The Ottoman Empire stretched from Bosnia, Moldavia, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Armenia, Iraq, Egypt, and Cyrenaica. On June 5th, 1916, the Arab Revolt started in the Hejaz.
The revolt had some initial successes capturing Mecca, Jidda, and Taif but was stalemated by the Tuks. In October 1916, the British sent Ronald Storrs KCMG CBE who was an official in the British Foreign and Colonial Office. He served as Oriental Secretary in Cairo and was accompanied by Lawrence.
Lawrence was sent to meet the Amir Feisal whose tribesmen had been attempting to besiege Medina. As a matter of fact, Feisal and Lawrence developed an immediate rapport. Feisal’s small army of men didn’t have the discipline of the elite forces of the British. In the light of this Lawrence saw the potential of harnessing their commitment to the cause.
Road to Medina
He quickly realized that Feisal’s men had no chance of capturing Medina. Lawrence believed that while the Turks controlled the rail line they would always have the opportunity to supply Medina. He, therefore, believed that Feisal’s best chance lay in a form of guerilla warfare against the Turk.
He realizes that their weakness was their rail line to Medina. The rail line was a single track affair that linked Medina to Damascus. Lawrence did not want to destroy the line as it would be needed after the Turks had been defeated. Lawrence wanted to move their campaign north.
He also realized that he could bottleneck them through their rail line to Medina. The rail line was a single track affair that linked Medina to Damascus. Lawrence did not want to destroy the line as it would be needed after the Turks had been defeated. In addition, Lawrence wanted to move their campaign north.
So Lawrence advanced with his strategy. He wanted to harass the Turks along the route of the rail line so that they would have to use more and more troops to guard it along its length.
Equally important he wanted to harass the Turks so much that they would be forced to commit more soldiers to protect the rail line which would remove the forces from the front line.
Some of the main accomplishment Lawrence was able to do in a short time.
- Get the Hejaz Arabs to move further and further north where they linked up with Trans-Jordan tribes. Trans-Jordan tribes joined his campaign.
- July 6th, 1917, Lawrence and his Arab forces captured Aqaba from the rear after defeating a whole Turkish battalion.
- This allowed Feisal to move his headquarters to Aqaba. Where he placed himself and his men under the command of General Allenby, a British commander in Palestine.
- He was able to get the Arab forces more guns, more ammunition, and more gold.
- On December 9th, 1917, Allenby’s forces entered Jerusalem.
- In January 1918, Lawrence led an attack on the Turks at Tafila in which a whole battalion was destroyed.
- Lawrence with his Arab forces launched a diversionary attack on the Turks at an important rail junction at Deraa on September 17th.
- At Deraa, he had a force of 3,000 Arabs but they tied down 50,000 Turks who could not help their comrades against Allenby.
- The Turkish High Command also spread their forces (150,000 men in total) thinly across the region making the British campaign that much easier.
- Feisal entered Damascus in triumph and Lawrence took charge of civil and military order for several weeks.
- On October 31st, 1918, an armistice was concluded with the Turks. The war was over.
After The War
Though the war had come to end Lawrence continued living with the Arabs. Living a Bedouin life. Coupled with the diet that he was forced to have as a Bedouin he developed a number of debilitating stomach ailments. Furthermore, he realized that he had no choice to change his life.
Lawrence accompanied the Arab delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference where they fully expected their reward for helping the Allies in the war – full independence. Conversely, it was not going to happen. Behind Lawrence and Feisal back Britain and France has already decided to carve up the Middle East to their liking. The French even ejected Feisal from Damascus.
After Versailles had finished, Lawrence resigned from the army.It was time for him to go back home, England. There he spent his time writing “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. Here joined the RAF in 1925. Lawrence served in India from 1927 to 1929 before returning to Britain. He stayed in the RAF until 1935.
Retired enjoying his favorite pastime which was driving his Lawrence’s last Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle at high speeds he lost control of his bike avoiding some young boys crossing a county backroad and crashed. He was only 45 years old.
The movie Lawrence of Arabia was released in 1962
C N Trueman “Lawrence of Arabia” April 2017 <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/lawrence-of-arabia/>
“T. E. Lawrence” April 2017 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._E._Lawrence>
Scott Anderson”True Story Of Lawrence of Arabia”<http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-lawrence-arabia-180951857/>