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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to Clare Sydney Smith

Clouds Hill,

24 May, 1934.

Yes, it has been months since I wrote. It is always like that when people go across the world. There comes over me that sense of hopeless space and lack of contact. One changes in a week, you know, and unless in daily touch, how can either of us visualize the sort of mind which receives the letter, after weeks and weeks of posting?

Your letters do not give a good feeling of Singapore. I am sorry for that. The airmen say it is the ideal foreign station, and wish they could spend all their overseas times there, always. I suppose the money factor does not oppress them, as it does the officers.

I don't know what can be done about that. For me (with my present unpopularity in Air Ministry) to attempt to reach the financial and treasury people would be to court failure. It is of course with the actual Treasury that any reform would lie: and Treasury is quite prepared to approve a local increase of allowances - if Air Ministry will put up the case. But in fact tho' Air Staff is keener on increasing strength and establishments - and on up-grading every possible appointment, so as to make two seniors grow where one grew before - thus improperly feeding its foreign servants. I'm sorry, but the present direction of the R.A.F. is N.B.G. It is worse to-day than at any time since Trenchard left.

Our Aquarius is proving herself almost a greyhound. Six weeks out, and almost at Singapore. You will laugh when you see the tiny ugly little thing - but her quality is excellent, and she will last for years and do all manner of work. If only she had been a few m.p.h. faster and a few feet longer and broader. It is the only instance I have yet seen of two quarts having been successfully inserted into a pint pot. Of course, with ships, you can arrange more top-hamper than with beer.

Here I go on building boats at the Power Yard. Scott Paine's new designs are very promising. His Sea Lion, in particular, looks like becoming a reliable engine, and if so we shall use it for the larger and faster boats which the Air Staff (rather against my judgment) are determined to have. For the moment my job is overseeing five more of the target (armoured) boats that have been so successful at Bridlington during the last two seasons. One is to come to Singapore, and I have suggested sheathing it experimentally in Tungum, a new stainless brass that might be proof against the queer acids of your sea-water. We are told that no copper-sheathing is any good.

The Power 100 h.p. engine is now reliable, and is the stand-by of the R.A.F. marine section - England. The older Brooke and Thornycroft engines are extinct, here. I believe some still exist in foreign waters.

Books, you asked for, long ago in a letter. I haven’t seen any for months. Life is lodgings, now, and I have stopped writing letters (or anything else) and reading. Afterwards, when this job of boat building is over, and I can get to my cottage and rest. I hope that the rush of the jobs is not upsetting me for eventual peacefulness, for in the cottage the whole 24 hours of the day will belong to me, and I have to fill it without finding it too long. I think it will be all right, but it is, in its way, as much a step in the dark as my original joining the R.A.F. I hate these abrupt measures: it is so much more gentle to slide easily and slowly into or out of jobs: but this time I fancy I shall be working full time on R.A.F. boats until March 11th and on March 18th I will be getting my clearance certificates and returning from Felixstowe to Dorset in plain clothes: and very sadly too. I shall miss the Air Force, very sharply. You are so fortunate to be there for the whole of your useful life.

I shall try to meet Lord Londonderry again soon, and draw his gaze upon Singapore: and Philip hopes to fly out there soon and see it for himself. Not that Philip has great fighting value in the Cabinet or Air Ministry. They moved their S. of S.'s into Gwydyr House, to isolate them! Bullock is doing well. I wish he was C.A.S. and the Air Council as well!


Philip - Sir Philip Sassoon
Bullock - Sir Christopher Bullock
C.A.S. - Chief of Air Staff

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Source: GR 233-6
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 4 July 2006


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