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T.E. Lawrence – Important Collection of Letters & Personal Effects

Great Western Auctions are delighted to offer an Important Collection of T.E Lawrence’s (Lawrence of Arabia) Letters and Personal Effects in our Summer Fine Art & Antiques Auction.

Going under the hammer on Friday 14th June will be five lots (lot numbers 145-149), including his RAF Service dress cap, his Arabian Janbiya dagger, his William Lund dagger, three handwritten letters by T.E Shaw to his landlady Mrs Fanny Hatcher and an interesting archive of letters and press cuttings from his time at 13 Birmingham Street, Southampton. Estimates range from £1,000 to £15,000

Further information and full lot descriptions can be viewed on our forthcoming highlights – please click here to view

It is not every schoolboy that comes home to find, ‘One of the greatest beings alive in our time’ as Winston Churchill described him, sat quietly in his mother’s kitchen making tea.
At the time (July 1933) 13-year old Donald Hatcher did not know that the gentleman who rented the upstairs back room of his mother’s boarding house was, in fact, every schoolboys’ hero, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.
Initially even Mrs Fanny Hatcher, Donald’s mother, had no idea, as she wrote the name T.E Shaw in the guest’s register, that the gentleman who would come to be part of the family over the next 18 months was, in fact, the man responsible for uniting the Arab Tribes and taking the port of Aqaba. The taking of the legendary port is still thought to be one of the greatest and most daring military attacks in modern history.
Lawrence was hiding from the press and attention from his thousands of fans and admirers from across the globe. His desire was to live a very quiet existence.
His first alias John Hume-Ross (which he used in 1922 to join the RAF) had been uncovered by the Daily Express and the publicity had forced him to leave. He then spent many years in safety at Bovington with the Army, later being transferred back to the RAF under the new alias of Shaw.
In April 1931 he was assigned to the Scott-Paine yard at Hythe, designing and trialling powerboats, for the purpose of rescuing Aircraftmen who crashed at sea.
In 1933 Lawrence took lodgings at 13 Birmingham Street, a small unremarkable terraced house, in Southampton. The ‘quiet lodger’ was visited by ‘all sorts of important people’ and Mrs Hatcher, in time, became aware of his true identity.
Poor Donald was left in the dark for the time being. Loose lips, even on thirteen-year old boys could still be dangerous. For the entire duration of his stay Donald would simply know him as ‘Aircraftman Shaw’. (The only thing Donald knew for certain was that whenever he could not find the cat, she would be in Shaw’s room.)
As a thank you to young Donald, at the end of his stay Lawrence gifted to him not just the original Arabian Janbiya dagger and Lund & Sons campaign knife, but the very RAF hat he was wearing as he left.
Ripping the badge off his cap and placing it on Donald’s head, Lawrence made his way back to Cloud’s Hill for what would be the final time.
This collection of items from 13 Birmingham Street has come to light for the first time after being safeguarded by the Hatcher family for over 80 years.
These personal possessions and letters give us a glimpse into Lawrence’s private and secret life, his desire to avoid fame and to separate himself from the icon he had become.