Having previously referred to a book about the defence of London from air attacks written by Col. A. Rawlinson, the driver of racing Darracqs, and far more recently to the surprise I received on discovering that his “Adventures on the Western Front” were mainly concerned with, and illustrated, the author’s 1914 T.T. Hudson on arduous war service, I was naturally keen to read Col. Rawlinson’s “Adventures in the Near East—1918-1922″ (Cape, 1923/1934), which I have now done.
There is less motoring in this book, although it is capital adventure and, being fact and not fiction, tends to make Special Agent 007 seem something of an amateur. There is interest, too, in learning from the General Introduction by Admiral Sir Percy Scott, Bt., K.C.B., K.C.V.O., LL.D., that Toby Rawlinson gave up a soldier’s life “to let his mechanical knowledge make a fortune for him in the early days of motor-car racing” and that his International Pilot’s Certificate was the third issued. Rawlinson crashed at the same flying meeting in Bournemouth at which the Hon. C. S. Rolls was killed. Lt.-Col. Rawlinson certainly put his engineering knowledge and bravery at his country’s disposal, as the two books reviewed previously indicate, and it is distressing to learn that at the time of writing his third book a grateful Nation was paying him a pension of £2 17s. 8½d. a week, which stopped altogether after a few months, and no compensation of any kind for his imprisonment by the Turks and loss of his machine-guns (mounted on the Hudson at one time) which cost him £500.
Model-T Ford enthusiasts should enjoy the Near East book, for these vehicles on military service frequently feature in it. War-time American lorries of unspecified make are warmly praised but the ascent by model-Ts of the 8,000-ft. Khop Pass in Eastern Anatolia in winter, even when helped by oxen, is an epic. It sounds as if it could provide high adventure, in 1964? Another ascent was that made up a less difficult Pass to Kazian, with 60 to 80 cars, Rawlinson’s Ford managing to keep his Chief’s 35-h.p. Vauxhall in sight. It is significant to read that “motors flowed continuously in both directions” in Constantinople in 1919. Col. Rawlinson refers to covering 1,200 miles from Kasvin to Baghdad over rough country at the end of the war “in my light car,” but whether that refers to his Hudson or a model-T Ford I do not know.
Through the courtesy of a reader I have been able to read “Tales of Travel and Sport,” by Major P. M. Stewart (Thornton Butterworth, 1938). The first two chapters are about an early motor tour of Europe. The author began motorcycling in 1901 and drove cars from 1903 onwards, making tours in many parts of the World in a Germain, four De Dions, and two Napiers (for some unapparent reason De Dion and Napier are in quotes, which are not used for the other makes), other journeys being made in hired De Dions and “the ubiquitous Ford,” while the author drove a Studebaker for three winters in California and Florida.
Major Stewart’s first car was a 1903 solid-tyred Chelmsford steamer, with fully enclosed body, of which illustrations appear. It carried two in front, four or five behind, and was “second to none” as a hill-climber, maintaining 16-18 m.p.h. uphill. Apart from a broken water gauge at Askem, near Selby, and a broken back wheel after a skid in Cambridge, the Chelmsford served well until 1906, when it ran away down Sutton Bank and was smashed to pieces (also illustrated).
The insurance company paid the full value (£700) although the remains fetched only £70, and the owner acquired a 14-h.p. Germain, which was taken on an ambitious tour from Havre to Rouen, Chartres, Châtellerault, Angoulême, Bordeaux, Biarritz, over the Pyrenees to Toulouse, Carcassonne, to Genoa, Pisa and Civita Vecchia to Rome. From Florence the tour continued, until the crankshaft broke 12 miles from Perugia and the Germain had to be sent by ox-cart and train to the factory at Charleroi, in Belgium.
Before the breakdown the Germain had to climb two 1-in-8 hills in reverse to humour the gravity petrol feed, and at Terni it spent a night in the billiards-room of the only inn. Spares took a long time to arrive and the chauffeur wanted from three days to a week to reassemble the engine. Then it refused to start and little help was available from the only garage in Perugia, although “chauffeurs of the various cars which stopped for the night on their way north or south” (it was now 1907) were appealed to. Two days later it was discovered that “two valves were opening together.” They got the engine going but the new bearings ran hot, and it was when it took three days to drive to Florence that the chauffeur was packed off to London and the car to its makers.
Major Stewart, after trying two Fiats, finally bought a 24-h.p. De Dion double-phaeton, “with extension hood and two windscreens.” A start was made for Bologna, the car easy to handle in spite of her size, climbing hills on 3rd speed and the engine keeping comparatively cool, although, as they were “not supplied with water,” care was taken to use the brakes alternately when descending the Tuscany Plain.
Milan was reached before lunch the next day, in spite of a broken inlet valve, and there “the rims were changed into Michelin Detachable.”
The De Dion, on the Germain’s number-plates(!), got out of Italy successfully, climbing the Susa Mont Cenis Pass at an average of 10-12 m.p.h. Later a race ensued to get in front of the dust from a 16/20 Martini, the De Dion going up to 20 m.p.h. but breaking a water pipe in the process. The 150 miles to Chambéry were otherwise uneventful and next day the 70 miles to Lyons were accomplished by midday. Another 100 miles brought the De Dion to Vichy, and by the next evening it had covered the 168 miles to Fontainebleau, scarcely another car being encountered, although it was June 1907. Bad pavé made miserable the 50-mile run into Paris, where trouble at the customs made the author vow never to come to Paris en auto again. The tour concluded with an uneventful drive to Havre (136 miles), London (80 miles) and York.
The author then went off in July 1907 by train to retrieve his Germain. Arriving at Marchienne au Pont, he found that although the car had been there nearly three months, it wasn’t ready. Two days later he left but the clutch spring was so weak he was compelled to return! However, eventually the Germain “went like a racehorse,” but there was a long delay at the customs post into France (I suspect that the Major had omitted to take with him the Germain’s number-plates!). Apart from punctures (“The two back tyres had been utterly ruined by the bad Italian and Belgian roads after 1,800 and 2,000 miles, respectively.”), the Germain made the 450-mile run home without mishap.
The remainder of these interesting observations are concerned with motoring incidents over the years. The author never received a summons for exceeding the speed limit, although it was 12 m.p.h. for two years of his driving experience, and 20 m.p.h. for 26 years, during which he drove at from 20-25 m.p.h. and 20-50 m.p.h., respectively. The steering failed him twice, on an old 65-h.p. Napier “in our own drive” and on a Wolseley Fifteen in 1928. And a Bates Steel Mule tractor drawing a 4-furrow Ransomes plough turned over on Major Stewart in April 1919— there are pictures to prove it.—W. B.
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