Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to Air Vice-Marshal Sir Oliver Swann
School of Photography
I expect my move here is your doing. When the order came to Uxbridge I nearly burned the camp down in joy:- for Uxbridge is pretty miserable in its way: miserable and splendid at once, since the fellows rise to it so well. I'm awfully glad I went there and stayed a couple of months: and awfully glad to have got away. It will amuse you to hear that this place seems almost disagreeably loose now to my depot-educated eyes! That's a great compliment to Uxbridge, for it never had a recruit less adaptable than myself. However I mustn't tell tales about my school.
My own work? Well, I made some notes of Uxbridge. After the first few weeks they came thicker, and perhaps there is something in them which I will find fit to write up, when the time comes. I can't really say now, for I have not re-read them since they were written: and the writing was done under difficulties, for I'm awkward anyway at rifle-drill, and when my mind went off truant down the square after a phrase, what remained behind was even more awkward - and used to get jumped on! It's hard to detach oneself and make mind-pictures, while actually in a squad: and also I was always tired physically.
However the notes don't really matter, for I've got curiously bitten with the chance you have here of making a first-class show, and am now mainly working to help it on. The fellows are first-class (90 per cent of them) and a little push will keep them so: the contrast between new and old airmen is astonishing, and it is a little hard for the commissioned to see it, because there is a very sharp break in your organisation there. It's different, of course in squadrons: but in these depots you seem to me to run a risk, on that head.
Telling tales again! Apologies: and more thanks for shifting me to this easy comfort. I find I'm a better photographer than I thought! Please leave me to go through with the normal training, unless I squeal about it: though I said the same about Uxbridge, and nearly raised a monument to your glory when you drew me out of it, unasked. It was very good of you, but please don't make benevolence your habit.
Will you tell the C.A.S. all's well: and that I'm going on? also that in me he hasn't got a hard bargain, photographically speaking. It's a subject I always liked, and worked at, privately: and apparently I taught myself somewhat well. I have hopes of earning my pay: which up to date I haven't done, except by keeping a hut of rookies cheerful. I'd have liked to have introduced him to Hut IV of Uxbridge. They are devout worshippers: and it's rather enviable, I think, their worship. At any rate if I was the God I'd feel pleased at them and it.
Thanks also for the arrangements about meeting Winston. They would have worked beautifully - only that the gods didn't wish it.
|Last revised:||18 February 2006|
T. E. Lawrence chronology
1888 16 August: born at Tremadoc, Wales
1896-1907: City of Oxford High School for Boys
1907-9: Jesus College, Oxford, B.A., 1st Class Hons, 1909
1910-14: Magdalen College, Oxford (Senior Demy), while working at the British Museum's excavations at Carchemish
1915-16: Military Intelligence Dept, Cairo
1916-18: Liaison Officer with the Arab Revolt
1919: Attended the Paris Peace Conference
1919-22: wrote Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1921-2: Adviser on Arab Affairs to Winston Churchill at the Colonial Office
1922 August: Enlisted in the Ranks of the RAF
1923 January: discharged from the RAF
1923 March: enlisted in the Tank Corps
1923: translated a French novel, The Forest Giant
1924-6: prepared the subscribers' abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom
1927-8: stationed at Karachi, then Miranshah
1927 March: Revolt in the Desert, an abridgement of Seven Pillars, published
1928: completed The Mint, began translating Homer's Odyssey
1929-33: stationed at Plymouth
1931: started working on RAF boats
1932: his translation of the Odyssey published
1933-5: attached to MAEE, Felixstowe
1935 February: retired from the RAF
1935 19 May: died from injuries received in a motor-cycle crash on 13 May
1935 21 May: buried at Moreton, Dorset