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Updated June 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Sir Philip Sassoon

Mount Batten


Dear Sir Philip

Your letters are so kind that I wish I could have seen you and explained myself properly. It does not feel proper to expose a lot of problems on paper to a busy man.

Ellington was it? (an Air Marshal, in 'P') sent a letter this week to the C.O. here, asking him to see me and find out if I had a grievance, as the S. of S. was concerned to know why I wished to leave the R.A.F. I expect the S. of S. was yourself?

I replied that I had no grievance, and was only too sorry to be leaving - but that I could no longer be content to do station duty at Mount Batten. My present job is looking after the boats and their engines here, and that is purely routine and not a day's work, even for my hands. I am a reasonably-skilled mechanic, after all these years, but without ambitions to excel in it.

My feeling was that I should do something more, if I was to justify my staying on in the R.A.F. At Karachi, for instance, they let me revise the procedure of engine-overhaul in the Depot. At Batten Sydney Smith gave me the Schneider Cup ground-organisation. Then the D. of E. gave me the R.A.F. fleet to put on new lines, and I did eighteen months on that and got half-way in it.

So I told the C.O., for Ellington, that if there was any special job in which the C.A.S. thought I could be particularly useful, then I was at his service: but if not I would prefer my discharge. That meant, I am sure, that they would discharge me: many people would be glad to see me go, and I am not fond of pushing in where I am not wanted. The only thing that troubles me is that there is much I could yet do. In these eleven years I have learned every square inch of the R.A.F. and it seems a pity to leave so much knowledge unused.

However please understand that I look back upon these eleven years with delight. I have been most happy, and owe the R.A.F. a great debt which will always make me its advocate and silent supporter. I will not write about it.

I saw Geoffrey Salmond lately, and told him almost what I have said above. 'I will not go on at Batten, doing routine work. I would like to do more boats', or to see the auxiliary airmen (the R.A.F. of the future, I think!) or, best of all, to do a long flying-boat voyage and write a log of it. I have the ambition to compete with you, there. We should have a collection like Hakluyt, for the air - however all these things are unimportant.

When I am free I shall make a pilgrimage to your neighbourhood and hope to find you at leisure for talking. It will feel queer to own all my time! April 6 is my last day.

Yours sincerely,

T. E. Shaw

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Source: DG 764-5
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 18 January 2006


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