Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia as he is more commonly known, stands as probably the most famous British warfighter of World War I.
While we could write a book about him, and many have, instead, we’re focusing on the Bedouins that Lawrence fought with.
If you haven’t seen the legendary movie Lawrence of Arabia then you should do yourself a favor and watch it. Not only does it give a reasonable overview of the conflict, but it’s also just an amazing movie by every standard.
To sum it up, during World War I the Ottoman Empire was large and powerful.
For a host of strategic reasons, the British in 1916 worked with Hussein bin Ali the Sharif of Mecca to stage the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans.
Hassein bin Ali was a leader among the Arab people. Following the revolt, he would be named King of Hejaz. He was also the 37th-generation direct descendant of Muhammad. Suffice to say, the man had clout.
Who exactly were the men of the Arab Revolt is a complex question. The Arab forces would at times number as low as a few hundred and at other times as many as 30,000.
This was at a time before an Arab nation-state existed. Many of the Arabs living in the middle-east were Bedouins — nomadic people living as individual tribes in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula.
The perfect force for guerilla warfare.
With a mix of horses and camels and armed with sub-standard but well-maintained equipment, the Bedouin forces conducted a 3-year long campaign against the Ottomans. They raided supply lines, destroyed train tracks, and assaulted Ottoman towns and encampments.
With the assistance of advisers like Lawrence, the Arabs were hugely successful and pioneers of guerilla tactics.
In one action late in the war, Arab forces along with Lawrence attacked the village of Tafileh. They inflected over 1,000 Ottoman casualties at the loss of only 40 Arabs.
At the onset of the revolt, the British and French governments promised to assist the Arabs in creating their own Arab nation-state after the war. A nation that both western governments would recognize.
In classic western fashion though — the British and French reneged on the deal.
However, even without the help and recognition of the west, the Arab revolt would unite the people of the peninsula. It would eventually lead to the formation of nearly every nation now in the middle-east.
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