The T E Lawrence Collection
Ronald D Knight
Although not a "native" of Dorset, T E Lawrence adopted the county from the time he was posted to the Royal Tank Regiment at Bovington Camp in 1923, when aged 34. This was basically to escape the continuing unwelcome publicity following his days as "Lawrence of Arabia" during and after WW1. He immediately became a friend and regular visitor on his powerful Brough motorcycle to Thomas and Florence Hardy at Max Gate, in Dorchester. He also soon purchased his own cottage at Clouds Hill, from his distant relatives the Framptons of nearby Moreton. It was at Clouds Hill he eventually spent his short-lived retirement in 1935, before his fatal motorcycle accident almost outside.
The Museum's T E Lawrence Collection, most of it by gift, covers the whole span of his 46 years of life, and reflects the many interests and activities of this enigmatic many-faceted character. At the core of the collection are the twenty-three ring-binders filled with every description of ephemera arranged in chronological order. Included are photographs of Lawrence, his family and associates, and contemporary picture postcards of the many places he visited as he would have seen them. There are photocopies of many of his enlightening manuscript letters (1). Well documented is his work in pre-WW1 archaeology, particularly in the Middle East, followed by his most famous war-time Arabian activities, and later with his lesser-known RAF power-boat development. There is also a comprehensive illustrated genealogical record, and a "Brief Chronology" of the whole of Lawrence's life.
There are of course some published biographical books, as well as illustrated periodicals, booklets and pamphlets. In addition are unpublished manuscript studies, plus other small ephemera, such as newspaper cuttings, and artifact collections.
In the Museum's photographic department are some further photographs, as well as a large and rare important collection of glass slides depicting Lawrence, as well as the Arabian army and terrain as he knew it during his time with the Arab Revolt.
Thus whatever a researcher's own interest may be in Lawrence, it should be found chronicled somewhere in this extensive Collection. This is being gradually catalogued, which should eventually make searching for single events, or themes, that much easier.
Most of this material is not on regular display, and application to view it should be made to the Museum, telephone 01305 262735.
For more about T E Lawrence, consult The T E Lawrence Society
(1) with many of the originals being in the Museum's Thomas Hardy collection which also contains a lock of young Lawrence's hair
The Lawrence of Arabia Trail
Find out about T.E. Lawrence
Enjoy a walk away from the coast along idyllic country lanes and through leafy woodland. The six mile trail starts and finishes at Bovington’s renowned Tank Museum taking in Lawrence of Arabia’s home at Clouds Hill and the cemetery at Moreton where he is buried.
A leaflet details the trail, which can be walked in four sections and gives a fascinating insight into Lawrence’s life. It is available from Swanage or Wareham Tourist Information Centres, Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre, Moreton Tea Rooms, the Tank Museum and Clouds Hill (now owned by the National Trust). The leaflet is also available to download below.
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Why not be a 'green' visitor and arrive by train. Wool Station is on the mainline to London Waterloo with a new half hourly service. You can then walk or cycle just under 2 miles to the Tank Museum (bike racks available) using a joint foot/cycle path. See the leaflet for the route.
Thomas Edward Lawrence, also known as Lawrence
of Arabia, was born in Wales on 16 August 1888.
From the age of eight, he lived in Oxford, where
he later studied Modern History at Jesus College. In
1909, he undertook an 1100 mile walking tour of
Palestine and Syria, collecting material for his thesis,
In 1911, Lawrence started work as an archaeologist
at Carchemish in Syria, where he gained knowledge
of Arabs and Arabic. In 1914 he joined the Army
and was posted to Military Intelligence in Cairo.
As Captain T. E. Lawrence he led Bedouin tribesmen
in guerrilla raids against the Turkish Army, especially
the Hejaz railway. He progressed to Major and then
to Lieutenant Colonel. In July 1917 Arab forces captured
Akaba and then went on to capture Damascus in
1918, the highpoint of the Arab campaign.
He returned to Britain in 1918 as Colonel
Lawrence where he lobbied unsuccessfully for Arab
independence. He turned down a succession of
prestigious posts and tried to escape from the public
eye by changing his identity.
In 1922, he became known as Aircraftsman Ross at
Uxbridge, but his alias was discovered. In 1923, as
T. E. Shaw, he made Dorset his new home. He joined
the Tank Corps at Bovington and purchased nearby
Clouds Hill as a retreat. During this time he was to
finish writing ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ and ‘The Mint.’
In 1925, he was allowed to rejoin the RAF, and after
a spell in Karachi, he was posted to Plymouth, where
he lobbied successfully for faster rescue boats.
He spent the rest of his career developing and testing
high speed rescue boats, which formed the basis of
the air-sea rescue service.
He retired to Clouds Hill in 1935, where, only a few
months later, he was involved in a fatal crash on his
Brough Superior motorcycle. His final resting place
is in the nearby cemetery at Moreton.
T. E .Lawrence, early 1935. © Mrs Hilda Sims
Lawrence in his white Arab robes.
The book room, ground floor Clouds Hill Cottage
Lawrence and Woolley at Carchemish, 1913
View of Clouds Hill Cottage