INTRODUCTION


Colonel Stewart Francis Newcombe was already a legend in the deserts of Arabia before he was joined in Cairo during the early months of the First World War by a group of extraordinary specialists in Middle Eastern affairs. One member of this group was T.E. Lawrence who went on to achieve worldwide fame. Colonel Newcombe's story, like those of other unsung figures in the Anglo-Arabian panoply, has been eclipsed by the legend of ´Lawrence of Arabia´, and has languished in the dusty recesses of regimental records, government files or in the elliptical words of Lawrence’s book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. However, S.F. Newcombe´s untold story is there to be told. IN THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT is a story of extraordinary exploits and courage, coupled with Newcombe's own legendary and inexhaustible supply of energy and of remarkable adventures under the very noses of the Ottoman authorities – full of danger, intrigue and perhaps more surprisingly, of romance during Newcombe's captivity in Turkey.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kennington's Lawrence effigy at Wareham

Lawrence effigy in repose
 
"The shock of T.E.'s death. Yes, when we were getting over it I had a letter from Buxton asking me to attend a committee which would plan a National Memorial."

The artist and sculptor Eric Kennington was among a select group of people brought together to discuss a fitting memorial following the death of T.E. Lawrence in 1935. "As far as I can remember," Kennington recalled many years later, "the other members were Buxton 'in the chair', Lady Astor, who soon elbowed him out of it and was in it herself, Newcombe, Storrs, Bernard Shaw, Lionel Curtis, Sir Herbert Baker."

Robin Buxton was Lawrence's banker and former colleague in the desert war. Lionel Curtis was an old friend and advocate of Imperial Federalism, which after its rejection in 1937 gave way to the idea of a Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Herbert Baker was an influential architect who with Edwin Lutyens had created New Delhi which became the capital of the British Raj in India. Baker had given Lawrence sanctuary in an upstairs attic room above his studios in Barton Street, Westminster, allowing Lawrence to work undisturbed on his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

The committee was slow to come up with suitable ideas. "Then Baker said he had asked T.E. once what his idea was for a monument to himself," Kennington recalled, "and his reply - "The largest mountain in Arabia carved into a likeness of himself!" This amused Sir Ronald Storrs who interjected, "What a fine target for the Arabs - they'd get his nose first shot." Storrs, formerly assistant to the High Commissioner in Egypt followed by spells as Governor of Jerusalem and Cyprus, was an old friend of Lawrence and was instrumental in inviting him to assess the situation in the Hejaz at the start of the Arab Revolt. He knew that no grand ideas were ever formed by committees, but a lot of foolish ideas died there. Then Baker said, "What about an effigy? We have a distinguished sculptor here." Kennington had been lying low throughout the proceedings but quickly produced some sketches which were generally accepted. Then the matter went very quiet for several months. Kennington turned to the one man he could trust to give him a straight answer. He wrote to Stewart Newcombe who replied, "Nothing doing - it's all off. They aren't going on with a National Memorial." This was a blow especially as leaflets had gone out requesting donations and had been signed by the committee members which now included Churchill, Allenby and Augustus John. The idea was quietly dropped.

Hand on Arabian khanjar dagger
Two years passed when a chance encounter at Oxford railway station between Kennington and Curtis reinvigorated the idea of an effigy. Curtis remembered their previous association and said it was a pity that the scheme for an effigy had fallen through, adding, "I wonder what it would have looked like?" "You'd better come and see it," Kennington replied. "It's almost finished."

Legs crossed at the ankles
Lawrence's brother, Arnold, came to see it and immediately offered to buy it from Kennington. "What's this worth to you?" he asked bluntly. Kennington gave a price of two thousand pounds and a cheque was drawn up there and then. But where to place it? It is not clear who first suggested the tiny parish church of St. Martin's-on-the-walls, Wareham in Dorset, but when seen today Kennington's effigy rests in the most wonderful example of a 1000 years old Anglo-Saxon church, accessible to all and in perfect harmony with its surroundings.

St. Martin's-on-the-walls, Wareham
Kennington sculpted the effigy in the style of a recumbent figure with one hand resting on the hilt of a curved Arabian khanjar dagger and one resting loosely at his side and with legs crossed at the ankles in the style of a thirteenth-century knight. Cross-legs and sword handling were features of effigies during this period, created to depict an image of repose and peace which complemented further characteristics which represented military vigour and alertness. This style persisted until the middle of the fourteenth-century when it fell out of favour to be replaced by the praying, straight-legged effigy. The meaning of the cross-legged feature was generally thought to have originated from Knights Templars or Crusaders who had died in the Holy Land, had died during the journey home, or had simply travelled east as a pilgrim or soldier. The romance of the pilgrim soldier persisted and was especially strong in the sixteenth-century, long after the period of the Crusades, reinforcing the theory. However, this crossed-legged Crusader connection has since been refuted by historians. Kennington, in reproducing the image of a 13th-century knight, was tapping into the popular beliefs held at the time.
  
Lawrence's crossed feet rest upon a piece of Hittite sculpture

Kennington was aided in his work by photos of the progress of the sculpture made by Wing Commander Reginald Simms, an amateur photographer and a former colleague of Lawrence at Bridlington during his RAF service. These undoubtedly helped Kennington during the development of the effigy, highlighting any errors. This ultimately resulted in a fine piece of work with an exquisite likeness of Lawrence in repose but also with an alertness and readiness for further action as depicted by his resting hand ready to un-sheath the curved blade. This feature was particularly pertinent when the effigy was finally placed in St. Martin's in September 1939.

Two years earlier, Churchill had contributed a piece to T.E. Lawrence By His Friends, a collection of reminiscences or impressions of Lawrence by those who knew him or had worked with him - a 'gallery of partial portraits', as Arnold Lawrence, the editor, put it. Churchill submitted a revision of an earlier obituary article published on 26 May 1935 in the News of the World newspaper, only seven days after Lawrence's death. He wrote, 'I fear whatever our need we shall never see his like again'. Churchill used much of this article at the unveiling of a memorial plaque by Kennington at the Oxford High School for Boys on 3 October 1936, an event at which Colonel and Mrs Newcombe attended and where Elsie Newcombe confessed to a bemused E.M. Forster that "Mrs Lawrence [T.E.'s mother] lovs me so much that I may kiss her here here with my rouged lips and leave spots on her face and still she doesn't mind."

Churchill included the Oxford text with further amendments in his 1937 opus Great Contemporaries where he made significant changes in both words and tone at a time when he was languishing in a political wilderness. With ominous world events pointing to another world war - in March 1936 Germany had reoccupied the Rhineland and four months later saw the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War - he used the occasion to highlight a pressing need for political effect. "All feel the poorer that he has gone from us. In these days dangers and difficulties gather upon Britain and her Empire, and we are also conscious of a lack of outstanding figures with which to overcome them."  This was not just about Lawrence. If Churchill had been side-lined at least he was able to remind his audience he was still available.

Even Lawrence's role in the RAF was utilised for Churchill's own political aims. In Friends, Churchill wrote simply that Lawrence experienced twelve years of "honourable service" in the RAF as an air-mechanic, concerned with the "mechanism of aeroplane engines, the design of flying boats." Two years later this employment was set aside in favour of a more far-reaching role that was used to bolster Churchill's own arguments for the strengthening of the aerial defence of Britain in line with the growth of the Luftwaffe.  "Those who knew him best miss him most; but our country misses him most of all. For this is a time when the great problems upon which his thought and work had so long centred, problems of aerial defence, problems of our relations with the Arab peoples, fill an even larger space in our affairs." 

With the spectre of war with Germany looming on the horizon, the tone of Churchill's revised portrait of Lawrence in Great Contemporaries became elegiac and inspirational to stir the emotions of the British public about to face their finest hour and in need of an Arthurian figure who was merely waiting for the call to arms once again. Kennington's effigy fitted the bill exactly. It would also not be long before Churchill was recalled from exile. 

NOTE
Photographs of Eric Kennington's effigy of T.E. Lawrence by Kerry Webber (December 2015), courtesy of the Rector and Churchwardens of St. Martin's-on-the-walls, Wareham.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fragmentary notes from a diary


Slightly off topic but I was searching through some papers recently when I came across an old hotel bill. The name of the hotel was sufficiently interesting to warrant further research which revealed that the establishment was to have a dramatic and somewhat explosive future ahead of it years after I had left. At the time of my travels in the region Jerusalem was experiencing attacks on tourists and my diary records a particularly close shave in the narrow lanes of the Old City. Thirty-five years have passed since I wandered the Holy Land with youthful bravado. Today, the security environment in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza remains complex and volatile despite efforts by the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to police tourist destinations. The events recorded in my diary did not put me off from returning time and again and indeed millions of tourists - 3.3 million in 2014 - over half of whom are Christian pilgrims, continue to make the journey with over 80% visiting Jerusalem.

6 September 1981 - Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv
I landed at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, at 9.15pm and after collecting my bag I exchanged coins for telephone tokens and phoned to confirm my hotel reservation. Outside the air-conditioned terminal a delicious warmth hit me as soon as I pushed through the doors. I was hustled towards a taxi but I insisted on a sherut (a shared taxi of six people from TA to Jerusalem) with a cost of 75 shekels for the hour journey to the Old City. After dropping off the other occupants I eventually arrived at the Rivoli Hotel at 3 Salah Eddin Street in East Jerusalem at 11.15pm and was given room 102. This was to be a one night stay so after a quick wash I threw open the windows and began to sort through hotels for the next morning. That night I slept on top of the sheets as the heat seemed unbearable after London.

7 September (Monday) 1981 - Jerusalem
After what seemed like only a couple of hours of fitful sleep I was woken by a cacophony of sounds from the window which increased in volume until 7 o’clock when I could take no more and went down to a breakfast of fried eggs and plenty of coffee. I was out by 8.45am. I had a couple of hours yet until 11am when I had to vacate the Rivoli so I left the hotel armed with a list of other hotels to look at, all close to Salah Eddin Street. I didn’t have to look very far when I spotted the Lawrence Hotel. I went in and reserved a room for two nights. Happy now that my next couple of days were secure I headed for the Old City. I wanted to enter by the Jaffa Gate so walked up alongside the walls and round until I came to the Citadel of David. Inside the gate the road, David’s Road, had just been dug up and was thick with dust, thrown up by passing cars and the occasional tourist camel. I sought refuge in the souq with its familiar pungent smells of spices, meat and incense. After soaking up the atmosphere for a while I worked my way through the labyrinth of alleyways to the Via Dolorosa and left by the Damascus Gate to pick up my case and move on. The bill for room and breakfast came to 19.25 US Dollars. They accepted £10 and I paid in Travellers cheques. I need only to cross the road to check into the Lawrence Hotel at 18 Salah Eddin Street where I took room 26. I spent the rest of that day and evening exploring the Old City, trying to become familiar with the twists and turns of its lanes in the hope that I might begin to understand its layout. An impossible but enjoyable task.


Lawrence Hotel, Jerusalem, Room 26

8 September (Tuesday) 1981
Breakfasted on sesame-seeded bread, cheese, figs, honey and sweet black coffee, then refreshed I threw myself back into the Old City to visit the Dome of the Rock. It took some time as the souqs were reluctant to give up the prize without a few wrong turns. When I eventually found it I bought a ticket for 10 Shekels for admittance to the El Aqsa Mosque and the Dome. I entered the Mosque first, barefoot as custom demands, and padded softly on the richly coloured Persian carpets that were scattered throughout. To the left as I entered was the spot where King Abdullah was murdered in 1951 and on the right was where in 1969 an Australian Christian pyromaniac set fire to the interior causing considerable damage that is still being repaired all these years later. It was cool and peaceful inside now and a welcome relief from the increasing heat that had seemed to follow me through the city to this upper platform of the Haram al´Sharif, or Temple Mount. On my way across the platform towards the Dome I was beckoned by a man sitting in the shade of a palm tree. I felt inclined to nod and pass on but I dimly recognised the man as the mosque guide I had met the year before. His name was Ali and he remembered me and even said I had been accompanied by a girl last year. We talked for a while then I said I wanted to visit the Dome alone this time and we said goodbye, he added “until next year, Inshallah”. The Dome inside is quite beautiful and is where guides point to a hoof print of el-Burak, the legendary horse of the Prophet Mohammed, from where Mohammed returned to Mecca after the Night Journey to the Seventh Heaven to receive the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses and Jesus to become the last prophet of God. It is the centre piece and focus of the Moslem pilgrimage. Beneath this is the cavern known as the Well of Souls where some say is the traditional hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant containing the stone Tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew faith considers the Temple Mount to be its holiest site as God's divine presence is felt here more than any other place. For Sunni Moslems this is the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina. I finished my visit by descending to the Western or Wailing Wall to take some interesting photos. I wasn't completely happy at the Lawrence Hotel, the room being quite stuffy, so my search for something more suitable continued. Retracing my steps back to the Jaffa Gate I saw a sign for the Knights Palace Hotel. A name to conjure up images! I was not disappointed and booked myself in for the remainder of my stay in Jerusalem - four nights until my journey to the Galilee and Lake Tiberius. The Knights Palace is part of the Latin Patriarchate and a former theological seminary and has great charm. It is located in the north-western corner of the Old City and forms part of the city walls. As I spend so much of my time here it made sense to relocate again.

12 September (Saturday) 1981
Today my decision to relocate nearly proved costly. I was walking back to the Knights Palace Hotel this evening through the New Gate when I narrowly missed an explosion by hand grenade which killed one and badly injured 28 others. I saw the 47 strong group of Italian Catholic pilgrims about to enter the narrow lane that led to my hotel and as I was not feeling too well – a stomach cramp that I thought might get worse - I decided not to buy fruit from the hole-in-the-wall fruit shop which was my normal routine whenever I came through this way. Instead I rushed through to get ahead of the slow-moving crowd and reached the hotel. The grenade was thrown immediately after I had passed by and landed in the centre of the group just as I reached the entrance to the hotel. A sickening metallic thud was followed by screams as the explosion caught the pilgrims in the narrow lane, intensifying the effect. Until the ambulances arrived many of the injured were carried into the hotel and through to the refractory where they were placed on the tables to receive medical first aid. Blood flowed through the lobby and the situation was made worse by a staff member attempting to wash down the flagstones with a bucket of water, turning the corridors into a river of blood. The area was locked down for several hours so later that evening we were forced to dine in the same refractory that had served as a temporary medical centre. Not surprising, some people had lost their appetite. One young couple, Paul and Charlotte, were visibly shaken up by the incident. After dinner security was relaxed and I convinced them to come out with me to a restaurant in New Jerusalem for coffee and rumbaba-style pastries, mixing with the post-Shabbat crowd, all in good humour and seemingly oblivious to the carnage that had taken place earlier. Later we learned that a second victim had died of his wounds. And this after a German tourist had been shot dead while walking in the Via Dolorosa only three weeks earlier.

FOOTNOTE
On the morning of 12 April 1996, room 27 of the Lawrence Hotel was completely destroyed by a bomb that went off prematurely after a Lebanese operative from Hezbollah, Hussein Mikdad, misjudged the procedure for assembling the crude explosive device made from a Sony radio and military-grade C4 explosives. At first police suspected a gas leak but a deep crater in the room pointed to a more sinister cause. Mikdad had entered through Israel's front door, using a stolen British passport in the name of Andrew Newman to fly from Zurich to Tel Aviv on Swissair. He lost his sight and the lower parts of both legs and a hand in the explosion and after spending two years in the Ayalon Prison in Ramla he was released as part of a prisoner swap in 1998. My old room, number 26, was also destroyed in the explosion.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Life on Mars - Bagnold Dunes

BAGNOLD DUNES, MARS
Further to my post Newcombe, Bagnold and the hunt for the lost oasis of Zerzura (22 March 2015) NASA reports that the Curiosity Mars rover has recently reached a field of dark dunes along the north-western flank of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater that has been informally named "Bagnold Dunes", further proof of the importance placed by NASA on the intrepid exploits and academic research carried out by desert explorer Ralph Bagnold and his colleagues.

Bagnold's seminal work, The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes (1941), was an invaluable aid to understanding dune formation and wind erosion prior to the first fully successful soft landing on Mars by a probe in 1976 from NASA's Viking programme. 

Observations of this dune field from orbit indicate that edges of individual dunes move about 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year. This photograph (taken in December 2015) of the rippled surface of the first Martian sand dune ever studied up close was taken from Curiosity's mast camera and is an image that would have been familiar to Bagnold's own studies carried out in the Libyan Desert (Eastern Sahara).

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Man with the Gold


T.E. Lawrence Society Announcement

Following on from the success of The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion at the 2014 Symposium, the Society is pleased to bring a new play to the stage at the 2016 Symposium. The Man with the Gold has been written by distinguished author Jan Woolf. The performance at St John’s College on the evening of Friday September 23 will be the world premiere. 

The British government is at war again in the Middle East and never before has an understanding of the historical dynamic linking the Sykes-Picot treaty at the end of WWI to the present day been so vital. This new play, started by Jan Woolf on an archaeological dig in Jordan in 2013, has been completed for the centenary of the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule during WWI. Its intention is to unravel the complex “hero” it produced in T. E. Lawrence. Set in the present, it centres on two archaeologists as they prepare a centenary exhibition in a war museum. As they unravel their own personal connections, ghosts are unwittingly summoned and the myth of “Lawrence of Arabia” excavated. 

“It’s terrific: witty, unusual, and timely, and it’s going to be very watch-able. Bringing Lawrence to life through the preparation for an exhibition is a riveting device. You feel he is being dug out of the desert sand in front of you to rise up like a scrap of desert mist. A wraith with a message who blasts his way into the present to deliver it.” Heathcote Williams

14th Biennial T.E. Lawrence Symposium, St. John's College, Oxford, 23-25 September 2016

The T.E. Lawrence Society will be returning to St John’s College, Oxford, for its 14th Symposium in September 2016. Coinciding with the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in 1916, a special programme of lectures is being planned to mark this very special centenary, plus the world premiere of a new play by Jan Woolf, The Man with the Gold. Booking forms are included with this Newsletter, and will be downloadable from the Society’s website at www.telsociety.org.uk.

Friday September 23

Roger Holehouse: The Strategic Context to the Arab Revolt

Roger Holehouse OBE is a former Royal Navy officer and Foreign and Common-wealth Office civil servant. He is also a National Trust volunteer at Clouds Hill. Roger will examine the shifts in British policy towards the Ottoman Empire from the middle of the 19th century until its dissolution in 1922. He will examine the reasons behind Britain moving away from supporting the Ottomans, as a buffer against Russian expansion, in the Crimean War, to a position of fighting against them, as an ally of Russia, and supporting the Arab Revolt, in the 1914-18 war.

Dr Steve Mills, Professor Paul T. Nicholson and Hilary Rees: Views of An Antique Land: Egypt and Palestine During the First World War

Dr Steve Mills is a lecturer in archaeology at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University and a specialist in auditory and sensory archaeology. He has worked in Egypt and has an established interest in landscape archaeology.

Professor Paul T. Nicholson is also at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University where he teaches Egyptian archaeology and early technology. He regularly directs projects in Egypt and has an established interest in early archaeological photography.

Hilary Rees is the project officer for Views of an Antique Land. She is secretary to the Gwent branch of the Western Front Association.

This paper looks at the background to, and some of the results of, a Heritage Lottery-funded project based at Cardiff University which is examining images of Egypt and Palestine taken during the First World War. The project will provide a website which descendants of those who served in the conflict can use to better understand the landscape and societies in which their ancestors served, but will go further by providing images of the archaeological sites and settlements as well as photographs of military subjects. These, often dated, images give what is, quite literally, a snapshot of Egypt and Palestine at this important period and should prove useful to archaeologists, historians and film makers as well as to those researching military or family history.

Accompanied by a small exhibition of ephemera from the project

Saturday September 24

Philip Walker: New Light on the Arab Revolt and the Forgotten Few Who Shaped It

Philip Walker is a retired archaeologist who spent many years as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments with English Heritage. He is writing a book on his research, which grew out of a paper he presented at the Society’s 2010 Symposium. He has travelled in Libya, Palestine, Morocco, Xinjiang (the Muslim far west of China) and other parts of Central Asia. He has a particular interest in the relationship between British Intelligence and the Arab Revolt.

New research into a key group of British officers based at Jeddah demonstrates that they saved the Arab Revolt from likely collapse before and during T. E. Lawrence’s indispensable involvement. In particular, the influence of one officer over the Revolt’s leader, Sherif Hussein of Mecca, was at least as important as that of Lawrence over Emir Feisal. Without these forgotten efforts, the world would not have heard of “Lawrence of Arabia”. This paper draws on archival research including extraordinary unknown private collections of Arab Revolt photographs, letters, diaries, memoirs and other documents. Philip discovered this material by tracking down the descendants of British officers in Panama, Jamaica, the USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Denmark and various parts of the UK. A fresh interpretation of the Revolt will be complemented by a selection from hundreds of stunning photographs, to be shown for the first time.

Professor Ali Allawi: Feisal and the Arab Revolt

Born in Baghdad, Ali Allawi graduated in 1968 with a BSc in Civil Engineering. He continued his postgraduate studies in regional planning at the London School of Economics, and went on to obtain an MBA from Harvard University in 1971. He worked in finance and investment during the 1970s, and following an academic period at St Antony’s College, Oxford, he was appointed Minister of Trade of Iraq in 2004. In the same year he was appointed to be Iraq’s first post-war Minister of Defence. In 2005 he was elected to Iraq’s Transitional National Assembly and became Minister of Finance. Since 2006 he has been elected to different academic appointments around the world, appeared on many Western TV programmes and delivered numerous lectures related to Iraq. He has published many books on Iraq and the Islamic civilisation and in 2014 his major political biography of Feisal appeared to great acclaim. He continues to lecture and present programmes on the politics and history of the Middle East.

This paper looks at the type of states or confederation of states and political organisations that Feisal expected as an outcome of the Arab Revolt, Lawrence’s perspectives on this, and the final pattern of states that did in fact emerge. One contention is that Feisal’s vision was far more conducive to stability, security and prosperity in the post-Ottoman world than the failed mandate system.

George Thompson: Seeing Arabia: The Personal Photographs of T. E. Lawrence taken between 1916 and 1918

George Thompson lives in the United States where he devotes his time to lecturing, writing and developing programmes on the First World War. After more than 25 years in higher education, as a university professor and assistant dean, he returned to academia as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the History and Philosophy of Medicine Department at the University of Kansas Medical Centre. Professor Thompson’s knowledge of the war and his skill in programme development resulted in his being elected President of the World War Historical Association, Chair of the Midwest Chapter of the Western Front Association, US Branch, and serving as a member of the Academic Advisory Committee for the National World War One Museum and Memorial.

Seeing Arabia will examine a selection of wartime photographs taken by T. E. Lawrence. The images will be viewed from several contexts: geographical, chronological, historical, and as photographic objects. These approaches will reveal to us the man, his values and his photographic motives, and allow us to evaluate his effectiveness as a photographer. The presentation will place Lawrence in a larger context which was his era’s use of photography as a tool to document one’s perceptions and experiences.

Seeing Arabia will describe how Lawrence’s pre-war life established his aesthetic and historical views that would influence his future choice of photo-graphic content and techniques. It will also reveal why his images are not just a significant historical record but are elegant visual statements.

John Johnson-Allen: T. E. Lawrence and the Red Sea Patrol

John Johnson-Allen went to sea in 1961 with the BP Tanker Company and spent nearly nine years at sea, rising to the rank of Second Officer. He then pursued a career in the property industry. Since retiring 10 years ago, he has gained an MA in maritime history and been elected a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Institute of Navigation, Chairman of the Institute of Seamanship and a member of the Society for Nautical Research. He has written two previous books: Voices from the Bridge (with David Smith) and They Couldn’t Have Done It Without Us; The Merchant Navy in the Falklands War. He lectures on maritime subjects and is researching for a fourth book.

Following extensive research into the activities of the ships of the Red Sea Patrol, it has become evident that without the work of those ships, the Arab Revolt would have failed and Lawrence would have remained an obscure officer in the military bureaucracy of Cairo. This paper looks at the work of the Royal Navy, largely unreported at the time for political reasons, using primary source material from the ships’ logs and other early sources. Lawrence was aware of the importance and relevance of the Royal Navy in their Red Sea operations and commented on it on many occasions. He reported in 1918 that “the naval side of the … operations, when the time comes to tell of it, will provide a most interesting case of the value of command of the sea …” Until now, nobody has investigated what was behind those comments. This paper uncovers a new angle on the Lawrence legend.

Sunday September 25

Group Captain John Alexander: “Aeroplanes and Arabs”: T. E. Lawrence as Proponent of Air Power and the British Way in Warfare

John Alexander is a Group Captain in the RAF Regiment, the successor to the RAF armoured car companies formed to help garrison Iraq following the 1921 Cairo Conference, in which Trenchard offered Lawrence a commission. A specialist in air/land integration and an Arabic speaker, he served in the Falkland Islands in 1982; on secondment to the Sultan of Oman; at Tabuk on the Hejaz Railway in the 1990/91 Gulf War; in Iraq from 2003 to 2005; and in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2011. He has conceptualised warfare in appointments in think-tanks at the RAF, Luftwaffe and the MOD. A graduate of Newcastle, the Open, Cambridge (as a Chief of the Air Staff Fellow) and Pakistan National Defence Universities, he was recently a Chief of the Air Staff Visiting Research Fellow at the Changing Character of War programme at Pembroke College, Oxford. He has published in the Royal United Services Institute Journal (based on his work on Taliban outreach), Air Power Review and Asian Affairs. T. E. Lawrence’s fame derived from the contrast between the warfare of the Arab Revolt and the attrition of the Western Front. His conception of guerrilla warfare influenced Basil Liddell Hart’s theory of the “Indirect Approach” and his cultural understanding is now a totem for contemporary counter-insurgents. Yet in the ever growing Lawrence literature there is little linking his concept of war-fare and his choice of Service for post-war enlistment. This paper uses archival research to argue that Lawrence and his colleagues employed a strikingly modern British “way in warfare”, using armoured cars, machine guns and aeroplanes to avoid Arab attrition and minimise British presence, and Britain’s economic and maritime strength to subsidise proxies and provide operational mobility. The paper concludes that this example of liberal militarism throws light on Lawrence’s subsequent support for air control in Iraq, and enlistment in the RAF.

Kerry Webber: Colonel Newcombe and Lawrence: Beyond Arabia

Kerry Webber is a British writer, photographer and designer who has spent many years travelling and working in the Middle East. He became interested in the Arab Revolt and the Palestine Campaigns of the First World War which inevitably brought him into contact with the legend of “Lawrence of Arabia”. Intrigued by Lawrence’s claim that fellow officers could “each tell a like tale”, he began to explore those peripheral figures and decided to research the life of Stewart Newcombe, eventually publishing articles and giving lectures on his findings. In 2000 he joined the T. E. Lawrence Society and was elected to its Committee, sitting on its editorial panel under the chairmanship of the late Philip Kerrigan. Kerry also contributes biographies to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographies. He now lives in Spain and his book on Newcombe will be published in 2016.

Colonel Newcombe of the Royal Engineers was already a legend in the deserts of Arabia before he was joined in Cairo during the early months of the First World War by a group of extraordinary specialists in Middle Eastern affairs. One member of this group was T. E. Lawrence. Newcombe’s story, like those of other unsung figures in the Anglo-Arabian theatre of war, has been eclipsed by the legend of “Lawrence of Arabia”, and has languished in the dusty recesses of regimental records, government files or in the words of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Colonel Newcombe and Lawrence: Beyond Arabia explores the unique friendship between the two men, that began in a pre-war desert meeting south of Beersheba and endured for more than 20 years until Newcombe was at last able to describe Lawrence as being like a younger brother. At Lawrence’s funeral, history records Newcombe as representing the Arabian years as one of the six pall bearers; this paper shows how much more this relationship meant to both men.

Dr Neil Faulkner: Lawrence of Arabia’s War

Neil is an archaeologist and historian who works as a lecturer, writer, editor and broadcaster. He is co-director of the Sedgeford Historical and Archaeological Research Project in Norfolk and the Great Arab Revolt Project in Jordan. Educated at King’s College, Cambridge, and the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, he is a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol and Editor of Military History Monthly. The author of countless magazine articles and academic papers, his books include: Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome, AD 66-73; Rome: Empire of the Eagles; and A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Olympics. Lawrence of Arabia’s War will be published by Yale University Press in Spring 2016.

Neil Faulkner was joint academic director of the decade-long Great Arab Revolt Project in Jordan. The discovery and interpretation of the archaeological remains have transformed understanding of the war in the desert in 1916-18. Neil will address four of the key themes: 1). The way in which Lawrence’s character as a Romantic and an Orientalist equipped him to play a unique role in the Arab Revolt. 2) The rich interaction of tradition and modernity, symbolised by the camel and the train, during the war. 3) The seminal contribution of Lawrence and the Sherifian Arabs to the development of modern guerrilla warfare. 4) The way in which the evidence on the ground has confirmed the scale of the insurgency and the essential veracity of Lawrence’s account in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Accompanied by an exhibition related to the Great Arab Revolt Project in Jordan

Dick Benson-Gyles: The Boy in the Mask

Dick Benson-Gyles was educated at Marlborough College and is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin. A professional editor and freelance writer, who has been writing for the Western Morning News for 25 years, he has also been an archaeologist in Iraq and TV documentary presenter. His new book, The Boy in the Mask: The Hidden World of Lawrence of Arabia, is due to be published in Spring 2016.

This presentation will explore Dick Benson-Gyles’ quest to uncover previously unexplained areas in the life of Lawrence. The talk will explore a personal mission to reveal the man behind the mask: the secret Lawrence. Lawrence’s lost Irish heritage will be explored - his father’s real family (the aristocratic, Anglo-Irish Chapmans), his abandoned half-sisters (with evocative interviews), his illegitimacy, and his mother’s obscure forebears. His concealment from his titled and wealthy Irish family affected Lawrence more deeply than thought. We will also have an insight into some of the mysteries and questions still remaining around Lawrence and his life. The presentation will be supported by a wide range of unseen family and documentary photographs, never before published.

Please note that this is a provisional programme and may be subject to change. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lawrence Symposium - Update on Speakers

The T.E. Lawrence Society have now published a provisional list of guest speakers for their 14th T.E. Lawrence Society Symposium to be held at St. John's College, Oxford, on 23-25 September 2016.

A special programme of lectures will mark the centenary of the start of the Arab Revolt: The planned line-up of speakers is as follows:

John Alexander - Lawrence as a Proponent of Air Power 
Professor Ali Allawi - Feisal and the Arab Revolt 
Philip Walker - Army Colleagues of Lawrence in the Arab Revolt 
Marilyn Holehouse - Lawrence's Family 
Dr. Neil Faulkner - Archaeology of the Arab Revolt 
John Johnson-Allen - T.E. Lawrence and the Red Sea Patrol 
Dr. David Murphy - Colonel Joyce and Lawrence 
Kerry Webber - Colonel Newcombe and Lawrence 
Roger Holehouse - Diplomatic Background to the Arab Revolt 
Professor Paul Nicholson - Images of Egypt Project

Accommodation for the two day event will be in the rooms of the historic Oxford college. A splendid formal dinner will be held in the Great Hall on the Saturday. To reserve your place - non-members welcome - contact Harriet Coates on hon.secretary@telsociety.org

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Lawrence Symposium, St. John's College, Oxford, 23-25 September 2016

Next year the T.E. Lawrence Society holds its 14th Society Symposium at St. John's College, Oxford. It is also the centenary anniversary for the Arab Revolt. In recognition of the role played by Stewart Newcombe in the campaign I have been invited as a guest speaker to discuss the fascinating relationship between Lawrence and Newcombe before, during and after the Revolt. 

Also speaking will be Professor Ali Alawi, from Iraq, to talk about King Feisal and the Fall of the Ottoman Empire. His recent book on Feisal is the first complete biography of the man and the monarch who was a central player in the Revolt and the development of the Middle East after the war. 

Philip Walker will share his research on the Service and Intelligence Colleagues of Lawrence with many new insights into the Arab Revolt. A past speaker at the 2012 Symposium, Philip has recently written a book on those officers who slipped below the radar of historians, and whose role in helping safeguard and shape the Arab Revolt deserves to be celebrated as its centenary year in 2016 approaches.

Another speaker, Dr. David Murphy, also a speaker from past symposia, will present Colonel Joyce and Lawrence

John Alexander, from the RAF, will speak on T.E. Lawrence as a Proponent of Air Power.

Dr. Neil Faulkner from the Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP) military archaeological programme, which ended last year, will share the exciting discoveries and conclusions reached from many years' work on this project. 

With a few names still to be confirmed and announced it looks set to be a very interesting couple of days, with many new insights and research discoveries about Lawrence and his wartime activities and relationships. 

Members and non-members alike can attend the Symposium. If you wish to book a place contact the Society from their website at www.telsociety.org.uk 

Friday, June 5, 2015

T.E. Lawrence and the Hejaz Postage Stamps 1916-1917


One piastre Hejaz stamp
Ronald Storrs, Oriental Secretary to the Arab Bureau, explained the thinking behind the simple but highly effective and visible means of proclaiming the independence of the Hejaz from the Ottoman Empire in 1916 in his memoir Orientations (1937):

“Shortly after the Arab Revolution we found that its success was being denied or blanketed by Enemy Press (which was of course quoted by neutrals), and we decided that the best proof that it had taken place would be provided by an issue of Hejaz postage stamps, which would carry the Arab propaganda, self-paying and incontrovertible, to the four corners of the earth.”
(Storrs, Ronald, Orientations, 1937)

Storrs, an aesthete with exquisite good taste, took Lawrence off to the Arab Museum in Cairo to collect suitable motifs “in order that the design in wording, spirit and ornament, might be as far as possible representative and reminiscent of a purely Arab source of inspiration. Pictures and views were avoided, for these never formed part of Arab decoration, and are foreign to its art; so also was European lettering.”

In this, their first joint endeavour, Lawrence and Storrs found agreement in the creative direction of the project and thereafter Lawrence was given a free hand in completing the design and production of the stamps to this format. The result was a series of arabesque designs taken from a number of sources which were worked up by two Cairo designers, Agami Effendi Ali and Mustafa Effendi Gozlan, and were soon put into production at the Survey of Egypt’s printing department located at Giza, some two miles from the Savoy Hotel in which G.H.Q. was housed. From the outset, Storrs was happy to let Lawrence – whom he called his ‘super cerebral companion’ - take over the running of the production, planning every detail from the design concept to print. As Storrs said:

"It was quickly apparent that Lawrence already possessed or had immediately assimilated a complete working technique of philatelic and three-color reproduction, so that he was able to supervise the issue from start to finish." 

In fact, Lawrence had long experience of liaising with government printers with his work on map reproduction at the War Office in London and for Military Intelligence in Cairo so he was perfectly suited to the task. He even had his own ideas, long held it seems, on what constituted good philatelic design and production. ‘It’s rather amusing,’ he wrote to his brother, Arnie, ‘because one has long had ideas as to what a stamp should look like, and now one can put them roughly into practice...I’m going to have flavoured gum on the back, so that one may lick without unpleasantness.’ This became a running joke and although it was never put into action he used to like to tell an apocryphal story that the Arabs enjoyed the flavours so much – strawberry essence for the red, pineapple for the green - that they would lick the gum clean away so that the stamps fell off the envelopes in the post and then postage could be charged double to make a very good profit for the Revolt. 

THE STAMPS 
  
The 1 piastre stamp in blue (shown above) depicts as a central motif the phrase ‘Makkah al-Mukarramah’ (Mecca the Blessed, or the Honoured), a phrase that is used whenever Mecca is mentioned, and above are the words ‘Hejaz Post’ in a lozenge which is mirrored below showing the price as ‘1 piastre’. The date of 1334 in two side panels corresponds to the launch of the Arab Revolt according to the Arabic calendar which differed slightly to the Ottoman one. The design elements were taken from an ancient prayer niche in the al-Amri mosque at Qus in Upper Egypt. Lawrence was particularly pleased with the design of this stamp as he said it was pure Arabic in style while the quarter-piastre in green (shown below) was Egyptian and showed the carved door panels of the al-Salih Tala'i mosque on Shari’ Qasabet Radwan in Cairo. He thought the half-piastre in red looked Chinese although its central design was taken from a page of a Holy Quran in the 14th Century mosque of Sultan Al-Malik Az-Zahir Sayf ad-Din Barquq on Shari' al-Nahhasin in Cairo.

More postage stamps followed (6 in total) plus a set of three tax stamps but by then Lawrence had changed from being ‘Lawrence of Carchemish, of Cairo - of any place for a little while - and became permanently Lawrence of Arabia,’ as Storrs so accurately described the transformation.

Quarter-piastre Hejaz stamp



Lawrence’s connection to the Hejaz stamps issue of 1916-1917 was acknowledged by  Mr. (later Sir) Ernest Dowson, Surveyor-General of Egypt, in a coded reference in the introduction to a booklet entitled A Short Note on the Design and Issue of Postage Stamps Prepared by the Survey of Egypt for His Highness Husein Emir & Sherif of Mecca & King of the Hejaz

‘It is desired to take this opportunity to express the obligation due to all those who gave assistance or counsel, in particular to El Emir ‘Awrunis of the Northern Armies of His Highness the King of the Hejaz, at whose suggestion the work was undertaken, and to whose critical acumen the success met with must largely be ascribed.’   

Sunday, May 24, 2015

30 Brechin Place


Newcombe's place of residence after retirement

Newcombe and retirement

On his retirement from the army in 1932 Stewart Newcombe and his wife, Elsie, moved to London and took up residence at 30 Brechin Place, South Kensington, an imposing four-storied terraced townhouse with additional attic rooms and basement. He soon settled into his new life away from the regiment and found time to renew his connections with old friends and colleagues at society meetings and clubs. At 53-years old he took on a civilian job, perhaps the first and only in his life, with Turner and Newall, a company specialising in asbestos products. His continuing interest in developing sustainable heat and energy for domestic housing made T&N a perfect vehicle for expanding his theories and would help in formulating some of his untried ideas on the subject of heat retention within the home.  The asbestos industry would later became mired in litigation and controversy but at the time was thought of as no more dangerous than many other industries such as coalmining or in the manufacture of steel. Lawrence took advantage of Newcombe’s connection to order some of their products to modernise his Dorset cottage, Clouds Hill,  but even he was aware of the inherent dangers of asbestos and referred to it as that ‘beastly stuff’.    

Lawrence – Final RAF duties

As Lawrence’s time in the RAF wound down he was worked hard – or more likely worked himself hard – right up until the end. For a couple of weeks he had been overseeing the assembly of a new batch of 100 h.p. power engines destined for RAF target boats at Henry Meadows Ltd, in Wolverhampton, but could be found at any number of locations that needed his presence. After residing briefly as Henry Meadows’ guest at Windermere House, he informed Newcombe that he had been forced to take up a bug infested accommodation as Wolverhampton seemed pretty full.
Windermere House

Lawrence was deeply unimpressed by Wolverhampton calling it ‘squalid’ and a ‘cess-pit’, adding that it had ‘the worse mannered local press of my experience!’ Coming from a press-hounded man like Lawrence it must have been particularly bad, so much so that he claims to have punched an editor in the mouth. He said that it had been the first time he had done so in his life; it would not be the last.

A lull in the manufacture at Meadows’ Fallings Park factory meant more meetings with the Air Council in London or back to Southampton for further fine-tuning at Scott-Paine’s power boat yard. “Since Wolverhampton,” he wrote, “I have been to London, Nottingham and Oxford; London; Plymouth; and London again.” At some point during this time, perhaps on 16 February when Lawrence’s meeting with the Secretary of the Air Ministry, Sir Christopher Bullock, was cancelled, he spent a day with the Newcombes at Brechin Place in London. A few weeks later Liddell Hart sent Newcombe an inscribed copy of his biography ‘T.E. Lawrence’ In Arabia and After and received the following letter describing the meeting:

2 March 1934
Dear Liddell Hart, It was extraordinarily kind of you to send me the book and also to insert a very flattering inscription. Naturally it has given my wife and me very great pleasure and very many thanks. T.E. was here about three weeks ago from 10 am till 6: as bright as ever.

Yours very sincerely
Stewart F. Newcombe

A rare moment of quietude

It must have been a rare treat for Lawrence to spend a whole day with Newcombe and Elsie instead of his usual nomadic existence in lodgings with snatched meals and working day and night on double shifts, ‘oiled up to the teeth,’ as he put it, ‘fed up to the teeth: and very unpopular.’ 

30 Brechin Place, now painted red

Today the Brechin Place house is painted in a cardinal red finish - too jarring for my tastes - one of only two in a typical street of London brick facades. When I last visited Kensington the house still seemed to reverberate with conversations both serious and jocular that took place within its walls eighty years ago between two old desert warriors and a brave woman that helped one of them escape under the very noses of his Turkish captors!

I would like to thank John Meadows for placing the history of his grandfather's factory online at Henry Meadows Ltd.
 

Monday, May 18, 2015

ON THIS DAY - 19 May 1935



T.E. LAWRENCE (16 August 1888 - 19 May 1935)

And how beguile you? Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than the Orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.
When the great markets by the sea shut fast
All that calm Sunday that go
es on and on:
When even lovers find their peace at last,
And Earth is but a star, that once had shone.

JAMES ELROY FLECKER

Eighty years ago today the archaeologist, soldier and writer, Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, died following a motorcycle accident on a quiet Dorset lane close to his cottage, Clouds Hill.

Brough SS100 "George V" RK 4907

END OF SERVICE

T.E. Lawrence took his discharge from the R.A.F. on Monday 25 February 1935 in front of his Commanding Officer, Pilot-Officer J.F. Manning, who later became Air Commodore Manning. During the day, Lawrence wrote to Trenchard’s successor, the then current Air Chief Marshall, Sir Edward Ellington, giving his thanks for the forbearance he had shown in allowing him to complete his twelve year service. It was of course unusual for a humble airman to contact his Chief in this way and the moment was not lost on Lawrence:

‘Not many airmen, fortunately, write to their Chief of Staff upon discharge,’ he wrote, adding, ‘I’ve been at home in the ranks, and well and happy...So if you still keep that old file about me, will you please close it with this note which says how sadly I am going? The R.A.F. has been much more than my profession’. 

The next morning, Manning and a few colleagues, military and civilian, gathered at Bridlington harbour-side to see Lawrence off. He was wearing his familiar civvies of sports jacket and flannel trousers which were held in place at the ankles by bicycle clips. He had knotted a checked scarf at his neck and had tucked the ends into the front of his jacket. It was a crisp sunny Tuesday and he had a plan to cycle south to his old R.A.F. college at Cranwell and then onto Bourne in Lincolnshire to meet Frederick Manning, an Australian author Lawrence admired. Cambridge was also on his route where he could visit an old friend, Sydney Cockerell, Curator of the Fitzwilliam Museum, and where his brother Arnie lived with his wife Mary with their eight year old daughter, Jane. And then to Dorset and his cottage, Clouds Hill. It would be a long journey over a few days and he was keen to be on his way, partly to start eating up the distance, but mostly to face the dreaded moment that would severe him from the service that had been his home and refuge for the past twelve years. 

Unbeknown to him he was heading for a conflict with press reporters and photographers keen to discover his future intentions. His hoped-for sanctuary was about to be shattered. 

When he eventually reached Clouds Hill, he found the place besieged by the ‘press hounds’, as he called them. He immediately escaped to London and found lodgings in Waterloo, South London, under the not-very original name of T.E. Smith. After writing to Churchill to call in a favour he enlisted the help of Esmond Harmsworth, Chairman of the Newspaper Proprietors Association, to help persuade the press people to leave him alone. ‘If they agree to that,’ he wrote to Winstone, ‘the free-lancers find no market for their activities.’ 

Clouds Hill - An earthly paradise

A BRIEF TASTE OF LEISURE
It took a couple of weeks before his plea to be left alone was actioned but by the evening of 26 March he was back at Clouds Hill, now peaceful and deserted except for his solitary neighbour, Pat Knowles. This is where his books were, twelve hundred of them, each read at least once and worth reading again, and a gramophone to play music on. At last, perhaps this could be his refuge, a sanctuary from fame. 

The finishing touches to the refurbishment of his cottage kept him almost totally absorbed in its planning and execution over the coming weeks but he admitted to friends that he still needed time to heal the physical and emotional exhaustion he felt after his demanding role in the RAF, the wrench of its termination and his recent confrontations with the press. With those latter troubles now successfully dealt with following his approach to Churchill and Harmsworth he replied to Lady Astor on 8 May turning down an invitation to Cliveden during which she believed the reorganisation of the national Defence Forces would be offered to him by influential fellow guests that included Lionel Curtis and Stanley Baldwin: 

‘No wild mares would not at present take me away from Clouds Hill,’ he wrote. ‘It is an earthly paradise and I am staying here till I feel qualified for it. Also there’s something broken in the works as I told you: my will I think.’ 

He continued to write to his wide circle of correspondents, a mixture of bleak resignation regarding his situation and upbeat delight in his surroundings and in those simple tasks that went towards creating his own idiosyncratic home – a one man home he called it. Projects for the future were stored away until leisure time allowed them to be given the attention they deserved. Not that Lawrence did not feel slightly adrift in his new found circumstances, as this letter to the artist Eric Kennington illustrates:  

‘You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That's the feeling.’

(TEL to Eric Kennington, 6 May 1935)  

13 MAY 1935
Then just as abruptly as retirement had interrupted a life once so full of action, and without sufficient time to enjoy his new-found leisure, he was thrown over the handlebars of his powerful Brough motorcycle on Monday 13 May whilst trying to avoid two errand boys on bicycles who were approaching him out of a dip in the road close to his cottage. Lawrence lingered in that place between life and death for six days before finally surrendering his fragile hold on life and he died on Sunday 19 May 1935, one last ‘Sunday that goes on and on,’ as his friend the poet James Elroy Flecker had written. He had experienced true leisure for less than twelve weeks.

Lawrence's friend Sir Ronald Storrs, one-time Oriental Secretary in Cairo and Military Governor of Jerusalem, was with him on the 21 May when they prepared him for his burial. His eloquent description of those final moments is worth recounting: 

‘I stood beside him lying swathed in fleecy wool; stayed until the plain oak coffin was screwed down. There was nothing else in the mortuary chamber but a little altar behind his head with some lilies of the valley and red roses. I had come prepared to be greatly shocked by what I saw, but his injuries had been at the back of his head, and beyond some scarring and discoloration over the left eye, his countenance was not marred. His nose was sharper and delicately curved, and his chin less square... Nothing of his hair, nor of his hands was showing; only a powerful cowled mask, dark-stained ivory alive against the dead chemical sterility of the wrappings. It was somehow unreal to be watching beside him in these cerements, so strangely resembling the aba, the kuffiya and the aqál of an Arab Chief, as he lay in his last littlest room, very grave and strong and noble... As we carried the coffin into and out of the little church the clicking Kodaks and the whirring reels extracted from the dead body their last “personal” publicity.’  

(P. 531 Orientations, Storrs) 

THE JOLLIEST THING ON WHEELS 
Lawrence wrote a long letter to Robert Graves (28.6.27) in which he corrected passages of Graves’ draft biography of Lawrence and offered information to help the fledgling writer complete the project. In it he stated his love for his Brough motorbike, the aptly named Boanerges, or ‘Sons of Thunder’, which he described as ‘the jolliest things on wheels’. In doing so he provided his own epitaph, explaining his craving for speed and boasting of not harming anyone else in its pursuit:  

‘Put in a good word for Boanerges, my Brough bike,’ he wrote. ‘I had five of them in four years, and rode 100,000 miles on them, making only two insurance claims (for superficial damage to machine after skids), and hurting nobody. The greatest pleasure of my recent life has been speed on the road. The bike would do 100 m.p.h. but I'm not a racing man. It was my satisfaction to purr along gently between 60 and 70 m.p.h. and drink in the air and the general view. I lose detail at even moderate speeds, but gain comprehension. When I used to cross Salisbury Plain at 50 or so, I'd feel the earth moulding herself under me. It was me piling up this hill, hollowing this valley, stretching out this level place: almost the earth came alive, heaving and tossing on each side like a sea. That's a thing the slow coach will never feel. It is the reward of Speed. I could write for hours on the lustfulness of moving swiftly.’ 

It was a fitting epitaph that aptly described the instrument and the manner of his passing.   

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand. 

FLECKER