a reply to a letter from Graves saying he had been asked to write an obituary notice of Lawrence.
239: ozone hotel bridlington 4.2.35
...Yes, Hogarth did the morgue-men a first sketch of me in 1920, and they are right to overhaul their stocks.[1 line omitted] I won't touch it myself, but if you do, don't give too much importance to what I did in Arabia during the war. I feel the Middle Eastern settlement put through by Winston Churchill and Young and me in 1921 (which stands in every particular ...if only the other Peace Treaties did!) should weigh more than fighting. And I feel too that this settlement should weigh less than my life since 1922, for the conquest of the last element, the air, seems to me the only major task of our generation; and I have convinced myself that progress to-day is made not by the single genius, but by the common effort.
To me it is the multitude of rough transport drivers, filling all the roads of England every night, who make this the mechanical age. And it is the airmen, the mechanics, who are overcoming the air, not the Mollisons and Orlebars. The genius raids, but the common people occupy and possess. Wherefore I stayed in the ranks and served to the best of my ability, much influencing my fellow airmen towards a pride in themselves and their inarticulate duty. I tried to make them see - with some success.
That for eight years, and now the last four I have been so curiously fortunate as to share in a little revolution we have made in boat design. People have thought we were at finality there, for since 1850 ships have merely got bigger. When I went into R.A.F. boats in 1929, every type was an admiralty design, All were round-bottomed, derived from the first hollow tree, with only a fin, called a keel, to delay their rolling about and over. They progressed by pushing their own bulk of water aside. Now(1935)not one type of R.A.F. boat in production is naval ... We have found, chosen, selected or derived our own sorts: they have (power for power) three times the speed of their predecessors, less weight, less cost, more room, more safety, more seaworthiness. As their speed increases, they rise out of the water and run over its face. They cannot roll, nor pitch, having no pendulum nor period, but a subtly modelled planing bottom and sharp edged.
Now I do not claim to have made these boats. They have grown out of the joint, experience, skill and imaginations of many men. but I can (secretly) feel that they owe to me their opportunity and their acceptance. The pundits met them with a fierce hostility: all the RAF sailors, and all the Navy, said that they would break, sink, wear out, be unmanageable. To-day we are advising the War Office in refitting the coast defences entirely with boats of our model, and the Admiralty has specified them for the modernised battleships: while tge German, Chinese, Spanish and Portugese Governments have adopted them! In inventing them we have had to make new engines, new auxiliaries, use new timbers, new metals, new materials. It has been five years of intense and co-ordinated progress. Nothing now hinders the application of our design to bug ships - except the conservatism of man, of course. Patience. It cannot be stopped now.
All this boasting is not to glorify myself, but to explain;and here enters my last subject for this letter, your strictures upon the changes I have made in myself since the time we felt so much together a Oxford. You're quite right about the change. I was then trying to write; to be perhaps an artist or to be at least cerebral. My head was aiming to create intangible things. That's not well put: all creation is tangible. What I was trying to do, I suppose, was to carry a superstructure of ideas upon or above anything that I made.
Well I failed in that. by measuring myself against such people as yourself and Augustus John, I could feel that I was not made out of the same stuff.