Lawrence Of Arabia 1888-1935

The T E Lawrence Collection

Ronald D Knight

May 2007

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 In addition are unpublished manuscript studies, plus other small ephemera, such as newspaper cuttings, and artifact collections.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.


                               Lawrence Trail leaflet

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                              Adobe Acrobat Document



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,

‘Crusader Castles’.

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.

law araia 1935


T. E .Lawrence, early 1935. © Mrs Hilda Sims

Lawrence in his white Arab robes.

tel01 lawrence trail ch1

The book room, ground floor Clouds Hill Cottage


Lawrence and Woolley at Carchemish, 1913


lawrence view-of-clouds-hill

View of Clouds Hill Cottage