Lawrence of Ara­bia’s robe & dag­ger

These iconic items be­longed to the com­plex sol­dier and writer whose re­mark­able role dur­ing the Arab Re­volt earned him in­ter­na­tional fame

History of War - - CONTENTS -

Per­sonal ef­fects of the WWI icon

T.E. Lawrence was one of the most le­gendary fig­ures to emerge from World War I. An Ox­ford-ed­u­cated ar­chae­ol­o­gist, Lawrence was also a Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in the Mid­dle East who as­sisted the Arab Re­volt against the Ot­toman Em­pire. Be­tween 1916-18 Lawrence played a re­mark­able role unit­ing

Arab tribes un­der Emir Faisal of Mecca be­fore co­or­di­nat­ing wide­spread guer­rilla at­tacks with Bri­tish as­sis­tance.

Un­usu­ally for World War I, Lawrence’s desert cam­paign was highly mobile and largely con­sisted of sab­o­tage mis­sions against the Ot­toman He­jaz Rail­way. Lawrence also fought with the Arab North­ern Army, and his ef­forts cul­mi­nated in the cap­ture of Da­m­as­cus on 1 Oc­to­ber 1918.

Lawrence achieved much of his suc­cess by will­ingly adopt­ing the cul­tural habits of his Arab al­lies. This in­cluded liv­ing among them, speak­ing their lan­guage and – most fa­mously – adopt­ing their dress. The pic­tured robe was worn by Lawrence from 1916 and is sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance to the clothes that Emir Faisal wore. The ef­fect would trans­form the Bri­tish of­fi­cer into an Arab com­man­der, or as Lawrence him­self de­scribed, “If I wore Mec­can clothes, they [the Arabs] would be­have to me as though I were re­ally one of their lead­ers; and I might slip in and out of Faisal’s tent with­out mak­ing a sen­sa­tion.”

Also in­te­gral to Lawrence’s ap­pear­ance was a dis­tinc­tive jam­biya dag­ger, which was a cus­tom­ary weapon for Arab men to wear. How­ever, this par­tic­u­lar sil­ver and steel dag­ger is unique to the leg­end of Lawrence. On 6 July 1917, Arab forces led by Sherif Nasir and Auda Abu Tayi won a fa­mous vic­tory at the Bat­tle of Aqaba fol­low­ing Lawrence’s ad­vice. Nasir sub­se­quently pre­sented Lawrence with this dag­ger as a re­ward.


Lawrence gifted his robes to an army friend called Arthur Rus­sell in the 1920s, but Rus­sell sub­se­quently had to prevent his mother from mak­ing dresses out of them Above: Lawrence later posed with his jam­biya dag­ger and robes for pub­lic­ity pho­to­graphs, sculp­tures and paint­ings, which en­hanced his le­gendary sta­tus T.E. Lawrence mounted on a camel at the scene of his fa­mously de­vised vic­tory at Aqaba, July 1917

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