RAF service at Bridlington, Yorkshire

When we study Lawrence’s life history, his exceptional capacity for physical and intellectual single-mindedness of purpose become very evident; in retrospect, we readily see how it was possible for a legend to take form (Fig. 31).51 Chameleon-like, Lawrence left us with many photographic images of himself; traveller, archaeologist, soldier, politician, aircraftman and so on. One of my favourites shows him in a very natural stance (Fig. 32). It was taken at Bridlington, Yorkshire where he had been stationed with the Royal Air Force, contentedly working on the design of diesel speedboats used in bombing practice at sea.52 After twelve years service he left the RAF in February 1935. Shortly afterward he cycled south from Bridlington, in stages, to his cottage home at Clouds Hill in Dorset. Physically fit, he was could still cover 60-70 miles in a day on his ‘push-bike’. This photograph by his friend Ian Deheer, a Bridlington boat-builder, is apparently one of the very last two taken of him.53 He wears a sports jacket and scarf, long trousers with cycle clips; typical attire for a cyclist then and throughout the 1940s, and uses the old trick of balancing against a wall. His steed is that most prosaic of machines, a bicycle.

Fig. 31 – Eric Kennington’s effigy of T.E.Lawrence, St. Martin-on-the-Walls Church, Wareham, Dorset.

Fig. 32 – Lawrence at Bridlington, Yorkshire in 1935. (By kind permission of John Deheer).

  1. The literature on Lawrence is vast and one is confronted by a host of theories, claims and counterclaims, errors and corrections. The prime source of sound information on his life and times is the T. E. Lawrence Society, Oxford which has a worldwide membership. []
  2. Dick Crowder, Visit to Bridlington, T.E.Lawrence Soc. Newsletter 69: Spring, 2004: 5-10. []
  3. David Garnett (ed.) , The Letters of T. E. Lawrence (London, Toronto: Jonathan Cape, 1938) Richard Knowles, Cats and Landladies’ Husbands: T. E. Lawrence in Bridlington ( Huddersfield: The Fleece Press, 1995). []