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T. E. Lawrence to B. H. Liddell Hart



I'm here, temporarily settling some problems concerning my Dorsetshire cottage. Going back this afternoon. I hope this letter will arrive in time. Your wire was sent on to me.

1. Directly, the CAS might abolish, by a word, bayonets and walking-out canes. Bayonets because they are costly, (16/- each) take long to maintain (about 1 hr per month, except where buffing-wheel is available), ugly, and useless. I'd call them dangerous, for there was an idiot Squadron Leader who used to practise open-order attack, in France: waving a sword himself. A fool like that might easily throw away a squadron. Aircraft are a long-distance weapon, and bayonets are out of place in them.

2. The walking-out cane I can leave to common sense. You saw mine: and saw that it's a silly bodkin of the thing, no use as stick or weapon, and no ornament. It was designed, I believe, to keep troops hands out of their pockets: but R.A.F. tunics and breaches of inaccessible pockets, in which no man can keep his hands. Whereas hands and stick both go into overcoat pockets.

The CAS (Trenchard) has already done two or three of the reforms I urged on him, and repeated to you. So the job is lightened.

3. Kit inspection is another bore. It's supposed to be held monthly, and troops are to show all their kit. This is ridiculous. Our working dress is inspected daily, our walking-out dress weekly, in the normal course of duty. All that is required (besides these two suits, in case of active service which is a justification of kit inspection) is spare socks, spare shirts, pants. Instead of laying everything, which confuses the eye of the inspecting officer, and involves everything being very tightly folded, to be got on the bed, troops should (once a quarter) leave out on their beds their spare underclothing, and go off to work. And the inspection should be done by the Flight Officer and his NCO, at leisure. It shouldn't be a parade, or a beauty-show: but an inspection to make sure that our normally-invisible kit was serviceable and complete. There is no need for us standing by. That makes us hot and ashamed, and the decent officers feel like nosy-Parkers, and avoid looking at us.

4. The last thing is a very small point. In the Navy, an officer or NCO entering the men's mess takes his hat off, whether on duty or not. The airmen would like this to become the general rule in the RAF. It is in some stations, where the C.O. is ex-Navy.

There were many other things I'd like to talk about: marriage-establishment rosters, overseas-rosters, posting of airmen in England to the stations most convenient to them (a Scotchman in Plymouth is: home fare - £5: an Englishman in Leuchars: ditto). Pillion-riding on motor cycles (airmen are the only people in the England forbidden it: not soldiers, not sailors. It's rather an insult to what we fondly hope is the most dangerous service). The week-end pass (I'd make after duty Saturday till Reveille Monday free for all men not warned for duty. Every station keeps a duty crew). I'd make an Air Ministry regulation about plain clothes. At present one C.O. allows them, and another restricts them. Chaos and irritation. It is a very valued privilege, I'm sorry to say. Church parade. This is the most annoying parade of the week. Couldn't it be made voluntary? I think I could get the consent of the two archbishops to that, if the Air Ministry is shy of the C of E.

Source: DG 664-5
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 29 October 2008

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