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Updated June 2012

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


Dear L.H. You talk of a summing up to come. Will you (if you agree with my feeling) in it strike a blow for hard work and thinking? I was not an instinctive soldier, automatic with intuitions and happy ideas. When I took a decision, or adopted an alternative, it was after studying every relevant - and many an irrelevant - factor. Geography, tribal structure, religion, social customs language, appetites, standards - all were at my finger-ends. The enemy I knew almost like my own side. I risked myself among them a hundred times, to learn.  

The same with tactics. If I used a weapon well, it was because I could handle it. Rifles were easy. I put myself under instruction for Lewis, Vickers, and Hotchkiss (Vickers in my O.T.C. days, and rifles, and pistols)  If you look at my article in The Pickaxe you will see how much I learned about explosives, from my R.E. teachers, and how far I developed their methods. To use aircraft I learned to fly. To use armoured cars I learned to drive and fight them. I became a gunner at needy and could doctor and judge a camel.  

The same with strategy. I have written only a few pages on the art of war - but in these I levy contribution from my predecessors of five languages. You are one of the few living Englishmen who can see the allusions and quotations, the conscious analogies, in all I say and do, militarily.  

Do make it clear that generalship, at least in my case, came of understanding, of hard study and brain-work and concentration. Had it come easy to me I should not have done it so well. 

If your book could persuade some of our new soldiers to read and mark and learn things outside drill manuals and tactical diagrams, it would do a good work. I feel a fundamental, crippling incuriousness about our officers. Too much body and too little head. The perfect general would know everything in heaven and earth. 

So please, if you see me that way and agree with me, do use me as a text to preach for more study of books and history, a greater seriousness in military art. With 2,000 years of examples behind us we have no excuse, when fighting, for not fighting well. 

I like your little book – whatever it does not repeat a told tale. It starts at Chap. II by the way, and goes on to page 335. That’s what you've sent me.



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Source: DG 768-9
Checked: dn/
Last revised: 19 July 2008


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