The Wren




The fascinating article on the Bleriot-Whippet was highly evocative to those of us who were adult at the time of its manufacture. Shortly before leaving England for the Far East in August 1920 I attended some speed trials organised by the Ilford Motor Cycle Club at a venue near Southend-on-Sea, at which Capt. Peaty (who married Harry Hawker’s sister) was entered to drive one of these cars. The course was a private road which was straight but of loose surface.

Peaty was unable to sustain full throttle for more than a few seconds at a time, after which the little car behaved like the proverbial pea on a drum, whereupon the driver had to ease off in order to keep on the narrow roadway.

The caption under the photograph of the Addlestone factory states that the 1923 Wren motor-glider was produced at this factory. In point of fact the Wren was designed by the late W. O. Manning at the Kingsway Design Office of the English Electric Co. and it was built in the Dick Kerr works of the E.E.C. at Preston. It was flight tested on the sands at Morecombe Bay before being transported to Lympne for the 1923 Competitions, of which it was the outright winner.

The Missel-Thrush was an A.N.E.C. product designed by Paul Bewsher, and was one of the effects of the company disposed of when it liquidated. At that time my friend Guy Warwick was looking for a cheap second-hand aeroplane, and on my advice attended the auction with a view to buying this excellent aircraft. No bidder reached the reserve figure. However, a compromise finally was reached and Warwick obtained the aircraft, less engine, at an agreed price. After passing over his cheque he immediately set to work in removing the 3-cylinder Blackburne radial engine, after which he towed the aircraft to his Harpenden home with his Argyll car.

I was able to resolve the problem of a suitable engine by obtaining two early 5-cylinder Anzani radials, one of which was complete and airworthy. With this installed G-ABPI was a thoroughly sound aeroplane and a delight to fly. She made a number of public appearances over the Crystal Palace in a mock war-in-the-air display. However, when Guy Warwick decided to compete in the King’s Cup, I emphasised that the Anzani was quite unsuitable and recommended an Armstrong Siddeley “Genet.” After discussion with the makers, one was obtained on loan and free of charge, for the purpose of the race, and subject to the owner undertaking the installation work.

And that, alas, brings one to the tragic end of the story. In the event, the aircraft was flying in cloud which shrouded a sector of the most northern leg of the course, when it struck the top of a hill. A few days passed before the remains of the aircraft and its unfortunate pilot were found.

I.o.W. Francis A. Kappey.

[I stand corrected re the Wren – surely, however, it tied with the Thrush, which was Addlestone-built, in the Lympne Contests? – Ed.]