Continued from the July issue
We left X, as I am referring to this 1914/18-war soldier turned Flying Officer, after he had disposed of the 1911 40/50 hp Rolls Royce tourer he had been using and which is owned today by John Bolster. We shall come upon it again, if I decide to extend these diary extracts to somewhat after the Armistice of 1918. For the moment, we pick up the story in mid-March of the war-torn year of 1917.
There had been much snow and X had been in bed with a cold but he recovered in time to buy his girl a little Swift car at Cummings’ emporium and, getting some petrol for it, they took it round the Park one Sunday. He also sold Phil Paddon a Sizaire-Berwick for £450. At this time X was seeing Lord Arde’s Irish Guards’ Colonel about his promotion to Captain in that Regiment. After the interview X lunched with Paddon and then went to his garage and did several odd jobs on the Swift. He was also keeping an eye on the rebodying of Lord Wilton’s 1910 Rolls-Royce at Litchfields, making “further alterations to detail”.
With Spring in the air, one March Saturday X lunched at the Ritz with his Mother, Lady Wilton, Col Warner and Major Max Freeman and then went to the War Office and worked there until 6.15 pm. He then “went round to 18th Wing in 90 hp ‘Prince Henry’ Vauxhall and collected Col Mills and we started off for Brighton but only got as far as Crawley, where we put up for the night as I felt very seedy. However, cheeryho show”. (One wonders whether X’s estimate of the Vauxhall’s power was optimistic or whether it was a special competition job?). The weather continuing fine, they went on to Brighton on the Sunday, then back via Dorking, to lunch at the Burford Bridge Hotel, and to Maidenhead “where we went to tea with Rene and Joan Rudd”, and back to London by about 7.15 pm where X dropped Col Mills at the Hyde Park Hotel and dined at home in Ennismore Gardens with his Father and Mother.
On the Monday evening there was “a run down the Harrow Road and back with Hedges, in the 90 Merc”. X then sold the Swift at Cummings Motor Sale for £65 and bought himself 36 gallons of oil. X would go to the War Office every day, where he shared an office, it seems, with someone called Hansberg, when that person wasn’t away at Denham. He would lunch at Prince’s with Baldwin Raper for instance, and then go and look at a 40/50 Mercedes, and one.Wednesday he took Segrave with him to see the Rolls-Royce at Litchfields. Mercedes cars were now entering X’s life. He had Tollerton take the 90 Mercedes back “to have its clutch done”, apparently he then went to the WO in the 15 hp Mercedes, and he would take Segrave to the Mercedes Company in London, after lunching with him at the Batchelor’s Club. Dinner at Pratt’s Club might be followed by a visit to “Under Cover”.
Some discreet motor dealing saw cheques paid into Cox’s Bank and an engagement was pending, as three rings were obtained on approval from Plantes. Baldwin Raper was shown the big Mercedes, presumably with its scroll clutch now nice and grippy, and a 40/50 Mercedes limousine borrowed from Dewis was prepared for a run to Newmarket. This took 21/4 hours on a dull and foggy March Sunday and after a talk with his fiancee’s parents X left at 3.30 pm and drove to Harrow to see the young lady at her school(!), getting home in time for dinner. Not bad going in the wartime of 1917. The next entry reads: “Returned the three rings and the Mercedes”. Nevertheless, X was arranging for his fiancee to draw on his account at Cox’s. At around this time Archie de Pass (any connection with Pass & Joyce in later times?) returned from Salonika and he and X discussed flying there, and X got Gerald Howard a job in the Heavy-Duty Wing as a Searchlight Officer. At other times he worked very hard in his office, helped by Griffiths, but there was always time to-lunch with Col Conway-Jenkins, (mentioning names may perhaps fill in gaps in the story), Hughie Heppel, Charles Blount, Buntie Mills, etc.
X was trying to find a replacement for the Swift, to give to his girl. A Baby Peugeot seen at the Car Mart fell through but he obtained another one, a 1915 model, from Harrods, for £160 -it was to figure in a Law Suit for divorce after the war. Before the deal was concluded X looked at some other light cars in the Euston Road, before donning old clothes after dinner and working on the Mercedes, which was soon sold to the Mercedes Company for £135, the relevant entry reading “Not paid yet”. However, X went to Harrods and drove the little Peugeot home. X would lunch with Segrave at the Savoy Grill and the Rolls-Royce was progressing well.
The two-seater Rolls was completed by April 5th. and X drove it home and filled it and the Baby Peugeot with petrol in readiness for the run up to Newmarket on the Friday. It was snowing hard but he and Archie de Pass got away at 11 o’clock and “had a lovely run there”. They lunched at the Rutland Arms, saw some friends, and starting at 6 pm “had a topping run back”. The next day Tollerton drove the tiny Peugeot up to Newmarket. X got one of his Father’s Officers, Tony Morton, a job as an RFC Adjatunt before going off to lunch at the Hyde Park Hotel with Segave, and “getting some petrol from Ralph & Co.” At other times X would lunch with Archie and Madge de Pass and although the snow had returned -“beastly weather” -he was using the Rolls-Royce in London and one Wednesday in April 1917 he and Major Hansbery went down to Farnborough in it to “see Col Beor and fix up the Cadets”, -a run done comfortably in the morning, returning to lunch at the Batchelor’s Club. It seems that Mrs. Tate bought one of the Mercedes for £125, X earning £10 commission, and Lord Wilton had for some reason decided to dispose of the Rolls-Royce and take a Rover Twelve, valued at £550, in part-exchange. The Rolls was soon sold, for £600, leaving a cash profit of £50.
Nor was that the end of it, because Lord Wilton let X have his 20/30 Fiat which de Pass collected, and there was a cheery week-end at Bournemouth, de Pass going ahead in the rain in the Rover, as X was picking up his girl in the Fiat from his parent’s London house. They got off about 5 pm and caught up with the Rover in the New Forest where they changed cars. Supper was had at the Royal Bath Hotel, where they all stayed the night, arriving by 10 o’clock -“went to bed, all merry and bright”! X was on leave and the party stayed at Bournemouth for three days, – “Glorious day, messed about all the morning, and the two girls stayed in bed until lunchtime. After we motored over to Weymouth.” There were walks, tea at the Roller-skating ring, and a very amusing play called “Rotter”, after seeing which they came “and ragged about”. The day after, de Pass left for London in the Fiat and X for Brighton in the Rover, where he and his girl “messed about and after dinner went to a real old-fashioned drama at the Grand”. The following day the Rover took them to London in the rain by 4 o’clock, after a late start and lunch at Crawley.
The fun and leave over, X took both the Peugeot and Rover to Litchfields to be done up, as he had taken charge of Lord Wilton’s 27 hp “Prince Henry” Metallurgiquc. Although the war was by no means over, X and his friends were able to continue their week-end excursions up to the Newmarket area to his girl’s parents’ place from London. One April Sunday he reported “an amusing drive” there in the Peugeot, arriving by 3 pm, Mills and a girl called Olga arriving later on the Metallurgique, in which X and Mills then left for London at 5.50 pm doing the run in “and hour and fifty minutes”. What restless young people, but what keen motorists!
X had had a small operation on his nose and in late April he took to his bed with an abcess, attended by a Dr. Mackaskie. “Hate being in bed but otherwise ok.” The conversion to the Rolls-Royce (car no. 1002) at Litchfields cost £52. There is an entry “Still in Bye-Bye, not feeling up to much” but X duly recovered and the Fiat was taken up to Newmarket, and used for local journeys. A day at the races with Lord Wilton is noted -“had quite a good day”- after which, in the evening, X took “Pussey and Gobberty” out in the Fiat and Lord Wilton took “Brenda in his 90 ltala and we messed about on the road. Had a very cheery dinner party and after ragged about and got to bed at about 1.15”. During these goings-on X persuaded Lord Wilton to “have the ‘Met’ altered”.
Lord Wilton, Brenda and Major Wilson left in the ltala but X stayed on, having “a perfectly lovely moonlight drive” over to his fiancee’s place one evening in the Fiat -which he correctly writes as F.I.A.T. They then motored to London and on to Maidenhead, going out in an electric launch with Ronnie Wilson – “all perfectly topping”. The Metallurique was retrieved from the London garage and driven down to Maidenhead on another glorious May day, and there would be lunch at the Guards’ Club, tea at Skindles and a punt on the river. X hired a little de Dion Bouton but they used the Metallurgique to drive over to Bourne End and Cookhams. Someone’s Rolls would be used in London and the Met would be made use of for runs to and from Maidenhead, while in May 1917 both cars were run down to Brooklands, after lunch at Ascot, where they arrived about 3.30 pm and “blinded round the track a few times and then left Met. at the Hand & Spear Hotel and came back in the Rolls”. In the midst of this, X and his girl took a train to London and “got the Vauxhall out” (a RFC Staff-car perhaps?) to go to the London flat, dine at Prince’s, and return to Maidenhead. Happy days!
It is obvious that the reason the Metallurique had been abandoned in Weybridge was because of tyre trouble, for on his way to returning to London in the Vauxhall X went via Weybridge and left a tube with the Met. There was a little more motor-coping, when X bought an AC Sociable at Cummings Sale and sold it to Ralph & Co at a profit of a tenner, on a price of £47.10s. He had been before another Medical Board and was on a six months’ light duty in the office. The Fiat was then driven from London to Lymington, starting after lunch and getting in about 7.30 pm, after a “lovely run through Winchester, Lyndhurst and the New Forest – perfectly lovely. Car ran awfully well”. The next day it was by boat to Yarmouth and to the Isle of Wight to see the RFC Hospital, lunch in Ryde, tea at Cowes, and by boat to Southampton, to motor into Bournemouth. The trusty Fiat later brought them back to London in about 53/4 hours, lunch stop in the New Forest included and after X had driven his girl to Harrow he got home in time for dinner and then he and Haystacks (a mechanic?) washed the Fiat. On the Sunday X motored on to Brooklands to collect the Metallurgique, with Hedges and another friend. The illness was again troubling X, who went into Guy’s Hospital to have an abcess opened again, Dr. Lawrence attending him, but this did not prevent him from “going up the Euston and saw cars”.
Economical cars were no doubt in war-time demand, for X fetched another AC Sociable from Camden Town, but it broke down near Friswell’s so he left it in Smith’s Garage in Albany Street and went home to hand over the Met to Litchfields and paint his garage. Later he took this AC to Cummings’. Sometimes Paddon would lunch with X at home and that during May of 1917 he lunched one day at the Junior Constitutional Club with Mrs. Dewis and Count Louis Zborowski.
(to be continued)