Behind the Lawrence Legend: The Forgotten Few Who Shaped the Arab Revolt

ISBN : 9780198802273

Philip Walker
320 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2018
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T. E. Lawrence became world-famous as 'Lawrence of Arabia', after helping Sherif Hussein of Mecca gain independence from Turkey during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18. His achievements, however, would have been impossible without the unsung efforts of a forgotten band of fellow officers and spies. This groundbreaking account by Philip Walker interweaves the compelling stories of Colonel Cyril Wilson and a colourful supporting cast with the narrative of Lawrence and the desert campaign. These men's lost tales provide a remarkable and fresh perspective on Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. While Lawrence and others blew up trains in the desert, Wilson and his men carried out their shadowy intelligence and diplomatic work. His deputies rooted out anti-British soldiers who were trying to sabotage the revolt. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Lionel Gray, a cipher officer, provided a gateway into unknown aspects of the revolt through his previously unpublished photographs and eyewitness writings. Wilson's crucial influence underpinned all these missions and steadied the revolt on a number of occasions when it could have collapsed. Without Wilson and his circle there would have been no 'Lawrence of Arabia'. Wilson's band mostly fell through the cracks of history into obscurity. "Behind the Lawrence Legend" reveals their vital impact and puts Lawrence's efforts into context, and helping to set the record straight for one of the most beguiling and iconic characters of the twentieth century.


List of Maps; A Note on the Text; Preface; 1 'Anything Could Happen in Such a Place'; 2 'A Town that Hung Heavy on the Soul'; 3 'A Vast Pan-Islamic Conspiracy'; 4 Sharing a Cabin With Lawrence; 5 Just Go On Sticking It; 6 Camels and Secrets; 7 Combat and Confusion; 8 Sabotage, Golf, and Betrayal; 9 Aqaba, the Arab Legion, and Jam Roly-Poly; 10 Hopes and Fears; 11 Great Escapes; 12 'Someone You Once Knew and a King'; 13 Blood Brother of the Bedouin; 14 Alarms and Excursions; 15 Aqaba Calling; 16 Fairy Godmothers to the Arab Revolt; 17 'Use Great Caution': The Curious Case of Agent Maurice; 18 Endgame; 19 Aftermath; Epilogue; Acknowledgements; Endnotes; Bibliography; Index

About the author: 

Philip Walker is an historian and a retired archaeologist who spent many years working for English Heritage. He has travelled in Libya, Palestine, Morocco, Xinjiang (the Muslim far west of China), and other parts of Central Asia. He lives in Cambridge and this is his first book.

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