Three remarkable women were awarded Gold Stars for lapping the Brooklands circuit at over 100mph – two were mentioned in ‘The Rugged Road’ book review (TCM, February 2018).
Just by chance, I came across a photograph of the third of this exclusive trio, Beatrice Shilling, riding her 197cc Tandon in a postwar Southern Centre trial. In the 1930s, Shilling raced her home-tuned 500cc Norton International and occasionally beat professional riders, such as Noel Pope, and was awarded the Gold Star for lapping the banked circuit at 106mph during a race.
After gaining her PhD and MSc in electrical engineering at Manchester University, she was recruited as an aeronautical engineer by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Farnborough, Hampshire.
During the Second Word War, she invented what was affectionately known as “Miss Shilling’s Orifice,” a small metal disc, similar to a metal washer that restricted fuel flow to the carburettor, helping to prevent stalling in the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines of the Hurricane and Spitfire fighters which could lose power or even completely cut out during certain manoeuvres; a significant disadvantage in active service.
Working in the male-dominated RAE, ‘Tilly’ Shilling did not suffer fools gladly and her brusque manner and contempt for bureaucracy led to an uneasy relationship with management which probably did not help her promotion prospects.
She was, however, very belatedly, made an OBE for services to aeronautical engineering.
After the war, Beatrice and her ex-bomber pilot husband George Naylor, turned to racing vintage and sports cars in which once again she was a force to be reckoned with.
Jonathan Hill, Sherborne, Dorset.Enjoy more The Classic MotorCycle reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.