Articles/Biographies/Military Leaders/Lawrence, Thomas Edward "T.E."
Thomas Edward Lawrence was born on August 16, 1888 in Tremadoc, Wales. His father was a a descendant of nobles and left his wife for his maid, with whom he fathered five sons. Thomas was one of those children and was educated at Jesus College in Oxford, England. He graduated with high honors and submitted his thesis paper on the influence of the crusades on military architecture.
After graduating, Thomas began graduate studies in medieval pottery, but left when he was given the opportunity to work as an archaeologist in the Middle East. In December of 1910, he sailed to Beirut and traveled from there to Jebail, where he studied the Arabic language and culture. After finishing his studies, he moved to the excavation sites in Syria, working under D.G. Hogarth and R. Campbell-Thompson.
In 1911, Thomas returned to England, where he took a vacation for several months. By the end of the year, he returned to Beirut and continued his work in excavations. During his time in the Middle East, he often lived with Arabs, wore Arab clothing, and went on long walks on foot. By doing so, he learned much about the Middle East and its people.
When World War 1 began in 1914, Thomas waited to enlist until October, based on the advice of one of his fellow archaeologists. After enlisting, he was sent to Cairo, where he worked in the military intelligence office. His knowledge and familiarity with Arabs made him a perfect liaison between the British and Arab forces.
In 1916, he was sent into the desert to perform reconnaissance on the Arab nationalist military forces. While there, he began fighting with the troops led by Prince Emir Feisal of Mecca against the Turkish invaders. Thomas managed to somehow convince the warring Arab factions to coordinate into a single fighting force, an accomplishment that likely saved the Middle East from coming under control of Turkey. He also directed them to follow British interests by having them sabotage railways and destroy Turkish trains. This caused Turkey to order more forces to guard the railways, resulting in less troops for offensive attacks.
In 1917, Thomas managed to create an alliance between the Arab army and the soldiers under Auda Abu Tayi (who had previously worked for Turkey). This new army captured the strategic city of Aqaba by making a dangerous ride through the desert, which the Turkish troops never expected and weren't prepared for. The army continued fighting through Syria, eventually capturing the city of Damascus just before the end of the war.
By the end of the war, Thomas was a hero among the Arabs and honored by British soldiers who recognized what great accomplishments he had made by uniting the Arabs. However, some British were offended by his fondness of Arab culture and harassed him. After the war, he tried to convince the British leaders that Arab independence from the British was in everyone's interests, but only succeeded somewhat.
In 1922, Thomas joined the Royal Air Force using the pseudonym "Ross". However, his true identity was uncovered after a year and he immediately transferred to the Royal Tank Corps with the pseudonym "Shaw". After several years, he left the military to write about his experiences in the Middle East and even translated Homer's Odyssey.
On May 18, 1935, Thomas died in a motorcycle crash while driving through Dorset county. His life was portrayed by Peter O' Toole in the epic film "Lawrence of Arabia".