most boys growing up in the thirties I was very air minded.
These were great days in aviation with almost monthly long distance
record flights, England had recently won the Schneider Trophy outright
while in the military field an exciting
new brand of fast monoplanes was replacing the lumbering old
biplanes of yore.
had an extra reason to be interested.
My father had flown in WW1 first with the Royal Flying Corps and
after 1st April 1918 with the newly formed RAF.
I was born only ten years after he rejoined civvy street and became
a headmaster of a typical village school but I can still recall the tales
he and his contemporaries told of the war in the trenches and the air
above, sitting around chatting in those pre-TV evenings. From him I learnt
to recognise aircraft by type and understand what made one fly.
built model aeroplanes, some of which actually flew, not for long but far
enough to encourage me into thinking of a career in flying.
Then inevitably Europe erupted into war again and although too
young to take part, I found myself a sergeant in my father`s ATC squadron
with no thoughts of anything except that day when I could falsify my age
and bluff my way into the RAF.
Luckily for me an atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and I was
saved. In recent years
it has become fashionable to question the morality of this act but I do
not think it was questioned by those of us who would have been faced with
long and bloody battles storming “Fortress Japan”.
on balance I had a good war often learning my Latin verbs in the air raid
shelter, fire watching, and enjoying free flying courtesey of the USAAF
whose members were not much older than we schoolboys and did not know who
we were in our ATC uniforms. But,
it had its darker moments, like in the early days learning first aid
including instruction on laying out the dead bodies with which authority
thought we should be surrounded within minutes of the declaration and
later being machine gunned in the garden by a low flying JU88. Apart from
an occasional outing to nearby Cadwell Park as a spectator I really had
little interest in motor racing until the war ended, at which time there
seemed little point in making the RAF my career and father gave me £5 for
passing School Certificate. At
the same time my Uncle, a much less staid character than my parents, and a
former motorcyclist found me a 1926 BSA that I could buy for that sum My
life changed, I bought the bike, restored it learning the rudiments of how
it all worked, learnt to ride in the school playground and nearby fields
that were near Rattlesden school and on 23 January 1946 the day I was 16.
took to the roads.
though without a war the idea of a career in the air force became less
attractive leaving me to replan my life.
At the same time a motor cycling uncle found a very second hand
bike for me which I bought with the fiver my father gave me for passing
School Certificate. I
guess father was little taken aback by this as he had never had much to do
with bikes and supposed that my scholastic prize would go towards a
history book to further my studies. Now
I’d always enjoyed history – and still do – but when it was a toss
up between Piers Plowman or a 20 year old BSA “Round tank” 250 there
was no contest.
most young men I loved that first motorcycle.
I rebuilt it – several times – learnt to ride in the field next
door and took to the roads the day I was 16 and for the next four years
enjoyed the freedom that only comes from two wheels.
Lessons were there to be learnt, sometimes painfully.
The art of motor dealing came easily when the BSA became a Sunbeam,
the Sunbeam became an ex-WD Triumph which in turn became my first of a
series of Velocettes. My
dabbling in competitions taught me that at last with the help of an engine
I could do what I had never been able to do at any sport – win!
also learnt that no matter how much I may have enjoyed my bikes my lack of
ability as a mechanic would always be a drawback but worse than that my
poor sense of balance would prevent me being really successful. So an
extra wheel to keep me upright seemed logical step.
First there was a sidecar attached to my Norton but that was an art
I never mastered and then a Morgan Threewheeler that reverted to two
wheels whenever a corner appeared.
future pointed towards four wheels.
thought of racing or indeed any other kind of motor sport on FOUR wheels
had never entered my head as a boy. I’d
been to motor cycle racing at nearby Cadwell Park
and I believe I was taken to Donington when the Mercs and Auto
Unions competed but sadly don’t remember much about it.
We were certainly a motoring family and I cannot remember when I
could not drive a car having spent many happy hours manoeuvring father’s
Austin 10 around the schoolyard as soon as I was big enough to reach the
controls – and then with the aid of lots of cushions.
these were the days of the “Right crowd and no crowding” when everyone
driving in a motor race or even just in the paddock had a title or lots of
money or usually both. What
was the son of a poorly paid
schoolmaster doing in this company?
for me the war had brought a big change into the racing scene.
a start more people could drive, having been trained in the services, so
when they returned to normal life they still craved some adventure.
The same political spirit which had elected a Labour government and
chucked out the chap who had led us to victory ruled the end of pre war
conceptions about who should do what.
was also the means to go racing which had not been there before …. hosts
of disused airfields. For
four years England had been one large aircraft carrier with an aerodrome
every few miles and all of these had concrete runways and perimeter tracks
designed to accommodate the four engined aircraft of Bomber Command and
the USAAF. Laid in a
hurry it was unlikely they would last long without expensive maintenance
but who worried about the
future in the late forties. What
mattered then was that we had survived the war, there was no blackout or
blitz at nights for those of us who had fought on the home front while for
someone who had spent his formative years in the Burmese jungle or the
dangerous night skies over Germany the thought of racing an old MG or home
built Ford special was bliss.
motor clubs were appearing everywhere often with the object or organising
races or speed trials on the nearest disused airfield and anything with
four wheels and some competition potential suddenly became most desirable.
was the world into which I was suddenly thrown when a friend suggested to
me that we should go along to a public meeting that was to be held in
Cambridge with the object of founding a local motor club for townspeople
who were not eligible to be members of the old established University
Motor Club. With
amazing originality we called the new club the Cambridge 50 Car Club –
it being 1950 – and although I kept a low profile at first it wasn’t
long before I became competition secretary and editor of the monthly news
letter as well as being a keen competitor.
organised an event of some sort every month and so did the nearby Bedford
Enthusiasts, the Falcon (Hertfordshire) and the Eastern Counties to name
but a few so without travelling far we had a wide choice of events every
week end. We did them all,
rapidly gaining experience in forms of motor sport but not daring to move
up to anything greater like the Daily Express Races at Silverstone, the
RAC rally or even the Lands End trial which we continued to dream about.
Some of us ever dreamed of racing abroad on great tracks we had only read
did I know that in the next 20 years I should do all this – and a lot