Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 1. Unpublished B. V. Jones documents

The primary document is a signed autograph manuscript  by B. V. Jones; blue ball-point pen on thin, pale cream wove paper with "Century" watermark, folded in half making four pages with holes from two staples on the fold. 32 X 20 cm. ca. 1961. For the background on the documents see Introduction. Other than reducing the image size (Sinc (Lanczos3) resampling), no post-photography processing was done. A transcript of the narrative follows the first four images.

Page 1. Public Domain photograph (click to enlarge or right click for new tab or window)

Page 2. Public Domain photograph (click to enlarge or right click for new tab or window)

Page 3. Public Domain photograph (click to enlarge or right click for new tab or window)
Page 4. Public Domain photograph (click to enlarge or right click for new tab or window)

Transcript of the narrative:

"(line 5) from Peshawar on my next visit, and this simple request I was pleased to be able to gratify on my return the following day. He said that he was happy at Miran Shah and spoke wonderfully of the beauty of the nights and the brilliance of the stars. It was a place, he said, of magnificent silence and a great peace. Normally, the place might well have been a monastery rather than a fortress, and it seemed at last as though Shaw had found a corner in which he was content.

"Shaw's peaceful sojourn at Miran Shah was to be of short duration. Not many weeks had passed when trouble had started in Afghanistan, which culminated in the abdication of Amanulla, and the captain of Kabul. The R.A.F. operating from Peshawar, was engaged in evacuating the British residents from Kabul. Aware of Shaw's identity and his proximity to the seat of the the trouble, the vernacular press began an agitation which presently resulted in the insistence by the Government of India that Shaw should be returned home. He resigned himself to the inevitable at Peshawar. I did not know that he was passing through, and the machine which was to take him to Karachi and the boat for England, had already been refuelled before I was aware of his arrival. I caught a glimpse of him, and incidentally my last, as he adjusted his parachute harness and climbing on the gun-ring into the cockpit, the machine moved forward and he was gone.

"As I look back, I see him once again in the barrack-room at Karachi, that slight insignificant figure outwardly one of us yet so infinitely remote. "having done something with my life, I am content to go back,..." he had said. This maker of kings was greater in his humility than he had been invested with any earthly honour, and I hear again the tremendous music of Siegfried's Funeral March ringing through the great bare rooms, so expressing of victory and a great triumph -- music he loved well and appropriate to his passing.

B. V. Jones"

The only parts of the above which appeared in Jones' entry in the first edition of T. E. Lawrence by his Friends, Ed, A. W. Lawrence, Jonathon Cape, London, 1937, pp 411-416 are at the very end:

"from Peshawar on my next visit" which is immediately followed by: "He said that he was happy at Miran Shah and spoke wonderfully of the beauty of the nights and the brilliance of the stars. It was a place, he said, of magnificent silence and a great peace."

The complete sentence in the book of the first quote is: "He asked me if I could manage to bring him a blanket from Peshawar on my next visit." the subsequent statement either omitted or edited out in the published version.

Jones concluding remarks about Siegfried's Funeral March is foreshadowed in the published article:
"The personality of Shaw was best interpreted to many of us through his choice of music. By reason of their spaciousness, the barrack rooms at Karachi had very good acoustic properties. Music at first so strange and unintelligible to many of us, by its constant reiteration, impressed something of its significance, until there was born, even to those who had voted it an insufferable 'bind', an appreciation of the immortal masters. Shaw was never tired of music, and often from tea-time to lights out, would run through a whole gamut of composers, Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert, Brahms, Purcell, Delius and Bach."

The second document by Jones is an envelope with a written excerpt from The Seven Pillars of Wisdom with added dates in exactly the same style and format as was written by Lawrence, himself. Inside the envelope is a receipt. The identity of the addressee (Miss H. MacDonald) and her relationship to Jones  is currently unknown. This document will be discussed later in the series.

Back of envelope. Public Domain photograph (click to...)

Front of envelope. Public Domain photograph (click to...)

Enclosed receipt. Public Domain photograph (click to...)
Tomorrow, discussion on Jones' narrative and the following notes.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. hi John,if the envelope was not used and stamped my mind would have worked overtime.i would have thought it was lawrences envelope and maybe taken by jones as a memento.that would have been fantastic.

    1. Hi Kyri,

      It certainly made me give a double-take when I saw the first image of the writing in the scan you originally sent me and I saw that the dates were written exactly like I saw on Lawrence's letters, right down to the positioning of the dots. Later, though, I compared the handwriting and saw that it was by Jones even though his name does not appear on that document. Robert suggested that it might have been a military convention to write dates in that format and perhaps the dot positioning was part of that or was copied from Lawrence. The fact of the dates, themselves, is another matter as such dates do not appear in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Jones had borrowed Lawrence's own copy in India, though, and perhaps it was annotated with such dates by Lawrence and Jones had noted them in an earlier document. That might account for the exact copying of Lawrence's style. Wild speculation, but fun all the same. It's also too bad that Jones and MacDonald are such common surnames so finding any relationship becomes really difficult. She might have been a granddaughter, nurse, student or housekeeper. Then there is the cryptic P. R. O. N. L. A. on the receipt. I have been unable to track that organization down so far. Perhaps, though, a blog reader might know the answer and share it with us.



  2. I would suggest PP ONLA, where ONLA is the Old North Londoners Association. See which has a useful pdf about its history. There ought to be contact details to track down Miss MacDonald and/or Constance M. H[...?], the treasurer. The North London Collegiate School is in Edgware which also provides a link.

    1. Thank you very much for this! I think you might have nailed it and I will contact them right away. Ironically, I'm a (getting old) North Londoner myself spending most of my childhood very near Alexandra Palace (Palace Gates Road, N.22). I will post the results.