Book Reviews, September 1961, September 1961

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“Hawker Aircraft Since 1920,” by Francis K. Mason, A.R.Ae.S. 475 pp. 8 7/9 in. x 8 1/2 in. (Putnam and Company, Ltd., 42, Great Russell Street, London, W.C.1. 63s.)

Putnam and Company have built up an enviable reputation for very comprehensive, beautifully illustrated and produced aviation history books. It is incredible how much information is contained in each of these specialised aeronautical titles which have either been published, or will be by the end of next year, under the Editorship of Owen Thetford. Such a book is “Hawker Aircraft Since -1920,” the title of which is self-explanatory, although the concentration of information comes as a pleasant surprise.

Every Hawker aeroplane and variant from the Duiker to the P.1127 is covered by detailed description, tabulated data and, in innumerable instances, by three-view scale line drawings, to the standardised Putnam formula. In addition there is a most fascinating introduction to the work and history of the Hawker Company, and this weighty tome, of high-quality glossy art paper and excellent illustrations numbering more than 380 separate photographs, concludes with notes on individual Hawker aircraft consisting of over 80 pages packed full of figures and data and a list of Hawker’s unbuilt and unfinished products from 1920 to 1957

Such complete coverage makes motoring history appear all too meagre, and still the book goes on – accurate drawings of rare Hawker types, a list of their Test Pilots, a production summary of aircraft (from which we find that 1,042 Harts and 14,533 Hurricanes were built – how many are left?). Search, and the book will tell you. Mr. Mason has truly done a stupendous research task. Incidentally, it is always nice to see pictures of Hawker (and Sopwith) aeroplanes because the Byfleet banking at Brooklands invariably forms a nostalgic background!

It is particularly interesting to come upon a picture of a 1921 Hawker light car in Canbury Park Road, Kingston, and perhaps car-historians will reveal its specification. There is a fine picture of the old Sopwith offices at this address, and the picture of a solid-tyred Leyland lorry towing a Horsley fuselage to Brooklands from Kingston reminds us of how empty the roads were in those days. It is interesting to have full details of the 1,100-c.c. Hawker Cygnet biplane, built for the 1924 Lympne Light Aeroplane contests and weighing only 373 lb. Or you may prefer reading of the P.1127 – no weights Or performance data yet released for this revolutionary vertical take-off fighter! And naturally the entire Hurricane story is there for the reading.

Even if there were no text at all, the cost would be less than 2d. a picture and in view of the extent of the coverage this is a book no true aviation enthusiast or student can afford to leave in the bookshop.

“Veteran and Vintage Motor Cycles,” by James Sheldon. 208 pp. 8 9/10 in. x 5 4/5 in. (B. T. Batsford, Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge Street, London, W.1.  30s.)

From the prolific Batsford motoring press comes another of their beautifully printed and illustrated text books which form a quick introduction to particular aspects of the motoring scene – in this case the background of veteran and vintage motorcycles which are so admirably catered for “in the metal” by the virile V.M.C.C.

Possibly a better title would have been “The Development of the Motor Cycle,” for knowledgeable James Sheldon outlines the place in history that famous machines occupied in contemporary times rather than their subsequent fortunes in the hands of collectors and keen present-day restorers, (although existing machines get occasional mention and the author has some interesting views on the correct age for motorcycles to qualify as veterans). And he includes a chapter on modern mounts.This book is eminently readable, from the first chapter about the pioneers of 1839-93, through subsequent chapters on “clip-ons.” passenger motorcycles, experimental mounts, the “vintage long-tanks,” and models of 1926-30. It has the standard Batsford page headings and illustrations, cross-references to lead the student along, and the pictures, whether photographic reproductions or line drawings, are, of course, splendidly done.

This is neither personal reminiscence, except for very brief interludes, nor a make-by-make history. Rather is it an introduction to the vintage years of the motorcycle movement and, as such, a reminder that a great deal of motorcycle history and reminiscence remains to be written. For this book cannot, by its very nature, escape from being somewhat superficial; so many makes and types have to be mentioned that each gets but scanty attention.

Take the chapter on “The Cycle-Car.” There is only a superficial attempt to define the gulf between simple cyclecar and small car in miniature (reference to Iliffe’s The Light Car as rival to Temple Press’ The Cyclecar would have helped) and while the i.f.s. of the Matchless 3-wheeler is described, the Morgan pioneered coil-spring i.f.s. is not. In fact, this chapter is typical, in that it is a list of representative models about which some of the salient facts are left out, such as that the Castle-3 had an epicyclic gearbox and, originally, a disc brake, or that the Day was a homebuilt machine.

But if “Veteran and Vintage Motor Cycles” packs a little about a lot between its covers, it serves as a guide to student-members of the V.M.C.C. and a quick reference for old-timers whose grey-matter has become tinged with red-rust, while affluent Scott lovers will buy it just for its lovely dust-jacket…

CARS IN BOOKS

This feature resolutely refuses to lie down. The most recent discoveries are, from “Pen to Paper,” by Pamela Frankau (Heinemann, 1961), that Gilbert Frankau was running, up to the outbreak of the Second World War, “a Bentley with a spotless white hood” which he sold for £50 in 1939, and that the authoress was addicted to hiring Daimlers. The major part of this book is devoted to the art of novel writing and I am pleased that Pamela Frankau deplores the use of the word “airplane” for “aeroplane ” (C. G. Grey, of whom I was one of the staunchest admirers, was of the same opinion and wrote at length on the matter when he was Editor of The Aeroplane, although I cannot now recall how he played down the logic of the former for the nostalgia of the latter). But to this day I use “aircraft” for modern flying machines and aeroplane for vintage ones – “airplane,” never. After the war, towards the end, Gilbert Frankau, we learn, drove an “old car (it would, we agreed, have been called ‘antiquated’ in one of our earlier novels)” but Pamela Frankau doesn’t reveal its make.

There are references to drives in Edwardian cars in “A Victorian Diarist” (John Murray, 1946) which Mary Lady Monkswell, whose opinion of Brooklands is quoted on page 4 of “The History of Brooklands Motor Course” (Grenville, 1957), enjoyed. For instance, in those days, when one’s host sent a motor to fetch his guests, there was a drive from Ashley Combe, Lady Lovelace’s place, near Porlock, to Sir Thomas Acland’s place, Holnicote, and on to Cleeve Abbey and Dunster Castle, home of Mr. and Mrs. Luttrell. The run to Oare “involved a dangerous and characteristic drive, three-quarters of it at foot’s pace; – up through woods, fir forest, and past Yearnon Moor Lodge, then two miles of the road to Lynton and you turn down a steep road, and run some three or four hundred feet into the valley below. We crossed a charming, clear, rapid stream, – the Bagworthy (pronounced Baggery) … passed the grey moor Church, where ‘John Ridd’ was married to ‘Lorna Doone,’ and went along an incredibly narrow lane, half-a-mile to the Rectory.” Try that drive, today!

In 1907 Lady Monkswell wrote of her first long motor drive – “I am not at all afraid of a motor,” so, wearing ten shawls of Lady Pollock’s whose car was to take them down to Box Hill to see George Meredith, they “flew down the Uxbridge Road, over Hammersmith Bridge, and through Richmond Park – in all its spring beauty – out at the Kingston Gate … through Kingston and in a very short time I found myself in the familiar little town of Leatherhead. A few minutes and we passed Juniper Hill and were set down in the lane at the foot of Box Hill.” The journey out and back occupied but three hours. In 1909, Palace Yard, during the debate on the Finance Bill, “was one mass of motors; very few carriages.” There are references to Bleriot and Lord Brabazon’s aeroplanes but, alas, the book never quotes the makes of the cars, except, in the case of an accident in which the Farrar’s. chauffeur-driven 10-h.p. Decauville ran into a shut gate on an S-bend on a drive from Ingleborough, near Carlisle, and the Shuttleworth’s at Barbon, Lord Monkswell breaking his arm, which brought an inquiry from the King.