10. T.E. Lawrence Survived Capture and Torture, to Escape and Lead His Guerrillas to Victory
The Turks captured T.E. Lawrence in November 1917, while the adventurous archaeologist, disguised in Arab garb, was spying out one of their positions. His captors flogged, tortured, and sodomized him before he managed to escape. The experience left physical scars, as well as psychological wounds that never healed. It did not stop Lawrence from returning to the revolt, however. With his assistance, the Arab forces discomfited the Turks, tied down a significant part of their military strength behind the lines in security operations, and helped bring about final Turkish defeat. However, the victorious Entente betrayed the Arabs, and reneged on their promises to grant them independence.
Instead, Britain and France divided up most of the Middle East amongst themselves. Disillusioned, Lawrence returned to Britain, where he lobbied in vain for Arab independence. He also wrote his memoirs, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. They flew off the bookshelves, became international bestsellers, and transformed an already famous Lawrence into a bona fide legend. He tried to escape the public glare by enlisting under an assumed name as an ordinary airman in the Royal Air Force, and then as a private soldier in the British Army, from 1922 to 1935. He left the service in 1935, planning an early retirement to his dream home, only to die soon thereafter in a motorcycle accident.