bridge near Ras Baalbek, the effect of which on traffic was very small, though the noise of the explosions was a great propaganda weapon! On 13th June, near Damascus, in the home of friends of Feisal's, Lawrence met Ali Riza Pasha Rehabi, the general in command at Damascus, one of those members of the secret societies who talked much and did little until Allenby's men were just about to enter the town. Lawrence then rode south to Nebk, meeting other sheiks on the way. Nasir was sent to Hussein el Atrash of the Druses with a ten-point political programme, quoted in full by Lawrence in his suppressed report. On the 19th, Auda and Nasir started for Akaba. 61 The Akaba fights are described very briefly in this suppressed report, which then harks back to political matters, and ventures the opinion that, with sufficient material assistance, dispositions of Arab forces could be made by the end of August, as marked on the sketch map which Lawrence attached, showing a formidable array of revolters from Sidon to Jerusalem and from Damascus to Maan -- very few indeed of whom ever did anything to help before October, 1918.
But though the report was too optimistic, that was no reason for suppressing it. Lawrence wrote other unjustifiably optimistic reports which were not suppressed. When Liddell Hart questioned Lawrence about its existence, Lawrence gave him, not the report, but an extract from a letter which Lawrence asserted he had sent to a friend who asked to see the report "a few weeks later."
"I handed it to Clayton whose eyebrows went high (some of it was comic, some scurrilous, some betrayed horrible secrets) and who sat on it. I don't think anyone in the Savoy ever saw it, whole. It certainly never went to H.C. or W.O. or F.O., and I am too tender-hearted to ask after it now. * It was an MS. document of three pages, and compressed two months' march into it: rather dull except to one who knew Syrian politics . . . It's all ancient history now." 62
Very interesting. To whom was that letter written, and where is the original? Or was Lawrence, with his "phenomenal memory," quoting it verbatim from memory -- after 16 years? The report itself is certainly rather dull, but there is nothing comic and nothing scurri-
* Yet the words in Seven Pillars: "In my report . . I had stressed the strategic importance of the eastern tribes of Syria" 63 imply that Allenby saw the suppressed report. But, if so, what about the alleged "comic" and "scurrilous" passages which raised Clayton's eyebrows?
lous in it, nor has it any "horrible secrets." Even if there were secrets, was it the business of the Arab Bureau to conceal them from their masters, the High Commissioner, the War Office and the Foreign Office? What is meant by Lawrence's phrase, that he was "too tenderhearted to ask after it now?" It is as obvious a put-off as his telling Hart that one reason he wrote nothing about this Damascus journey was that he kept no notes, when full notes existed in this report, and he had been allowed access to all his reports. But the report does show very definitely that what Antonius says is true -Lawrence went on the Akaba expedition not as military commander but as Feisal's envoy to Damascus and the intervening tribes, trying to arrange an uprising in August or thereabouts. It also implies that Lawrence 'was in a subordinate position, since in the opening he himself describes Nasir as "O.C. Expedition," i.e. Officer Commanding Expedition. This (suppressed) report is dated Cairo, 10th July, 1917, obviously written the day he arrived and containing his full report, as it goes down to his arrival at Shatt on the 9th. But later on, in August, the Arab Bureau published another and very different report, describing at length and with picturesque phrases the purely military operations from June 18th on. From which it looks as if the original political report was suppressed by the Arab Bureau, and a military one substituted for reasons best known to them. Clearly, it was on the second report that Lawrence's supposed military conduct of the expedition was based.
An echo of all this came later from the Iraki officers of Abdulla's army in November, 1917, when Colonel Wilson was sent to urge them to capture Medina, as at that time the Arab Bureau changed its mind and wanted the town taken. Various excuses were made to Wilson, but there was one objection "never mentioned to the English, but a constant theme of Sharifians," and this was their objection to Colonel Wilson having any part in the operations. "If we fail," the Irakis said, "it will be said that the fault was ours; and if there is a success, all the merits will go to the English." 64
In conclusion, let me call the reader's attention to the remarks of Antonius:
"His ( Lawrence's) summing up is that 'Akaba had been taken on my plan by my effort' -- a claim that will perplex the historian.
. . . The Arab evidence is that the plan was first suggested to Feisal * by Auda at their first meeting at Wejh; that Lawrence was not made privy to it until Feisal had given his consent; and that it was carried into execution by Auda and his Howeitat tribesmen independently of all outside help. . . . Sharif Nasir and Lawrence had accompanied the expedition and taken some part in the fighting, but neither as leaders nor advisers. . . ." 65
I may add that the official citation for Lawrence's C.B. makes no mention of Akaba, but was awarded to him and two other officers, whose names precede his, for unspecified "valiant services rendered in connection with Military Operations in the Field."
* But of course it had been suggested to Feisal long before by Brémond and Newcombe.
THUS AMBIGUOUSLY the problem of Akaba was solved, and the place taken into the hands of those who were friendly to the British, or at least would probably remain so while they were fed and given gold and their ally seemed successful. (Incidentally, almost the first task Lawrence had to carry out on returning from Cairo was to cajole and threaten back his hero, Auda, who, dissatisfied with his rewards, was making overtures to the Turks!) And why not, when he found the credit for his achievement given to the political officer? Those who, like Wingate and Brémond, had believed that an Anglo-French brigade ought to have been landed at Akaba, may or may not have been right. They argued that such a nucleus of trained soldiers with artillery would have rallied the Bedouins and given confidence to the Sharifian irregulars, thus making the "Arab revolt" really of use in drawing off or containing important numbers of the enemy. But there were good arguments against, and those military leaders who had thought Akaba was worth a brigade could hardly criticise when they got it in exchange for supplies and four hundredweight of gold.
It was perhaps a stroke of luck for Lawrence that, a week before he returned to Egypt from this expedition, there had been a change of command, and Allenby had succeeded Murray and Maxwell. Unlike them, Allenby knew nothing about the Middle East, his former service having been in Africa, and in France as a cavalry commander and a not too successful Army commander. Allenby was interested in English literature, in music and ornithology, and was a Fellow of the Zoological Society 1. Lawrence says he first saw the General on the station platform at Ismailia, where, through Admiral Wemyss' flag
officer, Lawrence got permission for Dufferin to sail at once to Akaba with supplies. In a later interview, Lawrence says he succeeded in impressing Allenby sufficiently for the General to promise to do all he could to help him. Lawrence, on his side, promised to contain the enemy by rousing the Arabs, if he were given arms and supplies and 200,000 sovereigns. 2
Lawrence speaks of Allenby with adulation. Allenby was "cleanjudging," he was "morally so great that the comprehension of our littleness came slow to him." 3 Allenby had "splendour of will," 4 "calm drive and human understanding," 5 and as "a reader of Milton, had an acute sense of style." 6 "What he could do was enough for his very greediest servant"; 7 the "campaign of September, 1918, was perhaps the most scientifically perfect in English history," 8 and indeed "the victory had been the logical fruit solely of his genius." 9 The Field-Marshal -- in his public utterances -- said that Lawrence interested him as much as any figure in the Great War; 10 he was a brilliant war leader 11 and "the mainspring of the Arab movement," 12 "the shy and retiring scholar -- archologistphilosopher -- was swept by the tide of war into a position undreamt of "; "praise or blame was regarded with indifference by Lawrence" and "himself an Emir, he wore the robes of that rank, and kept up a suitable degree of state." 13 It seems unfortunate that Allenby's public commendations of Lawrence should be so much at variance with his private judgment, as recorded by Lord Wavell and General Barrow. In Seven Pillars, Lawrence remarks that Allenby could not decide how much of Lawrence was "genuine performer and how much charlatan"; and Lord Wavell informs us that Allenby never solved the problem, "but always suspected a strong streak of the charlatan in Lawrence." 14 To General Barrow, Lord Allenby was even more explicit:
"I was talking with Allenby in his study in his London house. He tapped The Seven Pillars of Wisdom in his bookshelf and said: ' Lawrence goes for you in his book, George.' I replied to the effect that I was not taking any notice of it, and he said, 'No, that would be a mug's game. Besides, we know Lawrence. He thinks himself a hell of a soldier, and loves posturing in the limelight.'" 15
We will not pause to enquire why Lord Allenby publicly praised so lavishly a man he thought privately had a strong strain of the charlatan and loved posturing in the limelight, but merely remark that Allenby's promise of support in July, 1917, gave Lawrence the opportunity his starved ambition hungered for. Here was his chance, and he fought for it like a wild cat. It was no longer a question of being Dr. Hogarth's protégé in the Arab Bureau (though, of course, that was always useful), but of having direct access to a Commanderin-Chief, fresh from the war, with all the ensuing prestige. Premising that "Akaba had been taken on his plan by his effort" 16 -- a sweeping assertion which, as we have seen, there is every reason to doubt -- Lawrence modestly asked General Clayton to be given the command of the forces in Arabia, which was refused, for the reason that an officer junior to the others could not be given the command. 17 But the arrangements agreed to between them certainly improved Lawrence's status, whatever might be the case with others. Feisal's forces were to be brought up to Akaba, detached from the Hejaz, and Feisal ranked as an Army Commander under Allenby, with Lawrence as Political Officer. Lawrence then tried to get all stores, supplies and officers with Ali and Abdulla cut off from them and diverted to Feisal and himself; and again failed. But he was allowed to have for base commandant Joyce, who, being strongly anti-French and no intriguer, would not interfere with plans, and would devote most of his attention to building up the Regular Arab Army of 600 being raised and trained by Jaafar and Maulud. With his fund of 200,000 to 500,000 sovereigns and this plan, which brought Feisal a long step nearer Syria, how could Lawrence fail to be well received by the anxious candidate for its throne?
Lawrence claimed the war in the Hejaz was won at Wejh; at Akaba he considered it ended 18. This was a convenient assumption now that Lawrence had left the area, but what of Ali and Abdulla whom Clayton had refused to abandon at Lawrence's request? Well, they had the not very entertaining task of blockading or containing the Medina garrison, and of preventing them from re-joining the Turks in Palestine; which was after all a genuine excuse for British military and political support. There were even one or two abortive attempts to capture the place, which failed for the obvious reason that the Arabs were not good enough. For the rest, the Hejaz "war"
went on very much like Lawrence's "war," with blowings up of trains by Davenport and Raho and others, destructions of rails, and local actions of Bedouins. If their successes went unrecorded, it was because there was no picturesque reporter, and partly because they received fewer supplies, less money, and were refused the artillery Abdulla constantly pressed for. In addition, it appears that the only recruits (of deserters and prisoner of war volunteers) they received for their "regular armies" were those rejected by Jaafar for Feisal's "army." Some of these Syrians and Irakis were animated by "motives not military" and were much more interested in forming political committees on Soviet lines than in fighting the Turks, whom they described as "our Moslem brethren." The committee in Ali's army was dominated by a violent Anglophobe, called Jemil, and the committee itself expressed a near adoration for the Germans, and made no pretence of concealing its pro-Turkish feelings, its contempt for the English and hatred for the Bedouins. 19 Only when old Hussein heard of them -- for Ali was apparently too sick to bother -- were these scandals abruptly quelled.
The Arabs, we are told, 20 in these operations killed, captured and above all "contained" many thousands of the enemy; but a disinterested enquirer, looking over the facts and figures as more or less truthfully revealed in post-war official publications, asks himself who contained whom? and were the results commensurate with the expense of men and money? 21
In August, 1917 -- a month after the taking of Akaba -- Lord Wavell estimates that "as a rough estimate of available rifles," the Turks on the Palestine and Irak fronts had 71,000 and the British about 180,000. Who was "containing"? A year later, just before Allenby's "great victory," Wavell estimates the British at 200,000 and the Turks at about 60,000 "ragged, hungry, ill-equipped" men. 22
In the same way one cannot help asking if the Arab war ("a sideshow of a side-show") was militarily worth either its cost or its damaging political consequences? Obviously those in control thought so at the time or they would not have authorised it. Yet Allenby seems to have had his doubts, since in October, 1917, he sent for Lawrence and demanded to know what was the purpose of his blowing up trains? Were they not simply a melodramatic
advertisement for Feisal's political ambitions? Indeed the whole objection to the "Arab war" as expounded by Lawrence after Akaba, is simply that it was a political demonstration, that militarily its aid was negligible, while time and again it failed to achieve what Lawrence promised. And one cannot escape the conviction that much of the "history" of the Arab war was simply political propaganda designed to prove that "the Arabs" had captured certain areas and towns (and therefore were obliged under "British promises" to be ruled by Lawrence's friend Feisal independently though perhaps not unsubsidised), though in fact all the real work was done by English, Scottish, Anzac and Indian troops. And there is a noteworthy ambivalence in Lawrence's own propaganda, for while asserting as a boutade that this war was more like peace (as indeed, from the point of view of the Western front, it was), and seriously that it was "like a general strike," * Lawrence and his friends claim for him the achievements of a great military genius. Nobody denies the value of propaganda and guerrillas in warfare, but it is unhistoric to suggest that Lawrence discovered them. And great generals do not make their reputations by directing a general strike.
Another difficulty which confronts the enquirer is the discrepancy between different reports of the same occurrence. An example will show the strange contradictions better than pages of explanation. It is agreed that in October, 1917, the Turks gathered a small force to attack the 500-600 " Arab regulars" then in Wadi Musa under Jaafar and Maulud. What happened? Lawrence, tells us that the Turks fell "foxed and fogged" into a prepared trap over which "Maulud presided beautifully," i.e. he exterminated them. "He opened his centre and, with the greatest of humour, let in the Turks until they broke their faces against the vertical cliffs of the Arab refuge," whereupon Maulud attacked the "puzzled and hurt" Turks on both flanks, causing them heavy losses, while they never again dared to attack "a prepared Arab position." 23 Lawrence, of course, gives no date, but his editor puts "12 Oct., 1917," at the top of the page. Similarly, Lawrence gives us none of the facts needed for the understanding of this military action -- he gives no estimate of the numbers on either side, what was the purpose of their movements or why the Turks did so idiotic a thing or what their losses were.
Except that there was no "strike" within the large area controlled by the Turks
Neither does he tell us how and why the Arabs "prepared a position" in Wadi Musa, or why the Turks attacked it.
Turn now to the British Official History. The Turkish force (it says) consisted of 4 weak battalions, the 7th Cavalry Regiment and 4 guns. The Arabs had 2 companies of camel corps, 2, of mulemounted infantry, 2 mountain guns, 4 machine guns. They numbered 350 "regulars" and 250 Bedouins. Jaafar was at a place called Elji, against which the Turks advanced; shelled and bombed it; carried the outer defences; but were taken in flank by the Bedouins and retired, leaving a few prisoners. The date is given as 27th October, and the following comment is made: "The ill-trained Arab camel-men behaved badly, but the mounted infantry under Maulud Pasha, a veteran cavalry officer of the Turkish service, was steady enough." Yet it was the flank attack of the Bedouins which caused the retreat. 24
That at any rate gives some idea of what may have happened, which is very seldom the case with Lawrence's flowery descriptions. Obviously both refer to the same action, but how differently! Neither seems to have had access to the report (possibly of the Arab commander) which Brémond quotes. According to him, Jemal Kutchuk, with considerable forces and 3 airplanes, attacked the Arabs in Wadi Musa, completely defeated them and recaptured the "fôret d'Aiche." Now this "forest" was made up of those dwarf desert acacia trees which furnished the fuel for the railway, and, when we realise that the Arabs had occupied that area, we instantly see the reason for the Turkish action. The cut wood had been transported by a Decauville railway, which the official history says was destroyed by the Arabs early in October, 1917. But, Brémond continues, on the night of 22-23rd October, "Mouloud efendi" (obviously the Maulud Pasha of the English), with 300 Arab "regulars," made a night attack on the Turkish camp, killed 400, captured 300, with the loss of only 40 killed. "It was a magnificent success, which does the greatest honour to the leader and his troops." 25 Here there is no question of a Bedouin flank movement or of the humorous Maulud leading the Turks into an extremely funny death-trap.
If we follow the diary of dates given by Lawrence at the end of Seven Pillars, we can see that, for some time after Akaba, the political side of his appointment was uppermost, and he spent most of his
time at Cairo and Alexandria and on board ship. His hasty journey to Guweira to bring Auda back to his allegiance has been mentioned, though why this was not the task of his sponsor and "lord" Feisal is nowhere explained. And it was not until the 7th September (1917) that Lawrence initiated or resumed his train-wrecking. The section of the railway chosen for the attack was near the station of Mudowwara, which is about 100 kilometres from Maan and nearly 600 from Medina. The advantage of this point of attack (only about 100 kilometres from Akaba in a direct line) is obvious when you realise that Medina still held such large quantities of pre-war railway material, so that the greater the distance from that centre was the break, the longer it took to repair.
Doubtless, it is a modern sentimentality, unfortified by the high principles of "manuals of chivalry", which regards the wrecking of trains -- whether carrying soldiers or civilians or both -- as among the more inglorious forms of modern warfare. One does not altogether visualise Sir Sagramors le Desirous and Sir Gawain upsetting an enemy market-cart in a ditch and leaving the wreck of humanity and goods to the tender mercies of the local villeins. Not until the 19th September did Major Lawrence and his men succeed in their daring new plan. The expedition was accompanied by two sergeant-instructors who had been trying to teach the Arab patriots how to handle Lewis guns and Stokes trench-mortars. Following the explosion which derailed the train, there was a deathly silence, broken by rifle and machine-gun fire which swept the Turkish soldiers from the tops of the carriages like bales of cotton. When the survivors fled to cover, they were rendered harmless by Stokes mortars, and the Bedouins rushed to pillage the train. A bridge had been destroyed and the first car, filled with Turkish sick, had fallen into the hole. All but a few had been killed, and the explosion had hurled the dead and dying into a bleeding heap at the splintered end of the coach. When Lawrence looked in on this successful result of his activities as "Emir Dynamite," one of the dying casualties moaned out the word "typhus" -- "so I wedged shut the door and left them there alone." 26
Turning from them, Lawrence became aware of the pillage of the train by screaming, half-naked Arabs. There were also thirty or forty terrified women survivors of the wreck, who rushed to Lawrence -- evidently the commander from his rich garments -- and clutched at
him, howling for mercy. Lawrence assured them that "all was going well," but they would not leave their clutching until he was delivered from this fulsome importunity by "some husbands." The Turks brushed the women aside and fell at the conqueror's feet in a state of terror, expecting instant death -- a most absurd and unpleasant sight -- and there was nothing Lawrence could think of to do but kick them away as well as he could with bare feet, and break free. There were some Austrian soldiers and officers who asked to surrender, and were told by Lawrence that they would be all right. However, they were all murdered, except two or three, by Lawrence's own bodyguard before he could or did interfere. 27 How much of this is true, and how much write-up? His official report merely says that about 70 Turks were killed, and 30 wounded, many of whom died. There were go prisoners, of whom 68 survived to reach Akaba. An Austrian second lieutenant was killed. 28
The lurid details of the wrecked train and its pillage may or may not have been invented for literary purposes, but what cannot have been invented is the unconscious cruelty and savagery of the eyewitness who could describe such scenes with such callousness to suffering and such contemptuous disdain for women's and men's fear of Bedouin brutalities. Sir Andrew Macphail, who has pointed this out, felt that Lawrence had been infected by the savagery of his associates. It may indeed be so, though even as a schoolboy, one of his friends thought him "ruthless," 29 and the descriptions of his behaviour in pre-war Turkey would indicate considerable natural truculence. On the other hand, we find rhetorical statements, verging on cant, such as that in his suppressed introduction to Seven Pillars: "All our subject provinces to me were not worth one dead Englishman." 30 There is always something suspect in respect for human life limited by blatant nationalism -- and that limitation was not recognised by the old professional army Lawrence affected to disdain. And, on the other hand, it is impossible to deny that he seems to enjoy the idea, if not the reality, of brutal cruelties, as when he praises that "silent, laughing, masterful man," his friend Meinertzhagen, because he "took as blithe a pleasure in deceiving his enemy (or his friend) by some unscrupulous jest as in spattering the brains of a cornered mob of Germans with his African knob-kerri." 31 The British
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