Fortuitous discovery of the inscription of Lawrence of Arabia on the compass


Lawrence of ArabiaCredit:Donor

Because there were no papers to authenticate ownership, the reserve was set at a very modest figure.

The compass is part of a large collection of lots sold by the late estate of Warwick George Cary, who established the Cary Corporation known today as The Medal Shop. According to the auction catalog, he was a descendant of Edward III and a member of the Descendants of the Knights of the Garter.

He visited the UK several times on his collecting trips and bought and sold as his priorities changed. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia on Australia Day last year for his service to the State Emergency Service and military history.

the Herald contacted Mr. Cary’s daughter, Esther Cary, to see if she knew more. At that time, she did not.

“We weren’t aware that the compass had any meaning,” she said. “Our father had pieces everywhere. I don’t claim to be an antiques enthusiast at all.

Things then moved quickly. The decision was made to withdraw the compass within one hour of the Numismatics auction.

Ms Cary said: ‘I found in dad’s binder only this morning, you wouldn’t really believe it, it’s a TE lawrence file, and it has a lot of information in it like dad was investigating it. It doesn’t look like he got very far so it will be very sad if it turns out to be his [Lawrence of Arabia’s] real compass and daddy never knew.

A pocket compass said to have been used by Lawrence of Arabia on his adventures in the desert has been sold by Christie’s for over £250,000.

But the London evening standard reported in 2006 that the auction house was facing embarrassing allegations from experts that it had been duped, saying the buyer had obtained a fake £50.

The two-inch brass pocket compass was sold with a watch and cigarette case, and is said to have aided Lawrence as he led the Arab revolt against Germany’s ally Turkey.

But Lawrence’s authorized biographer Jeremy Wilson, who died in 2017, pointed out that the inscription engraved in the case refers to Lawrence as “TE” – a short form that was not used until 1923. He claimed: “The complete set could be worth as little as £50.”

the Herald contacted the Imperial War Museum in London and the Lawrence of Arabia Society in Oxford.

Lawrence of Arabia died in 1935 on his Brough Superior motorbike in Dorset two months after leaving military service as he swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. The accident contributed to the introduction of protective helmets for motorcyclists.

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