Lawrence of Arabia Remembered with Rare Footage

Sev­en­ty-five years ago today, on the morn­ing of May 13, 1935, a 46-year-old retired British army offi­cer was rid­ing his motor­cy­cle home from the post office, when he swerved to avoid hit­ting two boys on bicy­cles. He was thrown onto the road and sus­tained head injuries, then died six days lat­er in a provin­cial hos­pi­tal. It was a mun­dane cir­cum­stance for the death of an extra­or­di­nary man.

Thomas Edward (T. E.) Lawrence was an intel­lec­tu­al and adven­tur­er who became known to the world as “Lawrence of Ara­bia.” Lawrence could read books by the age of four. He attend­ed Oxford on schol­ar­ship and spent one of his sum­mer vaca­tions hik­ing 1,100 miles through Syr­ia, Pales­tine and Turkey to sur­vey cru­sad­er cas­tles for a the­sis on mil­i­tary archi­tec­ture. He spoke Ara­bic, Turk­ish, Ger­man, French, Latin and Greek. When World War I broke out in 1914, he was recruit­ed into the British army for his exten­sive first-hand knowl­edge of the Mid­dle East. Dur­ing the course of the war, Lawrence became one of the archi­tects and lead­ers of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks – a remark­able adven­ture that was retold in David Lean’s 1962 film, Lawrence of Ara­bia, star­ring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif and Alec Guin­ness.

Lawrence was an intense­ly pri­vate man who, as Low­ell Thomas famous­ly put it, “had a genius for back­ing into the lime­light.” When the war was over, how­ev­er, he suc­ceed­ed in stay­ing out of the lime­light by refus­ing a knight­hood and serv­ing out his mil­i­tary career under assumed names. He trans­lat­ed Homer and wrote a mem­oir of the Arab Revolt, The Sev­en Pil­lars of Wis­dom. And he had a pen­chant for fast motor­cy­cles, includ­ing the cus­tom-made Brough Supe­ri­or SS100 which he rode into town on a mun­dane errand 75 years ago today.

Today, to mark the 75th anniver­sary of his trag­ic motor cycle acci­dent, we fea­ture some of the only known footage of T.E. Lawrence above.

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  • "Batko" Nestor Makhno says:

    I would nev­er go as far as class T.E. Lawrence as an intel­lec­tu­al. A posh accent, uni­verci­ty edu­ca­tion and a knowl­edge of ancient lan­guages con­sti­tute noth­ing in the light of his chau­vin­ism, racism and misog­y­nism. Writ­ing a con­tort­ed book filled with bla­tant lies does not make one an intel­lec­tu­al. Hitler was a writ­ter as well, Goebbels was well-edu­cat­ed. Per­haps we should call them intel­lec­tu­als as well.

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