Lawrence of Arabia (1962)  

 

 

 

Director:    David Lean.

Starring:    Peter O'Toole, Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Claude Rains, Anthony Quayle, Arthur Kennedy, Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer. 

Based on the story of  T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

Won seven Oscars, among them Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Score, Editing and Art Direction.

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

T.E. Lawrence goes for a ride on his motorcycle.  He doesn't wear a helmet, but does have goggles on.  He is racing his motorcycle at a high rate of speed.  At the the top of a hill he comes upon two small boys weaving back and forth on their bicycles.  He pushes on his brakes, and is thrown over top of the motorcycle.

At the funeral a reporter asks Lord Allenby for a few words about Lawrence.  Allenby says he didn't really know the man well.  Mr. Bentley knew him.  He says he was a poet, a scholar and a mighty warrior.  In addition, he was a shameless exhibitionist. 

Flashback.  Cairo, Egypt.  Lawrence is painting a map of the Middle East.  He reads in the paper that "Bedouin tribes attack Turkish stronghold."  He comments that probably no one on the staff is even aware of what happened.  Lawrence puts out a match with his fingers.  Another fellow tries to do the same thing and complains when it hurts.  Lawrence tells him:  "The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."  Lawrence goes to see the commander General Murray. 

A Englishman named Dryden tells the general that the Arab Bureau would like to have its own man, namely Lawrence, on the spot with the Arabs in order to make their own appraisal of the situation there.  The general says spending time on the Arabs would be a waste of time for they are a bunch of sheep-stealers.  Dryden says the Arabs did attack Medina.   The general says, yes, but the Turks clobbered them.  Dryden says they can't say that for sure.  The general says the Arabs will only constitute a sideshow of a sideshow.  Dryden replies:  "Big things have small beginnings, sir." 

Lawrence comes in.  He forgets to salute and is reprimanded for it.  The general even says that Lawrence is the kind of "creature" he just can't stand.  But  the general says Dryden can have Lawrence for six weeks.  Dryden says he needs him for three months.  He has to get to Yenbo (half way up the western coast of today's Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea) and then get back.  

The job assigned to Lawrence is to find Prince Faisal (son of the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein).  Lawrence has to find out what kind of man the Prince is and what are his long range intentions in Arabia altogether.  The Prince and his forces are now anywhere within 300 miles of Medina.  They are Hashemite Bedouins who have the ability to cross 60 miles of desert in a day.  Lawrence says that this is going to be fun. 

Lawrence accompanies an Arab guide who takes him across the desert.  At night they sleep by the fire under blankets because it's cold.  Lawrence gives the guide his pistol as a gift.  They stop along the top of a sand dune.  The guide says that from here to Prince Faisal is all Harith country and he not not Harith, but Hazimi, of the Beni Salem.  Lawrence gallops his camel and gets thrown off.

The two men reach Masturah Well in the middle of nowhere.  It is a Harith well.  In the distance the men see someone ridding toward them.    The guide gets worried and rushes over to his saddle bag to retrieve his new pistol.  He is about to fire a shot when the rider kills him with one shot.  This upsets Lawrence and he is a bit rude to the newcomer.  Lawrence wants to know why the guide was killed?  He also says the man was his friend.  The man says the well is his and the Hazimi may not drink at their wells.  He goes on to say his name is Ali ibn el Kharish.  The Arab says he will take Lawrence to Wadi Safra, but Lawrence doesn't want his company.  He says he can find his way by using his compass. 

On his journey, a British officer named Col. Brighton hears Lawrence singing.  He comes down from the mountains to ask the newcomer who is he.   The other fellow is already an adviser to Faisal.  He tells Lawrence when they get into camp, he is to keep his mouth shut.  As they get closer to the camp, they see Turkish planes bombing the Arab camp below them.  Feisel is shouting for his men to stand and fight.   Lawrence and the other British officer run into Feisel.  The adviser says they must move 50 miles south and this time Feisel agrees. 

At night and the next day the tribe moves south.  Two Arab boys ask Lawrence for a cigarette, but he doesn't smoke.  They want to be his servants.  Lawrence says he can't afford lit.  At night Lawrence is with Feisel.  Ali ibn el Kharish comes in.  The Colonel wants Feisel to fall back on Yenbo and the British will give them arms and training.  But Lawrence says Yenbo is far from Damascus.  Lawrence says:  "Fall back on Yenbo, sir, and the Arab Rising becomes one poor unit in the British army."  The Colonel calls Lawrence a traitor. 

Feisel has Lawrence stay behind to talk to him.  He talks about the British wanting to grab Arabia and Lawrence says then Feisel must deny Arabia to the British.  Feisel is a bit surprised that Lawrence would favor the Arabs over the British in this matter.  He himself knows he must fight the Turks, as his father Hussein wishes. 

Lawrence walks and thinks abut what he should do.  His two would-be servants watch over him.  After a long while, Lawrence comes out of his trance and says to the fellows:  "Aqaba  Aqaba.  From the land.."  (Aqaba is a coastal town on the Gulf  of Aqaba --  a large gulf of the Red Sea  --  in the far south of today's Jordan.)  When Ali ibn el Kharish hears of this, he tells Lawrence:  "You are mad."  To do this they would have to cross the Nefud Desert and that desert cannot be crossed.  Lawrence says he can do it.  He then asks for 50 men.  He says if 50 men come out of the Nefud Desert, then other Arabs like the Howeitat might join with them.  Ali says that there are huge guns at Aqaba, but Lawrence says:  "From the landward side, there are no guns at Aqaba."

Lawrence leaves with 50 men.   His two would-be servants follow at a distance behind the men.  Gasim catches the two rascals and brings them to Ali.  Ali wants to punish them, but Lawrence sticks up for the two fellows saying they can be his servants.  Ali is mad, but the boys are happy.   

At the railway they start to cross the Nefud Desert.  There will be no water for the camels.  If the camels die, they die too.  Off they go.  It's going to be a long journey.  Ali reprimands Lawrence for "drifting".  A man who falls asleep and drifts may find himself lost in the desert.  Lawrence says:  "It will not happen again."  They take an extended break.  Lawrence uses some water to shave and Ali tells him he is wasting water. 

They pass through the "sun's anvil".   The wells will be reached by midday.  Gasim's camel is seen walking without its owner.  He must have fallen off his camel.  Ali says there's nothing to be done.  It was Allah's will.  But Lawrence says he's going after Gasim, despite Ali's objections.   Ali berates Lawrence, saying he will not be at Aqaba.  Lawrence says he will be at Aqaba:  "That is written."  He points to his head and says:  "In here."

Gasim drops in the heat of the sun.  One of Lawrence's servants waits on his camel for Lawrence's return.  He sees way in the distance a virtual speck, but it keeps getting bigger.  They young servant gallops his camel to meet Lawrence.  Gasim rides on the back of Lawrence's camel.  The younger servant Farraj waits in the hills to be the first to sight Lawrence.  He screams out:  "Lawrence!" and rushes down the sand dune to greet Lawrence and the two others.  The rest of the Arabs walk out to greet Lawrence.  Everyone is quit excited to see him.  When he sees Ali, Lawrence says:  "Nothing is written!" 

Sitting by the campfire, Ali asks about Lawrence's father.  Lawrence says his father is Sir Thomas Chapman.  He never married Lawrence's mother.  When Lawrence goes to sleep, Ali burns his military clothing.  He then outfits Lawrence in the robes of a sherif of the Beni Wejh.  The men are pleased to see Lawrence in his Arab outfit.  Lawrence takes a ride to see how he feels in his new outfit.  He gets off his camel and runs around.  A local Arab sits on his horse and watches the Englishman.  He asks what the Englishman is doing?   Lawrence is a bit embarrassed.  He only says:  "As you see."

The fellow says his name is Auda Abu Tayi.  He shoots his gun in the air so his son will come down and join him.  He doesn't like these Harith men stealing his water.  Auda and his son ride into the Harith camp, while Auda fires his pistol in the air.  Auda and Ali meet.  After an exchange of barbs, Auda finally offers the Harith some Howeitat hospitality in Wadi Rumm. 

At dinner Auda asks why they are planning to attack Aqaba?  Ali says it's for Prince Feisel.  But Lawrence says it is not.  It is for the Arabs.  Auda says he knows many tribes, but not these Arabs that Lawrence talks about.  Lawrence says they are a tribe of slaves serving the Turks.   Auda takes exception to this remark.  He says the Turks give him each month 100 golden guineas.  Lawrence says the number is actually 150 golden guineas.  He goes on to say whether it's 100 or 150 golden guineas, it's all a trifle, that the Turks take from their great chest they have in Aqaba.  Lawrence says Auda will go to Aqaba because it is his pleasure to do so. 

The next morning they set out for Aqaba.  At night they are in striking distance of Aqaba.  They will take it tomorrow.  But just then a feud is in danger of breaking out between the two tribes.  A Harith man shots a Howeitat and the Howeitat want revenge.  Lawrence quickly steps up to be the arbiter between the two sides.  He asks Auda if the killer is killed, will that satisfy the Howeitat?  Yes.  Lawrence asks Ali if none of the Howeitat men shoot any of the Harith men, will that satisfy the Harith?  Yes.  

So Lawrence will execute the law.  He has no tribe, so no one will be offended.  But when the condemned raises his head, Lawrence sees that it is the man he saved, Gasim.  He hesitates, but carries out the sentence. 

The next day the Arabs descends on Aqaba.  They quickly race through the defenses of the Turks.  And just as Lawrence said, the big guns are all pointed toward the water.  Lawrence tells Ali to send a message to Feisel telling him to bring the Arab army to Aqaba via boats.   Lawrence is going to Cairo, across the Sinai Desert, with his two servants.  Auda is very disappointed for he thought he would find gold guineas in Aqaba.  But all he finds is paper money and no great box.  He tells Lawrence he lied.  So Lawrence writes a note saying that the British promise Auda 5,000 golden guineas. 

Lawrence takes the servants with him.   He says he won't rest until they are in Cairo.  Going through a dust storm, Lawrence loses his compass.  He says they will just keep heading due west and they will meet up with the Suez Canal.  More dust storms hit the three travelers.  The older servant gets stuck behind the other two and he falls into what turns out to be quick sand.  Lawrence and Farraj rush to him, but they cannot save him.  They arrive too late.  He is swallowed up by the sand. 

The two guys reach an abandoned town.  Farraj gets off his camel and walks through the ruins of a building to the other side. He comes back and takes Lawrence through the building to the other side where Lawrence sees a huge ship on the Suez Canal. 

Lawrence and the servant Farraj come into Cairo by truck.  The two of them in dusty Arab clothing walk to the officer's mess hall.  The officers object to the presence of Farraj.  He is not allowed.  The officers stop talking and stare at Lawrence and Farraj as they approach the bar.  The bartender tells them to get out of here, but Lawrence just demands two lemonades.  Col. Brighton arrives and asks Lawrence to explain himself.  Lawrence says:  "We've taken Aqaba."  And they've taken the entire garrison there prisoners, except for the ones that they killed.  Brighton thinks that's impossible, but Lawrence says:  "I did it."  He then tells Lawrence to go see their new commanding officer, General Allenby, who has replaced Gen. Murray.  Lawrence comments:  "That's a step in the right direction." 

Allenby asks Lawrence who told him to take Aqaba?  No one, is the answer.  Lawrence says it's the Turkish route to the Suez Canal.  Allenby says not anymore, because the Turks are coming through Beersheba (the largest city in the Negev desert of today's southern Israel).  Lawrence says Aqaba threatened El' Arish and Gaza.  (El' Arish lies on the Mediterranean coast of the Sinai peninsula, 344 kilometers (214 miles) northeast of Cairo.)) 

Allenby promotes Lawrence to the rank of major and tells him to go back to work with the Arabs.  Lawrence says no because he feels terribly guilty about losing the young servant to quicksand and for executing a man.  And, according to Lawrence:  "I enjoyed it."  He adds that he just is not fit for the job.  Allenby walks out and Lawrence accompanies him.  They go to the officer's bar and talk about the Arabs.  Lawrence says he will smash the railways of the Turks.  Given 13 weeks, he will have Arabia in chaos.  He also delves somewhat into politics when he says:  "Arabia is for the Arabs now."  And he wants to know if Britain has any ambitions in Arabia.   Allenby says Lawrence can tell the Arabs that Britain has no ambitions in Arabia. 

Allenby leaves with Dryden.  The officers just keep staring at Lawrence.  They surround the man and then start telling him individually:  "Congratulations!" 

Lawrence asked for artillery and Allenby said he would get it.  But Allenby knows that if the Arabs get artillery, they might become independent of Britain and Britain does not want that.  So Allenby says then that he can't give Lawrence the artillery. 

 

Intermission

The reporter Bentley speaks with Prince Feisal.  He wants to know where is Lawrence and the Arab army.  The Prince says he doesn't know, but last week they were near El Ghira.  He also tells Bentley that since they started their campaign against the Turks, they have lost 156 dead and 37 wounded.  They kill the too badly wounded themselves, so they can't be tortured by the Turks.  About Lawrence, the Prince says that with him mercy is a passion and he has a horror of bloodshed.  Feisal asks Bentley what are his true interests in the Arabs and Major Lawrence?  Bentley replies that he is just looking for a hero and he thinks Lawrence is that man.  This could help get the USA into World War I against Germany and Turkey.

Lawrence detonates the explosives on the railway track which knocks the train off the tracks.  The Arabs then open up with all their firepower.  Lawrence has to scream at them:  "Stop it!" He then leads a charge to the train.  The Arab rebels immediately start looting the train.  Lawrence gets up on top of a railway car.  A wounded Turk shoots him in the right arm, but it's only a flesh wound.  Auda comes up behind the Turk and kills him with a blow from a sword.  Auda sees Bentley and busts one of his cameras.  He thinks that the camera will steal his virtue.  Bentley takes pictures of Lawrence.  

Lawrence is now faced with a winter campaign where he will have very few men.  Most of the Arabs will soon be going back home.  Col. Brighton is very concerned about this, but Lawrence just tells him that the Arabs will come back.  Bentley asks Lawrence what attracts him personally to the desert and Lawrence says:  "It's clean."   

The next raid is of a train mostly carrying horses.  They blow the explosive before the train reaches it, because they don't want the horses hurt.  They let the horses out and off go both the horses and the Arabs.  Auda has a beautiful white horse with him.  Brighton is critical of Auda for wanting to go home now that he has got what he wants.  Auda says that Brighton himself will go home once he has gotten what he wants.  Off goes Auda. 

Brighton tells Lawrence that Allenby wants the Arab army behind Deraa (at the northern border with southern Syria).  Lawrence says that's where he will take the army.  He also says:  "Tell Allenby to hurry up, or we'll be in Deraa before he's in Jerusalem."  

Ali ibn el Kharish puts his ear to the railway track to listen for the train.  Lawrence's servant Farraj takes a detonator out of the box of detonators.  He sticks it under his robe.  Lawrence comes over to ask for the detonator, but Farraj can't find it.  Lawrence tells him to fetch another detonator.  Farraj runs to get the detonator, but the detonator goes off, badly wounding the young fellow.  Lawrence has to shoot Farraj in the head to save him from the Turks.  Then they all abandon the project as the train now is too close to them.

Allenby tells Brighton that Lawrence has lied when he said there is a northern Arab army.  In fact, he only has 50 men.  The Turks have a bounty on Lawrence's head of 20,000 pounds.  Brighton says the Arabs think Lawrence is some type of prophet. 

Lawrence now wants to go into Deraa, which is garrisoned by the Turks.  He says:  "This afternoon I will take the Arab revolt into Deraa while the Arabs argue."  Only Ali goes with Lawrence into the town.  Lawrence says he's looking for some way to "announce" himself.  And for some strange reason Lawrence claims:  ". . . I am invisible."  He soon finds this is just not true.  Three soldiers arrest Lawrence and take him to headquarters.  There Lawrence is given a bad beating with a cane applied to his backside.  He does not cry out in pain. 

At night Lawrence is thrown out onto the muddy street.  Ali is there waiting for him.  For a while Lawrence is very withdrawn.  Ali gets him to eat something and then orders him to get some sleep.  When Lawrence feels better, he tells Ali that he is leaving.  His illusion of invincibility seems to have ended with his caning.  He says:  ". . . any man is what I am."  He will ask Allenby for a job that any man can do.  Ali is amazed that Lawrence is thinking about walking away from the Arabs and the Arab revolt. 

Lawrence goes to see Allenby, but gets a surprise when he finds Prince Feisal with the commander.  When Feisal greets Lawrence warmly, he is bit surprised that Lawrence is so stiff and formal with him.  Feisal tells Allenby that he knows the British and the French have made a pact dividing up Arab territory between them.  Allenby denies it.  After Feisal leaves, Allenby tells Lawrence of the Sykes-Picot Treaty.  The treaty says that after the end of the war, France and Britain will share the Turkish Empire, including Arabia.  Dryden is with Allenby and he asks Lawrence not to show any signs of indignation toward them.  They have told lies, but Lawrence has told half-lies.  Lawrence replies:  "The truth is I'm an ordinary man.  You might have told me that, Dryden."  He turns to Allenby to say that he resigned so that he could have an ordinary job.  Allenby asks him:  "Are you mad?"   Lawrence says he wants an ordinary job so that he won't go mad. 

Dryden excuses himself.  Allenby walks with Lawrence.  He mentions to Lawrence that there is blood on his back (from the caning).  Allenby says to Lawrence:  "You're the most extraordinary man I ever met."  Lawrence replies:  "Leave me alone."  The talk continues and Allenby tells Lawrence that he has a destiny and he must not fail it.  And soon enough Lawrence is talking about leading the Arabs to Damascus.  He says:  "We'll get there before you do.  And when we've got it, we'll keep it." 

The Arabs, 2,000 strong, gather to be led by Lawrence to Damascus.  Lawrence arrives with a large bodyguard with him.  Ali does not approve because the men with Lawrence are murderers.  Lawrence just says he doesn't want ordinary men. 

In the twilight, on their way to Damascus they can hear and see the lights from the British artillery explosions landing on the Turks.  Brighton is concerned that Lawrence is going to beat Allenby to Damascus.  The only thing that could possibly stop him is a Turkish column out of Mazril. 

Lawrence and the Arabs come upon scenes of butchery committed by the Turks.  The Arabs want revenge.  They see the Turkish column retreating in a very disorderly manner.  One Arab shouts:  "No prisoners!"  Lawrence sits on his horse.  One Arab, whose village was just destroyed by the Turks, charges the Turkish column.   The Turks shoot him down.  The Arabs want to attack.  Lawrence finally shouts:  "No prisoners!  No prisoners!"  They charge the column. 

The attack is a real bloodbath.  Some Turks raise their hands in surrender, but they are cut down.  And Lawrence acts as if he is in some kind of blood frenzy.  He shoots and stabs many Turkish soldiers until the Turks are all dead or thought to be dead.   When Bentley catches up with Lawrence, he is shocked by the carnage.  He keeps saying:  "Jesus wept."  Bentley says to Lawrence:  "Oh, you rotten man."   A messenger arrives to say that Damascus is near and that Allenby is also near.   

Allenby arrives in Damascus.  Brighton tells Allenby that Lawrence and the Arabs have been in Damascus for a day and a night.  They have taken over most of the public utilities and important buildings.  So, Allenby responds by having everyone stay in their quarters (and, thereby, they won't be able to help the Arabs run the city).   

All the Arab leaders meet together.  Tribal leaders are shouting at each other.  Lawrence gets up to stress that everyone must think in terms of a united Arabia and not in terms of each individual tribe of Arabs.  The Arabs do not know how to run the generators to produce electricity.  Ali says they need English engineers, but Lawrence says:  "No.  Take English engineers and you take English government."   Just then a man comes in to tell Lawrence that there is a fire in one of the city districts, but there is no water pressure to fight the fire.  Lawrence leaves to see to the fire. 

While Damascus burns, Allenby reads about fly fishing.  Suddenly, all power is lost.  Allenby looks outside and sees the Arabs leaving.  In the meeting room, only Auda, Ali and two others remain with Lawrence.  Lawrence says to Auda:  "I pray that I may never see the desert again.  Hear me God."  Auda leaves.  Then Ali leaves.  Lawrence knows his dream of a united Arabia is lost. 

A medical officer tells Allenby that the conditions at the hospital where the wounded Turkish soldiers are being treated are deplorable.  Allenby tells him not to take over, but to go to speak to the Arab Council.  There is no Arab Council.  It's just Lawrence.  Lawrence goes over to see the hospital and is deeply affected by the deplorable conditions.  There isn't even any flowing water available.  Finally, the Red Cross arrives.  The officer with them tells Lawrence that this is outrageous.  Lawrence, just starts laughing, and continues even after the officer slaps him down. 

Lawrence is promoted to Colonel.  He leaves for home.  Prince Feisal tells Allenby:  "We are equally glad to be rid of him, are we not?"  This shocks Allenby a bit.

Lawrence is driven by a soldier to a port city.  A fellow on a motor cycle passes them on a very dusty road. 

 

Terrific movie.  An epic film.  This was one of my wife's favorite movies when she was in high school.  The music is wonderful and the photography and landscapes are beautiful.  My wife was attracted to Lawrence's character:  an unusual man, an outsider, a rebel with a noble cause.  She even bought Lawrence's book The Seven Pillars and still has it more than 40 years later.   Peter O'Toole was great as Lawrence, even if he is much taller than the five feet, five inches tall Lawrence.  And at times the man does appear to be very strange, like the time he thought he was invisible to the Turks in Deraa.  After the caning he received there, for a brief while, Lawrence dropped his illusions, thinking himself now an ordinary man.  But it didn't take much prodding from Allenby to get Lawrence back into action.  Ultimately, his dream of a united Arabia never came true.  And that, in itself, must have been disillusioning for Lawrence.   Everyone around him betrayed him in a sense:  the Arabs and the British.  The Arabs for their being too tribal and the British for being their old imperialistic selves. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 
 

 


OTTOMAN EMPIRE

 

World War I saw the destruction of many empires.  One of the most vulnerable was the Ottoman Empire. 

In WWI, Turkey was supplied by its German ally as well as being led by German officers.

1915 – the Turks go on the offensive attacking the British at the Suez Canal.

1915  (Feb 2) – 20,000 Turks fling themselves at the canal’s defenses. They are driven back by the huge naval guns of the nearby British warships.

1916 spring – to forestall more Turkish attacks, the British move out to establish a new defensive line beyond striking range of the Suez Canal. The Egyptian Expeditionary Force heads into the Sinai. The EEF has four divisions of British and Dominion troops and is commanded by Sir Archibald Murray from his headquarters in Cairo.

Along the way, the British War Office in London becomes desperate for a victory, so they change Murray’s orders from defense to offense. The EEF is to invade the Turkish Empire by way of its southwest province, Palestine. The British proceed to the Holy Land. Helping out in this British offense is their 5th column, the Arab rebellion, erupting 750 miles to the south along the Red Sea coast. The Arabs are disrupting communications and attacking Turkish garrisons.

The leader of the Arabs is  a rebel sheik named Hussein. One of his sons is Prince Faisal who becomes the chosen instrument of the British. He was chosen by none other than T. E. Lawrence only 5 foot 5 inches tall; impish and somewhat effete, a bit of a nuisance; a confessed exhibitionist; and consistently out of uniform. Part charlatan, part genuine performer he says of himself.  He becomes known as "Lawrence of Arabia."

 

 

T. E. LAWRENCE

1888 -- Thomas Edward Lawrence born in Wales; since childhood, fascinated with archaeology. He was born illegitimately to a baronet and his family's nursemaid.

1910 -- graduates with honors from Oxford. Travels in the Near East, part of the Ottoman Empire. Serves as an assistant at a British Museum excavation in Mesopotamia (Iraq).

1914 -- Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire nearest to the Suez Canal.

1914 -- Turkey declares war.

1914 -- start of WWI.  He spends a brief period in the Geographical Section of the General Staff in London. Because of his knowledge of Arabic and of the region, Lawrence is recruited by the British army's intelligence section, the Arab Bureau, based at Cairo.

1915 February -- Turkish governor of Syria attacks Palestine across the Sinai desert, but is defeated. This scares the British which bulk up a large garrison in Egypt.

1916 -- the Sherif of Mecca, Hussein, revolts against the Ottoman Empire. The Sherif and his family were in charge of the Muslim holy places at Mecca and Medina. His Arab army comes under the direction of liaison officer, Colonel Lawrence. The Arab army attacks the flanks of the Turks in Arabia and Palestine. This distracts many Turkish troops from the main action in Mesopotamia and Palestine.

1916, April -- During World War I German experts provide military training for Turkish officers. In Mesopotamia the Turks force into surrender British general Townshend, who had landed at Basra from India in 1915 and had marched up the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.

1916 August -- second Turkish offensive in the Palestine area turned back.

1916 -- Arabs rebel against the Ottoman empire of the Turks. Lawrence sent to Mecca on a fact-finding mission, ultimately becoming the British liaison officer to the Arabs. Faisal I (1885-1933), king of Iraq; during World War I, Faisal at first serves with the Turkish army in Syria, but in 1916 he flees to Al Hijaz, where he joins the Arab revolt. With Lawrence he aids in the capture of Damascus from the Turks.

1917 March & April -- British attacks on Gaza, the nearest large town in Palestine, fail. British command transferred to General Sir Edmund Allenby. Prime Minister David Lloyd George gives him instructions to take Jerusalem before Christmas.

1917 December 9 -- Allenby successfully attacks Gaza and goes on to enter Jerusalem on December 9. Borton Pasha is the British Military Governor of Jerusalem.

1918 March -- the Germans and Turks win the Battle of Amman (in today's Jordan). But they had to abandon their plans to drive on Baghdad. Under pressure from the Arab armies of Abdullah and Feisal (and Col. Lawrence), the Turks and Germans surrender control of the Hejaz railway, the Turkish garrisons along the Red Sea coast, and the desert flanks of Palestine and Syria.

Lawrence is captured by the Turks and is physically abused. He later escapes and goes on to take part in the British offensives in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.

1918 September -- the British strike a decisive blow in northern Palestine at Megiddo.

1918 October 1 -- assisted by the Arab army (and Lawrence), the Allies take Damascus, Syria.

1918 October 26 -- the British take Aleppo, Syria.

1918 October 30 -- Turkey granted an armistice at Mudros.

Lawrence represented the Arabs at the Versailles peace conference. He retreated into obscurity after becoming disillusioned with the Allies' attitude toward the Arabs.

1918, September -- a great British offensive in Palestine forces the Turks to conclude an armistice which took them out of the war.

After the war Lawrence serves in the British Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, where he promotes the cause of Arab independence. Despite his efforts, Syria, Palestine and Iraq are mandated to France and Britain. Lawrence returns to England exhausted and disappointed.

1920 -- British attempt to impose colonial rule in Iraq provokes an open rebellion. Winston Churchill persuades Lawrence to join him as adviser in Iraq to work out a solution.

1921 -- the British mandate government in Iraq permits a plebiscite; Faisal is elected the first king of Iraq.

1922 -- Churchill, with help from Lawrence, achieves a settlement of the Iraqi situation.

1922 -- Lawrence resigns his position with the Colonial Office and enlists in the Royal Air Force under an assumed name. (Discovered by the press he is discharged, but he re-enlists in the Tank Corps under another assumed name.).

1923 -- Faisal becomes constitutional monarch of Iraq.

1922 - 1927 -- Lawrence revises Seven Pillars and edits an abridgement of Revolt in the Desert. Then he successfully transfers to the RAF.

1935 -- his enlistment up, he retires to Dorset, England.

1935 -- is thrown from his motorcycle while on a local errand, receives severe head injuries and dies without regaining consciousness.

Source: Keegan, John. 2001. An Illustrated History of the First World War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)