You published a review of Margaret Duchess of Argyll’s recent book in your March issue. It particularly interested me as my home was within a few miles of where she was born at Higham Nr Canterbury; her maiden name incidentally was Whigham and she was somewhat unkindly known by us as “The Whigham of Higham”. More to the point is that Higham was the home of Count Zborowski complete with Chitty-Bang-Bang and sundry other fearsome machines in which I used to ride from time to time as a boy, one of which was a Hispano Satin with the nickname of the “Banana Squeezer” as it was painted bright yellow.
Tim Birkin was my mother’s cousin, both he and Glen Kidston used to stay with us; one evening after rather more than a few brandies after dinner Tim bet Glen, who owned an SSK Mercedes at the time, 100 guineas he could not get from Victoria Station London to the Queens Hotel Folkestone in one hour — a distance of 62 miles. Glen took him up on this and duly set off at 3 am from Victoria on a rather damp morning and proceeding down the Old Kent Road and through Sidcup at a high velocity was stopped by a policeman at a cross roads. This gentleman upon hearing of the bet asked if he could go along too! Anyway they managed it in exactly 59, minutes including the enforced stop which is motoring in anybody’s language — what happened to the cop when he “returned from duty” I don’t know! Personally I would have promoted him to Chief Constable on the spot!
I subsequently owned one of Tim’s 3-litre Bentleys in 1939, Reg No YO 6878, with a very nice Park Ward body. I hope it has survived as I had to sell it when I joined the RAF in 1939 (for £15.00, so help me God!) to a man in Leicester.
In earlier issues you mentioned 1st-war aeroplanes and their survival to the present. I learnt to fly at Major Ramsey’s private aerodrome at Howletts, Nr Canterbury, in 1934 where he hangared a Bristol Fighter, Sopwith Camel (2) and a Snipe. To my knowledge one of the Camels was still there in 1947 before I went abroad to fly for East African Airways in Kenya. In Kenya I came across a very interesting Vauxhall 3098 with modified hydraulic stoppers and a Delage front axle — I believe ex Anthony Heal. I also restored and ran an Excelsior saloon of vast proportions which was one of the best cars I have ever owned in my view — there were a lot of really good cars out there at that time (mid 50’s, and it was not unusual to find a 23/60 ohv Vauxhall in excellent order in an old farm outhouse which I fortunately did and subsequently drove it all the way from Nairobi to Johannesburg where it was sold as I saw something else I wanted more — a drophead Isotta Fraschini in a decayed state — but that is another story. I hope you find this of interest and could write a great deal more but space does not permit.
CAR Pomfret, Albany, W Australia
[How brave of Glen Kidston to tell the copper what he was up to! We have been trying to obtain some information on Comdr Glen Kidston, so far without success. —Ed]