On something in English tradition

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." — the prime minister, of the R.A.F. fighter pilots, 1940

THE firm of Rolls-Royce Ltd. is, perhaps, the most famous in the whole Motor Industry; indeed, it is so well known, and so highly respected, as to be virtually an institution. This was the case in the days before the last war with Germany, but it can fairly safely be said that not until now have so many people been so closely bound up with the activities of this great company, or so many able to experience such pride and satisfaction in its products as is the case to-day. Practically the whole of the Fighter Command flies on Rolls-Royce engines. Lots of our most potent bombers rely on Rolls-Royce engines. Our learner pilots do their advanced training behind engines emanating from the firm of Rolls-Royce Ltd. So obviously more people are keenly interested in this firm than has ever been the case before, and scores of people not previously having had anything to do with its products now have very good reasons for regarding the magic initials R.-R. with considerable affection. Those great young men, of whom Mr. Churchill said in all sincerity that never before have so few rendered such service to so many, appreciate, perhaps more keenly than any, the worth of the Merlin. Pilots about to enter squadrons for active service have developed a real love for the Kestrel. Ground engineers and aircraftsmen know both motors well. When you consider what a vast organisation is our Royal Air Force you can well imagine that many thousands of young men, to say nothing of their knowledgeable and charming ladies (who so proudly wear the R.A.F. wings, whether in the form of a "Woolworth" brooch or a badge which some squadron-leader has conveniently "lost") centre their thoughts and conversation and pin their trust and hope very much in relation to matters R.-R.

Bring in all those officials of the Air Ministry and those employees of outside firms whom the war has brought in close contact with Rolls-Royce in their various capacities, and it must be clearly evident that this great concern is, to-day, of real significance to a very great many people, who cannot fail to be interested in everything that has to do with it. Certainly, if you have been able to see Rolls-Royce getting down to its war tasks, as I have done, you will have experienced an immeasurable admiration for this wonderful organisation. Happy workers (very few of whom are not specialists at their own particular jobs), for R.-R. look after them well, tumble out of the works at lunch time or at the end of a "shift.," the very essence of English liberty in oil-stained flannels or baggy boiler-suits. In the "mess," quiet-spoken gentlemen, quite a lot of them going more than a little bald, discuss technicalities as a hobby rather than as a hang-over from the morning's toil; they are ministered to under conditions and in a manner which would put many good-class restaurants to shame. In the offices, well lit and well furnished, but not at all ostentatious, each department works to keep control of and to guide, as it were, the great organisation existing without. In the shops I have seen aero-engines that might well have been on the company’s stand at some international aero show, so clean were both they and their surroundings, whereas, in sober fact, they were even then in course of reassembly following a routine strip for overhaul. The dance music emanating front the radio which now entertains these war workers (who work as hard in the national cause as any uniformed troops) serves only to strengthen this impression, albeit no aero show ever held has contained so many motors, counting all the different makes together, as these shops can boast of one type alone. Standing by the test-beds—above which floats an ever-present steam cloud generated by coolant of motors continually being passed out as fit for service, deafened by the blast from open exhausts, with oil-laden water spray blown over one by the air-stream from the dynamometer fans--these impressions crystallise. You go out through the gates of what is really a surprisingly humble-looking factory, into a dingy trolley-bus-infested city of cheerless streets and cobbled pavements, and you feel proud of this organisation, which has built up such a great reputation, and which is even now maintaining and consolidating it, working as it has done for over a quarter of a century in a manner entirely in keeping with the English tradition. A desire is created to further one's associations with the firm, and for most of us that implies learning something of its origin and history. Thanks to that excellent book, "The Magic of a Name," which Harold Nockolds wrote after he had been inspired, in his turn, by contact with R.-R., and which Messrs. G. T. Foulis and Co. Ltd. published some two years ago, we are able to do just that. Incidentally, the author is the same Harold Nockolds who used to write "Continental Notes" for us in the now seemingly far-off days when there were Continental motor-races to write about. Nockolds has written up the history of Rolls-Royce in a most comprehensive and appropriate way and his book should be of very real appeal to all those war workers aforementioned, in uniform and out, who appreciate now what they were quite willing to believe before—that the firm of Rolls-Royce is an unique and essentially British organisation to whom only the best is good enough, down to the very last tab-washer or split-pin. It is an absorbing story which Nockolds has to tell. Frederick Henry Royce was horn at Alwalton, Lincolnshire, the son of a miller, nearly seventy-eight years ago. His first job seems to have been that of newspaper boy to W. H. Smith and Son, a firm, incidentally, whose name is a household one in the newspaper world as Rolls-Royce was destined to become in another sphere. Some years later Royce was apprenticed by a sympathetic, and perhaps far-seeing, aunt to the Great Northern Railway works at Peterborough, and a certain Mr. Yarrow, with whom he boarded, sent him a very long way towards a sound engineering career. His hard-won but invaluable experience prompted him to take an ambitious position with the Electric Light and Power Company in London and later a responsible position with the Lancashire Maxim and Western Electric Company. When the latter concern faded out, Royce set up in business on his own, in partnership with his friend A. E. Claremont, with a capital of £70. As F. H. Royce and Company they made simple electrical appliances, and it was so commonplace an article as a household bell set which finally set the Company on its feet. Royce then perfected the dynamo, and from that time on he began really to prosper. From an eternity of work, study and virtual starvation. Royce emerged to a life of more conventional standards, and at the age of thirty he married a girl whose sister married his partner. Came the Boer War, and with it a flood of cheap electric cranes from America and Germany, which seriously cut into the market for the beautifully-made products which had for some years been the chief concern of F. H. Royce and Co. It was in the midst of this depression, with the future of his business anything but rosy, that Royce lost interest in electrical matters and spent nearly all his time playing with, and evolving improvements for, his Decauville motor car. And on April 1st, 1904, the first Rolls-Royce emerged from the doors of the Manchester factory. It was a 10 h.p. vertical-twin of 95 mm. x 127 mm., having coil ignition, a three-speed quadrant-change gearbox, live axle and a weight of 14½ cwt.

From the commencement the 10 h.p. Royce proved a refined and reliable car, but, far from satisfied, its creator reverted to his old practice of long hours of work unpunctuated by food or rest and, aided by his loyal employees, carried out a very exacting process of evolution. In its more finalised form the two-cylinder Rolls-Royce was a very remarkable car, as the Hon. Charles Rolls and Claude Johnson were soon aware. These two gentlemen were, running a motor business in London and Royce was introduced to them by Henry Edmunds, a director of Royce, Ltd., as the firm was now called, and on the committee of the A.C.G.B.I. C. S. Rolls and Co. agreed to absorb the entire output of the Royce factory. Rolls had a display of these cars on his stand at the 1904 Paris Salon, beside the Panhard and Minerva for which he was agent. For 1905 he was able to offer his distinguished clients a choice of 10 h.p. two-cylinder, 15 h.p. three-cylinder, 20 h.p. four-cylinder, or 30 h.p. six-cylinder Rolls-Royce cars, at respective chassis prices of £395, £500, £650 and £890. To-day, if you enter the waiting room at Derby, you will have in your company one of the 1905 two-cylinder Rolls-Royce cars, which a Scottish owner presented to the makers after he had extracted over 100,000 miles of service from it; the condition is still about 100 per cent. Rolls, however, realised that publicity was as essential to a good car as to a bad, if commercial success was to reward mechanical genius, and he commenced enthusiastically to publicize his new interest. In 1904, he met H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught at Folkestone and took him for a coastal tour in a two-cylinder Rolls-Royce, keeping his appointment at 9 a.m. by leaving London before dawn and returning that evening—a day's run of 220 miles. Rolls was behind the presentation of a Rolls-Royce to the retiring headmaster of Eton, and it was Rolls who drove Lord Methuen in a Rolls-Royce at the army manoeuvres that year.

Then Mr. Briggs, of Yorkshire, a highly satisfied owner of the "Heavy Twenty" Rolls-Royce which was a new model at the Olympia Show of February, 1905, suggested the entry of two Rolls-Royces for the T.T. Needless to say, the entry went in—the first to be received—and on the day of the race the official car was a 30 h.p. Rolls-Royce. Rolls had visited the I.O.M. course in May and the two 20 h.p. cars were thus ready in ample time for the race in September. History relates how Rolls experienced gearbox trouble a few miles from the start, but that Percy Northey finished second to Napier's Arrol-Johnson, at 33.7 m.p.h.— the fastest non-stop run. Up to this time C.S. Rolls and Co. had handled the Panhard, Minerva, New Orleans and Dufaux agencies, as well as that of Rolls-Royce, but the 1905 T.T. results decided them on a new policy, whereby they sold only the last-named car, for which purpose Rolls-Royce, Ltd., was formed, with a capital of £60,000. We owe that great business undertaking to Rolls, Johnson, Edmunds and Briggs.

At a luncheon at the Trocadero to celebrate Northey's T.T. success the new 20 h.p. V8 Rolls-Royce, with engine at the side, was dramatically announced, which could do almost all its running on top gear. This developed into the famous "Legalimit" model, shown at the November, 1905, Olympia, with normally-located engine governed to run uphill, downhill and along the level at the legal 20 m.p.h. With open three-seater body the price was £1,160, and Sir Alfred Harmsworth was the first to order.

Rolls's next move was to drive a T.T. type "Light Twenty" Rolls-Royce from Monte Carlo to London in 37 hrs. 28½ mins, total time, in answer to Jarrott's run from London to Monte in a 40 h.p. Crossley. On the run across France the Rolls-Royce averaged 27.3 m.p.h. to the Crossley's 24.2 m.p.h. Many other demonstrations of Rolls-Royce reliability and efficiency were given and in the 1906 T.T., after Northey had retired with a broken spring in the first lap, Rolls won easily at 39.3 m.p.h., 27 mins. ahead of Bablot's Berliet. By the end of 1906 the company's capital was increased to £300,000. The present Derby works were now put in hand, but that notwithstanding, Royce found time to design a 48 h.p. chassis to supplement the "Twenty" and "Thirty." Thus was the immortal "Silver Ghost" born, three being exhibited at the end of 1906, when the chassis price was £950. Further demonstrations firmly established the "Silver Ghost," amongst them the historic 15,000 miles run in 1907 under R.A.C. observation, when the engine was only stopped at the conclusion of each day's drive, and a distance of 14,371 miles was covered thus, a slack petrol tap causing the only involuntary engine stop. When the car was stripped at the conclusion of the test, the R.A.C. could not find any faults which could not have been put right at a cost of £2 2s. 7d., while, tyre repairs included, the running expenses came out at 4½d. a mile. This original "Silver Ghost" was still in use when Nockolds wrote his book, and it then had some 400,000 miles to its credit. Yet for the 1907 Show Royce had further improved the "40/50" in respect of steering, suspension, transmission, brakes, carburation, lubrication and silencing. Claude Johnson entered two cars of the "Silver Ghost" type—"White Knave" and "Silver Rogue"—for the 1908 R.A.C. International Touring Car Trial, at the same time challenging any other similar size car to a further run of 15,000 miles non-stop (17,000 in all) at stakes of £1,000 a side, together with a scoring system by points with stakes of 1/- a point, the winner to take all—I wonder how our modern cars would have fared in such a test? In the trial the Rolls-Royce won its class, and averaged 53.6 m.p.h. for the 200 observed miles on Brooklands; no one accepted the Johnson Challenge! Later, under R.A.C. observation, two Rolls-Royces really tried on the track over this distance, and returned 65.9 and 65.84 m.p.h., respectively. Please note the use made of racing, trials, and track-testing by Rolls-Royce in consolidating its early reputation, ye doubters. . . .

In 1908 the "one-model" policy was decided upon, and the "40/50" became the sole concern of the Derby factory until the advent of the 20 h.p. model in 1923.

The unhappy death of Rolls while flying his aeroplane at a meeting in 1910, and the serious illness of Royce, which necessitated his removal to the South of France, did not stem Rolls-Royce activities. The ''40/50" was further improved and continued to be kept before the public in various ways. Just before Christmas, 1911 for instance, a special-bodied, hotted-up chassis was taken to Weybridge and timed over the flying quarter-mile at 101 m.p.h.—and that seems to me an astonishing speed for a s.v. Rolls before the war. Prior to this, a "London-Edinburgh" "40/50" had shown up Edge's Napier by repeating this run from which it derived its name in top gear, but at 19.35 m.p.g. on a 2.7 to 1 ratio, on which 76.42 m.p.h. was achieved at Brooklands.

The ''Continental" model was evolved for the 1913 Alpine Trial. Although a crash prevented the Rolls-Royce team from taking the Team Prize, they entirely dominated the event and, incidentally, each covered the 1,645 miles, nineteen Alpine passes included , without replenishment of the radiators. Some time afterwards Radley, a private owner, set the London-Monte Carlo record at 26 hrs. 4 mins. total time—so if any young bloods of the present are hard put to it to celebrate the next Armistice. . . .

The war found Frederick Royce working as hard in his drawing office at St. Margaret's Bay as ever he did in Manchester and Derby, and the result was the long range of Rolls-Royce aero-engines which did so much to give our Royal Flying Corps the mastery of the air in 1914-18.

In spite of ill-health isolating him so far from the parent factory (he later moved, but only to West Wittering), Royce got the same results and maintained the self-same perfection in connection with aero-motors as he had with his cars. His first venture in this new field was the Rolls-Royce "Eagle", which at first produced 255 b.h.p. at 1,800 r.p.m., although laid down as a 200 h.p. motor. and which by I 918, was giving 360 b.h.p. The "Hawk" and "Falcon" were other great R.-R. motors of the last world-war, and after the Armistice the good work was continued, by way of the "Buzzard" and "Kestrel," down to the variety of "Merlin" types to which we of the present generation are already deeply indebted, as doubtless we are soon to be to other R.-R. motors at present "unmentionable." It was in the course of development of these motors that the famous Schneider Trophy engines were evolved, the "H" of 1929 giving 1,900 b.h.p. at 2,900 r.p.m, for 1,630 lbs., and the "R" of 1931 producing 2,350 b.h.p. at 3,200 r.p.m. for a weight. of 1,530 lbs. It is the proud claim of these wonderful power units that in their time they have been used by British record-attackers successfully to break the world's speed records on land, on water, and in the air. I particularly like the story that the assistance of the Mayor of Derby had to be obtained to pacify the townsfolk when the 1929 Schneider Trophy engines were on the test-bed—living, as I now do, near the R.A.E. I realise how far and how penetratingly sound carries from the stub-exhausts of really hairy motors. Reverting to that last war, Nockolds tells many episodes of the great part played by Rolls-Royce cars, both armoured and otherwise, and he puts on record the classic tribute of Lawrence of Arabia who, when asked if there was anything to be bought with money that he couldn't afford but would like to have, answered: "I should like to have a Rolls-Royce car, with enough tyres and petrol to last me all my life." Incidentally, the King's Messengers Service, which was operated between the French ports and British H.Q. from September 1914, until the close of 1916 by Rolls-Royce owners, is the sort of thing which enthusiasts now in the R.A.S.C. must wish existed in this war. Perhaps, however, some of the luckier ones have been able to emulate the historic run put up by the driver who left Fere-en-Tardenois at 5 a.m. in the morning and got Col. Bridges safely to Antwerp, 400 miles away, just after 10 p.m., where pyjama-clad King Albert waited to receive Sir John French's plea for continued support—the car, of course, was a "Silver Ghost" Rolls-Royce. Royce's letters relating to aero-engine design, written to Claude Johnson during 1914-18, were subsequently published chronologically in a book marked "Private and Confidential" and given to the heads of the designing and engineering staff, with instructions that they must always be kept under lock and key—as the holders keep this "Rolls-Royce Bible" to this day. Royce was knighted for his aero-engine researches only a short while before he passed away in 1933. After the war, car production continued alongside that of aero engines. In 1922 the "Twenty" broke into the one-model policy instituted in 1907 and in 1925 the o.h.v. "Phantom I" broke the nineteen year run of the "Silver Ghost" model. In 1929 the "Phantom ll" appeared, and to-day we have or had until R.-R. had to cease car-production in order to create weapons to hasten Hitler’s destruction — the V12 "Phantom III" and the "25/30" " Wraith." Rolls-Royce, Ltd., aIso took over the Bentley Company in 1931 and produced the 3½-litre Bentley sports chassis to R.-R. standards, until the 4¼-litre superseded it, due to give way, after the next Armistice, to the independently-sprung Mark V Bentley. Then there were the experimental cars, though it would be unfair to Nockolds to say more than that they included such exciting things as the 3-litre Rolls-Royce, a blown straight-eight, and a quite small-engined model—chassis which are entirely unknown to many well-informed people in the motoring world, until they read "The Magic of a Name." I have quoted freely from this book, but I have only been able just to outline something of Rolls-Royce history and not to touch at all on the character of Royce himself or on the personalities of Rolls, Johnson, Sidgreaves, Hive, Secretary De Looze, Edwards, Briggs, the apprentices Platford and HaIdenby and the many others who piloted the Rolls-Royce Company through its early ventures, and many of whom share in its successes to this day. Nor have I been able to record all the Rolls-Royce outstanding achievements, while I have written nothing on the methods whereby the world-famed refinement and reliability is built into its products. Nockolds tells of all these things in the book, and it makes a fascinating story. I sometimes wonder if Sir Henry Royce, of humble birth and in every sense a hard and tireless worker, ever pondered on the kind of folk who were to ride in his luxurious cars and whether he would not have had greater admiration for the young men who now defend us, behind his engines, in the sky; as I'm sure Charles Rolls would have done. These gallant young men would do well to read Nockolds's book, I think, while their present keen appreciation for Rolls-Royce products is at its height. Indeed, anyone who finds himself as a war worker, associated with the "Merlin," should be inspired by Nockolds's ,story, as no less should those who, helpless on the ground or under it, are so magnificently defended by Rolls-Royce-engined fighters. This article was, indeed, inspired by my own sense of indebtedness to the firm which powers all our fastest fighters and most of our bombers.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that the publishers (Foulis & Co., 7. Milford Lane, London, W.C. 2) still have a number of copies of the book I have taken as my source of reference ("The Magic of a Name" by H. Nockolds, 225 pages) for disposal at fifteen shillings each and to drop a hint to the effect that it would constitute a very appropriate gift to those young men of the R.A.F. now daily associated with the magic name and who serve us so nobly.

SOME ROLLS-ROYCE CARS

Year

Model

H.P.

Bore & Stroke

No. of Cyls.

No. of Speeds

Remarks

1904

"Ten"

10

95 x 127

2

3

The first Rolls-Royce. Chassis price £395

1905

"Fifteen"

15

95 x 127

3

 

Chassis price £500

1905

"Twenty"

20

95 x 127

4

 

Chassis price £659

1905

"Thirty"

30

95 x 127

6

 

Chassis price £890. Three blocks of two cylinders. Dual ignition.

1905

"Heavy Twenty"

20

 

 

 

Introduced in February 1905, to meet demand for bigger bodywork. Started research on R.-R. light alloys.

1905

"T.T. Twenty"

20

95 x 127

4

4

Overdrive top gear, nickel-steel forged front axle, 18 b.h.p. at 1,000 r.p.m.

 

"T.T. Twenty"

20

100 x 127

4

4

As above, but 20 b.h.p. at 1,000 r.p.m.

1905

"V8"

20

83 x 83

8

3

Designed to compete with electric brougham. Engine at side. Low top gear.

1905

"Legalimit"

20

83 x 83

8

3

As above, but with normally placed engine and open three seater body. Governed to run everywhere at 20 m.p.h. First car sold to Lord Northcliffe (then Sir A. Harmsworth.)

1906

"T.T."

20

101 x 127

4

 

22 b.h.p. at 1,000 r.p.m.

1906

"40/50 Silver Ghost"

48.6

114 x 121

6

4

Two blocks of three cylinders, leather clutch, overdrive top gear. 48 b.h.p. at 1,700 r.p.m.

1908

"Silver Rogue"

 

 

6

4

Built for International Trial. Longer stroke and higher compression ratio than original "Silver Ghost," modifications later incorporated in that model as standard. Overdrive top gear.

1909

"London-Edinburgh"

 

 

6

3

Overdrive top gear, giving virtually only one in direct gear. Flexible engine mounting.

1915

"Continental"

 

 

6

4

Built for Austrian Alpine Trial. Cantilever rear springs.

1920

"Silver Ghost"

43.3

4¼" x 5½"

6

4

F.W.B. in 1925.

1922

"Twenty"

21.6

3" x 4½"

6

3

Later models had four speeds.

1929

"Phantom l"

43.3

4¼" x 5½"

6

4

O.H.V. engine.

1930

"Phantom ll"

43.3

4¼" x 5½"

6

4

Half-elliptic rear springs.

1930

"20/25"

25.3

3¼" x 4½"

6

4

 

1937

"Wraith"

20.4

89 x 114

6

4

In production up to the war.

1938

"Phantom lll"

50.7

82.5 x 114

12

4

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