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Brooklands Great War Day 2016

28 September 2016

Brooklands Museum’s third annual “Great War 100” day on Sunday 25th September highlighted the expanded role of Brooklands in 1916 and the rapid expansion of aircraft production.

The first true Vickers fighter to go into production at Brooklands was the Gunbus, the world’s first aircraft specifically designed to mount a machine gun.This was followed towards the end of the war by the twin-engined Vimy, a long-range bomber. The Museum’s replica Vickers Vimy was back on display for the day, in its new purpose-built pavilion.

Gracing the grass areas of the Paddock were living history groups representing World War One infantry. These included Nimy Company whose cause is dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and, by the railings, the 10th Essex Living History Group set up camp with personnel in military uniform and equipment. Next to them was ‘Agatha’ the Ford Model T Ambulance, part of a display commemorating the role of First Aid Yeomanry Corps during World War One.

On the grass opposite ,Surrey Heritage were busy throughout the day talking to the public about their Heritage Lottery-Funded project, Surrey in theGreat War: A County Remembers. Also in the Paddock was a selection of stunning pre-1919 vehicles including John Dennis’s 1902 Dennis Tonneau P. 26 and a 1905 Rolls Royce Light 20. The car is one of only two surviving examples of the model, making it one of the earliest surviving Rolls-Royce vehicles.

At 11am the site roared to life with the sound of the Sopwith Camel’s original 1917 Clerget engine starting up on the first spin, with the 1940 Bellman Hangar acting as a fitting backdrop. After the Clerget engine had spun to a halt visitors made their way over to the Campbell Car Park to watch slalom demonstrations from the motorcycles. This was a repeat of the homage we paid last year to the race and competition events that were run here in August and September 1915. Then, they were put together by Lt Frank Houghton who utilised the circuit and its environs for the personnel stationed nearby who were missing their weekly racing fix. Originally, the supporting posts of the race bays were employed for a ‘serpentine’ slalom course – the objective being to complete the course in the slowest time.

In the Race Bays visitors could get up close and inspect the pre-1919 motorcycles that had been running. Sourced through the excellent contacts of the Museum Motorcycle Team, Martin Gegg in particular, they included a 1915 Jap-engined 300cc Calthorpe and a 1914 1000cc Zenith Gardua kindly brought from the London Motorcycle Museum. Also lining the bays was a 3hp Triumph from 1908 along with a selection of early Douglas and Humber models.

Visitors lingering in the Paddock throughout the day were entertained with fascinating and amusing demonstrations by the 10th Essex Living History Group. First, privates took a step forward for an intense bayonet training session and display of bayonet fencing. They were then followed by the officers, who donned period gear to have a go at bayonet fencing, much to the amusement of the lower ranks. The day was finished off with a second run of the Motorcycle Slalom races, the riders aptly demonstrating their skill and balance on the low-speed course.