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‘I zaw thic funeral’

Hugh Elmes imagines T E Lawrence’s death from the perspective of a young Dorset lad


Me father was employed as a dairyman for Mr Henry Frampton, who owned the Estate at Moreton. Me dad’s name was Walter Brinson. I used to go to the Moreton Church of England School where our headmistress was a Miss Gillet. She gave me the cane once, let I tell you how that came about…
Her first name was Amy. Well, after school sometimes, we boys would go and see Bill Bishop who was a wheelwright in the village. We lads would call in his workshop on the way whome from school as he was the only man in the village to have a wireless set. He would put they headphones into a large china basin and that made the sound louder so we could all yer it. One day we went in and a man was zinging a zong about a woman called Amy Johnson who had flown zingle handed all the way to Australia. Part of the zong that I can remember twas ‘Amy, oh Amy who can blame me, for falling in love with you.’
I ran around the school playground pretending that I was an aeroplane, with my arms stretched out like wings and when I saw Miss Gillet, I started to zing the zong. She said that I had no respect for her and that I must call her Miss. I thought it was funny, but she zaid that she would take the smile off me face. She caned my left hand. I didn’t dare tell me dad or he would have given me a clout too.
On Saturday nights me father would harness up our pony to the little cart and take Mother into Bovington to Holland’s Butchers Shop. Father knew the manager very well, his name was Mr Stratton. On Zaturday nights Mr Stratton would auction off the meat at about 7o’clock because they did not have refrigerators in the Bovington shop like they did in Dorchester, and the meat would not keep until Monday. Father would also take the accumulator into the garage at Bovington and exchange it for a fully charged one and take it back to Bill Bishop so that he could run his wireless for another wick. People in the village could have their meat delivered by an errand boy on his trade bike if they had one of them new fangled telephones to order the meat. I knew the errand boy, his name was Bert Hargreaves. E played football for the school at Bovy.
By March 1935, I had left school and wus working on the estate as a labourer. Me father didn’t want I to go into the dairy as that wus 7 days a week work. I was cleaning out some drains on the side of the road when Miss Cox, one of my old school teachers, making her way whome to Winfrith on her bike, stopped to ask if I had heard about an accident at Clouds Hill.
She said that Bert Hargreaves was on his bike, delivering meat with a friend on another bike, when the man who lived at the cottage at Clouds Hill, the one they called Lawrence of Arabia, who was on his big motor bike, swerved to miss the boys. He lost control of his bike and fell off and hit a tree. Arthur Whiting coal lorry from Wool was just coming along and the driver Lionel Chapman and his mate Bill Conners jumped out to see what they could do, seeing the state of Lawrence they got him onto the back of the truck and took him to Bovington Army Ospital, both boys zeemed alright.
I went back to the village and went and saw Billy Bishop to see if he add eard anything. Charlie Hawkins was there. He was the Carter on the estate. Charlie was saying that thic Lawrence was a mad man on that large bike, and on many occasions, he had almost caused accidents as E roared past Charlie as he was taken a cart load of hay back to the barn. The noise of thic bike nearly made they hoss bolt. On one occasion the hoss pulled the cart into a ditch, breaking the back axle and when Charlie reported the accident to Mr Henry Frampton he said that it must have been Charlie’s fault.
A few days later we heard that T E Shaw, that Lawrence of Arabia bloke, had died and that people would be coming from all over the country to the funeral. Charlie Hawkins was told to take a large cart with some bales of hay for the mourners to zit on and to meet the trains as they came into Moreton Station to take them to St Nicholas Church. They also moved the cows out of the small field by the church so that people could park their vehicles.
So on the big day everyone was busy, so I went on to work and made me way near the graveyard, pretending that I was clearing out ditches.
I must be honest I had never seen so many people in the village, and there were automobiles parked every where. Later, I was told that the man smoking the big cigar, was a Mr Winston Churchill and a lot of men smartly dressed in Army clothes and wearing medals, were men who had fought with Lawrence in the War.
All the ladies were dressed in black. I will remember it for the rest of me life. After the funeral and all the people had left our village, I thought how lucky I was. I remembered Miss Gillet telling us when I was at school, that the First World War was the ‘War to End all Wars’. I carried on working for Mr Frampton on the estate until 1939. Guess what? Miss Gillet did not know everything.

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