Obscure Object Of Desire: T.E.Lawrence’s Pocketknife

Image courtesy UK Daily Mail

This multi-bladed pocketknife was carried by T.E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence Of Arabia’) and is currently believed to be in the custody of the U.K. National Trust. It was offered up for auction in 2011 but withdrawn, when an ownership dispute arose. It was discovered in the 1950s, buried in a garden at Lawrence’s former Dorset home.






Image courtesy Wikipedia

Thomas Edward Lawrence was a British officer whose WWI exploits became the stuff of legend, as he led Arab insurgents in their rebellion against the Turkish Ottoman empire. Historians don’t know if he carried this particular knife in Arabia during the war, where everything except the corkscrew would have come in handy. To say that Lawrence’s Arab allies ‘frown upon’ drinking would be a bit of an understatement.

While this knife’s legal ownership was in dispute, its provenance appears to be unquestioned. The initials “TEL” are burned into the wooden scales of the knife, which Lawrence did to mark many of his possessions. Despite its appearance, this knife is not a prototype Swiss Army Knife. The Victorian non-Victorinox was made by Royal knifemakers Underwood & Farrant.




  1. Sam L. says:

    Why is the ownership under dispute? Is the garden owned by other than the National Trust or government?

    1. Kurt M says:

      look up lost, mislaid, and abandoned property on Wikipedia

  2. Aharon says:

    TEL might have used the corkscrew to uncork wine in Arabia. All leaders assume themselves above the law, rules, and beliefs that their followers and subjects must follow. I know an American Jewish man who has partied with Arab royalty while in Europe. Enough said.

  3. ChuckN says:

    Anybody know what happened to his jambiya?

  4. Jim says:

    Any thoughts on the purpose of the hook? I suppose it could be a guthook but I wonder if there was specific intended use.

  5. Marmot says:

    The hook is probably for cleaning horses hooves.

  6. duroSIG556R says:

    The hook is called a parcel hook. Used mainly for carrying parcel that came wrapped in twine. Some swiss army knives still have this hook today.

    1. MOG says:

      The little things intrigue me. I looked it up. It (the hook) can be used as a handle for parcels, tie a string to it and use knife as a plumb bob, pull a line thru a tight knot, and most likely was used for hoof cleaning as well. (I used a dental pick, carefully, to clean horses’ hooves also). You are correct, they still make them. Thanks for the info.

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Obscure Object Of Desire: T.E.Lawrence’s Pocketknife

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