MOTORING SPORTSMEN. Mr. E. C. Gordon England.
WITHIN 14 days of the Boulogne Meeting we found Mr. Gordon England busy on the first stages of rebuilding the two Austin Seven racers which will participate in the next 200 miles race and his Sports Austin Seven for the Georges Boillot Cup at Boulogne, but whereas most persons in such a position would consider themselves almost too busy to
breathe, Mr. England spared us enough of his time to relate a few incidents of his interesting career.
From the days of his boyhood, Gordon England had a deep rooted ambition to become an aviator, and though flying machines were imperfectly developed at the time, he followed the feats of the early pioneers with great keenness. Whilst still at school, he experimented with man-lifting kites, and though he claims no remarkable achievements in this direction, he gained experience which in later years was turned to good account.
Leaving school at the age of 15+ years, he became apprenticed in the Great Northern Railway shops at Doncaster, where his training included courses in practical machine shop and fitting work, drawing office routine and work on the footplate of locomotives. On completing his course at Doncaster in 1908, he became associated with Mr. Pemberton Billing in the development of early aeroplanes, then joined with the late Mr. Jose Weiss, the well-known artist, who forsook his brush in order to conduct research work in connection with aviation. With Gordon England’s aid, Jose Weiss produced the Weiss inherently stable glider, and in 1909 England set up a glider record by remaining in the air for 58 seconds. This achievement took place at Amberley, on the Sussex Downs, and during the record flight the Weiss glider rose 100 feet above the starting point. This performance remaining. unequalled for several years. Following the experiments with motorless gliders, these two enthusiastic pioneers produced two or three Power driven aeroplanes equipped with Anzani and
By THE EDITOR. E.N.V. motors of from 25 h.p. to 40 h.p. Had Weiss and England possessed sufficient funds for enabling them to pursue the costly experimental work, it is probable that greater successes would have rewarded their efforts, but the lack of funds caused them to
abandon further attempts, and shortly afterwards Gordon England realised his long cherished ambition by becoming the owner of a Hanriot aeroplane.
His initial attempt at flying this machine was very remarkable for taking delivery of the machine he got up at 3 a.m. and at 3.30 a.m. was taxi-ing up and down Brooklands preparatory to taking the air. Then feeling his way, without any tuition, he made a few short hops, and three hours after taking the pilot’s seat successfully manceuvred the Hanriot through several circular flights. This would appear to be a record time for learning to fly, at all events, Gordon England soon became recognised as a pilot of great promise, though, unfortunately, his engine was not sufficiently reliable to keep him in the air for the 15 minutes necessary as the qualification of a pilot. Incidentally, the pilot’s certificate he eventually gained was Number 68, proving that he ranks with the earliest of flying men in this country.
• .,.Impressed by the early flights on his own aeroplane, the directors of the Bristol Aeroplane Company offered Gordon England a post first as test pilot, then as designer, and when engaged with this firm he designed several of the successful Bristol types used for military purposes. Whilst with this firm he took part in the military trials on Salisbury Plain, piloting a British machine; this was the occasion when Cody gained the premier awards with his own aeroplane, facetiously termed “The Flying Cathedral” by his rivals. On leaving the Bristol concern, Mr. Gordon England went into business with Mr. James Radley, another early pilot, and produced the first triple engined seaplane built in this country. Perhaps one of the most amusing episodes in Gordon England’s aviation career was when he undertook the construction of a very unorthodox machine known as the Cedric Lee Secret Circle Plane. Space does not permit any reference to the unusual features of this weird aeroplane, but it was considered so secret that most of the officials of the firm went about armed with automatic pistols to prevent their ideas being stolen. Gordon England relates how he went about his work in continual fear of being shot and was much relieved when the machine was found to fly well
on its first trial. During the test he accidentally looped the loop with the Cedric Lee, but eventually nobody thought very much of the Cedric Lee secret and it consequently faded away. Immediately prior to the outbreak of war, Gordon England narrowly escaped being interned in Germany,
for he had to deliver one of the latest White seaplanes to the German Naval Air Station at Kiel. On this trip he had the distinction of flying over a Zeppelin and also over the Kaiser on the occasion of the opening of the Kiel Canal. He was due to deliver a second machine, but fortunately learned of the state
of affairs, thus escaping internment as the first prisoner from the air.
From 1916 to 1919 he was responsible for the organisation of an important aircraft factory established in the business of Messrs. Frederick Sage and Co., of London, and produced many aeroplanes for military purposes when so engaged.
After the war he appears to have drifted into the motor business and became associated with his father in the firm of George England, Ltd., whereupon he decided to take up motor racing. Readers will remember his performances on his A.B.C. racer, which, after being duly hotted up, made its maiden appearance in the first 200 miles race, and to everybody’s astonishment, gained a gold medal. The same car was driven in the two succeeding 200 miles races, gaining gold medals on each occasion, a record which shows that Gordon England’s careful tuning was amply rewarded.
As soon as rumours of the Austin Seven began to filter through the trade, Gordon England became interested, but in the meantime he returned to his old love and constructed a glider in his spare time with the help of Mr. Compton. This machine was entered for the Daily Mail Glider Competition, but its pilot, Mr. England, unfortunately crashed on the last day of the trials; due, he admits, to an error of judgment owing to his long absence from the air. When he had recovered sufficiently to hobble about on crutches, Gordon England interviewed Sir Herbert Austin with a proposition to race the Austin Seven. The appearance of a would-be Austin crack on crutches must have been somewhat startling to Sir Herbert, but
he nevertheless agreed to support England’s proposal, with the result that he drove one of these remarkable little machines to the second place in the 1,100 class of the third 200 miles race at an average speed of over 75 m.p.h., this being the only car to make a non-stop run in the smaller class.
The achievements put up by Gordon England on the Austin Seven racer are now a matter of history, but we were told the exact truth of how England finished the last 200 miles race minus one piston and connecting rod. Towards the end of the race one cylinder cut out and as he had sufficient time in hand to win the race on three cylinders he did not stop to change the plug he judged to be at fault. It was not until the head was removed the next morning that a piston and rod were found to be absentees, and they were eventually discovered in fragments in the base chamber !
In last year’s Cyclecar Grand Prix de Prance, the Austin team of four cars finished first, second, third and fourth, all within a few seconds of each other and the Frenchmen gasped with astonishment at this massed formation procession. This race left England as champion of France, and he will defend the title on the 6th of this month. Among his other distinctions, Gordon England is the only driver to gain awards in all the 200 miles races.
Concurrently with his racing achievements he has been working steadily on the development of a patent system of motor bodywork, and though this occupies a considerable amount of his time he intends to continue racing the well-known Brooklands model Austin, which owes its success largely to the great amount of care he has devoted to its special tuning.
Matters of Moment, August 1968
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