The Brooklands Great War 100 Report 2015

01 October 2015

After last year’s fantastic inaugural Great War 100 - which coincided with the centenary - this year the line-up of vehicles, demonstrations and re-enactment groups that filled the Museum site on a clear, sunny day was even better.

The Paddock featured some beautiful examples of pre-1919 vehicles including Ken Prichard-Jones’s 1907 ‘Wols-It’ – a 10ltr 4-cylinder Wolseley-Siddeley “Coppa Florio Racer” and John Kennedy’s 1913 Rolls Royce Alpine Silver Ghost (R 827) which won the Alpine Trials that year with aviator James Radley at the wheel. Next to these were a Buick E49 from 1918, Sir Gerald Acher’s Talbot 12hp CBX 2 Seater Tourer and Nick Pellett’s Newton Bennett Tourer, both from 1914.

Towering above the cars were three lorries from the period: a beautifully restored Pierce Arrow lorry complete with mounted gun and shells owned by early commercial vehicle enthusiast Norman Grundon which contrasted with a barn find example of an early Renault truck and a huge Saurer.

At 11.30am, it was time for aero-engine runs. First up was the Sopwith Camel whose original 1917 Clerget engine started up on the first spin, thanks to the expert arm of Andrew Lewis and primer Martin Strick. Next, after a huge amount of commitment and many days of preparation from Museum staff, Volunteers and associates including John La Noue – who built the aircraft - John Charles, Steve Green and Martin Strick, the mighty Vimy burst into life. Sat in the cockpit were Clive Edwards and Peter Hoar who ran both engines in front of a startled crowd for a full fifteen minutes. This was the aircraft’s first public demonstration since 2009 and did not disappoint after so many man hours of work.

The Race Bays were filled with a sizzling array of original pre-1919 motorcycles. Sourced through the excellent contacts of the Museum Motorcycle Team, Martin Gegg in particular, it included a 1915 Jap-engined 300cc Calthorpe kindly brought from the London Motorcycle Museum, a Triumph Model H first introduced in 1915 and Edwin Gibbard’s 2 ¾hp Douglas, typical of early motorcycles that were procured by the War Office for escorting convoys. Also lining the bays was an Auto-Fauteuil from 1904 along with New Imperials, Triumphs and Royal Enfields. The totally original ‘oily rag’ condition Blackburne TT Sports of owner Rick Parkington was a head turner as was the Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Military motorcycle with sidecar and Vickers machine gun. This was on kind loan from Bovington Tank Museum and is an extremely rare example from 1916. The gun was built by Vickers, Sons and Maxim, part of the Vickers armourments empire.

After the Vickers Vimy engines came to a majestic standstill, visitors made their way over to the Campbell Car Park to watch the slalom demonstrations from the motorcycles. This was an homage 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.

At 1.15pm, the cars made their way across to Mercedes-Benz World for some laps on the circuit. After half an hour, the cavalcade returned to the Museum site just ahead of the motorcycles who were preparing for the Race Starts at the bottom of the Finishing Straight. They rode in twos and threes up to the Banking and under Members’ Bridge to the end of the stretch and back to the start.

Gracing the grass areas of the Paddock were re-enactor groups representing WWI infantry. These included Nimy Company whose cause is dedicated to keeping alive the memory of 4th Bn Royal Fusiliers and, by the railings, the 10th Essex Living History Group set up camp with personnel in military uniform and equipment. Number one on their Lewis Gun from 1915 was Robin Young who answered ‘Sir’ whenever he was asked a question by inquisitive visitors. Occupying the Press Hut and with their incredible display of medical instruments and first aid equipment were Muriel and Andrew Morgan from Dover. Along with their Whippet ‘Clementine’ who wore her Red Cross vest, they displayed an original Thomas splint of the type used in combat along with blood transfusion kits and syringes.