The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

T. E. Lawrence

T. E. Lawrence had become famous as Lawrence of Arabia but sought solitude and anonymity after the Great War. He had resigned his commission in the army but rejoined the RAF as a lowly subaltern under the new name of T. E. Shaw. The above picture shows him in an RAF uniform. He served in India before transferring to RAF Mount Batten in 1935 where he worked on the motor launch tenders for the sea planes. He helped design new high-speed rescue sea craft whilst there. By all accounts, he loved working on the high speed boats in Plymouth and worked at Mount Batten until 1933.

His feelings about Plymouth itself are a bit more ambivalent as this interesting letter from him to American anthropologist Henry Field dated 13th November 1930 reveals:

Dear Mr Field,
I hope you are colossally rich, so that the cost coming all the way to this misery of Plymouth (the last or fast town of England, according to your hemisphere) will mean nothing to you. I'm a fraud, as regards both the Middle East and archaeology. Years ago I haunted both, and got fairly expert but the war overdosed me, and nine years ago I relapsed comfortably into the ranks of our Air Force, and have had no interests outside it since. Nine years is long enough to make me out of date but not long enough to make my views quaint and interestingly archaic. I have forgotten all I knew, too.

He was a self-effacing man and other letters make it clear that he did enjoy the walks around Mountbatten and also travelling further afield on his motorbike or motorlaunch.

He died in a motorbike crash shortly after leaving the RAF.

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by Stephen Luscombe