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T. E. Lawrence to Sir Hugh Trenchard



Dear Sir Hugh,

This is immensely important, quite different from last time. I have been saving it up for you for years:- not that you are the right person to go to, at all: but you are more likely to display imagination upon the matter than any other person of greatness in the Air Ministry.

These Airships: one or two of them are to have trial trips soon. Some say to the States, others say to Karachi. I have seen the shed at Karachi, and the Mast at Ismailia, and think it likely that sooner or later one of them will go that way.

Well, by going just a few miles out of their course to the south ward they can pass over the Ruba el Khali, the so-called 'Empty Quarter' of Arabia. This is a huge area of many hundred thousand square miles. No European has ever crossed it, nor any Arab any of us has actually questioned. All the Geographers refer to it annually as the great unsolved question of Geography.

Now, I want the trial trip of the airships to settle the Ruba el Khali. On every later trip they will be running to schedule, unless some American millionaire hires them for a million a second to go over the desert for him. On the first trip they will be inhabited mainly by their crew, and it will be easy to deflect them. To go over the empty quarter will also be an enormous advertisement for them: it will mark an era in exploration. It will finish our knowledge of the earth. Nothing but an airship can do it, and I want it to be one of ours which gets the plum.

If you consult the map you will see that it is a very slight diversion from their course between Karachi and Ismailia. I would like it to be an unheralded diversion. Not a newspaper stunt exhausted by superlatives before it begins. Take the geographical world by surprise.

The Navigator of the airship will be getting his W/T bearings and time signals all the way, and will plot his course exactly. I do not think there will be anything much to see - sand, sand, and hills, perhaps - but the comfort of having finished, in twelve hours, what man has been projecting for 50 years....

Do think it out, properly, and say yes. I do not ask to be let go, myself. I'd love it, of course: but the important thing is to get it done, without talk: and I think you have enough weight with the Civil side and with Burney's company to get it done.*


T.E. Shaw.

Cattewater is still v.g

* Push me on to them, as advocate, if they are constipated.

Source: DG 662-3
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 7 March 2006

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