Even if you’re not familiar with the man known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ from a historic study point of view, there’s a good chance you will be at least slightly familiar with the title from the film of the same name. Here we’re going to take a closer look at some interesting facts about Lawrence of Arabia.
Thomas Edward Lawrence was born out of wedlock and only learned his true identity after his father’s death.
He was a short man despite being portrayed by a six-foot three-inch Peter O’Toole in 1962 epic ‘’Lawrence of Arabia.’’ The real Lawrence was only five feet and five inches tall.
Lawrence’s short frame may have been caused by a childhood case of mumps. He was self-conscious about his height.
During the summer of 1909, whilst travelling solo through Syria and Palestine to survey the castles of the crusaders for his thesis he was shot at, robbed and badly beaten. During this journey, he walked almost 1,000 miles.
The first time he travelled to the Middle East it was as an Oxford archaeology student.
His years spent in the region helped to expand his knowledge of Arabic and affinity for the Arabs.
He never had a single day of battlefield training.
In 1914, the British military employed Lawrence on an archaeological expedition of the Sinai Peninsula and Negev Desert. However, this supposed research trip was actually a cover for a secret military survey.
Before being sent to Arabia in 1916, Lawrence worked a desk job for nearly two years.
It was in Arabia where he helped lead battlefield expeditions and dangerous missions behind enemy lines, taking place during the two-year Arab Revolt against the Turks. This was achieved despite his lack of military training,
Lawrence had two younger brothers that served in World War 1. He lost them when they were killed fighting on the Western Front. They died within months of each other.
Lawrence suffered from guilt about his safe desk job in Cairo while millions were being killed on the front lines. This spurred him to the field at the outbreak of the Arab Revolt during 1916.
It was not until the war ended, that Lawrence’s fame began.
In fact, he was such an unrecognised figure even the Turks, who had a bounty on his head, did not know what he really looked like!
The start of his fame began when an American war correspondent named Lowell Thomas launched a 1919 lecture tour recounting his assignment in the Middle East.
His photographs and films showcasing his actions became very popular with the public. It was at this point the British colonel gained a lot of fame and was treated as a war hero, as well as an international celebrity.
He refused a knighthood. King George V summoned Lawrence to Buckingham Palace on 30 October, 1918. Lawrence attended the palace, but when he found out the reason for his summons was due to the King wanting to give him a knighthood, Lawrence refused the title.
His refusal came due to his believing that the British government had betrayed the Arabs by reneging on a promise of independence.
Lawrence worked for Winston Churchill and the two became lifelong friends. They first met when, in 1921, Winston Churchill employed Lawrence as an advisor on Arab affairs.
After World War 1, Lawrence returned to the military by enlisting under the Royal Air Force, using assumed names.
Lawrence published an English translation of Homer’s Odyssey under the pen name of T.E. Shaw, keeping up this assumed name right up to his death.
Lawrence was a keen motorcyclist. He owned seven different Brough Superiors, which people dubbed the “Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles.”
Lawrence died in a motorcycle crash. On 13 May 1935, Lawrence was speeding through the Dorset countryside. He spotted two boys on bicycles on the narrow country roads and swerved to avoid them. He still clipped one of the bikes and was thrown forward over the handlebars. Lawrence was not able to recover from his brain injuries and died at the age of 46 on May 19, 1935.
He is buried in Dorset, England. You can visit his grave at St. Nicolas’ Church, in the parish of Moreton.
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