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Remembered Today:

Lawrence, Deraa and the 10th Motor detatchment War diary

Old Scalyback

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It is a number of years since I have posted anything on this site but being aware of the assertion that the” Rape at Deraa” did not take place , based on the War diary of 10th Motor section RFA, I thought I would post a few observations based on my recent reading of the diary in my quest for more detail on the service of Dvr Anthony O Bentley ASC. Which members kindly helped me with


The Orgarda arrived at Aqaba on the 20th November. Having experience unloading vehicles from an RFA LSL onto a coal Warf by crane without using the bow doors that operation may well have run over 2 days. The first priority would have been to separate the passengers from any ammunition on board and I expect the men went ashore immediately but the vehicles were not unloaded until the next day hence a disembarkation date of the 21st.


The Request for a car

The request for a car is the first entry after disembarkation which suggests that it was received on the 21st, but there is no suggestion in the wording that it was made verbally or that Lawrence was present. I suspect it was a written request made before Lawrence left Aqaba for Deraa, because there is no evidence that 10 section had any cars, only the 8 Talbot heavy trucks, The war diary is a litany of suspension failure and punctures to the trucks but no cars. There is no evidence any vehicles were detached in November.


Is the Diary a contemporary document before January 1918 or later?


The AF C 2118 is printed on a different paper to those I have handled before thinner and translucent, it is difficult to read each page unless held up to the light as the page beneath shows through. Whether this general in this theatre or it indicates they were produced locally in Aqaba indicating an afterthought  I cannot say. It I unlikely that a Subaltern in charge of a section would have expected to be required to keep a formal war diary until he was instructed to do so by higher command. There are no entries at all between January 1918 and April 1918 when it records Veh’s used on Recce, road making and transport duties, it  appears to have been made up from his pocketbook before May 1918.

The section moved up to El Guerra on 6th Jan 1918 and took part in an attack on Mudawara Station on the 21st/22nd Jan moving base to El Guerra on the 24th Jan 1918. The war diary would not have accompanied the section on operations.


Brian Gallant 

Edited by Old Scalyback
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Even thinking the rape might merely have been 'false memory, is likely to bring will the wrath of the Lawrentians upon you (in my experience). For them the sun never sets on the highly complicated TEL. A large number of unproven facts 'legends really' which were largely the work of those in the man's thrall still maketh the man. Despite the ever continuing number of examinations and biographies of him and his career, anomalies  now seem impossible to investigate with genuine rigour.

: )


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From 2006:




I think the 10th motor RFA war diary evidence hs been questioned before and is inconclusive.

I think it is more conclusive that Lawrence was seen in the days and weeks after the supposed attack and everybody said he was fine-he wrote to his mum saying he was fine.


All the records of the incident come from Lawrence after the war. A pointless lie his supporters would say-but then he pointlessly lied about other things (or was economical with the truth if you wnt to mince words)-the time he took to cross Sinai and the fact that Aqaba was impregnable to amphibious landing (stated in the 7 Pillars of Wisdom) even though british troops had landed there, snatched Turkish prisoners and found there were no defences in or around the port but further inland a number of times in 1916.


I will now don my steel helmet and take cover :-)

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Deep cover I suggest

But ofcourse apart from Lowell Thomas who made TEL's reputiation,what Lawrence told Liddel Hart and Graves created a sycofantic cloud which stiil surrounds him. Nevertheless, his 'actions' have been put in firmer context by Philip Walker's Behind the Lawrence Legend which tells of the "Forgotten Few Who Shaped the Arab Revolt. It  certainly was not TEL what done it all. 

Edited by David Filsell
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  • 4 weeks later...

This is from the late Jeremy Wilson's TEL Studies page....


“Despite many attempts by controversial biographers to claim otherwise, there are no sound reasons to disbelieve his statements in Seven Pillars of Wisdom and elsewhere that during the war, at Deraa in November 1917, he was subjected to flogging and violent male rape. Thereafter he seems to have had a profound horror of sexuality and physical contact with other human beings.

The experience at Deraa left deep psychological scars which are evident throughout his later writings. In the mid-1920s he developed a flagellation disorder. We have little reliable information about this, but it appears that on about eleven occasions during the subsequent decade he arranged secretly to have himself beaten in a ritual related to the events at Deraa. He also appears also to have suffered during these years from less extreme forms of masochistic disorder.

A number of controversial biographers, notably Richard Aldington, Desmond Stewart (himself openly homosexual), Lawrence James, and Michael Asher, have written biographies of Lawrence in which they claimed that he was gay. Neither of Lawrence's major scholarly biographers, myself and John E. Mack (a Harvard professor of psychiatry) reached that conclusion. Elsewhere on this site there is detailed analysis of the case made by Michael Asher (itself largely derived from the books by James and Stewart). There is also discussion in the archive of the T.E. Lawrence Studies List.

Whatever Lawrence's personal difficulties in this area, he was not homophobic. His personal philosophy, throughout his adult life, was that people should be allowed to lead their own lives. In this and many other matters he was not judgmental. For some biographers,  this tolerance (exactly the attitude we encourage today) implied personal orientation. Thus, the fact that he did not condemn homosexual practices by others in Seven Pillars of Wisdom has been cited as evidence that he was homosexual himself.

Conclusion: I know of no evidence that would confirm his sexual orientation, whether it was straight, gay or (as he himself implied) asexual. Without conclusive evidence the question cannot be answered.”

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As ever balance needs to be found. It is not that the reviewers were 'controversial', but that some of what they wrote about TEL was judged so, not least by the machinations of the claque headed by TEL's brother - and literary executor - and those who connived most unpleasantly with him, including Graves - himself a man loose in deploying imagination in his war writing - and the axe grinding HL.

Actually, the question of TEL's homosexuality is unimportant to me and I suspect many others. But The question remains, and always will, about the the fact that TEL and his achievements appears to been ' bigged-up'  by himself and others with vested interests in his story and who made money out of his fame. My post 9 refers and puts the man's influence and actions in the war.

Incidentally, Alldington's book was, deliberately, not a biography, but a biographical enquiry because of his own doubts about the man and his claims. Any true Laurention should know this.

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I am not to worried by TEL's account and his sexual needs as it adds little to the story in Palestine and the Desert War.


Ottoman sources are also hard to confirm any Ottoman officer who could have controled captives in Deraa


The Ottoman commander here is known


Hacim Muhiddin or Hajim Bey (Carikli)     garrison at Derra    post war General        Mutasarrif the highest Imperial Civil Official Hacim Muhittin appointed to that Region on May 8th 1917 Said to be the Turkish Bey who captures Lawrence in Deraa he is not named in the film Lawrence's account is to be hard to believe reported died in Smyrna in 1965


While I can't confirm if Deraa had a paramilitary Jandarma (Gendarmerie) at that time I am sure they would have either a Jandarma Company or Platoon for police duties of a large town that Deraa was.


It is also known that commander was Selahattin Bey (Gunay)    Gendarmerie responsible for the security of Deraa August 1916-April 1917 but unknown who took over from him after he left to the 48th Div, other then Halim Bey.


I watched some thing last night on the history channel about the Story of the American Sniper where they tried to say he was a lier, because some stories he talked about in the Pubs (but not in his book) were made up. So all his stories and his book must be made up?


Sorry but just because I don't believe the Deraa story and others he (TEL) mentioned in his book (like the death of Lt Rowan) are wrong, does not distract from what he did in the desert during the war.





Edited by stevebecker
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I agree with David-I am not really interested in Lawrence's sexuality at all-what interests me is the extreme reaction you get whenever you question the 'orthodox' version of Lawrence's life. This has been recycled, sometimes uncritically (Graves, Liddel Hart etc.)  since Lawrence wrote his own books-yes there is truth and accuracy there but there is also dissembling, inaccuracy and conscious fabrication for many and varied reasons-he was human after all!


I don't think anybody doubts his courage, resourcefulness and achievements-some just want to put his personal character and achievements in a proper perspective and a truer picture of the man and his times and his contemporaries- with all his good points and bad-which should be what true biography is about. At the moment this tendency to stamp on any deviation from what one section of the debate has decided is the 'truth'  does this process no favours as it hardens opinions on both sides and is not constructive at all.


David mentions Aldington's work and this provides the classic narrative of the whole process-the riot surrounding its publication has successfully demonized and marginalized a work that (when you actually read it) still has valid points to make about the man and the process of the creation of his myth. 




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Old Scalyback’s most interesting post sent me scuttling off to the Clouds Hill archives where I found this document written by Jeremy Wilson and which he presented at a talk at The Imperial War Museum in September 1990.....


“In his article ‘Was there really a rape in Dera’ (19th August) Phillip Knightley reports on documentary evidence which, it is claimed, casts doubt on the accuracy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T E Lawrence’s account of his experiences during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18.

   The new allegation, made in a biography by L James, is that Lawrence ‘fabricated’ the story of his capture and homosexual rape by the Turks at Deraa on 21 November 1917.  To support this , James cites the war diary of a British unit at Akaba.   This states that on the date in question both Lawrence and his senior officer, Major Joyce, were taking part in an armoured car reconnaissance up Wadi Itm, many miles from Deraa.

   If, as James argues, the war diary really proves that Lawrence was not at Deraa on 21 November, this would be a discovery of great significance, bearing out the accusations of dishonesty made by a succession of Lawrence detractors since the mid-1950s.

   However, the war diary James cites was not written, as is customary, while the events were taking place.  It was put together six months later, on 1 May 1918.  On the first page is a description of the formation of the unit (the 10th Motor Section of the Royal Field Artillery) and its departure from Suez on board the SS Ozarda which arrived at Akaba, according to the diary, on 21 November.  As a matter of fact, this date is incorrect: the log of the Akaba guardship, HMS Humber, records that the SS Ozarda arrived at 7.25 am on 20 November; the early dates in the diary are, therefore, unreliable.

   At the head of the second page of the diary, as is usual, there is the latest date recorded on the previous sheet: 21-11-17.   Opposite this heading there are eight lines of text describing not one, but a series of operations, beginning ‘Carried out reconnaissance with Col P Joyce and Col Lawrence, up Wadi Yetm’.  After this paragraph the next date given in the dairy is a month later, ‘25-12-17 approx’, when the section left Akaba bound for Feisal’s advance headquarters.

   Even at first sight, it is questionable whether the diary provides conclusive information about Lawrence’s whereabouts on 21 November, because the content of page 2 is open to alternative interpretations.   Did all the operations described in the first eight lines take place on one day (after which nothing was done for a month), or is this, as seems more likely, simply a list of the operations that took place between the unit’s arrival at Akaba on 21 November (approx) and its departure on 25 December (approx)?

   The date of the Wadi Itm reconnaissance can be established with certainty by looking at records that are truly contemporary with these events.  Lawrence’s pocket diaries (now in the British Library) show that he returned briefly to Akaba from his ill-fated northern expedition on 26 November.  He left again the following day, spending the subsequent nights in Wadi Itm and Wadi Hawara, and was back at Akaba on 3 December.  What had he been doing in the interval?  According to a letter to his family of 14 December (Bodlein Library) he had spent ‘a few days motoring, prospecting the hills and valleys for a way Eastward for our cars’.   This information tallies with the RFA war diary, except that instead of the single date ‘21-11-1917’ the reconnaissance is shown to have begun on 27 November and ended a week later.

   These dates for the reconnaissance do not rest on Lawrence’s evidence alone: the seven-day absence from Akaba is borne out by the fact that Joyce, who accompanied him, dispatched no telegrams during that period.

   The regular telegrams sent by Joyce to Cairo and Jidda provide the final proof that Lawrence had not returned to Akaba by 21 November.   Lawrence’s superiors in Cairo were very anxious for news of him, as his expedition northward behind enemy lines had been regarded as little short of suicidal.   Joyce’s daily messages on November 22nd, 23rd, and 24th contain no reference to him.   The first definite information Joyce could send was on 25 November, after a British officer who had accompanied Lawrence during part of the northern mission reached Akaba.   The telegram read: ‘L(awrence) destroyed one train with two engines.  Reported considerable casualties to Turks.’   This message (in PRO file WO 158/634) bears out Lawrence’s account in Seven Pillars - and its content would have been completely irrelevant if, as James asserts, Lawrence himself had been with Joyce for several days.

   Correctly interpreted, the 10th Motor Section RFA war diary tallies exactly with other surviving records.   Far from proving that Lawrence gave a false account of his movements during November 1917, it adds detail to what is known from other sources.

   As his misconstruction of the war diary ‘evidence’ is crucial to James’s claim that the account of events at Deraa in Seven Pillars is false, his thesis falls to the ground.

Yours etc,


Jeremy Wilson”


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One simple disturbing part of Lawrention mythology - frequently ignored - is the claimed loss of the draft of original manuscript of the first version of his book on a railway station. It has, of course, never been recovered - and the quite unbelievable speed with which he claimed to have rewriten it - even if the version of claimed to be shorter than the lost manuscript.

Whatever else he may have been, or claimed to have been, or said to have been, he truly was and remains, a man who "baked into the limelight".

It remains for me a fact: there is too much in story of TEl which seems questionable, unanswerable or,  in the final analysis, unprovable. I suspect, despite the library of books on him and his exploits it will remain so. As will pointless debate which becomes more like an exercise in counting fairies on the head of a pin with every year that passes.

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What would TE hope to gain from concocting the story about losing the manuscript at Reading station ?


Ditto, insinuating that he was raped in Deraa ?



Edited by Stoppage Drill
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The first draft manuscript of Lawrence's book Seven Pillars of Wisdom was lost at Reading Railway Station in November 1919.


The handwritten manuscript, a sizeable document running to some 200,000 words, together with a number of Lawrence's campaign photographs, negatives and wartime notes, had been carried in an official attache case, in Lawrence's words "like those used by bank messengers to carry gold".  The case had been given to him by Lt Col Alan Dawnay, whom he had been visiting at the time.   The manuscript, as described by Lawrence, was on loose-leafed ledger, written on one side only of blank, unruled paper.   Lawrence was on a train journey from London to Oxford and whilst waiting to change trains, inadvertently left the case under a table in the refreshment room in Reading station.   When he phoned the station from Oxford an hour later, it had vanished.


Lawrence offered a reward in the press for the return of the manuscript and the loss was also reported, amongst other newspapers, in the Evening Standard of 12th January 1920 but the manuscript was never recovered. 


The manuscript was a factual account of the Arab Revolt.  It had taken Lawrence a great deal of time and effort to write this account and its loss together with all the supporting factual documentation made him decide to abandon the project.   Lawrence's friends however persuaded him to re-write the book and the subsequent drafts were re-written from memory.


The manuscript was rumoured to have turned up in 1930 at a London bookshop run by the Hon Edward Gathorne and a Mr Hardy.   Apparently a man described as "neither gentleman or an underling" called at the bookshop offering to sell the partners the original manuscript of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.  Mr Gathorne, Hardy's partner, informed Lawrence of the incident.   Lawrence went to the bookshop and asked the partners to make an appointment with the man and then hold him but the man did not reappear.   


This information was given to one of Lawrence's biographer in October 1974.   The manuscript has not been heard of since.

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You tell me. I have no idea about either , I merely stated "his claim" to have lost the manuscript of his book.

I do know that the speed with which he claimed to have re-written it  would take any author (or journalist's) breath away - although it is shorter than the original.

I do know that despite his fame, and the reaction of a thief to finding the ms  - he was ever so ever so totally well known -  that it is strange that it disappeared totally and was never offered for ransomme.

I do know that the claim of an epic camel ride has been totally discredited 

I do not know why he should have claimed to have been raped. Or why he liked to be beaten. 

I do know the efforts that his brother made to prevent access to material - if the author was 'unapproved by his coven.

I also know the claim that he "backed into the limelight" and it appears to me to fair judgementof a  a modest man.

I have never claimed other than to have doubts - through much long reading, includic translations of Arab works  - although no deep independent research  - about  the legends that the likes of Graves and LH built around him and which persist in muddyin the Lawrentan waters.

I just have doubts about Lawrence the man and his exploits, that's all



Edited by David Filsell
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22 hours ago, Ghazala said:

a sizeable document running to some 200,000 words


If writing at the same speed as say, Enid Blyton, then 200,000 words should have taken about 20 days

Perhaps even less, since we are talking about re-writing a text for a second time, rather than a first draft.



Doubts about TEL seem to provoke some and to vex the spleen in others, resulting in streams of incontinent repetition whenever and wherever the name is mentioned.

What is the agenda here; is it perhaps jealousy for his fame? If so, then blame Mr. Lowell Thomas who started it all. Once the wagon was rolling then others, such as Dawson and Shaw, joined in. The man himself was late into this game and his note written at Cranwell in 1926 seems to me to offer a rebuttal to the complaints.


“It does not pretend to be impartial. I was fighting for my hand, upon my own midden. Please take it as a personal narrative pieced out of memory. I could not make proper notes: indeed it would have been a breach of my duty to the Arabs if I had picked such flowers while they fought.” 


He then goes on to name 40 others who could 'each tell a like tale'. 
He concludes the note with  
“And there were many other leaders or lonely figures to whom this self-regardant picture is not fair. It is still less fair, of course, like all war-stories, to the un-named rank and file: who miss their share of credit, as they must do, until they can write the despatches.”


So; he was not unaware of the nature of his writing or of its limitations. That he should now be taken to task for what he has already confessed to, seems churlish and petty. 


The quality which the Arabs, Feisal and Lawrence all brought to the British cause was summed up by Wavell: 
“Its value to the British commander was great, since it diverted considerable Turkish reinforcements and supplies to the Hejaz, and protected the right flank of the British armies in their advance through Palestine. Further, it put an end to German propaganda in south-western Arabia and removed any danger of the establishment of a German submarine base on the Red Sea. These were important services, and worth the subsidies in gold and munitions expended on the Arab force.”

Similar points were made by Allenby when writing to Robertson, and to his successor as CIGS, Wilson.  Lawrence was named in these reports and his role described enthusiastically. On one occasion (to Wilson) Allenby confirmed that the Arab force “is absolutely essential to me.”  

His peers valued the contribution of TEL and I count that significant.


Now, …....if you want to have a go at a charlatan, a fraud and a thief of others' glory, then your energies would (to my mind) be better directed at Richard Meinertzhagen. Amongst whose many claims to infamy was the (self-confessed) murder of his Indian syce and very possibly the murder of his own wife. The ornithological world, which first awoke to his thefts and frauds a couple of decades ago, is still today trying to unravel the damage which he has done. 
[The true heroes of the pre-Gaza III 'haversack' ruse were Belgrave and Neate - see
https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/259754-j-d-belgrave-dso-ra/ ]



Edited by michaeldr
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Whatever TEL's imperfections - and we all have them just as Jesus Christ did - his ability to inspire men of another culture to perform military deeds in support of British strategy is undeniable.

He cannot be judged correctly by indoor men in suits and shiny shoes - they have no comprehension of the trials and tribulations that go with persuading desert tribesmen to accept conventional military discipline and procedures on the battlefield.


For what it is worth I once commanded Saudi desert tribesmen who were banned from the Saudi Army (I was serving in an adjacent country) and my experiences ranged from seeing brave performances in the desert contrasted with disciplinary situations where i personally had to tie them up (they let me as it was the best way out) to stop them from stoning other tribesmen.

But when it came to going on operations in Lebanon the Saudis stepped forward to a man whilst others fled and never returned.


TEL did a great job and the denigration and suspicion he receives from some quarters is demeaning to all concerned.



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In praise of Lawrence


 “He will always have his detractors, those who sneer at the ‘Lawrence legend’; who ascribe his success with the Arabs to gold; who view the man as a charlatan in search of notoriety by seeming to seek obscurity; who describe his descent from colonel to private as evidence of some morbid nostalgia de la boue.   They knew not the man.   Those who did, even casually and sporadically, like myself, can answer for his greatness”.


                              Major General A P Wavell – Author of ‘The Palestine Campaigns’


“I never care what people say of me, or about me, but I try not to help them do it, and I will not do it myself”.


                            T E Lawrence to Percy Burton, refusing an interview for The Times


In my considered opinion, Lawrence was the greatest genius who England has produced in the last two centuries, and I do not believe that there is anyone who had known him who will not agree with me.   If ever a genius, a scholar, an artist and an imp of Shaitan was rolled into one personality, it was Lawrence”.


                              Lieutenant Colonel W F Stirling DSO


“He always reigned over those with whom he came in contact”


                              Churchill on Lawrence


“Seven Pillars of Wisdom was an absolute masterpiece, and to me, anything else on Arabia written after it would seem to be a gross impertinence”


                            Wilfred Thesiger (Writer and Explorer)


“The vast perils and catastrophes of the years have not dimmed the splendour of his fame, nor blurred the impress of his personality upon the memory of his friends.   It is the measure of his greatness that his multiple achievement has passed beyond opinion into history”

                              Winston Churchill


“As a friend he was often maddening, but always fascinating, and in combination of personality and intellect, of capacity for action and reflection, he surpassed any man I have met”

                              Basil Liddell- Hart (Author of T E Lawrence – In Arabia and After).


“That vast convulsion of human nature, the War, may have thrown up greater figures; none more gallantly yet practically romantic than the shy, slight, unaccountable emanation of genius who will live in history as Lawrence of Arabia”

                              Sir Ronald Storrs (Orientations)


“He had all the marks of the Irishman; the rhetoric of freedom, the rhetoric of chastity, the rhetoric of honour, the power to excite sudden deep affections, loyalty to the long-buried past, high aims qualified by too mocking a sense of humour, serenity clouded by petulance and broken by occasional black despairs, playboy charm and theatricality, imagination that over-runs itself and tires, extreme generosity, serpent cunning, lion courage, diabolic intuition and the curse of self-doubt which becomes enmity to self and sometimes renouncement of all that it most loved and esteemed.

                              Robert Graves (Author of ‘Lawrence and the Arabs’)


“Tell them in England, I see no flaw in him”.

                                                                           Auda Abu Tayi talking about Lawrence


"He over-awed his comrades, frightened sergeants, made squadron leaders feel uncomfortable and patronised the Air Council.


                          W B Tawse, letter to the Evening Standard, 1973


"There is no other man I know who could have achieved what Lawrence did. As for taking undue credit for himself, my own personal experience with Lawrence is that he was utterly unconcerned whether any kudos was awarded him or not."

                  Edmund Allenby, commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force to Lowell Thomas.


"I deem him one of the greatest beings alive in our time... We shall never see his like again. His name will live in history. It will live in the annals of war... It will live in the legends of Arabia."


                                                                Winston Churchill


With the single doubtful exception of myself, no man of our time has had such a power of tempting journalists and even diplomatists to tell lies about him as Lawrence. Look at the obituary notices! They are all headed ‘Mystery Man.’ Yet there has never been any mystery about Lawrence since the end of the War. He changed his name twice; but everybody knew it as well as when the King changed his name from Guelph to Windsor.

All the Powers of Europe would have it that he was spying in India, when a word of inquiry would have ascertained that he was routining prosaically in the ranks in Dorset, in Plymouth, in Lincolnshire, taking not the smallest interest in politics, dropping in on his friends whenever he was on leave at incredible distances on the famous bicycle that killed him in the end, and busy with books and boats and the Schneider Cup trials, and all sorts of immediate and homely jobs about which he talked freely to everybody.

The mysterious missions to Asia were really visits to Brumpus’s bookshop in Oxford Street.


                                                         G B Shaw on T.E. Lawrence


He had Shelley’s trick of noiselessly vanishing and reappearing. We would be sitting, reading on my only sofa: I would look up and Lawrence was not only not in the room, he was not in the house, he was not in Jerusalem. He was in the train on his way to Egypt.


                                                       Ronald Storrs on T.E. Lawrence


T E was insulted by Sir Henry "Chips" Channon who wrote:  


"...a bore and a bounder and a prig.   He was intoxicated with his own youth, and loathed any milieu which he couldn't dominate.   Certainly he had none of a gentleman's instincts, strutting around peace conferences in Arab dress".

Edited by Ghazala
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We have crossed opinions on this before : ).

Please, please, take a look at Behind the Lawrence Legend for a perspective on the man and the team efforts in the desert which have been lost by the heap of importance directed at TEL. The above book is not critical of Lawrence  but reveals the efforts of many involved, mostly unknown and unheralded, and places him in perspective.

That said, let me assure you - 10,000 words a day average is quite a claim. Almost unachievable for the most practiced and skilled writers or journos

While TEL deserves credit and has achieved fame, many many others achieved (I suspect) as much in the conflict - see above. He has achieved mythic status and levels of credit.

You may judge my doubts demeaning, but I and others with no real dogs in the fight merely ask questions and point out facts. Put in blunt terms, I judge TEL an unreliable witness promoted by early authors who took his word on facts.


Edited by David Filsell
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Thank you for the both material on the ms - new to me. (It would be good to get the famous 'second proof, on the 'rumours, account.) and also fthe valuable and fascinating collection of quotations offering the good, the bad and the ugly impressions the enigmatic TEL made on an equally interesting selection of the 'great and the good' and - to me -the unknown, W B  Towse. An interesting omission is the voice of Henry Williamson, another enigma whose reputation is clouded and a friend of TEL. The quotations certainly underline that neither those who accepted his accounts early on, nor those who since have expressed doubts about the man, are a new phenomenon and that many questions are unlikely ever to be dispelled.



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Henry Williamson was once interviewed by Philip Donnellan and he asked Williamson if he looked on TEL as an ordinary man or an extraordinary man.  He replied “Oh an extraordinary man with great magnetism, at his best, when he was with people like himself, he was superb; as Churchill has said - he was one of the finest characters if not the finest character he’d ever known.   But he told me himself he was a chameleon - he was extremely highly sensitive, but he didn’t show it.  He didn’t stammer or stutter, but I could see that he was almost like quivering gold leaf, and I should think that with insensitive people, or stupid people, he would just go off altogether and be stupid and insensitive and dull - like a very fine actor, you know, who gets a feeling from the audience.”

“He was very happy towards the end of his RAF life, you know, testing speed boats in the solent and even going right round up to Yorkshire; he was quite happy.  ‘Virtually,’ he said, ‘I’m webbed-footed now, and quack before meals.’


Williamson felt guilty all his life that TEL was killed after sending a telegram to him.  He said “And the answer to my letter was a telegram from Lawrence - ‘Come tomorrow lunch Cottage Bovington Camp wet fine’.   And he was killed on the way back.”




Edited by Ghazala
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Thanks  for that. "Like a very fine actor" is a very telling and important comment about TEL which deserves remembering, and one from a highly perceptive author (if also flawed man). It certainly underlines my belief that TEL simply could do no other that act up to an audience, any audience, whether writing, speaking to biographers or meeting members of the British 'elite'. Not least the actions of a certain US journalist In promoting TEL kick started his fame - and perhaps created a need and desire to back into lime light " (even if the lime light was a largely a journalistic creation). Just a thought.



Edited by David Filsell
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The time has gone when we could have new first hand information on TEL.  Years ago, down here in Dorset, there were numerous people who came forward with first hand knowledge of him.  Even Bert Hargraves came into Clouds Hill on occasion and talked about the accident!    In old age, Arnold Lawrence, Vyvyan Richards, Charlotte Shaw, who had long loved Lawrence, wearied of him and the endless repeated questions of him; they had their own lives to finish, their own deaths to face.

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Perhaps we too will tire of the endless unanswerable questions and keep our views and keep  unanswerable questions to ourselves But,  I suspect, the-questions and the mythology will outlive us all.

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