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Research & Discussion

General biography

Rejected legend

Youth 1888-1914

War service 1914-1918

Diplomacy 1918-1922

Service years 1922-1935

Lawrence's personality

Writings and criticism

Lawrence and book production

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Frank Helier Lawrence

Source: HL facing p. 594


  • 7 February 1893: born at St. Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands,

  • 1900-1911: City of Oxford High School for Boys

  • First in the School gymnastic competition in 1911-12-13

  • Captain of the school Football Eleven for two years

  • Vice-Captain of the school Cricket Eleven

  • Won the School's Challenge Cup for Athletics

  • Prize-winning miniature rifle shot

  • 1912, 1913: Captain of the City of Oxford Twenty Club

  • October 1913 - August 1914: Jesus College, Oxford (King Charles I Exhibitioner, for mathematics)

  • 191314: Jesus College First Eleven football team,

  • October 1913: Joined the Oxford University Officers Training Corps on entering Jesus College

  • August 1914: volunteered for service in the army and commissioned Second-Lieutenant in the 3rd Gloucesters

  • 9 February 1915: joined the 1st battalion at the front

  • 9 May 1915: killed in action, aged 22, at Richebourg l'Avou, leading his men forward preparatory to the assault

Source: HL p. 594

Frank Lawrence remembered
The Rev. E. W. Cox, Assistant Master at Oxford High School, 1899-1903, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Oxford, 1910-19

It was in 1899 that my long friendship with the Lawrence family began. We might have known each other earlier as neighbours, for we lived not far apart; but it was the boys who brought us together. At that time there were only four of them, though in the following year their number was increased to five. I saw much of these four both in and out of school, and I cannot remember any band of brothers more united or more helpful to each other than they were. They were attractive boys, all four of them, and it was a pleasure to teach them. There was the same sturdy uprightness of character in them all, but each one had some quality which was peculiarly his own.

I think I can best describe Frank simply by saying that he was a dear boy; a very real boy - lovable, affectionate, happy and gentle, and with a most attractive smile. One could not help loving him. He was still at school when I returned to Oxford in 1910, but three years later he entered the University, as his three older brothers had done.

Then came the war, in which all the four brothers served. Frank and I wrote to each other when he went to France, and I remember one letter in particular in which he described how one night he went forward alone to the place where there had been fought one of the early battles in which our losses were very heavy. In a few graphic words he told how he stood there in the silence, and in the light of the full moon; the stillness being broken only by the hooting of the owls. Not long afterwards, on May 9th, 1915, Frank was killed in action at Richebourg I'Avou; and about five months later his next older brother, Will, was also killed in action near St. Quentin, on October 23rd, 1915.

After only three or four days' illness, Mr. Lawrence died in the great influenza scourge in March 1919. Ned was still away in Paris at the Peace Conference, and Will and Frank had each a soldier's grave in France, but when we laid their Father in his burial-place in the cemetery at Wolvercote, I felt that they, too, were with us then.

Source: HL p. 595

In the summer of 1910, after his Oxford Senior Locals (the school-leaving exams) Frank attended a Free Church boys' camp at Matlock as a helper. This was a regular summer event: he had attended previous Free Church camps at Matlock in 1906, and Elmer in 1907 and 1909. He would later attend the camps at Matlock (1911 and 1913) and Redmire (1914).

After the 1910 camp he joined T.E. Lawrence - known to his family as 'Ned'  - on a cycling tour in France. His letters add significantly to the information in T.E. Lawrence's surviving account, which is also included here.

Frank Lawrence to Bob Lawrence


Friday, Aug. 19 [1910]

We have now got to Bauvais on our return journey. I have enjoyed the riding very much, though I don't like pav ad the roads might be better. The country we have passed through has been mostly very pretty, especially the forest of Compigne, which we went through yesterday, finding some splendid large blackberries. We went to Reims, but there was not a single aviator left. When we got there there was a bank holiday and a fair, and the whole town was crowded. We had to search 1 hrs, before finding an hotel, owing to the curious lack of hotels Reims has. We were afraid we would not be able to sleep there. Now I may as well tell you about Camp, in case you have not heard. [Omitted: description of life at the Free Church camp.]

When Camp stopped I rode over to Littlehampton, joined Ned at the Church, and rode on with him to Rye, making my longest ride, 72 miles. We passed through Hastings and Winchelsea and it was pleasant to see them again. Winchelsea seemed just the same, except that they have completed the building of the house which we saw beyond the church. Next day we rode on another 26 miles to Folkestone and caught the 12.0 boat. I had taken Dr. Inman's tablets, but I really did not want them, as the sea was beautifully calm. At Boulogne we passed the customs without having to open our bundles, and went on another 20 miles or so, before stopping for the night. Even now I cannot make out what they say, except a few scattered words or unless they talk very slowly. The nights were all alike, so I shall not attempt to describe them, as you probably know them better than I do. At Noyon we came to a very fine Cathedral, as also at Amiens. At Coucy we came to the finest castle in France according to Ned. It is most massively built and almost impregnable. The keep is now 180 feet high, and was originally 200 feet. The other towers and walls are on a similar gigantic scale. Cardinal Mazarin wished to blow up the keep, so he put barrels of gunpowder on the floor of it and set fire to them. The explosion clean took out the whole of the inside and the roof, but did no harm to the walls beyond cracking them from top to bottom, which crack has now been repaired. This will shew you the strength of it. The internal diameter at the bottom is 63 feet, and as the walls are 24 feet thick there, the total diameter at the bottom is 111 feet. The rooms in which the seigneur lived are 46 feet high, and the windows 10 feet high, and the window seats 2 feet high. Everything is huge. The steps in the stairs are much bigger than ordinary ones. The gallery which runs round the floor above the seigneur's is 13 feet above it, and 20 feet wide. Ned and I spent a whole afternoon in the keep measuring and looking. Ned has a 50 foot measure with him, so the distances I give are quite accurate. Looking from the top to the bottom it seems a vast way. In the hour we had in the morning we went over the other towers and parts of the castle, exploring the vaults under the old hall, of which there is now hardly anything left. In the bottom of the keep there is a well now 150 feet deep, with another 50 feet filled up by rubbish, etc. There were 3 drawbridges at the entrance, and the whole castle stood on rising ground. Its walls were about 60 or 70 feet high, and very thick. The town of Coucy is still surrounded by its walls. Another town we came to, Montreuil, is also very well walled, and is a favourite resort of painters. At a place not far from Picquingy there were in the hotel 26 English lady painters. We have been very fortunate in our weather as to-day is the only day at all wet that we have had, and it has not been too bad. I started this letter at Beauvais, but being unable to finish it that night have brought it on to Gisors, where we are now. Beauvais Cathedral is, I think, the highest in the world. You could put inside it any Oxford church with its spire. Each part of it has tumbled down at least once, and it was found quite impossible to complete the building. I have had three splendid hot baths just lately, one to-day. The baths are very nice and I like them very much. I expect you have had them yourself, so I won't attempt to describe them. One night at dinner I asked for bread, and was rather astonished when the waitress gave me one of those long 3 foot loaves whole. Ned had to hold one end while I cut some off. I have not yet had a single puncture, although Ned has had some trouble with his tyres. I have written to Shylock reminding him about the magazines. I hope you are having a nice time without any troubles. I wish you could have come to Camp with me. It was just as good as any other camp. Ned is rejoicing over some books he has discovered at the price of a franc. Each time I have a bath he goes and buys a book instead. This place has also a strong castle, but it has no striking features and is not nearly as good as Coucy.

Tomorrow we go to Chteau-Gaillard, where we will get letters and I hope to hear about the Locals [i.e., examination results]. In a few days more we shall go to Louviers, where a boy from Camp is staying, whom I hope to see. I have greatly enjoyed the trip, although I have got saddle-sore now and am not very comfortable. Are you not coming back till September?

It seems a long time. I hope you are feeling quite well. I have seen one of your P.C.'s the first, I think, but nothing else. I am afraid I cannot give you any address to write to.


Source: HL pp. 598, 600-602.

Frank Lawrence to his parents

Le Peyit-Andely (Eure)
Hotel Belle-Vue

Sunday, August [21, 1910]

Dear Mother and Father

We got here yesterday and got your letter and a P.C. from Bob. I am indeed delighted about the Locals. I never thought of getting off Additionals, though I was hoping for Responsions. Can you tell me when you know what Shylock has done. It makes the ride all the pleasanter now I know what I have done. Our ride from Gisors yesterday was chiefly noticeable for 4 punctures and a head wind. When we got here I was very surprised to meet a boy from Camp, who is staying here with his father and mother and sister. I thought he was at Louviers, and was going to try to see him. They are very nice people, and I am enjoying myself with them. I had a splendid bathe in the Seine yesterday just opposite the hotel in the picture. The Seine is several hundred yards wide here and has a very swift current. It was quite hard work trying to swim against it, and 20 yards up stream was as much as I could manage. This hotel is full of artists. Every person in the hotel except the servants, etc. speaks English. It is very nice to be among English-speaking people again. It is a very comfortable place, with a nice terrace looking out on to the river and plenty of rowing boats for hire. To-day I have been over Chteau Gaillard with Ned. It seems a very poor place after Coucy. The interior of the keep is only two feet more than the walls of the Coucy keep. There is a marvellous view from it. The Seine is very pretty, and the surrounding country exquisite. There are continually passing up and down before the hotel four or five or more barges pulled by a tug. They go about 24 miles an hour up stream and 44 down stream. My sandals I do not expect for a little time, as I asked the boy not to send them too soon after Camp. The 3/- was lent to Shylock so that is quite safe. When the Camp photo's come you will find there are two of the same photo. It seems extravagant, but I can explain it. Do you remember my telling you that one of the officers of last year's Camp was going out to India as a missionary? At Camp this year a letter from him to us was read. We have sent back another letter signed by all the boys who knew him last Camp, but as he would know quite half the officers and boys this year, I thought he would like a photo of the Camp. It is only 1/6, so it will not ruin us. His name is J. Gordon Bennett, and I believe you said last year you liked his face the best of all those at Camp. You ought to come and stay at this place, the river is so pretty, and the country so exquisite. There is here a great big dog belonging to one of the artists. He is a huge strong animal but not fierce, as French dogs are. I don't much like French dogs. They usually try to bite if you ride past at all fast, and are most of them half-wild. Ned went up to Chteau Gaillard this morning at 11.0, and has just come back now at 6.30. I have not been with him all the time. I hope you will get better very soon. I am having a very nice time, but will be quite glad to get back. I hope Henry has come by now. Mr. Cave's letter was very nice. I have written to Bob, and will do so to Florence [the boys' nurse] in a day or two. We will be at Cherbourg on the 30th, and I will cross on the 31st. I have Dr. Inman's tablets all right.


Do you notice that this paper is at least 10 years old?

Source: HL pp. 603-3

T.E. Lawrence to his mother

Le Petit Andelys

August, 1910

Dear Mother

Frank is very satisfied with his exam. results: (which are really very good.) His speaking of French whatever his writing is no great success: and I don't like trying to correct him, since I am little better myself. The name of a French Cur (near Perigueux) has been given me - he takes English students at a reasonable cost. I got Mr. Hutton's letter [one of the Examiners in the Final History School 1910] all right: have answered him pointing out a few weak spots in the thesis. It was good of him to write. Miss Holmes please let us know of at P.R. Valognes, Manche, if not to Caen. I am interested in her of course. About cash:- I hope to finish at Cherbourg with nearly 5 to spare. Frank has told you what else happened. We have had very few punctures so far, and good roads, winds, and weather. Also our days have been very short. Beauvais is finer than ever: and is now marked with a white stone, since there I found worthy French-printed books. The sculptures of Rheims are almost perfect, it is not a Chartres, but wonderful all the same, I have got what p.c.'s I could get: none worthy of course. Gisors I liked: Frank didn't. He is enjoying this place, because it has a river and steam tugs, and an English family: so we will stay over Monday and let him get a little more of it. There is very safe bathing: and some boating in flat tubs of boats. The country here is altogether lovely: and the views more and more necessary: if I stayed very long I would take root. I sat up in the castle this morning a little after Frank went to dejeuner, and read below the keep. The colours in the water below me, and the sweep of the river under the cliffs were superb. Is there any chance of Will getting here this year I can assure him he will find it repay any pains. The view has the same effect on people as a forest or a church: they talk in whispers. The book I had was Petit Jehan de Saintr, a xv Cent. novel of knightly manners - very good:- I have wanted to read it for a long time, but the Union Copy was so badly printed that I had not the heart for it. Now I have found (for 1f. 25) a series quite nicely typed on fairly good paper. So far I have only got 4 volumes, because they are rather much to carry: it is altogether glorious to have found good French books at last. I can read Moliere and Racine and Corneille and Voltaire now:- a whole new world. [Omission]

We are both so delighted that Lancresse is satisfactory. It was such a gamble. Please try so far as is possible to rest yourself. We are of course all right. F. a little saddle sore: but we have not ridden 40 miles any day since we started: as a rule only 20 or 25.

Source: HL pp. 109-11

Frank Lawrence to Florence Messham
(formerly the boys' nanny)

Hotel de Normandie

Aug. 25, Thursday Night [1910]

Dear Florence

Doubtless you have heard from Mother the results of the Locals as far as they are yet known. I am wildly delighted at getting excused the Additional Subject as well as Responsions. It is far beyond what I had hoped. Now I do not mind much where I come. The full result will be out on Monday, according to Father, so I hope to hear on Tuesday at Cherbourg. Will is coming over on Tuesday afternoon from Guernsey to Cherbourg, and I think he will have a little tour himself in France. Ned and I will meet him, and I go over to Guernsey by the boat the next morning about 8.0 or 9.0 a.m. I shall be quite glad to get to Guernsey and the others, although I have enjoyed the tour very much. We have had splendid weather, only one at all wet day. Today we have spent at Caen, getting here quite unexpectedly yesterday, by riding 50 miles. There is a good deal to see in the town, several churches. William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda each built a large church here to pacify the Pope, who was angry with them. There are also here 4 desecrated churches. They were desecrated at the Revolution and are now used as warehouses. They have been gradually falling into ruin and are a very sad sight. Such a state of affairs would not be tolerated in England. My French is still ludicrous, and I cannot yet understand what they say, unless they speak very slowly. One night at dinner I asked for bread, and was rather astonished when they gave me one of those great long 3 ft. loaves (you may remember them) quite whole. Ned had to hold one end while I cut some off. On our tour we have come to several very interesting churches and castles. The cathedrals at Amiens and Beauvais are rivals in height. You could put inside either of them any Oxford church and tower, and the top of the spire of the Oxford church would not touch either of the roofs. It is very hard to get an idea of the height of them. The cathedral at Beauvais is so high that every part of it has tumbled down at least once. The tower and spire came down soon after being built, and smashed up the roof and most of the sides of the part that had been built. The spire has not been built again, and another part of the cathedral has not even been started to be built. The people of Beauvais built their cathedral so high just to beat the Amiens cathedral. At Coucy we came to the most interesting castle in France, so Ned says. It is still very complete, although partly ruined. The keep dominates the whole. It is a huge building 180 ft. high. At the bottom the walls are 24 feet thick. It is almost impossible to get a good idea of its size. Its internal diameter at the bottom is 63 ft. Just think of it. You could put the ordinary large town house, ours for example, in it, and there would be plenty of room. It would touch no part of the walls, and would not even reach to the ceiling of the first flight, since each storey is 46 ft. high. Ned has a 50 ft. measure with him, so these distances are quite correct. Cardinal Mazarin wanted to destroy the keep some hundreds of years ago, so he put barrels of gunpowder inside it and set fire to them. The explosion completely cleared out the inside of the tower (ceilings and floors of the different storeys, and the roof), but did no harm to the walls beyond cracking them, which has now been repaired. This will give you an idea of the strength of it. When you have got up to the top of it (it is quite an effort as may be imagined) people at the bottom seem quite insignificant little creatures. The view from it is splendid. Ned and I, evading the gardien, went over the rest of the castle by ourselves, and by dint of forcing locks and climbing over doors and up walls succeeded in getting into every part of it. There are some very fine cellars under parts of the castle (the place where the banqueting hall was), and these we explored. When we had got to one end Ned felt himself slipping down into a pit, and got rather a shock, as we could not see in the least how deep it was. However he saved himself, and, coming back later with a few matches, we found it was only about 6ft. deep. We went quite a long way in the cellars, getting into the bottom of towers on the walls and other places. It was very interesting, though until you got used to the light (it was almost pitch dark) it was very hard to see where you were going. Several times I walked straight into pillars, and was brought up with a bump. We went round the bottom of the moat (which is nearly 30 ft. deep, now quite dry), wading waist deep through a fertile crop of nettles. I only got stung once however. We entered a passage which originally went all round the keep below the moat to prevent and detect mining. It is now mostly filled up, but some of it is still free, and Ned, who was walking first, only just saved himself from walking into a pool of water. We stayed in the keep the whole of an afternoon, from two to six, so much did we like the place. When we at last came out we had to climb over the entrance gate to get out, as it was locked. The whole castle is on a most massive scale. Each of the towers round the walls would be a keep in a smaller castle. The steps of the staircase going up the keep (they are still intact) are larger than ordinary ones. It is very hard to go up two at a time. The gallery that runs round one of the floors is 13 ft. above it. It took four seconds and a little more for a stone dropped from the top to reach the bottom. There is a well in the bottom now 150 ft. deep. It was originally another 50 ft. deeper. It has to be deep, as the castle stands on a hill. It does not look nearly as large as it is. The ordinary tourist I am sure does not get any idea of its size. It was never captured, and I think is quite impregnable, as it could keep enough provisions in its cellars for years. The town of Coucy is still surrounded by walls, very high ones too. After leaving Coucy we went on to Reims, where all the flying has been. There is not a single aeroplane there now, so we were disappointed. We got to Reims on a bank holiday and there was a fair being held. The whole town and a lot more people were in the streets. Reims has a great lack of suitable hotels and we were riding about for 1 hours before we got one. Fortunately we got there early, so we had plenty of time. The fair I was very disappointed with. It consisted of a miniature rifle range and about 20 drinking booths. That was all. The trams were very active that night. There were three sets of rails outside our hotel, and in five minutes nine trams (electric) passed.


I wrote this much at Caen, but being unable to finish have brought it on with me to Bayeux, where we are now staying for the night. The ride to-day has been quite a nice one with no mishaps. At a little village half-way where we stopped to look at the church I bought some flint and steel. It is not a curiosity, it is meant for work, and they use it in the village instead of matches. Ned has been practising a great lot with it for his next Syrian trip. He lit a person's cigarette with it this evening, but failed to get the candle to light. The tapestry is very interesting, and must have taken years to make. It is wonderful it does not seem to have faded at all. The roads in France we have not found very good, some of the high roads being unrideable. After going 20 yards along one of them we stopped and turned off to a by-road, the main one was so bad. There is no speed limit for motors in the country, and as the high roads are absolutely straight for 5 or 6 miles or more at a time without any obstruction they generally go as fast as they can. One motor passed us going quite 60 miles an hour. On one ten mile stretch of road 13 motors passed us. The stones with which the town streets are paved I do not like at all for riding, and they seem to throw any spare piece of glass they may have on to them. I do not much mind now where I come in the Locals. Getting excused these two exams is delightful. If I had not, I would have had to go in for Responsions in September, and the Additional Subject in December. I should almost certainly have failed for Responsions owing to the short time for preparation, so that would have meant another try. Besides the worry of any exam is great. One of us of course will write as soon as the results come out. I do not think the results of these exams will be in any paper, as they are hardly public as yet, though quite official. I am looking forward to next term, as I will almost certainly be in the 1st eleven in football, and have a chance of being captain of it. It would be very nice if I did become captain, but I am not at all seriously expecting it. I think I may also say that I will be moved up into the upper Vth next term, which is in all but name identical with the VIth. A miniature rifle club will be started in the school next term mainly owing to me. I expect it will be a great success. Can't you manage to come to Oxford again soon It seems such an age since you were here last. I hope you are quite well and are having good weather.


Source: HL pp. 603-7

rifle team

Oxford Twenty Club (20 Best Shots Miniature Rifle in Oxford) 1911-12.
Frank Lawrence centre. Courtesy of the descendants of Horace Paviere

Frank Lawrence went up to Jesus College, Oxford, in October 1913. Like his elder brother, he had won an exhibition.

T.E. Lawrence to his family


March 28 [1913]

I got a letter from you the other day... congratulate Frank on his exhibition: and Will on a half blue: I hope neither will be annoyed if I say that each was to me unexpected... I thought Will and Frank both too busy with more serious things.

F. I suppose goes up in October: and there will be the usual heartburning as to whether he is to live in or not. As a social being he would probably prefer to.

In case he lives at home, he must have my little house:- it is for the reverse reason... I had it that I might be quiet: Frank that he may be noisy... and it speaks many things for the catholicity of the place, that it is equally adapted for each. [Remainder of letter omitted.]

Source: HL pp. 251-2

The war

When war broke out in August 1914 Frank was attending the Free Church camp in Redmire. He immediately volunteered to join up.

On 6 August 1914 he completed and signed an application form titled 'Appointment to a Commission in the Special Reserve of Officers'. This, together with supporting documents, survives in the National Archives. He volunteered to serve in the Infantry, stating that he could ride 'a very little, no certificate, learned privately'.

On 7 August the adjutant of the Oxford University OTC provided a report of good moral character.

On 12 August Frank underwent a medical examination at the Military Hospital in Oxford. The report tells us that his age was 21; height 66⅞ inches; chest girth 36 inches (max), 34 inches (min), and weight 154 lbs. He was declared fit, with good hearing, teeth, vision and colour vision.  

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

Frank Lawrence to his mother


August 1914]

Dear Mother

I have filled up the form for the Special Reserve not lightly nor without thought. Please get it taken at once to 9 Alfred Street. If there is anything you want to say about it please wire. There is only one post a day here. If you give the form in, and any order comes for me (please open all the O.T.C. correspondence) you must wire. I will always give you my address. This is enough for this place: Camp, Redmire, Yorkshire. [1 para omitted]


Source: HL p. 615

Frank then spent some months at training camps in the UK, waiting to be posted to the front.

Frank Lawrence to his mother

Wed. [September 1914]

Dear Mother

Thanks very much for your long letter and Will's enclosed. If I do not write for a few days at any time you can be absolutely certain that it is not because I am going or gone out. When I do get away you will know almost as soon as I shall. I have been very much occupied the last few days. I got up to London last Friday, but have not yet got the clothes. On Saturday we expected a draft to go, several officers having been warned. On Sunday I went on guard again at the Sewer and had a mildly exciting time. I had been back from that about an hour on Monday when I was sent to Bristol to bring back some men on Tuesday, which was a very nice change. The guard was noticeable as my corporal told me there was a wireless installation in a house in the sewage works which was kept secret. So in the evening I went to the house with the corporal and a private and demanded to be shown a shed where the wireless was. There was no trouble about that, and I found the installation there all right. It was a very small one, not in working order, but it could have been put into working order in a very few minutes. The people said it had not been tried for two years and was of no use at any time. My corporal however knew it had received messages from ships (or rather intercepted them) about six months ago. Two poles for aerials were standing about 20 feet apart next the shed. There were no wires up, but they could have been put up in a few minutes, there being pulleys on the top of each of them and the best and thickest blindcord I have seen in position all ready. Only two men in the works knew of this wireless. It was not very important both because the information that could have been sent by it was scarcely likely to be valuable, and it could not very well be used now as it is in full view of a sentry, who would of course see the flashes. Still, it was quite amusing going to the house. I reported it next day, and the result is that it has been pronounced harmless by the police and also by Colonel Bryant, who is in charge of the defences of the Arsenal. I have not heard details of his visit, but I know the whole house was searched.

Bob has interrupted me here. He came for about an hour and a half. He brought me a compass from Ned which is most excellent for its own purpose. I will get a marching one as well.

I gave Bob Will's letter.

I have no more time, now, I'm sorry. Will try and write tomorrow.


Very glad you and Arnie are going on so well.

I may unfortunately not be able to come home next Saturday, but don't know yet.

Source: HL pp. 616-7

Frank Lawrence to his father

[Sunday, September 1914]

Dear Father

I am very glad to hear that Mother is really getting better now. I hope it will not be long before she is downstairs again. I think after this she ought to have a change of air, if possible. What is Arnie going to do for the next few weeks? I suppose he won't go to school.

I hope in about a fortnight to be able to send you 22, which will I think nearly cover what you have paid for me. I will be very glad if you will tell me the exact amount.

I have had a great time with the Colt. It took me some time to find out how to dismount it, and a longer time to put it together again. Then this afternoon I took the greater part of it to pieces, and couldn't get it back for a long time. The Colonel happened to pass when I was trying to put it together, and was very interested, watching me putting the sear in wrong way round. After that difficulty had been disposed with I went on all right, except that it took a long time. When next I am free I shall take a little more to pieces, most likely the whole thing. Please ask Ned why the following happens. After replacing slide and barrel on the receiver, holding them upside down and having the link forward, why does the slide not come back freely when pulling it backwards to put the safety catch in place? It sticks when pulled back slowly, and requires a jerk to overcome the resistance, whatever it is. The hammer is at full cock. Except for this I have no other question at present. Bob came down yesterday and we had a nice time together. I expect I shall be able to see him next Thursday in London. I hope that before long I will be able to get off for a weekend, so will be able to get home. I may be able to manage it this week, but scarcely expect to do so, as the Adjutant is not fond of letting men go away for long. It will be very nice if I can do so. My sword came yesterday, from Wilkinson. I had to have it while I am here, though I fancy there are not many being carried at the front. Most of our men will send them home as soon as they go out.

Huts are going to be built for us. I expect we shall be in them in a fortnight.

Source: HL p. 617

Frank Lawrence to T.E. Lawrence

[September 1914]

Dear Ned

I think you were quite right about that projecting pin, which is the end of the disconnector. I had it out some days ago, but don't know yet how it works. It really will be quite hard for me to get a range to shoot on. There is no range attached to the Camp, as we are within Woolwich Arsenal, and no shooting is allowed there because of the large number of magazines dotted about and also because there is a fairly large amount of picric acid out in the fields. If a bullet hit that it would go off. I have tried at the King's Norton Ammunition works here but their range is too much occupied. The only other one is a 30 yards one a mile and a half away. That is a Government one, and is being fairly constantly used. This is, I think, my only chance locally.

I have got 200 rounds of ammunition and can get plenty more, at 12/6 per 100. The address of the Colt place is the London Armoury Co. (not Ammunition as I said before), 31 Bury Street, St. James, S.W. Spare parts can be had there, and in a few days I shall try for a spare magazine. They were out of them when I got the ammunition.

The Colt is a lovely pistol. The more I examine it the more I like it. There is a vast gulf between it and the ordinary revolver.

If you want anything in connection with it which you don't want to write for I could get it for you. They keep two weights of bullet, I think 200 and 230 grains. The lighter weight has considerably higher velocity and greater penetrating power, though I suppose less shock.


Source: HL p. 618

Both Sarah Lawrence and her youngest son Arnold were ill in the late summer of 1914.

Frank Lawrence to his father

Oct. 22 [1914]

Dear Father

I return the cheque endorsed. I had not expected it now. I hope Arnie is going on all right. We had another easy march this morning of about 8 miles. I expect we shall soon do longer distances. Three mornings a week are given to marches. They are sometimes quite amusing. Our men won't make much noise on them however. We usually go up on the high ground about a mile from the camp, to where we were once going to move. It is very nice country, and it is really very enjoyable. We are all in full marching order.

There have been several changes here lately. Most unfortunately (for me alone) Vere has been sent off to the front. He was very lucky to get the chance, as there were several men who ought to have gone before he did. But as they all happened to be out of Camp he went instead. He was told late one evening and went nearly mad with excitement. He went away the next day and I went up to London with him. He was smiling all day. Another subaltern and two senior officers went at the same time. The day after three more captains went. So we are very short of captains now. I think we shall be getting more in soon.

The lecture on inoculation that was to have taken place last Thursday is on again today, so I shall not be able to get up to see Bob. I hope I shall be able to manage Saturday.

I have now stopped doing orderly work, and am instead put on to keeping guard. This will mean occasionally having charge for a day of a small number of men guarding part of the Arsenal. Yesterday I fired 8 shots from the Colt. I foolishly started too far away, and out of the 8 shots I missed the target (6 x 6 ins.) twice. The bull was the same size as the one Ned shot on when trying the pistol. One shot was in the bull, two very close to it. The other three were all high. The distance was 30 yards. Another man with me firing with a revolver hit the target once in 10. I think I shall be able to go to this range fairly frequently. It is a government one, much like the Cherwell in a disused clay pit, only rather better kept. The pistol shot beautifully. The light was not good, as it was a quarter to five.

I will write again tomorrow. Just now I have to go on parade shortly.

I hope Mother is not getting too tired.

Source: HL p. 624

Frank Lawrence to his mother

Tuesday 27th [October 1914]

Dear Mother

It is very good of you to write such a long letter. I had not expected one from you for some time. You must be very busy with Arnie. I hope you will not do too much. It is very hard indeed on Arnie having all this trouble. I will write to him tonight if I can or else tomorrow and tell him about my going on guard, for I have come off it a few hours ago. Father must be kept busy with ordering everything. I wrote to Menon a day or so ago. Vere is at present at Winchester. He will be going out with the 8th Division in a few days. The notice he had was not really short. Some men have been sent off from here at 8.0 a.m. when they were told at three or five o'clock that morning. Men going out on drafts usually have two or three days notice. Vere was such a truly nice man that it is a great pity for me that he has gone. There is no-one like him here now. Don't get despondent about the war. We are doing very well, and at present cannot expect to win smashing victories. We are winning more and more every day. Our forces are being constantly increased and reinforced.

It will be very nice indeed if I can get home soon. But I would rather not go anywhere else. I cannot be long at home in any case so it would be a great pity to waste any of the time at another person's house. I hope Dr. Gibson will allow it. But I am now more uncertain when I shall be able to get away, owing to going on guard. I cannot change guard either. I hope to see Bob tomorrow afternoon down here. I have had a letter from Janet [Laurie] wanting me to go to lunch with Mrs. Laurie some Sunday. I will do so if I can.

I have been using my O.T.C. uniform lately, which is very warm. I shall get something in the line you suggest soon.

I don't really think we can be kept here much longer. The field is in a terrible state of mud after only a few hours rain. It is regularly flooded most of the winter. Skating is frequent on it. Rheumatism and pneumonia will be rampant soon.

I will write to Will as soon as I can. I wrote to Florence lately. I have not heard from Ned. It's too late now to write to Arnie, so I will have to leave that till tomorrow.

I hope very much I will be able to see you soon.


Source: HL p. 625

Will Lawrence, who was in a teaching job in India at the outbreak of war, was planning to return to England and join up.

Frank Lawrence to Will Lawrence

3rd Gloucesters
Abbey Wood
London, S.E.

Oct. 30 [1914]

Dear Will

This is not an essay, though the paper must remind you of one. It is only the nearest approach to foreign paper I can get just now. Thanks very much for your letter. I am indeed very lucky, and you are unfortunately most unlucky. It must be maddening to be out there while all this is going on. If you do come back I don't think you will have difficulty in getting a commission. There are still a very large number of people wanting commissions, but many of them have no knowledge at all of this kind of work. Ned would be able, most likely, to get you in anywhere. The casualties among officers are very great. Nearly 80 per cent. are killed, wounded, or missing, and in the case of officers 'missing' generally means wounded. It will be very few men, if any, who will go through much of this war without being hit. One man who went out from here three weeks ago has been dangerously wounded, and over half of the officers sent out from here since the start have been, or are, badly hit. My battalion, the 3rd, will not, I think, go out as a battalion. It acts as a feeding ground for the 1st battalion which is out there, and a number of drafts have been sent. Another draft ought to go any day, as the Gloucesters got badly cut up lately attacking somewhere around Ypres. They were in Ypres a week ago. The 2nd battalion, also of the line, is on the way from India, and will go straight out when it comes. Then we shall have two battalions to feed. Some Territorials have been sent out to India to take the Gloucesters' place. That is what has been done with most of the foreign service volunteers of the Territorials. They are sent out to allow perfectly trained men to come back to fight, and they must be sick now when they have realised that there is very little chance of any fighting for them. We are, as you know, stationed in Woolwich Arsenal, at present the most important place in England. Work never stops for a single instant in the Arsenal from one month to another. There are 25,000 men employed by day, and about the same by night. There are enough magazines within three hundred yards of our camp to wipe all our lot right out, should one of them only go off. An airship would not have any difficulty in finding this place, for they must know every inch of this place. For years a German had a farm just outside, with grazing rights for his cattle inside the boundary. He was also very good friends with the police here. He disappeared a week or so before the war, and has not been heard of since. There are many more cases rather like that. A Zeppelin would be able to blow up any of these magazines quite easily, provided it did not try to get away itself. If it did it would be more difficult. One has been over Southend not long ago, and one may come any night. Still that danger is problematical. What is certain is that we are going to have terrible illness unless the camp is moved. We are in tents on marshes, which are flooded some months of each winter. We ought to be under water now, but owing to the exceptionally dry weather the rain has only been on for a few hours and we are only in a terribly muddy mess. It is raining now, and if it keeps on all night the water will be over the floor boards of some tents by the morning. The Thames once flowed over these fields, but they have been reclaimed. They are still several feet below high water level. The subsoil is peat to a depth of about 15 feet. There is a contract out for building huts for us on some high ground near, which is a very nice place, but it will be 10 weeks at least before they are completed. Also I hope I shall not still be here in 10 weeks time. I can't say of course when, if ever, I shall get out, but I hope it will be before Christmas. I expect I will just come in for the latter half of the winter. Our business here is training ourselves and the men. It is very nice work, and I very much enjoy it. We are not very hard worked. We start at 7.0 a.m., and finish usually at 3.0 p.m. I am also on guard nearly twice a week, for 24 hours each time. That means being in command of a small body of men at some point in the Arsenal.

I really cannot describe the language, sentiments and thoughts freely expressed here by the officers. It is beyond words abominable. I never thought such a state of things could exist anywhere. There has been one really decent man here, from B.N.C. He has now gone to the other side, and there is no-one left here like people I have been accustomed to. I see Bob usually twice a week, which is very nice, and hope next Saturday or the Saturday after to get home for a night. I would have been home before but for Arnie's illness. He is going on all right now. It is hard on him getting scarlet fever after all his other troubles. I hope also to see something of the Lauries soon.

I will write again to you very soon. I wish you were here with me.


Source: HL pp. 628-30

T.E. Lawrence was posted to Egypt

Frank Lawrence to his mother

Thursday [End-November 1914]

Dear Mother

Have just got your letter, and you must have had mine by now. I have again had no time for writing much today. We have just had a very good lecture on shooting from a staff officer. I'm very sorry I shall be on guard on Saturday for certain, and as I shall not be off it till Sunday I will not be able to get home. It is a great pity, but it cannot be helped. There has been some rain today, and the mud in the field I do not remember ever having seen excelled, even on paperchases. The whole field is mud and puddles. It is impossible to walk properly. Men slip over everywhere. The Adjutant has written a furious letter to the War Office, and we are going (definitely I think) to be billeted in a day or so. The huts have been started on the top of the hill.

I'm not sure if I told you yesterday that Vere has not gone after all. I met him at Bristol and I expect him back here soon. It will be very nice to be with him again. At the last minute there were promotions from the ranks, so he was not wanted. I will tell you about going to Bristol tomorrow I hope. It's washing day, and I think I will be more free.

Everything is all right with me. I am perfectly warm at night. I don't think I will be able to see Ned before he goes. Bob has told me all he knows about him. Ned ought to have a good position there. If he lets his services get known (as he will have to most likely) he may be 'D.S.O.' soon.

Glad Arnie liked the books. I am going to collect some in camp and send them.

What is Ned gazetted in (I mean regulars or reserve).

More later,


Source: HL p. 636

Frank Lawrence to his mother

Thursday [end-November 1914]

[postscript:] I suppose Ned is leaving London today. I don't expect to see him though.

Source: HL p. 638

T.E. Lawrence did not finally sail for Egypt until 9 December. However, he and Frank did not meet. 

Frank Lawrence to Will Lawrence

3rd Gloucesters
Abbey Wood
London, S.E.

2. I. 15

Dear Will

Thanks very much for your long letter. You really should not have troubled to write it, as every minute of your time must be occupied. It's all very well to say you give long lectures to the College, but you never mention the hours of preparation you must have for them. It is a wonderfully busy life you are leading. The training must be a very welcome interlude. I should like to know more of what it is. I don't suppose you are always in sole command of a company, but you must have one a good deal. By this time I expect you know the drill, and must now be doing attacks, trench digging etc. If you have not heard this order before you might, if you want to, try it on your company. It is a perfectly legitimate one, but unusual. Get them marching in column of route, and then give 'Facing right, advance in column'. The leading platoon commander will give on his own, 'right turn', and the other three will give two 'right inclines'. I expect you know it, but if you do not, and they do not, you will certainly muddle them up with it.

Four hours a day three times a week is not too little time to put in, I think. To do a great deal regularly seems here to take the spirit out of men and officers. You will always be fresh and eager for your work at your rate of going.

I should be very sorry to see you enlist. I really think it would be an entire waste of time for you, besides being very unpleasant. You would be under officers who might (and the majority have not) not have reached twenty, and who behave like babies. You would be immeasurably superior mentally and physically to every subaltern in this regiment supposing you were a private here now, and we have got a better lot here than the men who are getting commissions in Kitchener's Army. For some time we had in our camp the officers and men of the 11th battalion of the regiment, one of Kitcheners, and there were junior officers in that who would not have been taken under any circumstances in any Regular regiment. One of them fell out once, without leave, when passing a railway station on a route march, and went up to London for the day. He is still in the battalion. It's that type of man who is now getting commissioned, and it will be still worse in another few months' time. Elementary school teachers, ex-C.L.B. boys, and others like them are all getting in. You will not meet, except rarely, should you enlist when you come back, the Army Officer you have been accustomed to. I have said all this to try and show you a little of what you would have to go through in the ranks. The ages of the junior officers in Kitchener's Army, and in fact everywhere will become younger and younger as time goes on. The wastage in officers is very large. I do not think you should have any difficulty in getting a commission. If you have to leave the Gurkhas (it would be scarcely fair to the regular officers to have you taking their place on service) their Colonel ought to give you a recommendation to the War Office at any rate, and you would almost certainly get a captaincy in Kitchener's for the asking. The New Army will not be sent out entirely. The later-formed divisions will be kept as feeding regiments to others doing the fighting, and if you went into the New Army it would most likely be one of them you would be attached to first. I don't think it would take you long to get out. If you go for the Special Reserve I cannot give a guess as to what rank you would get. Everything would depend on what your Colonel said about you and if a Colonel here got interested in you. I don't think for a minute you would be kept for months of further training in England. You might be here for months waiting for your turn to go out, however. I don't think I can say anything more about enlisting, except to assure you that doing your present work you are putting far more in the scale of 'services rendered' than by coming back here and going out as a private. You would undoubtably get a commission from the ranks if you lived, but it would be very much better that you should get the commission immediately.

I can't say now when I shall be going out. It ought to be soon, as we have lost rather heavily lately in officers, that is our 1st battalion. Our 2nd battalion is now out, but has not yet done any fighting. There were 10 officers on the square when I joined in September, and four of them are now dead, four wounded and one missing. If I had come to camp three days earlier I should have gone out in place of another man some weeks ago, and as he has been killed I expect I should have been. The proportion of killed in officers is very nearly one in two. Sam Browne belts are of course entirely out of the question. Web equipment, rifles and bayonets are almost compulsory. I shall not, I think, take a British Warm with me, but instead have my Burberry lined with oil-silk and fleece. I will also have my tunic lined with oil-silk in the same way. Should you want a sword when you come back you will find mine at home. If glasses are carried the case is now being covered with khaki cloth. I will not go without mine, but will try and get some way of carrying them without the case. That gives you away. I am now using riding bags, as they are very strong and most comfortable. I have got a large dark coloured handkerchief to use round my neck, as collars are one of the first things to be chucked away. Wool scarves are too hot for me. I am going tomorrow to get a waistcoat with sleeves made of oil silk lined with thin fleece. I have got these various ideas from officers who have been out and from what has been taken out from this camp. I have been lucky enough to find a shop that has just brought out a set of webbing equipment which with pouch, holster, and a pack about the same size as a Tommy's one weighs about or less of the ordinary kind. It is waterproof as well. I will write and tell Mother or you how it wears. Bob knows the shop and all about the equipment and will order one for you should you wish it when your time comes.

The feet is the great unsolved problem at present. Trying to sleep with cold feet is not easy.

The men have now been moved into three large schools here, and are quite comfortable. About half the officers are in them also. I am stopping in the camp here, as I could not have a room to myself in the schools, so it would be very stuffy with a fire, gas-stove and gas light in a small room with two or three others. Last Monday evening nearly the whole camp was blown down (the second time it has happened). My tent went too, and the men who put it up abstracted my razor and spare blades. My canvas bath and bucket also disappeared. I was on guard that night, and managed to find a barn to sleep in with the men, 40 of them. This barn had one side open, so as the men got to the barn first, while I was wandering round beating up strayed ones, I found I had to sleep near the open side, and had the rain falling like dew on me all night. I had my valise, so I was all right, but it gave me a fearful cold. The officers here now are quite a decent lot. The old ones have all cleared off, so the mess is a very different place. What you say about dirty talk is very true I can see now, but I am glad to say that has stopped now. I imagined the Regulars were different. One of the captains here said to me some weeks ago that he would not recommend the Army to anyone who wanted to do more than walk pleasantly through life. There was always someone on top of you, to prevent you making the fullest use of your mind and opportunities. One of the majors here, an Indian Army man, also said much the same. He added that you could not reach a position which adequately rewarded you for your life till long after it was possible to obtain it in civilian life. Naturally I have been thinking about this question a lot. I can see that the Army is a pleasant life, decidedly not a soft one, nor a slack one unless one wishes. I very much like the life I am leading now, out of doors all day long. The Army is attracting me more than ever now I have had a glimpse of a small part of it, but the other side of the question is 'Would it be better to do some job like Mathew's in Nigeria, or that sort of place?' There is much to attract in that business. I would be very glad if you would tell me what your idea roughly about this is. I know you like the Army, and I know also Ned does not. But Ned is so very different from me that I am not putting too much weight on his opinions in this matter. I have not decided myself, and am very much puzzled. I have been wondering about it since the war started. I must stop now, but it would be very kind of you to tell me what you think about the above.


Source: HL pp. 643-6

Telegram from Frank Lawrence to his parents

Abbey Wood

9.10 p.m. 8 February 1915.

Lawrence 2 Polstead Road Oxford

Leave with Draft 7.15 tomorrow morning. Cross from Southampton probably almost at once.

Source: HL pp. 648

Postcard from Frank Lawrence to his mother

Dear Mother

This departure is rather sudden and unexpected. Two men were unfit, so it came to me. I was told yesterday morning that my name had been sent in for it, but it was not till ten minutes before I sent the wire that I heard the W.O. had confirmed it. I was expecting it all day, but as it was quite possible that they might have refused me I did not like alarming you. I was with Bob some hours, which was very nice.

A lieutenant is in charge of the draft (200). I know him very well and like him very much. We are going to our 1st Bn., which is not fighting just now I fancy. I am writing this in the train, just after passing Redhill. We have picked up more men, and now have a huge long train. Bob knows about my clothes. I have plenty of handkerchiefs for some time, but when the dirty ones are washed you might perhaps send them out. I will give you my address as soon as I can.

I can't say much on this card, so will get off a letter before I reach France if I possibly can.

Source: HL pp. 648-9

Frank Lawrence to his mother

Southampton Docks

9. 2. 1915

Dear Mother

We have lost no time in getting on board. We got here about 2.0p.m. (coming straight to the docks). We stopped in the customs sheds, and the men were issued there with field service dressings, knives, gloves, and body-belts. Then we came on board, where I now am. I think we are starting about four, another hour's time from now. It is certainly a strange transformation from the day before yesterday. The post card I wrote in the train will most likely reach you at the same time as this. We are going to Havre I think. The steamer is a fairly large one, and there are a lot of men from different regiments on board.

I never expected to be parted from you so soon, after the quiet Sunday. But for those other two officers being unfit I should not have gone for some time.

I will write as frequently as possible, but after this letter my other ones may be censored.

I have not to my knowledge left anything behind, but if I have will tell you.

I must stop now, as I have to meet the officer with me, Churchill Longman, in a few minutes.

Goodbye for the present,


Source: HL p. 649

Frank Lawrence to his mother

1st Gloucester REGT.
Brit. Exped. Force

Monday night [1 March 1915]

Dear Mother

We left our town last Wednesday afternoon, and marched about miles to another larger and better town. We stopped there that night sleeping in a huge boarding school for girls. It had been a hospital, but the Germans shelled it and so they took the wounded out. We were very comfortable in it, having our valises. We have not seen them since, and I don't think we shall till we go back for a rest. There were good shops in this town, and I changed a cheque at the Banque de France. This bank will cash officers' cheques up to 5. It is the only one that will do so. It is of course most convenient, as English paper money cannot be cashed anywhere over here, and is perfectly useless. I bought a few quite useful articles there, including the small writing paper book I have written two scraps of letters in. I can carry it in my pocket, and it is convenient as it is self-contained. Most of the officers had their meals at an hotel, but Newman (the latest joined officer in the company) and myself had our meals in the school, buying extra stuff outside. We left the town at 4.0 p.m. the next day (Thursday) and went about miles to our position. Two companies of the battalion stopped in reserve behind, the other two companies each sent up two of their four platoons to the firing line by day, and increased the strength by an extra platoon each by night. The remaining platoon of the two companies stopped behind as reserve. My platoon, as I said, went up on Thursday night, and stopped till about 8.0 p.m. on Saturday night. It was most queer there, entirely different to what I had imagined. There were no trenches, but breastworks of sand-bags. These of course were above ground, and there was no water in them though plenty of mud. The breastworks were in heavy ground, open and flat, about 350-400 yds. from the German lines. We (our company) had a small portion of the line as our share, about mile or a little more in all. This was split up into two approximately equal parts, each platoon having one of them. The breastwork was not continuous, but had gaps at intervals. These gaps were covered by hurdles, and naturally the Germans used to snipe at anybody crossing them, as they were then in full view down to the waist. It was really not safe to cross in daylight. I only had to do so once. At night the Germans sent out a few snipers who came quite close up to our line, and then potted at anybody they saw. They did not succeed in hitting any of our men, though they had some good attempts. They very nearly got Captain Blunt, and had one or two tries at me. The odds are vastly against anybody being hit at night, except by a purely chance shot, as it is so impossible to aim. Please don't imagine I go wandering about aimlessly everywhere. I am strictly preserving myself as far as I can, and only go down the line when I ought to. On Thursday night we did not hit any Germans so far as we know, but on Friday five were wounded by absolutely fluke shots. My quarters were beautifully cosy. A small hut had been made, the sides of sandbags the roof of corrugated iron covered with earth: one side was the breast-work itself. It was of course entirely waterproof. There was a layer of straw on the floor, two chairs and a small table. There was a fire just in the entrance, of wood and coke. On Thursday night the Captain stopped in the work till about 11.0 p.m., and then left it to go down to the reserve platoons for the night. We always, the whole regiment, stand to arms at dusk, and again about 5.0 a.m., or 5.30 in the morning. So when the Captain left us on Thursday night there were six hours before we stood to. These six hrs. the other officer and I divided between us, three each. One officer must be awake at any time during the night. This gave us three hours sleep each, but that was interrupted as it was a little cold. We made it up during the day. Very fortunately it did not rain at all in our time there. The ground is very muddy, and of course has been made worse by many people walking on it. It is planted with mangel wurzels (I hope I have not spelt this too absurdly), and these project 3 or 4 inches above the ground. On Thursday night I could not very well see them, and as I only came across them in the gaps I could not use my lamp. The consequence was I slipped about all over the place, but escaped going down flat. I often went in in muddy places halfway up my leg and more. I got in a most fearful state by the time I got relieved. I shall use those waterproof things Father sent as leggings, so they will take the thick of the mud I hope, in future. Friday was a brilliantly fine day, and many aeroplanes (of ours) flew over the German lines. They were all fired at, mostly with shrapnel and machine guns. Watching them we saw little white clouds of smoke appear all around them, each of which was a bursting shell. No aeroplane was hit. I have found out what the German shrapnel is like now. The shells they fired at the aeroplanes of course had to come down somewhere, and many of the little pellets came down round us. I have got one that fell about 10 feet away. Others were closer. One man was hit a glancing blow on the head, but beyond raising a very tiny bump it did no damage. The pellets are of steel about the size of a small marble, and when the shell bursts have great velocity.

Our lines were not shelled at all by the Germans. On Friday night the captain stayed with us. The German lines opposite have a great deal of barbed wire in front of them. We have got a good deal also. They have a trench as well as a breastwork. Very few of their men show during the daytime, not more than one or two. The others may be there, or behind somewhere. They are working each night improving their position, and our people are doing the same, directed by R.E.'s and Sappers. That was the job I was on last night, with 100 men. Rather more shots arc fired by night than by day, but there are very few altogether. On Saturday night we came back about a mile and a bit, and were spread over various houses close together. These houses have all had shells near them some time, and I don't think there is one window intact in the whole village. Roofs also. They are quite empty of course now, that is of population. We occupied only the bottom floor in each, but were quite comfortable with a fairly thick layer of straw. The officers all had their meals together, and so we fed very well. The feeding has been excellent, and I think will continue so. Just as we got into the houses I was handed a bundle of letters, about six, and two parcels. I did not see who they were for, but imagined the mail had come in for the five of us, for all the officers were in the room at the time. So I told the captain and gave him the letters. The first one was for me, and he handed it over. The second was also mine, and he handed that over. The third was the same. Then he began to get suspicious and quickly looked at the rest. When he found they were all mine he fairly banged them at me. None of the others got any letters that night. The letters had accumulated during the three days. That was why I got so many. Most of them were yours, and one Father's. I was delighted to get them, for I cannot get too many to satisfy me. It is so lovely to hear from you and Father. The scarf will do beautifully, thanks very much for it. The waterproof things will be most useful in keeping some mud off, as I have mentioned I think. One pair is all I want. The hat cover came all right. I wish I had told Bob of one shop, for he could have got it there and would have been saved much trouble. The shop is Dunhill in Conduit Street, near the Piccadilly end of Regent Street. It was very good of him to take all the trouble he did. I have managed to get a hat cover issued to me here also, so I am well off. I did this before Bob's came.

Will's position is very interesting. I will write to Port Said if I can. Have you heard from Ned lately? I got Father's letter tonight, with yours also. Very many thanks. The periscope I have seen, but could not carry it about with me. It is far too awkward an article. I have got a pocket one which is just about as efficient and is very handy, as it weighs nothing and measures only about 3 x 1 x ins. So I do not want the big one. It was very good of Mrs. Mitchell to write so warmly. She has been most kind certainly. Her parcel of cigarettes has not yet come. I hope someone has not kept it. The Miss Holmes you sent one of my photos to was de Vere's nurse in London. She was exceedingly good to him. Letters come here in three days, or less sometimes. So we are not far away from each other. I shall not get them, however, if I am in the firing line till I come out. I may as well tell you that we are in France here.

I have written rather fully about the position here so that you can see for yourself that I am not to be pitied at all. It is for me war wrapped in cotton wool. The feeding is splendid, I have got plenty of clothes with me, and the works we are defending are the best men who have been out here all the time have ever seen.

In the matter of papers I would like one sometimes. Florence wants to send me things so I will ask her to send The Times Weekly Edition. It is quite a useful thing to see.

A most surprising thing happened the other day. One of our men caught a well grown chicken in the village. This place has been occupied more than once each by Germans, French, Indians and English, all of whom were on the look out for chickens. How it can have escaped for so many months is a wonder. I am as fit as possible, and enjoying things. My platoon is in reserve tonight, which means a quiet night and an easy day tomorrow. Tomorrow night we will go into the firing line just to strengthen it, which will be another quiet night.

[Two paragraphs omitted] By your next letter I hope you will be better than 'all well enough'. That is not quite so good as I should like.

I have not yet a third got through the milk tablets, though they are very good. If you send some more, could you try to get them in a flat, flask-shaped bottle (they are sold in it) as it would be so much handier for carrying. Otherwise I really do not know anything I want, except perhaps occasionally chocolate. The English milk or nut milk variety is so much nicer than the French I think. Now I am going to sleep, as it is after 10.0. Going to bed does not entail much preparation here.

I will always censor my own letters, but sometimes letters are opened before they reach England. This is very seldom however. The censor's stamp on my letters is that belonging to the regiment. You need not put 'on active service' on your letters to me. It is only on mine to you that it should be put.


I will write to Bob when I can. I was very pleased to get his letter.

Source: HL pp. 662-6

Frank's frequent letters home continued to give a vivid picture of his experiences on the Western Front. The extracts included here mainly refer to T.E. Lawrence.


Frank Lawrence to his parents

Monday [8 March 1915]

[...] When you told me Ned was getting 15/- a day I knew at once he was a captain. I will write to him in the next few days. [...]

Source: HL p. 675

It is not clear what photographs of dead men the comment below refers to, nor whether Frank had seen them, or was reacting to something his mother had written. The comment does not seem to me to imply that T.E. Lawrence himself had taken the photographs. They were perhaps press photographs of the aftermath of the failed Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915. Djemal Pasha's force had suffered about 2,000 casualties, compared to British losses of about 150.

Unlike Ned, Frank was surrounded by death and knew that his own life was at great risk. He may well have been shocked that Ned had sent such pictures home, where they were likely to cause distress.

Frank Lawrence to his mother

Sat. 1 May [1915]

Has Ned sent any explanation of those photos of the dead men? I cannot imagine what he did it for. I could get plenty here if I had a camera and wanted to. The human body after death is a most vile and loathsome thing. The one I helped to pull out of the ditch at the last trench but one absolutely defies description. I dislike wood fires because the smoke makes my eyes run, but I went to the nearest one and put my head right over it to get out of the smell for a little.

Source: HL p. 713

The action at Richebourg l'Avou on 9 May 1916, as described in the Official History of the Great War, Military Operations in France and Belgium, 1915, compiled by Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds (London. Macmillan, 1928) p. 28.

On the front of the 3rd Brigade German observers were seen looking over the parapet, and as soon as the assaulting lines of 1/Cloucestershire and 1/South Wales Borderers crossed the British breastwork the machine gins opened a heavy fire. The leading companies advanced eighty to a hundred yards in the face of a hail of bullets, but were unable to go further and lay down in No Man's Land, taking what cover they could.

Last letters

Frank Lawrence to his parents

[Written on the envelope:]
Not to be delivered till after my death.

Abbey Wood
Nov. 26, 1914

Dear Mother and Father

This letter is a solemn one for me, as I do not mean it to be delivered to you till after my death. I am writing it because it is quite likely I shall be killed very shortly. I only know of one officer who has been out at the front since August who has not been hit yet. I do not think I shall escape being wounded at any rate, though I hope to come home again all right.

If I do die, I hope I die with colours flying.

Do not grieve for me. God's purposes are too vast for us to see, but I know He is always with me, and whatever happens will be with His foreknowledge and by His orders in accordance with His plan. It will be very hard for you both, but you must think that however I die will be best for me. Also the parting will not be for long. Merely for an infinitesimal space of time out of eternity.

I can never be sufficiently grateful for having been given such parents as you, and also for all you have done for me. I am afraid I have ill repaid you on earth, and must have caused you great trouble. Arnie must now be your solace, as he will be I expect.

In these last three months I have gone through indescribable depths of infamy, living in the midst of it, and if I had been accustomed to going to theatres, music halls etc. in the seemingly harmless way other boys go I should have found it trebly hard to have kept myself clean. I do not think Arnie will ever live as I mention above, but should he ever feel inclined to I hope he will remember the words of one who has experienced a little.

Please give the enclosed letter to Paviere, together with a number of books, about a dozen, which are in the two locked drawers (the small top ones) of Will's chest of drawers in the Brass Room. You will find the keys in my room. One is in tile painted wooden box with a picture of Ventnor on it in the top drawer of my chest of drawers. The other I think is in a black pocket book in a cardboard box on top of the wardrobe in my room. There are 8 books by Ramacharaka, one large one by Alan Leo, one on the Rosicrucians, and a few others on various subjects, included some printed like large exercise books on Hypnotism etc.

Do what you like with anything else of mine.

Well, I will be watching over you all, and will know what you are doing.

Goodbye, till we meet again not on this earth.

Your son still,


Source: HL pp. 718-9

The Secretary, War Office, London, to T.R. Lawrence
[Telegram. This would have arrived before the letter below]

14 May 1915

Deeply regret to inform you that 2nd Lieutenant F.H. Lawrence Gloucester Regiment killed in action 9th May Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

Captain A.St.J. Blunt to Mrs. Lawrence

May 11th [1915]

Dear Mrs. Lawrence,

Will you please accept my sincerest sympathy in your sad bereavement.

Your son was in my company and at the time of his death was leading his men forward preparatory to the assault. The assault I regret to say was unsuccessful.

Your son was a very promising officer - very keen on his work and most painstaking. The Regiment has lost a good officer in him and I cannot say how much I regret his death.

I have collected all his effects and they are being despatched today. The enclosed letter was found in his pocket book also the 120 francs in notes.

I have packed up his watch separately and sent it by post today.

With my deepest sympathy.

Yours sincerely,

A. St. J. Blunt, Captain,
B Company,
1st Gloucestershire Regt.

Source: HL p. 721

Frank Lawrence to his parents

[Enclosed with the above. Written on the envelope:]
In the event of my death, please close up this letter and send it with my effects to Mrs. Lawrence, 2 Polstead Road, Oxford.]

Sat. May 1 [1915]

Dear Mother and Father

I am leaving directions so that should I be killed this letter will be sent to you. We know fairly well that the attack has been fixed for about May 12, if all goes well in the meantime. If the Gloucesters are in it there will most likely be very few of the regiment left, as it will be a huge affair and no means must be left untried to help it to succeed. It is quite possible I shall be killed, though I have no premonition about it. I am glad I have not. It is a queer thing to be out here in this beautiful weather and to think that perhaps I have only another fortnight to live. I am writing this letter on the hypothesis that I have been killed, so will treat it in that way. I am glad I have died, not so much for my country, as for all the many wrongs by which the war was mainly commenced and also which it inspired. The purpose for it all I do not think can be seen by us in this life but there is a purpose all the same. Now I come to a harder part. I know you will grieve for me, and it is no use asking you not to; remember me as one who has gone before, not as one parted for ever. This present earthly life is after all a very limited space of time. Although I have been parted from you on this earth for 8 months, yet all the time I have felt in closer communion with you than when I was at home. This more especially applies to my time in France. I think you have also felt much the same. I do not think this communion will be broken now. It will still exist, though there will be no letters travelling between us. If you cannot see me, yet I hope I shall be able to see you. I have many times felt how much I owe to Him who put me in my family. It has been a very, very great help to me all these last months, though I have fallen very short in many things.

This letter will be written in bits, as I do not mean to close it till the attack is near, unless of course death overtakes me first. We have been told we leave here (Hinges) on May 10, as at present arranged, which means we shall practically go straight into the attack. The bombardment on the German line where some division, which will most likely be ours, will attack is going to be fierce. I hope it will make the gaps in the wire as has been arranged. The ground on which we have in the last few days been practising the attack has been made as much like the real place as possible. The bayonets are all being sharpened, and the photo this morning I expect was taken by order.

Thursday May 6

Have learnt tonight when and where the attack will be made (by us). I shall be on a fatigue all day tomorrow, starting from here at 6.30. It is now after 12.0 m.n. and as I don't suppose there will be any rest now till the job is over I want to get a few hrs. sleep. Goodbye,

Still your son,



Friday evening.

Have finished the fatigue (6.30 p.m.). It was hard work. Am expecting the battalion to come up any time now. The fight tomorrow will be a big one. Cannot say all I want to, but I will not say 'goodbye' again. Rather, by His grace,

Au Revoir,


Saturday evening.

As I said this morning, only not in quite so many words, the attack was postponed 24 hrs. It will come off tomorrow morning I expect. I am not looking forward to it.

No time for more just now.

Source: HL pp.719-20

Captain A.St.J. Blunt to T.R. Lawrence

May 18th

Dear Mr. Lawrence,

I received your letter of 15th inst. today. I am glad to say your son suffered no pain, being killed outright. He was hit by 3 shrapnel bullets.

Yours sincerely,

A. ST. J. Blunt

Source: HL p. 721

Lt.-Col George H. Burges to T.R. Lawrence

3/Glostershire Regt.
Miller Barracks
Graves End

29 May. 15

Dear Mr. Lawrence,

I am sending you herewith the Commission of your late son, which we received today - will you kindly acknowledge receipt of it. Will you please at the same time accept my deep sympathy and allow me to express to you how very sorry I was to see your son had been killed. Though he has lost his life in a great cause, the loss can be none the less sad to you. I only heard the day before yesterday from our late adjutant, who is now at the front, that your boy was doing very well, and I mention it, as being all I know about what happened, and in case you have not heard more directly, that he was coming up with some reinforcements to the help of the front line, when he was killed by the base of a shell which burst and blew back. I understand he was killed at once.

Believe me,

                       Yours very truly,

George H. Burges, Lt.-Col.

Source: HL pp. 721-2

On 1 June 1915 Lawrence's father, as next of kin, signed and returned to the War Office a printed form undertaking to pay or to secure payment of any charges against Frank's estate.

T.R. Lawrence to War Office (Accounts 4)

2 Polstead Rd.

June 1/15

I enclose 'undertaking' signed.

Will you kindly send me a Certificate of Death of my son.

F.H. Lawrence 2nd. Lieut. The Gloucestershire Regt. who was killed on May 9th and oblige.

T.R. Lawrence (father). If there is any charge I will send money on receiving notice of amount.

Source: TNA WO 339/30123


T. E. Lawrence to his family

Military Intelligence Office


I haven't written since I got your wire as I was waiting for details. Today I got Father's two letters. They are very comfortable reading:- and I hope that when I die there will be nothing more to regret. The only thing I feel a little is, that there was no need surely to go into mourning for him? I cannot see any cause at all - in any case to die for one's country is a sort of privilege: Mother and you will find it more painful and harder to live for it, than he did to die: but I think that at this time it is one's duty to show no signs that would distress others: and to appear bereaved is surely under this condemnation.

So please, keep a brave face to the world: we cannot all go fighting: but we can do that, which is in the same kind.


Source: HL pp. 303-4

From H.H. Fawcett, War Office, to T.R. Lawrence

12 June, 1915

In reference to your letter of the 1st instant, I am directed to transmit to you the accompanying Certificate regarding the death of Second Lieutenant Frank Helier Lawrence, 3rd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment.

I am to explain that it is the custom of this Department to issue one copy only of such Certificates, and I am therefore to suggest that, before the enclosure is parted with, certified copies of the same should be made, if it is thought likely that the enclosed copy will be insufficient for future requirements.

I am, Sir, your obedient Servant

H.H. Fawcett



Certified that it appears from the records of this office that Second Lieutenant FRANK HELIER LAWRENCE, 3rd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, has been reported Killed in Action in North West Europe, the exact place not being stated, on the 9th of May, 1915.

H.H. Fawcett
For the Secretary, War Office

Source: TNA WO 339/30123 


T. E. Lawrence to his mother

Military Intelligence Office


Poor dear Mother

I got your letter this morning, and it has grieved me very much. You will never never understand any of us after we are grown up a little. Don't you ever feel that we love you without our telling you so? - I feel such a contemptible worm for having to write this way about things. If you only knew that if one thinks deeply about anything one would rather die than say anything about it. You know men do nearly all die laughing, because they know death is very terrible, an a thing to be forgotten till after it has come.

There, put that aside, and bear a brave face to the world about Frank. In a time of such fearful stress in our country it is one's duty to watch very carefully lest one of the weaker ones be offended: and you know we were always the stronger, and if they see you broken down they will all grow fearful about their ones at the front.

Frank's last letter is a very fine one, and leaves no regret behind it.

Out here we do nothing. There is an official inertia against which one is very powerless. But I don't think we are going to have to wait much longer.

I didn't go to say good-bye to Frank because he would rather I didn't, and I knew there was little chance of my seeing him again; in which case we were better without a parting.


Source: HL p. 304

Military Secretary, War Office, to T.R. Lawrence

28th June, 1915

The Military Secretary presents his compliments to Mr T.R. Lawrence, and begs to inform him that a report has just been received from Army Head Quarters in the Field which states that the late Second Lieutenant F.H. Lawrence was buried in the cemetery at S.9.a map Bthune 1:40,000.

The Military Secretary ventures to send this information now, as Mr Lawrence may not have previously received it.

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

T.R. Lawrence to the Military Secretary, War Office

2 Polstead Rd

July 2/15

Mr T.R. Lawrence thanks the Military Secretary very much for his kind letter regarding the burial place of his son late 2nd Lieutenant F.H. Lawrence.

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

T.R. Lawrence to the War Office

2 Polstead Rd

July 22/15

Dear Sir

I am applying for a Grant of Letters of Administration to the estate of my son.

Frank Helier Lawrence late 2nd Lieut 3rd Batt. Gloucester Regt. who was killed in action in North West Europe on the 9th day of May last and I shall be glad if you will recommend the Treasury that the Estate duty in the case shd be remitted under the Death Duties (killed in war) Act 1914. His gross estate will not exceed 700 in value. I shall thank you also to let me know that the recommendation has been made.

Yrs truly

Thomas R. Lawrence

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

On 12 August 1915 the Oxford District Probate Office granted Letters of Administration to T.R. Lawrence for F.H. Lawrence's estate, which had a gross value of 568-13-1.  

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

T.R. Lawrence to War Office (Accounts 4)

2 Polstead Road

Nov 24/15

Dear Sir

In reply to yrs of 23rd I enclose Letters of Administration which please return.

I do not know of any claims on my late son F.H. Lawrence's estate.


T.R. Lawrence

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

In due course T.R. Lawrence received a cheque for 43-2-6, comprising Frank's unpaid allowances for April 1915 of 4-17-6, plus a gratuity of 46-10-0, after deducting over-issued pay for May 1915 amounting to 8-5-0.

Source: TNA WO 339/30123

The bodies of British combatants killed in action were transferred to British War cemeteries after the war. Many, buried in temporary battlefield graves or not buried at all, were by then missing or unidentifiable. Despite the earlier information about Frank Lawrence's original burial place, it seems that his body was among them. His name is on Panel 17 of the Le Touret memorial at Festubert, which commemorates 13,479 British soldiers who fell in that sector between October 1914 and 24 September 1915.

Photo. Pieter Shipster

Postscript, 2013

Frank Lawrence has seemed a somewhat two-dimensional figure. Almost everything we knew about him came from his letters home. He appeared there to be his mother's favourite son, presumably fully aligned with her views on religion and other things.

Recently, however, I was contacted by a descendant of Horace Paviere, who was in the same class as Frank at the City of Oxford High School for Boys. The family lived in Oxford at 44 St Giles (that is, on the route between the school and the Lawrence home in Polstead Road). Paviere knew the Lawrence family well, liking them all.

With permission I have added two photographs and letter below to this page.

The letter was written on the same date as - and evidently enclosed with - Frank's letter to his family [reproduced above] "Not to be delivered till after my death". A relevant passage in the letter to his family reads: "Please give the enclosed letter to Paviere, together with a number of books, about a dozen, which are in the two locked drawers (the small top ones) of Will's chest of drawers in the Brass Room. You will find the keys in my room. One is in the painted wooden box with a picture of Ventnor on it in the top drawer of my chest of drawers. The other I think is in a black pocket book in a cardboard box on top of the wardrobe in my room. There are 8 books by Ramacharaka, one large one by Alan Leo, one on the Rosicrucians, and a few others on various subjects, included some printed like large exercise books on Hypnotism etc."

It seems probable that the letter to Paviere was sealed.

I think the letter adds another dimension to our knowledge of Frank, who had evidently by then rejected his parents' mainstream evangelical Christianity.

There is also an implied statement that life in the Lawrence household was less harmonious than Lawrence's mother and elder brother later claimed, since Frank writes to his friend "your family's unity and cheerfulness have taught me several lessons."

Last but not least, it seems curious that Frank should have used the school nickname "Jimmy" - which Paviere's descendants think was a name he chose himself. I don't know who "Cupid" was.

F. H. Lawrence

Courtesy of the descendants of Horace Paviere

With 3rd Gloucesters
at Abbey Wood
Nov.26, 1914

Dear Pav.

I hope to be going out to the front very shortly, and, though I have no knowledge one way or the other, of course I may be killed. So I am writing this while I am still alive and at my ease, but it will not be delivered to you, if you get it, till after my death. I have asked my people to give you a few books which I prize highly. With your disposition I think they will be of interest to you, though you may not accept them. Cupid is the only person who has read them to my knowledge, and as he does not like them they will be no use to him. I cannot explain my position fully in this letter, but I have enough evidence in my own mind completely to convince me of the truth of their main idea, of rebirth on this earth. This is of course the keynote, and everything else hangs on this. I do not know what my other lives were, but I have memories and thoughts which cannot possibly have come to me except from previous lives. I cannot enumerate them now, but I expect you are much the same. Just recently also (about 6 months ago) I experienced travelling in the spiritual body (the Desire Body of the Rosicrucians) and know that what is written in the books on that subject is absolutely true in every detail. The knowledge, for that is what I have, not belief, of what death is naturally is considerably helpful to me now, and will be more later.

It will take you some time to read all the books. It will be many months before you know them all well. I had some months of uncertainty and groping for light before accepting them. I never want to go through such a time again. I felt isolated from everybody else in the world, and a terrible sense of loneliness came over me, followed by an indescribable sense of the deepest peace when I finally decided. Accepting rebirth means, of course, throwing over the commonly accepted Christianity, but the Christianity I have had in exchange is beyond words more beautiful. In time you will, I think, see for yourself why this knowledge is not more universal. There are however a large number of people in England thinking this way, and in other countries many more. A striking fact is the unanimity with which those who claim to see beyond the physical body agree in the main idea. Details naturally differ. Read anything you can get hold of on Laot-tzu (I'm not sure of the spelling), a Chinese sage born a few years before Confucius. Any life of Confucius will mention him.

I could go on all night on this subject, but it may be of no interest to you. One thing is certain, that you will have to fight things out yourself. No other person can help you. And the fight will not be easy.

In some things you will find that Ramacharaka and the Rosicrucians contradict one another. You will have to take your own view. Personally I have taken from all the books and others I have read what most appeals to me.

Well, I will stop this now. I hope you will not receive this, but if you do I hope you will have had no reason to be ashamed of knowing me.

I do not know anyone else I would sooner give the books to than you. I suspect Arnie read parts of them, but he is much too young for years to come to be allowed to read them fully.

The usual greetings are out of place in this letter, but your family's unity and cheerfulness have taught me several lessons.

Goodbye, from one who was your friend in the flesh, and is, when you get this, now your friend in the spirit.

I can wish you nothing higher than that you come to a knowledge of truth, for then your life will be a Good one.


If I may say so, I hope your sisters will be very careful of the ordinary army subaltern through their lives.

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