein of Mecca starts the Arab Revolt. June 6 Lawrence produces the first 'Arab Bureau Summary', soon to be renamed the Arab Bulletin. June 13 General Sir Archibald Murray, the British commander in Egypt, requests topographical information about Akaba, a coastal city in Jordan on the Red Sea Gulf, with a view to a possible landing there. Lawrence rejects the scheme outright, arguing that the operation would be extremely costly. The real objective of such an attack would be the route inland from Akaba to Maan, but the mountain passes provide the Turks with exceptionally strong defensive positions. July 1916 Lawrence proposes a set of postage stamps as a propaganda vehicle for Hussein's new Arab Government in the Hejaz. The first stamps, designed along lines suggested by Lawrence and Storrs, go into use in October. October 12-November 11 Lawrence, while nominally on leave, performs his first Intelligence mission to the Hejaz on behalf of the Arab Bureau. He meets Sherif Hussein's four sons, Ali, Feisal, Abdullah, and Zeid, and concludes that Feisal is the most likely to succeed as a rebel leader in the field.


November 25 1916 - February 1917 Lawrence returns to the Hejaz as temporary liaison officer with the force commanded by Feisal. March 10–April 13 1917 Lawrence travels to meet Sherif Abdullah's forces in the Wadi Ais, spends some time recovering from illness, and then conducts two raids against the Hejaz railway. April 14–20 Lawrence returns to Wejh to discuss tactics with the Arab leaders and their British military advisers – during this time he formulates his plan to take Akaba. May 9–June 2 The first leg of the circuitous journey to Akaba. June 3–20 Lawrence makes a secret reconnaissance in northern Syria June 21–28 Lawrence makes a brief reconnaissance of the Hauran in southern Syria. June 28–September 6 Lawrence takes part in battles at Fuweila and Aba el Lissan. The Arabs enter Akaba on approx. 6 July, and Lawrence immediately crosses Sinai to Suez to carry the news to the British. Thereafter, with British assistance, Akaba is built up as a new base for Feisal's rebel forces. It will serve as a centre for political propaganda, and the starting-point for raids into northern Syria. September 7 - October 9 Lawrence makes two raids against the Hejaz railway – the first at Km. 587, the second at Km. 489. October 9–24 Lawrence spends time at GHQ and Akaba, planning a raid against railway bridges in the Yarmuk Valley. On 15 October he leads an abortive attack there. He returns to the advanced rebel base at Azrak, mining a train on the way. November to December The Arab raiding party decides to spend the winter at Azrak, spreading propaganda for the rebellion among the northern tribes. Late in the month, Lawrence makes a reconnaissance of the country around the Turkish railway junction at Deraa. To complete this, he risks entering the town in disguise. He is stopped, very probably recognised, then tortured and abused by the Turks. He is left unguarded by a medical attendant who is an Arab sympathiser, and escapes. He returns to Azrak, and then to Akaba. Returning to Allenby's headquarters in Palestine, he is invited to take part in the official Allied entry into Jerusalem on 11 December.


January 10–February 4 1918 Lawrence takes part in the battle for Tafilah in southern Jordan, then returns to Feisal's base at Guweira for funds and advice. February 5–18 Lawrence returns to Tafileh with 30,000 sovereigns for the forthcoming campaign in the area. He gives the funds to the Emir Zeid, younger brother of Feisal and leader of the expedition, and leaves for a reconnaissance in the area east of the Dead Sea. In Lawrence's absence, Zeid's local advisers persuade him to pay out all the money to local tribes. February 18-March 21 Lawrence, dismayed to find that his confidence in Zeid was misplaced, and lacking funds for further operations, travels to the advance British headquarters in Palestine, determined to hand in his resignation. This is refused. For the next month he helps in preparations for a major Arab offensive against Deraa. April 18–22 Attacking the Hejaz Railway south of Maan: Lawrence takes part in a successful attack on Tell Shahm station. April 22–May 28 Lawrence spends a month going between Akaba and Cairo, providing liaison between the British and Arabs HQs. May 29–August 26 Lawrence goes north to make a reconnaissance of Hesa, then returns to Egypt to spend seven weeks in planning the future direction of the Arab Revolt. Back in Akaba, he continues with liaison duties before joining a raid in the north by the Imperial Camel Corps. August 26–September 19 A wrangle with Hussein delays preparations for a raid on Deraa, which is timed to coincide with a major British offensive in Palestine. The raid takes place and is extremely successful, effectively halting Turkish railway communications with Palestine and all areas south of Deraa. The Turkish forces begin a precipitous and disorderly retreat. September 19–28 The Arabs surround and capture Deraa, before moving north. September 28–October 4 Lawrence accompanies the rebel forces from Deraa to Damascus, where he helps to set up a provisional Arab government. On 4 October Feisal and the British commander, General Allenby, arrive in Damascus and meet for the first time. Afterwards, Lawrence obtains permission from Allenby to return to England. While military victory is now assured, Arab hopes of self-government are threatened in the peace negotiations by French imperial ambitions in Syria, and by the British Government of India, which has similar objectives in Mesopotamia. October 1918 Lawrence leaves Egypt for England on 15 October. He takes the SS Kaiser-i-Hind from Port Said to Taranto, and travels from there to Le Havre by train, in three days. He arrives in England around 24 October, having been absent since autumn 1914. He goes to his family home in Oxford. On 28 October, Lawrence begins meeting various Government officials in an attempt to overturn the SykesPicot Agreement. He argues that the Arabs had remained Allies even when an agreement with the Turks had been possible in 1917. On the same day, George Macdonogh of the War Office circulates a memorandum 'Note on Policy in the Middle East' which incorporates many of Lawrence's ideas. On 29 October Lawrence addresses the Eastern Committee of the War Cabinet. On 30 October Lawrence has a private audience with King George V, during which he refuses all honours for his part in the Arab Revolt. November 1918 At a meeting of the Eastern Committee on 21 November it is decided to invite Emir Feisal to the Paris Peace Conference. Feisal arrives in France on 26 November, where he is met by Lawrence. However, the French refuse to recognise the prince as a diplomat and send him as a distinguished visitor on a long tour of the French provinces. Lawrence travels with the party as far as Lyons, then on 29 November leaves, reaching England on 2 December. December 1918 There is a major development in British policy early in the month. Lloyd George and Clemenceau talk privately on 1 December and reach a 'gentleman's agreement' about the future of the Middle East, under which England will take the Mandate for Palestine, and France the Mandate for inland Syria. On 5 December the Eastern Committee of the cabinet tells Lawrence that it will not attempt to overturn the SykesPicot Agreement. He is left with the hope that the U.S.A. will demand the scrapping of all pre-war secret treaties. On 7 December Lawrence travels to Paris to bring Feisal to England; they arrive three days later in London. They have meetings with Balfour, King George V, and the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, before heading north to visit Edinburgh and Glasgow.


January 1919 On 9 January, Lawrence arrives in Paris for the Peace Conference. The British position over the Middle East is hopelessly compromised by conflicting wartime promises, and by the desire of the Imperial Government of India to colonise Mesopotamia. Lawrence remains until mid-May, arguing for Arab freedom in many private meetings with statesmen and journalists. As the pace slows he begins to write Seven Pillars of Wisdom, completing Books 2–7 and Book 10. February 1919 On 6 February Lawrence accompanies Feisal to a meeting of the Council of Ten for a formal statement of the Arab position. March 1919 On 20 March President Wilson suggests that an inter-Allied commission should visit the Middle East, to determine the wishes of the inhabitants. The plan is opposed vehemently by the French and the Zionist lobby. Later in the month Lawrence is asked to arrange a private meeting between Feisal and Clemenceau. April 1919 On 7 April, Lawrence's father dies in Oxford, and he has to make two brief trips home during the following week. In mid-April Feisal and Clemenceau meet but, as anticipated, they do not reach a satisfactory agreement. A few days later Feisal leaves for Damascus to prepare for the arrival of the inter-Allied Commission. May 1919 In mid-May Lawrence joins a squadron of Handley-Page bombers on their way to Egypt. On 17 May his plane crashes at Rome aerodrome: there are two deaths, but Lawrence escapes with a broken collarbone. On 29 May he leaves Rome with his arm in plaster. June 1919 Lawrence flies south in easy stages via Taranto, Athens, and Crete. He arrives in Cairo on 28 June and stays for a few days only, making notes for Seven Pillars from files at the Arab Bureau. July 1919 Back in Paris, Lawrence finds that the British commitment to the Arabs has weakened considerably in the face of hostility from both France and the Government of India. With nothing to do in Paris, he goes to Oxford to take up a Research Fellowship at All Souls College. He remains there until early December, working on Seven Pillars. At around this time, he buys land at Pole Hill in Essex, bordering Epping Forest, where he and a friend plan to set up a private press. August 1919 The American journalist Lowell Thomas begins giving popular lectures in London that will transform Lawrence into a national hero. The show opens for a brief season at the Royal Opera House, but it is so successful that it is then transferred to the Royal Albert Hall (October) and later to The Queen's Hall. It then tours the provinces. September 1919 Britain announces plans to evacuate Syria, leaving Feisal's Arab administration in Damascus to work out a modus vivendi with the French, who have already taken direct control in what is now Lebanon. November 1919 In Late November, while Lawrence is changing trains at Reading during a journey from Camberley to Oxford, the bag in which he is carrying his draft of Seven Pillars it is stolen. The manuscript is never recovered. December 1919 Lawrence moves to Barton Street in Westminster and during the following weeks hurriedly rewrites from memory a new draft of Seven Pillars.

** End of file.

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