by Don L. Brown. 420 pp. 8-3/4 -in. x 5-1/2-in. (Putnam & Co. Ltd., 9, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2. 105s.)
This is another of Putnam’s prolific spate of first-class aviation history books, in their well-known standardised format and quality. However, it is especially readable and worthwhile, for not only does it contribute the story of one of the more adventurous aircraft concerns to the growing Putnam library of such histories but it is more absorbing than most for having been written by someone who was employed by Miles almost from the beginning.
All these Putnam one-make histories are accurate and extremely comprehensive but this one seems even more so, because Don Brown, C>ENG, F.I.MECH.E., M.I.C.E., F.R.AE.S., was present at almost all the Miles’ undertakings and is fully appreciative of what a remarkable character F. G. Miles was.
Before embarking on a type-by-type account of Miles aeroplanes, from the Southern Martlet to the Century Project, with all the expected data, Reg. Nos., performance figures and scale plans, the last-named supplemented by some artist’s impressions of Miles’ projects, the author gives his readers two chapters on the goings-on at Shoreham and at Reading. These are quite delightful to anyone who likes to read about the carefree pre-war days of the aircraft industry, especially so because, with Blossom and F. G. Miles around, almost anything could happen, and frequently did!
These reminiscences alone make this a great aviation book. There is plenty of intriguing detail, even to mention of the aged Calcott car which Miles used to take newspapers, flown to Shoreham by Imperial Airways during the General Strike of 1926, into Brighton. Some of the things which happened to Miles and Brown during their joy-riding days and in the early years of building Miles aeroplanes are almost unbelievable and exceedingly well recounted. Would you credit that not one but two Miles aeroplanes were safely landed after the entire engine had fallen out ? Yet it was so, and there is a photograph of one of them to prove it. Because the author flew these aeroplanes his notes on how the different types handled are particularly well done and the hair-raising demonstration tactics used by Miles are also faithfully recounted. The advent and development of the famous Miles Hawk are fully covered but the book also emphasises that this company made much larger aeroplanes. Its activities, from 5s. joy-rides with an Avro 504 to building some 7,000 aeroplanes of great merit and variety are on record in word and innumerable rare pictures in these fascinating pages. Many of these Miles machines were raced and this is well brought out, with a separate Appendix of such activities. Perhaps the most frightening story is of how Miles happened by chance to get airborne in a type-1918 Martinsyde F4 with its controls not fully connected and then found its 300 h.p. Hispano Suiza engine impossible to stop, except by experimenting with its complex system of petrol cocks. Running it close, however, are the accounts of landing the joy-riding Avro 504 at night by an improvised flare-path of casual petrol fires and of the Hon. Mrs. Victor Bruce flying her Miles M1 Satyr into telephone wires, to be bounced into a backwards landing. (Incidentally, where is the keenly anticipated book she had hoped to write ?).
The most pathetic stories in the book are about the stupid lack ol understanding and nil-co-operation on the part of the Air Ministry to some of Miles’ later projects.
Nearly 100 Miles’ designs are comprehensively dealt with (over 6,000 of the aeroplanes he built were more than 700 h.p.), supplemented by details of production runs, racing successes, contractor’s numbers, civil registrations, dates of first flights, and, where known, the ultimate fate of individual aircraft. The Whitney Straight series are naturally included and some other racing motorists, Bira and Fontes, for instance, figure in this splendid book.
I have said before, but must regretfully say again, that these aviation histories are much superior to most one-make car histories; moreover those scheduled appear on time (the only Putnam title we seem to have missed is “British Racing and Record-Breaking Aircraft” by Peter Lewis) but what has become of A. J. Wyatt’s Austin History, J. A. Blight’s great Roesch Talbot and sports-car racing tome, etc., etc. ?
The-second account of the World Cup Rally has reached us—”The Great Rally”, by Brian Robbins, who followed the event for the BBC. This is a 111-page soft cover Daily Mirror publication, with colour pictures, a full list of entrants and awards, etc., which provides excellent coverage of this much-publicised rally, as distinct from a competitor’s view thereof. The fact that Ford had to re-design as well as rebuild the sagging back axles of their special Escorts en route, and had they not done so, the BLMC Triumph 2.5 PI could well have won, seems to have escaped Brian Robbin”s full awareness, but otherwise this is a good record of the first World Cup Rally. It sells for a modest 8s., from the Daily Mirror Rally Dept., 4, Arne Street, London, WC99, postage and packing 1s. extra. W. B.