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T.E. Lawrence   T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), 1888 - 1935   Lawrence of Arabia


Thomas Edward (Ned) Lawrence 1888-1935



T.E. Lawrence was gay. He was also courageous to a spectacular degree. He became famously known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Apparently, Lawrence's mother was quite the character.

Lawrence likened the struggle he fought as a child for spiritual independence from his mother to defending a medieval tower that is under constant siege and attack.

This is an excerpt from Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia by Michael Asher:

His need to protect his spiritual independence would emerge throughout his life in an obsession with images of siege warfare, of attack and defence: 'I think I'm afraid of letting her get, ever so little, inside the circle of my integrity,' he wrote of his mother, 'and she is always hammering and sapping to come in . . . I always felt she was laying siege to me and would conquer if I left a chink unguarded.'

This image of his self as a circle or citadel of integrity recurs repeatedly. Even as a boy, he would tell his brothers an endless tale about the defence of a tower by warlike dolls against hordes of barbarous enemies, and the motif appears again in the study of crusader castles in Britain, France and Syria to which he devoted much of his youth, and which led to the thesis he presented for his degree.


Here's a picture of Ned (sitting), his brother Will, mother Sarah, baby Frank and brother Bob. The youngest, Arnie, wasn't born yet.


T.E. Lawrence's family

In 1915, Will and Frank got themselves killed while fighting
WWI in France.

Check event in the WWI Timeline.

Pain was the one thing Lawrence was abnormally frightened of. How did he cope? By exposing himself purposely to physically painful situations. This coping mechanism culminated later in becoming a full-blown masochist.

Lawrence was very attracted to / in love with at least twice: first with Dahoum (see photo below) in 1911 and after the war in 1922 with a guy in the army named R.A.M. Guy. I still bet farm and family that they made the name up, I mean what are the odds.


   EK received mail from a person who says RAM Guy was their relative. R.A.M. stands for Robert Austen Marston, as Marston was Guy's mother's maiden name, so the email explains. Looks like I lost farm and family.






Lawrence of Arabia Fact and Fiction

Lawrence was notoriously making things up as he went. Desert explorer Michael Asher found this out the hard way when he attempted to reconstruct Lawrence's camel-trek through the Sinai Desert.

In his work Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence claimed that this trip took him only 49 hours. Asher and his team struggled hard and nearly lost a man, but couldn't pull it off. Asher later came across Lawrence's Skeleton Diaries and realized that Lawrence - as so many times before - had not been telling the truth.

Like the man already? Wait until you hear how he accidentally shot the camel he was riding (many a man's favorite story).


But Lawrence accomplished more than that.

In WWI, the British fought the Turks (Germany's ally) in the Middle East. The Brits could use some help and thought of the Arabs as potential allies. The Arabs felt inclined to fight the Turks, having been under Turkish rule for over 500 years.

An Arab Revolt against the Turks would certainly help the British cause. But how to instigate the Arabs against the Turks?

Advisers in Arabic affairs were rare but desperately needed by the British in order to negotiate with the Arabs. And this is where Lawrence entered the picture. He loved all things Arabia and spoke the language fairly well.

Backed by British gold, Lawrence was appointed liaison officer and became an indispensable link between Brits and Arabs. He rallied the Arab tribes, lead a guerrilla force behind Turkish lines, and destroyed bridges and railways. The Arab Revolt was successful and the longtime Turkish rule over Arabian territory came to an end.

In order to get Arab support for the Revolt, Lawrence promised the Arabs territory which he knew the British would never hand over. (See Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916) The Arabs felt sold down the river. And rightly so. Lawrence stated that he himself felt lousy about this.

Nevertheless, Lawrence became a legend. He published his version of his adventures in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

After WWI, Lawrence re-enlisted first in the Royal Air Force under the name John Hume Ross and later in the Royal Tank Corps as T.E. Shaw. He later served in India.

Lawrence retired from military services in 1935. That same year he had a motorcycle accident and died 6 days after the accident. The picture below is  Lawrence's grave in Moreton, Dorset.


T.E. Lawrence Grave
T.E. Lawrence Grave


I read Lawrence's biography by Michael Asher and liked it. Asher's love for the subject seems to go hand in hand with objectivity. He is not afraid of talking about the legend Lawrence of Arabia in human terms. Asher is a desert explorer and ex-military man himself.

Asher got a lot of heat for this book. Jeremy Wilson, authorized T.E. Lawrence biographer, wasn't too thrilled about Asher's work.

What else?

Lawrence loved riding his motorcycle fast. Very fast. Asher said he was a speed addict. That is racing fast, not amphetamines.


T.E. Lawrence Motorcycle

Incidentally, that's the opening scene of
Lawrence of Arabia, the 1962 movie.


Lawrence of Arabia, The Movie, 1962
Lawrence of Arabia, The Movie, 1962





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