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The National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services presents window on the world a tape recorded series of talks by eminent British citizens. This week our speaker is mess Flora Armitage author of a recent biography of T.E. Lawrence. Our subject Lawrence of Arabia the legend and the man. Here now is Miss Flora Armitage. It's a curious and perhaps a characteristic paradox that the British who are not a militaristic people tend to the unit as it is defined their military specialists men needed for a special job in wartime in World War Two upright young Oxford professor of history their deputy beacon turned man of action and parachuted into Yugoslavia to join Marshal Tito and his partner in France 12 war. It was t e Lawrence also of Oxford University who was the outstanding example of the scholar and adventurer and it is a back Laurence that I should like to talk to now.
The name by which he is most familiar. Lawrence of Arabia conjures up for most of us the picture of a strong featured men in dazzling white Bedouin robes matted on a pedigreed camel and surrounded by a horde of wild tribesmen. This is a romantic picture and it is only a part of the her picture before there ever was such a person as Lawrence of Arabia. There was a fair haired blue eyed energetic boy called Thomas Edward Lawrence one of the brothers who lived in Oxford. Went to school there which incidentally he did not like and raced around the city and its environs on his bicycle. He also collected things bits of pottery and old slates which the Oxford workman making way for new buildings had on a floor it is true you cannot dig very deeply into English without turning up some remnants of an older bird room and it was this Hobbit which eventually turned him from mathematics to history and from history to archaeology. The racing bicycle took him all over
England and over a large part of France studying medieval architecture. Then in 1909 when he was 21 and a student at Oxford University he crossed the Mediterranean from Mass A to take a look at the Crusade apostles of the Middle East. So he came for the first time to the Middle East which was to add such a lost and legend to his name and which in a sense was needed to destroy him. Not long ago when a friend of mine announced that he was going out to the Middle East a skeptical acquaintance asked him east of OUAT middle of OUAT. This is not so foolish a question as historians and statesmen and business men all have their own ideas of what constitutes the Middle East or if you like the Near East which is a name only a little less but generally it includes the Arabian Peninsula. The area north of it known as the Fertile Crescent and Egypt and this may be extended to include Libya to the west Iran to the east and the anger of
Sudan to the south. In Laurence's you Arabia Syria Lebanon and what was then Mesopotamia and Palestine were all part of the Ottoman Empire. And the eastern Mediterranean area was usually referred to as a live rock. Lawrence arrived in the Levant in the heat of July and against the best advice of such notable Arabian travelers as Charles. He toured Syria Palestine Lebanon and what is now the Kingdom of Jordan mostly on foot and alone with only a permit from the constant never thought and a no pistol for his protection. It was the beginning of his Eastern adventures. By 1911 he was back again in Syria as a young field talkie ologist helping to excavate the Hittite city of copy. Document was for Lawrence the best of all his adventures in east and west and the happiest period of his eventful life. The Middle East was still in that Iraq
the wild and unpredictable place and life there was accordingly wild and unpredictable. Lawrence enjoyed it he was a campus doctor and photographer and to borrow a picturesque American oilfield phrase its expert troubleshooter as contented and enthusiastic and he had learned from working with him how to get the best out of them. Between the digging seasons he wandered about Syria less than in the Lebanon with two hicks from the excavation harvesting in the fields running camels for hire or simply sailing up and down the Euphrates for the fun of it. He wore clothes then and mingled unobtrusively with the local people. And far from being scholarly and dignified he seemed a very boyish looking young man. The First World War brought an end to all this for the adventure and exploration. And at the age of 25 Lawrence found himself one of a small band of experts.
Engaged on intelligence work. In city or prior to 1914 he had come out of an army and secret societies who were pledged to win their freedom from the Ottoman Empire. The Arab independence movement had much to American ideas and inspiration. Thanks to the Near East schools and colleges established by American missionaries in the late 19th century and it is no exaggeration to say that Arab nationalism is not yet on the campus of the American College of Beirut. When he came to write the great book of his war adventures Lawrence was to make an astonishing play I had a dream at the city school in Oxford and hustling him to form a new idea. Which time was an extra bringing upon us. I never was to Damascus Damascus. And afterwards to back and there was your. Friend.
These were the scientists are able to call my beginning and. Fantasy as they do seem to many. But he was to get as far as Damascus with his Arabs and perhaps only the ending of the campaign in Palestine prevented the realisation of the other or dangerous dreams of a most audacious schoolboy. Certainly Lawrence knew the American College of Beirut and it seems likely that his dream of giving the Arabs their freedom grew after these contacts as well as from his own youthful enthusiasm for the Arab cause. It was British support in the first world war however which made the Arabic for freedom possible. By October 1916 four months after the Arabs of jazz in Arabia had rebelled against that Ottoman rule. Lawrence was in Arabia as British liaison office at attached to Prince Feisal. The second of four sons of the US. They had jets on the western
side of the arabian land which is the most revered spot in all of Arabia for it contains the holy cities of Mecca and Medina which are sacred to Muslims all over the world. They're in a Arabia Lawrence about type particularly suited to the desert and to the best irregular forces under his command. His contribution was a diversionary action fort on the flank. Of the main British forces engaged in Palestine under Gen. Allen and it was effective. But he evolved through his own election which was the plague him for the rest of his days. His exploits in adventures in Arabia from October 1916 to October 1918. Lawrence was described in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom not an easy to read but a most memorable one. We see him as a man tortured by conscience as a laughing mischievously. They and me are dynamite. They call him rather like a boy leading other boys. Through heat in the glittering wastes of Rabia. The vision grows on an epic
scale and at its center is a small slim romantic figure and white and scarlet and gold bearing ruthless compassion at all and. Sometimes exultant. Sometimes despairing. And the scarlet demolition expert and blew up the rails and rolling stock of the jazz railway to prevent supplies from reaching the Turkish armies in Palestine. I went up with high explosives and a machine gun to her mind to the south of the station. Mohammed al-Qahtani guided us to a deserted village of Lyon just before midnight. I dismounted and fingered his thrilling rails for the first time during the war. Then in an hour's busywork we leave the mine which was a trigger action to fire 20 pounds of blasting Jaric night when the weight of the locomotive overhead deflected the metal. That was the first demolition. Before the end of the campaign he had over 80
demolitions against Graham bridges to his credit. To this day the hit jazz railway bears the marks of his raids. It was an American journalist Lowell Thomas who brought the Lawrence legend to life and made it familiar to thousands of people on both sides of the Atlantic. By 1920 Lawrence of Arabia was a public figure. The most romantic figure to come out of the war. And the fact that he was shy and elusive. There are no by no means a sharp and elusive as many people thought made him the more fascinating after the war and the peace conference. Lawrence we thought for a while into a fellowship but also College Oxford and the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. And in 1921 he came out of retirement again to become Winston. Then Mr. Churchill's advisor on Arab affairs at the Colonial Office. After the conferences of nine thousand twenty one and nine thousand twenty two in which Lawrence participated. The mandate system payment being and Lawrence put himself on record as being
satisfied that Britain had fulfilled her promises to the Arabs. Lawrence's Eastern adventures were over. In August 1922 he presented himself as a recruit at a London are you have Station. Or political and professional doors were open to him. All the honors that his country could give him where his for the taking and he rejected them. There are many people who find this rejecting and his enlistment in the levers ranks of the Royal Air Force. The most puzzling of all his actions but there he acted out of a complex of motives the underlying reasons were quite simple. He was enthusiastic about the conquest of the air and he was very tired. He wanted a rest from responsibility and authority. At Oxbridge where he trained I was automatically as a recruit and wrote his second book The Mint. He found a picture of himself in the canteen hanging next to that of Admiral Lord Beatty. When no one was looking down the wall and tossed it into the fire.
His life in the Air Force would not have been by contrast with water gone before it was over it was almost per se but it gave him great satisfaction. People who met him now for the past could scarcely believe that the small airman and his neat blue uniform was the hero of the arabian venture that is until they had talked to him and had been made aware of his incredible Will and resourcefulness. In these last years he was concerned her live with the development of high speed motor boats which were used for target tearing and sea rescue operation. It was his last contribution to this country man and it was a great one. Out of his pioneering work with boats and engines came the board of the Royal Air Force Air Sea Rescue Service. Which saved the lives of many of the. Pilot. So he's Clark drew to a close in. The dramatic. After years of relative quiet in obscurity. He was thrown from his motorcycle on a country road when he swerved to avoid hitting two boys on
bicycles. He was never really an OB security of course and never really seems to be Colonel Lawrence of Arabia. Even after his name was legally trained to cross. The summit is only as Colonel Lawrence of Arabia that his life has significance. But there is more to him than the Arabian adventure. So Ronald Storrs has described him as the artist man of action who could put a Rose Royce engine to pieces like an expert. And yet who did this with him or in his pocket and a taste for Beethoven string quartets. What is even more striking is that Lawrence who was born at the end of Queen Victoria's reign and was all his life an ardent medieval this was still a man so modern in temper and spirit that he century is only beginning to catch up with him. That is a description written by him for inclusion in a pot boiling novel. Two friends of humor than wrote have playing with Picric electric motors and adjustable blade cage and a beam antenna which would indicate to the pilot and sounds that now
the approach within 300 meters of anybody have more than atmospheric density. Radar in aircraft is now commonplace. And though this may not be prophecy it da show how modern he was. Take him as an edge and take him as an airman. He's fascination is the same and whether or not you believe in his legend the world issue under the richer for his having lived his 46 years. You've been listening to Miss Flora Armitage author of a recent biography of T.E. Lawrence speaking on Lawrence of Arabia. The legend and the math lesson next week when a window on the world will present day men that devolve WA director of the Sadler's Wells ballet this is going to tape recorded presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services. This is the end AB Radio Network.
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Window on the world
Flora Armitage
Producing Organization
British Information Services
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Flora Armitage, a biographer of T.E. Lawrence, gives a talk on Lawrence's life.
Series Description
A series of short talks by well-known British personalities on the subjects usually associated with them.
Broadcast Date
Talk Show
Radio programs--United States.
Media type
Producing Organization: British Information Services
Speaker: Armitage, Flora
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-30-31 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:35
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Chicago: “Window on the world; Flora Armitage,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Window on the world; Flora Armitage.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Window on the world; Flora Armitage. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from