"Happy Landings"

“Happy Landings” by Group-Captain Edward Mole, BSc, FRAeS. 222 pp. 8 3/4 in x 5 1/2 in (Airlift Publications Ltd, St. John’s Hill, Shrewsbury, Salop, SY1,7E, £10.95).

Those who enjoy flying books have been in luck recently, with some splendid new titles emerging. Now we have a “corker”, which covers life in the RAF between the wars most entertainingly and goes on to include the author’s war-time experiences. As gliding and sporting flying to the formation of the PFA are there as well, and as Group-Capt. Mole writes of his very varied experiences with great zest and humour, you really cannot afford to miss this one.

The author started flying in Avro 504 days and has flown 148 different types, up to jets and four-engined transports. His glider experiences alone run from the earliest types to the war-time Horsas, etc (of which I recall compiling secret loading diagrams at Farnborough during the war, in spite of which I am relieved to be told that some of them actually flew). So the book is comprehensive. It is also light-hearted; indeed, for a Group-Captain not to have become stuffy with exalted rank and to tell so frequently of past conquests with sexy girls is unusual to a degree, surely? It gives a touch of the Niven “The Moon’s a Balloon” to this book of life in the RAF. The adventures of flying in the between-wars Air Force, in aeroplanes from the Bristol fighter to the Gamecocks, Siskins, Bulldogs, Furies and Vickers Virginias, on to Hurricane and Spitfire etc, set the scenes for much of this very readable book, but therein much more. Barbara Cartland’s association with gliding, forced landings in Service and other aircraft, the vintage motorcycles the author enjoyed, its all there. He later had an MG, and before that an A7 Chummy. Some years ago we had a photograph in MOTOR SPORT of an Avro Baby being towed behind its owner’s A7 Cup Model; in Mole’s book there is a Picture of his A7 Chummy (Reg No OT-2598, in case it is still around) towing his Parnell Pixie III. The book is divided into chapters most of which are named after the stations where Mole served, such as Farnborough, Digby to which he drove in 1929 in the Chummy A7 (that replaced his motorcycles that had included a tuned 250 Levis, after Mole had been taught to ride by his brother sitting in the sidecar of a rather stately Sunbeam while instructing him, a Scott Super Squirrel and finally a Scott TT Replica, used to impress the girls, of course, and for impromptu speed trials on a main road out of Birmingham), where he was taught to fly on Avro 50 5Ns, Manston, Henlow, the Sudan, Aboukir, Abu Sueir, Andover, France and later war-time London, America, etc. One memory is of Lowe Wylde’s vintage Bentley roaring across Hanworth aerodrome beside a car-towed glider while Lord Semphill to be also rode alongside on his white horse. Paddy Naismith, who raced a Salmson at Brooklands, also figures. I won’t tell you more because I don’t wish to detain aviation enthusiasts from going out and buying or borrowing a copy of this highly enjoyable book. — W.B.

“The Mercedes-Benz Since 1945” by James Taylor. 144 pp. (Motor Racing Publications Ltd, 32, Devonshire Road, Chiswick, London, W4 2HD. £9.95)

This is the first volume in a MercedesBenz series of books in the MRP “Collector’s Guide” series. In his Introduction the author says that it was galling to find not a single book among scores in the English language which actually sets out the factual history of the Mercedes-Benz cars and describes their development and production history in detail. He qualifies this by telling as that he has read “plenty of well-written books of superficial or subjective impressions, several more crammed full of inaccuracies, and just a few which deal admirably with a single aspect of Mercedes-Benz history’ — but not one which answered all the questions I had”. Which is why James Taylor embarked on this book and will do the later ones, a task he says John Blunsden, a Director of MRP, thought of tackling himself.

Having written that in his Introduction, his book had better be good. And after his criticism of so many of the MB books it was with a sense of relief that I discovered this confident author to say of my book on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, that it is “among the better monographs”. . .!

Anyway, this book is pretty comprehensive on all aspects of the cars it covers, history pre-1945, performance figures. specifications, chassis and production statistics, buying precautions, maintenance data, etc, etc, even a potted racing history for the period, all nicely presented in the accepted format of this series. The photographs include some “new” ones but as with every M-B history the author has leant heavily on Daimler-Benz archives. Later Taylor volumes will cover the 1960 models and those of the 1970s and 1980s. — W.B.

Some worthwhile books have come from Kimberley’s, 19, Heath View, London, N2 OQD, all these soft-cover booklets priced at only £2.50 each. They include a fine review of the Brabham and Ferrari GP teams, the latter by MOTOR SPORT’s Alan Henry, both covering the 1983 and 1984 seasons, with plenty of good colour shots by John Townsend, tables of results and reasons for retirements and enough readable text to make these just the job for whetting the appetite before another GP season. Kimberley’s have also started companion Rally Team Guides, of which the first two, in the GP format, cover Audi and Opel (Lancia, Toyota and Peugeot booklets are to follow) and they are agents for the Australian “Bathurst” volume for 1984/85, which costs £12.95. — W.B.

The Transport Publishing Co Ltd, 128 Pikes Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire, has come up with another of its very well illustrated and documented books about well-known ‘bus companies, this one about “Brighton Hove & District” by John Roberts, No 4 in this publisher’s “British ‘Bus & Trolleybus Systems”. The coverage is highly commendable, in this hard-cover 98-page 11 3/4 x 8 in volume, running from horse-‘bus days to the present, with some intriguing off-shoots, about accidents, tickets, routes, etc, ending in a two page fleet summary with reference numbers. The price is £8.50 (card covers: £7.00) and TPC has also issued a catalogue of all such works. — W.B.

It’s not often that we hear of price reductions nowadays, so it was refreshing to learn that the latest (1985) English edition of the Routiers Guide to France costs £4.95, one pound less than last year. The cut is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the French Relais Routiers, which anyone who has travelled extensively in France will know to be an organisation which approves and lists various establishments offering a friendly welcome, good food and drink at very reasonable cost and, in the case of restaurants which are also inns, rooms which are clean and comfortable. Indeed, many a rally crew has been grateful for the amenities of a roadside hostelry displaying the Routiers sign, especially those who have tackled the Monte-Carlo Rally on a tight budget. The 1985 Routiers price limit for a meal has been set at 40 francs (about £4) which is excellent value, and on the Autoroutes there are over 25 chain restaurants which, we are told, offer set meals for less than 40 francs (half the normal price) to anyone producing a copy of the guide. The mid-size paperback has 300 pages listing 3,000 Routiers, and is available from bookshops and from branches of the AA.