Biography of Thomas Edward Lawrence

Portrait of T.E. Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence was a twentieth century government worker nicknamed Lawrence of Arabia by the public.

When and Where was he Born?

16th August 1888, Tremadoc, Caernarvonshire, Wales. Christened Thomas Edward Lawrence.

Family Background:

Thomas Edward Lawrence was the second son of five of Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Maden, the Governess of Sir Thomas’s daughters at Westmeath, Ireland.

Education:

Oxford High School. Jesus College, Oxford.

Timeline of Lawrence of Arabia:

1909: Lawrence visits Palestine and Syria.

1910: He joins an archaeological dig in Syria.

1911-1914: He stays in Syria and learns Arabic fluently as he has empathy for the Arabs who had been under the rule of the Turks for centuries.

1914: Lawrence explores northern Sinai as part of an expedition and secretly carries out reconnaissance for the government. At the start of the First World War he becomes an intelligence agent in Cairo.

1916: The Arab revolt against Turkey begins and this is assisted by Britain as Turkey was an ally of Germany. Lawrence is made the liaison officer to Feisal the son of the Sherif Hussein of Mecca who was the leader of the revolt. Lawrence advised on guerilla warfare tactics which meant the Tuks were pinned down and couldn’t be effective against the regular allied forces led by General Edward Allenby.

1917: The Arab forces seize Aqaba in June, a strategically important port on the Red Sea. Thereafter they push northwards.

1918: Damascus falls in October. Lawrence represents the Arabs at both the London and Paris peace conferences although the British and the French had done a deal beforehand denying the arabs self-rule. Lawrence became disillusioned. By now Lawrence was a national figure given wider publicity by the American journalist Lowell Thomas.

1919: The Paris Peace conference is held and Lawrence begins drafting “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” although the manuscript is stolen when it was almost completed. He takes up a fellowship at All Souls College and lectures in London.

1921: Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary appoints Lawrence as an adviser on Arab Affairs. He organises the Cairo Conference and helps Churchill draw up a settlement in Trans Jordan. He attempts to negotiate with the Hedjaz.

1922: Lawrence resigns as an adviser to Churchill and joins the Royal Air Force under an assumed name of J. H. Ross in order to try and find anonymity. He is sent for basic training at Uxbridge, and then to the School of Photography at Farnborough. His secret is printed in the newspapers.

1923: He works briefly for the Royal Tank Corps again under an assumed name to avoid the attention of the Press.

1924: He begins work on a revised abridgement of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”.

1926: At Cranwell he completes the subscribers’ edition of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and publishes an abridgement entitled “Revolt in the Desert”.

1928: He completes his book “The Mint” which is about life in the ranks of the Royal Air Force. In November he is granted a five-year extension to his enlistment in the RAF. Fictional reports appear in the British newspapers and then the Indian press that Lawrence is spying in Afghanistan for the British disguised as a Muslim spiritual guide called a Pir.

1929: Lawrence returns to England and buys the house called Cloud’s Hill. He is posted to RAF Cattewater near Plymouth under the Commanding Officer, Sydney Smith. Lawrence had already known Smith from the Cairo Conference and become friends. Lawrence works as Smith’s personal assistant organising the 1929 Schneider Trophy seaplane contest.

1932: He sees the play “Too Good To Be True” by George Bernard Shaw in which he is satirised as ‘Private Meek’.

1933: Bored with life in the R.A.F. Lawrence asks for a discharge but once this is written about in the “Daily Mail” he is posted to the RAF Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment at Felixstowe.

1934: “T. E. Lawrence in Arabia and After” written by Liddell Hart is published. Lawrence moves to Bridlington to supervise the winter overhaul of ten fast R.A.F. boats.

1935: Lawrence leaves the R.A.F in February but dies in May.

When and Where did he Die?

19th May 1935, Clouds Hill, Dorset, England after a motorcycle accident.

Age at Death:

47.

T.E.Lawrence's House
T.E. Lawrence’s House in London, 14 Barton Street.
(copyright  Anthony Blagg)

Written Works:

1915: “The Wilderness of Zin.”
1926: “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. (published privately)
1928: “The Mint”
1932: Translation of Homer’s Odyssey.

Marriage:

Never married.

Site of Grave:

St. Nicholas’s Church, Moreton, Dorset, England.

Places of Interest:

DORSET:

Bovington Camp.

LONDON:

Lived at 14 Barton Street.