Volunteer Stories - Andy Lambert
09 May 2020
We are back with another of our Volunteer Stories. This time we have a long read by Andy Lambert.
Most recent volunteers (less than ten years) know me as the bloke who does the odd video about Brooklands, only those who have been here much longer have any idea about how I was involved in recovering and filming the arrival of most of the Museum major exhibits, and even less idea how it all started. So for those who are interested in the background here is the intriguing story. It all started back in the seventies when I was MD of the National Rescue Group.
Meeting Tim Harrison
NRG was the main garage used by the Police for light and heavy recovery after an accident, covering the A3 from Ripley to Tibbets Corner, including the Kingston Bypass. Often we would get the ‘press’ turn up at the compound after serious accidents or those involving a ‘personality’. We would let them take photographs on the understanding we got a mention in the article. Well, those of you who have had dealings with the media will know that they promise you the earth, but then give you nothing back.
People who live around Kingston or Surbiton will probably be aware of the popular playwright, journalist and author Tim Harrison. Back in the 70s’, Tim was just a struggling young reporter for the Surrey Comet who had the misfortune to ask if he could get a story (I think it may have been after Ringo Starr overturned his Mercedes at Robin Hood Gate).
He was politely told no but then had the gall to ask why. I explained the facts of life to him only for him to say “but I am not like the rest!” he promised me that if I let him cover the story he would give NRG a mention. He even pointed out, that because of our connection with the police, we were often able to tell him the inside story. Next, he said, “you could even get a camera and take the photos at the scene of the incident”.
The next day a pack of 35m Black and White film appeared on my desk, leading to the start of a beautiful friendship that still exists today. However, even more importantly, it started an era of the Surrey Comment getting exclusive frontline pictures and National Rescue getting lots of publicity. The usual line was “A Spokesmen for National Rescue said” followed by some statement like “it was a very difficult recovery but we have the expertise to deal with it”. After each incident, my partly used roll of film would be collected and replaced with another.
Moving to Brooklands
This led me to start reading books on photography to develop my skills. I also began to photograph recovery jobs so we could discuss them afterwards and see if there may have been a better way to have dealt with it. In late 1983 my brother and I decided to open a branch of NRG at Brooklands ready to cover the soon to open M25. It was not long after we opened that a certain Mike Goodall from what would become Brooklands Museum came calling and asking if we could offload some aviation engines.
By this time I had moved on with photography and was filming the more interesting accidents (after we had got the B/W shoots for the Comet of course) and so I filmed this, at the time for no other reason than it was something a little different. Now all these years on I wish I had done much more filming, but of course, it never occurred to me that in years to come people would love to look back at the Museums formative years.
In the months that followed we helped out the Museum with collecting the odd item. Then in 1988, there was a summer party at the Brooklands Control Tower building (which at the time was NRG’s Head Office) where I meet a new staff arrival at the Museum, one Julian Temple. He explained how much the Museum appreciated all the site clearance and collections we had been doing for them and wondered how I felt about recovering an aircraft by road! NRG had already acted as a roadblock for the arrival of the VC10 and had unloaded the Valiant Cockpit section, but to go to Cambridgeshire and recover a complete aircraft was indeed a scary proposition.
However, with help and guidance from our friends at Savile Freight we did it. In the next two years, we recovered the Museum’s Hunter, Viscount and Viking as well as a couple of Beagles, all of which I filmed for posterity. These Museum ‘freebie jobs’ continued with NRG’s help until I retired as MD, at which point my brother took the decision to stop being involved in heavy recovery and sold off the kit.
Subsequently, I have had to rely on friends and connections within the heavy recovery industry to let us use their kit and that is how most of Concorde and more recently the Hawk got to the Brooklands Museum and of course, I filmed all those jobs as well.
The National Rescue AEC Militant Turntable crane stayed with me as part of my retirement settlement. I based her at the Museum, where she still works regularly on Brooklands based projects.
I keep saying one day I will put together a presentation telling the inside story of how we acquired some of these major exhibits. However in the meantime, if you want to see some of the 500 plus Videos I have made please go to www.andysvideo.com where you will find them broken down into playlist covering the different categories.
The images show The arrival of that first recovery - the Varsity in 1988. Collecting the Viscount Cockpit 1996. Sir Peter Masefield, HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Geoff Lambert and Andy Lambert during a naming ceremony at Brooklands.