Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to [Sir Hugh Trenchard]
Dear [name omitted],
Sorry, your letter was too late. I've been here nearly three weeks, and am (as a recruit) too completely possessed by the authorities to get leave or anything. It's like and unlike Uxbridge - a camp on a great heath, little less beautiful than the park round Hillingdon House, but unlike it in that the country round is nearly desert. We can't run up to London every evening - nor can we spend much money.
It's run like Uxbridge, but in small squads, of twenty each. The training period is eighteen weeks, half as long again as yours. It is less urgent too: the standard not less, but the approach to it gentle: nor is there the same tightness of control over our walking about, nor as many penalties or threats as in your place.
You will be glad to hear that the camp is more lavishly run than yours. Fuel, food, bedding etc. all plentiful. Also baths and libraries.
The education section is crudely run by N.C.Os, who at Uxbridge would be taught themselves: but then that's accounted for by the very different class of fellows.
It's astonishing that. The fellows at Uxbridge had joined the R.A.F. as a profession - or to continue in it at their trades. They talked of futures and jobs all day, and were excited about life. These fellows have joined up as a last resort, because they had failed, or were not qualified, for anything else, and they take no interest in the Army, and hope no more from it than food, and not too much work, and pocket money. There is no wish, as there was at Uxbridge, to do better than the standard required.
There is one improvement I see. At Uxbridge when I joined I went straight to fatigues, for five weeks (an average experience): and they were real fatigues, all day, and often till 8 P.M. and heavy work too. Here there is practically nothing of that. The duty men, not the recruits, do the fatigues, and the camp is so arranged, with civilian contracts, that the balance of military work is very light. I do not think the average here is more than half the working standard of Uxbridge.
The officers too are different. They speak and act with complete assurance, believing themselves better than ourselves:- and they are: whereas in the R.A.F. I had an uncomfortable feeling that we were better than the officers: and this feeling was strengthened, if not founded on the fact that the officers were treated by the men, off parade, as rather humorous things to have to show respect to. The officers played up to this impression by avoiding all contact with us.
The Army has the better of you, in this only.
T E Lawrence.
|Last revised:||19 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