THOMAS EDWARD LAWRENCE (1888-1935)
Autograph letter signed ('J[ohn] H[ume] Ross') to Herbert Wilson Bailey, 14 Barton Street, Westminster, 4 February 23, 21 lines written on one page, 4to, with a postscript written on the verso, autograph envelope (comprising front portion including address panel and flap but lacking back, dust-stained).
A LETTER SIGNED WITH LAWRENCE'S SHORT-LIVED FIRST ALIAS, in reply to one of the private soldiers who had served with him in the Hejaz campaign: 'I hear occasionally from most of the officers who were on our show, but very seldom from any of you: when we got to Damascus I hopped off like a scalded cat, & swore that I'd never go back, so couldn't get any addresses'.
'[W]hen that newspaper shriek about me came out, the Air Ministry got angry and gave me the sack, and I've been dodging about since after jobs'.
'People would bore me by calling me "Colonel" Lawrence. So I changed it in 1920 [sic]'.
The postscript gives the present whereabouts of a number of officers who served with Lawrence in the Hejaz including '[Charles Pierce] Joyce [who] is in Bagdad, military adviser to Feisal'; '[Hubert] Young, in the Colonial Office, London' and '[Alexander] Kirkbride in the Palestine Government', both later to have distinguished careers in the Middle East, and eight others. Lawrence writes from the attic room lent to him by his architect friend Sir Herbert Baker. It was to serve for several years as his London postal address which, as he says, 'will find me always'.
The 'newspaper shriek' was the unwelcome disclosure in the Daily Express on 27 December 1922 that Lawrence was in the R.A.F., sensationally reported under the headline 'Uncrowned King as Private Soldier', and the next day as 'Prince of Mecca on Rifle Parade'. This led promptly to his discharge from the Air Force and his decision to halt publication of the abridged version of Seven Pillars. He had joined the R.A.F. as Aircraftman J.H. Ross -- the alias chosen for him by the Air Ministry -- only the previous August. Within a few weeks of the present letter, at the suggestion of Sir Philip Chetwode, he enlisted as a private soldier in the Tank Corps, for which he selected for himself the alias of 'Shaw'.