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Bert Hadley


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#1 Ian McKean

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Posted 10 February 2003 - 16:08

I posted some info about 'Bert' Hadley in the Huschke von Hanstein thread recently and feel that his achievements deserve a thread of their own!

I just found a fascinating reminiscence by Hadley at http://www.vintage-r...elsleywalsh.htm It seems that Hadley believed he could actually beat May's outright record at Shelsley with only 750 c.c's with a little more development.

I hope the vintage-racingcars.com people won't mind if I place an extract here to lure more readers to view the complete article.

IFMcK


"I suppose that June, 1937, was to prove a high point in my efforts at Shelsley. In the thirties there was a tendency for 'works' teams to invite guest drivers from Italy and Germany in the belief that they had supernatural powers which were absent from British drivers. This was, of course, absolute nonsense -as the results proved. For this meeting at Shelsley, the German driver Walter Baumer had been brought over specially from the 'Fatherland' to drive Charlie Dodson's car and presumably to show us all how it should be done!

On the first runs, my time was two seconds better than Baumer's, which surprised me as I had not expected to have such a large margin. Walter complained, saying that I had the best car, different ratios, etc., etc., and in the resultant exchanges the works interpreter was vociferously pro-Baumer. Eventually I intervened saying "Right -change the seat and throttle pedal (since both were to my liking) and I will drive Baumer's car for the second run". At that point he climbed down very smartly with bags of apologies. Since I knew both cars were identical, I was not very happy about what had been said, not so much with Baumer but with the works interpreter.

I think that I improved on my time for the second run whilst Walter did not. I had no feelings of animosity towards Walter Baumer, in fact I liked him and kept in touch with him until 1939. Later on, during the same meeting one of our mechanics overheard a conversation between Lord Austin and Bill Sewell who acted as our Team Manager/ Adviser, etc. Austin was furious asking "Why had we paid this man Baumer all that money when Hadley wiped the floor with him?" Bill, a man of military bearing and a former officer in the Border Regiment, was not usually noted for aggressive responses but on this occasion hit back. He said, "Why ask me? You brought him over!" I could understand Lord Austin's annoyance concerning payments to Baumer, for this was an area where he was noted for unique shrewdness. Having lashed out, Bill was obviously worried, possibly thinking that his name would have disappeared from his office door the following Monday. Bill was an Ex-Ford Company man, where it appeared that that sort of thing was an everyday happening. He survived!

After the meeting Lord Austin sent for me and said I had done very well and my efforts were of great value to the Company. I remember thinking at the time: "How do I spend that?" As if to read my thoughts, he passed a sealed envelope across the desk to me with a rare smile. I was pleasantly surprised to find it contained a cheque of considerable value.

Not everybody got on well with Lord Austin, I did -most of the time! Perhaps that was because I had been taught to be respectful but not to be toady. This was a tendency which I had noticed on the part of those members of the management who appeared in Lord Austin's office when I happened to be there. 'The Boss' voiced his displeasure in his own way and I realised that it was not necessarily a good thing, from my point of view, to be present at such times.

Although I cannot recall Baumer ever driving for us at Shelsley again, he was lent a 'works' car for certain events in Germany including the Freiburg Hill Climb where he did well. Perhaps the competition was easier! However all this ended when he made a really ghastly mistake by sending the car home to Long bridge with its tail simply plastered with swastikas. This was silly for things were already getting difficult with the Munich crisis so much in the news. At this time Walter was engaged by Mercedes as a cadet driver but somehow he did not make the first team. Obviously, I lost touch with him when war started and heard nothing until a few years ago when I met Hermann Lang at a Mercedes Press Day at Donington Park. Of the pre-war generation of German drivers I always regarded Lang and Rosemeyer as really exceptional. It was from Hermann Lang, who has since died, that I learned what had happened to Baumer. It seems he was driving a Tatra Vee-8 which left the road at high speed as a result of sabotage. This was during the war; Baumer was killed.

Talking to Lang was an interesting experience as I knew that he had graduated to racing at Mercedes in a similar pattern to myself, albeit in a higher league with greater opportunity. Lang had been an apprentice at Mercedes, I had been an apprentice at Austins. During his apprenticeship he entered the Experimental Racing Department. I was very lucky to be chosen for the same department at Long Bridge. There I suppose the similarity of patterns changed. Hermann Lang found himself in a racing situation backed by a German Government which was infamous in its later activities but which enabled Lang to become Master of the Grand Prix scene in 1939, a year in which he was practically unbeatable."

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#2 Marcor

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 01:44

The link to vintage-racingcars article doesn't run, here's the good one:
http://www.vintage-r...elsleywalsh.htm

#3 Ian McKean

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 09:55

Thanks, Marcor. It seems the problem was that my full stop at the end of the sentence was assumed to be part of the URL. I have corrected it now and shall have to remember this in future.

Here are some photos of the overhead cam Austin racer as driven by Hadley and others.

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The car appears to have zero camber on the front wheels unlike most contemporaries, and the front track apppears to be wider than on the the side-valve version shown below.

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#4 Tim Murray

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 10:25

What a great shame that Austin never proceeded with the Jamieson-designed 1500 cc car mentioned by Hadley in the full article. I suspect it would have made ERAs obsolete overnight, and who knows what it might have achieved against Maserati, Alfa 158 etc.

#5 Doug Nye

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 15:32

Bert was a wonderful bloke - an exceptionally gifted driver in his period. He was extremely friendly and helpful to me in the 1970s and I will always regret never having got around to capturing his wonderful recollection on tape. After his wife died he seemed to lose any will to go on...and just (as he would have put it) conked out.

DCN

#6 Ian McKean

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 16:15

It has been written that had WW2 intervened he would have become a become a professional driver and joined a continental team for 1940, but I have not discovered which one. Can anyone shed any more light on this?

IFMcK