Thomas Edward Lawrence

Thomas Edward Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence is one of those few men who have become legends in his own lifetime. He was born in Wales in 1888 and grew up with four brothers. After he had studied history at Oxford University, he worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East. In his free time he travelled a lot in the region of his own. He tried to learn the Arab language and to understand the Arab way of life. The stories of his adventures in the dessert of Arabia have fascinated generations of British people. In his book "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" (Sieben Säulen der Weisheit) in with he described his adventures has been called one of the greatest modern adventure stories in the English language. So it is no wonder that British people know him as Lawrence of Arabia.

In 1914, when the First World War started, he was send to Egypt, because his knowledge of the area and the people was needed. The Turks had controlled most of the land in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The British Army was fighting the Turks. The Arabs wanted to be independent of the Turks. Lawrence went to visit important Arab leaders to offer them British help in their fight for freedom. As a British army officer in the Arab army he had played a great role in the Arab Revolt, as it was called. The Arab army consisted of men from different Arab tribes, they did not have a large army of paid soldiers. They had now guns or camels of their own and were completely free to go back to their families, if they wanted to. Lawrence quickly realised that they could only win against the well-organized Turkish army, if they went behind the Turkish lines and blew up trains, bridges and railway lines.

Lawrence's reports of this operations are unbelievably exiting. He was wounded more than twenty times, sometimes badly. He was also caught by the Turks and tortured. But the conditions, in which Lawrence and his men rode through the desert on the backs of their camels, were even more unbelievable. Sometimes they rode days without sleep or food and once even they didn't had any water for three days. Water was always a problem, and the enemy knew it. They destroyed wells and threw dead camels into pools of water to make it undrinkable. Of course, the hot sun was also terrible. It burned the skin of the men faces and the wind blew sand into it.

One summer, snakes were a problem too. There were lots more of them then usual and they've killed about twenty of Lawrence's men every day. Of the fifty men in his group, seven were bitten, three died and four others became seriously ill. This snakes liked to swim in the pools; so it was dangerous to go and fetch water in the evening. At night, they liked to be warm and slept with the men on top of or even under their blankets, so everyone was very careful when he got up in the morning. Only Lawrence's two servant boys did not mind the snakes and often gave false alarms. About half an hour after this, he was sitting in the sand and noticed that the two boys were smiling at each other and looking in his direction. He quickly found out what they were looking at: In a small bush, close to him, a poisonous brown snake was ready to attack him. He through himself to one side and shouted to one of his men, who came running over and beats the snake to death with a stick. The two servant boys were also beaten with the same stick.

It was the man himself and not only the adventures, which fascinated people. He was quiet small (he was only 5'5" tall, which is about 1.65m). He was strong and soon won the respect of the Arab dessert fighters when he passed their highest test - Jumping off a trotting camel and on again with one hand on the saddle and a heavy gun in the other. He seemed more at home in the dessert dressed in Arab clothes then in the officers' mess in Cairo, where he wore the uniform of an army captain.

At the end of the war Lawrence was deeply disappointed. The Arabs had fought hard together with the British army and won back the land that belonged to them. But all they had done was to change their Turkish "masters" for British and French once. He appeared at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 in Arab dress to show how strongly he felt about Arab indepenence. He also refused to accept any millitary decorations and left King George V with the box in his hands, as the King later said. The war endet in 1918, he was thirty years old when he left the army. Lawrence was famous and already a lieutenand-colonel; this could have been the start of a successful career in the government. But he did not care about things like having lots of money and being famous. He had not been able to keep his promise to the Arabs, so he was still bitter. He changed his name and went into the Royal Air Force as a simple airman. When the newspapers found out about it, he changed his name again and went to the army as a simple solidier. In his free time he wrote about his life in the dessert and in military camps across the world.

At the age of sixty-four, in February 1935, Lawrence left the army. He had no real plans for the future and wanted to write more books. As he told a friend, he now felt a little empty inside. He didn't have time to make any great plans, because he was killed three months later in an accident on his motorcycle.

The film "Lawrence of Arabia"

David Lean made a film of Lawrence and his life. The first showing of the film was in December 1962, he got seven Oscars for the best direction, camera, buildings, sound, cut and music. The film went 222 minutes, but they cut it down to 202 minutes. In 1970 they cut the film a second time to 187 minutes.

Later they've restored the film, and now you are able to watch in the origin version like in 1962.

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