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Lost letter sheds light on love of speed that led Lawrence to die in road crash.

Byline: By Claire Hill Western Mail

A newly-discovered letter written by the legendary Lawrence of Arabia to his friend Henry Williamson could lay to rest conspiracy theories about his death. Welsh-born Thomas Edward Lawrence died in a road crash in 1935, but some people maintain he was killed by the secret service because he was an embarrassment to the government. However, correspondence from the man who gained fame aiding the Arab Revolt in the First World War suggests a much simpler cause for the crash - speeding. A letter in 1933 from Tremadog-born Lawrence to Williamson, a fascist sympathiser and author of Tarka the Otter, reveals his love of driving powerful motorbikes. In one letter, six days before he died, aged 46, Lawrence told his friend in a telegram about coming off his motorbike. But the recently discovered letter, which is expected to fetch around pounds 2,000 for auction at Duke's of Dorchester, is even more revealing. Lawrence writes, 'I had a noble ride: Salisbury in 2 hrs.56 mins; a splendid bike, this one of mine. I slide past Alvisses [a make of fast, luxury cars] .....'

The journey from Plymouth, where the war hero had been stationed with the RAF, to Salisbury, is around 135 miles, meaning that he averaged 50mph on the primitive road network.

The machine he was ridingwhen he died was the even more powerful Brough Superior. Interest in Lawrence's artefacts is still high and personal items from the explorer have been sold for vast amounts of money. Last September the compass that saw him 'safely across the wilderness', his watch and cigarette case were sold at auction for pounds 254,400. The three-piece lot was expected to be sold for between pounds 12,000 and pounds 16,000. The cottage where Lawrence had been living before he died, Clouds Hill near Wareham, has since been turned into a National Trust Museum.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 6, 2007
Words:316
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