19.05.

1935: Lawrence of Arabia Dies after Motorcycle Accident

1935: Lawrence of Arabia Dies after Motorcycle Accident
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Lawrence of Arabia on his Brough Superior

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 19 May 1935
  • His death did not remain completely futile. In fact, one neurosurgeon studied his fall and initiated the action that led to the mandatory use of helmets when riding motorcycles.

Famed explorer and soldier TE Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, died on this day after a tragic accident.

It is not widely known that the hero of the Arab resistance against the Turks was 165 centimeters tall, but he seemed shorter because of his relatively large head. A funny thing is that, in the acclaimed film from 1962, Lawrence was portrayed by Peter O’Toole, who is nearly 23 centimeters taller.

It is interesting that Lawrence studied history at Oxford University with excellent grades. He became an archaeologist in the Middle East, and when World War I started, the British recruited him into the intelligence service of the Middle East headquarters of the British army because of his language skills and knowledge of the region. Lawrence helped the Arabs organize an uprising against the Ottoman Empire, which at that time ruled the Middle East. He was promoted to the high rank of lieutenant colonel.

After the war, he worked a variety of jobs. He was, for a while, the adviser to Winston Churchill in the Colonial Office, but was still eager for adventure. So he enrolled in the Royal Air Force (RAF) under a false name and began his career at the bottom, with the lowest rank. When discovered, he was kicked out, so he used another false name and joined the Royal Tank Corps. Eventually, he was readmitted in the RAF, where he happily spent 10 years, testing high-speed boats. He was reluctant to leave at the end of his enlistment.

Privately, Lawrence loved to ride motorcycles. Only two months after the end of his military service, he rode his Brough Superior SS100 (the “Rolls Royce among motorcycles”) motorcycle on a road in southern England. He suddenly saw two boys on bicycles and tried to avoid them. He lost control of his motorcycle and was thrown over the handlebars.

Five days after the fall, Lawrence died in hospital, precisely on this day in 1935. His death did not remain completely futile. In fact, one neurosurgeon studied his fall and initiated the action that led to the mandatory use of helmets when riding motorcycles.

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