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Thomas Edward Lawrence, the illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Chapman, an Anglo-Irish baronet, was born in Tremadoc, Wales on 16th August, 1888. Educated at Oxford High School he developed a strong interest in archaeology and military history. An intelligent boy he won a history scholarship to St John’s College, Oxford.

In 1911 Lawrence was recruited by D. G. Hogarth of Ashmolen Museum, to join an archaeological expedition led by Sir Finders Petrie at Carchemish, on the Euphrates. As the dig was closed down during the summer months he used this time to explore the area. It also gave him the opportunity to learn to speak numerous Arab dialects.

On the outbreak of the First World War Lawrence was recruited by army intelligence in North Africa and worked as a junior officer in Egypt. In October 1916 he was sent to meet important Arab leaders such as Faisal ibn Ali and Nuri es-Said in Jiddah. After negotiations it was agreed to help Lawrence to lead an Arab revolt against the Turkish Army.

Lawrence of Arabia, as he became known, carried out raids on the Damascus-Medina Railway. His men also captured the port of Aqaba in July 1917. Sympathetic to Arab nationalism he helped established local government in captured towns such as Dera.

By December, 1917 Edmund Allenby and his army had captured Beersheba, Gaza and Jerusalem. The following year the British Army defeated General Otto Liman von Sanders and the Turkish-German Army in Palestine. Lawrence now joined Allenby's forces and entered Damascus on 1st October, 1918.

Lawrence had been converted to the cause of the Arabs and felt they were betrayed by the treaties agreed at the Paris Peace Conference. He was particularly concerned about the decision to give France control over Syria.

In 1921 Lawrence joined the Middle East Department of the Colonial Office. He also served as special adviser on Arab affairs to Winston Churchill, the Colonial Secretary (1921-22). Both men visited the Middle East in an attempt to deal with the growing conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine.  

After leaving the Colonial Office he changed his name to John Hume Ross and enlisted into the Royal Air Force. After four months reporters from the Daily Express discovered what he had done and he was discharged. In March 1923 he joined the Tank Corps as Private Thomas Shaw but only served until 1925.

His account of the Arab revolt, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom was published privately in 1926. Later that year he rejoined the RAF and served for two years on the north-west frontier of India. He continued to write and other books by Lawrence include Revolt in the Desert, The Mint and a new translation of Homer's Odyssey.

In March 1935 Lawrence left the RAF. Two months later he was involved in a serious motor-cycle accident near his home in Dorset. Thomas Edward Lawrence died from his injuries six days later.

After his death rumours circulated that Lawrence had been murdered by foreign agents. Another story emerged that the secret service faked his death so as to allow him to undertake, incognito, important work in the Middle East. The supporters of this story believed he died in Tangiers, Morocco, in 1968.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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