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  • Writer's pictureCarl Plummer

Some Notes for Chapter 2 (2b) After that Strange release in the Spring of 1939

Rolls Royce Phantom

We start the second set of notes for chapter 2 with the sumptuous Rolls Royce Phantom. For those unfamiliar with this wonderful car, think back to two great – though different – films. The Yellow Rolls Royce (II) and Goldfinger (Phantom III). The Phantom II was produced between 1929 and 1936, the Phantom III from 1936 to 1939.

Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls Royce is reported to have said ‘Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it doesn’t exist, design it.’

1936 Rolls Royce Phantom II (Charles S. Crail Automobiles)

The Phantom III, 7.32 litres, with 12 cylinders, twin ignition system supported by 24 spark plugs, two distributors, two coils and a twin SU electric fuel pump, could hit 87 mph (good going for the day), and could go from 0-60 in just under 17 seconds – again, good for the day. It was a grand tourer for the rich and opulent – the very rich and very opulent having no qualms about a fuel mileage of 8.4 mpg. This was in the day when coachbuilders were famous for their designs, coachbuilders like Barker, Park Ward, Thrupp and Maberly, Carlton, and Hooper.

The Phantom II in The Yellow Rolls Royce sports (perhaps sported is the wrong word) the Sedanca de Ville coachwork by Barker. The 1965 film, written by Terence Rattigan, filmed in MGM’s British studios and in Italy, was adapted from a 1947 German drama by Helmut Kautner: In Those Days. With a star-studded cast; Rex Harrison, Jean Moreau, Ingrid Bergman, Omar Sharif, George C. Scott, Shirley MacLaine, and Alain Delon, the film tells the journey of a car – yes, the Roller is the real star - first owned by the Marquess of Frinton, on to Genoa to be bought by an American gangster, to be found in 1941 in Trieste on the Yugoslav border where it is bought by a wealthy American widow touring Europe just as the Germans invade. Our last sight of the yellow Rolls Royce is as it is driven toward the George Washington Bridge and Bronx.

The film, a classic? I am not so sure, but the car is wonderful, the stories of the individual owners are complex, and some of the scenery – spectacular. It may have grossed only $5.4 million at the USA box office in the year Mary Poppins grossed $28.5 million, but it is still worth a try. And let us be honest here; any film with Omar Sharif, Alain Delon, and Ingrid Bergman ain’t gonna be bad.

Perhaps more familiar to the Pelham Hardimann reader is the Phantom III owned by Auric Goldfinger and driven by Oddjob – he of the lethal bowler, in Goldfinger. Did Oddjob get the bowler idea from John Steed or vice-versa (I will have to dig into some history of The Avengers). The Phantom III is another Sedanca de Ville by Barker. It takes us on another wonderful tour, this time from Britain to Switzerland – that wonderful Furka Pass (Le Col de la Furka) shot with Tilly Masterson’s rifle barrel, the Aston mid-screen and the Phantom III in the distance.

Furkapass and hairpins of the Furkapassroute in Switzerland as seen from Grimselpassroute.

So, whatever you think of these films, fans of Pelham Hardimann will understand his appreciation of the transport on offer after his release from prison. We read about the Phantom III in Pelham and the Plan on the Clapham Omnibus – this time with added trunk – a trunk used by spy, stowaway, and gruesome little hero – Alfie Awkward.

Busman’s Holiday

A great idiom, explained well below:

A piece from Pelham Hardimann’s favourite reading material: Punch (The London Charivari).

Few stories of London origin are more familiar than that of the cabby who, regarding his day off as one of his indisputable rights, spent it each week in riding about the City with a fellow cabby in order to keep him company. (Punch, or the London Charivari, 14 July 1920).

We have an extract from earlier – 1893.

I shall indeed take a holiday on the Continent off the stage, soon, probably but it will be a “Busman’s Holiday.” The bus-driver spends his “day off” in driving on a pal’s bus, on the box-seat by his pal’s side; and I know that night after night, all through my holiday, I shall be in and out of this hall and that theatre, never happy except when I am watching some theatrical piece or variety entertainment. (English Illustrated Magazine, 1893).

For our American readers:

Recently I came across a really happy omnibus conductor, who knew me by sight, and remarked that it had been a splendid day. He had almost a whole day off, and looked jolly. What had he done? Why, what he always does when on a day off! I had never really believed in the phrase “The busman’s holiday.” It’s true. For that man always gets on the top of another man’s bus and has a good long ride into the country and back. It cured him of insomnia, he said. (The Richmond Climax (Kentucky), 19 Nov. 1913).


Last night on the subway I was more than a little interested to notice a man in a guard’s uniform, very common in appearance and not at all unusual in manner, off-duty (presumably taking a postman’s holiday by riding on the cars!), reading from a book of Horace’s Odes in the original. (Sioux City Journal (Indiana), 21 Mar. 1928). Not ‘busman’s’ but along the same lines.


Your hero, Pelham Hardimann, states: Like any good Englishman, I am always happy to display pride in the inventions of his fellow countrymen. Shrapnel, something to be proud of – not sure about that. But there are plenty of other things: the steam engine, the railways, the hovercraft…and many, many more.

Major-General Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842) designed a system for shells to carry their own loads of fragments and bullets – the beginnings of shell fragmentation. Dangerous for the user, and unreliable, this weapon was improved by Colonel Boxer in 1852, using a diaphragm to separate the bullets from the bursting charge. The shrapnel explosive was first used in 1804 against the Dutch in their colony of Suriname, and The Duke of Wellington was impressed by its effectiveness in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo.

The Great War brought the shell’s ineffectiveness to light in The Somme Offensive. Sure, field guns were effective in warfare on open ground, but were of little use in trench warfare, and lacked the ability to cut down barbed-wire – something vital in such mass offensives. The shrapnel shell loses efficiency on soft ground – with fragments being buried.

This was to change in WWII with the invention of the Proximity Fuze (VT fuze) when Britain’s Pye research was taken over by the USA’s Tizzard Mission. A reminder here that land-lease was not just the loan and lease of weapons to Britain by the USA but the handover of all British science, engineering, and technology.

Recent history has shown us the horrors of the shrapnel principle, with terrorists improvising – using ball-bearings and nails wrapped around explosives.

Herr Krupp

The better half of Herr Krupp, mentioned by Pelham, refers to Bertha, daughter of Fritz Krupp. You are correct to question the use of ‘better half’ when ‘better half’ usually means ‘wife’. Well, it goes like this: Bertha, daughter of Fritz and Magda Krupp inherited the famous company on her father’s death. Could a woman run such a huge company at the beginning of the 20th century – no way! (Their opinion, not mine, mark you). Kaiser Wilhelm II stuck his oar in and advised (I use advised loosely) Bertha to marry Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach, grandson of American Civil War general Henry Bohlen – a prominent Prussian, and courtier to the Vatican. Gustav inherited the name Krupp by primogeniture – and guess what – the company came with it.

So, here, in chapter 2, Pelham is referring to the euphonious name ‘Big Bertha’, a howitzer built and used by the Germans in The Great War.

Krupp a Germany dynasty from Essen goes back 400 years, becoming Europe’s largest company at the beginning of the 20th century. The family produced small firearms during The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), made a fortune during the Napoleonic wars, and became supreme arms manufacturer to the Kingdom of Prussia and The German Empire.

Krupp’s steel built the American railroads.

Now, here is a situation where we find capitalism holding hands with good and evil. The Prussian/German social system was pretty advanced in the 19th century, with Krupp promoting social programmes such as technical training, health insurance for workers, public facilities such as schools, hospitals, parks and bath house, guaranteed incomes for widows and orphans of Krupp workers – all good stuff.

The evil: Krupp supported the Nazi party; Bertha’s son Alfred joined the SS in 1931. Krupp continued to build his fortune using POWs and civilians from countries occupied by Germany, with Slavic and Jewish slaves being treated the most harshly. Over 100,00 slaves. The Berthawerk factory, producing artillery fuses, used Jewish women as slaves, leasing them from the SS at 4 marks a head per day.

Alfred Krupp was convicted of crimes against humanity in the Krupp Trials (1947-1948). He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, only to be given amnesty in January 1951, by John J. McCloy, High Commissioner of the American Zone of Occupation when the Korean War and anti-communism took priority. With the Mehlem Agreement of 1953, under the watch of the USA, the UK, and France, Alfred Krupp was reestablished as the sole proprieter – allowing him to become the richest man in Europe and favourite son of The Common Market – now the EU.

All I can say: look for any ethics, morality, and decent behaviour in the arms industry and you will be searching for a bloody long time. No country excepted.

Field Marshall Haig

In The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell says ‘In a situation demanding the military equivalent of wit and invention…Haig had none.’ John Keegan is more brutal in his condemnation of Haig. ‘On the Somme, [Haig] had sent the flower of British youth to death or muti­lation; at Passchendaele he had tipped the survivors in the slough of despond.’

After The Great War, Haig was something of an awkward national figure, with admiration shifting to disdain and embarrassment. Haig understood the use of machine guns, aeroplanes, and tanks, but could not let go of the old-fashioned idea of cavalry charges. Even as late as 1926 he was writing ‘I believe that the value of the horse and the opportunity for the horse in the future are likely to be as great as ever. Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men and the horse, and I feel sure that as time goes on you will find just as much use for the horse—the well-bred horse—as you have ever done in the past’.

To accuse Haig of being a butcher, I don’t know, but one thing is clear – his flaw. His flaw: stubbornness. Some regard him as a pompous fool. What is clear is Haig was a soldier of the 19th century fighting a 20th century industrial war, and no politician, including Lloyd George had the cojones to sack him.

War on an industrial scale.

The most infamous and profligate debacle in British history is the Battle of the Somme. July 1st, 1916, 110,000 British infantrymen went ‘over the top’(on a 15 mile front) to suffer 60,000 within the first few hours. By October, Haig’s army suffered 400,000 casualties.

Historian John Keegan has a point, I feel, when he claims ‘the battle was the greatest tragedy…of their national military history’ and ‘marked the end of an age of vital optimism in British life that has never been recovered.’

Lions led by donkeys: yes. The ancient Greek writer Plutarch to Chabrias ascribed to Athenian general a statement that ‘an army of deer commanded by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions commanded by a deer.’

Are we unfair to Haig? The same can be said of German General Erich von Falkenhayn who believed he could exhaust the French at Verdun. The Russians lost 56,000 men at the Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914.

As we read here, in the 21st century, it is not easy to grasp the significance of The Great War, First World War, WWI – however you may describe it – but I remember – yes, I am an old git – even in the 1960s and 1970s, seeing the aftermath of not only the Second World War but also the Great War, with old, blinded, crippled, and damaged men, by then in their 60s and 70s. Few talked about it, but the experiences left a shadow.

As Pelham says in Chaper 3: it was nigh on impossible to walk down a city street or through a quaint English village without passing some poor soul blinded or crippled, physically and mentally destroyed in some way or another: the hell did not cease with the ending of the tolling bell. And that went on for decades.


On a lighter note now, albeit a brief one.

A traditional nautical saying to indicate that it is time for a morning drink. It was generally assumed in northern latitudes the sun would show above the foreyard of a ship by 1100, which was about the time in many ships of the forenoon ‘stand-easy’, when many officers would slip below for their first drink of the day.

‘sun is over the yardarm’, from The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea

Whisky glass

Any entertainer, host, worth his/her salt must understand which glass to use when offering drinks to guests. Personally, I am not too bothered about the shape or size of vessel when it comes to wine or beer, but for whisky, especially a fine malt, I am something of a stickler. (And should you be the sort that ruins whisky with ice or cola, I shall hunt you down and beat you around the face and neck). A dash of soda – I shall let that pass.

A Tumbler glass has an instantly recognizable silhouette. A Glencairn glass is the most common whisky glass for whisky tastings. Designed for sociable drinking, the thicker vessel allows you to swirl your dram with consummate ease. A Snifter is a short-stemmed glass that features a narrow top and wide-bottomed vessel.

You can’t go wrong with Royal Scot Crystal Whisky Tumbler.

For further information, should you wish to improve yourself, go to:

Carl Plummer. 2020

Chapter 3: next week.

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