Lawrence of Arabia’s dagger goes to National Army Museum


With the help of more than £100,000 in grants, The National Army Museum has secured the dagger, Arab robes and a keffiyah (headdress) that previously belonged to TE Lawrence. The archaeologist, author and diplomat, who wore these items during his time as a liaison officer in the Arab revolt, was considered one of the most recognisable figures of the war, earning the nickname Lawrence of Arabia.


T. E. Lawrence (b/w photo) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images

Lawrence spent several years working in Syria and Egypt leading up to World War One. As he had great sympathy for the Arabs under the Ottoman Empire, when the Arab revolt began in 1916, Lawrence became liaison officer and adviser to Feisal, son of the revolt’s leader Sherif Hussein of Mecca. He was a highly skilled strategist and wanted to help the Arabs eventually become self-governed.

In June 1917, the Arab forces won their first major victory at Aqaba, Jordan. After this victory against the Turks, Lawrence was presented with the dagger by Sherif Nasir.

The dagger had been sold to an overseas buyer last year, but an export licence bar was made in the hope that with funding it could remain in the UK.

dagger_t-e_lawrence_sherif_nasir_1917 dagger_case_t-e_lawrence_sherif_nasir_1917
Dagger formerly belonging to T E Lawrence, presented by Sherif Nasir in 1917 (steel & silver-gilt) / National Army Museum, London / Bridgeman Images Dagger formerly belonging to T E Lawrence, presented by Sherif Nasir in 1917 (steel & silver-gilt) / National Army Museum, London / Bridgeman Images

Wearing the robe and keffiyah (instead of a traditional British uniform) showed great respect for the Arabs, thus allowing Lawrence to fully integrate into his new surroundings. Lawrence once said of the robes:

If you can wear Arab kit when with the tribes, you will acquire their trust and intimacy to a degree impossible in uniform.

The keffiyah was eventually given to the artist Cosmo Clark, an illustrator on Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom.


Arab robes and a headdress, known as a keffiyah, belonging to T E Lawrence (silk) / National Army Museum, London / Bridgeman Images

By the end of the war, Lawrence became something of a celebrity. In 1919, Lowell Thomas, a well-known American journalist, created a short film called With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia, thus making Lawrence a household name. The same year, Lawrence sat for a portrait from Britain’s leading portrait artist, Augustus Edwin John.


Portrait of T.E. Lawrence (oil on canvas), John, Augustus Edwin (1878-1961) (after) / © The Sullivan Collection / Bridgeman Images

The dagger, robe and keffiyah will go on display when the National Army Museum reopens next year.

Find out more

We represent the Augustus Edwin John for copyright administration and image licensing through Bridgeman Copyright, our service for artists and estates.

See more Augustus Edwin John images in the Bridgeman archive.

All images in this article are sourced from Contact the Bridgeman sales team ( for more information regarding licensing, reproduction and copyright issues.

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