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Review commentary by Jeremy Wilson on Lawrence, the Uncrowned King of Arabia by Michael Asher

(London, Viking, 1998)

previous page | Page 22 | next page 

Chapter 3: Nothing Which Qualified Him to be an Ordinary Member of Society
Last year at school and first years at university, 1906-8

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32/1/2-3
This brisk narrative is guesswork not substantiated fact. We do not know where or when Lawrence enlisted, nor how long the enlistment lasted. The posting was to the castle garrison at St. Mawes, not to nearby St. Just as Asher states (what Lawrence recalled at St. Just was the church, set in a very pretty churchyard). The garrison, a detachment, would have consisted very largely of older enlisted men, not boy-recruits as Asher implies. 
32/1/4 Note "girlish" - an Asher fiction: no-one who knew Lawrence at that time has reported this alleged quality. It is certainly not conveyed by contemporary photographs.
32/1/6 What evidence does Asher have for the claim that Lawrence "had long fantasized about serving in the ranks"? I know of none. This is very probably invention. 
32/1/13-end The story in these four lines is also fiction. We know nothing about the circumstances in which Lawrence returned to Oxford. The theory that he was bought out is a (reasonable) supposition; but I know of no evidence. 
32/2/1-2 It is correct that Lawrence gave differing accounts of the length of time that this enlistment lasted. The variants may reflect his general lack of numeracy; but in his statements to Liddell Hart and others he may also have deliberately kept the details vague. He knew that publicity about the episode would be deeply embarrassing to his mother, because children do not usually run away from home without a reason. 
32/2/3-4 I think that the enlistment probably lasted more than a few days, but I agree that it may not have lasted very long. 
32 end of page Asher's calculations seem to assume that Lawrence ran away in the first months of 1906. The date is uncertain. Next page


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