Lawrence of Arabia
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T.E. Lawrence
  Lawrence of Arabia was a celebrity during his life time, but there are many things about him that remain less well-known.

Here's the top 10 lesser-known Lawrence-isms...

  1. T.E. Lawrence was only 5'5" tall. Though robust, lively and intelligent his height was possibly stunted by a dose of mumps in childhood. At that time, the average height for men was 5'9". Lawrence's head looked too big for his body. He was very conscious of his stature, and from an early age set out to strengthen himself by cycling everywhere.

  2. An unsettled childhood undoubtedly contributed to Lawrence's passion for travel and adventure. His parents never stayed in one place for long - none of the five Lawrence boys were born in the same country: Robert in Ireland, T.E. in Wales, William in Scotland, Frank in Jersey, off England, and Arnold in Britain. In particular, the years he spent in France as a small boy broadened his mind to the outside world, exposing him to another language, people and culture, perhaps why he never developed the insular attitudes prevalent at the time.

  3. Lawrence was a staunch vegetarian. In France in 1906 he was pleased to see one morning that "nothing had to be killed to feed us", though he was warned by his French host family that "vegetarians fill an early grave" and was pressured to eat meat. His clean-living life-style included complete abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.

  4. Lawrence left an unusual legacy when he designed a set of stamps for the Grand Sharif of Mecca. After launching the Arab Revolt in June 1916 Sharif Hussein wanted an independent Arab postal service to help provide him legitimacy. In Egypt Lawrence spent many hours wandering the corridors of the Cairo Museum searching for suitable arabesque designs, before drafting and printing the stamps in defiance of the Turkish authorities in Constantinople.

  5. What's in a name? To Lawrence, it seemed, not a lot. During his childhood the illegitimate Thomas Edward grew up under the assumed family name of Lawrence and was known as Ned by his brothers, though he often referred to himself as T.E. After World War I, to escape his celebrity, Lawrence joined the ranks of the Royal Air Force under the assumed name John Hume Ross. He was found out and then enlisted in the Tank Corps as Thomas Edward Shaw, a name that remained with him when he transferred back into the R.A.F. and up until the day he died. His only return to the name Lawrence was to publish his seminal work The Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1926.

  6. Lawrence loved exploring the Middle East. He once walked 1100 miles in three months across mountains and deserts in order to get an insight into Arab life. On his first trip to Syria as a student, Lawrence was beaten so badly he nearly died. He never told his mother.

  7. Lawrence was a scruffy officer. His army superior, Ronald Storrs, remembered Lawrence had - and deserved - the title of the 'untidiest officer in the British Army'. His uniform was never put on quite right; his Sam Browne belt was as often as not buckled loose over his unbuttoned shoulder strap, or he'd forget to put it on at all. He also had an instant disrespect for army officers, his general lack of respect for authority being a theme running through his life.

  8. Much of Lawrence's early life was spent preparing himself for later adventures. In his teens he cycled across France; as a university student he endured intense heat and illness and a mugging while he walked across Syria; he pushed his intellectual powers working through the night as a school boy; he tested his short but sturdy frame cycling up hills and walking down them; he tested his stamina by depriving himself of food and water for long periods.

  9. Lawrence was unknown in his native Britain during World War I. It was not until Lowell Thomas brought his slide and lantern show to London in 1919 that the British liaison officer to the Arabs became a celebrity. The British Army made efforts to suppress his image during the war to protect him. Although the Turks had put a bounty on his head they didn't know what he looked like. Protecting his image may have saved his life in De'ra where he was captured but not recognised by Turkish soldiers.

  10. All his life Lawrence felt a need for speed. He had a motor engine sent over to him at Carchemish which he fitted to a local boat and raced with his friend Dahoum. Lawrence was delighted when he swapped his camels for Rolls Royce Armoured cars that were capable of 60 mph over the desert flats. In the Royal Air Force he was never happier than when he was working on fast motor launches in Plymouth. And he loved racing his motor bike. On the day he suffered his fatal accident, police estimated his motor bike was travelling at its absolute limit, just short of 100 mph.
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T.E.Lawrence | Prince Feisal | General Allenby | King Hussein | Dahoum | Winston Churchill | Lowell Thomas | Auda Abu Tayeh

Lawrence was not tall
  Lawrence was only 5'5" tall  

Lawrence of Arabia