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Early Edition - 06 May 2018
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A highlight in our vintage year is the annual 1940s Relived event at the former Brooklands racetrack and aerodrome, near Weybridge in Surrey. Despite the title, the Brooklands event is deliberately light on the militaria aspect and uses the occasion to mark not only its key role in wartime but also as an opportunity to surround its wonderful collection of motoring and aviation artefacts with people dressed for the era that much of it represents. There’s been a marked swing away from uniforms to ‘civilian’ clothing, which is most refreshing, especially bearing in mind the difficulty of sourcing good condition original items from the 1940s, when so much was either worn to destruction or subjected to a ‘make do and mend’ conversion into something else.
Brooklands here we come
It’s a real pleasure to see lots of folk taking great pains to put together an authentic-looking outfit that reflects their age – it’s so much more dignified than seeing late middle-aged types togged up in a uniform that patently appeared on EBay days after its owner was demobbed in the past year. This year there were some fantastic turn-outs representing everyday folk on the Home Front, as well as some very accurate uniforms worn by chaps and chapesses of the appropriate age.
The format of the event has evolved steadily since the event began, with the home team trying out different layouts to make best use of their fascinating and varied site and, of course, minimise costs so as to fuel the museum’s coffers for their range of ambitious projects. The past year has seen a huge amount of work as an original Bellman hangar has been moved off the old racetrack (it’s been there since the War) to reveal the original finishing straight.
While the hanger is being completely restored , its precious aircraft have been moved into a mixture of new homes and temporary buildings which are already revitalising the aviation side of the museum’s layout and creating a neat separation between land and air themes without detracting from either.
Our day always focuses around the trade stands in the original race bays. This year we were keeping company not only with the friends who usually use the occasion to try to thin out their vast collection of 40s and 50s ephemera, but also with vintage tailor (the suits, that is, not our pal) Chester Cordite, who had a huge range of his beautifully recreated 1940s suits on show, attracting a constant stream of interested visitors. Across the board, the quality of the traders has settled down at a high level, and my determination not to add too much to our collection was sorely tempted.
I did well to resist another couple of valve radios but, between us, we acquired a lovely original silk tie, some nifty crocks for our breakfast cereal, a powder compact, some gloves, and a few bits from the Brooklands shop decorated with their fantastic old poster designs. Ah well, so much for determination!
The permanent exhibitions at Brooklands are always worth a return visit, from the hangars full of wartime aviation hardware, including much (some of it, of course, from the Dams raid) relating to Barnes Wallis who worked from the Vickers offices at Weybridge, to the original motoring sheds, priceless in their own right but packed with stunning and unique racing cars and bikes – many still in running condition. To walk from there up onto the remaining banking, and wonder at the nerve of those who attempted to steer tons of speeding metal around its steep walls, is truly to tread in the steps – or tyretreads – of British motoring history. For the Relived event, an impressive marquee springs up behind the race bays, offering an all-day diet of original 40s music, live bands and dance lessons for those wanting to take to the floor in their period garb. It proved a popular centrepoint for the whole day, with many staying on for the evening dance.
Any excuse to visit Brooklands is a treat - add to that the icing of the chance to spend the day with great friends, ears soothed with the distant air of 1940s sounds, and the chance of running into old faces and interesting new ones (including the Vintage News reporting team, of course), and a well-stocked cafe, and Brooklands is definitely a fixture in our calendar. You can read about Brooklands 1940s Relived, and all their other events, at their website. See you there in 2018, I hope.