Fam­ily hol­i­days

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - MOTOR HISTORY -

The cars ap­pear to have had a lib­er­at­ing ef­fect on fam­ily hol­i­days. Prior to them own­ing a car, va­ca­tions in­volved a train ride and then a horse and car­riage ride to a ho­tel. Jour­neys by rail were lin­ear. With the car they were able to travel di­rectly to their desti­na­tion, which then al­lowed them to go on daily drives to beauty spots that, pre­vi­ously, would have been im­pos­si­ble to visit in a day.

My grand­fa­ther’s log­books echo the new ro­man­ti­cism that had crept into mid­dle­class cul­ture, a self-con­scious re­vis­it­ing of Bri­tain first painted and de­scribed in the early 19th cen­tury by Turner, Wordsworth et al, ‘ dis­cov­er­ers’ of the beauty of na­ture. What Turner, for ex­am­ple, painted, they vis­ited in their cars. Old ru­ins,, abbeys,y, cas­tles and nat­u­ral won­ders be­came des­ti­na­tions for the fam­ily and listed in the logs. Th­ese doc­u­ments show that fam­ily hol­i­days, which had al­ways been grand and lengthy affairs even be­fore car own­er­ship, be­came more fre­quent and more am­bi­tious. Drives through the Scot­tish Bor­ders, the Lake District, Nor­folk and North Wales were all de­tailed by Ber­tram be­tween 1907 and 1909. In be­tween, , We usu­ally imag­ine the Bri­tish army dur­ing the First World War as hide­bound and afraid of new tech­nol­ogy, yet it ended the war as one of the most mech­a­nised armies in the world. Some, at least, of the thanks for this is due to the work of en­thu­si­as­tic pri­vate mo­torists, who went on to form the Mo­tor Vol­un­teer Corps dur­ing the war it­self.

Mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­asts were al­ways keen to pro­mote their hobby and, in 1909, Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers do­nated their time and more than 100 mo­tor cars to carry 600 sol­diers from Lon­don to Hast­ings to prove that men could be trans­ported safely to counter for­eign in­va­sion. It was judged a huge suc­cess.

In 1912, two vol­un­teers de­signed and built the first mo­bile cater­ing ve­hi­cle for the army. Hot soup and stew for 400 men were ready the mo­ment it ar­rived in camp re­ported the mo­tor­ing press. Lon­don bus crews were asked to vol­un­teer in Au­gust 1914 and took their buses to France to trans­port troops. Other pri­vate cit­i­zens took their ve­hi­cles to France to act as mo­tor am­bu­lances.

Back home, mo­tor car own­ers vol­un­teered their cars to help the army and be­gan car­ry­ing mes­sages, trans­port­ing ca­su­al­ties and tak­ing wounded in­valids for day trips. They paid for their own ve­hi­cles, tyres and petrol (which was later sub­sidised) and re­ceived no pay. They were of­fi­cially in­cor­po­rated as the Mo­tor Vol­un­teer Corps in Au­gust 1917. Many a young Army Ser­vice Corps ( Me­chan­i­cal Trans­port) of­fi­cer must have started his ca­reer as a vol­un­teer! Phil To­maselli drives around the Cheshire coun­try­side to places like Bee­ston Cas­tle or Lit­tle More­ton Hall be­came very much the norm. The car be­fore 1914 was, for the middle-class elite, a ve­hi­cle for the dis­cov­ery of Bri­tain.

Own­ing or driv­ing one of th­ese early mo­tor cars was ex­cit­ing but also fraught with tech­ni­cal chal­lenges. My grand­fa­ther noted that on one oc­ca­sion, while driv­ing the 15 Hum­ber on a fam­ily day out around Cheshire in June 1909, he had five punc­tures, each of which re­quired ei­ther a tube be­ing re­paired or a new one fit­ted.

The very first punc­ture was over­come with the aid of a ‘step­ney wheel’, a kind of spare tyre that the driver at­tached to the rim of the punc­tured tyre. This drive raises one of the other prob­lems fac­ing early mo­torists, namely the ab­sence of tar­ma­cked roads. In the sum­mer months, ru­ral res­i­dents fre­quently com­plained about the dust kicked up by mo­torists driv­ing too fast through their vil­lages. This led to com­plaints in Cheshire and en­thu­si­as­tic po­lice speed traps in the Lake District.

An­other pe­cu­liar­ity of early mo­tor­ing, which my grand­fa­ther noted in pass­ing, was that own­ers of­ten went to the fac­tory to pick up their new cars or even to have them re­paired. Writ­ing of the 15 Hum­ber, he re­called: “An­other run was to Coven­try, leav­ing home at 5 o’clock in the morn­ing. This jour­ney was to take the car for re­pairs to the Hum­ber Works, as se­cond speed

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