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Updated July 2012

T. E. Lawrence to John Buchan

Royal Air Force,


Dear J.B.,

You'll wonder why on earth I write, and what I now want. Answer - only to tell you that my R.A.F. twelve-year engagement is within a few weeks of running out. I have not tried to extend for 24 years, because my age then would make me a ludicrous airman, even if I lived the whole twelve more. But if I could have remained perpetually young, nothing would have pleased me better.

If you meet Mr Baldwin in the near future, will you please tell him that the return to the Air Force secured me by him (on your initiation) has given me the only really contented years of my life? Please say that I've worked (and played) all the time like a trooper: that my spell of service has been spent in doing my best to raise the pride and respect of the ranks, and to make them pleased with their duties: that amongst my jobs have been a reorganisation of aero-engine overhauls in India, the ground-work for the 1929 Schneider Cup, and lately the development of the marine-craft side of the R.A.F. In four or five years we have trebled the speed and yet reduced the prime cost and running cost of all the R.A.F. boats: and now the War Office and the Admiralty are borrowing our boats and copying or adapting our designs for their purposes.

I tell you all this not to boast of it, but to show that you and Baldwin, in gratifying what may have seemed to you my indulgence, have not harmed the public service. I have done all I could, always: and could have done far more, if they had given me more rope. The Air Force is pretty good, down below. I think it deserves more imaginative handling than it gets.

However this note (meant to be a paean of gratitude to two admirable men) mustn't descend into politics. I owe the two of you more than my twelve years work (and another twelve on top of it, were I young enough) in the sheer satisfaction it has been. You have me very hopelessly in your debt: and thank you both very much for it.

Yours sincerely

T E Shaw

Some day I'm going to ask another favour - that you will read my notes on the making of an airman, about 60,000 words of typescript, that date from 1922. They aren't to be published: but I rather suspect that as writing they are almost good - or at least a sight better than my previous attempts at your art! I would value (and keep very dark) your real opinion.

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Source: DG 836-7
Checked: jw/
Last revised: 18 January 2006


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