Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years
By Torrens (Arthur Bourne)
Matador – £24.99
Back in the 1920s, there were more motor cyclists than car drivers, records were being broken every month at the Brooklands race track in Surrey, roads were empty and motorbikes constantly broke down.
Behind The Scenes In The Vintage Years is a unique and rather fascinating record of an unrepeatable era in British motorcycling and engineering history. To be sure, it’s a decidedly friendly and inviting book, that’ll admittedly, primarily appeal to a certain elite: that of a most pronounced and similar persuasion to that of Torrens himself.
Its eighteen chapters traverse the history of what it was like to ride hundreds of miles round Britain on reliability trials, and how Arthur Bourne provided weekly guidance for thousands of youngsters on two wheels – young engineers such as Edward Turner and Phil Vincent.
He furthermore writes of Brooklands and TT races on the Isle of Man, along with his experience(s) of the Second World War, where he enabled the airborne forces at Arnhem to be equipped with ‘lightweight’ motorcycles that could be dropped by parachute or flown in by glider! So in all, this is something of a rather rambunctious story that needs to be told really; which, along with assorted black and white newspaper clippings and photographs, provides for an altogether delightful, although at times, enlightening read.
For instance, in the fifteenth chapter (‘Motor Cycles In War’), Bourne writes: ”But for the Nazis telling the Dutch distributors of D.K.W.s that either they got rid of their Jewish directors or they would have no more D.K.W.s., there would not have been one of the 12,000 and more British wartime ‘Flying Fleas.’ I would not have the letter from 3 Div, one of the two assault divisions on the Normandy Beaches, saying ”They (600 of them) are just the thing for the job,” there would have been no Fleas for controlling the landing of supplies on the Beaches. B.S.A.s would not have had their highly successful post-War B.S.A Bantan and there would not have been the gifts from Royal Enfield and James of reconditioned Fleas that enabled the RAC/ACU ‘Training Scheme for Learner Motor Cyclists to get going.”
Arthur Bourne, who used the pseudonym ‘Torrens’ for readers of the best-selling weekly The Motor Cycle, was most definitely in the thick of a garrulous game – of which these 308 pages are a mere glimpse.