Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Lawrence of Arabia in Waziristan

The Jandola Mess acquired a reputation for hospitality and served numerous guests. Among the earliest in 1924, were a party of VIPs including Arlfred Mond, Chairman of ICI and Lord Incheape, Chairman of the P and o Line, touring India, during the cold weather. Another early visitor to Jandola was, Lawrence of Arabia. He visited the area in 1928 in the guise of an Aircraftsmans Show; benighted there by a broken down truck and accommodated in Officer’s Mess. He kept them enthralled by tales (some, perhaps, almost true) of far Arabia and left them a volume which is still treasured by the South Waziristan Scouts officers. “This book, he inscribed on the flyleaf , was written by me, but its sordid type and squalid blocks are the responsibility of the publisher. It is, however, the last copy in print of Revolt in the Desert, and I have much pleasure in presenting it to the officers of the South Waziristan Scouts in memory of a very interesting day and night with them”. This book today is lying in the South Waziristan Scouts Officer’s Mess, Wana.

Gilbert C. G. Lewis, a soldier in the Indian Army, remarked in a letter in 1928:
‘…You know Colonel Lawrence, the one who made such a name for himself in Arabia during the war? He is, at present with the R.A.F. at Miranshah – the people we play hockey with at Idak – as an office clerk! You had probably heard that he had joined the R.A.F. as a private in order to escape publicity. I tried to persuade them to bring him down with their team next time they come, but apparently he doesn’t take much interest in games! One would have thought that he could have found many better ways of avoiding publicity, as the life of a private must be rather irksome to one who always [has] done more or less as he pleased. They say he spends most of his spare time learning to type-write! …’

Lawrence was apparently taking a two year break in India to write his book The Mint. Enlisted as a lowly aircraftman under the name T. E. Shaw, he corresponded with Charlotte Shaw, wife of George Bernard, on anything from literature to politics. A few small photographs of him were enclosed in one of his letters.

1- Having spent eight months flying and driving over the North-West frontier, Lawrence of Arabia had come to the conclusion that air control was applicable to Waziristan not to the Mohmand country, and becoming less and less effective as you approach to Peshawar. He went on to say that although a strong supporter of "Air" he would have reservations over North West Frontier Province - "I would take over bits, evacuating Razmak tomorrow." (Lawrence of Arabia By B. H. Liddell Hart page -357)

2- A note in T.E Lawrence's hand thanking the South waziristan scouts for their hospitality is enshrined in a glass box in the Wana mess library.

3- Lawrence about Miranshah, "Round us....are low bare porcelain-coloured hills, with....a broken-bottle skyline....the quietness is so intense that i rub my ears, wondering if i am going deaf". (T.E. Lawrence: Biography of a Broken Hero By Harold Orlans page-83)

4-There were rumours that Lawrence was active in Afghanistan, a self-appointed agent provocateur. ‘Clad in the most picturesque Oriental garb, silken Kerchiefs of diverse hue tied round his head, with long “Jhubba” of silk with designs of different colours and a “lungi” of the same material…’, he was ‘intimate with the tribes and began subsequently to distribute among the tribes money and arms and provoked them against (King) Amanullah’.

Daily Herald, January 5th, 1929.
Lawrence of Arabia
Arrest ordered by Afghan authorities
Startling report

A sensational message reached london last night from Allahabad, stating that Afghan authorities have ordered the arrest of colonel lawrence, known widely as lawrence of arabia, on the ground that he is believed to be assisting rebels to cross the frontier. They describe colonel lawrence, says the B.U.P, as the arch-spy of the world....for some time his movements as chronicled have been mysterious, and a few months ago it was stated that he was in Afghanistan on a secret mission, though earlier in the same week it had been reported that he was in Amritsar, posing as Mohammedan saint.
(Imperial Secrets: Remapping the Mind of EmpireBy Patrick A. Kelley page -123)

Lawrence was sent back to England by order of the Foreign Office in early 1929, just a few days after King Amanullah was overthrown by the rebels.

T E Lawrence as Aircraftman T E Shaw on the aerodrome at Miranshah Fort in Waziristan, India (on the North West Frontier) during his service in the Royal Air Force. Lawrence was employed as a clerk in the wireless station at Miranshah. He is seen nursing his wrist which he had broken at RAF Cranwell in 1926. Lawrence wrote that the wrist "hurt for so long that nursing it became a habit".


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