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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

T.E. Lawrence Anniversary of Death

It is now the 80th anniversary of the death of T.E.Lawrence (he hated the "of Arabia" suffix) and it caused me to dig into my old notes about my pilgrimage to respect the 50th anniversary in 1985. The 400 mile round trip to Dorset, in the pouring rain, on my motorcycle is not something I could manage (even by car) these days. I thought those notes, which would have been the subject of a blog had such things then existed, might be of interest. So.........

On 13th May 1935 he rode his Brough Superior motorcycle from his cottage, Clouds Hill, to Bovington post office, some 3 miles distant, to send a telegram to Henry Williamson - an invitation to lunch. The telegram was timed at 11.25am. Riding back to his cottage he breasted a rise and was confronted by two boys on bicycles. He swerved, but clipped the back of one bike and came off  receiving eventually fatal head injuries (no crash helmets in those days). He died the following Sunday, 19th May.

There was to be a 50th memorial service at the nearby Moreton Church on the date of his actual death, but he abhored crowds and was an agnostic. So I eschewed attendance at the service and instead rode down to lay a wreath at the actual crash site on the day/time of the accident, 50 years on. (11.30am 13th May 1985).
I recreated his last ride exactly, leaving Bovington old post office at 11.25 am to ride to Clouds Hill and lay the wreath on the dot. Uncanny!A shivering goose flesh came over me as I started away. As the time approached a small bird flew down on front of me. I took no more notice, but after laying the wreath I found it dead, wedged under the engine of my bike. It died, by motorcycle, to the minute. Did not Pythagoras say that the souls of the dead inhabit birds?

Upon the laurel wreath I left a dedication - some lines of Rupert Brooke's seemed very appropriate: