At the coalface
William Boddy: Founder editor, 1936-present
All was going well in 1939. Mr. Tee had acquired Speed, Motor Sport was the BRDC's official organ --- and then war broke out. Just as he was paying off the printers I convinced Mr Tee that we could carry on. "How would I fill the magazine if this war lasted for 10 years?", he asked. 'With history," I said. He recalled the production chaps, we cobbled up an emergency eight-page issue, its editorial headed 'It is War,' and all through close bombing of the City Road premises and fire-watching, Motor Sport resumed, never missing an issue.
Having unsuccessfully tried to join the Army and the Air Force, I began doing instructional publications for the RAF at RAE Farnborough. Motoring enthusiasts in reserved occupations drifted there, amongst them Denis Jenkinson. We talked motor racing so continually that I told him he must join Motor Sport when peace returned. So after he had given up post-war motorcycle racing and riding sidecar for world champion Eric Oliver, he complied, as our Continental Correspondent.
With motor racing dead there was little apart from club socials and quizzes to report, but I worked late into the nights churning out all manner of articles. Readers' letters poured in; my massive post must have made my landlady wonder if I was a spy!
Deprived of their greatest interest (wives and girlfriends apart), I received reminiscences from car enthusiasts in Army barracks, on Navy ships and at RAF camps, and from other petrol-starved readers; these I was able to publish as 'Cars I have Owned'. Kent Karslake sent his scholarly 'Sideslips', and articles under his own name so he could argue with himself. Prince Chula, Cecil Clutton, Anthony Heal, John Bolster, Ken Hutchison, Raymond Mays and other celebrities added to these unpaid-for contributions.
Road tests dwindled, but in the first year of the war I did try a MkII Bertelli Aston-Martin, the new V12 Lagonda, a Daimler and a Hillman 14 before petrol coupons were withdrawn. But apart from Marcus Chambers' 7.2-litre 1907 Renault 'Agatha', my chance to drive historic racing cars had to wait until Hitler had been defeated.
Posted to Harrogate and London, Motor Sport went with me, run entirely by telephone. That is how it survived those bleak 1940s.