27 December 1916

“The situation is so interesting that I think I will fail to come back. I want to rub off my British habits & go off with Feisul for a bit. Amusing job, and all new country. When I have someone to take over here from me I’ll go off.”

T. E. Lawrence to Major Kinahan Cornwallis (Lawrence of Arabia, The Selected Letters, edited by Malcolm Brown, published by Little Books, 2005).

Lawrence’s return to Yenbo in mid-December came as a new crisis arose.

Though aerial reconnaissance had confirmed the Turks’ retreat from Yenbo, fears now arose that they might be moving towards Rabegh. Hoping to trap them in a pincer movement in the hills, Feisal took his army inland, while wiring his brother Ali to advance out of Rabegh. But Ali’s troops took fright and retreated, forcing Feisal to fall back again on Nakhl Mubarak.

On 27 December, Lawrence and Feisal met Colonel Wilson on the deck of the Dufferin, moored at Yenbo, to discuss new plans.

Sights were beginning to move 200 miles north, to a new position that would give Feisal easier access to the Hejaz Railway, while hopefully drawing Turkish attention away from Rabegh … Wejh.

A month earlier, Lawrence had resisted taking on the temporary role of liaison officer to Feisal. His letter written this day to Major Cornwallis of the Arab Bureau shows that now he seemed to be enjoying himself in the Hejaz.