Rich Rumour

Motor-minded people in the Tewkesbury area are becoming excited about rumours that the W154 Mercedes-Benz in which R J B (Dick) Seaman was fatally injured after his accident in the rain at Spa in 1939, when he was leading the Belgian Grand Prix, may have been brought back to this country and buried in the grounds of the Seaman estate at Bushley, outside Tewkesbury. The house, Pull Court, was found by young Seaman himself, after his father had given him permission to find another country place, which Dick craved, and I photographed it for MOTOR SPORT when I was running our “Homes of the Racing Drivers” series.

The idea is that the remains of the crashed Mercedes-Benz were smuggled at night into the grounds of Pull Court. Other cars, including racing cars, have been buried and later disinterred, the classic case being that of “Babs”, But it seems to me very unlikely that the Seaman Mercedes wreck was so treated. The remains of the car are supposed to have been brought to Pull Court at night, on a lorry, as secretly as possible, probably up the very long back-drive where, (have been told, you had to look out when the young Seaman was testing his racing cars, when German ill-feeling was at its height, so presumably this was just before or just after the outbreak of the war. Would Mercedes have allowed the wreck out of their sight at this time, when they were not anxious for particulars of their all-conquering racing cars to be revealed? Locals claim to remember the incident but one of them does not, only a room devoted to Dick’s racing trophies and a 1926 Daimler in the garage.

Seaman’s mother who lived at the mansion until her death in 1947, has been cited as a Nazi sympathiser, who kept a light in the top of the house during the war to help German bombers find London. This seems absurd to me: she was probably a bit careless about !he black-out, sleeping perhaps at the top of the house. Mrs Seaman was so against an Anglo-German marriage that when Dick Seaman was engaged to Erica Popp she was most uncooperative and was not present when they were married at a London Registry Office. Hardly the outlook of a pro-Nazi lady, surely? And although she had helped Dick to begin his motor-racing career his father was strongly opposed to it, would his widow have cared about the wreck of a car in which her devoted son had been killed brought to her home, especially a German one and after the marriage of which she so clearly disapproved? I think not. . .

However, racing cars have been dug up from unlikely “graves” and in this case the headmaster of Bredon School, which is the present function of the house, is apparently quite willing for a “dig” to be organised, unlike the opposition in the way of those who want to see if the 1921 Cooper-Clerget that crashed and killed its driver at Brooklands is buried at Count Zborowski’s house at Bridge, near Canterbury, and which might reveal a 1908 GP Mercedes chassis (full account in my “Aero-Engined Racing Cars” book). The problem is that no-one is sure where in the 84 acres the Seaman car may have been buried, or whether it was hidden beneath the Chapel or put into the Victorian ice-house.

The question of what the wrecked Mercedes might be worth inevitably has arisen, based on the idea that of six W154 (or W163) Mercedes-Benz GP cars, five have been accounted for. This conflicts with the result of Cameron Earl’s researches for HMSO, which quotes ten such cars available for racing in 1939, with ten spare engines. But how interesting to see what happens, in both cases, if the “digs” come to fruition. W B