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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to his family



Here I am, back in Wejh again, sitting in our funny house trying to write or think or work. I'm afraid there are too many interruptions for much success. Newcombe is here, and I hope things are going well. I got a letter from Arnie the other day pleading for more news of what the Sherifian forces are doing. Well you know, it is not my fault. They do a great deal, but some people - not themselves - seem to wish to keep the progress of the campaign a secret. As a matter of fact progress is difficult. The Arabs of the Hejaz are all for the Sherif, some keenly enough to volunteer, others less keen, but all well-wishers. Only, they are tribesmen, and as such are rebellious by instinct. They hate the Turks, but they don’t want to obey anyone’s orders, and in consequence they turn out only as a mob of snipers or guerilla-fighters. They are wonderfully active, quite intelligent, and do what they do do fairly well. They are however not fit to meet disciplined troops in the open, and it will be a long time before they are.

These details will give you a fair idea of the sort of campaign it is. There is a bunch of about 12,000 Turks in Medina and the neighbourhood, clinging to certain important water-supplies and roads South and West of Medina, and surrounded, on all sides except the Railway, by Arabs. The Turks are also holding the Hejaz Railway, which we now threaten from Tebuk downwards, but not as yet in any force. The Arabs proved incapable of taking Medina, held by its present garrison, and the Medina garrison proved unable to advance through the Arabs against Mecca. So now we have shifted part of our forces North to this place, and the struggle for the Railway will probably be the feature of this second phase of the Hejaz Campaign.

The Arab Movement is a curious thing. It is really very small and weak in its beginning, and anybody who had command of the sea could put an end to it in three or four days. It has however capacity for expansion - in the same degree - over a very wide area. It is as though you imagine a nation or agitation that may be very wide, but never very deep, since all the Arab countries are agricultural or pastoral, and all poor today, as a result of Turkish efforts in the past.

On the other hand the Arab Movement is shallow, not because the Arabs do not care, but because they are few - and in their smallness of number (which is imposed by their poverty of country) lies a good deal of their strength, for they are perhaps the most elusive enemy an army ever had, and inhabit one of the most trying countries in the world for civilised warfare. So that on the whole you may write me down a reasonable optimist. I hope that the show may go as we wish, and that the Turkish flag may disappear from Arabia. It is indiscreet only to ask what Arabia is. It has an East and a West and a South border - but where or what it is on the top no man knoweth. I fancy myself it is up to the Arabs to find out! Talk about Palestine or Syria or Mesopotamia is not opportune, when these three countries - with every chance - have made no effort towards freedom for themselves.

I wonder what the censor will make of this letter? It may contain news for him, but I'm afraid precious little to the enemy! However you never know what they will do, and there is a "Hush" policy over the Red Sea and Arabia which causes a good deal of amusement to the Arabs - and to us who are down here.

I hope to be able to send you some photographs of the Sherif and of Feisul and the rest of us shortly. Please wait in peace till then. Incidentally I’m to have no post towards you now for about ten days. Patience!


Source: HL 334-6
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 9 January 2006

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