Brooklands reopens—for one nostalgic afternoon



The “Hand and Spear,” June 26th.

THE idea of a re-union between those who remember the old Motor Course at Weybridge came to Bill Boddy and Dudley Gahagan three years ago after attending a B.M.C.R.C. Brooklands Re-union organised by Rex Judd at the “Hand & Spear,” where so many Brooklands rider’s and drivers used to quench their monumental thirsts. It took place this year on June 26th and was humoured by sunshine after a week of dismal weather, which warmed the nostalgia of those who came from far and wide as hosts of Vickers-Armstrongs and the British Aircraft Corporation on this memorable Saturday afternoon.

On the way there we were held up for a short while behind one of Ebeneza Mears’ lorries, but even this was appropriate to the occasion, because these contractors did much of the clearing up when Brooklands Track was built, using a Panhard-Levassor converted into a lorry for the purpose, before their steam wagons became a familiar feature of the Surrey roads.

At the old Fork entrance to the Track the visitors arrived fast and frequently, old friends meeting again and the rumble and crackle of appropriate exhausts echoing about the car park, as the older sport a cars—massive Bentleys, including Harry Rose’s 4 1/2-litre team car, Brian Pickford’s 2-seater 4 1/2-litre and 3-litre tourers, a Brooklands 4-seater Talbot 90, two Morgan 3-wheelers, a couple of H.R.Gs, Edmondson’s 3-litre Lagonda, David Brown in the ex-Whineop Type 43 Bugatti, etc., etc.—were assembled at the head of a long procession of cars, led by Ronald Barker’s great 1908 Napier, with Dick Nash, who introduced many veteran cars, and aeroplanes, to Brooklands, occupying the passengers seat. D. M. Dent, who drove a Frazer Nash and built fascinating models of these and G.N. cars, rode with Riddle in his well-known G.N. Cyclecar, M. Men, who was one of the last drivers to race a G.N. at Brooklands had walked from Weybridge Station and rode round on the pillion of a motorcycle, Vic Derrington trailed his famous Salmson and, to really create the old atmosphere, there was Dunham, smoking his pipe and nonchalantly driving round in his ex-Brooklands single-seater Alvis.

The long line of cars, almost as impressive as that which celebrated the opening of Brooklands in June 1907, and good-humouredly directed by the Vickers’ police (many of whom have lived all their lives in the district and recall with enthusiasm the old racing cars and drivers) went across the Fork, along the pits’ straight of the Campbell circuit, and uphill round the r.h. Test Hill Hairpin onto the Members’ Banking. Here a halt was called and we walked onto the Hill, to look out over that momentous view across the aerodrome to Byfleet, the weathered buildings that once served as restaurants, tearooms and the scene of Sunday afternoon members’ dances behind us, and the gaunt Members’ Bridge and Test Hill on the right bringing the memories flooding back.

It is impossible to refer to everyone present but we noticed Laurence Pomeroy, who came in his Rolls-Royce, chatting to Guy Griffiths, who chose his ex-Fawcett Type-44 Bugatti for this occasion, Jack Bartlett, Granville Grenfell, Ian Clarke, who owns a Thomas-Special “flat iron,” and was also driving a Rolls-Royce, I. A. Cushman who designed the racing G.N. engines, Rex Mundy, K.L.G.’s Competition Manager of those days, L. P. Driscoll, the Austin 7 driver and his son, Leslie Brooke, Wally Hassan, who built the Barnato-Hassan, Harry Mundy, R. C. Fleming, Monica Whineo, Ashton Rigby of M.G. fame, accompanied by the young son of the late Eric Winterbottom, S. J. Humphries, ex-T. & T., and R. R. Jackson, in his immaculate M-type Inman Hunter, G. P. Harvey Noble who raced a Salinson and the Bentley-Jackson, etc. and made a single-seater M.G. go so very quickly, H. P. Spero who went so well in the Austin. 7 “Mrs. Jo Jo” when I was a schoolboy, “Sinbad” Milledge who did chassis-work on the Multi-Union, Capt. Culver who raced his Arnold Motor Carriage in the veteran car capers that used to take place on the Mountain circuit—all were in earnest conversation or silently taking in the old haunts. H. G. Symonds, who was at the last meeting in 1939 racing an R-type M.G. Midget, is as staunch an advocate of Brooklands as ever, so are J. Rands and fellow mechanics from T. & Ts. C. M. C. Turner whose Brooklands Gwynne we illustrated last month had come all the way from Kent, and Jack Reiss from Leeds who, like Dent, wore a Brooklands tie, had had the B.A.R.C., J.C.C. and Brooklands Aero Club badges on his Ford Lotus-Cortina replated for the occasion. Patsy Burt, whose father raced Frazer Nashes and the Burt Special, was being driven round in a superlative Ferrari.

Eventually, when “Steady” Barker could be found, to swing the Napier’s engine, and the conversation had been quelled, the cars retraced their route and crossed the top of the Finishing Straight to enter the Paddock, from which the old shelters have gone but where the Clubhouse still stands, substantial and comfortably period, as it has done for well over half a century. Why, there were even whiffs from the sewage-farm, to add to the traditional atmosphere! Here the eyes of Paul Wyand, in the past glued to a Movietone camera, were sparkling with enjoyment, we encountered the ever-young Robert Waddy of Fuzzi fame, and wondered whether Ian Metcalfe, who had come in an Amphicar presumably in case a second flood came to wash away Brooklands for ever, would go for a sail down to Wey. . . . It was possible to see the old sheds of Robin Jackson, Francis Bean, Malcolm Campbell and Waddy, some even with their owner’s names still discernible. Arthur Dobson arrived, W. V. Arnold, who worked on Arthur Fox’s racing cars from 1911 to 1955, was there. So was Nigel Orlebar, and one met many motorcycle personalities like Huxham, Bryant, F. H. Barnes, E. Ventura, Frank Huggett, R. A. Daniels, Andrew Oliver and E. J. Tubb as well as car drivers, and others who had been just keen spectators to as far back as 1914. Indeed, L. P. Sawers met at Wevbridge Station his father, who stayed at the “Hand & Spear” for the August 1908 Brooklands Meeting and raced Douglas small cars on the Track in the ‘twenties. J. Bingham recalled spectating from 1923 and driving his 1931 M.G. Midget at a Brighton & Hove M.C. Meeting, W. Porter driving in the M.C.C. High Speed Trials, the Bellamys were there and so was Harry Weslake, of gas-flow fame, who remarked how often you went to Brooklands full of hope, which evaporated as the day wore on!

Off again, the cars went onto the tail end of the home banking and over the entrance tunnel, before pausing to admire the big Vickers-Armstrongs’ memorial to Brooklands, then ran down part of the Byfleet banking onto the aerodrome road, pausing to see the enormous VC10 air-liners in their gigantic hangar, the cars being parked on what used to be the sewage-farm where it invaded the Track. The long procession then circled the buildings on the Byfleet side, where W. B. Scott of Sunbeam, G. P. Delage, Bugatti and Thomas-Special associations had discovered his old turfing shed, which had clearly made his long journey from Suffolk worthwhile. Next, it cut across the grass for the historic aerodrome, and again followed the Byfleet banking before going left onto the modern runway, to double back along the Sahara straight of the Campbell circuit at Aerodrome Curve, to return to the outside car park after 2 1/2 hours of the most nostalgic of memory-stirring visits.

Then it was up to the “Hand & Spear,” affectionately called the “Mit & Spike,” where fortunately the car park is large, for tea and drinks, to the background of tape-recordings of commentaries on Brooklands’ races, an interview with the late Sir Malcolm Campbell and reminiscences from Brooklands personalities, before Gahagan and David Roscoe put on a session of Brooklands’ films, the room so packed that it called for innumerable showings. Nor was this all, for at this evening gathering, where Charles Mortimer, Frank Kennington, some of the modern “Bentley boys” and Cyril Posthumus joined the rest of the ex-Brooklands throng, Laurence Pomeroy called upon Clifford Pratley to present to Bill Boddy of MOTOR SPORT an excellent oil-painting of the 350 h.p. V12 Sunbeam on the banking, painted specially by Harold Pratley in commemoration of the days’ happenings, a most thoughtful and much appreciated gesture, and Miss E. O. Carlisle, Licensee of the “Hand & Spear,” awarded a pipkin of beer donated by Friary Meux to George Bedford, as the oldest Brooklands driver present. Mr. Bedford raced the aluminium and-black single-seater “Mercury” light car so successfully in the early ‘twenties, and who now works for the Rover Company, having come down from Coventry with his wife in a 3-litre Rover. And at this moment a greetings telegram arrived from Alan Hess, who had so much to do with Brooklands for some ten years prior to the war, sending “best wishes to you all for another good reunion.”

Altogether it was an occasion sad and happy in about equal proportions, and it was a long time before the last car left the Weybridge car park on this memorable Saturday summer evening.

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