Wednesday 20 September 2006 by Mal Booth. No comments
Exhibitions, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse, Less than six degrees of separation, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse

The following interesting exchange between C. E. W. Bean (Australia's Official Historian for the First World War) and TE Lawrence was found a while ago when we started researching our exhibition.

It was found in an official record series: AWM 43 'Official History, 1914-18 War, biographical and other research files'.

Bean intended to show biographical details (eg. the dates and places of birth and a connection to a town or district to which they belonged) for all those mentioned in the 12 volumes of the history. (These are now fully digitised and available on our website here for anyone interested.) So, on 29 March 1922, Bean sent Lawrence the usual form letter requesting his details. The request was sent to 'Lieut-Colonel T. E. Lawrence, C.B., D.S.O., All Souls College, Oxford, England'. 

Lawrence replied with the following note hand-written on the bottom of the form:

Dear Bean

I do not think I belong to any special town or district, though I have a house in Essex (England). This entry is no doubt meant specially for Australians, who may be more domiciled than we are. The two decorations which you put after my name were not conferred upon me - except by the Strand Magazine!

22.5.22                                                  TEL.

On the returned form, Lawrence has also written in 'Wales' for place of birth and just '1888' for the date. For profession or calling he has written 'Historian'. He circled the C.B. and D.S.O. post-nominals and noted after the rank Lieut-Colonel 'in 1918 only'.  

In July 1922, Bean wrote to an officer of the Australian War Museum, then located in the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne, Victoria seeking the London Gazette information for Lawrence's CB and DSO awards. He was informed that the CB was gazetted in the Third Supplement to the London Gazette on 7/8/1917 (p. 8163) and the DSO on 13/5/1918 (p. 5694), along with the citations for these awards. The officer (Mr A. G. Pretty) also informed Bean that in the British Who's Who of 1920 and 1921 the CB and DSO are shown in Lawrence's biography, but in the 1922 issue they are deleted, noting that this was 'probably at Lawrence's own request. By then he was disillusioned.' I have no idea how he came upon that information, other than by reading press reports in Melbourne.

Mal Booth