Monday, April 25, 2011

Tragedy at Brooklands


I have known for a long time that my Uncle Ted (Edward Lionel Allery) was killed at the age of 28 at the Brooklands Motor Course, Weybridge, Surrey on Friday, 9 May 1930. Edward was the second eldest son of Walter Frederick Allery and Harriet Priscilla Wright, and my Dad's brother. What I did not know were the circumstances of his death, the lead up to the crash, and the fact that it made headlines in all the major newspapers of the time.

Thanks to some family history writing from my cousin Trevor, I now have the story and copies of the newspaper articles that describe the tragic accident. Among the paper Trevor shared with me were pictures of the Allery brothers at a very early age; pictures I had never seen before.

Cecil, Ted, Bill and Reg (Cecil, Edward, William and Reginald) were motor car enthuisiasts and would often attend the car racetrack at Brooklands. Both Ted and Cec, (the Allery brothers as they were called) were both employed at the Fox and Nicholl Ltd, a motor car company situated at the Tolworth Roundabout on the newly built Kingston by-pass, in Surbiton, Surrey. They were both involved in the development of the new Talbot 90 racing car – the Talbot 70 Sports.

Fox and Nicholl entered three Talbot racing cars for the Double Twelve race at Brooklands on 9 May 1930. Arthur Fox chose a small team of mechanics to work on getting them ready for the race, including Ted and Cec, and Ted was chosen to ride as mechanic on car no. 22 in the race itself, and this was the beginning of the events leading up to his tragic death.

The driver of no. 22, Lieutenant-Colonel C.E.C. Rabagliati, took evasive action late in the first day of the Double Twelve Hour Race and in braking too hard, the Talbot skidded into the path of the other Talbot. Hebeler, driving the other Talbot, at a speed of 100 mph, hit the skidding Talbot broadside and sent it flying into the spectator's arena over iron railings. Ted Allery, flung half out of the car, had been impaled on the railings and killed instantly. Rabalgliati was badly injured and was taken to Webridge hospital where a silver plate would be inserted in the back of his head to repair a fractured skull. A spectator, F.C.Hurworth was also killed, and some twenty spectators suffered horrific injuries.

Several newspapers reported the tragedy in the May 10th editions, listing the dead and injured. A Daily Mail reporter interviewed my Dad, Cecil Allery, who was present at the Brooklands accident. He was reported as saying:

"I wish he had never gone in for motor racing. I had a premonition that something like this would happen. Ted and I started a little motoring business toegether a little while ago."
The Daily Mail reported that Mr Edward Allery, the mechanic who was killed, lived with his widowed mother, brothers and sister at a bungalow, where he had a 'workshop' in which he was nearly always engaged on motor engines. He was 28. A picture of Ted in Naval uniform featured in the article.

The Brooklands Race Crash made front page news in the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Sketch and the Daily Express on Saturday, May 10, 1930. 

An account of the accident was written graphically in the book ‘Georges Roesch and the invincible Talbot’ by Anthony Blight. In this book a full history of the development of the Talbot at Fox and Nicholls is related in every technical and mechanical detail – a real good read for anyone ‘into car racing’. There is also some detail of the inquest and court case held soon after and how this accident at Brooklands changed the rules of racing forever. And, according to the author, ‘ the race marked the end of the golden era of motor racing, for from that moment onwards factory support began to dwindle and was never again to reach the same massive proportions.

Whilst searching for other details about Uncle Ted, I noticed at Ancestry.com a link to the England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941 record for Edward Lionel Allery.

ALLERY Edward Lionel of Rose Nook, Hook-road Surbiton, Surrey  died 9 May 1930 at Brooklands Motor Course Webridge, Surrey.  Administration  London  3 July to Harriet Priscilla Allery widow, Effect 1000 pounds. Resworn  Nil.

Interestingly, cousin Trevor relates that, ‘it was at Brooklands that Ted met Derrick Wilson, who also raced motorcycles at Brooklands. They became great friends and Derrick eventually married Ted’s sister Imee.  Trevor’s dad was William (Bill) Allery – Ted’s younger brother – and he regrets that he could no longer retrieve any further information from either Bill or Derrick, both now deceased. Trevor wrote his story in July 2005, as a tribute to Ted, a man he would have been proud to have known.

I am writing this story in honour of both Ted (an Uncle I never knew) and Cecil (my father) who was born on April 25, now commemorated as ANZAC day in Australia.

For a full account of the Tragedy at Brooklands visit: Daily Herald, Saturday, May 10, 1930 

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