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T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

Thomas Edward Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia used to live near Bovington in Dorset. From a young age he explored the world and later decided to retire to a small Dorset cottage.

T.E. Lawrence was born in Wales on 16 August 1888.

From the age of eight he lived in Oxford where he later studied Modern History at Jesus College.

In 1909, he did a 1100 mile walking tour of Palestine and Syria collecting information for his thesis, 'Crusader Castles'.

In 1911, Lawrence started work as an archaeologist at Carchemish in Syria, where he learnt about Arabian culture and Arabic. In 1914 he joined the army and was posted to Military Intelligence in Cairo.

As Captain T.E. Lawrence he led Bedouin tribesmen in guerrilla raids against the Turkish Army, especially the Hejaz railway. He was promoted to Major and then to Lieutenant Colonel. In July 1917 Arab forces captured Akaba and then went on to capture Damascus in 1918, the highlight of the Arab campaign.

As Colonel Lawrence, he returned to Britain in 1918 where he lobbied unsuccessfully for Arab independence. He turned down a series of important jobs and tried to escape from the public eye by changing his identity.

In 1922, he became known as Aircraftsman Ross at Uxbridge, but his alias was discovered. In 1923, as T.E. Shaw, he made Dorset his new home. He joined the Tank Corps at Bovington and bought nearby Clouds Hill cottage as a retreat. During this time he finished writing 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' and 'The Mint'.

In 1925 he was allowed to rejoin the RAF, and after some time in Karachi he was posted to Plymouth, where he lobbied successfully for faster rescue boats.

He spent the rest of his career developing and testing high speed rescue boats, which formed the basis of the air-sea rescue service and retired to Clouds Hill in 1935.

Some famous people who visited Lawrence at Clouds Hill include:

  • Thomas Hardy (Author) & Florence Hardy
  • George Bernard Shaw (Author/Playwright) & Charlotte Shaw
  • E.M. Forster (Author)
  • Robert Graves (Author/Poet)
  • Siegfried Sassoon (Author/Poet)
  • Edward Garnet (Author)
  • Basil Liddell Hart (Author)
  • Gilbert Spencer (Artist)
  • Eric Kennington (Artist/Sculptor)
  • Augustus John ( Artist)
  • William Roberts (Artist) and Family
  • Arnold Lawrence (Brother, Author, Editor & Archaeologist - Taught Archaeology at Cambridge University) and wife Barbara
  • Mrs Sarah Lawrence (Mother) Stayed at cottage 1930-31 with son Robert. She went with Robert to China (Mienchau province) where he was a medical Missionary. They returned in 1935 on T.E.'s death. Sarah then settled in Swanage where she died in 1959 at the age of 98+)
  • Dr Robert (Bob) Lawrence (Brother, Doctor and Missionary)

A few months after Lawrence's retirement, he was involved in a fatal crash on his Brough Superior motorcycle. His final resting place is in the cemetery at Moreton.

Having had the accident on 13 May 1935, he went into a coma and finally died on 19 May. The autopsy/coroners findings and funeral took place on 21 May. At such short notice, extra trains ran from London to Moreton railway station for all the people who wanted to attend the funeral.

Many famous people attended his funeral in Moreton on 21 May 1935, including Sir Winston Churchill, Lady Astor, General Wavell (who flew in from Aldershot by Auto-giro) and Henry Williamson (Author). 

There are more than 87 books on Lawrence, two films and a stage play by Terence Rattigan, plus numerous radio programmes and tributes.

The Lawrence of Arabia Trail starts and finishes at Bovington's renowned Tank Museum (opens in a new window) taking in Lawrence's home at Clouds Hill (opens in a new window) and his last resting place - the cemetery at Moreton.

Visit Wareham to see the collection of Lawrence related material at the Library, the exhibition at Wareham Museum (opens in a new window) or the stone carved effigy of Lawrence inside St Martin on the Walls Church.

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