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In Memoriam - Dick Seaman (4 February 1913 – 25 June 1939)


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#1 Doug Nye

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 18:58

My friend and colleague Richard Williams really is a proper chap...  

 

This morning he visited Putney Vale Cemetery - to pay his respects to the finest British racing driver of the 1930s - Dick Seaman - upon the 80th anniversary of his fatal accident, while he was leading the 1939 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps...

 

Richard has researched and written a comprehensive new biography of this compelling character, due for publication later this year - I believe - and he has excavated a tremendous amount of fresh information and evidence concerning Dick, his doting, extraordinarily social-climbing mother Lilian, wife Erika and many, many other related personalities of the time.  Several of us have supported Richard in his painstaking work, but believe me it does both his subject - and him - tremendous credit.  

 

Here's his personal floral tribute to Dick - taken early today...

 

IMG-7353.jpg

 

DCN

 

 



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#2 Vitesse2

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 19:09

Possibly the last photo taken of Dick Seaman - photographed by his great friend Robert Fellowes, on the grid at Spa:

 

spa-grid.jpg



#3 SophieB

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 19:26

Thanks for sharing this. I saw Richard Williams talking about his work on twitter and made a mental note to get it, especially as he’s not been someone I’m that informed about. Looking forward to remedying my ignorance.

#4 Gary C

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Posted 25 June 2019 - 20:32

I'm looking forward to this, too.

#5 F1matt

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 07:23

Does the fascination with Dick Seaman come from the timing and the whole Nazi element or the fact that he was good enough to get a seat in a works Mercedes? Was his Nazi salute the same as a modern driver thanking his sponsors and wearing an oversized watch on his wrist whilst sipping an energy drink that tastes like ditch water? The timing and the background of his life story would make a great movie.

I look forward to the book.

#6 Tim Murray

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 08:17

I’ve always regarded it as a wave rather than a salute, and certainly not the full-blooded Nazi salute as demonstrated by Adolf Hühnlein:

Dick-Seaman-1938-German-GP-salute.jpg

#7 Charlieman

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 08:17

Does the fascination with Dick Seaman come from the timing and the whole Nazi element or the fact that he was good enough to get a seat in a works Mercedes? Was his Nazi salute the same as a modern driver thanking his sponsors and wearing an oversized watch on his wrist whilst sipping an energy drink that tastes like ditch water? The timing and the background of his life story would make a great movie.

I look forward to the book.

Or a combination of factors? The story I have learned is that Seaman raced in spite of family opposition. He was financially well fixed -- but did not have free access to his trust fund -- and he used his money inventively and wisely to earn a grand prix seat. Even when he'd got to Mercedes-Benz, he had to compete with the other second tier drivers for entries. Seaman married a woman from a family which had opposed the Nazis but it was impossible for high profile companies and their employees to avoid association with the regime (the government did not take over the boards of M-B, Auto Union and BMW until after the start of WWII).

 

All of the ingredients for a great biography are present and Richard Williams has a great record as a sporting writer.



#8 ensign14

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 09:47

Part of it as well is he's the only British winner of a GP in the 1930s.  So with many British writers there's going to be a focus.  The shame is that there are not more writers able to tackle e.g. von Brauchitsch, who must have had an interesting life, let alone the mercurial Farina.



#9 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 10:37

Well, I suppose 'interesting' is one way of describing Manfred's life. But it's ultimately a story of repeated failures, obfuscations and betrayal - so I'm not sure any biographer would be able to paint an even vaguely sympathetic portrait of him. Hans Etzrodt told us many years ago that he'd suggested von Brauchitsch as a subject to Gunther Molter - answer came there none!

 

I guess the same holds pretty much true for Farina.



#10 ensign14

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 10:49

People do biographies of Genghis Khan and Kim Philby...

 

I suppose one problem is the lack of German success for most of post-war did not generate a commensurate number of German-speaking journalists who would be willing to explore an iffy period of German history. 



#11 Eric Dunsdon

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 11:10

Dick Seamans salute looks a half hearted one, something that had to be done at that time though especially with team mates like Lang and Von Brauchitsch from what I have read. His seat at Mercedes was well earned by his remarkable drives in Delage, ERA, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, the latter being a Works drive I believe.



#12 DCapps

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 13:26

People do biographies of Genghis Khan and Kim Philby...

 

 

One of them being written by a high school classmate.... (https://www.macalest...ackweatherford/)



#13 B Squared

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 15:55

Just to add, it is stories like Seaman's that drew me into the history of the sport when I was very much in my youth.

Edited by B Squared, 26 June 2019 - 15:56.


#14 GMiranda

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 16:53

One of them being written by a high school classmate.... (https://www.macalest...ackweatherford/)

 

I left sciences to history as it was my call, but I had every hope to study Mongol History. The first contact I did was with Jack Weatherford, and he was always kind in answering me and giving me suggestions for sources and books I could read, because in Portugal there's no way to study it. One day I'll hope to do it. And, after all, Genghis Khan was one of the most influential people in the World's history.



#15 Doug Nye

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 18:42

Genghis the empire builder - a thesis on the parallels with Mr Ecclestone could be interesting...

 

I was lucky enough to discuss Dick Seaman at length with several people who knew him, and who worked with him - Hermann Lang, Rudi Uhlenhaut, 'Lofty' England, Raymond Mays...and more.  The only one with anything really adverse to say was - as you might imagine - Raymond Mays.  But in later life, when I knew him, he was a gentleman, and he just admitted that "Oh well Seaman, you know, we never really hit it off... He was very much a young man in a hurry, he was rather more demanding than our other ERA buyers - and he was terribly difficult to satisfy.  I think he listened to a lot of advice from people who were not best disposed towards us".

 

What really struck me was how fondly Lang spoke of Seaman, with the British Mercedes PRO whose name I sadly - for the moment - cannot recall, translating. It was plain that they - the wealthy young Brit and the humbly-born, very much working-class former engine mechanic - just clicked, and got on very well.  Dick had considerable interest in technical matters, and Rudi always emphasised what terrific technical feedback he provided when testing the cars. For me, 'Lofty' summed it up: "Fine driver.  Good man."

 

Best - Doug


Edited by Doug Nye, 26 June 2019 - 18:44.


#16 Tim Murray

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 18:54

Thank you Doug - much appreciated.

#17 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 20:10

And if I may presume to expand on Doug's post ... it's fairly obvious that both Caracciola and von Brauchitsch realised that Lang and Seaman were the 'coming men' - which would certainly have perturbed them both. Manfred especially, given his aristocratic background. Caratsch was - by comparison - petit bourgeois, but already in failing health and seemingly even more paranoid than Manfred, especially about Lang. From what is known of Dick's plans for the future I doubt he'd have continued racing much longer - maybe two or three more years at most - and then gone into business, both with Whitney Straight and on his own account, once he reached the age of 28 and succeeded to his full inheritance. But he was an ambitious man and would have wanted to - at least - succeed Caracciola as team captain, before handing over the reins to Lang ...

 

And perhaps if Raymond Mays had listened to a bit more advice ...  ;)



#18 GMiranda

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 21:30

And if I may presume to expand on Doug's post ... it's fairly obvious that both Caracciola and von Brauchitsch realised that Lang and Seaman were the 'coming men' - which would certainly have perturbed them both. Manfred especially, given his aristocratic background. Caratsch was - by comparison - petit bourgeois, but already in failing health and seemingly even more paranoid than Manfred, especially about Lang. From what is known of Dick's plans for the future I doubt he'd have continued racing much longer - maybe two or three more years at most - and then gone into business, both with Whitney Straight and on his own account, once he reached the age of 28 and succeeded to his full inheritance. But he was an ambitious man and would have wanted to - at least - succeed Caracciola as team captain, before handing over the reins to Lang ...

 

And perhaps if Raymond Mays had listened to a bit more advice ...  ;)

 

Von Brauchitsch was a regular driver, and he knew from his connections that he could well keep is place. Caracciola was among the best, and in 1938 was European Champion, but knew Lang was coming and, like many champions, got paranoid and suspicios, and probably did a lot of mind games, but in 1939 it was obvious he wasn't at the same level, mentally and physically. His mistakes at Belgium and France prove that, but he had time to leave on a high style with an amazing race on the German Grand Prix. Pity he raced after the WWII, he should have remaint on his golden retirement.



#19 JoBo

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 22:46

Does the fascination with Dick Seaman come from the timing and the whole Nazi element or the fact that he was good enough to get a seat in a works Mercedes? Was his Nazi salute the same as a modern driver thanking his sponsors and wearing an oversized watch on his wrist whilst sipping an energy drink that tastes like ditch water? The timing and the background of his life story would make a great movie.

I look forward to the book.

 

Mercedes did not give Seaman a place in their factory team because he was a Nazi - what he clearly was not! He got the seat because he was an excellent driver! Most of the racing drivers at that time had not much to do with the Nazi party. Yes, they had to become members of the NSKK but they they reluctantly accept that. Carracchiola went to Switzerland and came back when the tragedy was over. Von Brauchtisch was the other way around and truly an opportunist. I personally had my own experiance with this "Gentleman"........



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#20 JoBo

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 22:48

My friend and colleague Richard Williams really is a proper chap...  

 

This morning he visited Putney Vale Cemetery - to pay his respects to the finest British racing driver of the 1930s - Dick Seaman - upon the 80th anniversary of his fatal accident, while he was leading the 1939 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps...

 

Richard has researched and written a comprehensive new biography of this compelling character, due for publication later this year - I believe - and he has excavated a tremendous amount of fresh information and evidence concerning Dick, his doting, extraordinarily social-climbing mother Lilian, wife Erika and many, many other related personalities of the time.  Several of us have supported Richard in his painstaking work, but believe me it does both his subject - and him - tremendous credit.  

 

Here's his personal floral tribute to Dick - taken early today...

 

IMG-7353.jpg

 

DCN

 

Can anybody post a map of the old Spa circuit with the spot where Seaman had his fatal crash? And where is Erika buried?


Edited by JoBo, 26 June 2019 - 22:50.


#21 ensign14

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 22:53

I personally had my own experiance with this "Gentleman"........

 

And...?  :)



#22 cpbell

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Posted 26 June 2019 - 23:40

Genghis the empire builder - a thesis on the parallels with Mr Ecclestone could be interesting...

 

I was lucky enough to discuss Dick Seaman at length with several people who knew him, and who worked with him - Hermann Lang, Rudi Uhlenhaut, 'Lofty' England, Raymond Mays...and more.  The only one with anything really adverse to say was - as you might imagine - Raymond Mays.  But in later life, when I knew him, he was a gentleman, and he just admitted that "Oh well Seaman, you know, we never really hit it off... He was very much a young man in a hurry, he was rather more demanding than our other ERA buyers - and he was terribly difficult to satisfy.  I think he listened to a lot of advice from people who were not best disposed towards us".

 

What really struck me was how fondly Lang spoke of Seaman, with the British Mercedes PRO whose name I sadly - for the moment - cannot recall, translating. It was plain that they - the wealthy young Brit and the humbly-born, very much working-class former engine mechanic - just clicked, and got on very well.  Dick had considerable interest in technical matters, and Rudi always emphasised what terrific technical feedback he provided when testing the cars. For me, 'Lofty' summed it up: "Fine driver.  Good man."

 

Best - Doug

Mention of Lang and that period is one of the few remaining periods of motor racing history that seem as impossily Grand and exciting in my late thirties as they did in my teens (often in your body of literary work).  It seems mildly incredible to me that I can ask questions of someone who spoke with Lang, who I personally regard as one of the all-time Greats and certainly, in my opinion, one of the most under-rated drivers of the the 1930s; almost a pre-War version of A.C.S Brooks.



#23 HP

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 01:14



#24 Tim Murray

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 06:34

Can anybody post a map of the old Spa circuit with the spot where Seaman had his fatal crash? And where is Erika buried?

The crash was at the left-hand kink before the straight leading to La Source (now the start/finish straight).

Erica and her third husband Curt Schwab moved from Germany to Sarasota, Florida in 1972, where she died in February 1990. I’d guess she was probably laid to rest there.

#25 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 06:38

And where is Erika buried?

Both she and her third husband died in Sarasota, FL. However neither of them - nor one of her third husband's brothers, who also lived in Sarasota - is listed on Find a Grave anywhere in Florida. A press report of Erica's husband's death says only that the funeral was to be private. So I do wonder if they were both cremated. Her husband had at least one other brother, but he apparently lived in São Paulo.

 

There might be a clue in the press of the time, but there are no 1990 Sarasota newspapers available online.



#26 Vitesse2

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Posted 27 June 2019 - 18:40

Thanks to the very helpful librarians of Sarasota County, who got back to me within a few hours, I now have a (sort of) answer.

 

As with Curt, the funeral was described as private, so I'm afraid we're really no further forward, although it is interesting to note that in both announcements, donations were requested for the local charity now known as The Haven.

 

I guess there are three possibilities;

 

1 Interment in Sarasota.

2 Cremation - in which case, what happened to the ashes?

3 Repatriation to Germany - Curt was German and Erica seems to have abandoned her British citizenship, probably once more becoming German after she returned there from the US in 1953. Curt was also the brother of Bimbo Haspel, wife of Wilhelm Haspel, CEO of Daimler Benz from 1942 until his death in 1952.



#27 Henri Greuter

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Posted 28 June 2019 - 06:08



The most stunning revelation for me in this movie was the fact that one order given by Adolf Hitler apparently had still been fulfilled for such a long time. I am not sure if it still happens.

#28 Vitesse2

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Posted 01 July 2019 - 20:48

Just got round to watching this.

There are some errors in identification on the still photos. The two at 3'52" identified as 'Testfahrten bei Mercedes auf dem Nürburgring' are actually from Dick's visit to Crystal Palace in October 1937 to do a demonstration run with a W125 and the one at 4'46", immediately before the Vanderbilt Cup newsreel isn't Dick at all - it's Rudi Uhlenhaut testing the first W154 at Monza in early 1938.

 

Finally, the one of Dick and Erika at 20'45" is one of their official engagement photos, taken in his mother's house in London in September 1938, not 1939 as captioned.



#29 group7

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Posted 02 July 2019 - 23:57

Thanks Doug for the information regarding the Richard Williams book on Seaman, please do keep us informed as to progress, and when it might be out.

 

There were a couple of  previous books "Dick Seaman, A Racing Champion"  by prince Chula, published by Floyd Clymer, I have the fifth USA edition, soft cover, published in 1948, amongst my auto books.

 

Also "Shooting Star, the life of Richard Seaman" by Chris Nixon. 

 

Michael



#30 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 05:53

Thanks Doug for the information regarding the Richard Williams book on Seaman, please do keep us informed as to progress, and when it might be out.

 

There were a couple of  previous books "Dick Seaman, A Racing Champion"  by prince Chula, published by Floyd Clymer, I have the fifth USA edition, soft cover, published in 1948, amongst my auto books.

 

Also "Shooting Star, the life of Richard Seaman" by Chris Nixon. 

 

Michael

Richard Williams' book will be entitled A Race with Love and Death: The Story of Richard Seaman and will be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK - and presumably handled by their various other international operations. Publication date is listed as a provisional March 2020 - although publication dates are of course always 'moveable feasts'.  ;)

 

https://www.simonand...s/9781471179358

 

The Chula book you mention was published in Britain as Dick Seaman: Racing Motorist in 1941 by GT Foulis.



#31 Regazzoni

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 06:27

Is "Shooting Star" any good?

 

I have a copy, bought in the early 2000s, and never opened it, still in its plastic (quite sturdy) wrap, left it somewhere at home in Italy when I went to the Middle East,

 

Williams is a good journalist and I suppose he will add detail. He writes well, read several of his books. The only thing is that they are a bit "journalistic" in style, they give an idea, not sure they give the full picture. But will read this too.



#32 Vitesse2

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 08:05

Shooting Star is a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts. My impression is that to a certain extent Chris Nixon tended to approach things with pre-conceived ideas and mould his researches to fit his desired narrative. And he didn't necessarily follow up every lead or question some of the things he was told; doing that might have made both Shooting Star and Racing the Silver Arrows better books.

 

Thanks to an introduction via DCN I've occasionally been in touch with Richard Williams over the past couple of years as this book has developed, so I know he has done a lot of original research - especially in the Daimler Benz archives - and he seems to have turned up stuff which Nixon and others missed.



#33 Sterzo

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Posted 03 July 2019 - 10:51

It sounds promising that we're likely to have a better Seaman biography, but I do hope author and publisher rethink that embarrassing title.



#34 Doug Nye

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 07:44

Do not doubt Richard's research.  He has lived this project for the past year - of course, haha, nothing like my 16 years on Phil Hill's books - but he's quicker on the uptake than yrs trly and not spread quite so thin.  His Dick Seaman book really should do its writer and its subject enormous credit. I've told him there's no pressure...     :cool:

 

DCN



#35 LittleChris

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Posted 12 July 2019 - 20:50

Do not doubt Richard's research.  He has lived this project for the past year - of course, haha, nothing like my 16 years on Phil Hill's books - but he's quicker on the uptake than yrs trly and not spread quite so thin.  His Dick Seaman book really should do its writer and its subject enormous credit. I've told him there's no pressure...     :cool:

 

DCN

Did his response mention BRM Vol 4 ?  ;)



#36 Doug Nye

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Posted 13 July 2019 - 06:37

:p ... :blush: ... :well: ... :evil:



#37 socram

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Posted 19 July 2019 - 00:26

Unfortunately, I can't insert images on this site as my own website and also one I contribute to aren't 'https' and it isn't worth my while making my own site secure.  However, I posted a fine photograph my dad took at Donington 1937

 

The site I post on is a NZ site - www.theroaringseason.com .

 

The discussion forum - for the Richard Seaman photograph "Just A mix of Pics - Ray Green"  post #2895   

 

On my own site www.monza.org.nz there is a page of prewar Donington entry lists.


Edited by socram, 19 July 2019 - 00:28.


#38 Tim Murray

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Posted 19 July 2019 - 04:40

Uploading photos using one of the image-hosting sites is very straightforward. This comes via Postimage:

BD21-D0-CD-5340-4-FDF-A6-AA-DE4-D26-DF9-
Photo copyright Ray Green

#39 Michael Ferner

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Posted 19 July 2019 - 12:23

More photographic proof that the "silver" arrows were actually white...  ;)

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#40 socram

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 08:14

Thanks again Tim, but as my pics are already on a website or two, posting them yet again, on another host site, just for an occasional post on here, isn't really justified. I have scanned and uploaded or posted over 1,000 images over the last three weeks as it is! 



#41 Doug Nye

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Posted 20 July 2019 - 20:23

Good effort...

 

DCN



#42 Regazzoni

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 21:31

Seaman2.jpgSeaman1.jpg

https://www.amazon.c...a/dp/1471179354



#43 P0wderf1nger

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 20:57

Richard Williams is discussing the book with Simon Taylor at Brooklands on the evening of 26 March.

 

https://www.brooklan...-love-and-death



#44 BRG

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 18:43

The new 'April'  Motor Sport includes a large piece on Seaman referencing the forthcoming book.  It is not clear who wrote the article though.



#45 Gary C

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 20:47

'Richard Williams is discussing the book with Simon Taylor at Brooklands on the evening of 26 March.'

  I fly to Nairobi the morning of the 25th----d'oh!



#46 Doug Nye

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 21:36

Oh I say - surely that's bit of an over-reaction, Gary?

 

DCN



#47 Gary C

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 21:58

Yep, I've heard it's not that good ---lol. I'm sure it's going to be a brilliant read, this evening I pre-ordered a copy from Amazon...I'm hoping I'll receive it before we leave so that I can start reading it on the plane.

#48 Vitesse2

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Posted 07 March 2020 - 08:39

Today is the centenary of the birth of Erica Seaman née Popp. This is one of their official engagement photographs, taken at the Seaman family home in London in September 1938.

 

158-2437229.jpg



#49 cpbell

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Posted 07 March 2020 - 16:30

Today is the centenary of the birth of Erica Seaman née Popp. This is one of their official engagement photographs, taken at the Seaman family home in London in September 1938.

 

158-2437229.jpg

Could do without the dead animal around her waist, but such things were fashionable at the time... :(



#50 Cirrus

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Posted 07 April 2020 - 15:17

I've just finished reading "A Race with Love and Death" - it's superb. The research Richard Williams has done gives great context and insight into someone who could easily be misjudged by modern standards coming, as he did, from a wealthy background and driving for a German team. When I saw the name of the author, I thought "that's the same name as a guy who used to present TOGWT" - little did I know...