by David Abecassis
Published September 2010 by P J Publishing. 416 pages. Hardback and Limited Editions.
This biography is the first to be published and tells the detailed story of George’s life up to his retirement from motor racing. It is the story of one of the last of the amateur drivers whose experience and dedication to the sport made him a semi-professional, and whose successes and efforts both before and after the Second World War made him a household name. His accomplished and courageous driving of his own cars, such as Altas and Bugattis, and in the Aston Martin, HWM and Austin Healey teams, made him an important figure in British racing in its own right.
As his racing career spanned the Second World War, the hitherto unknown story of George’s distinguished RAF service is also told with an insight enhanced by the author’s own experience in the RAFVR. George was in Bomber Command, and flew with the secret 161 Squadron, dropping spies and supplies behind enemy lines, for which he won the DFC. He was dramatically shot down and incarcerated in POW camp, a tale told largely in the words of George himself and the other crew members who survived.
The story of how, after the war, George and his business partner, John Heath, began to restore British pride and prestige in continental eyes in the early 1950s is told in detail, as is George's contribution to the wider world of British motor racing competition and safety through his long memberships of the governing committees of the BRDC and BARC.
This book is a visual feast of motor racing images from his career, It is lavishly illustrated with 550 photographs from the collections of the finest photographers of the day, including Louis Klemantaski, Guy Griffiths and Geoffrey Goddard to name but three. There are also numerous photographs from his personal albums and POW diaries, and from the albums of his family and friends. They help bring to life the story of one man set in the wider context of social, political and motor racing developments at home and abroad at the time.
George’s long career in a time of dramatic change is a tale of struggle involving co-operation, friendship and rivalry with all the leading figures in British motor racing at the time, including Geoffrey Taylor, Earl Howe, Tony Rolt, Bira, Reg Parnell, John Heath, Duncan Hamilton, Stirling Moss, Lance Macklin, David Brown and many more. All these figures are drawn carefully, with the detailed story of John Heath’s life and death being covered for the first time in motor racing literature.
The book has been meticulously researched by the experienced author and includes the first full race list, both of George himself (217 races) and of John Heath and the HWM Works team (413 races), together with detailed appendices on the two dozen cars built at Walton and the nearly 30 different cars George raced. It benefits from interviews with the surviving family, friends and associates of George. It explores and expounds George's life, remarkable gifts, sense of humour and colourful personality in a way which only a close family member could do, and even takes the reader to be with him as he breathed his last in 1991. Wherever possible, George speaks for himself through extensive quotes from his many published articles and interviews and from the anecdotes recalled by his many friends and his family. The result is that by the end of the book, the careful reader will feel that he has really got to know this remarkable man.
Chapter 1 The Child is Father to the Man
Chapter 2 Getting Going
Chapter 3 A Magnificent Year
Chapter 4 The Road to War
Chapter 5 To Fly and to Fight
Chapter 6 Moonlight Squadron
Chapter 7 Prisoner of War
Chapter 8 Starting All Over Again
Chapter 9 The Birth of the HWM
Chapter 10 Raising the Flag
Chapter 11 Flying the Flag Higher
Chapter 12 The Sports Car Takes Over
Chapter 13 The Greatest Race
Chapter 14 Things Fall Apart
Chapter 15 The Last Lap
Appendix 1 The Cars George Raced
Appendix 2 George’s Races
Appendix 3 Cars Built at Walton
Appendix 4 John Heath’s Races and HWM Team Races