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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Lionel Curtis

Union Jack Club
91 Waterloo Road,
London, S.E.1.


My Lord Prophet

Your letter and Philip's wire met me on Sunday in Southampton, as I got back from Birmingham. So this morning I wired to him that I was sympathetic but sorry - and tonight (ordered to London suddenly for an inspection tomorrow at Brentford of a searchlight) I failed to find him in his lordly burrow of St. James.

The defence question is full of snags and is being ineptly handled by Lords Rothermere and Beaverbrook. I agree that the balance of expenditure on Navy, Army and R.A.F. is wrong: but I do not want R.A.F. expenditure increased. Our present squadrons could deal very summarily with France. When Germany wings herself - ah; that will be another matter, and our signal to reinforce: for the German kites will be new and formidable, not like that sorry French junk.

All we now need is to keep in ourselves the capacity to expand the R.A.F. usefully, when the times make it necessary. For this we must have:-

(1) Aerodromes enough, sited in the useful places
(2) Aircraft firms well equipped, with up-to-date designers,
designs, and plant.
(3) Brains enough inside our brass hats to employ 1 and 2.

(1) Easy - but means another 15 aerodromes, each costing £20,000: they take about three years to bring into being
(2) In hand; excellent; but hampered by
(3) The direction of R.A.F. and Air Ministry. Our Air-Marshals are rather wooden-headed, and some of the civilian A.I.D. inspectors and technicians who handle design are hopeless. Consequently our military aircraft are like Christmas trees, all hung with protruding gadgets, our flying boats are a bad joke, our civil aircraft are (almost) the world's slowest; and air tactics and strategy are infantile.

More money should be spent at once on (1) above: and research made into flying boat development (after sacking the present authorities) and wireless-controlled aircraft. Also to develop the art of sound-ranging, and anti-aircraft gunnery. If I had my way, I would constitute a new flying-boat department of Air Ministry, and have in a dozen good naval men to give it a start.

Upon the Navy I have views also. Our air bombs are not going to sink capital ships; but will render them useless as fighting platforms, and probably uninhabitable. This in only three or four years time. The defence of surface craft against aircraft will be found in manoeuvre:- in being able to turn quicker on the water than the plane can in the air - not difficult, with small ships, as waster gives you a firmer rudder. So I expect to see the surface ships of navies, in future, limited to small, high-speed, manoeuvrable mosquito craft, none larger than the destroyers of today.

There are controversial points in the above, and to argue them one must consider smoke-screens, the one-pounder pom-pom, trajectories, dive-arcs, [omission of an Official Secret]; all sorts of technical things. But I am prepared to maintain my thesis in most company. Do not, however, take this exposition of it as exhaustive or even fair. To deal with imponderables, layer upon layer of imponderables, more resembles faith than argument.

I wish I could have run through your Round Table argument and
talked it over with you.  Accordingly


Off to Southampton tomorrow p.m. after a meeting in Air Ministry.

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Source: DG 792-4
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 16 January 2006


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