T. E. Lawrence

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T. E. Lawrence : biography

16 August 1888 – 13 May 1935

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, arriving 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 being 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.Barker, A. (1998)"The Allies Enter Damascus", History Today, Volume 48 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. Faisal’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 he 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.

In 1918 he co-operated 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.

Death

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. BBC. Retrieved 16 August 2012 He died six days later on 19 May 1935. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road. One of the doctors attending him was the neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns who consequently began a long study of what he saw as 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.

Moreton estate, which borders Bovington Camp, was owned by family 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 for him to be buried in their family plot at Moreton. 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.Moffat,W. "A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster", p.240

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.

Writings

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. Foreword by Jeremy Wilson.

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.