Lawrence and the Arab Revolt

Brian Holden Reid examines the substance of the legend behind 'Lawrence of Arabia'.

In October 1916, a young British officer, Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence, recently transferred from the Military Intelligence Service to the Arab Bureau, undertook an arduous journey across the Arabian Desert. An Arab cloak and headcloth accentuated his fair complexion and blue eyes. His destination was the camp of Emir Faisal in the hills above Yanbu' al Bahr. Faisal's father, Sherif Hussein of Mecca, had raised the standard of revolt against the Turks in June 1916. At first the Arabs had been successful. Thanks to the Egyptian artillery sent from the Sudan by its Governor-General, Sir Reginald Wingate, they had seized Mecca and forced the Turkish Governor-General of the Hejaz to surrender Taif and the garrison on September 22nd, 1916. Thereafter the Arab Revolt lost momentum. The Turks held on to Medina and Faisal was forced to withdraw northwards; his men were drifting away and the money and supplies furnished by the British had disappeared. The first phase of the Arab Revolt had ended and the second was about to begin.

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