Racer, chauffeur, soldier, spy

Extraordinary tales from the Motor Sport digital archive

William Grover-Williams
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Lewis Hamilton could win his fourth Monaco GP this month, putting him in the rarefied Riviera company of Alain Prost, one win off Michael Schumacher and Graham Hill, and a further two from his hero Ayrton Senna, who holds the Monaco record.

But few Monaco victors can match the very first: William Grover-Williams. As described in Bill Cash’s brilliantly detailed Motor Sport archive story, Charles Williams Frederick Grover (the above a racing pseudonym) led an incredible life which could’ve come straight from a Graham Greene novel.

Born to a French mother and an English father who bred horses for a Russian prince, the young Grover’s passion for all things motorised led to him becoming a chauffeur for Paris-based artist William Orpen. He then fell in love with his employer’s mistress, and the two were married.

Grover raced in grands prix, winning the inaugural Monaco GP in 1929 at the wheel of a Bugatti T35B (British racing green, naturally). WWII then struck, and Grover went undercover in Paris for the Resistance, but was betrayed to the Gestapo and sent to Sachsenhausen.

But, did it all end there? Some say not. As investigated by Cash, what we don’t know about Grover seems stranger than what we do…

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