VINTAGE POSTBAG, October 1960

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VINTAGE POSTBAG

Sir,

When I read Mr. Bradshaw’s highly entertaining letter about A.B.C. engines in your August issue, and in particular his claims for the Dragonfly, I wondered just whom he was kidding, apart from himself.

Your correspondent ” M. P.” in the September issue is quite right in doubting the accuracy of Mr. Bradshaw’s claims and for concise summaries of the facts 1 would refer him and other readers to pages 319 and 320 of J. M. Brute’s “British Aeroplanes 1914-18,” and to pages 129 to 131 inclusive of” Development of Aircraft Engines,” by Prof. Robert Schleifer of the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.

To begin with, Mr. Bradshaw’s claim to have built the first static radial is patently untrue—the Wasp was antedated substantially by the Anzani, Isaacson (built by Manning Wardle of Leeds). Smith Static and Saltnson (Canton-Unne) single and double row engines, and by the R.A.F.8 engine designed by Frank Green and Sam Heron at Farnborough, which John Siddeley later developed into the Armstrong Siddelcy Jaguar. At the time Bradshaw claimed 340 h.p. (not 360) for a dry weight of 615 lb., but on test the engine gave only 295 h.p. at rated speed and weighed 656 lb. The cooling was so poor that only radical redesign of the cylinder head by the R.A.E., using the data derived from the research of Heron and Professor Gibson, could cure it

Even then, vibration was so bad when installed in an aircraft that crankshaft failure occurred regularly after only a few hours’ life. Had the Dragonfly actually gone into service in France in 1919 as progranuned the Germans would probably have won.

Bradshaw was not the first man to design an engine whose normal r.p.m. coincided with the major torsional frequency of the crankshaft—Louis Coatalen fell into the same trap with the Sunbeam Arab and so did Marc Birkigt with the geared Ilispano Suiza; successful designers, including Roy Felden and Frank Belford, narrowly escaped the same trouble on later occasions and were only finally saved by such devices as the Saloman damper. So it is unfair to blame Bradshaw for having designed a rough and unreliable engine, but he should not have over-sold it as he did.

Had he been a real genius (instead of too genial and persuasive) he would have appreciated that bench-testing is no guide to airborne reliability and performance.

Finally, to give the Devil his due, you are wrong, Mr. Editor, in ascribing Harry Hawker’s death to engine fire in the air. The coroner’s verdict (Flight of July 21st, 1921, page 494) made it quite clear that the Nieuport Goshawk crashed because Hawker became unconscious from a tubercular haemorrhage and “lost control owing to his physical disability.” I am, Yours, etc,

” SENRAB.” Sir,

Granville Bradshaw’s interesting letter in your August issue is nothing if not provocative. It is a pity that he did not adhere to the point at issue, which was the Belsize-Bradshaw “Oil-Boiler,” for, in touching upon other subjects, he has made a number of statements which are flagrantly incorrect.

Firstly, he states that he had qualms about the cooling of the flat. twin which he designed for A. M. Low’s wireless control aeroplane. Incidentally, the engine was of 40 h.p. and called the “Gnat,” and to this day I have one of the propellers made from this abortive project. It is completely untrue to say that in those days no aircooled engine was considered possible unless it was a rotary. He has evidently forgotten that in 1908 Robert Esnault-Pelterie designed and built small monoplanes fitted with air-cooled radials of his own design. The R.E.P. monoplane, in fact, was the basic design adopted by the Vickers Company when they first embarked upon heavierthan-air aircraft, machines evolved therefrom being used by the Vickers School of Flying which started at Brooklands in the second decade of the century.

Anzani built air-cooled radial engines of 3, 5, 7 and 10 cylinders before the first World War, and the V8 Renault air-cooled engines were fitted to the ubiquitous Maurice Farman biplanes from 1911 or thereabouts. Many officers of the R.F.C. took their brevets on these famous aircraft, The B.E.2e, B.E.I2, and the R.E.8 are three aircraft which were in service when the Gnat was designed, all of which were fitted with V8 or VI2 air-cooled engines designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory.

His reference to a conversation with a fighter pilot friend of his who was home on leave is incongruous. Statistically, the average life of an R.F.C. pilot on active service during the mid-war period was 14 days, whether or not his aircraft was fitted with a rotary engine. It is quite true that the gyroscopic influence of a rotary engine was marked, and that this called for an appropriate technique in pilotage. To state that this force rendered the aircraft vulnerable to enemy attack is grossly incorrect. Let facts speak for themselves.

The Sopwith ” Camel was a rotary engined single-seater fighter which first went into service with No. 70 Squadron, R.F.C., and No. 6 Squadron, R.N.A.S., in July 1917, and many other Squadrons were equipped with them as soon as they became available. As already stated, the torque reaction of the rotary engine was marked, which fact, together with it other characteristics, rendered the Camel intolerant of mishandling. Consequently, during initiation a minority of pilots failed correctly to react to its peculiarities, spun in from the turn, and were killed. However, there are many of my contemporaries who saw considerable service on Camels in France and elsewhere during 1917-18, and with one accord proclaimed it the most manoeuvrable and delightful fighter of its day. In 1930 the March issue of MOTOR SPORT published an article by Major Jack Stewart, M.C., A.F.C., which extolled the virtues of the Camel and an accompanying illustration depicted one being flick-rolled at a wing span height from the ground. On the evidence of cold statistics it can claim to be the most successful of all fighters, for with it a total of 1,294 enemy aircraft were shot down, this being the highest score of any single-seater fighter of the Kaiser war.

The rotary engine had fundamental limitations which rendered it impracticable for further development. Thus, the Sopwith” Snipe” was the last of this family, and was fitted with a Bentley B.R.1 or 2 engine. It became available late in the first World War and was retained by the R.A.F. until 1927. The last active service Squadrons to be equipped with them were stationed in the Middle East, where, incidentally, my friend Stewart Young was killed flying one on night exercise. So much for rotary engines.

Mr. Bradshaw continues by stating that his prejudice to the rotary engine, coupled with the loss of his friend, inspired him to build the first static radial. The first ? Very far from it. Already I have mentioned the R.E.P. and the Anzani. And remember I—it was with a small and somewhat primitive Anzani fitted to his monoplane that Bleriot flew the Channel in July 1909. In the following years, and long before the A.B.C. ” Wasp appeared, Aniani radials were fitted to many aeroplanes, but particularly to Deperdussins and Caudrons. Whereas there were other engines of this type, to quote them would he to labour the point unduly.

The above comments are made in the interest of historical accuracy. and not in derogation of Mr. Bradshaw, whose many and varied attainments are indisputable. Recently I have discussed with him his latest ideas of engine design, and the drawings which he showed me caused me to appreciate (once again I) that ” there may be better fish in the sea than ever came out of it.” More power to your elbow Mr. Bradshaw, but where the past is concerned let us have the facts straight. I am, Yours, etc.,

Ryde, I.o.W. F. A. K A PPEY, F.R.Ae.S. • Sir, Erwin Tragateh is known as the ” Memory Man” of motorcycling. and I sometimes wonder whether he does not rely too much upon his Memory, for of the prodigious contributions he makes to the correspondence columns of the Press, some at least seem wide of the mark. There are some whose experience and memories go back even longer than that of Mr. Tragatch but feel too old to bother about contradicting some of his statements. ,

Being neither too old to bother nor too young to remember. I should like to challenge his remarks about the A.B.C. motorcycle. Why quote the Harry Collier analogy ? A better thing than what ? The A.B.C. was unlike any other machine then existing; it had its faults—for example, lousy rocker gear, but people like II. S. Inglis supplied conversion sets to get over that. The cylinders were extravagantly turned front solid steel and tended to distort. (Still, they made delightful dinner gongs when worn out.) Jack Emerson successfully raced an A.B.C. at Brooklands and at least once headed home the great D. O’Donovan riding a Norton. Emerson (who at the time of his death was development engineer at Jaguars) would not have wasted his time on ” undeveloped ” designs—since he had his hands on sound machinery like Blackburnes.

Naturally, the A.B.C. was open to improvement, so was everything else at that time, and when the A.B.C. reappeared bi improved form it bore the initials B.M.W. . . I know nothing of the economics of the Sopwith firm, but it would

be inseparable from the economics of the early ‘twenties when so many firms—good and bad—Went to the wall. I am. Yours, etc.,

London, N.W.2. E. A. WRIGLEY-. Sir,

As one of the people who, in a small way; helped to make the Brocklebank Six, I was most interested to read of it in your fascinating series, “Fragments on Forgotten Makes.” Several inaccuracies occur, however.

The car was built by Brocklebank & Richards Ltd., of OozeIls Street; Birmingham, and it was generally believed in the works that much of the finance for the project was found by a relative — an uncle, I believe—of Mr. John Brocklebank. While it may well be true that the latter took a hand in the design. the engine was designed by Mr. Richards, an engineer of long experience, who had spent some time in America—chiefly at the Essex works. He also was responsible for plant layout, and designed the special machine tool which rapidly bored the block castings, its car-piereing screeching being heard throughout the works.

The three-speed gearbox and modern hydraulic braking were accounted for by the fact that both axles and gearboxes were imported from the U.S.A., being of Warner manufacture. In fact, my first job at the engine works in Ooz.ells Street was to chisel off and file out the name Warner, which was cast in the iron gearbox shell !

Chassis frames were brought in and erected at South Works, off Bordesley Green Road, in a very large black-painted corrugated iron building, known locally as one of the Wolseley Aero sheds. Several of these buildings were built by the WoIseley Co. of nearby AtMorley Park, for the manufacture of the Hispano aero-engine during the First World War.

Chief Draughtsman Waterman, an Australian. probably influenced the expert of numbers of Brocklebanks to his home country. and his sketches were featured in adverts of the firm, in newspapers “down under.”

The weight of 17 cwt. given for the complete car would appear to be an error, and is more likely to have been the chassis weight— in fact, the massive saloon bodies, with their large flat frontal area, were probably responsible for the fact that saloons only reached about 55. m.p.h., whereas the one tester employed—known as “the Yank,” from his accent—at times got the chassis up to close on 70 m.p.h. Sir Herbert Austin did, in fact, at one time show some interest in acquiring the Brocklebank concern, but nothing came of it, he later “

imported” American dea wing office personnel for the notorious ” 12/6.” After going for a ride in the first of these models, he is reported as saying to them on his return, If this is how you make a car in the States, you had better sn and so off hack there.” His command of ” flowery” language was extensive, as many know. Austin customera ” who mattered in those days were gently “

shunted” on to the very satisfaetory 12/4 model, if they Ordered a 12/6.

The term “Light Six” was never applied to the Brocktebank as far as I know, being generally used for cars of much smaller bulk, such as the Austin 12/6, the Hornet. A.C., etc., although Daimlers, for one, termed their small Six the” Light Fifteen “—it was far from tight, however.

Reverting to Brocklebanks—other personnel ineltided sub-insmembly cltargehand Charles Bull, who had worked, while at Wolseleys. on the ” gyro car.” He later transferred to the Rhodi, stating that the first Ilhodi Hawk gearbox, although made as per drawings, had to be considerably modified before it could be built up !

Then there was the machine shop employee who had spent many years at the Calthorpe, having numerous tales to tell of the financial ups and downs of this firm. And the young office employee named Sharpe who entertained tie during the dinner break with hair-raising stunts with his Rhodi ” occasional four “—his favourite trick being to drive down the footpath of °paella Street, taking one wheel over the protruding footsteps, including the one which we rapidly vacated !

In conclusion. I would state that in my opinion the Brocklebank chassis, of sound American inspired conception, was “killed” by the heavy bodies fitted—this accounting for the poor ” Press” which it bad, and consequent ‘sales difficulties. Upon liquidation, existing. spares were bought by Smiths Garage of Bournbrook, Birmingham. A Brocklebank Six existed in the Aberystwyth area around 1939. I am, Yours, etc.,

Knowle. PHIL SMITH.

Sir,

The above photo was taken in Austria last month, and shows a very nice six-seater Protos. I know nothing more about this German car, so if anyone could give me further details of it, I should be very pleased. I am, Yours, etc.,

Reading. PETER C. MORRIS.

Sir.

Mr. Padley-Smith’s letter about steam wagons came at precisely the right moment. Only three days before reading it, I had the privilege of seeing ray first steam wagon, and was able to gloat over it with a friend.

It was a 1926 Sentinel belonging to the United Africa Co, and its driver assured us that a total of six are in regular use on Liverpool docks. It is capable of 20 m.p.h. and had, with its trailer, just delivered 13 tons of cotton yarn to a mill in Blackley, having done the journey in three hours. The maintenance and running costs are negligible, and the cost of replacing them with oil-engined vehicles is fantastic.

The silence with which it moved Was astonishing, as was the infinite smoothness of its start. No juddering clutch, crashing gears. screeching brakes or rattling fuel pump—just adorable. unaccompanied movement.

If the public could realise that silent heavy vehicles are a practicable proposition, it would be the oil engine’s turn to be forced off the toad. One hears a lot of tales about steam vehicles being forced off the roads by the oil companies. Surely it is time that they were forced on by the long suffering public ! I would be pleased to hear some authoritative information on the fate of these wagons, and of the obstacles to their continued use.

Any move to encourage the production of steam wagons will have my full support (such as it is !). Let us have more wagons of heavenly silence ! Oil is for external combustion only, as has been demonstrated to me by an excellent antique.

I am, Yours, etc:.

!Beckley. E. C. BOURNE. iThe letter from Mr. Padley-Smith has resulted in an unexpectedly large number of’ replies and I propose to investigate, and if the steam wagons referred to still exist, I may return to this fascinating subject.—ED.]

A reader has sent us a photograph of a very well-preserved 7/17 Peugeot coupe which he came across in the Costa Vases. This appears to be original except for the substitution of modern disc wheels. Amongst the ears and spares of which we have heard this month, there are a great number of parts left by the’late Mr. Selborne for Delahaye cars. These include such items as clutch plates, brake linings, bumpers, springs. cylinder head, valve rocker cover, etc.. and are presumably for the type 135 M. Delahaye. These will be sold for what they can realise; letters will be forwarded. Then in a shed in North Wales, with the bodywork considerably modified and damaged and later rear wheels substituted, there exists what appears to be 41 circa 1928 or 1929 Austin 12.4.

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