Monthly Archives: November 2013

Traveler’s tales from Bromley House Library


The American author / traveler / journalist / broadcaster Lowell Thomas, wrote 65 books of which Bromley House Library has just 6.

Unknown perhaps today, but in the 1920’s , Lowell became both famous and wealthy on both sides of the Atlantic, by creating and promoting the image of Lawrence of Arabia. This at the time when Lawrence was trying to hide away in the RAF.

Having been sent as a journalist to Europe after USA joined WW I, Lowell Thomas found nothing to write to enthuse Americans in the Armies’ stalemate in France.

Meeting John Buchan at the War Office, he accepted the idea to see the war with General Allenby in the Middle East. There he met T.E.Lawrence, and traveling with his photographer, collected the material he would use in the stage show after the war.


Two of the Bromley House Library books promote similar heroes – ‘Back to Mandalay’ (Ca 9394) – about Orde Wingate of Burmah and the American air logistics which made the Chindit war possible(!), and ‘The Sea Devil’ (Cb 1661) – Count Felix von Luckner, describing his life ‘before the mast’ in the first person.  All fascinating reading, together with ‘The Sea Devil’s Focsle’ (Cb 1658) – which includes his help in restarting the German Navy in the mid 1920’s after Scapa Flow.

Luckner’s use of a sailing ship as a raider on the high seas in WW I is unique, especially as he determined to take all his victims prisoner, without any deaths!


In 1927, with his wife, Lowell Thomas travelled thousands of miles by the new airlines in Europe and Scandanavia.

‘European Skyways’ (Cb 1647) describes the primitive nature of airliners and airports at that time, and  two crashes in French planes which he survived.

It also underlines how even then, Germany was a leading manufacturer of all-metal aircraft – way ahead of Great British military or civil practice.

The description of Dornier Wal flying boats powered by Rolls Royce engines flying at only 20-30ft above the sea in Ground Effect’ to give a 30% reduction in fuel consumption was new  to me – what would insurers say today!


He is followed as a writer by his son – Lowell Thomas Jnr.



Roger Allton


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