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1904, he built his first car in one corner of his workshop. On 1 April, his creation went on its maiden journey of fifteen miles to Knutsford (Cheshire). From these humble beginnings, he would change the face of car manufacturing.

Of the first few vehicles made, one was sold to another company director, Henry Edmunds, who happened to be a car dealer who knew Charles Rolls, who had a showroom in London. Royce and Rolls duly met at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, on 4 May 1904, agreeing to collaborate and manufacture vehicles. ‘Rolls- Royce’ was destined to become a world leader in civil and defence engineering. Royce had the humbler background, but Rolls (Eton and Cambridge) appreciated his partner’s gifts, describing him as “the greatest engineer in the world” and a man of “extraordinary genius.”

The first Rolls-Royce was launched in December 1904 in Paris, and Rolls-Royce Ltd followed in 1906 with Royce as chief engineer and works director. Rolls complemented the business, providing know-how and finance. The Rolls-Royce name became synonymous with reliability, for example, in June 1906, one of its cars was the only one completing the 671-mile ‘Scottish Reliability Trials’. Royce established premises in Derby in 1907. He was looking for a bigger factory to cope with the increasing demand for cars, and one visit was enough to persuade him that Derby was the place. He was sometimes prevented from attending in person due to ill health brought on by long working hours and not taking proper meals. As a renowned perfectionist, it seemed that he didn’t have time for mundane activities like eating!

The successful partnership ended abruptly in 1910 when Rolls died tragically in a flying accident at Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth, aged 32. In spite of this, the brand continued and the legendary Rolls-Royce

‘Silver Ghost’ was manufactured from 1907 to 1925, followed by the ‘Phantom’.

Royce was encouraged to spend time away from the

factory, in the South of France in winter, and in St. Margaret’s Bay, Dover, in summer. Royce and Minnie separated in 1912 and, in 1917, Royce moved to West Wittering, Sussex, where he would end his days. Royce made his mark not just with cars but also in

the air. At the onset of World War I, he designed aero-engines; one of which powered Alcock and Brown’s aeroplane in the first Atlantic crossing in 1919. Rolls-Royce also powered the first flight from England to Australia. During World War I, more than half of Allied aircraft used Rolls-Royce engines. Royce developed the Rolls-Royce ‘R’ aero-engine, which won the Schneider Trophy - the famous seaplane competition - in 1929, with an average speed of over 328 mph at Calshot Spit, Southampton Water. This success was repeated in 1931, with an average speed of 340 mph. An ‘R’ engine seaplane later became the first aircraft to breach the 400-mph barrier. Rolls-Royce engines were also responsible for land speed records, courtesy of Sir Malcolm Campbell; the first being in ‘Bluebird’, in February 1923, at Daytona Beach, Florida. Rolls-Royce Ltd bought WO (Walter Owen) Bentley in 1931 and, by 1933, the first Bentleys, made by Rolls-Royce, were appearing.

Further aeronautical

initiatives followed. The PV12 (private venture) engine, developed by Royce, led to the legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin that changed the course of World

War II. Sadly, Royce passed away in 1933, so did not live to see the PV12 pass its first test the following

year. Merlins were fitted to Lancaster, Halifax, Mosquito, Hurricane and Spitfire aero- planes, with almost 150,000 being built. Giving their pilots technical superiority during the Battle of Britain was Royce’s

contribution to winning the war. In 1944, continued on page 22

PHOTO STORY: *Main:Memorial at the Midland Hotel, Manchester, commemorating the meeting there of Henry Royce and Charles Rolls on 4 May 1904, which led to the formation of Rolls-Royce Ltd. Above:Plaque outside Quarndon House, Derbyshire, commemorating Henry Royce ( image: Steve Bowen) *Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Roberts

County Life 21

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