Biography of T.E. Lawrence of Arabia Part 2

About the biography of British soldier T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia history of his part in World War I and the middle east and life after.

T. E. LAWRENCE (Great Britain, W.W. I)

In the meantime the public was being regaled by American journalist Lowell Thomas with stories of the courage and daring of Lawrence, "The Uncrowned Prince of Mecca," "The Deliverer of Damascus." With a lecture accompanied by films and lantern slides, Thomas appealed to the imaginations of audiences around the world and reportedly earned a million dollars doing so.

Ironically, at the time that Thomas was lauding Lawrence's strength, Lawrence was on the verge of breakdown. During the war his closest Arabian friend had evidently died of typhoid, 2 of Lawrence's brothers had been killed, and his body and spirit were nearly broken by disease, wounds, and possibly a beating and sexual attack by Turks who tempo rarily captured him. He staved off his collapse long enough to try to influence the results of the Paris Peace Conference--and failed. He then immersed himself in writing his version of the Arabian revolt, resulting in a book called The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Reliving his adventures while writing the manuscript proved too much for Lawrence. During the next several years he lived an aimless, confused life. Since the time he was a youngster, he had prided himself upon his endurance, calling himself "a pocket Hercules--as muscularly strong as people more than twice my size and more enduring than most." This pride now took a perverse twist and he reportedly hired a young man to beat him with a birch rod. In 1922, he enlisted in the ranks of the Royal Air Force under the assumed name of Shaw to get away from his fame, his guilt, and the need ever again to make decisions. When his identity was discovered he was thrown out and he enlisted in the Royal Tank Corps under yet a different name. But he found that existence too coarse and managed to be transferred back into the Air Force.

It was during this 2nd period in the RAF that Lawrence seemed to find peace. Although he was playing the role of a lowly aircraftsman, through his many influential friends (including Winston Churchill) he indirectly was able to bring about important reforms in the service. He also pioneered the development of high-speed launches (which he loved to drive at breakneck speeds), and helped to design, develop, and test the forerunners of the hovercraft.

In May, 1935, at age 47, and only 10 weeks after leaving the service, Lawrence suffered a fatal motorcycle accident. The evidence suggests that he swerved off the road in order to avoid hitting a young boy on a bicycle, but other stories immediately began to spread: that he had committed suicide; that he was assassinated by Germans or Arabs; even that he was done in by British leaders who feared that he would assume dictatorial powers during the war that was obviously on the horizon. Even in death Lawrence seemed larger than life. Undoubtedly he had brought on many of the rumors that surrounded him by seldom telling the same version of a story more than once. Charlotte Shaw, the wife of George Bernard Shaw and Lawrence's closest friend during his last decade, once exclaimed, "He is such an infernal liar!" Her husband, however, offered a characterization that serves as a more fitting epitaph for T. E. Lawrence: "He was not a liar. He was an actor."

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