The Filmmaker’s Attempt to Unearth the “Truth” About the Death of Lawrence of Arabia

A filmmaker wants to search the site of Lawrence of Arabia’s fatal motorcycle crash in hopes of finding evidence that could prove he was murdered.

The World War I hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bicycle near his home in Dorset in 1935 when he allegedly swerved to avoid two schoolchildren on their bikes.

Lawrence, whose full name was Thomas Edward Lawrence, was thrown from the machine and died of head injuries six days later.

Rumors that a black car drove in its path led some conspiracy theorists to believe the crash was not an accident and had been covered up.

Today, filmmaker Mark Griffin is leading a team of archaeologists, a historian and a forensic investigator to search the crash site near Bovington camp in Dorset.

The director’s new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, which has just been released, questions whether the British Army officer has died as a result of a criminal act.

Laurence of Arabia '

A filmmaker must search the site of Lawrence of Arabia’s fatal motorcycle crash in hopes of finding any evidence that could prove he was murdered. The World War I hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bicycle (pictured) left near his home in Dorset in 1935 when he allegedly swerved to avoid two schoolchildren on their bikes

Mark Griffin is pictured where Lawrence of Arabia died.  He is leading a team which includes archaeologists and a forensic accident investigator to excavate the crash site near Bovington camp in Dorset.

Mark Griffin is pictured where Lawrence of Arabia died. He is leading a team which includes archaeologists and a forensic accident investigator to excavate the crash site near Bovington camp in Dorset.

Mr Griffin believes the hero of the 1917 Arab uprising may have been killed on orders from the British intelligence community after powerful figures objected to Sir Winton Churchill’s alleged desire to appoint him as head of the service internal intelligence.

The new excavation team is hoping to find metallic remains of the Brough motorcycle, and possibly the mysterious car allegedly involved, to prove Lawrence was murdered.

Specialized equipment will be used to analyze the ground for debris left by the accident.

Researchers hope to review archival documents from the investigation and police reports, as well as examine photos of the damage to Lawrence’s motorcycle.

Mr Griffin has previously accused the National Trust, which owns Lawrence’s house, Clouds Hill, near Bovington, of censorship after being banned from filming there.

They refused repeated requests to shoot at the chalet on the grounds that the film “continued the plots” surrounding his death.

But Mr Griffin believes he can find new evidence that could prove opponents wrong once and for all.

“We hope to build a revisionist story of TE Lawrence that I think reflects his life better than the one people know.

Lawrence was seriously injured near Bovington camp in Dorset on May 13, 1935. He died on May 19.

Lawrence was seriously injured near Bovington camp in Dorset on May 13, 1935. He died on May 19.

New Mr Griffin biopic Lawrence After Arabia, just released, wonders if British Army officer died as a result of foul play

New Mr Griffin biopic Lawrence After Arabia, just released, wonders if British Army officer died as a result of foul play

“What we could deal with here is the first state sponsored murder in Britain.

“The particular section of road we are examining has not been affected since 1943, when the US military altered the route of the road network.

News of Lawrence's crash was reported in the Daily Mail

News of Lawrence’s crash was reported in the Daily Mail

“It has been left as a gravelly forest trail ever since.

“The first thing will be to use metal detectors and geo-survey equipment to assess any damage to the road at depth.

“We also believe that there may be pieces of metal that weren’t found at the time. If we find something, we’ll start digging.

“A forensic investigator will then try to reconstruct what may have happened on the road.

“Then we have George Brough, designer of Lawrence’s bike, the Brough Superior, who found black paint chips on the handlebars and motor.

“He was not allowed to present this evidence during the investigation.”

Making a statement at the inquest after his death, eyewitness Corporal Earnest Catchpole said he saw a black car at the scene.

However, the seven-man jury determined the cause of death to be accidental based on a report by Coroner Ralph Neville-Jones.

Frank Fletcher’s last surviving brother, one of two boys Lawrence avoided avoiding, still lives a few miles from Clouds Hill.

Dennis Fletcher, now 89, said his family has been haunted by rumors surrounding Lawrence’s death for decades.

He said: “People have been walking the same old ground since 1935 looking for someone to blame, but not everything they are trying to find is there.

“There was no black car or chains across the road. If they really want to know how Lawrence died, they should read the coroner’s report.

“They’re looking to make money out of it – but my family has never had any money.

Researchers hope to review archival documents from the investigation and police reports, as well as examine photos of damage to Lawrence's motorcycle.

Researchers hope to review archival documents from the investigation and police reports, as well as examine photos of damage to Lawrence’s motorcycle.

“My brother was only 14 years old at the time of the accident. As the publicity continues, he enlists in the army to escape it.

“It was a terrible time for this family. My mother has had enough of reporters who show up at the house.

“After the war Frank left Wareham for London to get away from it. He never wanted to talk about it.

“When Lawrence of Arabia’s film came out in the 1960s, it all started again. I’m sick of the same old story.

Who was Lawrence of Arabia?

TE Lawrence, pictured, was born in North Wales in 1888 and died in 1935 in a motorcycle accident, aged 46.

TE Lawrence, pictured, was born in North Wales in 1888 and died in 1935 in a motorcycle accident, aged 46.

Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was a charismatic British intelligence officer who fought alongside guerrilla forces in the Middle East during World War I.

Born in North Wales in 1888, Lawrence joined the Army in 1914 and in December was posted to Cairo, Egypt, as a Liaison and Mapping Officer – he had worked as an archaeologist and photographer, which allowed him to familiarize himself with the region.

After almost two years in Cairo, he began to undertake dangerous missions inside enemy territory in Arabia, following the Arab revolt against Ottoman Turkey in June 1916.

In 1935 Lawrence was involved in a motorcycle accident near his home in Dorset and died in hospital on May 19 at the age of 46.

Its story reached a new global audience thanks to the multi-Oscar winning film Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, starring Peter O’Toole.


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Virginia C. Taylor

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