Tuesday 25 December 2007 by Mal Booth. No comments
Exhibitions, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse, Our exhibition

 
AFC feature (2) AFC feature (2)
 
Stuart Reid’s “Handley Page reaches rendezvous with Lawrence of Arabia” Stuart Reid’s “Handley Page reaches rendezvous with Lawrence of Arabia”
Lawrence’s black robes Lawrence’s black robes

In terms of the links between Lawrence and Australians, this is one of the most fascinating parts of the exhibition. The Australian Flying Corps (AFC) had many pilots who had begun their service as members of the Light Horse, such as Captain Sir Ross Smith, who is shown in a portrait above by W.B. McInnes. The AFC provided air support to both Lawrence and the Light Horse. In the low showcase we see Ross Smith's decorations and logbook as well as a letter by another AFC officer, Stan Nunan, who describes Lawrence in heroic terms to his family in early 1918. Stuart Reid depicted the arrival of the huge Handley Page aircraft in September 1918, piloted by Ross Smith and was given the black silk robes (right) by Lawrence, which his widow later donated to the Memorial. They are displayed in this exhibition for the first time.

 
Reports - Mudawara attack & 27 Articles Reports - Mudawara attack & 27 Articles

Across the space from the AFC feature you see a small section called Triumph & Failure. This section features some original Lowell Thomas footage (shot by his photographer and cameraman Harry Chase) and a shot of Lawrence with his bodyguard. In the lower showcase (right above) you see two original manuscripts by Lawrence that we have borrowed from The National Archives in the UK. On the left is Lawrence's report of a September 1917 attack on the Mudawara railway station by Lawrence with an Arab force that was supplemented by two non-commissioned officers: the Australian Sergeant Charles Yells and the British Corporal Walter Brook. It is opened at the page featuring Lawrence's praise for the work of Yells and Brook in this attack. To its right you can see the first two pages of Lawrence's 'The Twenty Seven Articles'. This insightful series of observations on working with the Bedouin Arabs dates from August 1917 and was published soon after in the Arab Bulletin.

Megiddo to Damascus Megiddo to Damascus

The first image above shows the wall that features the time spent in the Jordan Valley by the Light Horse. It includes a malaria cases graph that shows the effectiveness of the measures the medical support staff took against malaria while the troops were stationed in the Jordan Valley and also the terrible toll malaria took once the Desert Mounted Corps moved so rapidly through Turkish held territory in September 1918. To its right is a very rare Hejaz flag (of the Arab Revolt) given to Brigadier General George Macarthur-Onslow, who commanded the 7th Light Horse Regiment, and then the 5th Light Horse Brigade in Palestine, by Maulud Muklus, a Mesopotamian cavalryman who commanded a Hashemite Regiment of Arab regulars. The second image (right above) shows two images of the final stages of the advance of the Desert Mounted Corps: above is the Turkish Amman garrison being guarded by elements of the ANZAC Mounted Division in the east; and below it an image showing members of the Australian Mounted Division advancing beside Turkish prisoners near Lejjun in the west.

Before we actually get to Damascus, there is a feature covering the surrender at Ziza (right above) and the action that cut off the Tirkish and German withdrawal to Beirut through Barada Gorge on 30 September 1918 (left above). These actions are covered in previous blog posts on both Ziza and Barada.

Chauvel, Lawrence & Feisal by James McBey (IWM) Chauvel, Lawrence & Feisal by James McBey (IWM)
Wreath taken by Lawrence from Saladin’s tomb in Damascus Wreath taken by Lawrence from Saladin’s tomb in Damascus
Turkish regimental standard and sword captured in Damascus Turkish regimental standard and sword captured in Damascus

Lawrence and the Light Horse come together at the fall of Damascus in October 1918. The large painting "Damascus Incident" by H. Septimus Power shows the 10th Light Horse Regiment's lead elements entering Damascus from Barada Gorge shortly after dawn on 1 October. The three portraits on loan from the IWM are by the British official war artist James McBey and depict Chauvel, Lawrence and Feisal at the end of the war. Lawrence removed the bronze wreath from Saladin's tomb in Damascus on 1 October 1918 and later gave it to the IWM. And the beautiful Turkish regimental standard and sword were captured by Major Thomas Daly of the 9th Light Horse Regiment near Damascus on 2 October 1918.

Return home (1) Return home (1)
Return home (2) Return home (2)

In the final section of the exhibition we deal with the peace settlement agreed in Paris in 1919 and also the Cairo conference of 1921. Lawrence's vision for the Middle East, which was not taken up, is shown in a 1919 map that is on loan from The National Archives (TNA) in the UK. Correspondence between Lawrence and then Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, also on loan from TNA is shown in the low showcase in the middle image above. The final image on the right covers the fate of Lawrence and the Light Horse post-war. The final object featured is a bust of Lawrence by Francis Derwent Wood on loan from the IWM.

Lawrence & the Light Horse Lawrence & the Light Horse

As you leave the exhibition you can see this large graphic image on the left wall heading back towards the stairs. I believe that these two images say a lot about both Lawrence and the Light Horse when they came together in Damascus. On the left we see Lawrence entering Damascus on 1 October 1918 in his Rolls Royce tender, courtesy of the Rolls Royce Heritage Trust, and on the right a fantastic image of exhausted Light Horsemen resting in front of their horses outside Damascus, probably taken less than 24 hours before on 30 September 1918, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum.

I have recorded an informal audio guide for the exhibition and we hope to upload that soon.