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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Air Vice-Marshal Sir Oliver Swann

B3 Block S.o.P. R.A.F.
S. Farnborough.


Dear Swann,

I wrote to you to the Air Ministry ten days ago: and have heard nothing, so perhaps you never got it. Anyway I'll repeat it in this to your house.

My coming here was on Tuesday, and the November class of photography began the day before. The C.O. has put me back therefore until the next class, which is said to begin on January 6.

This irks me a little, because it is a nine months' course anyhow, and it seems a pity to make it eleven. I'd have no difficulty in joining even a class earlier than the November one, for except in enlarging and mosaic work, (learned in two of the later months) I'm already as good as the men passing out. My father, one of the pioneer photographers, taught me before I was four years old, and I've done the photographic work of several British Museum Expeditions, and exhibited a good deal at the Camera Club, regularly.

I asked, accordingly, if you could put me straight into the School, for my technical training. Except for that, Farnborough doesn't offer me much scope. The camp isn't quite the sort of R.A.F. I want to write about! At the same time the technical work is A.1. and I'd like to watch the growth of a class. It was the coming-into-being of the squad which was so exciting at Uxbridge.

I'm exceedingly glad to have got away from Uxbridge. The physical side of that was knocking me up, and this place is a jolly rest cure by comparison. I'm reading German and Spanish to keep myself busy: for my nature doesn't second the demands of discipline very well, and unless I keep working at something I get Bolshie!

It's possible you have had my letter, and can't do anything. In that case would it help if I re-mustered as an aircraft hand? Could you then post me off to an active squadron, home or abroad? You will realise that I have the softest of fatigue-jobs here (in the orderly room): but want to escape the scrappiness of a training camp (which is an abnormal unit, and cannot have a character outside its classes) for the more normal show.

I'd prefer to go to the School: but failing that would remuster if you could then shift me. Apologies if this letter reopens a subject you have closed. I only write because possibly you haven't had my other letter. I don't want to bother you by urging what I have no right to ask.

Yours sincerely


Source: DG 381-2
Checked: mv/
Last revised: 18 February 2006

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