Thomas Edward Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence
Thomas Edward Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence, the second of five sons of his unmarried parents, was born on August 16, 1888, in Tremadoc, Wales, and died on May 19, 1935, in Dorset, England. From 1896 to 1907 he attended the Oxford High School for Boys, where he made rapid academic progress.

His major interests included military archaeology, brass rubbing, and coin collecting. Owing to these interests he became friends with D. G. Hogarth, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum. From 1907 to 1910 Lawrence studied at Oxford, where his mentor, Hogarth, encouraged his interest in the Arabic language and the Near East.

After graduation Lawrence worked for three years under Hogarth and C. Leonard Woolley at a dig at the ancient Hittite city of Carchemish in Mesopotamia. Early in 1914 Lawrence was involved in a survey of the desert that was actually a cover for British intelligence spying on the Turkish defenses in southern Palestine.

In World War I Lawrence served as a captain in the British military intelligence service operating out of Cairo, where he made maps and had contact with spies. In 1916 he was transferred to the Arab Bureau, a branch of the intelligence service concerned exclusively with Arab affairs, particularly with the revolt of Sherif Husayn of Mecca against the Ottoman Empire.

Prince Faysal, son of Sherif Husayn, was chosen by Lawrence to lead the revolt with British backing. During the revolt, Lawrence donned Arab dress and was given the nickname "Lawrence of Arabia."

His preferred method of warfare included railway attacks and guerrilla warfare instead of more conventional methods of war. With the help of Auda abu Tayi, the Homeric Bedouin desert fighter, Lawrence devised a brilliant plan of attack on Aqaba against the Turks.

He gradually progressed from being an adviser and observer to being one of the principal participants in the revolt. In the midst of the revolt, Lawrence was captured at Deraa after a failed raid on the bridges over the Yarmuk River.

In January 1919 Lawrence began writing the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which he continued revising until 1926. The book was an account of his time spent during the Arab revolt, included essays on military strategy, and also served as a vehicle for expressing his bitterness toward the political outcome in the Arab provinces.

His bitterness stemmed in part from his position as Faysal's adviser during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, in which he watched France gain control over Syria despite promises made to Faysal by Lawrence and the British government.

In January 1921 Lawrence became an adviser to Winston Churchill in the Colonial Office. He resigned in1922, declaring that he was satisfied that Britain had fulfilled its promises to the Arabs by placing Faysal in control of Iraq and by installing Abdullah on the throne of Transjordan.

In August 1922 Lawrence, under the name John Hume Ross, joined the Royal Air Force. In January 1923 he was discharged after reporters discovered his real identity. A month after being dismissed by the air force, Lawrence reenlisted in the Tank Corps under the name T. E. Shaw.

He stayed until 1925, when he succeeded in getting himself retransferred to the Royal Air Force serving in India. In January 1929 he was ordered back to England, where he remained in the Royal Air Force until shortly before his death. On May 13, 1935, T. E. Lawrence was fatally injured while speeding on his Brough Superior motorcycle in Dorset, and six days later he died.