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Remembered Today:

Te Lawrence / Michael Collins Meeting


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I hope this is on-topic. Could any colleagues shed light on this meeting between TE Lawrence and the Irish Republican leader Michael Collins? In his biography of Collins, Tim Pat Coogan gives a provisional date of December 1921, and suggests that Lawrence may have been invited to act as a training officer for the Irish Free State Army. He also suggests that Churchill eased Lawrence’s passage into the RAF in order to prevent such an appointment.

Jeremy Wilson doesn’t mention the meeting at all in his official biography of Lawrence.

I would be fascinated to hear of any other sources for this event. My head tells me it is probably an apocryphal event, but my heart would love to think otherwise!

Coogan suggests that the writer Maurice Hennesy is the source for the story, which was told to him by a journalist called Hannan Swaffer, a ‘friend of Lawrence’s’. (Swaffer isn’t mentioned in Wilson either). He also quotes an article in the Irish Historical Review of Spring 1985 that discusses the meeting. Does anyone have access to this article?

Tim Pat Coogan _Michael Collins London 1991 p.464 n.39-41

Jeremy Wilson _Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography London 1989

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Guest Pete Wood

TE Lawrence wrote a letter to the artist Eric Kennington on the 8.11.1921, from Amman, to say that he was due to arrive in London on 10.12.1921.

I hope this of help to you....?

I must admit I have never heard of any such meeting - and if you read enough of Lawrence's letters, with regards to his feelings on Ireland, I doubt this meeting took place. Remember also that shortly after the time in question TEL joined the RAF as 352087 Aircraftsman JH Ross.

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  • 3 years later...

This is a very old thread so I doubt anyone will pick this up. But you might be interested to know that Roger Casement, who was hung for High Treason in 1916 - part of which was trying to recruit POW held by the germans into an Irish Brigade to fight in Ireland. Casement, as the Irish republican "ambassador" to Germany also made a treaty with the German High Command to the effect that if his Irish Brigade were not to be used in Ireland they would instead, be used in Arabia in support of the Ottoman turkish army (who were already being assisted by German troops). It is ironic to speculate that Collins, if he joined with Casement, could well have been shot by Lawrence!


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  • 1 month later...

TE Lawrence wrote a letter to the artist Eric Kennington on the 8.11.1921, from Amman, to say that he was due to arrive in London on 10.12.1921.

This Thread is very interesting. Surely there is sufficient interest, and

enough research talent in this Forum to come up with a definitive answer?

When I chanced upon this discussion, just a few minutes ago, it set my

ears burning, as I had recently referenced Tim Pat Coogan's biography of

Michael Collins, and missed that mention of Col. Lawrence. A rush to the


Having now checked, I see the alleged meeting date was on 3 Dec. 1921.

It's easier to know Collins' daily whereabouts, as he was a public figure

by that time. But then, Lawrence has had a wall of books published about

his life, meticulously researched, and he wrote plenty himself.

Mr. Wood... where can this letter to Kennington be quickly found?

"Wig", you are in Dublin. Coogan's note on sources says the information

on the "Collins/Lawrence connection", comes from an article in the

IRISH HISTORICAL REVIEW, Spring 1985. Would you be willing to

check this journal in your nearest good library, and broaden this

speculation out, by quoting the key section at length?

There is enough good will here to pursue this further. Who knows what

we might discover?!

Best wishes from Vancouver, Canada


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Some of TP's references leave a lot to be desired and are often fanciful to say the least. I think Collins would have thought it more beneficial to the " propaganda cause" to have Lawrence killed.


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  • 1 year later...

Lawrence certainly met Michael Collins at least once, in December 1920; though whether there was a second meeting or correspondence in July 1922 remains unsubstantiated. Perhaps the second meeting, and an offer of command of a brigade of the Irish Free State army was a creation of the wily Lawrence's imagination, designed to cause Churchill to drop his opposition to his joining the ranks of the RAF. This from The Secret Lives of Lawrence of Arabia by Phillip Knightley and Colin Simpson, Nelson, 1969, pp. 171-2:

[Lawrence] now stepped up his efforts to get into the RAF. Churchill proved difficult: he had not wanted Lawrence to leave the Colonial Office and had in fact refused many requests by him for permission to resign. The idea of Lawrence wasting his talents as an aircraftman annoyed him so much that he did his best to scuttle the whole plan. He had not counted, however, on Lawrence's determination or allowed for the wiliness with which Lawrence drew the name of the Irish leader, Michael Collins, into his scheme.

On 3 December 1920 Lawrence had met Michael Collins in London, he having come there with Arthur Griffiths and other members of the Irish Free State movement to negotiate a peace treaty with the government. It was to be a treaty which would recognise an 'all-Ireland totally independent republic', but Lloyd George, as Prime Minister, had issued a warning that unless the claim for a republic was dropped and Ireland was content to accept only partial independence, Britain would pour men and arms into the country and there would be 'an immediate and terrible war' instead of the police action which had existed until then. Collins was in a difficult position. If he gave way to Lloyd George he risked condemnation from hard-line Republicans, led by de Valera. It had been a worried man who had stopped to talk to Lawrence in an ante-room in Whitehall. Lawrence described the encounter in a letter to Charlotte Shaw: 'I tried to give him confidence that night; he wanted to give in to Lloyd George, and was afraid to do so. Of course he knew and Griffiths knew, and we knew that the arrangement probably meant his death warrant. Griffiths wouldn't have done it alone. M[icheal] C[ollins] was the keener on making peace of the two of them. Only he didn't want to be called a traitor by the De Valera people.....He was in a tragic position that night, I left before he saw it through: but clearly he meant to say yes....Collins served Ireland very well, and best of all, perhaps, by dying for her.'

Lawrence obviously liked Collins and probably expressed sympathy for the Irish cause, because there is an unconfirmed story that in July 1922, a month before his murder, Collins approached Lawrence and offered him command of a brigade in the Free State army which was to assist in the invasion of Ulster. The thought of the 'Deliverer of Damascus' serving in the Irish Free State army would certainly have been too much for Churchill, and this could well have been what finally persuaded him to allow Lawrence to go ahead with his RAF scheme.



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As a footnote to this thread, I see that there's a documentary on the circumstances surrounding Michael Collins' assassination showing on UKTV History today (13 November). I haven't seen it before, so don't know if it makes any reference to any contacts between Collins and TEL - could be worth watching in any case, though.



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  • 2 years later...

:rolleyes: Hello evryone.

I sometime ago I became very intrested in doing my family tree. some information I received from my late father about my grand father who was in the Irish free state army.my late father went to Collins Barracks to see his father's records and from what my late father told me about my grandfather John Mathew Mc Ardle he fought along side Michael Collins. John was born in 1909 in Tearmfckin his duity was Military Police he died due to having one of his legs amputated.he was only 32yrs old when he died. so if anyone out their has any info on the Irish free state army or a list of the men I would begreatful for any help I can get. Kind regards and best wishes. paula..... email address is.... november2256@yahoo.com

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you might want to start a separate thread rather than tack onto an old thread. Also you will probably be asked by the moderators to remove your email address and to use the PM system instead.

Termonfeckin is in Co Louth and this might be your John and family :


Unlikely that John McArdle fought with Collins given his age - Collins died August 1922 when John McArdle would have been 12/13 - possibly his father was involved?

If he served with the Free State Army, it would be worthwhile contacting :

Officer In Charge

Military Archives

Cathal Brugha Bks


Dublin 6


Telephone: + 00 353 1 8046457


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  • 6 years later...

Interesting to see Korda believes the meeting took place: I'm doubtful...



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Hi Simon,


I have nothing to add re: Lawrence meeting Collins. 


But regarding Tim Pat Coogan-you are probably aware he comes in for criticism due to lack of references to back up his claims. 


See link here: Diarmuid Ferriter review. He does not hold back!


Peter Hart's book "Mick the real Michael Collins" raison d'etre seemed to be to correct errors in TPC's Collins book. 


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Very interesting - I heard TPG speak once on Collins and he was very persuasive and very clubable - some new perspectives might be good to read. 

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