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Lawrence of Arabia

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Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British archaeology scholar, military strategist and author best known for his legendary war activities in the Middle East during World War I, and for his memoir about them, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom." During the conflict, he helped lead Arab guerrillas fighting Turkish forces allied with the Germans.

Lawrence was wounded many times, captured, and tortured. He endured hunger, the extremes of desert life, and disease.

Disappointed with his country's strategies in the Middle East, he turned down honors and was demobilized in 1919.

Lawrence tried to disappear from public view, enlisting in the Royal Air Force and the Royal Tank Corp. as low ranking servicemen under assumed names -- John Hume Ross and T.E. Shaw -- to escape his growing fame.

The newly-released secret government raise more questions about his private life.

They described payments he made to a woman in Newark, England, in the mid-1920s while Lawrence was serving as Shaw.

Two-thirds of his meager salary was paid to a Miss Ruby Bryant. The payments, from September 1925 to November 1926, occurred while Lawrence was serving at a nearby British military base. Miss Bryant has never been mentioned in any of Lawrence's biographies, and his relationship with her and the reason for the payments are not known.

Some biographers have argued that Lawrence was homosexual, a claim which has been fiercely disputed.

Whatever their relationship, Miss Bryant knew Lawrence's real name, according to a letter she wrote him then and contained in the files.

To add to the intrigue, the day he canceled the payments to Miss Bryant, Lawrence ordered a new set of payments to another mystery character, W.J. Ross of London. They continued for another year until Ross told the Air Ministry they were no longer required.

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