January 1, 1970

Churchill enjoyed a strong friendship with T. E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, and was left devastated by his death in 1935. Dr. Warren Dockter offers seven interesting facts about their relationship:

1. Churchill wrote on T E Lawrence in his book Great Contemporaries (1937).

2. They first met at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

3. T E Lawrence briefly discusses Churchill and the solution of Middle East in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922): ‘Mr. Winston Churchill […] was entrusted […] with the settlement of the Middle East; and in a few weeks, at his conference in Cairo, he made straight all the tangle, finding solutions fulfilling (I think) our promises in letter and spirit.’ Churchill, however, did also recognise the limits of Lawrence’s work. He confided in his old age to Anthony Montague Browne that, while Seven Pillars of Wisdom was ‘a remarkable work’, Lawrence was a ‘stylist’ and Seven Pillars could not be read as factual history.

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4. After restructuring the Middle East, Lawrence and Churchill saw less of one another. However, they still shared their thoughts and literary accomplishments. Churchill shared his account of the First World War, The World Crisis, with Lawrence, who thought it was a masterpiece and praised Churchill as a writer and a historian. Similarly, Churchill was in awe of Lawrence’s writing, stating his account of the Great Arab revolt in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, ‘ranks alongside the greatest books ever written in the English language.’

5. After the Cairo Conference, Churchill arranged for T.E. Lawrence to meet his old friend, another Arabist, Wilfrid S. Blunt in December 1921 before Blunt’s death the next year. [See Char 2/118/image 117-119 in the Churchill Archive.] Lawrence and Churchill had both been influenced by Blunt regarding their views of the Middle East. After the meeting Lawrence told Cunninghame Graham that Blunt was ‘a Prophet.’

6. Churchill encouraged Lawrence to visit him at Chartwell, and he often helped him lay bricks on his massive wall in the garden. Characteristically, Lawrence ‘never announced his arrival’ and he had the ability to steal the conversation even from Churchill. Sarah Churchill remembered that everyone – even her father – would be quiet and ‘listen in pin drop silence to what [Lawrence] had to say.’

7. When Lawrence died in a motor crash in 1935, Churchill was deeply saddened and gave a eulogy at the unveiling of the Lawrence Memorial at Oxford High School, which he played a part in raising money for. Later in his life, Churchill would often recall his and Lawrence’s time together. In 1946, when questioned about the Middle East in the House of Commons, Churchill revealed how Lawrence had presented him with him a copy of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom in which he had inscribed that Churchill ‘had made a happy end to the show.’

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