Film-maker's bid to dig up 'truth' about Lawrence of Arabia's death

By Harry Howard, History Correspondent For Mailonline Published: 08:23 BST, 14 October 2021 | Updated: 08:23 BST, 14 October 2021 A filmmaker is to excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia's fatal moto

Film-maker's bid to dig up 'truth' about Lawrence of Arabia's death

Was Lawrence of Arabia murdered? Film-maker who is investigating conspiracy theory that hero was killed in shadowy British intelligence plot will dig up site of 1935 bike crash

  • First World War hero died after crash near his home in Dorset in 1935
  • The hero of 1917 Arab Revolt in swerved to avoid boys who were riding bicycles 
  • But Mark Griffin believes Lawrence may have been murdered
  • His new film, Lawrence After Arabia, delves into the conspiracy theory
  • He is leading a team of experts to investigate the scene of the hero's crash 

A filmmaker is to excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia's fatal motorcycle crash in the hope of finding evidence that might prove he was murdered.

The First World War hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bike near his home in Dorset in 1935 when he is said to have swerved to avoid two schoolboys on their bikes.

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

Rumours that a black car drove into his path led some people to believe that the crash was no accident and was covered up.

Now, filmmaker Mark Griffin is leading a team which includes archaeologists, a historian and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the scene of the crash, near Bovington Camp in Dorset.

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

A filmmaker is to excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia's fatal motorcycle crash in the hope of finding evidence that might prove he was murdered. The First World War hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bike (pictured) near his home in Dorset in 1935 when he is said to have swerved to avoid two schoolboys on their bikes

A filmmaker is to excavate the site of Lawrence of Arabia's fatal motorcycle crash in the hope of finding evidence that might prove he was murdered. The First World War hero was riding his beloved Brough Superior bike (pictured) near his home in Dorset in 1935 when he is said to have swerved to avoid two schoolboys on their bikes 

Mark Griffin is leading a team which includes archaeologists and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the scene of the crash, near Bovington Camp in Dorset

Mark Griffin is leading a team which includes archaeologists and a forensic crash investigator to excavate the scene of the crash, near Bovington Camp in Dorset

Mr Griffin believes that the hero of the Arab Revolt in 1917 may have been killed on the orders of the British intelligence community after powerful figures opposed Sir Winton Churchill's alleged desire to appoint him to head up the domestic intelligence service. 

The new excavation team hope to find metal remnants of the Brough motorbike, and possibly the mysterious car said to have been involved, to prove Lawrence was assassinated.

Specialist equipment will be used to scan the ground for debris leftover from the crash.

Researchers hope to revisit archival material from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine pictures of damage to Lawrence's motorbike.

Mr Griffin has previously accused the National Trust, which owns Lawrence's home, Clouds Hill, near Bovington, of censorship after he was barred from filming there.

They refused repeated requests to shoot at the cottage on the grounds that the film 'perpetuated conspiracies' surrounding his death.

But Mr Griffin believes he may find fresh evidence which could prove the naysayers wrong once and for all.

He said: 'Calling it a conspiracy theory is derogatory - it is actually an alternative explanation, suggested by the evidence, which goes against the official story.

'We're hoping to build a revisionist history of TE Lawrence which I think is more reflective of his life than the one people are familiar with.

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

Mr Griffin's new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, which has just been released, questions whether the British Army officer died as a result of foul play

Mr Griffin's new biopic, Lawrence After Arabia, which has just been released, questions whether the British Army officer died as a result of foul play

'What we could be dealing with here is the first state sponsored murder in Britain.

'The particular section of road we're looking at has not been touched since 1943 when the American army changed the layout 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's been left as gravelly forest track ever since.

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

'We also believe there may be bits of metal which was not found at the time.. If we find something we will start digging.

'A forensic crash investigator will then attempt to piece together what may have happened on the road.

'Then we have George Brough, designer of Lawrence's bike, the Brough Superior, who found flakes of black paint on the handlebars and engine.

'He wasn't allowed to present that evidence at the inquest.'

Delivering a statement to the inquest following his death, eyewitness Corporal Earnest Catchpole said he saw a black car at the scene.

However, the seven-man jury determined that the cause of death was accidental based on a report conducted by coroner Ralph Neville-Jones.

The last surviving brother of Frank Fletcher, one of the two boys Lawrence swerved to avoid, still lives just a few miles away from Clouds Hill.

Dennis Fletcher, now 89, said his family had been haunted by rumours surrounding Lawrence's death for decades.

He said: 'People have just been going over the same old ground since 1935 looking for someone to blame but whatever they're trying to find is not there.

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

'They're looking to make money out of it - but my family never got any money.

Researchers hope to revisit archival material from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine pictures of damage to Lawrence's motorbike

Researchers hope to revisit archival material from the inquest and police reports, as well as examine pictures of damage to Lawrence's motorbike

'My brother was only 14 at the time of the accident. As the publicity went on, he joined the army to escape it.

'It was a terrible time for this family. My mother became fed up with reporters turning up at the house.

'After the war, Frank moved away from Wareham to London to get away from it.. He never wanted to talk about it.

'When the Lawrence of Arabia film was released in the 1960s, it all started again. I am fed up of the same old story.'

Who was Lawrence of Arabia?

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

TE Lawrence, pictured, was born in North Wales in 1888 and died in 1935 following 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 the First World War. 

Born in North Wales in 1888, Lawrence joined the army in 1914 and by December was posted to Cairo, Egypt, as a liaison and map officer – he had worked as an archaeologist and photographer, making him familiar 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, aged 46.

His story reached a new worldwide audience through the massively successful multi-Oscar winning 1962 film Lawrence Of Arabia, starring Peter O’Toole. 

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