THE LATE SIR HENRY BIRKIN.
IN the passing of Sir Henry Birkin on June 22nd the sport of motor-racing suffered a loss which will be mourned throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Not only in his native Britain, but also in France, Germany and Italy his participation in a continental race was received by the crowd with friendly enthusiasm, and his appearance was heralded on each lap by cries of “Sir Birkin ! ” Seldom has an English driver been more popular abroad.
The sad story of his illness has been told many times. Everyone knows how he contracted blood poisoning from a burn received during the Grand Prix of Tripoli, and how he waged a long, gallant struggle against the persistent malady. At last even Sir Henry’s powers of endurance were exhausted, and in spite of the devoted attention and care of his friend, Dr. J. D. Benjafield, Sir Henry Birkin passed away in the early morning of June 22nd. There is something strangely ironic in the fact that a man who had travelled faster round Brooklands Track
than anyone else and who had been renowned for setting the fastest pace in countless road races, should have finally died from a long illness—contracted from a small burn on the forearm. Birkin’s career as a racing motorist is too well-known to need repetition. Viewed as a whole, its outstanding characteristic is versatility. As a track driver he was supreme, for his Brooklands lap record of 137.96 m.p.h. was accomplished on a car no faster than several others which have circled the Weybridge track. In long distance sports-car racing, as typified by Le Mans, he showed his ability to
“nurse “his mount by winning the French 24 hour race in 1929 and 1931. Finally, his qualities as a “Grand Prix” driver were coloured by a remarkable verve seldom found in British drivers, and more often associated with the Latin temperament. In his last race, the Grand Prix of Tripoli, he led the field of the finest Connental aces for four laps, and but for the inadequate pitorganisation of the Maserati concern would have probably won the race. His untimely death cuts short a full programme of Grand Prix racing for this season, in conjunction with Mr. Bernard Rubin.
Sir Henry Birkin’s memory will remain fresh in the minds of all those who were fortunate enough to see him race. For those who have not had this experience there is his book “Full Throttle,” in which Sir Henry’s personality, his career and his views on racing are permanently enshrined.
England’s loss is heavy, for her finest all round driver is no more, snatched away at the very moment when the sun of his career seemed likely to reach its zenith.
On those privileged to know ” Tim ” personally, his death will cast a deep shadow.
The strength of his personality may be judged by the fact that, in spite of a quiet and modest bearing, his presence in a race was sufficient to cause a concentration of public interest.
But he did not live in vain. To all young men Sir Henry Birkin will stand as an example of courage in the face of adversity, daring tempered by cool judgment, skill backed up by sound technical knowledge, and sportsmanship which was a byword among racing motorists the world over.
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