Story and Photos by Jonathan Sharp
The kindly gentleman looked resplendent in his scarlet coat, the uniform of the Chelsea Pensioners. We were all staring at the new Ferrari. He turned to us and began to speak. “Do you know, I was at the Nurburgring in 1960, when Moss and Dan Gurney were driving the Camoradi Maserati Birdcage?” No, we didn’t know that as it was from out of the blue. But he continued. “Gurney had just handed over to Moss whilst at the same time the whole of the Ferrari team were in the pits refueling. The Ferrari team manager, I forget his name, got into a panic and ordered the cars to resume racing ASAP, one car leaving before refueling from the large fuel urn had been completed. In the next second, whoosh flames everywhere!” We asked him “Did you take any photos at the event”?
“Yes” he says, “But when I moved into the Hospital I had to get rid of them…we do not have much room inside you know.” “What a shame,” we say. The Pensioner went on. “When I was stationed in Paris my wife and I used to attend many of the races at the Nurburgring, Zandvoort, we even paid our five marks or whatever it was to do a lap of the Nurburgring in our new little Austin Healey Sprite.”
We could have stood there all day talking with him, or better still taken him to the bar for more stories, but alas our conversation was interrupted by a Falklands war veteran who wanted to discuss the Gentleman’s medals, and we never did find out his name!
So where did this encounter acquire? Right in his back garden being, in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea right next to the River Thames in London.
The Royal Hospital Chelsea was instigated by King Charles 11, who in 1681, responding to the need to care for veteran soldiers, issued a Royal Warrant authorizing the building of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned to design and erect the building. Sir Stephen Fox was commissioned to raise the funding. Sir Christopher’s design is based on the Hotel des Invalides in Paris with the original building intending to hold 412 Pensioners. In 1692 the Hospital was opened and 330 years later it is not just the buildings which survive, it is the understanding that the Country owes a debt of gratitude to its old soldiers. All Chelsea Pensioners have served as normal soldiers in the armed service at some point in their lives and are well loved by a grateful nation.
A new event at ‘Salon Prive London’ this year (April 22-24) was a Concours de Vente in which every entrant was for sale. The 1954 OSCA MT4 won the Prix d’Honneur in the unique sale. In addition to the Concours de Vente the show also included the unveiling of several new sporting cars but it is the concours that I will mainly focus one with the following images.