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T. E. Lawrence

"Lawrence of Arabia" redirects here. For the 1962 film, see Lawrence of Arabia (film). For the 1989 book, see Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T. E. Lawrence.
T. E. Lawrence
File:With Lawrence in Arabia.jpg
Lawrence in 1919
Birth name Thomas Edward Lawrence
Nickname(s) Lawrence of Arabia, El Aurens
Born 16 August 1888 (1888-08-16)
Tremadog, Caernarfonshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Died 19 May 1935 (1935-05-20) (aged 46)
Bovington Camp, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
Allegiance 23x15px United Kingdom
23x15px Kingdom of Hejaz
Service/branch 23px British Army
23px Royal Air Force
Years of service 1914–18
Rank Colonel and Aircraftman

First World War

Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath[1]
Distinguished Service Order[2]
Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur[3]
Croix de guerre (France)[4]

Thomas Edward Lawrence CB DSO (16 August 1888[5]Template:Spaced ndash19 May 1935) was an archaeologist and British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, and the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia—a title used for the 1962 film based on his First World War activities.

Lawrence was born out of wedlock in Tremadog, Wales, in August 1888 to Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner, a governess who was herself illegitimate. Chapman had left his wife and first family in Ireland to live with Junner, and they called themselves Mr and Mrs Lawrence. In the summer of 1896 the Lawrences moved to Oxford, where in 1907–10 young Lawrence studied History at Jesus College and graduated with First Class Honours. He became a practising archaeologist in the Middle East, working at various excavations with David George Hogarth and Leonard Woolley. In 1908, he joined the Oxford University Officers' Training Corps and underwent a two-year training course.[6] In January 1914, before the outbreak of the Great War, Lawrence was commissioned by the British Army to undertake a military survey of the Negev Desert while doing archaeological research.

Lawrence's public image resulted in part from the sensationalized reportage of the Arab revolt by an American journalist, Lowell Thomas, as well as from Lawrence's autobiographical account Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922). In 1935, Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset.

Early life

File:Thomas Edward Lawrence birth-place Gorphwysfa.jpg
Lawrence's birthplace, Gorphwysfa, now known as Snowdon Lodge.[7]

Lawrence was born on 16 August 1888 in Tremadog, Caernarfonshire (now Gwynedd), Wales, in a house named Gorphwysfa, now known as Snowdon Lodge.[8] His Anglo-Irish father, Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman, who in 1914 inherited the title of Westmeath in Ireland as seventh Baronet, had left his wife Edith for his daughters' governess Sarah Junner. Junner's mother, Elizabeth Junner, had named as Sarah's father a "John Junner – shipwright journeyman", though she had been living as an unmarried servant in the household of a John Lawrence, ship's carpenter, just four months earlier.[9][10]

Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner did not marry but were known as Mr and Mrs Lawrence. They had five sons; Thomas Edward was the second eldest. From Wales the family moved to Kirkcudbright, Galloway, in southwestern Scotland, then Dinard in Brittany, then to Jersey. In 1894–96 the family lived at Langley Lodge (now demolished), set in private woods between the eastern borders of the New Forest and Southampton Water in Hampshire. Mr Lawrence sailed and took the boys to watch yacht racing in the Solent. By the time they left, the eight-year-old Ned (as Lawrence became known) had developed a taste for the countryside and outdoor activities.

In the summer of 1896 the Lawrences moved to 2, Polstead Road in Oxford, where, until 1921, they lived under the names of Mr and Mrs Lawrence. Lawrence attended the City of Oxford High School for Boys, where one of the four houses was later named "Lawrence" in his honour; the school closed in 1966.[11] Lawrence and one of his brothers became commissioned officers in the Church Lads' Brigade at St Aldate's Church.

Lawrence claimed that circa 1905, he ran away from home and served for a few weeks as a boy soldier with the Royal Garrison Artillery at St Mawes Castle in Cornwall, from which he was bought out. No evidence of this appears in army records.[12]

Middle East archaeology

At the age of 15, Lawrence and his schoolfriend Cyril Beeson bicycled around Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, visited almost every village's parish church, studied their monuments and antiquities, and made rubbings of their monumental brasses.[13] Lawrence and Beeson monitored building sites in Oxford and presented their finds to the Ashmolean Museum.[13] The Ashmolean's Annual Report for 1906 said the two teenage boys "by incessant watchfulness secured everything of antiquarian value which has been found."[13] In the summers of 1906 and 1907, Lawrence and Beeson toured France by bicycle, collecting photographs, drawings, and measurements of medieval castles.[13]

From 1907 to 1910, Lawrence studied History at Jesus College, Oxford.[14] In the summer of 1909, he set out alone on a three-month walking tour of crusader castles in Ottoman Syria, during which he travelled Script error: No such module "convert". on foot. Lawrence graduated with First Class Honours after submitting a thesis entitled The influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture—to the end of the 12th century, based on his field research with Beeson in France,[13] notably in Châlus, and his solo research in the Middle East.[15]

File:Woolley & Lawrence at Carchemish.jpg
Woolley (left) and Lawrence in their excavation house at Carchemish, c. 1912

On completing his degree in 1910, Lawrence commenced postgraduate research in medieval pottery with a Senior Demy, a form of scholarship, at Magdalen College, Oxford, which he abandoned after he was offered the opportunity to become a practising archaeologist in the Middle East, at Carchemish, in the expedition that D. G. Hogarth was setting up on behalf of the British Museum. Lawrence was a polyglot whose published work demonstrates competence in Ancient Greek, Arabic, and French.

In December 1910, he sailed for Beirut and on his arrival went to Jbail (Byblos), where he studied Arabic. He then went to work on the excavations at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria, where he worked under Hogarth and R. Campbell Thompson of the British Museum. He would later state that everything he had accomplished, he owed to Hogarth.[16] As the site lay near an important crossing on the Baghdad Railway, knowledge he gathered there was subsequently of considerable importance to the military. While excavating at Carchemish, Lawrence met Gertrude Bell, who later worked with him on setting up the state of Iraq.

In late 1911, Lawrence returned to England for a brief sojourn. By November he was en route to Beirut for a second season at Carchemish, where he was to work with Leonard Woolley. Before resuming work there, however, he briefly worked with Flinders Petrie at Kafr Ammar in Egypt. Between the spring of 1912 and the autumn of 1913, Lawrence stayed at Carchemish for four excavation seasons, residing in a spacious excavation house, newly built inside the site by himself and Woolley on behalf of the British Museum.[17]

In January 1914, Woolley and Lawrence were co-opted by the British military as an archaeological smokescreen for a British military survey of the Negev Desert. They were funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund to search for an area referred to in the Bible as the Wilderness of Zin Along the way, they made an archaeological survey of the Negev Desert. The Negev was strategically important as, in the event of war, any Ottoman army attacking Egypt would have to cross it. Woolley and Lawrence subsequently published a report of the expedition's archaeological findings,[18] but a more important result was an updated mapping of the area, with special attention to features of military relevance such as water sources. Lawrence also visited Aqaba and Petra.

From March to May 1914, Lawrence worked again at Carchemish. Following the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Lawrence did not immediately enlist in the British Army; on the advice of S. F. Newcombe he held back until October, when he was commissioned on the General List and posted to the intelligence staff in Cairo before the end of the year.[citation needed]

Arab Revolt

Main article: Arab Revolt
Lawrence at Rabigh, north of Jeddah, 1917

At the outbreak of the war Lawrence was a university post-graduate researcher who had for years travelled extensively within the Ottoman Empire provinces of the Levant (Transjordan and Palestine) and Mesopotamia (Syria and Iraq) under his own name. As such he had become known to the Ottoman Interior Ministry authorities and their German technical advisers, travelling on the German-designed, built, and financed railways during the course of his research.[19]

The Arab Bureau of Britain's Foreign Office conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded tribes and regional challengers to the Turkish government's centralised rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Arab Bureau had recognised the strategic value of what is today called the "asymmetry" of such conflict. The Ottoman authorities would have to devote from a hundred to a thousand times the resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion compared to the Allies' cost of sponsoring it.

With his first-hand knowledge of Syria, the Levant, and Mesopotamia (not to mention having already worked as a part-time civilian army intelligence officer), on his formal enlistment in 1914 Lawrence was posted to Cairo on the Intelligence Staff of the GOC Middle East.[20] The British government in Egypt sent Lawrence to work with the Hashemite forces in the Arabian Hejaz in October 1916.[21] There he met and worked with Herbert Garland.[22]

During the war, Lawrence fought alongside Arab irregular troops under the command of Emir Faisal, a son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, in extended guerrilla operations against the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence obtained assistance from the Royal Navy to turn back an Ottoman attack on Yanbu in December 1916.[21] Lawrence's major contribution to the revolt was convincing the Arab leaders (Faisal and Abdullah) to co-ordinate their actions in support of British strategy. He persuaded the Arabs not to make a frontal assault on the Ottoman stronghold in Medina but to allow the Turkish army to tie up troops in the city garrison. The Arabs were then free to direct most of their attention to the Turks' weak point, the Hejaz railway that supplied the garrison. This vastly expanded the battlefield and tied up even more Ottoman troops, who were then forced to protect the railway and repair the constant damage. Lawrence developed a close relationship with Faisal, whose Arab Northern Army was to become the main beneficiary of British aid.[23]

On January 3, 1917, Lawrence went off on his first desert raid with 35 armed tribesmen. Under cover of darkness, they rode their camels out of camp, dismounted and scrambled up a steep hill overlooking a Turkish encampment, which they peppered with rifle fire until driven off. Returning, they came across two Turks relieving themselves, and took them back to camp for questioning. That minor triumph was later counterbalanced by a small tragedy when, to prevent a crippling blood feud from breaking out, Lawrence had to personally execute a member of his own band, a deed that would haunt him for the rest of his life.[21] At the end of March, Lawrence set off on his first raid against the railway, a Turkish station at Abu el-Naam. After carefully reconnoitering it, Lawrence crept down to the lines at nightfall and laid a Garland mine under the tracks, cutting the telegraph wires as he left. The next morning, the Bedouins overran the station with the aid of a mountain gun and a howitzer, setting several wagons of a nearby train on fire. As it steamed out of the station, Lawrence blew the mine under the front bogies, knocking it off the rails. Although the Turks got the train rolling again, the operation was a success.[22] The attacks on the railway continued throughout 1917. During one, Lawrence blew up a locomotive with an electric mine. ‘We had a Lewis [machine gun],’ he wrote in a letter to a friend, ‘and flung bullets through the sides. So they hopped out and took cover behind the embankment, and shot at us between the wheels at 50 yards.’ The Arabs brought up a Stokes mortar, and the Turks fled across open ground. ‘Unfortunately for them,’ Lawrence continued, ‘the Lewis covered the open stretch. The whole job took ten minutes, and they lost 70 killed, 30 wounded and 80 prisoners,’ for the loss of only one Arab. While the Arabs looted the train, another Turkish force arrived, nearly cutting off the Bedouins. ‘I lost some baggage, and nearly myself,’ Lawrence added nonchalantly. In another letter about that same’show,’ Lawrence confided, ‘I’m not going to last out this game much longer: nerves going and temper wearing thin….This killing and killing of Turks is horrible.[21]

Capture of Aqaba

Lawrence at Aqaba, 1917
Main article: Battle of Aqaba

In 1917, Lawrence arranged a joint action with the Arab irregulars and forces including Auda Abu Tayi (until then in the employ of the Ottomans) against the strategically located but lightly defended[24][25][26] town of Aqaba. On 6 July, after a surprise overland attack, Aqaba fell to Lawrence and the Arab forces. After Aqaba, Lawrence was promoted to major, and the new commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, General Sir Edmund Allenby, agreed to his strategy for the revolt, stating after the war:

I gave him a free hand. His cooperation was marked by the utmost loyalty, and I never had anything but praise for his work, which, indeed, was invaluable throughout the campaign. He was the mainspring of the Arab movement and knew their language, their manners and their mentality."[27]

Lawrence now held a powerful position, as an adviser to Faisal and a person who had Allenby's confidence.

Battle of Tafileh

File:Te lawrence.jpg
Lawrence in British Army uniform, 1918

In January 1918, Lawrence fought in the battle of Tafileh, an important region southeast of the Dead Sea, together with Arab regulars under the command of Jafar Pasha al-Askari.[28] The battle was a defensive engagement that turned into an offensive rout and was described in the official history of the war as a "brilliant feat of arms".[28] Lawrence was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership at Tafileh and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.[28] The battle took the lives of 400 Turks and captured more than 200 prisoners.

By the summer of 1918, the Turks were offering a substantial reward for Lawrence's capture, with one officer writing in his notes: "Though a price of £15,000 has been put on his head by the Turks, no Arab has, as yet, attempted to betray him. The Sharif of Mecca [King of the Hedjaz] has given him the status of one of his sons, and he is just the finely tempered steel that supports the whole structure of our influence in Arabia. He is a very inspiring gentleman adventurer."[28]

Fall of Damascus

Lawrence was involved in the build-up to the capture of Damascus in the final weeks of the war. Much to his disappointment, and contrary to instructions he had issued, he was not present at the city's formal surrender, having arrived several hours after the city had fallen. Lawrence entered Damascus around 9am on 1 October 1918 but was only the third arrival of the day; the first was the 10th Australian Light Horse Brigade, led by Major A.C.N. 'Harry' Olden, who formally accepted the surrender of the city from acting Governor Emir Said.[29] In newly liberated Damascus —which he had envisaged as the capital of an Arab state—Lawrence was instrumental in establishing a provisional Arab government under Faisal. The latter's rule as king, however, came to an abrupt end in 1920, after the battle of Maysaloun, when the French Forces of General Gouraud, under the command of General Mariano Goybet, entered Damascus, destroying Lawrence's dream of an independent Arabia.

During the closing years of the war Lawrence sought, with mixed success, to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain contradicted the promises of independence he had made to the Arabs and frustrated his work.[30]

In 1918, he cooperated with war correspondent Lowell Thomas for a short period. During this time Thomas and his cameraman Harry Chase shot a great deal of film and many photographs, which Thomas used in a highly lucrative film that toured the world after the war.

[Lowell Thomas] went to Jerusalem where he met Lawrence, whose enigmatic figure in Arab uniform fired his imagination. With Allenby's permission he linked up with Lawrence for a brief couple of weeks ... Returning to America, Thomas, early in 1919, started his lectures, supported by moving pictures of veiled women, Arabs in their picturesque robes, camels and dashing Bedouin cavalry, which took the nation by storm, after running at Madison Square Garden in New York. On being asked to come to England, he made the condition he would do so if asked by the King and given Drury Lane or Covent Garden ... He opened at Covent Garden on 14 August 1919 ... And so followed a series of some hundreds of lectures—film shows, attended by the highest in the land ..."[31]

Postwar years

File:Lawrence of Arabia's map, presented to the Eastern Committee of the War Cabinet in November 1918.jpg
Map presented by Lawrence to the Eastern Committee of the War Cabinet in November 1918[32]
Emir Faisal's party at Versailles, during the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Left to right: Rustum Haidar, Nuri as-Said, Prince Faisal (front), Captain Pisani (rear), Lawrence, Faisal's slave (name unknown), Captain Hassan Khadri

Lawrence returned to the United Kingdom a full colonel.[33] Immediately after the war, Lawrence worked for the Foreign Office, attending the Paris Peace Conference between January and May as a member of Faisal's delegation.

On 17 May 1919 the Handley Page Type O carrying Lawrence on a flight to Egypt crashed at the airport of Roma-Centocelle. The pilot and co-pilot were killed; Lawrence survived with a broken shoulder blade and two broken ribs.[34] During his brief hospitalisation, he was visited by King Victor Emmanuel III.[35]

In August 1919 Lowell Thomas launched a colourful photo show in London entitled With Allenby in Palestine, which included a lecture, dancing, and music.[36] Initially, Lawrence played only a supporting role in the show, but when Thomas realised that it was the photos of Lawrence dressed as a Bedouin that had captured the public's imagination, he photographed him again, in London, in Arab dress.[36] With the new photos, Thomas re-launched his show as With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia in early 1920; it was extremely popular.[36] Thomas' shows made the previously-obscure Lawrence into a household name.[36]

He served for much of 1921 as an advisor to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office.

In August 1922, Lawrence enlisted in the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman under the name John Hume Ross. At the RAF recruiting centre in Covent Garden, London, he was interviewed by a recruiting officer—Flying Officer W. E. Johns, later known as the author of the Biggles series of novels.[37] Johns rejected Lawrence's application as he correctly believed "Ross" was a false name. Lawrence admitted this was so, and that the documents he had provided were false, and left. But he returned some time later with an RAF Messenger, carrying a written order for Johns to accept Lawrence.[38]

However, Lawrence was forced out of the RAF in February 1923 after being exposed. He changed his name to T. E. Shaw and joined the Royal Tank Corps in 1923. He was unhappy there and repeatedly petitioned to rejoin the RAF, which finally readmitted him in August 1925.[39] A fresh burst of publicity after the publication of Revolt in the Desert resulted in his assignment to a remote base in British India in late 1926, where he remained until the end of 1928. At that time he was forced to return to Britain after rumours began to circulate that he was involved in espionage activities.

He purchased several small plots of land in Chingford, built a hut and swimming pool there, and visited frequently. The hut was removed in 1930 when the Chingford Urban District Council acquired the land and passed it to the City of London Corporation, which re-erected the hut in the grounds of The Warren, Loughton, where it remains, neglected, today. Lawrence's tenure of the Chingford land has now been commemorated by a plaque fixed on the sighting obelisk on Pole Hill.

He continued serving in the RAF based at Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, specialising in high-speed boats and professing happiness, and it was with considerable regret that he left the service at the end of his enlistment in March 1935.

Lawrence was a keen motorcyclist, and, at different times, had owned eight Brough Superior motorcycles.[40][41] His last SS100 (Registration GW 2275) is privately owned but has been on loan to the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu[42] and the Imperial War Museum in London.[43] Among the books Lawrence is known to have carried with him on his military campaigns is Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur. Accounts of the 1934 discovery of the Winchester Manuscript of the Morte include a report that Lawrence followed Eugene Vinaver—a Malory scholar—by motorcycle from Manchester to Winchester upon reading of the discovery in The Times.[44]


At the age of 46, two months after leaving military service, Lawrence was fatally injured in an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham. A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control, and was thrown over the handlebars.[45] He died six days later on 19 May 1935.[45] The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road.

File:Lawrence of Arabia Brough Superior gif.gif
Lawrence on the Brough Superior SS100 he called George V

One of the doctors attending him was the neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns, who consequently began a long study of the unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle dispatch riders through head injuries. His research led to the use of crash helmets by both military and civilian motorcyclists.[46]

The Moreton estate, which borders Bovington Camp, was owned by Lawrence's cousins, the Frampton family. Lawrence had rented and later bought Clouds Hill from the Framptons. He had been a frequent visitor to their home, Okers Wood House, and had for years corresponded with Louisa Frampton. With his body wrapped in the Union Flag, Lawrence's mother arranged with the Framptons to have him buried in their family plot at Moreton.[47][48] His coffin was transported on the Frampton estate's bier. Mourners included Winston and Clementine Churchill, E. M. Forster and Lawrence's youngest brother, Arnold.[49]

A bust of Lawrence was placed in the crypt at St Paul's Cathedral, London, and a stone effigy by Eric Kennington remains in the Anglo-Saxon church of St Martin, Wareham in Dorset.[50]


Throughout his life, Lawrence was a prolific writer. A large portion of his output was epistolary; he often sent several letters a day. Several collections of his letters have been published. He corresponded with many notable figures, including George Bernard Shaw, Edward Elgar, Winston Churchill, Robert Graves, Noël Coward, E. M. Forster, Siegfried Sassoon, John Buchan, Augustus John and Henry Williamson. He met Joseph Conrad and commented perceptively on his works. The many letters that he sent to Shaw's wife, Charlotte, are revealing as to his character.[51]

In his lifetime, Lawrence published three major texts. The most significant was his account of the Arab Revolt, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Two were translations: Homer's Odyssey, and The Forest Giant—the latter an otherwise forgotten work of French fiction. He received a flat fee for the second translation, and negotiated a generous fee plus royalties for the first.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

File:Thomas Edward Lawrence-London Barton St.JPG
14 Barton Street, London S.W.1, where Lawrence lived while writing Seven Pillars

Lawrence's major work is Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an account of his war experiences. In 1919 he had been elected to a seven-year research fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford, providing him with support while he worked on the book. In addition to being a memoir of his experiences during the war, certain parts also serve as essays on military strategy, Arabian culture and geography, and other topics. Lawrence re-wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom three times; once "blind" after he lost the manuscript while changing trains at Reading railway station.

The list of his alleged "embellishments" in Seven Pillars is long, though many such allegations have been disproved with time, most definitively in Jeremy Wilson's authorised biography. However, Lawrence's own notebooks refute his claim to have crossed the Sinai Peninsula from Aqaba to the Suez Canal in just 49 hours without any sleep. In reality, this famous camel ride lasted for more than 70 hours and was interrupted by two long breaks for sleeping, which Lawrence omitted when he wrote his book.[52]

Lawrence acknowledged having been helped in the editing of the book by George Bernard Shaw. In the preface to Seven Pillars, Lawrence offered his "thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Shaw for countless suggestions of great value and diversity: and for all the present semicolons".

The first public edition was published in 1926 as a high-priced private subscription edition, printed in London by Herbert John Hodgson and Roy Manning Pike, with illustrations by Eric Kennington, Augustus John, Paul Nash, Blair Hughes-Stanton and his wife Gertrude Hermes. Lawrence was afraid that the public would think that he would make a substantial income from the book, and he stated that it was written as a result of his war service. He vowed not to take any money from it, and indeed he did not, as the sale price was one third of the production costs.[53] This, along with his "saintlike" generosity, left Lawrence in substantial debt.[54]

Revolt in the Desert

Portrait by Augustus John, 1919
Revolt in the Desert was an abridged version of Seven Pillars that he began in 1926 and that was published in March 1927 in both limited and trade editions.[55] He undertook a needed but reluctant publicity exercise, which resulted in a best-seller. Again he vowed not to take any fees from the publication, partly to appease the subscribers to Seven Pillars who had paid dearly for their editions. By the fourth reprint in 1927, the debt from Seven Pillars was paid off. As Lawrence left for military service in India at the end of 1926, he set up the "Seven Pillars Trust" with his friend D. G. Hogarth as a trustee, in which he made over the copyright and any surplus income of Revolt in the Desert. He later told Hogarth that he had "made the Trust final, to save myself the temptation of reviewing it, if Revolt turned out a best seller."

The resultant trust paid off the debt, and Lawrence then invoked a clause in his publishing contract to halt publication of the abridgment in the United Kingdom. However, he allowed both American editions and translations, which resulted in a substantial flow of income. The trust paid income either into an educational fund for children of RAF officers who lost their lives or were invalided as a result of service, or more substantially into the RAF Benevolent Fund.


Lawrence left unpublished The Mint,[56] a memoir of his experiences as an enlisted man in the Royal Air Force (RAF). For this, he worked from a notebook that he kept while enlisted, writing of the daily lives of enlisted men and his desire to be a part of something larger than himself: the Royal Air Force. The book is stylistically very different from Seven Pillars of Wisdom, using sparse prose as opposed to the complicated syntax found in Seven Pillars. It was published posthumously, edited by his brother, Professor A. W. Lawrence.

After Lawrence's death, A. W. Lawrence inherited Lawrence's estate and his copyrights as the sole beneficiary. To pay the inheritance tax, he sold the U.S. copyright of Seven Pillars of Wisdom (subscribers' text) outright to Doubleday Doran in 1935. Doubleday still controls publication rights of this version of the text of Seven Pillars of Wisdom in the USA. In 1936 Prof. Lawrence split the remaining assets of the estate, giving Clouds Hill and many copies of less substantial or historical letters to the nation via the National Trust, and then set up two trusts to control interests in T. E. Lawrence's residual copyrights. To the original Seven Pillars Trust, Prof. Lawrence assigned the copyright in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, as a result of which it was given its first general publication. To the Letters and Symposium Trust, he assigned the copyright in The Mint and all Lawrence's letters, which were subsequently edited and published in the book T. E. Lawrence by his Friends (edited by A. W. Lawrence, London, Jonathan Cape, 1937).

A substantial amount of income went directly to the RAF Benevolent Fund or for archaeological, environmental, or academic projects. The two trusts were amalgamated in 1986 and, on the death of Prof. A. W. Lawrence in 1991, the unified trust also acquired all the remaining rights to Lawrence's works that it had not owned, plus rights to all of Prof. Lawrence's works.



Lawrence's biographers have discussed his sexuality at considerable length, and this discussion has spilled into the popular press.[58]

There is no reliable evidence for consensual sexual intimacy between Lawrence and any person. His friends have expressed the opinion that he was asexual,[59][60] and Lawrence himself specifically denied, in multiple private letters, any personal experience of sex.[61] While there were suggestions that Lawrence had been intimate with Dahoum, who worked with Lawrence at a pre-war archaeological dig in Carchemish,[62] and fellow-serviceman R.A.M. Guy,[63] his biographers and contemporaries have found them unconvincing.[62][63][64]

The dedication to his book Seven Pillars is a poem titled "To S.A." which opens:

I loved you, so I drew these tides of men into my hands
                    and wrote my will across the sky in stars
To earn you Freedom, the seven-pillared worthy house,
                    that your eyes might be shining for me
                              When we came.

Lawrence was never specific about the identity of "S.A." Many theories argue in favour of individual men, women, and the Arab nation. The most popular is that S.A. represents (at least in part) his companion Selim Ahmed, "Dahoum"—who apparently died of typhus before 1918.[65]

Though Lawrence lived in a period of strong official opposition to homosexuality, his writing on the subject was tolerant. In Seven Pillars, when discussing relationships between young male fighters in the war, he refers on one occasion to "the openness and honesty of perfect love"[66] and on another to "friends quivering together in the yielding sand with intimate hot limbs in supreme embrace".[67] In a letter to Charlotte Shaw he wrote, "I've seen lots of man-and-man loves: very lovely and fortunate some of them were."[68]

In both Seven Pillars and a 1919 letter to a military colleague,[69] Lawrence describes an episode on 20 November 1917 in which, while reconnoitring Dera'a in disguise, he was captured by the Ottoman military, heavily beaten, and sexually abused by the local Bey and his guardsmen. The precise nature of the sexual contact is not specified. There have been allegations that the episode was an invention of Lawrence’s and (with some evidence) that the injuries Lawrence claims to have suffered were exaggerated.[70] Although there is no independent testimony, the multiple consistent reports, and the absence of evidence for outright invention in Lawrence's works, make the account believable to his biographers.[71] At least three of Lawrence's biographers (Malcolm Brown, John E. Mack, and Jeremy Wilson) have argued this episode had strong psychological effects on Lawrence, which may explain some of his unconventional behaviour in later life.

There is considerable evidence that Lawrence was a masochist. In his description of the Dera'a beating, Lawrence wrote "a delicious warmth, probably sexual, was swelling through me," and also included a detailed description of the guards' whip in a style typical of masochists' writing.[72] In later life, Lawrence arranged to pay a military colleague to administer beatings to him,[58] and to be subjected to severe formal tests of fitness and stamina.[73] John Bruce, who first wrote on this topic, included some other claims that were not credible—but Lawrence's biographers regard the beatings as established fact.[74]

John E. Mack sees a possible connection between T. E.'s masochism and the childhood beatings he had received from his mother[75] for routine misbehaviours.[76] His brother Arnold thought the beatings had been given for the purpose of breaking T. E.'s will.[76] Writing in 1997, Angus Calder noted that it is "astonishing" that earlier commentators discussing Lawrence's apparent masochism and self-loathing failed to consider the impact on Lawrence of having lost his brothers Frank and Will on the Western front, along with many other school friends.[77]

Awards and commemorations

Lawrence was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the French Légion d'Honneur—though, in October 1918, he refused to be made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. A bronze bust of Lawrence was placed in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral alongside the tombs of Britain's greatest military leaders.[78] An English Heritage blue plaque marks Lawrence's childhood home at 2 Polstead Road, Oxford, OX2, and another appears on his London home at 14 Barton Street Westminster, SW1.[79][80] In 2002, Lawrence was named 53rd in the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote.[81]

In popular culture




  • Lawrence was the subject of Terence Rattigan's controversial play Ross, which explored Lawrence's alleged homosexuality. Ross ran in London in 1960–61, starring Alec Guinness, who was an admirer of Lawrence, and Gerald Harper as his blackmailer, Dickinson. The play had originally been written as a screenplay, but the planned film was never made. In January 1986 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, on the opening night of the revival of Ross, Marc Sinden, who was playing Dickinson (the man who recognised and blackmailed Lawrence, played by Simon Ward), was introduced to the man that the character of 'Dickinson' was based on. Sinden asked him why he had blackmailed Ross, and he replied, "Oh, for the money. I was financially embarrassed at the time and needed to get up to London to see a girlfriend. It was never meant to be a big thing, but a good friend of mine was very close to Terence Rattigan and years later, the silly devil told him the story."[85]
  • Alan Bennett's Forty Years On (1968) includes a satire on Lawrence; known as "Tee Hee Lawrence" because of his high-pitched, girlish giggle. "Clad in the magnificent white silk robes of an Arab prince ... he hoped to pass unnoticed through London. Alas he was mistaken." The section concludes with the headmaster confusing him with D. H. Lawrence.
  • The character of Private Napoleon Meek in George Bernard Shaw's 1931 play Too True to Be Good was inspired by Lawrence. Meek is depicted as thoroughly conversant with the language and lifestyle of tribals. He repeatedly enlists with the army, quitting whenever offered a promotion. Lawrence attended a performance of the play's original Worcestershire run, and reportedly signed autographs for patrons attending the show.[86]
  • T. E. Lawrence's first year back at Oxford after the Great War to write his Seven Pillars of Wisdom was portrayed by Tom Rooney in a play, The Oxford Roof Climbers Rebellion, written by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte (premiered Toronto 2006). The play explores Lawrence's reactions to war, and his friendship with Robert Graves. Urban Stages presented the American premiere in New York City in October 2007; Lawrence was portrayed by actor Dylan Chalfy.
  • Lawrence's final years are portrayed in a one-man show by Raymond Sargent, The Warrior and the Poet.

See also


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30222. p. 8103. 7 August 1917. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30681. p. 5694. 10 May 1918. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 29600. p. 5321. 30 May 1916.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30638. p. 4716. 16 April 1918. Retrieved 23 June 2010. - p4715 has "Decorations and Medals presented by THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC."
  5. ^ His official birth record, according to his father's statement, lists 15 August 1888, as birth date (no time of birth). However, his mother stated he was born in the early hours of 16 August, and according to extant documents it was on this date his birthday was celebrated.
  6. ^ Stratford Writing Services. "A Biography of T.E. Lawrence". Retrieved 15 November 2011. Officers' Training Corps is considered by many to have been equal to, if not better than, the rigorous standards of Sandhurst [dead link]
  7. ^ David Barnes. The Companion Guide to Wales. Companion Guides, 2005. p. 280. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Alan Axelrod. Little-Known Wars of Great and Lasting Impact. Fair Winds, 2009. p. 237. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  9. ^ Jeremy Wilson. Lawrence of Arabia: the Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. Collier Books, 1992. p. Appendix 1. Retrieved 1 May 2011. [dead link]
  10. ^ John E. Mack. A Prince of Our Disorder: the Life of T.E. Lawrence. Harvard University Press, 1998. p. 9. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "Brief history of the City of Oxford High School for Boys, George Street", 'University of Oxford Faculty of History website[dead link]
  12. ^ "T. E. Lawrence Studies". Retrieved 9 September 2012. [dead link]
  13. ^ a b c d e Beeson, C.F.C.; Simcock, A.V. (1989) [1962]. Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400--1850 (3rd ed.). Oxford: Museum of the History of Science. p. 3. ISBN 0-903364-06-9. 
  14. ^ Lawrence, T. E. (1997). Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Wordsworth. pp. 12–. ISBN 9781853264696. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Allen, Malcolm Dennis. The Medievalism of Lawrence of Arabia. Penn State Press, 1991. p. 29. Retrieved 1 May 2011. 
  16. ^ T. E. Lawrence letters, 1927[dead link]
  17. ^ Jennifer Speake (2014). "Literature of Travel and Exploration: An Encyclopedia". p. 701. Routledge,
  18. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 18 October 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-10-18. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  19. ^ Stephen E. Tabachnick (2012). "The T. E. Lawrence Puzzle". p. 207. University of Georgia Press, 2012
  20. ^ Outline Chronology: 1914[dead link]
  21. ^ a b c d Parnell, Charles L., CDR USN "Lawrence of Arabia's Debt to Seapower" US Naval Institute Proceedings (August 1979) p.76, 78
  22. ^ a b Alleyne, Richard. "Garland of Arabia: the forgotten story of TE Lawrence's brother-in-arms". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  23. ^ Murphy, David (2008). "The Arab Revolt 1916-1918", London: Osprey, 2008 page 36.
  24. ^ 'The bombardment of Akaba.' The Naval Review. Volume IV. 1916. p.101-103
  25. ^ 'Egyptian Expeditionary Force. HMS Raven II Operations in the Gulf of Akaba. Red Sea. July--August 1916. National Archives, Kew London. File: AIR 1 /2284/ 209/75/8.
  26. ^ 'Naval Operation in the Red Sea 1916--1917'. The Naval Review Volume XIII no.4 1925. p.648-666.
  27. ^ "Strategist of the Desert Dies in Military Hospital". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2012
  28. ^ a b c d Mack, John E. (1998). A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 158, 161. 
  29. ^ Barker, A (1998). "The Allies Enter Damascus". History Today 48. 
  30. ^ Rory Stewart (presenter) (23 January 2010). The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia 2. BBC. 
  31. ^ Hall, Rex (1975). The Desert Hath Pearls. Melbourne: Hawthorn Press. pp. 120–121. 
  32. ^ Lawrence's Mid-East map on show
  33. ^ Asher, M (1998)' Lawrence :The Uncrowned King of Arabia.' Page 343.
  34. ^ Friends of the Protestant Cemetery (Rome) newsletter, 2008
  35. ^ RID Marzo 2012, Storia dell'Handley Page type 0
  36. ^ a b c d Murphy, David The Arab Revolt 1916-18, London: Osprey, 2008, page 86
  37. ^ Biography of Johns, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  38. ^ Orlans (2002). T.E. Lawrence: Biography of a Broken Hero. p.55.
  39. ^ "T.E. Lawrence". London Borough of Hillingdon. 23 October 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  40. ^ Title: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Motorcycles, Editor: Erwin Tragatsch, Publisher: New Burlington Books, Copyright: 1979 Quarto Publishing, Edition: 1988 Revised, Page 95, ISBN 0-906286-07-7
  41. ^ "Lawrence of Arabia". Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  42. ^ Brough Superior Club accessed 2008-05-05
  43. ^
  44. ^ Walter F. Oakeshott, "The Finding of the Manuscript," Essays on Malory, J. A. W. Bennett, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963]: 1--6)
  45. ^ a b "T.E. Lawrence, To Arabia and back". BBC. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  46. ^ Lawrence of Arabia, Sir Hugh Cairns, and the Origin of Motorcycle Helmets (accessed 2008-05-09)
  47. ^ Kerrigan, Michael (1998). Who Lies Where -- A guide to famous graves. London: Fourth Estate Limited. p. 51. ISBN 1-85702-258-0. 
  48. ^ Thomas Edward "Lawrence of Arabia" Lawrence at Find a Grave
  49. ^ Moffat,W. "A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster", p.240
  50. ^ "Dorset's oldest church". BBC. 5 August 2012. 
  51. ^ T. E. Lawrence (2000). Jeremy and Nicole Wilson, ed. Correspondence with Bernard and Charlotte Shaw, 1922--1926 1. Castle Hill Press.  Foreword by Jeremy Wilson.
  52. ^ Asher, M (1998)' Lawrence :The Uncrowned King of Arabia.' Page 259.
  53. ^ Graves, Robert, Lawrence and the Arabs, ch. 30. Jonathan Cape: London, 1927
  54. ^ John E. Mack, A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence, 1976, p. 323.
  55. ^ Grand Strategies; Literature, Statecreft, and World Order, Yale University Press, 2010, p. 8.
  56. ^ Doubleday, Doran &Co, New York, 1936; rprnt Penguin, Harmondsworth,1984 ISBN 0-14-004505-8
  57. ^ [1][dead link]
  58. ^ a b Simpson, Colin; Knightley, Phillip (June 1968). Sunday Times.  Missing or empty |title= (help) The pieces appeared on the 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th of June, and were based mostly on the narrative of John Bruce.
  59. ^ T.E. Lawrence by his Friends. 1937.  essay by E.H.R. Altounyan
  60. ^ Knightley, Phillip; Simpson, Colin (1969). The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. p. 29. 
  61. ^ Brown, Malcolm (1988). The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.  Letters to E.M. Forster, 21 Dec. 1927; to Robert Graves, 6 Nov. 1928; to F.L. Lucas, 26 March 1929.
  62. ^ a b Lawrence, A. W. (1937). T.E. Lawrence by his Friends. p. 89.  Section by C. Leonard Woolley.
  63. ^ a b Wilson, Jeremy (1989). The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence.  Chapter 32.
  64. ^ Wilson, Jeremy (1989). The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence.  Chapter 27.
  65. ^ Yagitani, Ryoko. "An 'S.A.' Mystery". 
  66. ^ Lawrence, T.E. (1935). Seven Pillars of Wisdom. pp. 508–509.  Book VIII, Chapter XCII. The passage, in the front-matter, is referred to with the single-word tag "Sex".
  67. ^ Seven Pillars (1935), featured prominently on Page 2 of Chapter I.
  68. ^ Mack, John E. (1976). A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence. p. 425.  Letter to Charlotte Shaw
  69. ^ Brown, Malcolm (1988). The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.  Letter to W.F. Stirling, Deputy Chief Political Officer, Cairo, June 28, 1919
  70. ^ Mack, John E. (1976). A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence. 
  71. ^ Wilson, Jeremy (1989). The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence. p. 1084.  In Note 49 to Chapter 21.
  72. ^ Knightley, Phillip; Simpson, Colin (1969). The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia. p. 221. 
  73. ^ Knightley and Simpson, p. 29
  74. ^ Wilson, Jeremy (1989). The Authorized Biography of T.E. Lawrence.  Chapter 34.
  75. ^ John E. Mack, A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence, 1976, p. 420.
  76. ^ a b John E. Mack, A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T.E. Lawrence, 1976, p. 33.
  77. ^ Lawrence, T.E (1997). Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature). Wordswroth. pp. vi, vii. ISBN 1853264695.  Introduction by Angus Calder – who says that after losing close friends and family, returning soldiers often feel intense guilt at having survived, even to the point of self-harm.
  78. ^ David Murphy (2008). "The Arab Revolt 1916-18: Lawrence sets Arabia ablaze". p. 86. Osprey Publishing, 2008
  79. ^ "This house was the home of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) from 1896-1921". Open Plaques. Retrieved 5 August 2012
  80. ^ "T. E. Lawrence "Lawrence of Arabia" 1888-1935 lived here. Open Plaques. Retrieved 5 August 2012
  81. ^ "100 great Britons - A complete list". Daily Mail. 21 August 2002. Retrieved 5 August 2012. 
  82. ^ Cangialosi, Jason (8 June 2012). "How 'Prometheus' uses 'Lawrence of Arabia' to explore one paranoid android's uncertainty". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  83. ^ Rauchway, Eric (9 June 2012). "Some notes on Prometheus and Jesus and Lawrence of Arabia.". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  84. ^ [2] Online at]
  85. ^ Western Morning News 1986
  86. ^ Korda, p. 670-671


  • Richard Aldington, Lawrence of Arabia. A Biographical Enquiry, London, Collins, 1955.
  • Flora Armitage, The Desert and the Stars: a Biography of Lawrence of Arabia, illustrated with photographs, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1955.
  • Malcolm Brown and Julia Cave, A Touch of Genius. The Life of T. E. Lawrence, London, J. M. Brent, 1988.
  • Malcolm Brown, Lawrence of Arabia: the Life, the Legend. London, Thames & Hudson : [In association with] Imperial War Museum, 2005. ISBN 0-500-51238-8
  • Victoria K. Carchidi, Creation Out of the Void: the Making of a Hero, an Epic, a world: T. E. Lawrence, 1987 diss., U. Pennsylvania, (Ann Arbor, MI University Microfilms International).
  • Giuseppe Ciampaglia, "Quando Lawrence d'Arabia passò per Roma rompendosi l'osso del collo", Roma 2010, Strenna dei Romanisti, Roma Amor edit.
  • Richard Perceval Graves, Lawrence of Arabia and His World
  • Robert Graves, Lawrence and the Arabs, London, Jonathan Cape, 1927 (published in the USA as Lawrence and the Arabian Adventure, New York, Doubleday, Doran, 1928).
  • George Amin Hoffman, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and the M1911.
  • John C. Hulsman, To Begin the World over Again: Lawrence of Arabia from Damascus to Baghdad, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. ISBN 978-0-230-61742-1
  • H. Montgomery Hyde, Solitary in the Ranks. Lawrence of Arabia as Airman and Private Soldier, London, Constable, 1977. ISBN 0-09-462070-9
  • Lawrence James, The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60239-354-7
  • Phillip Knightley and Colin Simpson The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia
  • John E. Mack, A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence, Boston, Little, Brown, 1976, ISBN 0-316-54232-6.
  • Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, Kingmakers: the Invention of the Modern Middle East, New York, London, W.W. Norton, 2008, ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4.
  • Suleiman Mousa, T.E. Lawrence: An Arab View, London, Oxford University Press, 1966.
  • Anthony Nutting, Lawrence of Arabia: The Man and the Motive, London, Hollis & Carter, 1961.
  • Victoria Ocampo, 338171 T. E. (Lawrence of Arabia), 1963.
  • Harold Orlans, T. E. Lawrence: Biography of a Broken Hero, Jefferson, North Carolina, and London, McFarland, 2002, ISBN 0-7864-1307-7.
  • Guy Penaud, Le Tour de France de Lawrence d'Arabie (1908), Editions de La Lauze (Périgueux, France), 336 pages, 2007/2008, ISBN 978-2-35249-024-1.
  • Jacob Rosen, The Legacy of Lawrence and the New Arab Awakening, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. V, No. 3 (2011)
  • François Sarindar, Lawrence d'Arabie. Thomas Edward, cet inconnu, collection Comprendre le Moyen-Orient, L'Harmattan (Paris, France), 334 pages, 2010, ISBN 978-2-296-11677-1.
  • Andrew R.B.Simpson, Another Life: Lawrence after Arabia, The History Press, 366 pages, 2008, ISBN 978-1-86227-464-8.
  • Charles M. Stang, editor, The Waking Dream of T. E. Lawrence: Essays on His Life, Literature, and Legacy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.
  • Desmond Stewart, T. E. Lawrence, New York, Harper & Row Publishers, 1977
  • Lowell Thomas, With Lawrence in Arabia, 1924
  • Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T.E. Lawrence, 1989, ISBN 0-689-11934-8.
  • Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for the Arab World, directed by James Hawes. PBS Home Video, 21 October 2003. (ASIN B0000BWVND)
  • T. E. Lawrence by His Friends [3], insights about Lawrence by those who knew him. Doubleday Doran, (1937). Republished 1967
  • Korda, Michael (2010). Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. Harper. ISBN 978-0-06-171261-6. 
  • Anderson, Scott (2013). Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-53292-1. 
  • Footage of Lawrence of Arabia with publisher FN Doubleday and at a picnic

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