Book Reviews, October 1959, October 1959

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“Useless If Delayed,” by Paul Wyand. 256 pp. (George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 182, High Holborn, London, W.C.1. 18s.).

In this extremely entertaining account of his career as a newsreel cameraman, popular portly Paul Wyand packs in an incredible number of worthwhile reminiscences and anecdotes. He was present at all manner of historic events, such as royal tours, Churchill’s American visits during the last war, the World War II battlefront, the horrors of Belsen and all kinds of sporting events.

Motor racing interests are looked after because Paul at one time worked at Brooklands with Parry Thomas and filmed record attempts at Pendine. He recalls the races between Fleet Street motor-cycle messengers on fast motor-cycles that this reviewer used to watch each Derby Day from Clapham Common as a schoolboy and he tells of some quite fabulous means whereby rival newsreel operators tried to steal “scoops” or stop other cameras from filming.

Wyand remarks that when he recalled Brooklands in its glory and then looked round at the offensive ugliness into which the place fell after the War, he was near to tears. But he excuses Vickers and does not refer to the late Sir Malcolm Campbell’s part in selling the Track over the heads of the motor-racing fraternity.

For his fascinating glimpses of royalty and his on-the-spot description of Belsen, where unbelievable cruelty was perpetrated, “Useless If Delayed ” — the label seen on urgent tins of news-film — is alone well worth reading. Congratulations to Paul Wyand on his successful career and for his good memory of life’s better and more amusing episodes. — W.B.

“British Civil Aircraft-1919-1959,” Vol. 1, by A. J. Jackson. 571 pp. (Putnam & Co., Ltd., 42, Gt. Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 63s.).

This is an absolutely fascinating book, especially to those who like historic aeroplanes or who, as so many of the motor-racing fraternity have been doing, have for many years used transport aeroplanes to travel about the Continent of Europe. That the author only takes his readers to aeroplanes beginning with “D” in a book running to 571 beautifully printed and illustrated pages provides a ready insight into the comprehensive data and incredible collection of pictures contained therein.

We expected to meet again in Mr. Jackson’s book such famous transport aeroplanes as the converted de Havillands of the pioneering Hounslow-Paris days, the D.H. Hercules and other nostalgic aircraft but it comes as a pleasant surprise to discover that this monumental reference work covers all registered civil aeroplanes, so that famous and little-remembered light planes, King’s Cup racers and similar fascinating types are included; thus the famous record-breaking machines are dealt with, times, and speeds for King’s Cup and Aerial Derby victories not being overlooked. At the other extreme the book is right up to date, covering aircraft such as the Britannia, Bristol Freighter, D.H. Comet, etc.

This is essentially a comprehensive work of reference and as such is likely to be widely copied and quoted. It is nice to know that Mr. Jackson has made no attempt at “popular” writing, merely setting down the facts about each type accurately, in an endeavour, as he says in his Foreword, “to go some way towards rectifying omissions restoring a balance and re-establishing historical accuracy.”

Not that this prevents “British Civil Aircraft” from being an enthralling book. It is fascinating in the extreme to discover from its pages why certain types come into being, to follow the history and changing fortunes of given aeroplanes and to read of the accidents which eliminated some of them. As one goes through Mr. Jackson’s well-balanced and carefully written accounts one captures again the fun and the glory of the early joy-riding exploits, the air circuses, the races and the endeavours of pioneer airlines, which blend to form the golden age of flying.

It is surprising to find how many military types came on the civil register and these are covered as fully as the other machines. It is also amusing to encounter racing-driver owners of “vintage” aeroplanes. For example, G. E. T. Eyston appears with a primitive Caudron G3 which he passed on to L. C. G. M. le Champion and Wigglesworth who flew a war-time B.E.2C is surely the person who used to help Zborowski with the “Chittys.”

In this splendid first volume the aeroplanes are dealt with make by make, type by type, from Aeronca C-2, C-3, and 100 to Douglas D6-7C. After the description of each type a table of performance data with different power plants is provided, in many instances three-dimensional plans are provided, and the book contains four appendices covering miscellaneous civil aircraft, military types used for civil purposes, individual aircraft histories and details of the few civil aircraft for which illustrations cannot be found. This last remark must be qualified by adding that “British Civil Aircraft” contains over 500 photographs, many unique and previously unpublished.

This really is a remarkable work and anyone remotely moved by aviation history or who has flown in some of the types dealt with cannot afford not to invest in it.—W.B.