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A naval officer’s Benz

This early picture came to us with a request for identification, via SAHB member Oliver Heal, from a neighbour of his who we believe is a descendant of the driver. Fortunately, we were able to help, thanks to the deep fund of knowledge of early cars of Ariejan Bos, who is always most generous with his assistance.  Ariejan sent us an advertisement from the 14 April 1900 issue of The Autocar, and told us:

“The car seems to me a ca 1900 Benz of the type called Duc in Germany and Duke Victoria in England. Compare with the illustration (left top) in the attached Autocar advertisement by Hewetson. The driver has the characteristic attitude of the Benz driver (driving with the left hand, the steering wheel and controls in the middle of the car). Still solid tyres, but you can see in the ad that two out of four were still equipped with these. Benz wasn’t anymore in the frontline of technical changes at the time. I don’t know the function of the rectangular plate at the front below the seat (metal, wood, cardboard?).”

The Hewetson advertisement from 1900.


Oliver’s neighbour told him that the driver was Sir James Startin of Ludlow, who later became an Admiral.  James Startin appears on the internet, and we therefore know something about his life.

Admiral Sir James Startin, K.C.B., A.M., Royal Navy, Retired (20 May, 1855 – 25 September, 1948) was an officer of the Royal Navy.  He was promoted to the rank of Captain on 25 May, 1897, to Rear-Admiral on 13 February, 1907 and to Admiral on the Retired List on 24 October, 1915.  He was, according to another officer, a fearless horseman, a gymnast and an athlete.  S late as 1918, when he was already on the retired list, he was awarded the Albert Medal for Gallantry in Saving Life at Sea, for recovering the body of an engineer after an explosion.  The account of his actions included these words:

“…[he] showed the utmost possible gallantry and disregard of personal safety. Had the engineer not been past human aid he would undoubtedly have owed his life entirely to the courage and promptitude of Commodore Startin.”

It is perhaps not surprising that such an active, brave and resourceful man would be among the ranks of the early pioneer motorists.

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