Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Appendix X: An unexpected benefit of a flying suit

A recent search of the British Newspaper Archive website (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) uncovered the following gem that showed that flak and German fighters were not the only threat to the life of the young Bob Jay.

Hull Daily Mail, Monday, 29th September 1947

I had heard the story before and remember my dad telling us that they were on a Brough Superior 1000cc (actually 998cc) but I had no idea that the accident occurred in Hull.

A 1939 Brough Superior SS 100

RAF flying boots
My brother recalls dad telling him that he was wearing his flying leathers and boots at the time and if it hadn't been for them, particularly the boots, he would have sustained much more serious injuries. His flying boots were so badly damaged that they had to be thrown away afterwards. It was amazing to learn how close he came to losing his life in his flying gear whilst not actually flying - and with two little boys at home, one of them, me, only 2 months old. If he had died he would have been in good company - T. E. Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia') died on a Brough Superior SS100 in 1926.**

None of us is sure why Bob was in Hull or who Arnold Grimes was but the most likely explanation is that he was involved in work for the Fire Brigades Union (F.B.U.). The National Fire Service had been set up in August 1941, amalgamating the national Auxiliary Fire Service (A.F.S.) and the local authority fire brigades, and the Fire Services Act of 1947, implemented the following year, split the two organisations and returned responsibility for fire brigades to the local councils. Local politics and proposals for redundancies led to serious disagreements between the F.B.U. and their employers. Disillusioned and in solidarity with a number of his colleagues, Bob left the fire brigade shortly after the implementation of the Act and took on labouring work in Immingham on the site of a new Fisons fertilizer factory that started production in 1951.  

Another gem to surface recently is this photograph, taken in 1937, showing the Grimsby street in which Bob was living when he joined the R.A.F. in 1943. Clayton Street runs diagonally across the middle of the picture and number 44, which also housed his dad's shoe repair business ('F. Jay: High Class Shoe Repairs'), is approximately half way up on the right, backing on to one of the businesses on West Dock Street (now Frederick Ward Way).

Grimsby, 1937
**I don't know what happened to the bike Bob and Arnold came off but a fully restored 1926 Brough Superior SS100 was sold at auction in London in 2012 for £280,000! This was reported to be the bike that T. E. Lawrence used to race a Bristol fighter plane along the A15 in Lincolnshire when he was based at R.A.F. Cranwell, but two others were auctioned recently for well over £200,000 and without the celebrity connection.

T. E. Lawrence on his fifth Brough Superior (George V) in 1927

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