“The Diaries of an RFC Officer”
The War Time Diaries of an RFC Officer — what interesting reading this makes. Although you may meet criticism from motor racing purists who cannot bear anything but cars in “their” magazine I am sure there are many readers — like myself — who find old aircraft more understandable than modern racing cars.
It is interesting that “X” refers to his aircraft as Armstrong Whitworth BE2Cs whereas most records of the time show them as Armstrong Whitworth FK3s: It appears to be the same aircraft and the confusion probably arises as the FK3 was a cleaned up BE2C built by Armstrong Whitworth. 5330 and 5331 were two from the original batch of seven of this type and differed from the later production versions by having the pilot sitting behind the observer as in the BE2C whereas the later ones adopted what was to become standard practice in two-seaters of putting the pilot at the front so the observer had a better field of fire for his machine gun. This is supported by your photograph on page 1486 where our hero is in the rear cockpit.
The BE8 was another attempt to make a silk purse from the pig’s ear that was the BE2C, this time by fitting a radial engine the cowling of which led to the nickname “Bloater”. Although you refer to it as a “Harry Tate” I think this nickname was reserved for the RE8, another unlovely product of official design although an aircraft which did sterling work in France, particularly as an artillery spotter . . . and provided von Richthofen with eight of his victories!
Incidentally, a month or two ago you published a photograph of an aeroplane which had crashed on a roof and I suspect this may have been the original BE1. Only one of this type was built, its appearance altered during its life with modifications and it certainly sustained a crash of this kind. Have you had any more suggestions?
[Yes. I agree — RE8 — “Harry Tate”. — Ed.]
* * *
The War-Time Diaries of an RFC Officer brought back so many memories of experiences related to me by my own late father, who was a one time member of No. 84 Squadron, RFC.
This background has left within me, a more than passing interest in the history of the times.
It is Interesting to note that “X” would be able to enjoy flying a variety of aircraft, because the main activity of the RFC in 1915 was of course artillery reconnaissance, carried out by Squadrons of mixed aircraft, Squadrons equipped throughout with the same type of aeroplane were not common until the beginning of 1916.
No. 21 Squadron became part of the Corps Reconnaissance Squadrons which came into being in January, 1916, when increasing specialisation prompted the High Command to divide Squadrons attached to Armies into two Wings. The “Corps” Wing containing Squadrons devoted to the direct assistance of land forces by tactical reconnaissance, artillery observation and photography, and the “Army” Wing, containing fighter and bomber Squadrons.
If “X” remained in No. 21 Squadron, we shall learn in subsequent diaries that this Squadron was the first to be equipped with RE8s in February 1917, as replacements for BE12s (which was a single-seater version of the famous BE2C but with a 140 h.p. RAF engine). The BE12 in No. 21 Squadron had in turn been the replacement for the RE7 which this Squadron had used until August, 1916.
No. 21 Squadron was generally held to have been the finest artillery reconnaissance Squadron on the Western Front.
I look forward with great anticipation to future extracts from the diaries.
H. E. Hefford
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Pleased that the “War-Time Diaries of an RFC Officer” series is now continuing in Motor Sport. Just one or two small points which ought to be corrected.
The CO at Netheravon was Col. T. I. Webb-Bowen not Webb-Brown. The aeroplanes X flew at this aerodrome were not true BE2Cs but Armstrong Whitworth FK3s known as “Little Acks”. (The A-W FK8 was the “Big Ack”). The FK3 was an A-W design-improvement on the BE2C; the machines he flew came from the first production batch of seven, serialled 5328 to 5334. Surely it was the RE8 and not the BE8 which was known in the RFC as the “Harry Tate”. [Yes. — Ed.)
I look forward to the further instalments.
Scott & Bradshaw
With reference to G. E. Clifford’s interesting letter about H. P. Blake’s re-worked ABC, I would like to point out that without Bradshaw’s original design it would not have been possible for Mr. Blake to make his “improvements”. The car was, no doubt, originally designed within the joint constraints of a budget and production feasibility, and without these Bradshaw (whose genius is recognised by Audi in their current adverts) would doubtless have eradicated most of the problems himself.
What prompts me to write this letter, however, is not so much a desire to spring to the defence of Bradshaw, as to defend one who died 40 or so years earlier — the great A. A. Scott — whose work Mr. Clifford arrogantly denigrates by saying that his modified Scott was described in the press as “better than anything that ever came from those Yorkshire moors”. As a Scott owner, would not deny that some features of these machines can give rise to a certain amount of frustration, but to use the technology of a later age, and means not suitable for production when the machine was designed, to eliminate these shortcomings does not automatically make the machine better, it simply makes it different. We could all “improve” the contents of the Science Museum if this were the case.
It amazes me at times that people like Mr. Clifford still exist in this country, as one might reasonably have expected them to have been snapped up by the Japanese motorcycle industry long ago, to sort the bugs out of their designs. After all, to a chap who has “made his own Scott motorcycle” (five moving parts in the engine!) the apparent complexities of six-cylinder d.o.h.c. four-valve per cylinder engines must seem like child’s play.
What became of the Omega engine, designed by Bradshaw in his later years?
M. C. Jackson
A 2.3 GP Bugatti
Following your excellent report in the October issue of the VSCC event at Cadwell Park I write to correct part of the printed word concerning my Bugatti.
My car is not one built out of parts. It started life in 1925 as a Type 35A sold from the Paris Showroom. I bought it in France in 1965 in a derelict condition but through the tremendous assistance given to me by certain members of the Bugatti Owners Club I have been fortunate to find all the original parts and get the car rebuilt to full 2.3 supercharged alloy wheel specification. The rebuild was complete at the end of 1976 so this hardly fits the “recently assembled” description.
If you wish to ponder over the correct description of the various Type 35 models there is nowadays a familiar way of calling them A, B, C etc. I am not sure that the works used these nor have I found any similar use in magazines of the period.
To suit the specification of my car I call it a “Targa” (i.e. 2.3-litre) supercharged. The works used “avec compresseur“. This gets shortened to T and blown TC. I wonder if you or any readers have any thoughts or information on these letter descriptions and if in fact they were ever used when the cars were new.
I still enjoy Motor Sport each month, long may it continue.
[The race programme surely explained the conversion from Type 35 to Type 35B but we are glad to have the correct facts. — Ed.]
The Suffolk Automobile Club
With reference to your article “Another Link With Parry Thomas” in the October Motor Sport, you mention your visit to The Angel Hotel in Bury St. Edmunds. You may be interested to know that this hotel was once the headquarters of The Bury and West Suffolk Automobile Club. The club was established in October 1904 and became affiliated to the Automobile Club of Great Britain & Ireland in March 1905. The club President was The Right Hon. The Earl Cadogan KG of Culford Hall and amongst other Vice-presidents were Lord Iveagh, KP, Sir Henry Bunbury, Bart, Sir T. G. Biddulph, Bart, and the Hon. Walter Guinness. The Chairman was Charles Sparke, a local solicitor, who was also a representative on the General Committee of The Motor Union. The club Secretary was another solicitor, Kenneth W. Greene. Total membership in 1907 was 44, the annual subscription was 10/6d. By 1910 the club was known as The Suffolk Automobile Club and in common with other provincial motoring clubs, used the Royal Automobile Club’s Associates car badge. This was quite a handsome thing, the centre of which bore the three arrow-pierced crowns of King Edmund in a blue enamel background.
I have no record of the club existing after 1911.
Bury St. Edmunds
R. B. Ashton
The 1923 200-Mile Race Newton
I read with great interest your reference to the 1923 200-Mile-Race Newton that I took over early in1965 from Nick Sloan. I would like to try and correct the widely-held misconception that the car had anything at all to do with Ceirano (S.A. Giovanni Ceirano, Turin). As you mention, the car was commissioned by Newton & Bennett through Noel Newton. Both the design and construction was by 26-year-old freelance Olivio (not Oliver) Pellegatti in Milan, without any involvement from Ceirano. I believe that Pellegatti finished his career in the USA as chief designer for Johnson, the outboard-engine people, and died in Northern Italy in 1968.
All the evidence available to me suggests that three cars and four engines were built in 1923, two of the cars being for the 200 Mile Race and the other one a longer touring chassis. In the 14 years in which I have owned the Newton I have been unable to find any reference to the other racing car — or the touring car — after the October 1924 London Motor Show. They were interesting chassis — what happened to them? Perhaps one of your readers knows?
As you say, the engine with my car was in poor condition — mainly through poor castings rather than wear or misuse. The crankcase (and many of the other light-alloy castings) was of magnesium and daylight could be seen through the main bearing webbs! Corrosion over the years had not improved matters. Very few people could cast magnesium in 1923 and I assume that Newton was supplied (back door?) by the Milan works of Isotta-Fraschini. Certainly I.F. is clearly stamped on several of the timing gears. The spare engine came through Neil Smith to Gordon Stewart-Brown, and finally Julian Beresford most kindly agreed to let me have the engine in 1971. I think this touring-specification engine must have been the fourth, or spare, as it does not seem to have had any use. It also had a very nice cast-aluminium crankcase! A complete engine has now been put together for me by Bob Danaher of Stradishall using the ex-Beresford castings and lovely Martlett pistons, but the more sporting crankshaft/flywheel/clutch and valve gear from the original engine. The long restoration of the car is now well advanced but sadly the need to earn a living, family, a house, an Anzani Nash and a twin-cam Sunbeam will together make it unlikely the Newton will be running in 1979. However in 1980 — we shall see!
G. M. Hare
Vauxhalls of the 1920s
Thank you for your most enjoyable article in the July issue on Vauxhalls of the 1920s. My father had a 14/40 in that era and always swore it was one of the finest. The registration number was XR 2866 and if the present owner cares to get in touch I can tell him much of the car’s long history. One anecdote of general interest: My father shipped the car to India in 1924 and told me this did not involve any formalities at all: the number, the licence and the insurance were valid throughout the Empire in those days!
Julian De Lisle
W.B.’s mention of the Angel Hotel at Bury St. Edmund’s reminds me of my schooldays at the West Suffolk County School in Northgate Street of that town, half-way between the Angel and the Railway Station. Up to the time of the Second World War the Angel had its own taxi. As schoolboys we were unkind enough to laugh as it chugged past, for it seemed ancient to us, even in the thirties. It was probably a Unic or an Austin from about 1910, with a small, squarish. brass radiator and a van-like body which had its only door at the rear. Passengers would, I imagine, sit face to face. I don’t remember seeing the vehicle on any run other than to the Station. Perhaps it couldn’t be trusted to find its way home? What happened to it, I wonder?
Although I was born within a few hundred yards of the Saxham gates of Ickworth Park I had never before heard of the speed trials. Perhaps being only two years old at the time I didn’t attend.
The Park (a shadow of its former self) is still open to the public. In the old days there was a certain amount of competition at the main park gates between the Walls Ice Cream trike and the Creamex vendor from Bury. Creamex looked after his salesmen. He sent them out on Brough Superior box-combinations. But that’s another story.
Sutton St. John
A. G. Graves
The article on Ford on page 618 of the May issue was of special interest, as I was with Chevrolet during that period. It might be of interest to know that the capacity of the cooling system of the Ford V8 was twice that of the Chev. 6. The reason, no doubt, being that to my knowledge the V8 was the only engine built with the exhaust passing through the water jackets to the opposite side of the block from the valves. The flat head Cadillac had the exhaust manifold between the V, and not on the outside.
In this period I used to engage the V8’s in races with my Chevs, on the two-lane roads of that era, and I found that after some 10-15 miles of flat out running, the Fords would slow down enough to allow me to pass. This being caused by the heat reducing the clearances within the Ford engine.
As for the valve trouble with Chev engines, this was caused by two things, insufficient valve clearance, and oil running down the exhaust valves, and building up enough to hold the valves off the the seat. I had my share of valve trouble, as I never liked to have a Ford in front of me. In 1941, Chev came out with a bulletin advising valve adjustment on heavy duty trucks to be in .010″ and ex .020″. As I considered fast driving in a passenger car to be similar to HD truck operation, I started my valves at these specs., rather than the recommended in. .006″-008″ and ex. 013″-015″. I never had further problems. As for oil running down the valve stems, starting with 1941 production, a metal umbrella was used on the intake valve, to channel the oil to run over the valve springs, and not down the guide. All Chevs produced after January 1st, 1942, also had umbrellas on the exhaust valves. Installing these on my 1941, stopped plug fouling on the 10 mm. plugs used at that rime. During 1948 production, valve oil seals replaced the umbrellas, as they were quite noisy!
As for oiling system to the rods, all Chevs through 1934 had straight splash lubrication. Starting with 1935 production, this was changed to a system known as Pressure Stream, in which the rod dippers were wider, and the oil lines to the troughs, were angled up, so that at speeds of about 2,000 r.p.m. the stream from the oil lines went directly into the rod dippers, giving very high pressure. This ended all oil problems. There was a gauge to fit in the pan, so that by using water pressure, the oil lines could be aimed so that the oil would hit the dipper. It was essential that this gauge be used each time an engine was torn down.
The viscosity of the oil was very essential with these engines. Starting with the 1935 model, I started using 20W oil, rather than the 30 I had used on older models. In 1938, I started using 10W the year around, and continued to do so until the full pressure engine came out in 1953, at which time I again changed to 20W. Not all 10W oils would stay in a Chev. engine. Pennzoil was one that would, and as a result I used Pennzoil only.
Van Nuys, California
The Fastest Road Car
With reference to the letter in the November issue from Anthony Blight about the “Fastest Road Car” race at Brooklands in 1939, I remember seeing this race very well, and would suggest that Ian Connell (not Hugh Connell, Mr. Blight) was certainly just as experienced at Brooklands as Arthur Dobson, both on the Outer Circuit and the Campbell Circuit. Mr. Blight says that he wonders what would have happened if Mike Couper had entered BGH 23 for the race— although Mike Couper was a very experienced driver on the Outer Circuit, I do not think he would have been competitive on the Campbell or Mountain Circuits, against Arthur Dobson or Ian Connell.
As Mr. Blight apparently thinks that BGH 23 is a faster road car than the Delahaye, may I suggest that he issues a challenge to Rob Walker for a match race on the Silverstone Club circuit, or better still, on the Grand Prix Circuit? I am sure either the VSCC or BRDC would be prepared to organise the race at one of their meetings next year. I would further suggest that Stirling Moss should drive the Delahaye and probably Innes Ireland or Tony Brooks the Talbot.
Show Biz CC and Mallalieu
The Show-Biz Car Club has collected some £750,000 for deserving charities and for its next raffle on behalf of mentally-handicapped children has decided to buy a Mallalieu Barchetta as the first prize. To celebrate this, a very good buffet-lunch, with bubbly, was put on at the Mallalieu factory at Wootton, near Abingdon, on October 21st, where the type of rebodied Bentley Mk.VI in which this concern specialises, a cream Barchetta, was on show. A big gathering was informed that the car which will form the first prize in this deserving raffle is nearly ready for the Show-Biz CC to decide on its colour and the type of upholstery it wants, etc. Tickets in this raffle cost £250 each and numbers will be limited so that holders will have about the same chance of winning that a baby has of not being born mentally-handicapped. There is another prize of a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL, for which tickets are priced at £200 each.
The final speech having been delivered by Shaw Taylor on behalf of the Show-Biz CC, we were free to inspect several Mallalieu Bentleys that had been drawn up outside the big marquee. That these post-war replicas belong to no particular period was perhaps emphasised by one of them wearing a bulb-horn with a long flexible pipe along the off-side leading to a forward mounted, open-mouthed serpent’s head! For me a vintage 4 1/2-litre Vanden Plas open Bentley parked at the end of the line overshadowed them all. . . . There was a reminder that Mallalieu also do restoration work on any sort or age of car in the Wootton workshops, where a burned-out 6 1/2-litre Bentley was awaiting attention. This car had had its engine re-built before undertaking a highly satisfactory coast-to-coast run in America, but had caught fire on the quayside in this country, from an unexplained cause. Its grief-stricken owner had it collected by Mallalieu, for rebuilding. The Show-Biz CC of great Britain, whose President is Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, does very good work for deserving causes. Its address is Pernbridge Hall, 17 Pembridge Square, London W2 4EP.
My attention has been drawn to an article called “Uncle Cecil and the Hermit” by Charles Fox, that appeared in the September issue of Car and Driver. Normally we would have ignored this as an unfortunate attempt to write about Parry Thomas in Americanese, from information in line with Hugh Tours’ book and data on Zborowski’s and Thomas’ cars from my “History of Brooklands Motor Course”, but I cannot resist quoting one gem of a mistake. It is this. Writing of Thomas’ first appearance in a race with the Leyland Eight, Fox lists the other runners (getting Lee Guinness into Chitty-Bang-Bang, which he never raced, and other cars into the race which just weren’t there), including in the entry “. . . the Duke of York in an unspecified machine”! Not content with that, Fox explains that “the Duke of York missed the start; he had a flat tyre on the way to the meeting”.
Anyone who knows anything about the Royal Family would know that it would have been highly unlikely that the Duke of York would have been allowed to motor race, although his interest in Brooklands extended to entering his chauffeur, S. E. Wood, in the Royal colours, on a Trump-Anzani motorcycle. Nor did his Royal Highness attend the meeting Fox is describing, although he did so for the later Essex MC Meeting under his patronage, and it was then that the Armstrong Siddeley tourer in which he was travelling was delayed on the road with a puncture, preventing the Duke from watching the start of the first race. Apart from that splendid gaffe, Fox’s article is unimportant, as it contributes nothing that was not known before. And he should be told that Thomas raced cars called Leyland Thomases, not “Thomas Flyers” and that grid starts were not used for BARC handicap races. — W.B.
The Things They Say . . .
“Recently a Miami news team pointed a traffic radar gun at a clump of trees and clocked them at over 85 m.p.h. The trees were not moving at the time. The point of this test was to show that radar isn’t always right. Radar gun readouts can be distorted by dense traffic, CBs, heater and air conditioning fans, even neon signs. In fact, according to evidence given in a recent Miami case, 25% of traffic radar speeding tickets are in error”. — From an advertisement in an American magazine. If you have been caught in a radar trap we thought you might be interested. — W.B.
In view of the fact that all the staff members of this magazine are admirers of Citroen advanced engineering, readers might find it surprising to learn that other than D.S.J.'s…
Around and About, December 1979
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On the road with Simon Arron
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