• T E Lawrence: his service in the Royal Air Force

      Gray, Peter (Royal Air Force Historical Society, 2020-05-31)
      T. E. Lawrence, as the ‘Uncrowned Prince of Arabia’, has been described as the most ‘glamorous figure produced by the First World War'. Although such extravagant statements are open to debate, there can be little doubt that Lawrence achieved legendary status during and after the First World War. As Brian Holden Reid has pointed out, public interest was whetted rather than lessened by Lawrence’s decision in 1922 to join the Royal Air Force as an airman and not as an officer. In the event, he spent two periods of time in the RAF with an intervening spell in the Royal Tank Corps. This paper will concentrate on Lawrence’s service in the RAF. Like the formal presentation delivered to the RAF Historical Society Annual General Meeting, the paper will focus on issues for which there is evidence and leave the conjecture, which is inevitable with Lawrence, to the discussion period. The paper will examine a number of issues including why Lawrence wanted to join the RAF and why he was determined to enlist in the ranks. The paper will also look at the question as to how he got away with such a radical move (if indeed he did so) and finally reflect on what we can learn about the RAF in the inter-war years through the Lawrence lens.