6/17/09

The motorcycle passion of Lawrence of Arabia

Thomas Edward Lawrence

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Its hard to know exactely what to think about him. This guy was crasy, he was rad and smart but he was at the same time mad and racist in a word he was Ambiguous.
F



Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence CB, DSO (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935), known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British soldier renowned especially for his liaison role during the Arab Revolt of 1916–18. His vivid writings, along with the extraordinary breadth and variety of his activities and associations, have made him the object of fascination throughout the world as Lawrence of Arabia, a title popularised by the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia based on his life.
Lawrence's public image was due in part to American journalist Lowell Thomas's sensationalised reportage of the Revolt, as well as to Lawrence's autobiographical account, Seven Pillars of Wisdom.





Lawrence was born at Gorphwysfa in Tremadog, Caernarfonshire (now Gwynedd), Wales. His Anglo-Irish father, Sir Thomas Robert Tighe Chapman, who in 1914 inherited the title of seventh Baronet of Westmeath in Ireland, had abandoned his wife Edith for his daughters' governess Sarah Junner (born illegitimately of a father named Lawrence, and who styled herself 'Miss Lawrence' in the Chapman household). The couple did not marry.
Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner had five illegitimate sons, of whom Thomas Edward was the second eldest. The family lived at 2 Polstead Road (now marked with a blue plaque) in Oxford, under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. Thomas Edward (known in the family as "Ned") attended the City of Oxford High School for Boys, where one of the four houses was later named "Lawrence" in his honour; the school closed in 1966. As a schoolboy, one of his favourite pastimes was to cycle to country churches and make brass rubbings. Lawrence and one of his brothers became commissioned officers in the Church Lads' Brigade at St Aldate's Church.







Lawrence claimed that in about 1905, he ran away from home and served for a few weeks as a boy soldier with the Royal Garrison Artillery at St Mawes Castle in Cornwall, from which he was bought out. No evidence of this can be found in army records.
From 1907 Lawrence was educated at Jesus College, Oxford. During the summers of 1907 and 1908, he toured France by bicycle, collecting photographs, drawings and measurements of castles dating from the medieval period. In the summer of 1909, he set out alone on a three-month walking tour of crusader castles in Syria, during which he travelled 1,000 miles on foot. Lawrence graduated with First Class Honours after submitting a thesis entitled The influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture – to the end of the 12th century based on his own field research in France, notably in Châlus, and the Middle East.



On completing his degree in 1910, Lawrence commenced postgraduate research in medieval pottery with a Senior Demy at Magdalen College, Oxford, which he abandoned after he was offered the opportunity to become a practicing archaeologist in the Middle East. In December 1910 he sailed for Beirut, and on arrival went to Jbail (Byblos), where he studied Arabic. He then went to work on the excavations at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria, where he worked under D. G. Hogarth and R. Campbell-Thompson of the British Museum. He would later state that everything that he had accomplished, he owed to Hogarth. As the site lay close to the Turkish border, near an important crossing on the Baghdad Railway, knowledge gathered there was of considerable importance for military intelligence. While excavating ancient Mesopotamian sites, Lawrence met Gertrude Bell, who was to influence him during his time in the Middle East.
In late 1911, Lawrence returned to England for a brief stay. By November he was en route to Beirut for a second season at Carchemish, where he was to work with Leonard Woolley. Prior to resuming work there, however, he briefly worked with William Flinders Petrie at Kafr Ammar in Egypt.




Lawrence continued making trips to the Middle East as a field archaeologist until the outbreak of World War I. In January 1914, Woolley and Lawrence were co-opted by the British military as an archaeological smokescreen for a British military survey of the Negev Desert. They were funded by the Palestine Exploration Fund to search for an area referred to in the Bible as the "Wilderness of Zin"; along the way, they undertook an archaeological survey of the Negev Desert. The Negev was of strategic importance, as it would have to be crossed by any Ottoman army attacking Egypt in the event of war. Woolley and Lawrence subsequently published a report of the expedition's archaeological findings, but a more important result was an updated mapping of the area, with special attention to features of military relevance such as water sources. Lawrence also visited Aqaba and Petra.
From March to May 1914, Lawrence worked again at Carchemish. Following the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, on the advice of S. F. Newcombe, Lawrence did not immediately enlist in the British Army; He held back until October, when he was commissioned on the General List.



Arab revolt
At the outbreak of World War I Lawrence was a university post-graduate researcher who had for years travelled extensively within the Ottoman Empire provinces of the Levant (Transjordan and Palestine) and Mesopotamia (Syria and Iraq) under his own name. As such he became known to the Turkish Interior Ministry authorities and their German technical advisors. Lawrence came into contact with the Ottoman-German technical advisers, travelling over the German-designed, -built and -financed railways during the course of his researches.

Even if Lawrence had not volunteered, the British would probably have recruited him for his first-hand knowledge of Syria, the Levant, and Mesopotamia. He was eventually posted to Cairo on the Intelligence Staff of the GOC Middle East.
Contrary to later myth, it was neither Lawrence nor the Army that conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, but rather the Arab Bureau of Britain's Foreign Office. The Arab Bureau had long felt it likely that a campaign instigated and financed by outside powers, supporting the breakaway-minded tribes and regional challengers to the Turkish government's centralised rule of their empire, would pay great dividends in the diversion of effort that would be needed to meet such a challenge. The Arab Bureau was the first to recognise what is today called the "asymmetry" of such conflict. The Ottoman authorities would have to devote from a hundred to a thousand times the resources to contain the threat of such an internal rebellion compared to the Allies' cost of sponsoring it.



At that point in the Foreign Office’s thinking they were not considering the region as candidate territories for incorporation in the British Empire, but only as an extension of the range of British Imperial influence, and the weakening and destruction of a German ally, the Ottoman Empire.
During the war, Lawrence fought with Arab irregular troops under the command of Emir Faisal, a son of Sherif Hussein of Mecca, in extended guerrilla operations against the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire. He persuaded the Arabs not to make a frontal assault on the Ottoman stronghold in Medina but allowed the Turkish army to tie up troops in the city garrison. The Arabs were then free to direct most of their attention to the Turks' weak point, the Hejaz railway that supplied the garrison. This vastly expanded the battlefield and tied up even more Ottoman troops, who were then forced to protect the railway and repair the constant damage.



In 1917, Lawrence arranged a joint action with the Arab irregulars and forces under Auda Abu Tayi (until then in the employ of the Ottomans) against the strategically located port city of Aqaba and was promoted to major in the same year. Aqaba was heavily defended on the seaside but lightly defended in the rear, because the desert was considered uncrossable. On 6 July, after a surprise overland attack, Aqaba fell to Arab forces. The following year, Lawrence was involved in the capture of Damascus in the final weeks of the war and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in 1918. In newly liberated Damascus – which he had envisioned as the capital of an Arab state – Lawrence was instrumental in establishing a provisional Arab government under Faisal. Faisal's rule as king, however, came to an abrupt end in 1920, after the battle of Maysaloun, when the French Forces of General Gouraud under the command of General Mariano Goybet, entered Damascus, breaking Lawrence's dream of an independent Arabia.



As was his habit when travelling before the war, Lawrence adopted many local customs and traditions (many photographs show him in the desert wearing white Arab garb and riding camels), and he soon became a confidant of Prince Faisal.
During the closing years of the war he sought, with mixed success, to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests.



In 1918 he co-operated with war correspondent Lowell Thomas for a short period. During this time Thomas and his cameraman Harry Chase shot much film and many photographs, which Thomas used in a highly lucrative film that toured the world after the war.
Lawrence was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the French Légion d'Honneur, though in October 1918 he refused to be made a Knight Commander of the British Empire.



At the age of 46, a few weeks after leaving the service, Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorbike accident on a Brough Superior SS100 in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham. Situated in East Street, Wareham Town Museum has an interesting section on T. E. Lawrence. A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars of his motorcycle. He died six days later. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road. The circumstances of Lawrence's death had far reaching consequences. One of the doctors attending him was the neurosurgeon Hugh Cairns. He was profoundly affected by the incident and consequently began a long study of what he saw as the unnecessary loss of life by motorcycle dispatch riders through head injuries and his research led to the use of crash helmets by both military and civilian motorcyclists. As a consequence of treating Lawrence, Sir Hugh Cairns would ultimately save the lives of many motorcyclists.



Some sources mistakenly claim that Lawrence was buried in St Paul's Cathedral; in reality, only a bust of him was placed in the crypt. His final resting place is the Dorset village of Moreton. Moreton Estate, which borders Bovington Camp, was owned by family cousins, the Frampton family. Lawrence had rented and subsequently purchased Clouds Hill from the Framptons. He had been a frequent visitor to their home, Okers Wood House, and had for many years corresponded with Louisa Frampton.
On Lawrence's death, his mother wrote to the Framptons asking whether there was space for him in their family plot at Moreton Church. At his funeral there T. E. Lawrence's coffin was transported on the Frampton estate's bier; mourners included Winston and Clementine Churchill and Lawrence's youngest brother, Arnold. The famous stone effigy of Lawrence by Eric Kennington can be seen in the Saxon church of St Martin, Wareham.