The Wartime Diaries of an RFC Officer



The Wartime Diaries of an RFC Officer

(Continued from the May issue) AS 1916 merged into autumn Flying Officer X, as I shall refer to the compiler of these war-time diaries, was still busy at Adastral House —see entry reads: “Went to WO (War Office) as .Slial and had slot of French, which did not put me in the best of moods”. Presumably these were reports on RFC matters to French Squadrons. But the social round wan not allowed to suffer. X was still using his recently-purchased Berliet and a 40 h.p. Austin in London, and for journeys front there to Newmarket and back, or down to Brighton. Air-Mechanic Taller= was still available to take X to the WO, and afterwards run his young girl-friend out to Harrow, and there It an entry about lunching with Gen. Salmond, Col. Warner and Charteris and then driving to Newmarket with a girl (who was to become his wi(e), in the Austin — “Came onto rain and had a lovely run. Had tea at Royston and got to the Howards about 7.30”. At this time X was keeping in touch with the London Mercedes Co. anti also he went to “Chelsea garage” (another RFC establishment?), using the Austin as this and other local runs, after he had “fiddled with the car” at Newmarket before driving it back to London,

Indeed, when he was not messing about with the Austin X was taking an actress, Isobel, out to supper, aftcr calling on her in her dressing-room at Daly’s, and his friend Dalziel, who had bought the Adler, would take X to the WO in it, such as after tea at the Savoy, and X also visited the Admiralty. The theatre, too. occupied some of X’s time; in November he saw “The Misleading Lady”, described as excellent, and on the same day met his actress in her dressing-room, on his way to the Empire, afterwards dropping his friend Ronnie Wilson off at the Savoy. Now comes an interesting entry. On November 5th 1916, X went down to Brooklands in the 40 h.p. Austin with Barrington-Whim and “. . saw his !tea race against a Sunbeam”. They lunched at the Track. As Brooklands had closed in August 1914 and there were only two Inter-Service Meetings and an Air-Workers Meeting there during the war, and those in 1915, I assume this was an unofficial match-race on the otherwise-deserted Track. Sometimes it was the Berliet that was used for London transport, such as for taking a girl to Harrods and Aspreys, to lunch at Princes, or to the WO, before going home to change and see a play from their box at the Gaiety. I like the diary entry about having “a cheery lunch” at Princes with some girls and Major Lee Malcolm and Storey (could this be the person who later made Storey cars?), so that X did not get back to the War Office that day until 5.30 p.m.! Next, as a change from Princes, X lunched at the Automobile Club, and plays seen at this period included “Daddy Long Legs”, “Best of Luck”, and “High Jinks”, the last “rather a dud show”. The Lord Mayor’s Show still happened in 1916, for X watched it bent the windows of Adastral House. He had seen Col. Warner recently about a new job and waste work under Major Cameron, selecting RFC recruits. The path of the young Army Officer seconded to the RFC was reasonably smooth in this dire winter of a major World war. For example, one November Saturday X spent an idle morning at the WO until his future fiancee came for him in the Austin. After lunch at home the girls left for Newmarket by train and X went with Kinsella, “my temporary driver”, in the Austin to Fulham, stopping fora while in Ipswich. He met his friend Ronnie on the road, apparently by chance, after they had got as far as Scole House, Scole, and they took off later for the Hippodrome in Ipswich, she friend’s man now driving, and after the show had a drink with the manager. On the Sunday they motored over to X’s girl-friend’s parents’ house in

This picture of some RFC “other-ranks”, was sent to us by Mrs. Sybil Jacobs, daughter of Air-Mechanic Tollerton who is mentioned frequently in the Diaries. It is thought to have been taken outside the RFC Garage, perhaps in Pont Street, Chelsea, and requisititmed from Jackson Bros., Decorators, note the model-T Ford at the kerb. [Photo: On. S. Jacob, Ronnie’s Grand Prix Vauxhall, shooting before lunch, and meeting “old Lyons” there. They than drove back to London, presumably in the Austin. The Vauxhall must have been one of the twin-cam 41/2-litre cars driven at Lyons by Watson, Hancock and Ralph de Palma; they failed to finish the race.

The old sciatica complaint now kept Xis bed for a while, during which he replied to an advertisement about a Delaunay-Belleville. When X was up and about again there were local journeys in Dalziel’s Adler, for which they went out in “the little Berliet” to buy it a tyre, and in a white Rolls-Royce which was at the Mercedes Company, and the Austin was still in use also, as a sOrt of farnily-taxi. Than one November Friday X lunched at the Savoy Grill with Barrington-White and they afterwards left for Paulham in Norfolk in the latter’s 90 h.p, Itala. Tea was taken in Ipswich and they stayed with Ronnie Wilson, after a “. . . wonderful run and his car went magnificently. Had asset cheery evening and went to had about 12 o’clock”.

Presumably X was now doing work associated with recruiting from the RN,WR for the RNAS and its airships. At all events, the day after the run up to Paulham he motored in the Itala up to the Air Station in a snowstorm and then over to Norwich with someone called Bumble, for lunch at the Royal Hotel, joined by “a fellow called French in the RNVR”. They then drove back to Paulham, for tea at Seven House and “after all the others had returned we had a most successful and cheery evening. Another bloke called Marks, RNVR, came up to stay with two friends. Sang songs, etc.” So life Went on, in the RFC and RNAS, in 1916! The Itala took X and its owner back to London on the Sunday. They lunched in Newmarket but arrived in town around 4.30 p.m. X was then very busy taking up his duties in Major Cameron’s department at the WO but he had time to lunch with Phil Paddon at Princes, get Joe Childs into the RFC, and sell Lady James’ Rolls-Royce to Paddon for E1,500. That day’s work kept X in his office until 8 o’clock. X was now using the Austin regularly, frequently dropping off his superior officers at their homes after working at the WO, bulbs had time to work on that saris the garage he had rented in Ennismore Mews and to see

Dewis’ Rolls-Royce and Hedges’ Delaunay-Belleville. Ronnie Wilson now had a Rolls-Royce, in which he drove X to the WO, and a party wcnt to see “Home on Leave” as the Royalty Theatre, described as “excellent”. before taking supper at the Savoy Grill, where they now “old Martin”, probably of the Martin motorcycle firm. There is a note that two Zeppelins were brought down during the early hours of the night of NoVember 27th/28th, at which time X was driving about in a Mrs. Tait’s Sizaire-Berwick. The Austin, now called “the old Austin”, was still engaged on taxi work, taking girls to their theatres, ctc. It was still game for the odd week-end run to Brighton and back, however, a journey it could accomplish in three hours on a winter afternoon. X was still needing frequent massage for his sciatica. He was seeing a good deal of Phil Paddon — “Dined at the Carlton and talked motors hard. Very interesting dinner”, after which Paddon drove X home. He had sent thc Sizaire-Benvick to Paddon’s garage, had seen “a very nice Rolls” at Dewis'”, and had looked at cars at the Baker Street Bazaar. One note says: “Segrave came up for interview and he reports on Monday” The Berliet and the Austin were twth still in use but one December Sunday, although X had cleaned it before going to bed the night before. the Austin ran badly when it was used to run two girls down to “the Home” in Brighton, to dine with his Mother, the drive back taking some six hours. That was met by pan-exchanging it the very next day for the Dewis’ Rolls-Royce, £250 being allowed on it, although it required some small repairs, off thc £850 charged for thc Rolls. There was lunch with Segrave at the Bachelor’s Club and X tried his new Rolls-Royce in the lunch hour, and leaving the W() at 7 o’clack, drove Major Cameron home in it and after dinner set about cleaning it. In a few days the Rolls was “put on the strength”, meaning that it became an

official RFC car, and X used it to drive to and from the War Office. It was soon “being tuned-up at Chelsea”, presumably at an RFC garage, and in spite of the fog it was used to drive “-Cross’ and her ‘fiasco’ Major Nuthavcn” to Richmond, getting back to London about one in the morning. However, the fog prevented the Rolls Royce from being driven up to Newmarket. but it was used for motoring down with Major Tillie for tca with thc Trevors in Richmond one Sunday. X would sometimes lunch with Paddon at the Hyde Park Hotel and they went to look at another Rolls-Royce together.

The social life was by no means abandoned, shows seen including “The Professor’s Love Life” at the Savoy and “Blue Bell in Fairyland”, and there was lunch on more than one occasion with Segrave at the Ritz and at Princ., after which they “went to look at !tab”. (Probably thc 120 h.p. car Segrave had brought back from Ireland with him whcn he resumed his RFC duties at the War Office). Towards the and of December 1916 X %vent before another Medical Board and was

pronounced unfit for Home Service and put on light. duties for two months, but he refused to cease work. The Berliet continued in usc, and X got his petrol licence. Three days before Christmas a party with whom X had lunched at the Cavalry Club, was driven down to Chobham In r Ica in the Rolls-Royce and after they had got back and had dined at Princes the car was filled with petrol, a new tube was fitted, and X washed it. Let as leave them, for this month, over the Christmas holidays, of 1916, X working until midday on Christmas Eve, although it was a Sunday, and then, after lunch, getting out the Rolls-Royce and driving up to Scale House, Scale, in time for dinncr. He had sent Tollerton on leave five days before this. On Christmas Day it was driven over to Newmarket and later got stuck in a ford. On Boxing Day X joined a shooting party at Scale and they had lunch on a straw stack, getting very cold. It was then back to London on thc 27th, “Simply perfect frosty day and had wonderful run. When we got to London ran into thick fog, so went straight to the flat. . . .” Even so, they secm to have managed about 36 m.p.h. Alas, soon after this the Rolls, which had been sent up to Newmarket after a few runs to and from the WO in London, wsa replied to have been crashed. Its Reg. Na. is believed to have been LF 4787.— W.B. (To be continued) V-E-V Odds and Ends. —The well-known Peter Black Memorial Rally for pre-1941 cars, divided into classes, takes place on Only 27th, starting from the works of Peter Black (Keighley) Ltd, and finishing at the Stink House Hotel, Gisburn. Single-fee entries close on July 20th and the routes vary from 40 to 50 miles. Regulations from: N. Kershaw, 44 Tarn Moor Crescent, Skipton, N. Yorkshire BD23 1LT. The Wolseley Hornet Special Club has well over 100 members and will celebrate its 30th anniversary and the 50th of the Wolseley Hornet this year, in conjunction with the Morris and Wolseley Registers, at Stanford Hall, near Rugby, on August 15th/17th. The Club produces a magazine and its Secretary is: R. S. Banks, Talicsin, Heath Road, Woking, Surrey. The Morgan 3-Wheeler Club’s magazine had a feature on the vintage Family models recently, with some very good pictures, and a 1929 Family Morgan in poor condition has turned up in Poland. Thc Club has its Twisty Sprint at Goodwood on July 5th. When Capt. S. G. Morgan, MVO, ADC, RN retired from the Royal Navy he was driven through the

gates of HMS Caledonia in a Morgan 3-whceler as a splendid substitute for the traditional ceremony of relinquishing command. We regret to learn that Malins Mamod, makers of simple model steam engin., traction engines, steam waggons and a steam-car, arc in the hands of a receiver but glad that production will continue. The Rolls-Royce EC continuatn active, opening its headquarters in Northampton last month. It has its annual dinner and dance on June 28th, the National Rally and Concours D’Elegance at Paternoster Farm, Oxfordshire, on the following day, and its North of England Rally at Harewood House, near Leeds, on July 13th.

At its AGM a suggestion that the Historic C.ommercial Vehicle Club should be restricted to pre-1950 vehicles and renamed the Vintage CVC was defeated and it continues to cater far suitable vehiclss which arc now 20 years old, but steps are being taken to ensure that rebuilt or copy vehicles comply with the design, construction and livery of their repr.ented period and the appearance of a copy B-type ‘bus on a modem chassis which mingled with last year’s Brighton Run was deplored. (We usa the term “copy” at the insistence of the RAC). Those who enjoy watching historic commercial vehicles in action may care to note that the HCVC’s Trans-Pennine Run from Manchester to Harrogate is due to take place on August 3rd. The Club’s magazine “Historic Commercial” for last autumn contained, among other interesting articles, one about how a 1930 Citroen AC4F 30-cwt truck was di.overed in France, brought to England, and restored. Slight amendment to the results of the VSCC Light Can Welsh Driving Tests: Phil Diffey (Humber) got a 2nd-class award and Eleanor Clarke (Austin 7), Nancy McEwen (Riley 9) and Ruth Hirst (Morris Minor) got equal “firsts”. Those who have blanched under thc comments made by W.B. on their past performances in such tests may gain some consolation from knowing that on this occasion, taking pan himself, thc Editor of MOTOR SPORT finished last but onc, in his 1924 Calthorpe! Our recent Obituary to Ted Lloyd-Jones has brought a newspaper cutting from a reader, showing this driver’s well-known Triangle Service Station at Shirley, Solihull. as it was in vintage timcs, with cars around the picturesque for.ourt of this Pratts’ Ethyl garage that appear to be Singer, Sunbeam and Bean, etc, and with an intriguing one with a Bugatti-like radiator, single aero-screen, and cycle-type mudguards — any comments? The house magazine of Renault (UK) Limited, Autoworld, has joined with The Times in saying that Nuvolari was timed at 143 m.p.h. at Brooklands in 1921 driving a Gordini Special with a Hispano Sulu engine. Without furthcr proof, frankly, I don’t believe this. — W.B.