Born August 16 1888 T.E. Lawrence or Thomas Edward, he preferred the letters T.E. to Thomas Edward. He was scarcely the picture of Victorian England. His father Thomas Chapman had left his wife four years earlier for the nanny Sara Maden. He was ashamed of this fact. They had five sons in addition of Lawrence.
At the age of 12 or 13 Lawrence broke his leg. This slow healing fracture or a bout of the mumps stunted his growth and he only made it to 5′ 5.5″. He entered Oxford University’s Jesus College in 1907. There he took interest in Medieval Military architecture. He studied castles in Syria and Palestine in 1909. Submitting his thesis on the subject in 1910 he won first class honors. It was published Crusader Castles in 1936. As a protégé of David George Hogarth he was granted demy ship (traveling fellowship) from Magdalen College and joined an expedition excavating the Hittie settlement of Carchemish on the Euphrates from 1911 to 1914. Here Lawrence fell in love with the people and their culture.
He used his free time to travel and lean the language of the people. On one of these traveling trips he would visit northern Sianai on the Turkish frontier of east Suez. The trip was in fact a map-making reconnaissance from Gaza to Aqaba. The cover study of scientific exploration was of scholarly significance and a book was written by Lawrence and Sir Leonard Woolley called The Wilderness of Zin in 1915.
In December 1914 he was assigned to intelligence where he spent more than a year interviewing prisoners, drawing maps, receiving and processing data from agents behind enemy lines and producing a handbook on the Turkish Army. In 1915 his brothers Will and Frank were killed in the war at France. He joined an Arabian Army as a political and Liaison officer. He became know for his brains, organizing force, the liaison to Cairo, and a military technician. He lead hit and run gorilla warfare actions destroying bridges and supply trains. This kept the Damascus-to-Medina railway out of commission.
Twice in 1917 Lawrence broke behind enemy lines to cause damage. However at the village of Derea in Syria in November he was detained by the Turks. What happened next is unknown and hotly debated by historians. He may or may not have been recognized and homosexually brutalized before he was able to escape. The experience variously reported or disguised by him afterward left emotional and physical scars from which he never recovered.
In May 1916 Britain and France agreed to share the Middle East territories and so the Arab’s had no independence. Lawrence went on to write that he “could see the promises to the Arabs were dead paper.” He regretted having sent his men to risk their lives for such a meaningless reward. Lawrence returned to Britain to try to fight the Sykes Picot Agreement, but to no avail.
Disgusted with politics Lawrence retired to Oxford. In August 1922 he enrolled in the Royal Air force for a short time. He was re-enrolled in Military service in March 1923 as a private in the tank corps. 2 years later he rejoined the Royal Air Force and remained there for 10 years. He was discharged for the last time on February 26 1935 at the age of 46.
Riding his motorcycle Lawrence was dogging 2 young boys on bicycles who had come out behind a car. Lawrence missed the 2 boys but lost control of this motorcycle and went over the handlebars. 6 days later he died of his injuries.