Douglas Bader’s MG TA – GPC 671

Douglas Bader pictured here c. 1940 when he was a Squadron Leader. He was later promoted to Group Captain and was knighted.

He hardly needs any introduction such were his exploits as a WW2 Fighter Pilot. His TA was supplied new and may well have been modified to cater for his disability.

MG TA, chassis no.TA1753, was built at Abingdon on 28th September 1937 and was fitted with engine number MPJG 2010. It was sold to Douglas Robert Stewart Bader and was first registered in his name as GPC 671 at 134 West Kensington Court, LONDON W14 on 14th January 1938.

The source document for these details is the original buff log book (R.F. 60) which came up for auction at Cheffins Auctioneers, Cambridge on 26th January 2006 with an estimate of £200 – £300.

https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/1605755_mg-ta-douglas-baders-buff-logbook

The log book actually sold for £850 plus buyer’s premium of 22.5%!

Several ‘changes of ownership’, which were actually changes of address as Bader moved from RAF Station to RAF Station are recorded in the log book with the last (the 5th change) in Bader’s name being date stamped 23rd May 1941 when he was stationed at RAF Tangmere in West Sussex.

The 6th change is date stamped 19th April 1945. The entry in the name box is difficult to read but could be ‘c/o’ (care of) with just an address ‘Red Wells, Ascot, Berks’.

Having established via the Royal Mail postcode database that ‘Red Wells’ is the first line of an address in London Road, ASCOT, Berkshire I wrote to the owner who was extremely helpful in providing the following information:

On first moving into the property over 40 years ago he and his wife were told many times by the ‘locals’, including the postman, that Douglas Bader used to live there. Another source of the information was the local church, St Michaels. However up until now there has never been any known documentation to conclusively prove the Bader connection.

This has now been substantiated by an entry in the deeds of ‘Red Wells’ which shows that in 1945 the property was in the ownership of Lt Col Arthur Addison. He had a stepdaughter called Olive Bader, wife of Douglas Bader. So Bader lived there with his wife in 1945 (post mid-April 1945).

Note: Bader left Colditz on 16th April 1945 when the castle was relieved by the Americans.

It is not known how long Bader lived at Red Wells but he may have moved to nearby Sunninghill, as according to his biography Reach for the Sky he lived there in a ‘cottage’.

An interesting snippet is to be found here at the BBC History site. The BBC ran a project WW2 People’s War from June 2003 to January 2006 with the aim of collecting the memories of people who had lived and fought during World War Two on a website; to quote from the website, “these would form the basis of a digital archive which would serve as a learning resource for future generations”.

One of the contributions came from a gentleman who said he started as an apprentice at White’s of Camberley in 1944. He remembers Bader bringing his MG in for servicing (this would have been later in 1945). Apparently this chap had the job of ‘servicing’ Bader’s new legs.

For those who are familiar with the geography of the area, Camberley is not a million miles from Ascot/Sunninghill and probably White’s was the nearest dealership around at the time.

Returning to the entries in the log book, the seventh (and last) entry is virtually impossible to de-cipher and unlike all the previous entries it is not date stamped. The first line of the address appears to be “RAF” but the rest is not legible and the signature does not look as though it is Bader’s.

This is possibly when the car changed hands but unfortunately we may never know, for we are totally in the dark regarding the history of GPC 671 for the 21 year period 1945 to 1966 until the emergence of a continuation log book. The circumstances surrounding the existence of this continuation log book are described later in this article.

The car was all but forgotten (if indeed it had ever been remembered!) but the auction of the original buff log book in 2006 changed all that.

The November 2005 edition of Totally T-Type carried the forthcoming auction of the log book as a News item and the then Editor (a Mr John James) commented at the end of the News item “All we need to do now is to find the car!”

Imagine the current Totally-Type 2 Editor’s surprise when at a joint MGCC/Octagon Car Club ‘natter’ in the spring of 2006, Richard Iles from Chippenham, Wiltshire came up to him and said “I used to own that car”.

Unfortunately, whilst in Richard’s ownership the car was involved in an accident in 1967 on the Upper Bristol Road in Bath. A Ford Cortina came straight out of a side turning and hit the MG amidships, extensively damaging it.

The body literally fell to bits and the chassis was badly damaged. Remember that this was the 1960s when the cars were not viewed in the same light as they are nowadays, so the decision was taken to dismantle the car.

The engine had already been swopped out prior to the accident as it leaked like a sieve and with a weak cylinder block it was only good for spares (ancillaries) and was sold. A replacement engine had been fitted from another TA owned by Richard which he had purchased from a Mr Pratten, a timber merchant, whose flourishing concern is still around to this day.

The chassis, apart from being banana shaped was seriously corroded at the rear with acid leakage from the twin 6-volt batteries not exactly helping to keep the metal in pristine condition. In fact, such was the condition that the rear end of the chassis was held together by pieces of Dexion.

Nowadays a decision might well be taken to refurbish the chassis (especially given the pedigree) but this was the 1960s! Additionally, it was not known at the time that this was the ex-Douglas Bader TA as this only came to light with the emergence of the original buff log book in Bader’s name.

The chassis was therefore hacksawed into manageable pieces for transportation by Richard’s brother, Timon and taken to George Flower’s scrap yard in Chippenham. The yard covered a vast area in the town and since closure has been redeveloped for housing.

Sadly that’s where the chassis of Douglas Bader’s TA ended up – a rather ignominious end, but perhaps some of the better metal on it ended up as rivets?

However, all is not lost because several bits of the car have survived with Richard Iles and the Editor has been along to take some photographs, which are reproduced at the end of this article.

Also reproduced, along with the original log book, is a scanned copy of the continuation log book showing Richard as the last owner.

First though, here are some period photos of the car which Richard has recently found. He also has a receipt for the purchase of GPC 671 from Pilot Officer Michael Leigh of RAF Rudloe Manor.

The first three photos were taken on holiday in Gwithian, Cornwall. Richard drove there in GPC 671 accompanied by his mate, David Speak, in the Sprite. The two of them can be seen sitting on the veranda of the holiday chalet in the third photo.

The colour photo shows GPC 671 parked outside Vale Court in Colerne, Wiltshire in August 1967.

This property was once owned by Arnold Hagenbach who made a fortune by developing the Arndale Centres with his friend, Sam Chippendale.

Above: Original log book in Bader’s name. Below: Continuation logbook showing last owner as Richard Iles (click image below for bigger view).

Two views of all that is left of the rear nearside quarter of Bader’s MG TA.

The offside bonnet side of Bader’s car showing the damage inflicted (most of the damage was further back as the Ford Cortina hit the car amidships as the MG was making a right turn).

One of the number plates from Bader’s MG TA which is hung on the garage wall.

The steering wheel from Bader’s MG TA.

Above: the radiator surround and spare wheel tripod from Bader’s MG TA Below: the radiator.

A selection of parts, which includes the hood frame.

Bishop Cam steering box from GPC 671.

The engine which was in the car at the time of the crash. As explained earlier in the text, this engine came out of Mr Pratten’s TA (TA0470) and is numbered MPJG 738. TA0470, originally registered as BDF 323 will be restored one day.

So, there you have it folks, that’s the story of GPC 671 from Richard Iles’ brief period of ownership. There is surely at least one more continuation log book covering the period circa 1945 to 1966. I have tried, so far without success, to get in touch with Alan Ivor Tucker, the first named owner in Richard’s continuation log book. There is always the possibility that he might recall the name of the previous owner, albeit we are now fifty years down the track.

As regards locating the bits of the Bader MG TA which have survived this has been a difficult assignment. All the bits are on the same site with the easy to find ones in a triple-garage which is relatively tidy. However the harder to find ones are ‘buried’ in a former slaughter house amongst years of accumulated bric-a-brac and there is every chance that more will be revealed. One item which will not be found is the chassis – that’s accounted for as destroyed and scrapped. JOHN JAMES

One thought on “Douglas Bader’s MG TA – GPC 671

  1. Christopher Runciman says:

    A great report on a car which many of us saw photographs with Bader at the wheel, pipe in mouth, a boys ( and girls of course!). It may have started me on the road to having one of my own. Well I do now, BUD952 1946 TC, with a Shorrocks supercharger, and a windtone horn, as in the photographs in the article, to let people know I am coming. I would love to be the carer for that steering wheel, not the keeper for we are all just the custodians of our MGs………….the tales it could tell!

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