Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Role and Contribution of T.E.Lawrence


rvsakhadeo

Recommended Posts

My understanding is that TEL was the first to spot an opportunity in organising the Arabs as well

to see the possibilities of sabotage behind the Turkish lines.

That being so,why was his role not expanded by giving more men and weapons ?

was it not possible to land Indian regulars in eastern part of present day Saudi Arabia and link them up with TEL? My aim in asking is the opinion expressed in certain books that TEL was not at all effective.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have a look at the recent publication on TE LAWRENCE from Orion Publishing-interesting information!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The initial discussions with the House of Saud re the possibility of an Arab revolt against the Turks were made by Gerald Leachman between 1910 and 1912 in meetings in Bahrain and Riyadh. As a captain in the British army Leachman was involved in a number of clandestine activities in the region before the outbreak of WW1 Leachman had established a good working relationship with the Arab leaders long before Lawrence came on the scene. From 1915 onwards Leachman was responsible for desert operations in what is to day Eastern Province Saudi Arabia and Western Iraq and effectively blocked Turkish movements against the revolt. Lawrence was significantly worried that Leachman's exploits might cast doubt on his own account and fails to mention these in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, however some of the descriptions of Lawrence's long distance camel rides seem suspiciously like those that Leachman undertook in 1910 and 1912. By the time that Lawrence's book was published Col Leachman was dead having been killed in 1920 in an ambush by insurgents near Falujah (thing just don't change). Leachman was no author and did not leave his own story behind.

Some years ago I found my self managing a project in Saudi setting up the IT infrastructure for a new refinery at Rabigh. As Rabigh was Lawrence's base I visited those sites mentioned in the Seven Pillars that I could easily reach. I have to say that Lawrence tended to romanticise, exagerate and play with distances and locations. Interestingly his reputation in Saudi itself is not as high as in other parts of the world. The film version doesn't help - the charge on Aqaba was in fact a somewhat confused melee in which Lawrance's contribution was to shoot his own camel in the head during the confusion!

In short I think that the Seven Pillars is what used to be called 'a ripping yarn' but I would be cautios about accepting everything in it as automatically true.

I attach a photo of Leachman taken when he was operating inside Turkish territory. An account of Leachman's activities by H.V.F.Winstone (Leachman O.C. Desert) was published in 1982

post-9885-1177495247.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The initial discussions with the House of Saud re the possibility of an Arab revolt against the Turks were made by Gerald Leachman between 1910 and 1912 in meetings in Bahrain and Riyadh. As a captain in the British army Leachman was involved in a number of clandestine activities in the region before the outbreak of WW1 Leachman had established a good working relationship with the Arab leaders long before Lawrence came on the scene. From 1915 onwards Leachman was responsible for desert operations in what is to day Eastern Province Saudi Arabia and Western Iraq and effectively blocked Turkish movements against the revolt. Lawrence was significantly worried that Leachman's exploits might cast doubt on his own account and fails to mention these in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, however some of the descriptions of Lawrence's long distance camel rides seem suspiciously like those that Leachman undertook in 1910 and 1912. By the time that Lawrence's book was published Col Leachman was dead having been killed in 1920 in an ambush by insurgents near Falujah (thing just don't change). Leachman was no author and did not leave his own story behind.

Some years ago I found my self managing a project in Saudi setting up the IT infrastructure for a new refinery at Rabigh. As Rabigh was Lawrence's base I visited those sites mentioned in the Seven Pillars that I could easily reach. I have to say that Lawrence tended to romanticise, exagerate and play with distances and locations. Interestingly his reputation in Saudi itself is not as high as in other parts of the world. The film version doesn't help - the charge on Aqaba was in fact a somewhat confused melee in which Lawrance's contribution was to shoot his own camel in the head during the confusion!

In short I think that the Seven Pillars is what used to be called 'a ripping yarn' but I would be cautios about accepting everything in it as automatically true.

I attach a photo of Leachman taken when he was operating inside Turkish territory. An account of Leachman's activities by H.V.F.Winstone (Leachman O.C. Desert) was published in 1982

Many thanks for the invaluable information,but my point was why the opening made by Lawrence not exploited by the British army?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many thanks for the invaluable information,but my point was why the opening made by Lawrence not exploited by the British army?

1. The opening had already been identified by Leachman even before the war started

2. The Arabs were extremely disorganised even to the point of fighting amongst themselves. The revolt was intended to start in 1914 but because Ibn Saud needed the support of the Rashids and Zammir Rashid had been assasinated leaving a power struggle nothing could be done until this was resolved. Contrary to the impression that Lawrence gives Ibn Saud was not automatically accepted by all the Arabs as the natural leader (indeed he did not later gain control of the whole of today's Saudi until after a short civil war and another one with Jordan).

3. The revolt when finally under way covered all of what is today Saudi, Western Iraq, Kuwait and Syria. The area in which Lawrence operated was but a small part. Ibn Saud was far more interested in gaining the throne of Iraq (with oil) than a desert Kingdom that no one knew had oil. Britain was likewise more interested in this area. Cosequently most of the support for the rising was concentrated in what is today Saudi Eastern Province, Western Iraq and the borders of Syria. Considerable sabotage was carried out by British/Arab forces in this area, In SPoW Lawrence brushes off this effort in a few disparaging lines. Leachman was effectively in charge of coordinating all of this including long distance armoured car raids (in one raid on a Turkish airfield a Halberstatd DII fighter was towed away by Leachman's armoured car - probably the first time an armoured car captured an aircraft).

4. I think Lawrence deliberately underplayed the activity to the East of him to make his role appear much more important

BTW Ibn Saud was right royally bleeped (add your own expletive of choice) gaining not the throne of Iraq his first objective nor Syria which he regarded as a good second prize.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don’t forget Captain William Shakespear, fluent in 6 languages and political agent in Kuwait and great friend of Ibn Saud. From 1909 Shakespear made seven expeditions into Eastern and Central Arabia, culminating in his 1914 crossing of the Arabian Peninsula from Kuwait to Suez via Riyadh. Over two-thirds of the distance travelled during Shakespear's final journey was through areas previously unexplored by westerners and we have Shakespear to thank for mapping large areas of the Arabian Peninsula. He was killed with Ibn Saud’s army at the Battle of Jarab in 1915.

As to why the allies didn’t put more support into Lawrence’s activities I think the reason was they needed the manpower for more pressing areas, especially after the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front in 1918. Allenby lost a lot of manpower diverted because of this. The Indian army and British army were fully engaged in Palestine and Mesopotamia and in this sense the Arab Revolt really was ‘a side show of a side show’. Apart from anything else a landing on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula and a march across it would be logistically impossible, look at a map and the distances involved and all this across desert with all the attendant problems of water and supplies.

A landing on the west coast was religiously unacceptable because non-muslims were barred from the Hejaz area because of the presence of the Holy sites at Mecca and Medina. Small british units were allowed (eg C flight of 14 squadron RFC) as well as muslim troops from the Egyptian army but any large scale deployment was not contemplated.

You have to remember that Lawrence was walking a tricky tight rope with his support for the Arabs-he realised that for the Arabs to sit at the peace table and get the promised Arab state they had to have contributed materially in terms of providing troops and operating effectively against the Ottomans. Any large scale deployment of allied troops would have threatened their place at the table, therefore Lawrence always sought the creation and funding of the Arab regular army created at Aqaba in 1917 without the large scale deployment of allied troops.

For the record I think Lawrence was an arch self publicist and others did just as much if not more than him to help the Arab cause. I've worked in Jordan a lot and most people I've talked to there have never heard of him!

Cheers

Dominic :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A landing on the west coast was religiously unacceptable because non-muslims were barred from the Hejaz area because of the presence of the Holy sites at Mecca and Medina. Small british units were allowed (eg C flight of 14 squadron RFC) as well as muslim troops from the Egyptian army but any large scale deployment was not contemplated.

Dominic :D

Not the whole of the Hejaz - a big area - but only the immediate environs of Mecca and Medina. Jeddah the port serving Mecca, for example has always been, and still is one of the less hostile areas of Saudi to the non Muslim (apart from some dumb Dutch traders in the 17th century who thought they could sit out side their 'factory' in the middle of Ramadan, quaffing gin based drinks :o ). In fact there was a sizeable British military presence at Rabigh - about 100 miles from Jeddah and about 30 miles from Medina. Go north up the Medina Rd from Jeddah and turn left at the Yanbu turnoff.

I think you have the truth of it in classing this theatre as a 'side show of a side show'. As I said Eastern Province guarding the approach to Messopotamia was seen as much more important.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don’t forget Captain William Shakespear, fluent in 6 languages and political agent in Kuwait and great friend of Ibn Saud. From 1909 Shakespear made seven expeditions into Eastern and Central Arabia, culminating in his 1914 crossing of the Arabian Peninsula from Kuwait to Suez via Riyadh. Over two-thirds of the distance travelled during Shakespear's final journey was through areas previously unexplored by westerners and we have Shakespear to thank for mapping large areas of the Arabian Peninsula. He was killed with Ibn Saud’s army at the Battle of Jarab in 1915.

As to why the allies didn’t put more support into Lawrence’s activities I think the reason was they needed the manpower for more pressing areas, especially after the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front in 1918. Allenby lost a lot of manpower diverted because of this. The Indian army and British army were fully engaged in Palestine and Mesopotamia and in this sense the Arab Revolt really was ‘a side show of a side show’. Apart from anything else a landing on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula and a march across it would be logistically impossible, look at a map and the distances involved and all this across desert with all the attendant problems of water and supplies.

A landing on the west coast was religiously unacceptable because non-muslims were barred from the Hejaz area because of the presence of the Holy sites at Mecca and Medina. Small british units were allowed (eg C flight of 14 squadron RFC) as well as muslim troops from the Egyptian army but any large scale deployment was not contemplated.

Thanks!

You have to remember that Lawrence was walking a tricky tight rope with his support for the Arabs-he realised that for the Arabs to sit at the peace table and get the promised Arab state they had to have contributed materially in terms of providing troops and operating effectively against the Ottomans. Any large scale deployment of allied troops would have threatened their place at the table, therefore Lawrence always sought the creation and funding of the Arab regular army created at Aqaba in 1917 without the large scale deployment of allied troops.

For the record I think Lawrence was an arch self publicist and others did just as much if not more than him to help the Arab cause. I've worked in Jordan a lot and most people I've talked to there have never heard of him!

Cheers

Dominic :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My understanding is that TEL was the first to spot an opportunity in organising the Arabs as well

to see the possibilities of sabotage behind the Turkish lines.

That being so,why was his role not expanded by giving more men and weapons ?

was it not possible to land Indian regulars in eastern part of present day Saudi Arabia and link them up with TEL? My aim in asking is the opinion expressed in certain books that TEL was not at all effective.

Really a lot of Lawrence's contribution was blown up out af all proportion at the time for propaganda purposes - and blowing his own trumpet! In some of the old books you would think he was the only brit who could speak any arabic! In real terms his was certainly a sideshow compared to Mesopotamia and Palestine. The British forces were already using Rolls Royce armoured cars deep behind Turkish lines, cutting communications, sabotaging the Berlin to Baghdad railway, rescuing downed airmen etc. Lawrence certainly did not invent that. The armoured cars he did receive were pulled from Tanzania - rather than diverted from more important areas. Also bearing in mind the armoured cars were cutting edge technology at the time, and crewed by Machine Gun Corps personnel - the hardware was operated by trained/skilled personnel with with far more combat experience then TEL!

I have been researching for several years trying to find positive proof that Lawrence was in Mesopotamia briefly attached to an armoured car unit (most likely to get instruction on armoured car ops).

For all Lawrences dealings with the arabs, the Brits were happy enough to use them against the Turks, but at the end of the war had every intention of drawing a line round most of the middle east and keeping the lot for themselves (keeping control of the oilfields was the primary concern - even then!).

He also made a lot of enemies in the British Military, and his rank regarded as jumped up way beyond his military capabilities.

In 1920 Lawrence wrote a very critical newspaper article regarding the situation in Mesopotamia at that time. The more one reads into it , I get the feeling his withdraw from public view as a "war hero", was not of his own choice

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lawrence was certainly in Messoptamia as a Captain in 1916 being sent from Cairo with Aubery Herbert of the intelligence service in March of that year. It would seem that Lawrence was not much liked by those he met. Their mission was to try to rescue Townsend's force from Kut through a huge bribe to General Kahil Pasha. Leachman (see earlier strands in ths thread) led Lawrence and Herbert through the Turkish lines at Kut to a secret meeting with the Turkish general in April to try and persuade him to agree to allow a deal whereby Townsends troops could evacuate Kut leaving all their arms and equipment behind. A large sum of gold was offered to him and Enver. It would seem that Lawrence and Herbert merely succeeded in insulting the Turkish generals and the whole thing failed. Lawrence and Herbert were then effectively 'slung out' of Messopotamia by a very much disgruntled British high command. It would seem that Lawrence had vey much talked up his powers of persuasion and influnence before hand and got hiself billed as some sort of miracle worker.

Leachman was a user of armoured cars in his raids on the Turkish poistions on the railway and elsewhere - its possible that whilst working with him Lawrence to gain some ideas in this direction. Much of this is covered in the book on Leachman I've quoted elsewhe in this thread.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gertrude Bell . a forgotten figure in pre war Arab politics, also pushed her own barrow, but deserves more recognition than what she gets.

AWM is running a blog on Lawrence.

Cheers

Kim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gertrude Bell . a forgotten figure in pre war Arab politics, also pushed her own barrow, but deserves more recognition than what she gets.

AWM is running a blog on Lawrence.

Cheers

Kim

She was somehow mixed up in the Mespot fiasco I covered in my last posting on this subject.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...