A book review essay for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle

… the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with eyes wide open, to make it so.  This I did.

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, by Michael Korda (Harper Collins, New York, 2010. Ilus, 762 pp. $35.00)

Other books discussed in this essay:

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by Lawrence of Arabia (Hazel Watson and Viney Ltd, Aylesbury, Bucks, 1926. Illus, 700 pp [Penguin Vers.])

Lawrence and the Arabs, by Robert Graves (Jonathan Cape, London, 1927. Illus, 454 pp)

Lawrence of Arabia, by Basil H. Liddell Hart (Da Capo Press, New York, 1937, Illus, 406 pp)


Did we really need another bio of Lawrence? Well, the most recent of the several, Hero, by Michael Korda is, I think, the best of the bunch, and for me it has been worth the wait.

There has for nearly 100 years been heated controversy about Lawrence: was his contribution as significant as his supporters maintain, or was it merely a “side-show of a side-show”? Was he a genuine leader of the Arab-Revolt, or its betrayer – for betrayed the Arab Revolt surely was. Was he a genuine hero, or merely an early public relations trick? I think it is sufficient here to recognize these enduring controversies – it is not the purpose of a review essay such as this to resolve them. That does not mean I will not take a stand, as will soon become apparent. As Liddell Hart said¸

… I have found two sharply contrasted currents of opinion as to Lawrence’s achievement, character and qualities of  leadership.  One is overwhelmingly favourable, the other disparagingly skeptical.  Such a difference in view is to be expected about any outstanding figure: the remarkable feature of this case lies in the contrast of the composition of the two groups. For it is significant that the first includes all those who for long periods were in close contact with Lawrence  and  his work in the Arab campaign … The  second current of opinion … is composed of men who had only a fleeting contact with Lawrence or, more often, a hearsay acquaintance  with his activities.[1]

That first group, Liddell Hart might have added, included such as David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Field Marshall Allenby, Marshall of the Royal Air Force Trenchard, Gertrude Bell and, of course, Robert Graves and Liddell Hart himself.

Lawrence was considered the most famous man in the world in his lifetime (1888-1935), and the puffery of Lowell Thomas’ media circus did not quite obscure the real events and the genuine achievements of the Arab Revolt.  Thanks to the steady procession of books about Lawrence[2], his fame has pretty much endured. His reputation was updated, boosted and popularized by David Lean’s movie (starring Peter O’Toole) in 1962, which was based on Seven Pillars, and was one of the best movies of the last century.  As incredible as his story is, it was pretty clearly understood by the many in his own time, and has been fairly accurately conveyed for succeeding generations: his reputation as a hero has been shaken now and again, but has on the whole  remained intact.


In this essay, I will discuss inter alia four general points:

  1. Was Lawrence genuinely heroic, in character and in deed?
  2. What was the Arab Revolt, and how was it handled at the political/diplomatic/strategic level?  Was it of real importance, or was it, as some have charged, a mere sideshow?
  3. Was his contribution to the First World War of value tactically and strategically, or was his record mere hyped propaganda?
  4. Is there a legacy of Lawrence which is worth revisiting and preserving?


Some General Notes on Sources

While a pro hominem argument is no more necessarily valid than is an ad hominem, the nature of the controversies surrounding Lawrence may be to some extent clarified, one way or another, by knowing a little more about those who wrote about him, both then and now.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by Lawrence himself, was published privately in about 100 copies in 1927, but not available to the public until after his death. To set the records straight, and to rescue himself from the debts run up in the publication of Seven Pillars,  an expurgated version was prepared later that same year for general release as Revolt in the Desert. There has been much debunking of Seven Pillars/Revolt in the Desert.  As Graves has said, “the historical accuracy of Lawrence’s account has been jealously questioned by some … reviewers of Revolt in the Desert: he has been accused of self-interested exaggeration. However as there were forty or fifty British officers, besides Arabs, as witnesses of his activities  and as no one of them has challenged the accuracy of his statements, this criticism hardly calls  for answer.”[3] Korda further observes that

… in writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom Lawrence had, like many authors of a memoir, expressed his own version of events … Much of the factual material in the book has since been confirmed by the release in the 1970s of many if not most of the documents, but throughout the book Lawrence, consciously or not, attributed to himself  actions that were often initiated by others. No doubt, as he wrote, revised and rewrote … , getting with each revision farther away in time from the events, he made himself increasingly the hero of the book.  He did not falsify events or invent them, as he has been accused of doing, but he put himself at the center of the story …[4]

Sir Basil Liddell Hart had been an infantry officer who fought throughout the First World War, including the Battles of Ypres and the Somme. Invalided out of the British Army in 1924, he became one of the pre-eminent military historians and theorists of the 20th Century. One of Liddell Hart’s most influential books was entitled The Strategy of the Indirect Approach (1929); it is said to have been a frequent read of Field Marshall Guderian, and to have persuaded him that he should and could go around the Maginot Line.  Liddell Hart was knighted in 1966.

Robert Graves also had been a line infantry officer, and  also survived four years in the trenches in WWI. His memoir, Goodbye to All That (Cape, 1929) is a classic and may well be regarded as a founder of the genre. Graves went on to become one of the most celebrated poets in the English language:  in his very long life he produced over 140 works of poetry, plus the perennially popular trilogy I, Claudius.  He died at the age of 90 in 1985.


Both of these authors were  contemporaries of Lawrence who knew him well, both were decorated veterans of the Western Front, and both went on to distinguished careers. It is not likely in the least that either would have been at all willing to distort or to magnify in any form the person or the exploits of Lawrence.

Michael Korda is the son of Vincent Korda, the youngest of the three Korda brothers; the eldest, Alexander, owned the movie rights to Revolt in the Desert, and intended to make of it a movie.  Zoltan, the middle brother, was to have done the desert sequences of the movie; Vincent was to have been the art director.  However, Alexander was persuaded by Lawrence to abandon the project, as Lawrence feared that the publicity would be injurious to his search for a quiet life as an Aircraftsman (Private) in the Royal Air Force. Alexander, who called Lawrence “the nicest man I ever failed to do business with”, agreed to abandon the project; more, by retaining the rights, he ensured than no one else would make the film, at least in Lawrence’s lifetime.  One might say therefore that Michael Korda had “the life and legend” in his blood, and his literary skill and his devotion to his subject are clearly apparent on every page.[5]

Michael Korda was the first of Lawrence’s biographers to have had access to documents held under classification for 70 years after the end of the War, giving him a so-far unique access to corroboratory information.  These de-classifications have tended to confirm Lawrence’s own accounts – plus of course those of Liddell Hart and Graves – in nearly all important details.



The Heroism of Lawrence

Lawrence’s attitude towards heroism and heroes was as ambivalent as others’ attitudes about him were to become.  On objective grounds, we might leave this issue as being too subjective to be worthy of serious evaluation.  But heroism does matter, as heroes are those who can move men and nations to actions which seem so difficult as to be considered impossible, but which are clearly do-or-die challenges, and which neither politicians nor bureaucrats can inspire  nor manage. The almost total absence of heroes from our recent history has left us with some entirely predictable stalemates and almost as many outright failures – “who dares, wins” runs the motto of the British Special Air Services, and “dare”, in this context, means far more than simply to undertake risk.

Graves tells us that “Hero worship seems not only to annoy Lawrence but, because of a genuine belief in his own fraudulence as its object, to make him feel physically unclean …[6]  He does not believe that heroes exist or have ever existed; he  suspects them all of being frauds.”[7]

However, writing three-quarters of a century later, Michael Korda judges that

His whole life had been, in a sense, a training programme for heroism on a grand scale; the  war had merely provided an opportunity for Lawrence to fulfill his destiny.  His intense will and his determination to have things his own way were always remarkable.  He had methodically pushed himself beyond his physical limits, as a child and as a youth long before the war.  He had carefully honed his strength and  his courage, … punished himself for every temptation toward what other men would have regarded as normal impulses. Since boyhood his life had been a triumph of repression, a deliberate, calculated assault on his own senses.  He would always remain, however reluctantly, a combination of hero and genius …[8]

Lawrence, who dreamt by day, will not be easy to understand, and impossible to catalogue.

Much has been written about heroism and heroics, and most of it not very helpful. In modern English usage, the term often has a derogatory connotation, and no one really likes “heroics” in a comrade or a colleague. “Heroics” is actually a term often used of Lawrence – by his detractors.

There are at least two other interpretations of the term.

The first I will call “Socratic”: As Bettany Hughes, in her book The Hemlock Cup, describes it, “In the Platonic dialogue Protagoras,10, Socrates offers good advice: we need to know what it is that we are scared of; courage is knowledge of what is and what is not truly to be feared.”[9]  This type of courage Lawrence repeatedly displayed; he was often able to motivate the Arabs, as well as British colleagues, by placing apprehended dangers in a context which allowed them to be sensibly discounted.

The second  form of heroism I will call “exemplary”: this is the ability to conceal or to conquer fear of genuine peril, and so inspire and lead others to do what must, despite hazard, be done. This is not a devil-may-care attitude – only a fool will completely ignore real danger, and men will not willingly nor for long follow a fool, certainly not the free-ranging tribesmen of the Arab Revolt. Indeed, one view of courage is that it only genuinely exists where fear is present and is overcome. As Edward Whymper, leader of the first successful climb of the Matterhorn in 1865, put it,

… remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence … Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.[10]

Graves tell us that Lawrence was wounded no less than nine times – in one action he was grazed five times and suffered a broken large toe, yet ran several hundred yards uphill when the action was complete. In no case of his wounding did he ever leave the battlefield, and probably never even saw a Doctor.[11]

An important aspect of courage is its vulnerability to fatigue: soldiers who are not highly resistant to fatigue will find their courage draining away as does their physical energy. In my book, Military Forces  in 21st Century Peace Operations: No Job for a Soldier, I quoted the U.S. Army analyst and historian Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall, who said

Will power, determination, mental poise, and muscle control all march hand-in-hand with the general health and well being of the man. Fatigue will beat men down as quickly as any other condition, for fatigue brings fear with it.[12]

Clearly, Lawrence would have agreed with Marshall on the importance of physical and mental preparation for his adventures, and his biographers and contemporaries are unanimous in remarking on the rigour with which he prepared himself for the heroism he so actively and frankly sought – and abundantly and frequently displayed.

The Arab Revolt: Betrayal in the Desert

Lawrence felt for the rest of his life that he had been irreparably morally tainted by his role in leading the Arab Revolt. As Korda described it, he had lead “Arabs into battle  for lands that the Allied powers had already decided they were not going to get.”[13]  The stages of the Allies’ betrayal of the Arabs were several.

With the outbreak of WWI, the “sick man of Europe” was brought to his deathbed. Turkey came into the war on the side of the Axis powers, but Turkey was herself struggling to emerge intact from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which had been failing since the middle of the previous century. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 had been just one of many attempts to dispose of the European and Mediterranean portions, but nothing had been done about the  Ottoman disjecta membra in what was variously called Mesopotamia, Palestine or Arabia, and none of these critical areas had any formal delineation.

In respect of the Arab Revolt, the Allies had two strategic aims: to knock Turkey out of the War, and to provide some structure for the post-War Middle East. Those were the only and the last things any of the “allies” agreed upon: the British and French aims were very different, the British were divided between the Foreign and the Colonial Offices, the Jews, especially in Britain,  were still unofficial but important – and would have been moreso had they not themselves been divided.

The one aim on which all agreed, an Arab Revolt to distract if not exactly to defeat the Turks, began with a statement by Lord Kitchener to the effect that Britain now promised “the Arabs” a state of their own to be carved out of the Ottoman collapse. As usual, neither the people nor the region were identified. Not mentioned at the time, and only discovered by Lawrence after he  arrived in Cairo shortly after the outbreak of the war, was the planned intrusion of the Indian (colonial) government and army into “Mesopotamia” (also not defined). Up to that time, Lawrence still believed that British policy would result in the creation of an autonomous Arab government in an area which would include Syria.

In 1915, Sir Henry McMahon issued a declaration on behalf of the British cabinet, essentially reiterating the Kitchener letter of the previous year, and even repeating all its significant omissions: no geographic definition, no “whom” in sight. However, the fact that McMahon was the High Commissioner of Egypt, formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire and now in the process of being converted by him into a British “protectorate,” and was a former Indian Army officer, naturally caused some unease.  In a neat riposte, the Arabs nevertheless  “accepted” that offer, and expressed their interpretation of the offer as that of a state of their own which reached from Syria to the Indian Ocean, and from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. The British were horrified by this – they had not meant anything of the sort, nor could they possibly have.  McMahon temporized, replying that the delineation of a new state must await victory in the War.[14]

In 1916, as the Arab Revolt began to get underway, matters began to get really complicated, because parts of the area so loosely under discussion were of interest to the (colonial) Government of India, who were against independence in general – of course – and foresaw a colonial future for Mesopotamia, under their control – of course. More worrying was the French interest, as they considered themselves the protectors of the Maronite Christians of Beirut, and had colonial aspirations of their own in Syria. Palestine had up to this point not been mentioned at all, but Zionism was a growing force, and would have been more so were the Jews not themselves deeply divided on the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

So there were now four strains of dispute centred on the future of Arabia/Mesopotamia/ Palestine: the British government’s desire for an ally against the Turks in the Middle East; the French desire for Middle Eastern additions to her Empire; the desire of the Government of India (which was a colonial mechanism) to add to itself in Mesopotamia; and finally the Jews, who although they were not well or cohesively organized at this time, were becoming a force to be reckoned with.

This then, was the background to the next and easily the most troublesome utterance of a British  government, ever: the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This carved up the Middle East between the French and the British: the British got what is now Iraq; the French got as colonial possessions Lebanon, most of Syria, and parts of southern Turkey; part of modern Syria and part of Iraq would be an “Arab State” under French control; another Arab state would be formed of part of Iraq and Jordan under British control; Palestine would be jointly “administered” by Britain and France.  So the former Ottoman Empire in the Middle East was carved up into small states with senseless borders carelessly (or cunningly, as Korda suggests), drawn, utterly unequal division of resources (principally oil and water) and, so far as the British co-administrators were concerned, opening Palestine to Jewish immigration (the British considered that Jewish immigration into Palestine would be as good for the Arabs already there as for the Jews).  Of course, nothing of this was to become known to the Arabs.

British policy on Jewish immigration to Palestine was formally promulgated by the British a year later (1917) in the Balfour Declaration.  The significance of this is that it was the first of these policies/ agreements to have been made public; although Sykes-Picot was at the time one of the most widely held secrets in the world, it had not been officially publicized, and while the Arabs may have been made uneasy by the tang of betrayal on the air, they could not be sure and they at any rate could not, having once risen against the Turks, abandon their revolt – they must, like all revolutionaries, see the thing through to the end, whatever that might be.

But Lawrence was the one person in constant contact with the Arab Revolt who knew intimately and at first hand all the steps and measures of the betrayal of the people he was leading into battle for the very lands and offices which it had already been decided to deny them. In Hero  there are reproduced two maps drawn by Lawrence in brilliant colour relief and detail, one showing the partition of Syria and Iraq in accordance with Sykes-Picot, and one showing Lawrence’s own plans for the Arabs, and for which they  thought they were fighting.[15]

One effect of this largely secret diplomacy was that, at the end of the War, both the Jews and the Arabs believed they had been promised a homeland in Palestine, and they could both prove their case: one party referred to McMahon, and one to Balfour – and both believe that to this day.

It’s enough to make anyone ill, and we are not over its ill-effects yet today.  But did all this matter, or was the Arab Revolt merely “a side-show of a side-show”?

The side-show taunt originates with a notorious debunking “biography” of Lawrence by Richard Aldington, entitled Lawrence of Arabia: a Biographical Enquiry (Collins, 1955). Aldington had, like Liddell Hart and Graves, served all through some of the most severe fighting in WWI, having risen from the ranks to become an infantry officer. He was unrelentingly, bitterly disparaging of Lawrence and of the entire Middle Eastern campaign – Korda calls his book “a sustained 488-page rant.” Aldington was contemptuous of what Lawrence himself, in one of his self-disparaging moods, had called a “side-show of a side-show.” Aldington said to a friend, “These potty little skirmishes and sabotage raids which (Liddell) Hart and Lawrence call  battles are somewhat belly-aching to one who did the Somme, Vimy, Loos, etc.”[16] We have seen that this did not seem to be the case either to Liddell Hart nor to Graves, who also had done “all that.”  But the criticism has sometimes stuck, and it is worth considering.

The definitive answer to this charge seems to be in a letter to a London weekly newspaper, quoted by Graves. The writer, who remained anonymous, was known to Graves “as an expert in these matters”; he had been an intelligence officer in the “Palestine Campaign”, and he wrote:

The  revolt of 1916 isolated (a division) of six battalions, destroyed two thirds of (another division) of nine battalions and brought another division from Syria to Mecca. In the autumn of 1917 twenty four battalions (were) strung out on the line from Deraa to Medina. Had the Arabs sat still two thirds of this force would have been available for the Gaza-Beersheba front.  In 1918 the British threat to Trans-jordania only became possible because of the growing strength of the revolt and the increasing sympathy of the local Arab population …by September 1918 reinforcements from Rumania  and the Caucasian front … had been used up east of Jordan instead of on the Palestinian front. … an Arab army of 4000 fighting men was worth an Army Corps to the British  Army on the Palestinian front, not only on account of the Turks, whom it kept busy in the wrong place, but because of the strain it put on Turkish transport and supply[17].

Lawrence’s Contribution to the Art and Science of Warfare

When Lawrence came to the Middle East the Armies, there as on the Western Front, were still in thrall to Clausewitz. As Liddell Hart described them, they “were fettered, above all, by a narrow doctrine of strategy. The soldiers of Europe had come to accept rigidly the theory of Clausewitz that all efforts and all forces should be concentrated on the main theatre and the main enemy. … it was a theory without elasticity and without regard to the practical question whether such ‘concentration at the decisive spot’  was likely to produce an effective result at the actual time.” This is probably the principal source of the general criticism of Lawrence, and of the Arab Revolt, that it was a sideshow. However, over 150 years before, Marshall Saxe had described this mind-lock as “no better than ‘maxims blindly adopted, without any examination of the principles on which they were founded … our present practice is nothing more than a passive compliance  with received customs to the grounds of which we are absolute strangers.’”[18].

Having witnessed several bloody and inconclusive skirmishes by Arab tribesmen, among themselves and with the Turks (in 1916 and 1917 the Arabs had failed three times to take Medina), Lawrence turned back to Saxe, who had also said that “I am not in favour of giving battle, especially at the outset of a war.  I am even convinced that an able general can wage war  his whole life without being compelled to do so.”  Saxe took great care that such heresy was not published in his life time: Foch, the Supremo in the West, ridiculed Saxe for this, but Lawrence saw more deeply into the challenges facing the Arabs, especially in respect of a major strategic goal of the British and the French in the Middle East, which was the taking of Medina.  The Arab failures  there had only confirmed that camel-mounted and dismounted tribesmen could not withstand the fire of modern artillery and machine guns.

In March 1917, with the Revolt scarcely a year old, Lawrence fell ill on the march, probably suffering from dysentery, malaria and possibly post-traumatic stress (while ill, he had had to execute an Arab tribesman to avert a blood feud brewing in his own ranks; the experience nearly undid him). Forced to remain in his tent for 10 days, Lawrence reviewed his campaigns to date, and asked himself rhetorically, “Why bother about Medina? … What would be the good of capturing it? , which was clearly impossible with present means … Indeed – here was  a further thought – would it not be harmful to do so?”[19]  Lawrence concluded:

We must not take Medina. The Turk was harmless there.  … We wanted him to stay on at Medina, and in every other distant place, in the largest numbers. Our ideal was to keep his railway just working, but only just, with the maximum  of loss and discomfort.

Nevertheless, Lawrence’s council did not prevail, and “plans were made and the preparations advanced.” [20]

Lawrence nevertheless continued to revise and refine his thinking: he would turn weakness into strength, he would employ hit-and-run tactics with minimum forces, he would not hold ground, “using the smallest force in the quickest time, at the furthest place.” He would avoid, rather than seek, “decisive battle.”  He would “bleed the Turks to death by pinpricks, while forcing them to waste their troops trying to defend 800 miles of railway line,” the only purpose of which was to resupply those very Turkish formations committed to its defense[21].  As he later said of his tactics, “To make war on rebellion is like eating soup with a knife’: he intended to keep the Turks at this exercise for as long as possible.[22] The inheritors of his minimalist tactics, which came to be called guerrilla warfare, included among others the Long Range Desert Group in Libya and Orde Wingate’s Chindits in WWII, as well as Mao-Tse Tung and the Vietcong.  Those who in our time have ignored this history they are now condemned to relive include the coalition forces in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Later on, when armoured cars were made available to him, Lawrence was similarly imaginative in their employment, as they allowed him to speed up the operation of reduced forces in greater safety; as Liddell Hart said, “Lawrence was at least a generation ahead of the military world in perceiving the strategic implications of mechanized warfare”. [23]  Graves says that Lawrence fought at least 50 actions with armoured cars, and he used engineering techniques, especially enemy mobility denial operations, heavy machine guns and aircraft – all then very new – from the outset in very effectively coordinated and thoroughly  modern operations.[24]  He also used  vessels  of the Royal Navy for strategic transport and logistics, something the then newly-created Joint Staffs struggled with throughout the next war, and don’t always do too well today.


By almost any definition I know, Lawrence was truly a hero. He had terrific endurance, which is an important aspect of courage – tired men are easily discouraged, and may be easily frightened.  He had the Socratic courage to recognize the dangers which were probably more imagined than real, but he had too much sense to ignore genuine danger. He had the exemplary form of courage as well: the men who followed him were convinced that he did not unthinkingly expose them to danger, but that where danger was real he was the first to expose himself and the last to seek safety.

Lawrence was a significant innovator of the military art. His form of warfare has since been much emulated, and has had many names: guerrilla warfare, economy of force operations, commando and special operations. His form of warfare has fathered many modern organizations devoted to his style of making war: the Long Range Desert Group in Libya, Orde Wingate’s Chindits in Burma, Commandos (told by Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”), Special Forces  – it seems everybody has them, but there cannot be a force that would not wish itself as successful as Lawrence.  His conduct of what is now called, still somewhat shakily, joint operations, was pure innovation – the means available to him were entirely new to him – to everyone, in fact – and he can have had no training in the use of machine guns, armoured cars, aircraft (the first use of aircraft in British military maneuvers had been just two years before)  and counter-mobility operations – it was all original invention for him, by him. And there cannot breathe an army officer who would not envy him the Royal Navyl support he was able to inspire and direct. Few have done better at these sort of operations in the intervening nine decades since the Revolt in the Desert, and many of “the willing” are doing it significantly less well today, and in nearly the same places. His appreciation of the advantages of Saxe and the limitations of Clausewitz are by no means common among professional officers today.

The Arab Revolt was a  success for the Allies, but the Arabs did not gain their political nor strategic goals. This was principally because the strategic aims were either unclear or were obscured, or both. The Arabs did not get what they fought for, and it was deliberately concealed from them that they were never meant to. We  live today with the results of that deceit, and must share Lawrence’s shame at his part in the deception. But that does not mean that we must or can belittle the effects of the campaign – the benefits of the Turkish alliance with Germany were entirely nullified by the Arab Revolt, and the British victory in Palestine was indebted in ways entirely clear to those who fought there, to the 4000 fighters of the Arab Revolt.

As Graves says, “Not only (George) Bernard Shaw believed that if Britain had a Valhalla, Lawrence belonged in it.”[25]

Were I to lead a Staff College today, I now know where I would lead it: right back to those same desert battlefields of Lawrence and the Arab Revolt – except those areas are today still too busy with armies still struggling to learn the Lessons of Lawrence.

[1] Liddell Hart, p vi.

[2]  A by-no-means exhaustive list: Graves 1927; Liddell-Hart 1934; Aldington 1955; Knightly and Simpson 1976. Lean’s movie was released in 1962. A biography of Ibn Saud by  Howarth appeared in 1980.

[3] Graves, pp 410-11.

[4] Korda, p 593.. One reason for Lawrence placing himself increasingly at the centre of things may have been the punitive libel laws of Great Britain, which placed great pressure on an author to use extreme care in accrediting actions to anyone who might consider themselves thereby traduced or in any way wronged. It must also be remembered that the first complete draft of Seven Pillars was lost, along with all Lawrence’s notes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       and photographs; it was rewritten by Lawrence from memory and without notes in just over 30 days, a manuscript of over 400,000 words.

[5] In fact, the only sour note in Korda is when he says, very late in his book (p 689), that “Lawrence’s other early biographers – his friends Robert Graves, the poet and novelist ; and B.H. Liddell Hart, the military historian and theorist  – … had written panegyrics to Lawrence without any serious effort at independent research or objectivity.”  This is as graceless as it is pointless, especially as both those “early biographers” entirely support, and agree with, nearly every important point of  what Korda, over 80 years later, himself says of Lawrence. Indeed, of 684 endnotes to Korda, 18 are attributions to Graves; 37 to Liddell Hart – panegyrics?

[6] Graves, p 11.

[7] Graves, p 48.

[8] Korda, Hero, p 571.

[9] Hughes, Bettany, The Hemlock Cup:  Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, Jonathon Cape, London, 2010. 475 pp, illus, Eur 30.99.

[10] Whymper, Edward, Scrambles Amongst the Alps, Thomas Nelson, Vth Ed, 1900, p 398. On the descent from the successful climb on 14 July 1865, four of Whymper’s party of seven fell to their deaths.

[11] Graves, p 415.

[12] Arbuckle, James V., Routledge, London, 2009., p 75.

[13] Korda, p 83.

[14] Korda, p 266.

[15] Facing p 269.

[16] Korda, 688.

[17] Graves p.411-12.  Italics added.

[18] Liddlell Hart, pp 30 and 124..

[19] Liddell Hart, pp131-32

[20] Lawrence, p 232-33. Italics added.

[21] This might well have been – but was not – Allied Strategy in Italy in WW II: the optimum effectiveness of that campaign  was undoubtedly achieved when the Allied landings were consolidated, and the maximum number of Italians and Germans were committed to their ouster. The taking of Rome (which fell to the Allies the day before the D-Day landings in Normandy) and the surrender of the Italians should have freed the Germans of a major headache, but  Hitler insisted in rushing more Germans into the baited trap. The  Allies for their part were then faced with the much more formidable Wehrmacht, who were with each incredibly costly Allied “success” driven closer back onto their home defences and closer to the much more dangerous Allied assaults in the west. Foch would have approved of the Allied strategy in Italy in 1943-44; Lawrence and Saxe would have deplored it.  Rommel, incidentally, agreed with Lawrence and Saxe, and advised Hitler against moving significant reinforcements into Italy – like Lawrence in 1916, Rommel’s advice was ignored. In other words, both the Allies and the Axis did what was worst for each; committing troops urgently needed in France to a cause, taking/holding Italy, which was of little count to the outcome of the war.

[22] Korda, p 366.

[23] Korda, p 309

[24] Graves, p 415-18

[25] Graves, p 623.

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