Thursday, November 01, 2007

Uxbridge here I come

I'm speaking next Wednesday, 7 November, at Uxbridge Central Library. T. E. Lawrence spent ten weeks in Uxbridge in 1922, under the guise of "Aircraftsman Ross". He had joined the Royal Air Force after handing in his resignation to the Colonial Office where he had served as Winston Churchill's adviser. By odd coincidence on 7 November it will be exactly 85 years to the day that Lawrence finished his basic training at the Uxbridge depot. My job next week will be to explain why he ended up there.

Lawrence had been spared the rigours of basic military training when he volunteered in 1914 and throughout the war he maintained an amateurishness (in the approving, British sense of the word) that often infuriated other professional soldiers. His experience at Uxbridge changed him profoundly. "The person has died", he wrote, "that to the company might be born a soul." Three years later he would write that "Uniform is like corsets …. you get used to the support of it, and feel undone if it is taken off you in the end of time."

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