and the old British Army have many and grievous faults, but that sort of brutality and delight in it were very seldom among them.
It is noteworthy that, a few days after these Mudowwara horrors, Lawrence wrote to a correspondent ("a Friend") to boast of this exploit, as "the last stunt" on which he had "potted" a train with two engines, and had "killed superior numbers." He goes on to say that he won't "last out this game much longer," his nerves were going and his temper wearing thin. He feels the "show" is making too great demands on him, and that he is becoming self-centred. He winds up: "This killing and maiming of Turks is horrible. When you charge in at the finish and find them all over the place in bits, and still alive many of them, and know that you have done hundreds in the same way before and must do hundreds more if you can . . ." and there the officious censor has cut the sentence short. Even in this apparent mood of remorse, Lawrence cannot help exaggerating his exploits, for, apart from the rail destructions with Raho and on the way north during the Akaba expedition, this was in fact his first personal attack on the line and the first train-wreck of which he was guilty. It is perhaps hardly worth noting that in this letter he mentions that in the pillage he "got a good Baluch prayer rug," which, by the time the story reached Graves, had become a gift "with a charming letter" from the Lady Ayesha, "a friend and hostess of Feisal's," in gratitude to Lawrence for saving her from the wreck, and Lawrence afterwards sent the identical carpet and story to Lady Allenby. 32
Lawrence tells us in Seven Pillars of a second train-wrecking near kilometre 500 on the 6th October (1917), when he was accompanied by the French captain, Pisani. Lawrence was only 100 yards from the line when he blew the charge; and then Pisani led the Arabs to the attack. A Turkish colonel fired at Lawrence, giving him a flesh wound in the hip, which caused Lawrence to laugh at his thinking that the killing of an individual would help to win the war 33. In his report, Lawrence says "some civilians were released," 34 which in Seven Pillars becomes "we kicked northward some dozen civilians." 35 In the report it is stated that a Kaimakam, General Staff, "fired at us with a Mauser pistol, but a Bedouin blazed into him at twenty yards." 36 In Pisani's report at the French War Office, 37 it is stated that Major Lawrence was only 100 metres from the line when he fired
the charge, that there was a "fusillade" for twenty-five minutes, that Pisani then rushed forward with ten Arabs, and was fired at with a revolver by a Turkish officer who was killed by a Bedouin. 38 Curious coincidence! Either there were two Turkish officers firing at each of the Europeans, or one of the Europeans has claimed the experience of the other.
Having blown two trains, and thus become a master of the art, Lawrence now trained "pupils" to spread the destruction, while being careful not to cut the line so seriously that Medina might have to surrender. But was all this explosive zeal necessary, and was it for this that Allenby had promised support and sovereigns? The suppressed report on Akaba had promised tribal risings, and though there were the obvious difficulties that these could happen only once and, if a failure occurred on the British side, would lead to hideous Turkish reprisals, still that rather than sabotage was what had gained Allenby's support. At all events, when he summoned Lawrence to G.H.Q. at Ismailia ( October 13th, 1917), Allenby, as we have seen, chaffed him about his melodramatic train-wreckings, which indeed might well seem inadequate action from the forces of an Army Commander. Piqued in his vanity by Allenby's chaff, Lawrence made a wild proposal -- he would take a select party and raid far to the north 400 miles from Akaba and destroy one of the bridges on the main railway line of supply through the Yarmuk valley to the Turkish front in Palestine. Lawrence's account of this must be read to be believed -- the Turkish Army was to be isolated from its base for two weeks by his stroke, "no coherent unit of von Kress's army would survive its retreat to Damascus," whereupon "the Arabs" would take over when the British were "nearly exhausted," and would "carry their wave forward into the great capital," a fantastic delusion. Allenby at once asked for this serviceable aid to be rendered between the 5th and 8th November, 1917. 39
The only criticism to be made of this grandiose scheme is the bleak fact that it failed, and it cannot be said that Allenby's advance on and capture of Jerusalem owed much or indeed anything to the assistance of Major Lawrence and "the Arabs." They doubtless reached the Yarmuk valley, for which Lawrence has been enormously praised, but they failed to make the slightest interruption to the main line of Turkish rail communication, which fact has been passed over.
We have two contemporary reports by Lawrence on this unsuccessful expedition from which such useful results had been promised; and they leave one wondering what protector enabled him to get away with such things. The Arab Bulletin report, published 16th December, 1917, and presumably read by Allenby, airily says: "On November 5th we camped at Kseir-el-Hallabat, and on the 7th failed to rush the bridge at Tell-el-Shehab, and returned to Kseir." 40 But why did they fail? Another and earlier report to Joyce says nonchalantly: "Tell-el-Shehab is a splendid bridge to destroy, but those Serahin threw away all my explosives when the firing began and so I can do nothing. I am very sick at losing it so stupidly." 41 According to Seven Pillars the raid failed because one of the Indian machine-gunners (a regular) dropped his rifle, which gave the alarm to the Turkish sentry, whereupon the raiders fled precipitately to the hills. 42
Two British officers had started out with Lawrence and his men on this expedition. One was Captain Lloyd, M.P. (afterwards Lord Lloyd), who rode with them to el Jefer to see them fairly started and then returned -- a valuable and influential friend. The other officer was Lieutenant Wood, R.E., who went as far as the Yarmuk bridge, but left the retreating party on the 9th November, as Lawrence had then fallen back on the expedient of blowing up a bridge near Minifir (which is about half-way between Deraa and Amman), a repetition of what had been done earlier on the Auda expedition to Akaba. In the destruction of the train, Lawrence was hit by pieces of the exploded boiler and painfully but not seriously hurt. They learned afterwards that the commander of the Turkish Eighth Army Corps, Mehmed Jemel Pasha, was on the train; but they failed either to harm or to capture him. Thence, in dismal weather, the party returned to their oasis hide-out at Azrak (on a line with Amman, but far out in the desert), where their Arab commander, Sharif Ali Ibn el Hussein, was visited by parties of Bedouins under their sheiks. The visit of one of these, a bandit named Talal el Hareidhin, suggested to Lawrence a ride back to the Deraa area in his company, which rounded out this whole abortive expedition with a disaster to Lawrence personally of the most painful and humiliating kind.
Was there really any practical object served by this ride? With Allenby's battle towards Jerusalem still in progress, Lawrence must have felt that, after his glowing promises, he could not merely sit in
tents out of the rain at Azrak. He had at all costs to seem to do something. But a reconnaisance of Deraa itself was futile, for by this time even Lawrence must have realised that neither the Bedouins nor the "Arab army" nor both together were capable of storming a town held by the Turks. All this bravura of desert heroes and flaring about on camels had resulted in what? The wrecking of a train with a few Turkish casualties. Contrast this with the bitter fighting of the real soldiers -- say that of the Yeomanry Mounted Division for twelve days in "one of the roughest and bleakest areas of the Judan hills," during which "they had been fighting continually, day and night, not only against a vigorous and determined enemy but against difficulties of a roadless mountain country. Exposed to constant rain and cold, without tents, blankets or greatcoats, often short of food, and opposed at all times by greatly superior forces of the enemy." They lost 41 per cent. of their effectives, and Allenby came personally to tell them that if they had not held on for those critical days, "the whole army would have been compelled to give up the hold it had secured on the mountain passes, and that, if this had occurred, it would have taken three months' hard fighting and thousands of casualties before we should have been able to capture Jerusalem." 43 And this was the action of only one unit during part of the offensive, yet surely enough to show up this Arab nonsense and Lawrence's pretentious theorising about winning wars without fighting or having casualties; though in a military journal he did describe the Arab campaign as a "side-show of a side-show". Of course, you can fight without casualties, if you confine yourself to tip-and-run and hasty demolitions and ambuscades of small isolated enemy units, while somebody else holds up the enemy's real fighting force and does all the dirty work.
At any rate, after riding with Talal and two of his guards, Halim and Faris, as far north of Deraa as Mezerib on the Palestine railway, Lawrence walked right into the town of Deraa with no more disguise than Halim's old clothes (instead of his own silk garments and gold ornaments) and accompanied only by the old man, Faris. As they walked through the town, they were stopped by Turkish soldiers, who brushed Faris aside but told Lawrence that he was wanted by the Bey. In the evening it turned out that the Bey was a pederast, who had seen from the window what he probably supposed was a
young Circassian -- Lawrence's curious arrested development still made him look much younger than he was. It was a horrible predicament, for, if he had been discovered to be a British officer not in uniform, his status would obviously have been that of a spy, and his fate that of death by torture. When Lawrence repulsed the Bey's more intimate advances, he was hit in the face with slippers and then savagely flogged. According to the rather lurid narrative in Seven Pillars, Lawrence endured set after set of lashings, remembering even to cry out in anguish in Arabic. When he was completely broken, his tormentors seemed satisfied, and desisted. Later, when the Bey called for him again, they threw water on him, wiped his face, and carried him, retching and crying for mercy, to where the Bey lay in bed. According to this version, the Bey turned from him in loathing "as a thing too torn and bloody for his bed." Lawrence was therefore taken away to an outer room, where his wounds were dressed and he was told that the door to the next room was unlocked. At dawn he managed to escape. 44
But is that the whole truth? There exists a letter from him to Charlotte Shaw, in which he confesses that he had failed to put down the whole truth, although he had striven hard to force himself to do so. The truth was (he admits in this letter) that he had not been able to endure, and, to escape further torture of flogging, had yielded to the Bey's pederasty and so secured respite and ultimate escape. 45
But the story, at once so pitiful and so nauseous, has been doubted by some who have been perhaps unable to endure the thought of this degradation of their hero. Now, as we have constantly had to note, Lawrence could very seldom resist making small episodes into a startling tale, and would even invent them. May this not be the case with the Deraa flogging? The whole of the Seven Pillars is so overwritten in its self-conscious striving to be "titanic" that there may indeed be a heightening of the situation and a working up of lurid details. There is no way of saying, and the narrative may (for once) be exactly true: and there is decisive evidence (as we shall see later) that Lawrence had at some time suffered such a flogging. 46
In 1933 Lawrence told Liddell Hart that he was still able to ride after the outrage. 47 But he had continued to walk until he fainted away during his 1911 dysentery or typhoid. And St. John Philby has given a glimpse of how Lawrence liked to display his endurance.
In winter they had to travel on an engine, and, while everyone else stood "cowering as near the boiler as possible against the icy wind and driving rain," Lawrence stood on the footplate for two or three hours enduring, for no particular reason except to impress his companions, the bitter fury of cold and wet. 48 It therefore seems quite possible that, after a punishment which would have disabled a man less wirily tenacious, Lawrence was able to walk and even to ride without betraying his secret. Yet there are one or two details left unexplained. The wounds were bandaged by "an Armenian dresser." 49 before he escaped; but was the bandage never changed? Lawrence could not have changed it himself, the secret would hardly have been safe with an Arab, and an Army doctor would have ordered him into hospital. He must therefore have taken the risks of infection in a climate where the least scratch is likely to fester. Again, in an Eastern village, everything is known. Halim (one of the Arabs with Lawrence) had gone into Deraa and, from the lack of rumour, knew that the truth of Lawrence's identity was undiscovered. 50 But how was it that Halim did not learn that his British officer friend had been flogged? Perhaps the fact was known all along to a select few, whose natural sympathy for so tragic a disaster would go far to explain the particular favour with which Lawrence was treated. But this is mere speculation. There is no evidence. If Lawrence himself revealed his misfortune, it would surely have been only to Hogarth. On the other hand, when you consider how all-powerful the motive of vanity was with Lawrence, it seems equally possible that at the time he concealed the flogging, even though in the end his romantic exhibitionism craved the partial and literary confession in Seven Pillars, completed afterwards by the letter to Mrs. Shaw
AFTER THREE years of preparations and three months of fighting, the British forces based on Egypt had gradually advanced and, by the 8th December, 1917, had captured Jerusalem -- at a cost. The fighting had been severe, through very difficult mountain country and under bad weather conditions. The figures of casualties in the Official History give those of the Turks for the months of November and December (61 days) and of the British for the 6 weeks from the 27th October to the 15th December (49 days), so are not strictly and exactly comparable. The British casualty reports for their period show losses of 18,928, of whom 16,862 were British, 1,138 Australians and New Zealanders, and 928 Indian. The killed were 2,509, and the missing 1,721, though how many of the latter were prisoners is not stated. For their longer period, the Turks reported losses of 28,443, of whom 3,518 were killed and 15,460 missing. The number of Turkish prisoners reported by the British was over 12,000 so that of the missing over 3,000 were either killed and never identified or managed to escape into concealment. 1 If you consider that the Turks started the war with about 700,000 men, that the heaviest losses of their best troops were at the Dardanelles and in the Caucasus, that there was another British Army fighting in Irak, and that this loss of 28,000 was due to continuous fighting, you will see how exaggerated are the claims that the "Arab Revolt" and Lawrence's military activities (whatever they may have been) had a decisive or even considerable effect on the war. The total number of prisoners accounted for in the 660 pages of Seven Pillars (before Allenby's September, 1918 break-through delivered them a mob of disordered fugitives to kill or capture almost at will) is just over 1,000, of whom 600 were taken on
what one cannot help thinking was really Auda's expedition to and capture of Akaba. After the first 5,000 prisoners * taken in the surprise of 1916 (at least half of them due to Abdulla's lucky coup at Taif), the casualties inflicted by "the Arabs" were very small until Allenby's September, 1918, victory.
Trains most certainly were blown up and Turks in them killed or mangled, three or four desert convoys were captured, railway posts were attacked and destroyed, successful little actions like Abu el Lissal, Tafileh and Maulud's night attack near Petra occurred, Faki Pasha and his garrison were more or less held to Medina, but to claim that these spasmodic and comparatively trifling efforts had any serious bearing on the war with Turkey, let alone on the greater war beyond, is as absurd as the comparison of the Arab rebellion to the "running sore" of Napoleon's war in Spain. The Emperor at the height of the struggle had 350,000 men in Spain, and at a minimum his losses averaged 100 a day for 6 years. His marshals had to fight the (frequently defeated) regular armies of Spain and Wellington's undefeated Anglo-Portuguese, as well as innumerable guerrilla fighters, both Portuguese and Spanish, with such leaders as Trant, Robert Wilson, Don Julian Sanchez, Mina, Porlier, Temprano, El Empecinado. There was no question of these partisans joining whichever side won, no need to bring them out with "horsemen of St. George" (i.e. gold sovereigns), no need to allow their leaders to take lucky dips of a handful of gold for each successful feat, or of scattering as soon as plunder was seized. The Spanish guerrilla warfare was horribly savage but not venal, and it was both heroically brave and effective. As soon as a French army moved, it was cut off from its base, and letter-carriers without armed guards failed to get throuah -- Masséna once had to send a whole battalion with General Foy to make sure that envoy and letter got through to the Emperor. On the other hand, Wellington received so many captured letters that he was constantly informed of the enemy's plans, and grew so conscience-stricken at intercepting so many of King Joseph's private letters when the King's children were ill that he sent a trumpeter under a white flag to tell the King they had recovered. There was no Arab rising in the rear of the Turkish Army in Palestine -- which on a big enough scale with determined leaders would really
* According to Military Operations (Vol. 2, p. 429) the total of all Turkish prisoners for the whole area between Tafileh and Medina up till August 1918, was 6,000.
have accomplished something -- but only raids of a few score men, rail and telegraph wire cuttings.
Indisputably, guerrilla warfare can cause immense vexation and loss to the regular forces of an occupying power, especially when as widespread and determined as was the case in Spain in 1808-13. If the Arabs had risen and, in spite of all efforts at suppression, had continued guerrilla warfare over all the area claimed by Feisal at the Peace Conference, they would indeed have been a valuable aid to their British allies. But the revolt was limited to the Hejaz (which was too far off and too worthless, except for sentimental religious reasons, to be worth the Turkish effort of recovery) and to desert areas close to the British Army, from which small raids could be made with comparative impunity. Beyond those areas, where there was real danger to be faced and real damage to be done, the Arabs did nothing but talk and conspire. Their "movement" spread only because Allenby advanced; and the world is still told that Allenby advanced because their movement spread. The Arab guerrillas were not an essential part of the British 1914-18 campaigns in the Middle East as they were of Wellington's in the Peninsula. Nor did Wellington ever make the mistake of thinking a war can be won by guerrillas alone -- even the Boers couldn't do that. In his panegyric of Lawrence's alleged strategic genius and achievements, Liddell Hart argues that Wellington's early victories had been profitable because they drew the French towards him in Portugal and so helped the Spanish guerrillas "to tighten their grip on other parts," but that his 1812 victories caused the French to concentrate and thereby the war was prolonged. The decisive factor was not the guerrillas but Napoleon's 1812 withdrawal of good French troops and the cessation of reinforcements. And as to great victories prolonging the war -- well, from Roliça to Salamanca was four years all but a few weeks; only eleven months after Salamanca came Vittoria which threw out of Spain all the French armies except Suchet's in Catalonia. Was that "prolonging the war"?
The line between guerrilla warfare and banditry is always hard to draw (with Lawrence's Bedouin friends particularly so), and, if prolonged, guerrilla warfare always tends to lapse into that endless class warfare of criminals against society which compels every state to maintain a regular army of police which checks but cannot exter-
minate it. Strange indeed is the fact that one of the most orderly countries in the world should, as a legacy of its foreign wars, have bequeathed so much banditry to other countries.
Though the various forces of "the Arabs" had some military importance, their strength has been greatly exaggerated, and their real significance was political. Possibly on Lawrence's advice, Feisal was being groomed as the native candidate for the throne of Syria -- he would keep out the French and be amenable to English influence. Feisal had with him about 12,000 armed tribesmen and his small, slow-moving "regular army" of 600; yet in 1917 Feisal had been grandly appointed an Army Commander ( Allenby's own rank in France), though no British general under Allenby held that rank. While commanding very much larger numbers of regular soldiers, Bulfin, Chauvel and Chetwode ranked only as Corps Commanders. Everything was done to render Feisal independent of his father, Hussein; and it is easy to see why. If Feisal could be installed after the war as "native king" of Syria, in place of the French, he would play the same game of collaboration with the English that he did eventually in Irak. There is evidence that Allenby placed no real reliance on his "Army Commander" and the "Prince of Mecca" as a flank guard. As already recorded, when he believed that the enemy was about to bring Fakri and the Medina garrison back for service in the field, Allenby at once sent Colonel Wilson to persuade Ali and Abdulla to take action which would have pinned Fakri and his men to Medina. When that failed and Lawrence and Feisal showed that they either could not or would not effectively cut the Hejaz railway, Allenby sent Colonel Dawnay, who did the work so thoroughly that the railway remained derelict for many years. *
The political basis of the Foreign Office exaggeration of the "Arab effort" and of Lawrence of Arabia can be traced clearly at the Peace Conference. All readers of Lawrence's narrative will remember how he stresses continually that the Arab "victories" were obtained with very few casualties. If you believe him, the casualties of the whole Akaba expedition amounted only to "two killed and several wounded." 2 Yet at the Peace Conference, Feisal presented a statement (possibly written by Lawrence) which claimed that "the Arab
* For a succinct and objective account of Colonel Dawnay's operations, see Military Operations, Vol. 2, pp. 406-7.
army" had "lost heavily, some 20,000 men having been killed." 3 It would be interesting to see the casualty lists and to learn at what actions these losses were incurred. Later on, President Wilson (evidently believing the propaganda thrust on him) said in Allenby's presence that Feisal "from first to last had probably had 100,000 men," 4 and all Allenby said was that "he never had so many at one time"! Whereupon Wilson went on to say that "nevertheless, from first to last, France would have to count on having 100,000 troops against her." 5