Who was 'R'?

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Our long-running and apparently well liked feature Cars In Books has been somewhat hampered in recent times by the clauses publishers now insert in books, making it illegal to quote from them without written permission, or store what they contain by any information or retrieval system etc etc. All rights reserved, in fact! This puts me off from the start. It involves much correspondence if one decides humbly to request permission from some exalted author to quote a few lines from his or her work, which may well sell a few more copies and thus increase his or her royalties. If no reply is received, your secretary’s work is wasted.

So the column has grown a lot thinner. However, I am hoping that the publishers of that great writer Evelyn Waugh will not take umbrage if I refer to one of perhaps his lesser-known books, which has something of motor racing interest in it. Anyway, I am scrupiously avoiding the direct quote…

The book is A Tourist in Africa, which Chapman & Hall published in 1960. It describes, in a very interesting manner, a tour undertaken by the late author in 1959. The reason I want to refer you to it is because Waugh was driven for part of it by someone he calls who was very proud of his Mercedes-Benz in which they travelled. I have no idea what kind of M-B it was, but at that time a gentleman might well have owned a Type 300. Or even a 300SL, for it is called large, new, fast and extremely comfortable. (Careful, or I shall be caught quoting!) More to the point. Waugh describes ‘R’ as having been a racing driver.

You learn from this enjoyable book that ‘R’ was in the Colonial Service, one of his tasks being to travel about and see that everyone in the “bomas” was reasonably happy. In short, he was in charge of government personnel. He was aged 45 in 1959, so presumably did his motor racing before, or just after, WW2. Now there has been quite a lot of racing in various parts of Africa; or did ‘R’ race on a wider scale? Not knowing whether the initial ‘R’ refers to his christian or his surname makes it almost impossible, for me at any rate, to identify him. Racing drivers are getting old above 30, so I suppose ‘R’ was a pre-war racer. D van Riet, perhaps, who won the 1937 Rand GP in an A7. But that’s pure surmise. So who was the mysterious ‘R’?