Book Reviews, November 1969, November 1969

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BOOK REVIEWS

“British Aviation—The Great War and Armistice”, by Harald Penrose. 621 pp., 8 1/5 in. x 5 3/5 in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd, 9, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, W.C.2. 105s.)

This is another in Putnam’s aviation series—and books about flying and aeroplanes seem to be out-numbering motoring books for the present—and it is the successor to the same author’s earlier work “British Aviation—The Pioneer Years”. When the series is complete it will provide a detailed and readable account of the development of aviation in this country from the very earliest times, written by an author who has the advantage of having been an engineer, test pilot, and latterly a senior executive in the British Aircraft Industry.

The wealth of information about aeronautics grows apace, largely because of Putnam’s prolific publishing of good books on the subject. This one covers an enormous amount of ground, from the outbreak of war to the long-distance flights and commercial ventures which followed the outbreak of peace in 1918. Fresh facts and statistics, a whole wealth of pictures, embellish Penrose’s account of those faraway times, told in the perspective of those days and enlivened by many quotes of the inimitable C. C. Grey of The Aeroplane.

There may be nothing about motoring in this thick art-paper volume, but as ground and aerial motoring were fairly closely linked in the period under review, much of concern and interest to Motor Sport’s readers should be found in the pages of “British Aviation”. The prices of war-time aero engines compared to those which prevailed when racing motorists sought them for installation in pre-war chassis at Government disposals sales after the Armistice are instructive, and there is a picture of Alfred Hubert Roy Fedden in a racing Straker Squire car, obviously at Brooklands. The money paid to workers during the First World War forms an interesting contrast to the salary received by Mervyn O’Gorman for running the then Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough—some £15,000 per annum in terms of 1969 currency.

Altogether this is yet another valuable Putnam contribution to aeronautical history and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if motoring history was similarly set down in a similar chronological fashion. Incidentally, one wonders when Putnam’s source of aviation facts and figures, and especially photographs, will dry up. Not for a very long time apparently—one certainly looks forward to further one-make aeroplane histories from this publishing house, while awaiting avidly their promised book on racing aeroplanes; and surely something about the aero engines which power the machines so splendidly described in their currently-published books is overdue ?—W. B.

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“Where No Angels Dwell”, by Air Vice-Marshal Sandy Johnstone, CB, DFC, with Roderick Grant. 224 pp., 8½ in. x 5½ in. (Jarrolds, 178-202, Great Portland Street, London, W.1. 35s.)

My goodness, another one about flying! It is the career of Sandy Johnstone, from the time when he joined the Auxiliary Air Force at the age of 17 (he had a trial flight in a Lynx Ayro 504N from Abbotsinch, took his “ticket” in them, and was soon flying Hawker Hinds) to his great career during the war. The book loses a little, I think, from being the work of a collaborator but is well worth reading for all that. Some of the more enlightening bits concern a forced landing in a Spitfire on the top of a Scottish mountain in winter, the pilot retiring to the cockpit to read a book until rescued, piloting a Fairey Fulmar while blinded by leaking hydraulic fluid, and conducting Atlantic searches and Scottish Air rescue operations.

“Where No Angels Dwell” also gives a lull account of the Duke of Hamilton’s role in the remarkable Rudolf Hess episode of 1941 and, indeed, the Foreword is by The Duke of Hamilton, KT, PC, GCVO, AFC.—W. B.

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“The Longest Drive Of All”, by Paddy Hopkirk. 47 pp., 9½ in. x 7 9/16 in. (Geoffrey Chapman Ltd., 18, High Street, Wimbledon, London, S.W.19. 12s. 6d.)

My, it’s another book about the Marathon! Paddy Hopkirk, having got his Austin 1800 home second in this toughest of long-distance drives—who says Britain does not make tough, quick cars?—has contented himself with a children’s book about the Great Adventure, using BMC colour illustrations to help it along. So there is little more to be said but, if you have to buy a book for the kids you may as well get this one and glance through it yourself before handing it over. And, surprise, surprise, there is a picture of Dick Seaman driving an MG in the 1932 Alpine Rally and another showing Hopkirk with the car on which he learned to drive and it is called a Harding. . . .—W. B.

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“Sports Cars 1928-1939”, by T. R. Nicholson. 183 pp., 7¾ in. x 5¼ in. (Blandford Press Ltd., 167, High Holborn, London, W.C.1. 25s.)

A lot of not very good colour pictures of sports cars, drawn by John W. Wood, of sports cars of the rather odd period named in the book’s title, backed up by brief specifications and some explanatory test. There is an effort to be smart by including rare makes which one is scarcely ever likely to encounter. Too expensive and unlikely to offer anything new to our readers, but o.k. if received as a present.
W. B.

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“Yes—But Which Fiat?”

Six months ago Fiat (England) Limited produced a little booklet called “Yes . . . but which Fiat ?”. A women’s guide to all the models currently available in the United Kingdom, it was written by Frances Howell, who well remembers road-testing the earliest Fiat 506. The need for a booklet for women motorists has been more than amply proved by the demand created by its publication. Orders have amounted to over 250,000. Today, not only have the initial supplies of “Yes . . . but which Fiat ?” already been absorbed by the motoring public (and not all, we suspect, by women drivers), but Fiat have since introduced at least three new models in Britain—the increased-capacity 124 Special, the more sophisticated 125 Special, and thirdly the 500L. So Fiat asked Miss Howell to bring her booklet fully up-to-date. This she has done, faithfully as is her custom, giving praise where due, gently chiding where she is not entirely happy. Copies of the second edition of “Yes . . . but which Fiat ?” are obtainable, free of charge, from any Fiat dealer or from Fiat (England) Limited, Northdale House, North Circular Road, London, N.W.10, on mentioning Motor Sport.