5 Things You Didn't Know About Lawrence of Arabia

On May 19, 1935, T.E. Lawrence, also known as "Lawrence of Arabia," died in England from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash six days earlier. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about Lawrence of Arabia...

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The Real “Lawrence of Arabia” Was a Man of Short Stature While six-foot, three-inch Peter O’Toole cut a towering figure as the lead in the 1962 epic biopic “Lawrence of Arabia,” the real Lawrence was only five feet, five inches tall. Lawrence remained self-conscious about his height, which may have been caused by a childhood case of the mumps.

He Never Had Any Battlefield Training In 1914, the British military sent Lawrence on an archaeological expedition of the Sinai Peninsula and Negev Desert, a research trip that was actually a cover for a secret military survey of areas controlled by the Ottoman Turks. Once World War I began, Lawrence joined the British military as an intelligence officer in Cairo. In 1916, in spite of his nonexistent military training, he helped to lead battlefield expeditions and dangerous missions behind enemy lines during the two-year Arab Revolt against the Turks.

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Lawrence Re-enlisted After the War Using Fake Names After completing his diplomatic service under Churchill, Lawrence returned to the military in 1922 by enlisting in the Royal Air Force. But in an attempt to avoid the glare of celebrity, he did so under a pseudonym: John Hume Ross. Months later, the press revealed his secret, and he was discharged. Lawrence subsequently enlisted as a private in the Royal Tank Corps, but under the assumed name Thomas Edward Shaw, a nod to his friend, the famed Irish writer George Bernard Shaw. This is the name he used when he published a translation in English of Homer’s Odyssey. This is the name he used when he published an English translation of Homer’s Odyssey. 

He Refused Knighthood King George V summoned Lawrence to Buckingham Palace on October 30, 1918. Lawrence hoped that the private audience was to discuss borders for an independent Arabia, but instead the king wished to bestow a knighthood on his 30-year-old subject. Believing that the British government had betrayed the Arabs by reneging on a promise of independence, Lawrence told the befuddled monarch that he was refusing the honor before turning and walking out of the palace.

Lawrence Died in Motorcycle Accident Lawrence owned a number of Brough Superior motorcycles and was an avid motorcyclist. He was speeding along the English countryside on one of his bikes on May 13, 1935, when he swerved to avoid hitting several boys riding their bicycles. However, he clipped one of the bikes and was thrown forward over the handlebars. Lawrence never recovered from his massive brain injuries and died six days later at the age of 46.