T. E. Lawrence


T. E. Lawrence : biography

16 August 1888 – 13 May 1935

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. The British government in Egypt sent Lawrence to work with the Hashemite forces in the Arabian Hejaz in October 1916.Parnell, Charles L., CDR USN "Lawrence of Arabia’s Debt to Seapower" US Naval Institute Proceedings (August 1979) p.76, 78

During the war, Lawrence fought with Arab irregular troops under the command of Emir Faisal, a son of Sherif 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 Yenbu in December 1916. 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 allowed 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.Murphy, David (2008). "The Arab Revolt 1916-1918", London: Osprey, 2008 page 36.

Capture 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’The bombardment of Akaba.’ The Naval Review. Volume IV. 1916. p.101-103’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.’Naval Operation in the Red Sea 1916–1917′. The Naval Review Volume XIII no.4 1925. p.648-666. 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." The Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2012

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

Battle of Tafileh

In January 1918, the battle of Tafileh, an important region southeast of the Dead Sea, was fought using Arab regulars under the command of Jafar Pasha al-Askari. 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". Lawrence was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership at Tafileh, and was also promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

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."John E. MacK "A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence". p. 158, 161. Harvard University Press, 1998