Making a splash before Bill

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We call WB our Founder Editor, but he was not the first to run Motor Sport. Here he recalls some of his predecessors

With Motor Sport always thinking both forward and backwards, it seems very appropriate to consider some of the editors who made it possible. I say some, not all, not because I wish to omit anyone but because I did not know all those who were in office before Mr Wesley J Tee was offered the magazine in lieu of a few unpaid publishing bills. He had printing facilities but no one to run the magazine except me, for a salary I regarded as wages. But what a wonderful job, with test cars full of fuel on loan and free passes to races! I recommend any boy asked by a parent what profession he is contemplating to go for motor journalism. Even the bad luck to crash a test car will only invoke a mild response – I know because I wrote off a Ford Mexico…

It was Tom Moore who gave Mr Tee Motor Sport. A wealthy man owning land in the Isle of Man, he had two 4½-litre Bentleys and soon added a Blower 4½. He used to do full ‘recces’ of Monte Carlo Rallies from far places and describe these in Motor Sport for the benefit of competitors. He also raced a Frazer Nash at Brooklands and ran one of the Bentleys in the Inter-Varsity speed trials.

The Brooklands Gazette first appeared in mid-1924 and a year later became Motor Sport. I bought my first copy of the former on a London station bookstall (so already it had status) for a shilling (5p). It was published by Radclyffe and Hutchings. Presumably an indulgent father was humouring his son’s liking for fast AJS motorcycles and the famous Track – and attractive bobbed-haired girls, judging by a photograph of one in his sidecar.

An editor who followed was Richard Twelvetrees who had a Bean tourer into which he installed a frame aerial, a multi-valve radio, and a loudspeaker, this in 1924. He was asked to leave the Royal enclosure at Ascot when this was in use. I cannot quite accept cars in this hallowed place; perhaps he was in an adjacent car park. But I wonder what tune he broadcast?

Edgar Kehoe, who shared a Riley Nine with Blackwell in the 1930 JCC D12 race at Brooklands, took over for a short time and Humphrey Symons likewise until he left to join the Sunday Times. He sadly did not survive the retreat from Dunkirk. He was a very calm person. I recall how when he was waiting to hear if his place driving in an important International rally was happening he went on compiling an instruction book, a task he did for leading car makers, until the phone rang and off he went as calmly as ever.

The most memorable editor was Walter Braidwood. In 1923 he had gone to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where Lionel Hutchings was also a student. Braidwood was a keen rider of racing AJS motorcycles and he rode in several TT races, the first time aged 21. He also made some successful appearances in his fast GN, draining out the oil for more pace in sprints. He drove at Wimpole Hill, now a National Trust property, and at Henley Park, a private estate, but had time to graduate with a BA in mechanical science.

In 1926 MS had a circulation of about 3000 a month. Braidwood was then the staff photographer, Roy Nockolds staff artist, and Roy’s brother was a part-time helper, all unpaid. To transport his TT bikes Braidwood used a £5 Model-T Ford van.

In 1929 the magazine went into serious decline, and Walter bought the few back issues and bound volumes for £12/10s and removed them in a friend’s £5 Chevrolet. Tom Moore bought what was left for £25 in October 1929. He moved the offices to London’s Duke Street, and Braidwood became the Editor. One of the directors was A G Reynolds, Secretary of the BMCRC at Brooklands.

Space precludes listing all Braidwood’s competition successes on two and four wheels, but many were in Frazer Nashes. “Mostly borrowed,” he said. While editing MS he also ran a reputable garage business, at Bushey, with finance from his father, then a serving Army Officer in India. His partner was ‘Grenny’ (Grenville) Manton who had been in the RFC and afterwards with the Talbot car company. He became a joint-editor. Braidwood lived in ‘The Shanty’ at Abbots Langley until he married Miss Amy Dorman (‘Dormouse’). She had been a friend of racing motorcyclist Fay Taylour at a Dublin boarding school. In 1931 Braidwood paid the magazine’s solicitors £10.13.2d for successfully defending him on a speeding charge, the defence being that as he was in second gear he could not possibly have exceeded 30mph.

Braidwood often commented on the thrill of road-testing fast cars for MS, notably the Mercedes-Benz with which Caracciola had won the TT, then home in his Morris Cowley. (To solve a long-standing puzzle I think it is he in the photograph driving Chitty-Bang-Bang 2 in London traffic, not Kent Karslake, when Scott Moncrieff was trying to sell it.)

Moore had an assistant called Mason. There came the day he and a friend were photographing a Donington meeting. Moore had a dinner date in London, so he said he could not see the last few races and they must be at a certain corner ready for a fast return to London. Mason and another man were in the back of the Bentley and as it was very cold Mason suggested that they lie down and pull part of the tonneau cover over them. “Moore never looks round,” Mason said. Alas, there was a police check at which the speeding Bentley was stopped, to Moore’s annoyance. “You can see how many passengers I have,” he said, thinking the two men were sitting up. But at that moment they emerged. Moore was obliged to go to the police station to establish his identity, which took time, so presumably he missed his dinner date…

After Mr Tee had obtained Motor Sport Moore kept in touch for a while, and I used his reports of continental races. His camera was not 100 per cent and Mr Tee asked him to bring it in for repair. “What will it cost?” asked Moore. A few pounds, he was told. “Oh, I cannot afford it,” he replied, maybe in sarcasm for the bills outstanding to him. That day we went on talking motor racing for a long time. Moore had told a taxi driver to wait outside; the man finally came up and asked whether his fare was in the building, and if not who would pay him. Told of this, Moore said: “Tell the man to wait as long as I want him, and if that does not appease him, I will buy his cab.”

There is another good story about Moore. He had two young helpers, one of whom he sacked. The boy left with a camera. The other boy knew this and couldn’t wait to tell Moore. He did so, but Moore said he thought that might happen. “Not to worry,” he added. “I have the l-l-lens in my pocket.” (He had a stutter.)

Moore may have owed the sacked boy his last week’s wages and seen the stolen camera in lieu of wages, but would the lens fit another camera? I know nothing of plate cameras, but it could be true… It was the other boy who told me this.

Soon after this when I was road-testing cars for Motor Sport I was offered a Bianchi for a couple of days, but when I got to the office someone had gone off in it. I had wanted to try this rare pillarless saloon, called thus because there were no central door pillars, and the doors locked by other means. Next day he returned it and I told him he had to write up the test. It was revealed that the errant tester had taken a girl into one of the royal parks and did not hear the warning that the gates were shutting, so they had to spend the night there. In his uninspiring report he described the car as a “pillowless saloon”, which seemed appropriate!

I recall going with Michael Tee to report the Isle of Man races, and it was announced that for those who had not got their passes the Club House would stay open until midnight. We were having dinner when Mr Moore arrived with the Deputy Chief Constable of the IoM Police – or it may have been the Chief Constable himself. He was introduced to us and told to give us every help during the racing. I said to Michael that it seemed that if the races were dull and we wanted to leave they would stop proceedings for us to cross the course…

Then came the war. I managed to convince Mr Tee that even if the conflict lasted twice as long as WWI I could fill it with history, so the printers were told that after all they would not be paid off, and you had to put up with me…