Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Herbert Samuel and Emir Abdullah in Transjordan. T.E. Lawrence is in the background. Circa 1921.
In the first chapter of his book The Mint, T.E.Lawrence details his enlistment into the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force) under his pseudonym John Hume Ross.
All smooth so far. They are gentle-spoken to us, almost sorry. Won’t you walk into my parlour? Wait upstairs for medical exam? ‘Righto!’ This sodden pyramid of clothes upon the floor is a sign of a dirtier man than me in front. My go next? Everything off? (Naked we come into the R.A.F.) Ross? ‘Yes, that’s me.’
Officers, two of them…
Not much, Sir.
'Well, cut it out. See?'
Six months back, it was, my last cigarette. However, no use giving myself away.
'Nerves like a rabbit.' The scotch-voiced doctor's hard fingers go hammer, hammer, hammer over the loud box of my ribs. I must be pretty hollow.
'Turn over: get up: stand under here: make yourself as tall as you can: he'll just do five foot six, Mac: chest—say 34. Expansion—by Jove, 38. That'll do. Now jump: higher: lift your right leg: hold it there: cough: all right: on your toes: arms straight in front of you: open your fingers wide: hold them so: turn round: bend over. Hullo, what the hell's those marks? Punishment? 'No Sir, more like persuasion Sir, I think.' Face, neck, chest, getting hot.
'H…m … m … m …, that would account for the nerves.' His voice sounds softer. 'Don't put them down, Mac. Say two parallel scars on ribs. What were they, boy?’
Superficial wounds, Sir.
'Answer my question.'
A barbed-wire tear, over a fence.
'H… m … m … and how long have you been short of food?'
(O Lord, I never thought he’d spot that. Since April I’ve been taking off my friends what meals I dared, all that my shame would let me take. I’d haunt the Duke of York steps at lunch-time, so as to turn back with someone to his club for the food whose necessity nearly choked me. Put a good face on it; better.)
Gone a bit short the last three months, Sir. How my throat burns!
'More like six'… came back in a growl. The worst of telling lies naked is that the red shows all the way down. A long pause, me shivering in disgrace. He stares so gravely, and my eyes are watering. (Oh, it hurts: I wish I hadn't taken this job on.)
|—||T.E. Lawrence in The Mint|
Thanks to everyone who entered the T.E. Lawrence book giveaway! The lucky winner is user nightblink!
Hey, telawrence blog, this is for that Australian author from yesterday. In case they want a closer connection between Ross and … er, Ross.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, p. 617
T.E. Lawrence was only kicked out of the R.A.F. and he left the Tank Corps willingly when he was allowed to reenlist in the R.A.F. for a second time.
He was kicked out of the R.A.F. in 1923 when his true identity was revealed. He had enlisted under the pseudonym John Hume Ross. At the time, due to Lowell Thomas’s travelogue, “Lawrence of Arabia” was still a household name. He then joined the Royal Tanks Corps a few months later under the name T.E. Shaw. In 1925 he was allowed to reenlist in the R.A.F. and was sent to Cranwell, then Karachi in India, and finally Miranshah near Afghanistan. Then there was more trouble. False rumors were spread that he was there spying for the British military. His identity was again revealed and he was sent back to England until his retirement in 1935, two months before his death.
A hand-tinted photograph of T.E. Lawrence with Emir Abdullah and Gertrude Bell (in the back left), April 1921.
And remember, there’s still time for Americans to message me to be entered in a Lawrence book giveaway!
Does anyone know if this quote was, in fact, attributed to Lawrence? I can’t recall ever seeing it but that doesn’t mean it’s not out there somewhere. Let me know if you have any information on this!
From The Mint part 1, chapter 28 - Our Mould of Form - “Trenchard invented the touchstone by which the Air Council try all their works. ‘Will this, or will this not, promote the conquest if the air?’”
The quoting doesn’t mean the phrasing was necessarily Trenchard’s, and Lawrence elaborates on it later as follows:
From part 3, chapter 8 - Work: “We are greatly useful here in the eyes of all who accept our premiss, that the conquest of the air is the first duty of our generation.”
Awesome! Thank you!