I have always had a fascination with Brooklands still love to visit as often as possible. It invariably brings back floods of memories.
Mike’s article on the air booking office earlier this week set the old brain cells whirring and I recollected a day many years ago when I was asked to do a picture feature on Barnes Wallis for The Guardian. The occasion was, I think, the 30th anniversary of the successful Dambuster’s raid on the Ruhr-valley dams on May 16/17 in 1943. If I’m right that places the story in 1973. The raid made use of the special bouncing bomb which had been developed at Brooklands in 1942 by Barnes Wallis.
Sir Barnes Wallis was a director of Vickers and still worked several days a week in his office, which was the old timekeepers tower above the club room. At that time the museum had not even even been thought of.
This was also during the Cold War and the Vickers factory and Brooklands itself were top-secret places shrouded in all sorts of security. However while doing the photographs for the newspaper I discovered that Vickers were allowing a small number of great Brooklands racers of the past to hold a very private reunion that coming weekend. With help from Barnes Wallis I wangled a pass to go to it for myself and my youngest son, Peter. In a twist of fate, incidentally, Peter ended up marrying a German girl and he now lives in Germany not all that far from the targeted dams.
The track was still complete 44 years ago when these pictures were taken and the gathering turned out to be a truly wonderful occasion, with characters such as the 1920s ‘Bentley Boys’ and other blasts from the past. The rather poor low-resolution scans are all I can find now, but they serve to create atmosphere and give us a taste of what Brooklands looked like in the days before it became a museum.
i am not exactly sure, but I think these pictures were taken with an Olympus OM1.
Editor’s note: The Brooklands banked circuit near the town of Weybridge in Surrey (and approximately 25 miles south west of London) was built in 1907 as the world’s first dedicated motor racing track. Between the wars it was synonymous with car and motorcycle racing but also had a long heritage in the world of flying. It closed on the opening of hostilities in 1939 and was never reopened. The track and grounds were commandeered by the Government and became a top-secret aircraft and bomb development centre. Eventually a small portion of the track and the area around the old clubhouse and start/finish straight were turned into what is now the very successful Brooklands Museum. The rest of the area has become an industrial park — there is even a Tesco superstore with yet another section of the famous banked track looming over the carpark. The video below, courtesy of Brooklands Museum, shows what is left of the course after 110 years.
- All photographs in this article © Don Morley
- You can read more about Don Morley here.
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