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College & OF History: 1975-2000
Into the Third Millennium
Framlingham College...
By John Maulden

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In the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia
Twenty years ago, Charles Blackmore (K65-75) set out to retrace the “Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia” crossing some of the most dangerous wildernesses on earth, through 800 miles of the Jordanian and Saudi desert.

In February 1985, fifty years after T.E. Lawrence was killed in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, Captain Charles Blackmore, FRGS, embarked upon an expedition with three others of the Royal Green Jackets Regiment to retrace the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia. Charles insisted on living, as Lawrence did, as a true Bedouin, traveling through some of the extreme regions of the Jordan and Saudi deserts. As Charles now recalls "the Saudis had not officially given me permission to enter their country - but then we were Bedu innocent of which sand dunes delinated an unmarked border!"

Following Lawrence’s exploits in the Arab Revolt in the First World War, their journey took them from Wadi Rumm through El Jafir to Azraq, El Qatrana, Tafila, Petra and back to Wadi Rumm. Using Lawrence's classic account, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", as their guide, the expedition spent 29 days with meagre supplies and under extreme climatic conditions, riding and walking to the very source of the Lawrence legend. What these young men, all in their twenties, discovered about Lawrence and the legend was matched only by what they discovered about themselves. Very soon all romantic images disappeared. Extreme heat and then cold, virtually no food and often little water, and an inability to communicate with the Arabs plus a growing realization of the own lack of preparedness, turned their thoughts and fears to conspiracy.

Charles later wrote a book, “In the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia”, based on a diary he kept of the expedition. As Charles wrote in the book’s Aftermath: "Two months later, on 19 May 1985, I stood by T.E. Lawrence's grave on the occasion of a special service to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. The weather was fine and I was surprised there were relatively few people at the small church of Moreton in Dorset. The moment was an appropriate one for reflection. The expedition had been a fitting commemorative gesture and had also brought me closer to understanding the man - closer than the armchair reader still struggling with that black and white picture".

Charles has had a lifetime's interest in T.E. Lawrence. His childhood was spent in Nepal and Hong Kong, he has a degree in archaeology and a military background, giving him, like Lawrence, a longing for adventure and the desire to escape the constraints of everyday life. His Arabian expedition follows hard on the heels of a trip to Spain reconstructing the retreat to Corunna.

Eight years later, Charles was at it again when he masterminded the first crossing of the "Desert of Death", the Taklamakan Desert in China (1993-94). As Charles says: "I like a challenge and I travel well.” Charles described this second exploit in his book "The Worst Desert on Earth: Crossing the Taklamakan".

Charles has recently been appointed head of Decision Strategies Ltd in Europe, having been an investment banker since leaving the army, with expertise in Pakistan, Russia and Southern Africa. He served in the Army in the Far East, Middle East, Northern Ireland, and became a British Army expert on counter-terrorism. His new job takes him on frequent visits to Iraq where he is hoping for a side trip to Kurdistan to do some partridge shooting (probably with an AK47 if Charlie is consistent with his pig hunting exploits in Pakistan).

Charles says that he knows well Richard Vaughan-Griffith (K60-64) who heads up MacIvor Grant, another Global Risk Management company. Between them, they are thinking of starting an SOF Hants Supper; they already know of John Ellerby (G67-75), Malcolm Fletcher (S67-73), Simon Chaplin-Rogers (S68-73), Simon Brunger (S64-71) and a few more to make a good evening.

Charles is also a member of the Cock Up Club, along with another OF Richard Vaughan-Griffith (K60-64). See the following article in the Sunday Telegraph on 24 February 2007 Cock Up Club