Updated June 2012
T. E. Lawrence to E. Palmer
When I entered the R.A.F. station at West Drayton (a derelict misery-stricken unfinished factory-place) from its upper windows came 'The Lass of Richmond Hill', violently sung. At once I remembered Clouds Hill, and you, and H.H.B. and I hung my kit-bag on a willow-tree and wept.
They set me sums: which I solved as fast as they brought them. A flight-sergeant came along, 'Hullo Ross!'... and a dynamo-switch-board-attendant behind him said 'Garn... that ain't Ross. I was at Bovington when he came up, and he's Colonel Lawrence'. After that things got very complicated. Before lights out I was in charge of the recruits' hut.
Wednesday so passed. Thursday is a blank in my memory. On Friday early they sent me to a doctor. He said 'Have you ever had... ... ... .?' 'No Sir' 'Have you ever had... ... ...?' 'No' (less confidently).
'Have you ever - broken any bones?' This was my chance: I poured over him a heap of fractured fibulae, radii, metatarsals, phalanges, costes, clavicles, scapulae, till he yelled to me to stop. So I stopped, and he made clumsy efforts to write them all down.
Anyway it was all over by noon on Friday. At two o'clock they put me in a tender, and sent me to Uxbridge in charge of a corporal, who was charged to get a receipt for my body. Everyone at Uxbridge was willing to take delivery: but none would sign for me. At last I was dragged into the Headquarters' Adjutant, the last hope. (All the world else being at the Wembley Tattoo). He glared 'What are you?' I very stilly replied 'Yesterday I was a Pte in the R.T.C.' He snorted 'Today?' 'I think I'm an A.C. twice in the R.A.F.' Snort second. 'Will you be in the Navy tomorrow?' 'Perhaps,' said I. 'I can't sign for you. I don't want you'. 'I don't want anyone to sign for me.' 'Damned silly... who the hell are you?'
At this point my feeble patience broke. 'If your name was Buggins, and I called you Bill...' Then he yelled with joy, recognising my names for him (as I might all you Posh when you are very old and rich and important) and gave me tea.
Friday night, 6 p.m. I am handed into the recruits' hut. Messenger arrives. A.C.II Shaw to report to Flight Office at once. 'Sergeant take this man to the Q.M. stores, kit him at once, and put him into the first train for Cranwell. The Air Ministry have ordered his immediate posting.' Help: poor me: 8p.m.: two kit bags, a set of equipment, great coat, bayonet, like a plum tree too heavy with fruit. However 'last train gone'. Sergt. and self returned to recruits' hut. I slept: very wet. On Saturday squared tailors and got my stuff altered: polished bayonet: scrubbed equipment.
Sunday blancoed equipment: polished bayonet. Walked round Uxbridge very new in blue. Monday 11 a.m. started for Cranwell. Finished up in a taxi. Reception-hut: hot and cold laid on to hut: a bath. Heaven: sleep.
Tuesday, today. Reveille 7.30. Hot bath: Heaven: breakfast: H.Q. office: M.O.Adjutant: S.-M. very curious questions. Posted as aircraft hand to B. Flight. Fatigues when the cadets are on holiday: pulling their machines in and out of the sheds, filling up, starting, cleaning etc. when they are here. Sixteen men in flight. Sergt. a speed-demon on a twin N.U.T. Bath-furnace out of order. Cold: wet: not heaven.
Kit inspection once a month: hut inspection once a month: marching order parade once a month: no guards: church parade twice a month. Few other duties. Can do, I think. No P.T. Feel odd and strange: exhilarated: crazy sometimes. Is it going to meals does that? Haven't spent a shilling a day lately. Will you tell Clouds Hill that all is well so far? People who come to Cranwell often stay there for five years. I will go over to Nottingham on Saturday week, and try to see Brough, who has a 1926 S.S.110 waiting for me. After that I'll get a room in some near village, and begin work. Meanwhile - got to scrub that equipment again.
R.A.F. issue three towels: Also one pair plain light boots, and one pair marching boots. Slippers of normal Bovington type. No other changes to note. If there is a bunch of letters please insert in a fresh large envelope, and address as above. Willis has envelopes.
|Last revised:||8 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