Charles Blackmore’s interest in T E Lawrence began at school when editing his own grandfather’s diaries and photographs as a soldier in Palestine and Arabia in the First World War. Like Lawrence, Blackmore studied Archaeology at university and served in the Army. His other expeditions include a 500 mile march retracing the route of the British Army’s 1808 retreat to Corunna in Spain, and a 1,000 mile camel expedition in the Taklamakan Desert in China leading the first ever crossing from west to east of the infamous ‘Desert of Death’. After 14 years service in the Royal Green Jackets and 6th Gurkha Rifles, Blackmore became an investment banker specialising in corporate finance in emerging markets. He now heads a business intelligence, investigations and corporate security company. He lives in Hampshire with his wife and three sons.
In February 1985, fifty years after T. E. Lawrence was killed in a motor bicycle accident in Dorset, Captain Charles Blackmore and three others of the Royal Green Jackets Regiment set out to retrace Lawrence’s exploits in the Arab Revolt during the First World War.
Using Lawrence’s classic account, “Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” as their guide, the members of this expedition spent twenty-nine days with meagre supplies and under extreme conditions, riding and walking to the source of the Lawrence legend. What the young men discovered about Lawrence and the legend was matched only by what they discovered about themselves.
Blackmore insisted on living as Lawrence did: as a true Bedouin. But it did not take long for the romantic images to vanish. Extreme heat, cold, virtually no food and little water, an inability to communicate with the Arabs and a growing realisation of their lack of preparation, all combined to turn their thoughts and fears to conspiracy.
The author bases his account on a diary he kept of the expedition. As we explore and sometimes test the legend of “Lawrence of Arabia,” we begin to understand that this was a commemorative venture in the best sense: in modern Jordan it is unlikely ever to be repeated.
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