A collection of personal items belonging to ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ left to his landlord while he was a secret lodger have sold for £26,000 at auction.
The unique lot of T.E. Lawrence items were given to Mrs Fanny Hatcher, while he was staying with her, hiding out from the public and his thousands of admirers shortly before he died in 1935.
The British military hero, who was decorated for his efforts in assisting the Arab Uprising in 1917, spent 18 months with the family at their modest home in Southampton—and although Fanny eventually became aware of the ‘quiet lodger’s true identity it was kept a secret from her son Donald, 13.
The schoolboy knew him as “Aircraftman Shaw” and 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 his own cottage in Dorset, for what would be the final time.
Most valuable among the historic artifacts, including the two daggers and hand-written and signed letters, was that Royal Air Force cap.
They had been in the possession of the Hatcher family for over 80 years.
Anita Manning, managing director Great Western Auctions, said: “It was a pleasure to bring to market items that had been owned by T.E. Lawrence, one of the most significant figures in British Military history.”
In July 1933, Fanny Hatcher, who ran a boarding house, had no idea as she wrote the name TE 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.
An archaeologist, army officer and diplomat, Lawrence was also a prolific writer—and became world famous after publishing Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1926, an autobiographical account of his participation in the Arab Revolt. Certain parts of the book, which George Bernard Shaw helped to edit, serve as lush essays on military strategy, Arabian culture and geography, and other topics.
Lawrence was afraid that the public would think that he would make a substantial income from the book, and he stated that it was written as a result of his war service. He vowed not to take any money from it, and indeed he did not. After his death in a motorcycle accident at age 46, his brother inherited his copyrights and a substantial amount of income was donated directly to the RAF Benevolent Fund and to archaeological, environmental, and academic projects.
Further notoriety came to his story after Peter O’Toole portrayed Lawrence in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, and was nominated for an Academy Award for the performance.
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