The editor ponders on the whereabouts of the pre-war racing drivers and racing mechanics
The excellent idea on the part of Kenneth Neve, President of the Vintage Sports Car Club, of inviting pre-war racing drivers to take part, at the wheels of appropriate cars, in a parade and mock race at Oulton Park last June (how successful it was is recounted on pages 674 and 675) has caused me to wonder just how many pre-war racing drivers can be traced.
There is so much interest all over the world today in the historic aspect of motor racing that the task of keeping in touch with its older participants is of considerable importance. The V.S.C.C. could invite but a very limited number of such personalities to their meeting and it was not difficult to recall many more who might have been present. From memory alone I can quote Whitney Straight of B.O.A.C., Raymond Mays, Prince “Bira,” who is resident in France, Humphrey Cook, Billy Cotton, Arthur Dobson, George Abecassis, Charles Goodacre, Charlie Dodson and Bert Hadley – the Austin Trio –, T.A.S.O. Mathieson, as keen on motor racing history as anyone, who resides in Portugal, Oliver Bertram, Q.C, who could surely be located at the Law Courts, Alan Hess, Louis Klemantaski, Cyril Paul, who, I believe, plays with motor-boats somewhere on the Naze, Sydney Allard, still active as a driver of exciting machinery, Ken Hutchison, who lives in luxury abroad, Cholmondeley-Tapper, Mrs. Gwenda Hawkes, who figures prominently in my recent book about Montlhéry and who, with Douglas Hawkes, could no doubt be found in the sunny places where small ships tie up. Stuart-Wilton, Harvey-Noble, “Ron” Horton, H. T. Clayton and other M.G. exponents of before-the-war are, I think and hope, still with us. Tommy and “Bill” Wisdom, H. G. Dobbs of the single-seater Rileys who is still in Southampton, Charles Mortimer and so on come to mind as essential at any future gatherings of this sort. Indeed, the list becomes quite long… There are Jack Barclay; Jack Dunfee, George Newman, Lord Ridley, Sir Alastair Miller, Bt., Stiles, George and R. L. Duller… If you admit Bolster and Davenport as sprint exponents, what of Robert Waddy down in Brighton? Robin Hanson has been seen in Brussels, Esson-Scott and Dorothy Stanley-Turner are about somewhere, Dreyfus runs a restaurant in New York.
If you go abroad there is the great (in two senses) Alfred Neubauer, once an Austro-Daimler and Mercedes racing driver, Lang, von Stuck, Trintignant, who is a great lover of old machinery and still has his first G.P. Bugatti, Albert Divo, Paul Dutoit, Counts Lurani and Brivio, L. Villoresi, Taruffi, Etancelin, René Thomas and Hans Ruesch.
It seems to me that while Philip Mann is busy with his highly commendable self-appointed task of sorting out the whereabouts and pedigrees of old racing cars, someone should set about recording the whereabouts and hiding places of pre-1940 racing drivers. Incidentally, it was an article asking “Where Are the Veterans” by E. K. H. Karslake in these pages over 30 years ago that unearthed some of the monsters we enjoy seeing in action today and no doubt hastened the formation of the Edwardian Section of the V.S.C.C.
I have just remembered W. O. Bentley, Capt. “Archie” Frazer-Nash, H. R. Godfrey, J. A. Joyce, Kaye Don, the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce, D. M. K. Marendaz, Major Coe, “Cupid” Hornsted, Michael (Alvis) May, all of whom I have either seen, heard from or heard about fairly recently… and obviously have overlooked more names than I have recalled. I will admit, however, that several Brooklands drivers I would like to meet have always been elusive: A. Ellison of the big Lorraine-Dietrich, A. Whale who raced a slim Calthorpe, Le Champion, Gedge, Capt. Drummond, Major R. F. Cooper, C. Bone…
Will all who were racing drivers in Britain and Europe before the war (I will gladly leave the Americans to start a register of their own!) or who know of such drivers, please write to me c/o Motor Sport so that some kind of index can be compiled and eventually, perhaps, be divided into Grand Prix, Brooklands and sprint exponents, for the benefit not only of posterity and of any club or organisation as ambitious as the V.S.C.C. which feels like calling them together for social or motoring activities? The B.O.C., for instance, might care to “collect” pre-war Bugatti drivers.
While on this subject, let us search, too, for the racing mechanics, who most certainly have plenty of valuable data and memories to contribute to the history of motor racing. The chaps who did the work are not quite so elusive as those who drove, because the British Racing Mechanics’ Club, of which I have had the much appreciated honour recently to be elected a Vice-President, is able to keep track of a good many of them. But going back down the years there, must be many racing mechanics still active whom we should know about.
Through reader-contacts I have met both A. Brownridge and J. Apps who worked for E. A. D. Eldridge, and I have learnt new facts about Gwenda Hawkes’ very fast Derby-Miller from Fred Cann. Querycoe is about somewhere, I feel, and at the dinner in Chester which the V.S.C.C. gave in honour of the pre-war drivers who took part in the aforesaid parade I sat next to George Boyle, who never has been able to steer clear of motor racing for long and who has a fund of reminiscences about the good old days. There must be others, drivers and mechanics, who are too modest to reveal their whereabouts without a little persuasion. Will you please winkle them out for me? – W. B.