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How the bombs of the Blitz destroyed the first all-British motor car 77 years ago today

14th November 2017

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77 years ago today bombs rained down on Coventry destroying lives, buildings and an irreplaceable piece of history.

The 5hp Lanchester built in 1895 was the first all-British petrol four-wheel car and by the time BSA took over it had been moved to the Radford Works alongside other historic Daimler cars.
According employee Percy Cooper in the Lanchester Legacy Vol 2:

The historic Daimler and Lanchester cars had always been regarded as more or less irrelevant and had been crammed into the end of an old building at the Radford Works. It seemed only the apprentices appreciated their existence, as they sat in them every day as wonderful places to eat their lunch.

A museum had been built in 1939 and at the beginning of the war, the cars in the historic collection were moved out…except one, the 1895 Lanchester.
George Lanchester confirmed that it had been lost, although not bombed directly, destroyed by fire and its surviving metal sent to scrap. As well as this, all the drawings and paperwork for pre-1931 cars were also destroyed leading to accusations that BSA and Daimler officials did not care about the historic loss or their role in it.

Plan of the Daimler and Lanchester Factory - Radford Works Coventry

Plan of the Daimler and Lanchester Factory – Radford Works Coventry, showing the bombs that were dropped and fire damage (Reproduced from Lanchester Legacy Vol 2)

Fred Lanchester himself wrote to his brother, venting his anger:

I am sorry to hear that the original Lanchester has been destroyed by enemy action. The Daimler was very careful to get their stock of cars out of the danger zone but did not care a damn about things that counted for more.

Many years later when he was in his 80s, George painstakingly created a model of the 1895 car that can be seen in the Lanchester Interactive Archive today.


Some fantastic mapping detective work from Neal Gibson on Twitter, who has overlaid the locations of the bombs that were dropped on that fateful night onto a current Google Map. 

Perhaps your house is now located on one of the roads where one of the explosions took place? These include Daimler Road, Chetton Avenue, Bardley Drive, Witnell Road, Romsley Road, Sidbury Road, Alverley Road, Chelmarsh, Kingsford Road, Corbet Way, Highley Drive and Kinlet Close.
Bombs dropped on the Daimler Lanchester works during the Blitz, November 1940

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