A Questionable Role
After the war began, Lawrence entered the British Army as a second lieutenant, working on maps of the Middle East. His knowledge of Arabic and of the area won him a position in military intelligence and a quick transfer to Cairo, where the British forces that would take on the Ottoman Empire were headquartered. Lawrence — a scruffy officer, never particularly respectful of military hierarchies and procedures — began pressing his superiors to support Arab forces in their own nationalistic rebellion against the Turks. And he began lobbying to get closer to that rebellion.
T.E. Lawrence, now a captain, first met Prince Feisal in Arabia on October 23, 1916. Lawrence then formulated — or perhaps helped to formulate — the plan for an attack on Akaba by land, across the desert. He persuaded — or helped persuade— Feisal of its merits. The centrality of Lawrence’s role would later become the subject of controversy. In T.E. Lawrence: An Arab View, Suleiman Mousa insists, as an extreme example, that “the whole expedition was … planned with no reference to Lawrence, despite his post-war claims that he had been its leader and its inspiration.” Akaba certainly appeared to earn Lawrence the astonishment and respect of his British superiors. He was promoted to major and given a continuing role helping coordinate the Arab Revolt.
“This debate about Lawrence will go on for centuries. He was the sort of person around whom legends grow.”