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Old 17 Aug 2003, 18:55 (Ref:690447)   #1
TuscanR
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Sir Henry Birkin

Dear all,
Please could any of you shed any light on the life of Sir Henry Birkin? This man is my hero ( anyone who bankrupts their family in the pursuit of a better faster british racing car is a hero to me )and I would really like to know more about the man, I have a copy of his autobiography Full Throttle but it doen't really delve into his life. I would be most greatful if anyone has any information or if there are any other books about his life which I could get hold of. Also if anyone can tell me if any of his Blower Bentley's are still racing that would be great, I would love to be pictured beside one (or if my prayers are answered actually sit in one!!)

thanks for your time, Paul
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Old 17 Aug 2003, 19:05 (Ref:690451)   #2
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I'm not sure but Tim may be able to help you here
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Old 17 Aug 2003, 19:17 (Ref:690459)   #3
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There was a program on the beeb called Heroes and Villains a few years back. One of the episodes was about 'Tim' - he was played by Rowan Atkinson. It was very entertaining, although I don't know how true to life it was. I have Full Throttle too and the program fitted in with the style of the book. I do remember a letter in Autosport the week after it was on from someone who knew Birkin and they remarked that Atkinson did a very good job at portraying him.
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Old 17 Aug 2003, 19:44 (Ref:690466)   #4
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hello adam i scoured the internet and found a copy of the Heroes and villans on DVD from somewhere in Canada it's OK but its a bit of a soap opera style programme its good I was just wondering if there was anything more definitve. I know that you guys on here are very knowledgeable so I thought this would be a good place to start a search.
Thank you very much for such a swift response.
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Old 18 Aug 2003, 09:39 (Ref:690893)   #5
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I have full throttle
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Old 18 Aug 2003, 22:16 (Ref:691646)   #6
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Well, been here 24 hours and Tim has not replied yet. Unusual......

I do have some info, but I will leave it for now so the expert can reply in full detail.

Simon
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Old 20 Aug 2003, 00:09 (Ref:692712)   #7
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Thanks SL, it will be good knowing a little bit more about the man
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Old 2 Sep 2003, 22:20 (Ref:706129)   #8
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Duke has a fair to middlin video......click here

From the Brooklands Society site

""Sir Henry Birkin Bt. was born into a wealthy Nottingham family in 1896, ultimately inheriting his fatherís lace manufacturing business. In the early days of his motor racing, money was never an issue for Birkin but later on the cost of developing his blower Bentleys consumed most of his family fortune and he sought sponsorship which arrived in the form of Dorothy Paget who was known as a wealthy horse racing enthusiast.

Of all the Bentley boys Tim Birkin was the one schoolboys knew best. He was a ruthless driver who drove his cars very hard in a "press on" manner and became the ultimate racing icon of his time, silk scarf flying in the wind, a model of bravery and excitement. He was not a large man and he spoke with a strong and persistent stutter which belied his popular image but did nothing to damage his reputation as a lady killer on a very wide scale. Tim Birkin, alongside such names as Sir Henry Segrave and Malcolm Campbell was probably the most famous driver of his time - the Stirling Moss of the nineteen thirties.

He had many victories including first place at Le Mans in a Speed Six Bentley in which he shared the driving with Woolf Barnato. He set fastest lap for the race and between them they led the race from start to finish.

Walter Bentley designed his engines for smoothness, reliability and power and only went racing if he thought his cars could win and entirely to sell more cars. His answer to needing more speed was always to build a bigger engine, maintaining the quality and reliability image which would sell road cars with a sporting image. When Tim Birkin suggested supercharging this went against the grain at Bentleys and he resolved to to the job himself.

For 1930 the Hon. Dorothy Paget bankrolled Birkinís 4Ĺ litre blower Bentley team which turned out to be incredibly expensive as the cars were consistently unreliable although very fast when they were working, The red Blower Birkin Bentley, which is still raced today in VSCC events, becoming a very famous and symbolic car in which he set a Brooklands Outer Circuit lap record in April 1930 of 135.34 m.p.h. At the end of that year Dorothy Paget felt that she had to bow out and the cars were sold off leaving Tim Birkin to look elsewhere, particularly as recession was looming and Bentleys also withdrew from racing.

He bought the red "Blower" and for 1931 he also purchased a Maserati for Grand Prix events and an Alfa Romeo for sports car racing. He won the Irish Grand Prix in the Alfa and Le Mans in partnership with Earl Howe. In partnership with George Eyston he used the Maserati to take fourth place in the French Grand Prix.

He continued to race the red "Blower" in which on the 24th March 1932 he raised the Brooklands Outer Circuit lap record to 137.96 m.p.h., beating Kaye Donís Sunbeam record by 3.8 seconds. This record stood for another two years before being beaten by John Cobbís Napier Railton and the Blower Bentley remains the fourth fastest car around Brooklands, having also ultimately been beaten by Whitney Straightís Duesenberg and Chris Stanilandís Multi-Union in latter years.

In 1933 he bought a new Maserati and gained 3rd place in the Tripoli Grand Prix, the story has it, burning his arm on the hot exhaust pipe during practice while reaching into the cockpit for his cigarette lighter. He returned to London with his arm bandaged and was admitted to the Countess Carnarvon Nursing Home with septicaemia, generally assumed from the burn.

Dudley Benjafield fought hard to save Birkinís life and he was recovering until a relapse, dying on June 22nd 1933. Walter Bentley maintained in his autobiography that Brkinís death was not due to the burn but to a mosquito bite that he had picked up in Tripoli which sparked off septicemia which related back to malaria which he had picked up in Palestine during the First World War. Either way he was killed by blood poisoning prematurely ending the career of one of the best known and most accomplished of British drivers.""
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Old 3 Sep 2003, 21:01 (Ref:707376)   #9
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Originally posted by strad
This record stood for another two years before being beaten by John Cobbís Napier Railton and the Blower Bentley remains the fourth fastest car around Brooklands, having also ultimately been beaten by Whitney Straightís Duesenberg and Chris Stanilandís Multi-Union in latter years.
Somebody can't count

1. Barnato (Barnato-Hassan)
2. Staniland (Multi Union)
3. Straight (Duesenberg)
4. Cobb (Napier Railton)
5. Birkin (Blower Bentley)

Not that this in any way reduces Birkin's achievement.
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Old 15 Sep 2003, 09:51 (Ref:719269)   #10
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Apparently Tim Birkin and the Blower will be featured in the new feature film called Brooklands.
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Old 19 Sep 2003, 13:21 (Ref:724122)   #11
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Excellent I can't wait. I wonder if they will get Rowan Atkinson will play Sir Henry Again???
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Old 19 Sep 2003, 14:12 (Ref:724186)   #12
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That would be great!
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Old 25 Sep 2003, 20:47 (Ref:730068)   #13
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I am currently reading the late Anthony Blight's book called 'Georges Roesch and the Invincible Talbot', an absolutely superb read. In covering the races in which Talbots were racing in detail, Birkin features pretty strongly, not only in the blower Bentley but also, for example the Alfa in which he won the 1931 Le Mans, sharing with Earl Howe. There are many references to him and his driving style and achievements.

Last edited by John Turner; 25 Sep 2003 at 20:49.
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Old 3 Oct 2003, 22:14 (Ref:739828)   #14
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I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the 1930 French GP. In those lean days it was run as a Formula Libre race and Birkin ran a stripped Le Mans type 4 1/2 s/c sports Bentley and finished 2nd to FiFi Entacelin in a Bugatti and ahead of several other full race Bugatti 35's. This probably inspired Ettore bugatti's "Fastest lorries in the world" quip.

And does anyone know what DID cause his death? The Brooklands Society web page reproduced above suggests that the commonly accepted "blood poisoning", or septicaemia, from a badly treated burn may not be entirely correct.
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Old 23 Dec 2003, 04:45 (Ref:818672)   #15
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Originally posted by D-Type
And does anyone know what DID cause his death? The Brooklands Society web page reproduced above suggests that the commonly accepted "blood poisoning", or septicaemia, from a badly treated burn may not be entirely correct.
Quote:
Originally posted by strad
From the Brooklands Society site

In 1933 he bought a new Maserati and gained 3rd place in the Tripoli Grand Prix, the story has it, burning his arm on the hot exhaust pipe during practice while reaching into the cockpit for his cigarette lighter. He returned to London with his arm bandaged and was admitted to the Countess Carnarvon Nursing Home with septicaemia, generally assumed from the burn.

Dudley Benjafield fought hard to save Birkinís life and he was recovering until a relapse, dying on June 22nd 1933. Walter Bentley maintained in his autobiography that Brkinís death was not due to the burn but to a mosquito bite that he had picked up in Tripoli which sparked off septicemia which related back to malaria which he had picked up in Palestine during the First World War. Either way he was killed by blood poisoning prematurely ending the career of one of the best known and most accomplished of British drivers.""
It would now seem that this is perhaps the reality behind Birkin's death. It now seems assured that it was a combination of these two factors -- the burn and the malaria -- which led to his death, not one or the other. I have come to this conclusion after much research and thought after leaning towards the malaria theory for a number of years. After reviewing my notes in light of additional material made available to me by Doug Nye, I think that the Brooklands Society has it right. I think that this should lay to rest at least one part of the myth surrounding the 1933 GP di Tripoli.
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