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Dick Seaman - Spitfire pilot...


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#1 Barry Boor

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 22:32

I have just finished reading Chris Nixon's excellent biography of Dick Seaman and a thought popped into my head. (Not many do, so I have alerted the media...!)

Had Dick decided not to drive for Mercedes in 1939 (it was touch and go whether or not he did) I have this feeling that come September of that year he would have been near the front of the queue to be one of 'the few'.

Given a pilot's chances of survival, maybe his life would not have been a great deal longer than it actually was.

Pure supposition, of course.

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#2 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 22:35

With a German wife?

#3 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 22:42

I think it's almost inevitable that he would have joined the RAF, given his previous flying experience. But of course, that experience would have perhaps meant he'd (at least initially) have been earmarked as an instructor, especially since he was a (comparative) celebrity. OTOH, having a German wife would have probably caused him some serious problems ....

Was Whitney Straight one of The Few? His career might provide a few clues.

#4 Barry Boor

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 22:45

Erica was no Nazi sympathiser and would have been in England during the war - or maybe even in the States. I cannot see Dick not going into one of the services and flying seems so much more akin to driving racing cars.

You know what Piers Courage said to his father when Dad questioned the logic of going motor racing, "Well Dad, remember, you had the war....."

#5 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 February 2004 - 22:57

Nazi or not, she would have been considered an "enemy alien", especially as her father's company had links with the NSDAP through the NSKK: BMW were essentially the official German racing team after September 3rd 1939 - see the Romania threads and their participation in the 1940 Mille Miglia.

I think there's a fair chance that, until she'd been processed and cleared as anti-Nazi, she'd have been interned on the Isle of Man with all those German and Italian waiters ....

#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 00:28

As for Dick, would he have had his wife's support to go out and shoot down Germans?

Maybe he would have been put into a training squadron like Alf Barrett, thus surviving the war and going on to lead the Alfa Romeo team in 1950?

#7 Rob29

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 09:38

Originally posted by Vitesse2
Nazi or not, she would have been considered an "enemy alien", especially as her father's company had links with the NSDAP through the NSKK: BMW were essentially the official German racing team after September 3rd 1939 - see the Romania threads and their participation in the 1940 Mille Miglia.

I think there's a fair chance that, until she'd been processed and cleared as anti-Nazi, she'd have been interned on the Isle of Man with all those German and Italian waiters ....

Chapter by Erica herself,in 'Racing the Silver Arrows' by Chris Nixon, indicates that this was NOT the case,she was well treated in England,never returned to Germany after Dick's death and eventually move to the USA to start a new life.

#8 Doug Nye

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 18:45

Correct - Erica was in England during the early years of the war and indeed had a brief engagement to another English racing driver before "it was broken off"....oh dear, poor chap...

George Monkhouse used to surmise that, had he lived, Dick would certainly have pulled strings to have joined the 'millionaire's squadron' - No 601 'County of London', at Tangmere, adjacent to Goodwood (in those days Tangmere's satellite grass field, RAF Westhampnett). NotSupermarine Spitfire pilot - however - Hawker Hurricane pilot.

No 601 counted Max Aitken, Willy Rhodes-Moorhouse, American millionaire sportsman and film producer Billy Fiske, Richard Demetriadi etc amongst its pilots. Their Hurricanes were heavily engaged during the August fighting of the Battle of Britain - Demetriadi's death was commemorated by his father's gift of the land at Ditchling Beacon (a prominent high point on the South Downs range of hills) to The National Trust - Fiske's death created high-society waves on both sides of the Atlantic and he is commemorated upon a memorial plaque in St Pauls' Cathedral, London - and so on.

With Seaman's connections at the level of Earl Howe RNVR, Freddie Richmond, and elsewhere plus his flying experience and apparently A1 physical condition the little local difficulty of his recent employment and his young wife's nationality would hardly have been a consideration in that period of need. No 601's operation of Hurricanes instead of Spitfires might have been - from Seaman's viewpoint.

The basic premise I am confident is correct, however - had he lived to see the outbreak of World War 2 Dick Seaman would almost certainly have committed himself to action which he would then have been unlikely to survive. Richard Bickford - a great friend of his and of George Monkhouse - died in RAF service, baling out from the burning Halifax bomber he had been piloting, and passing through the propeller arc of an inboard engine.

DCN

#9 Ray Bell

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 18:54

That's a grisly one, Doug!

It occurs to me that little consideration has been given to the other side of this equation... the affect his survival at Spa might have had on the '1939 European Championship' thread that's been somewhat neglected lately...

#10 Stefan Ornerdal

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 20:54

----have been interned on the Isle of Man with all those German and Italian waiters ....---


Very interesting. I am very interested in history, reading loads of books every week, but I have not heard about this before.
Did you know that that one of the Allied operations immediately after the invasion of Normandy was called "Goodwood". And on the east-front, the Russians had their "Operation Bagration" to keep the enemy "off" from the western front in june 1944.

Crossroads.

Sorry, once again I go off topic in someones thread!

Stefan

#11 Doug Nye

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 21:03

One late friend - John Godfrey - was a jeweller in Grantham for many years, and he owned and restored one of the most original of all surviving ex-works Ferraris - the Scarfiotti European Mountain Champion Ferrari Dino 196SP. John was a lovely bloke and he wrote a SUPERB book on the Dino sports cars. His 21st birthday was spent in the midst of 'Operation Goodwood' in the Normandy pasture near Caen, as a gunner in a Sherman tank.

His tank commander was named Courage, and he had a son named Piers...

John recalled the blinding blue-silver flash and concussion of the 88mm shell which skewered and ignited their tank - Shermans being nicknamed 'Ronsons' by their crews after their proclivity towards catching fire as easily as a Ronson cigarette lighter. John was blown out of the wreck and found himself on his belly amongst the corn stalks. Unable to stand he dragged himself away from the burning and exploding tank using the corn stalks as hand-holds. He was casevacced home and spent months in hospital with shrapnel injuries and burns. 'Operation Goodwood' was a costly military balls-up. It provided poor John with a 21st birthday to remember....and too many of his oppos with a slot in the ground and a makeshift grave marker.

Lest we forget - Most of us here have been SO lucky...

DCN

#12 Vitesse2

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Posted 12 February 2004 - 22:07

Originally posted by Stefan Ornerdal

Very interesting. I am very interested in history, reading loads of books every week, but I have not heard about this before.
Stefan


Here's a few references for you Stefan!

http://timewitnesses.../IsleOfMan.html

http://www.24hourmus...n/ART19354.html

http://www.ku.edu/ca...1/msg00174.html

http://www.kindertra...rg/memkutt2.htm

http://www.chrisgibs...oats/page6.html

Doug: I'd forgotten that Erica was in Britain early in the war, but I do find it remarkable that she was not interned - presumably someone pulled some strings on her behalf?

#13 Doug Nye

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 10:27

When Defence Regulation 18B was introduced at the end of August 1939 - with war imminent - prime focus seems to have been upon members of the right-wing British Union, Mosley's Fascist 'Blackshirt' organisation which seemed to muddle up its anti-Bolshevism with anti-semitism and in ways not necessarily related was viewed as a possible threat as a hotbed of Nazi sympathies.

The old right of habeas corpus was suspended and anyone perceived as being likely to succour an enemy could be imprisoned by simple order of His Majesty's Government's Home Secretary - and his advisors and officials - without trial, appeal and/or hope.

Some of the British Union's most prominent members spent years in jail and/or internment camp under 18B strictures, while foreigners resident in Britain who were not passport holders or tied by marriage or otherwise regarded as being "beyond reasonable suspicion" were also detained, again without due process or appeal...as enemy aliens.

Some very prominent people - perhaps most notably from the arts - were detained in this way. Interestingly the Siamese Princes Chula and 'Bira' were perceived amongst the motor sporting world at that time as having 'funked out' from London to Rock in Cornwall - their 'funk hole' being virtually as far as possible away from the likely invasion battlegrounds in the south-east.

I have been told that this move was in fact a more comfortable alternative offered to Chula - in particular - to avoid application of the dreaded '18B'...though he subsequently became pretty energetically involved (I believe) in the Home Guard - "doing his bit...".

Several other string-pullers were given tacit alternatives in such a manner, but for the youthful widow of a prominent British racing driver - despite her family ties to German industry - I think she was regarded as being no conceivable threat. Indeed - her presence in relative comfort in England might always provide some beneficial influence upon her father, Herr Popp, and his conduct at BMW... It was a horrid time - but just like today do not assume any proper consistency in the way that even such draconian rules and regulations were asserted - nor in the degree to which they were obeyed...

DCN

#14 Vitesse2

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 12:23

Thailand was neutral until January 25th 1942, so until then Bira and Chula were aliens, but not enemy aliens. Ceril says in her book (p140) that Bira wanted to join the RAF but that he and Chula were both prohibited from joining the forces because of their diplomatic status as princes of a neutral country. It was only after protracted negotiations with the Foreign Office that they were allowed to join the Home Guard. When they were declared enemy aliens, all their radios were confiscated, only to be returned the following day after Chula had telephoned Anthony Eden. Later they were reclassified as Free Thais and pretty much left alone due to their diplomatic status.

#15 marat

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 13:56

Has someone read

"The last british hero: the mysterious death of grand prix legend Richard Seaman"
written by Phil Shirley

The synopsis in on Amazon. Strange story.

www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1840185848/qid=1076765774/br=3-2/br_lfncs_b_2/026-7726184-1890001

#16 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 16:09

As an TNF'er with a particular interest in the Silver Arrows period which includes of course Dick Seaman, I was more than a bit surprised to learn of this book from Marat's post above. Thanks for making me aware of this Marat.

I took a moment to look this title up on Amazon, and I also would like to know of any opinions regarding this book, which apparantly was published late last year.

The synopsis on Amazon is as follows:

Richard Seaman was one of Europe's leading racing drivers in the 1930s. A cocky, flamboyant daredevil in the world of Grand Prix racing, and a covert operator working for the British government on the eve of World War II, Seaman was respected by Adolf Hitler - and the target of a vendetta by Nazi Germany's most feared killers, the Gestapo. This volume exposes the connections between Seaman, Hitler's legendary Mercedes racing team, the Gestapo, the British Secret Service and the Nazi doctor who murdered Seaman following a horrific crash during the 1939 Belgium Grand Prix. Sixty years after the British government declared his death "a tragic accident", evidence about the attempted cover-up of the truth behind Seaman's fate is revealed along with details of the bitter love triangle involving Seaman's young wife and a Nazi officer, Seaman's mother's affair with Hitler's foreign minister Joachim Ribbentrop and the wild, drug-fuelled lives of the 1930s racing crowd. The book also reveals an attempt by German industrialists to prevent the discovery of Seaman's wrecked Mercedes car and race diary, believed to be buried close to his former family home in Worcestershire.

I'm almost speechless, such is my distaste for someone to write such nonsense, as this seems so far beyond any information that I have read to date from authors I greatly respect that I am forced to dismiss this book without benefit of reading a word.

I also noticed that the author, Phil Shirley wrote another questionable F1 title several years ago "Deadly Obsessions: The Faith and the Passion That Drives Formula One Racing" that had some highly negative reviews on Amazon from readers.

I can only assume that Mr. Shirley is a distant relative of Oliver Stone and/or a member of the global conspiracy ring that sees plot and subplot behind every shadow.

My apologies for the tone of this post, as it is not really my style, but this news just sends me over the edge.

#17 Tim Murray

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 18:04

Originally posted by Dennis Hockenbury
The synopsis on Amazon is as follows:

Richard Seaman was one of Europe's leading racing drivers in the 1930s. A cocky, flamboyant daredevil in the world of Grand Prix racing, and a covert operator working for the British government on the eve of World War II, Seaman was respected by Adolf Hitler - and the target of a vendetta by Nazi Germany's most feared killers, the Gestapo. This volume exposes the connections between Seaman, Hitler's legendary Mercedes racing team, the Gestapo, the British Secret Service and the Nazi doctor who murdered Seaman following a horrific crash during the 1939 Belgium Grand Prix. Sixty years after the British government declared his death "a tragic accident", evidence about the attempted cover-up of the truth behind Seaman's fate is revealed along with details of the bitter love triangle involving Seaman's young wife and a Nazi officer, Seaman's mother's affair with Hitler's foreign minister Joachim Ribbentrop and the wild, drug-fuelled lives of the 1930s racing crowd. The book also reveals an attempt by German industrialists to prevent the discovery of Seaman's wrecked Mercedes car and race diary, believed to be buried close to his former family home in Worcestershire.


:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:

At least, by visiting the Amazon site to read the above nonsense, I have found out about the new Richard Williams book on the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix. Sounds interesting . . .

Edit: Now that I've caught up with Doug's review of it in the books thread, it's been added to the 'must buy' list (the Pescara book, that is, not the Seaman one ;) ).

#18 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 21:40

In learning of this new book this morning, and the assertions made by it's author, I was completely unable to put this troubling news out of my mind while playing golf today, leading to (for me) a terrible round.

Now that I have made it home to resume my concerns over this treatment of the facts of the Seaman story, I looked up the publishers site, Mainstream Publishing. If I am understanding their information correctly, the book has not yet been published with a scheduled date of Autumn, 2004.

Perhaps as troubling in my humble view, is the news from a Mainstream press release that the film rights to this story have been sold and that a movie may be made. I cannot comprehend the influence that a film based upon this highly dubious interpretation of the real story would have upon the general public, given that a film of the real Seaman story would be more than entertaining and dramatic enough.

I can only hope that the film does not make it into production.

For those who are interested, here is the information obtained from the publisher's site.

Film contracts have finally been signed for THE LAST BRITISH HERO (working title RACE WITH THE DEVIL) Film rights have been sold to RAW films in Los Angeles. It looks like screenwriter Dennis Johnson has signed up to write the screenplay. He is one of the top 20 writers in Hollywood who became a celebrity after writing the 1970's box office smash The Haunting. It is likely that Paul Schrader will direct. He directed RAW films last Hollywood movie, Autofocus, which had a shooting budget of $14 million. World rights are still available and it will be one of our lead titles at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

In LAST BRITISH HERO Phil Shirley investigates the events surrounding the death of motor racing champion, Richard Seaman. In 1939 living a life of leisure on the international grand prix circuit Richard Seaman appeared to have it all. As the only non-German driver in the Mercedes Racing Team, which was the pride of Nazi Germany, British and US secret services approached Seaman to use his contacts to obtain information about military technical advances being carried out by BMW and Mercedes engineers. The Nazi Secret Police had plans of their own and asked Seaman to spy on his wife's father, the influential head of BMW, who was refusing to co-operate with Hitler's plans. Seaman was in a terrible dilemma and his wife urged him to escape before the Belgian Grand Prix. Pride and burning ambition drove him to compete in the race but he had enlisted the help of an American journalist who had a dangerous plan to smuggle the pair out of Nazi controlled Europe during the end of race celebrations to start a new life in the United States. It was to be the last race of his life. Seaman's silver Mercedes skidded off the track and burst into flames. Phil Shirley has spent the last twelve years investigating Seaman's death and has uncovered some dramatic facts which question whether it was really an accident. The book will not be published until Autumn 04 but the manuscript is due for delivery by Christmas 03.


I also noticed that the book was not listed in the 'fiction' category. :(

#19 Barry Boor

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Posted 14 February 2004 - 22:14

Come on, chaps. This is a wind up, surely???? They can't be SERIOUS about all this, can they.

The world's gone mad!!!!!

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#20 David J Jones

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 12:44

This latest item seems really crazy! I wonder what his stated sources are?

I do not seem able to envisage Dick Seaman in anything but a Spitfire - although I do acknowledge that as there were more Hurricanes around the odds in favour of them are greater.

Imagine also if Bernd Rosemeyer ahd not ventured out on that windy day in January 38 he may have piloted a 109!

#21 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 15 February 2004 - 23:42

Originally posted by Doug Nye
George Monkhouse used to surmise that, had he lived, Dick would certainly have pulled strings to have joined the 'millionaire's squadron' - No 601 'County of London', at Tangmere.......With Seaman's connections at the level of Earl Howe RNVR, Freddie Richmond, and elsewhere plus his flying experience and apparently A1 physical condition the little local difficulty of his recent employment and his young wife's nationality would hardly have been a consideration in that period of need. No 601's operation of Hurricanes instead of Spitfires might have been - from Seaman's viewpoint.

This seems to me the most probable supposition regarding Seaman's WWII involvement had he been alive to participate.

While perhaps a bit OT, I am only generally aware of the WWII service of Seaman's fellow competitors during the thirties. Were any pilots during the war?

#22 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 00:04

Whitney Straight, AFP Fane .... and more:

http://forums.atlasf...&threadid=57325

http://forums.atlasf...&threadid=27568

#23 Roger Clark

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 00:25

I was gong to mention Fane. He was a year or two older than Seaman, similarly well connected (and some say similarly talented as a racing driver). He was considered too old for active service as a fighter pilot. Might not the same have been true of Seamon?

#24 Dennis Hockenbury

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 00:53

Thanks Vitesse and Roger. Wonderful information on the subject contained in those threads.

#25 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 08:04

Hurricanes only outnumbered Spitfires in RAF service in the first two years of the war. By 1941, Spitfires were more common and most if not all RAF fighter squadrons had relinquished their Hurricanes by 1945.

#26 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 11:58

Originally posted by Roger Clark
I was gong to mention Fane. He was a year or two older than Seaman, similarly well connected (and some say similarly talented as a racing driver). He was considered too old for active service as a fighter pilot. Might not the same have been true of Seamon?


Hmm.... Fane was born in 1911, Straight in 1912, Seaman in 1913: Straight certainly flew operationally, so I don't think anyone would have stood in Dick's way!

#27 Doug Nye

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 14:04

Fane became a photo reconnaissance pilot and achieved virtual ace status as such before the flying accident which claimed his life.

DCN

#28 Roger Clark

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Posted 16 February 2004 - 23:28

Originally posted by Doug Nye
Fane became a photo reconnaissance pilot and achieved virtual ace status as such before the flying accident which claimed his life.

DCN

The story of Fane's war time exploits is very well told in Denis Jenkinson's book "From Chain Drive to Turbocharger".