Cars in books, May 1971

I thought I had just about exhausted any books which refer to flying in the days of biplanes and grass aerodromes. But, because the publishers seem to have omitted to send a review copy, it was only recently that I read “Sent Flying”, by Bill Pegg, the celebrated Bristol Chief Test Pilot (Macdonald, 1959). In this all manner of aeronautical happenings are described, including the first flight of the 20,000-h.p. 100-seater Bristol Brabazon air-liner of 1949 from its special 2,750-yard runway at Filton, and the dramatic landing of the prototype Bristol Britannia G-ALRX on the River Severn mud-flats in 1952, after an engine had caught fire, the latter account including the full radio messages between Pegg and the Filton tower from takeoff to successful belly-flop.

Pegg learnt to fly an Avro 504S at Henlow in 1925, Tommy Rose being one of his instructors, so the book is partially, and delightfully, “vintage”. (He joined the RAF in 1921, aged 15 1/2, and first flew from Cranwell in a Vickers Vimy.) Of cars, he recalls his father’s various second-hand cars, although the only one named is an AC Sociable, which required frequent push-starts. While at Tangmere, flying Gamecocks and Siskins (the magic days!), Pegg bought a very worn-out sports Amilcar for £60 from a London dealer. It had a terribly noisy back axle, but when Pegg was “pinched” it was for speeding, not noise. He successfully conducted his own defence, but ever afterwards the local police sniffed round “the battered old Amilcar”.

Pegg later writes of driving at week-ends from Sealand to Sussex to see his girl-friend, in his third car, “…a very sporty affair with a ‘vee’ windscreen and no weather protection whatever”. He wore full flying kit but would often arrive soaked to the skin. The journey took 2 hr. 20 min.—20 minutes being for “a pint of beer and bread and cheese and some petrol for the car”. (Magic days!) Could this have been another Amilcar?—W. B.