5 June 1917

“Can’t stand another day here. Will ride N. and chuck it.”

(From Lawrence’s pocket diary, British Library, Add MS 45983 A.)

Meanwhile, in a cryptic message in his field notebook – later heavily crossed out – he wrote:

“Clayton. I’ve decided to go off alone to Damascus, hoping to get killed on the way: for all sakes try and clear this show up before it goes further. We are calling them to fight for us on a lie, and I can’t stand it.”

(From Lawrence’s notebook, undated but c. 5 June 1917, British
Library, Add MS 45915.)

Two days before, the party had arrived at Nebk, appointed as the rallying place for the Arab army which was to advance on Akaba. Here, Nasir and Auda would pause while continuing to enrol the
local tribes to their cause. But here also, the feelings of guilt and shame over the duplicitous role Lawrence felt he had been playing came to a head.

So he embarked on a journey that would take him north through dangerous country into Syria.

“I felt that one more sight of Syria would put straight the strategic ideas given me by the Crusaders and the first Arab conquest, and adjust them to the two new factors — the railways, and Murray in Sinai.

“Also a rash adventure suited my abandoned mood. It should have been happiness, this lying out free as air, with the visible life striving its utmost along my own path; but the knowledge of the axe I was secretly grinding destroyed all my assurance …

“… So in resentment at my false place (did ever second lieutenant so lie abroad for his betters?) I undertook this long, dangerous ride, in which to see the more important of Feisal’s secret friends, and to study key-positions of our future campaigns: but the results were incommensurate with the risks, and the act artistically unjustifiable, like the motive. I had whispered to myself ‘Let me chance it, now, before we begin’, seeing truly that this was the last chance, and that after a successful capture of Akaba I would never again possess myself freely, without association, in the security lurking for the obscure in their protective shadow.”

Events of 5 June 1917 as recounted by T. E. Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926).

Accompanied by just two men, he rode north from Nebk.