Friday, 8 July 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 20. Death

Cutting from the Daily Herald, 1935, showing the crash site
"At the age of 46, two months after leaving military service, Lawrence was fatally injured in an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham. A dip in the road obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control, and was thrown over the handlebars. He died six days later on 19 May 1935. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road."

Wikipedia entry.

This episode is dedicated to John Howland in England who graciously provided me with the press cutting, the link to the film clip, and who took all of the new photographs shown here.

The Wikipedia entry quoted above gives the official version of the events. However, there are a great many inconsistencies in that story. For a start, if you look at the press clipping and watch this British Pathé preview, you will see that the dip in the road was nowhere near as deep as it is today and that there are very few trees (mostly saplings) to obstruct the view of two boys on bicycles.

The road as it appears today
photo: John Howland

The road at the crash site is now bordered by a barbed wire fence, mature trees and plenty of undergrowth. From the film clip, it seems that the road surface was about three and a half car widths at the time of the crash.

In T. E. Lawrence by his Friends' p. 565, George Brough describes Shaw as not only:

"extremely clever in anything technical concerning a motor cycle but he was one of the finest riders I have ever met. In the several runs I took with him, I am able to state with conviction that T.E.L was most considerate to every other road user. I never saw him take a single risk nor put any other rider or driver to the slightest inconvenience — but when the road was clear ahead, it required a very good and experienced rider to keep anywhere near T. E. L."
Side view of the crash site.
photo: John Howland

The above quotes are at odds with what Judge Neville-Jones Said to the jury at the inquest:

"...What caused the deceased to run into the pedal cyclist from the rear we shall never know but the evidence would lead me to think that Mr Shaw must have been travelling at a very fast speed and possibly lost control of his motor-cycle. I do not think there can be any other conclusion on the evidence." Rodney Legg, Lawrence of Arabia in Dorset, Sherbourne, 1988, p.90.

That the motor-cycle was in second gear at the time of the crash, indicates that Shaw had changed gears down to second and the only reason for doing so on the straight stretch of road where that occurred is that he saw something ahead of him.

A memorial stone erected by the T. E. Lawrence Society
photo: John Howland
What that something was is a matter of great controversy: There is a witness who saw a black car, but the two boys said they saw nothing of the sort. had Shaw have seen only the two boys then it seems highly unlikely that the crash would have occurred at all.

Critics might scoff saying "conspiracy theories!", but we already have self-evident proof of quite a number of conspiracies against Shaw carried out by both the military and the government who had answered by deeds, with knee jerk reaction, to various fictions published by the press. Shaw was transferred out of India back to England, and he was demoted in his boat-designing duties to more routine tasks by the Air Force as well. We know full-well that there were conspiracies by people in power who only acted out of expediency. The only thing remaining is to determine just how many conspiracies had been hatched against him, and their nature. We will look at the evidence for these starting on Monday. Have a safe weekend.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. Hello John:


    The road being narrow, he saw the two cyclists ahead of him and the black car approaching, but was unable to safely overtake the cyclists, so slowed the SS100 by dropping down a gear, ready for a fast acceleration to clear the cyclists when the car had passed. Instead, the car collided with him forcing him off the road which accounts for the black paint found on the offside (right hand handlebar).

    Deliberate or accidental? Who knows? Maybe he wasn't killed?

    Whatever the truth I have thoroughly enjoyed your series and taken a lot from it.


    John Howland

    1. Thanks, John,

      I agree with your scenario about why he dropped into second gear, and the black paint lessens the likelihood of the brakes suddenly seizing (which would be the only other reason he would have hit one of the bikes having seen them if there was no black car). I do think he was fatally injured, though, and I'll have more on that later.