© squaddie John, June 2006
We will never know all that T.E. Lawrence did at his cottage in the woods at Clouds Hill nor will we know in full what happened at the flagellation parties he attended in Chelsea.
We enjoyed a motorbike run to recreate a journey and ride some of the routes that T.E. Lawrence might have ridden as T.E. Shaw returning to his cottage at Clouds Hill.
The intention was to rerun a route similar to one that TE Lawrence might have used on his way back from a corporal punishment party such as he is known to have attended in Chelsea. Little detail survives of these parties except that they were organised by a German under the name of "Bluebeard". However it was thus a condition of joining our ride that everyone would ride with stripes from CP on their buttocks and everyone should take some more CP en route. One Londoner kindly invited us to an evening at his place which was attended by four guys in sports kit (including favourite tight white shorts).
We reconvened on Sunday morning at a petrol station outside London and rode in a loose group on to Guildford for more whacking, which refreshed the stripes on arses that were already sore; then a coffee. Five bikes, six sore-arsed guys including one slave riding pillion on his Master's bike. He was satisfactorily plugged as well as striped.
The route chosen isn't the shortest but it does link a number of military sites that were active in the 1920's and 1930's, including the now Army Air Corps museum at Middle Wallop, that figured in T.E. Lawrence's celebrated friendly encounters between motorbike and aircraft.
The roads network was vastly less developed than it is now but a motorcyclist might well have chosen the then newly-improved London to Portsmouth route for speed out of London, then elected to use the Hogsback route from Guildford to Aldershot and then the Roman road route over Salisbury Plain for the same reasons as we did: they're great biking routes with good views and opportunities for both safe speed on the straights and fun at the bends. There are also some delightful villages and views.
We stopped en route for some more whacking, this time not shorts but lowering our leathers in the corner of a field, just to ensure we started the climb up on to Salisbury Plain with the historical precedent firmly on our minds. The weather remained midsummer sunshine but not too hot, fine for views and group riding.
Finally arriving at the cottage at Clouds Hill, this is now in the care of the National Trust. Its twin cottage, on the opposite side of the lane, was replaced a few years ago by a larger more modern residence, sadly because had this remained it could have filled in the untold other half of the story. The furniture and fittings of the cottage that Lawrence created now include both of his leather sleeping bags as well as his leather covered double bed.
Seeing the Clouds Hill cottage in that frame of mind and with striped bums convinced several members of our group that at least one of Lawrence's uses of the place could have been as what we would nowadays call a playroom for sadomasochistic play, as described at Fantasy Use of the Cottage at Clouds Hill for Pack Drill and Corporal Punishment Scenarios, in addition to Lawrence's documented use of the place as a writer's refuge and to entertain his friends of the literati set. However this can only be speculation unless and until more information comes to light, for example his Punishment Book that was reportedly removed by the secret services immediately after his fatal motorcycle accident in May 1935 on his last Brough motorcycle, that he named Boenergies.
Wikipedia notes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.E._Lawrence
The field is divided between scholars working to restore the history of same-sex erotic relationships, who identify a strong homoerotic element in Lawrence's life, and those, including his official biographer, who are seen as "attempt[ing] to defend Lawrence against 'charges' of homosexuality".
Years after the Deraa incident, Lawrence embarked on a masochistic programme of physical rehabilitation, including diet, exercise and swimming nude in the North Sea. He recruited younger men from the service and told them an elaborate story about a fictitious uncle who, because Lawrence had stolen money from him, demanded that he enlist in the service and that he be beaten. Lawrence wrote letters purporting to be from the uncle ("R." or "The Old Man") instructing the men in how he was to be beaten, yet also asking them to persuade him to stop this. This treatment continued until his death (Mack, 1976). The authenticity of some of these claims and reports is disputed, but others are certain.
Our gay SM and motorcycle experimental archaeology continued to the stone markers and oak trees marking the location of the fatal accident and ended in Moreton, the village where TE Lawrence is buried.
More about TE Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia
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