Lawrence of Ara­bia

This England - - Post Box - Brian Mut­ton, Queens­land

I have just read the ar­ti­cle about Lawrence of Ara­bia in the Win­ter 2017 edi­tion of “This Eng­land” which I en­joyed very much.

There is, how­ever, a very in­ter­est­ing and per­haps not so well known pe­riod of his life which was only briefly men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle. It was his time in the Royal Air Force, and his con­tri­bu­tion to and in­volve­ment with the de­sign of high­speed wa­ter craft for res­cue pur­poses.

This was brought about by his wit­ness­ing the crash of a sea­plane; the res­cue craft sent out was so slow to reach the scene that all the crew of the air­craft were lost. Lawrence, then known as Air­crafts­man T. E. Shaw, was sta­tioned at RAF Mount Bat­ten, Plymouth. The failed res­cue prompted him to seek the per­mis­sion of the Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer to do some­thing about it.

With as­sis­tance of Hu­bert Scott-paine, who had set up The Bri­tish Power Boat Com­pany, Shaw and Scott-paine set about test­ing and re­fin­ing a mo­tor boat which Scott-paine had built for the RAF.

The end re­sult was that the RAF went on to use hard chine launches for the Air Sea Res­cue Ser­vice, which had units es­tab­lished around the coast of the United King­dom. Many thou­sands of lives were saved dur­ing the war by RAF “sailors in lit­tle boats”. The motto of the ASR was “The Sea Shall Not Have Them”, and a film of the same name was made about 1961.

I joined the Air Sea Res­cue branch of the RAF from 1955-1958, serv­ing on high-speed launches, mainly in the north of Scot­land. The last ves­sel on which I served was HMAFV 2575, then brand new, and which is now on pub­lic dis­play in the RAF Hen­don Mu­seum, to­gether with other types of RAF craft.

I sub­se­quently wrote a book, “Waves Of Nos­tal­gia”, about my ser­vice and the var­i­ous launches used by the RAF and those on dis­play at the mu­seum.

Co­in­ci­den­tally I had the op­por­tu­nity to meet David Lean, who made the film “Lawrence Of Ara­bia”. He was on hol­i­day in Corn­wall and he asked me to drive him around on a sight­see­ing tour.

Per­haps you could in­clude an ar­ti­cle about the ma­rine branch of the RAF? It was dis­banded in 1986, but played an im­por­tant role dur­ing its life­time.

I now live in Queens­land, Aus­tralia, but was born and brought up in Looe, Corn­wall. Thank you for the mag­a­zine, it makes me nos­tal­gic for the old coun­try!

Dear Brian, thank you very much for your let­ter and fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into T.E. Lawrence. We think the Ma­rine Branch of the RAF would make a su­perb ar­ti­cle for a fu­ture is­sue of This Eng­land!

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