My full name is Andrew Lambert (but to everyone I am Andy) and these days I live in Hampshire near Southampton, England. It is fair to say I have been successful in my life and 'made a name' for myself in several very diverse areas, including changing the UK Recovery Industry for the better and organising the recovery of most of the major exhibits at Brooklands Museum. However, before I 'bore you to tears' with some of the achievements I am most proud of, here is a brief background to the start of my life. I was born back in 1946 and lived at 77a Replingham Road in an area of London called Southfields (to be exact 77a was above the co-op for those that remember it). I lived there until I was 22 and so did most of my growing up around the Battersea, Putney Wandsworth and Wimbledon areas. I shared my formative years with my older brother Geoff, that's the two of us on his wedding day (I am on the right). My first School was Riversdale School in Southfields, then later I went to the brand new Elliott Comprehensive School, up on Putney Common. Old Elliott pupils might like to know there is a fascinating website that I manage (link in on Services page). When I left school, I first worked for Decca in Queenstown Road, located in what was then the 'rough end' of Battersea What an education that was for a young man,talk about the 'swing sixties'!
My father was sadly killed in a car accident during this time and so I had o do my growing up damn quickly. Fortunately I was amongst friends (a bunch of very tough 'rockers') and that no doubt is where I developed my love of fast modes of transport (as well as a taste for leggy blondes!) The picture shows me with some of the 'gang' I hung out with then (left to right) Christine and Colin, leaning on a BSA Goldstar. Derek, Myself and Penny, just some of the 'The Battersea Jets'. Sadly as it was back in the days before ‘Social Media’ I have long since lost touch with them all, but I hope they had good lives and mostly stayed out of trouble.
Around that time, my good mate Don Freeman introduced my to the world of 'motor cycles' and my projected carrier in the world of electronics, started to move irrevocably towards the wonders of the combustion engine. It would take a few more years before motor vehicles became my life, but they did (although electronics would remain a hobby throughout). I stayed with electronics for a bit longer, joining Redifon (part of the Redifusion Group) at Wandsworth, around 1965. I then worked for DER at the Mitcham Depot and CES (Part of Philips) as a service engineer. I then married my first wife Barbara, left home and we moved down to Portscatho in Cornwall. Here I worked again as a TV repair man, in and around the Roseland area. It was a wonderful place to live and I even became an 'guest' Cornishman, I still having several friends in this part of the world today. Employment however was very hard to find and in the end we moved back to London. When we came back, we first lived in Surbiton and I got a job at Surrey Typewriters. It was here I found I could sell things! I ended up virtually running what was then, the 'new' Electronic Calculator Division. I also learnt a lot about 'surviving in a business world', from the greatest of salesman Trevor Dean.
Although the first part of my life (and then the last part of working life) were involved with electronics, my 'true love' has always been vehicle recovery and all the remarkable people in the industry. I attended my first breakdown with Forge Garage of Poynings down in Sussex (with whom I was odd jobbing through my holiday), in the summer of 1965 and become hooked (no pun) on recovery vehicles. This is a picture of the first 'breakdown vehicle' I ever drove, over fifty years ago (aged 19). Since then I have driven everything from a Mk1 Land Rover, up to a Ford Transcontinental, towing almost everything including a damaged, but fully loaded petrol tanker (it sharpens your concentration!) From that turning point on, I spent every spare moment nights and weekends, as a 'part time' recovery driver. My speciality being working the Kingston Bypass, and if you knew the bypass when South Lane was still a crossroads, you will understand what it was like! Still I lived through it and sadly there were some that did not. I part timed for Windmill Coachworks, (then in East Molsey opposite the police station).
Next I joined Instant Service Garage, in that most famous of suburban roads - The Avenue Surbiton (never did get to meet Felicity Kendal though). It was interesting 'fighting for work', in those days when only a few motorist belonged to one of the 'motoring clubs'. Finally I joined Cambridge Coachworks, on the Cambridge Road Kingston. To start with I was an evening controller, However I was asked to join them full time around 1971 and became the manager. While the Coachworks side was expertly run by Wally Pells, the coachworks could not survive without its trucks looking for work. It was then that I decide to start a recovery company, this was National Rescue, firstly as a division of Cambridge Coachworks, although of course in the end it would swallow the coachworks up. What followed, were probably the best years of my life. We did not have much money but I loved the work, even if it was 'non stop' 24Hrs a day. The incredible joy and camaraderie, of working with those recovery drivers and police officers I knew at that time, will remain with me forever. They were all characters and I have not meet their like since. Nor do I expect to, because today our behaviour would not be 'politically correct’. If any of you read this: Jaws, Phil the Gypsy, Snake, Sunshine, Alan the Poet, Trio, Trigger, Stitch, Grisly, Chunky and so, so many others - Thanks for all the fun we had.
If you have time, please read my Recollections of Vehicle Recovery (you will find a link on the Services Pages), to get a feel for those incredible times. It seems imposable today to believe that such things happened then, but happen they did and you can see some of the photos to prove it. Our relationship with the other emergency services is one todays operators can only dream about. We all worked together to get the job done and traffic flowing again. If that meant half a dozen fireman, a couple of ambulance and all available Traf Pols helping us sling the goods back into a righted lorry, then it would happen. Our local Traffic Police Garage was TDV and it was housed in the old Cooper F1 building in Surbiton. Again if you want to read more about it you will find a link in the services section to the TDV website (another one I created). During the time at Cambridge Road Kingston not only did we start National Rescue, we also broke in to CB. To be part of the legalisation of CB in the UK, we converted an old wooden hut (on the front of the coachworks) in to a Shop, and called it The Rabbit Rabbit Hutch. One of the hardest things about running a recovery operation, was the paperwork. Each day you could undertake a large number of lift and tows. Everything is done as quick as possible, but this means the paperwork, becomes a poor second. I ended up writing a computer program to do all the invoicing and soon found other recovery operators, needed something like it themselves. So in 1985 myself and a genus called Ian Lane, started Motor Trade Software. A software company producing programs for the motor trade and vehicle recovery operators. I was MD of that company, until we sold it, in 2002.
Prior to this my only brother Geoff worked for BT as an engineer, but like me spent his spare time around the recovery scene. In 1982 he had joined me at National Rescue full time and when I left to expand Motor Trade Software in the nineties, he took over and run The National Rescue Group until he retired in 2008. His son Martin runs it today. Part of the expansion I left NRG to undertake, was to launch a new company Mobile Tracking Systems Their main products were vehicle location devices and guess what? Their largest customer sector, was the UK's Recovery Industry and it was for their use we developed Turbo Dispatch. Much has been written elsewhere about this and how it changed the industry for the better, therefore I don't intend to dwell on it here. If you have an interest in it, you can read all about it on my History of Vehicle recovery website. The two MTS companies, grow to provide the majority of software and hardware, that is used by the Recovery Industry. I was amazed in 2001, when it was calculated, that 93% of all vehicle recoveries, subcontracted by all the UK Motoring Organisations, were sent over the MTS data network! When I first drove a recovery vehicle back in 1965, I could never have guessed that I would be associated with vehicle recovery for the rest of my life. I also could not have guessed that at the end my active career (forty years later), 'The Good and the Great' of the industry would to my eternal pride, make me a Fellow of The Institute Of Vehicle Recovery.
Then in 2006 The Institute sprung one of the biggest surprise of my life on me, when during the annual dinner, I was awarded the incredible Green Flag Trophy. This lifetime achievement award, was given to me for the contributions my peers thought I had made to the recovery industry. It is a couple of foot long and so bloody heavy, you need a full size flat bed to get it home. When I finally retired in 2007 I thought it was all over and I could get away from Recovery Vehicles, but again I was honoured to be asked to become the fourth trustee in RISC UK (The Recovery Industry Support Charity), along with my old mates Brian Hagan, Tom Johnson and new friends Debbie Hewitt and the awesome Nikki King.
My first marriage ended in 1982, probably like so many others, because of the pressure of work. I remarried a few years later. My second wife the lovely Christine comes from the Sunbury area, she went to Kenyngton Manor School and then worked for Airfix / Crayon, both at Sunbury and Staines offices. We become a couple in 1982 as a result of circumstance totally beyond our control, or at the time our desires. Christine has done a little amateur modelling and her natural good looks and charm, complements one of my favourite hobbies - Photography. This has resulted in four Glamour Calendars, some pictures in a couple of lingerie catalogues and for a short while, her own Glamour website. However, don't let her looks fool you, she is a competent business lady and home keeper. She helped me raise my first daughter Sandra as if she was her own and also presented me with my second daughter called Caroline in 1984. She became a Director with myself, in the MTS Group and then successfully managed the MTS Group with me (she might say despite me) until we sold the companies and retired. Next to the family, her big love is her collection of pussy cats. She currently has few real ones and a couple of hundred model ones. She even sometimes got to drive my 'British Racing Green' Jaguar CAT (during the eight years it was my daily transport. My own interest are varied, although they tend to be with mechanical or electronic things. I seem to be able to take nice photos and have a large collection of unusual pictures from my years in recovery, some of which you can see on my other websites. As I have said I enjoy glamour photograph, although now I am only really allowed to use my wife as the model. You can again see some examples of my work on my other websites. Many of my pictures have been published on the internet,I also enjoy making home moves with my SVHS and more recently Digital Video systems. All things electronic are of interest and after some twenty years as a SWL (Short Wave Listener), in 1972 I passed my Radio Amateurs License and hold the call-sign G8HER. Boating has formed a large part of my life as well, with most of my boats being moored in the Solent.
For the last thirty odd years, I have also been working as a volunteer for Brooklands Museum. Myself and a team of very special guys have been responsible for transporting most of the museum's major exhibits. This group is known as BREAST (Brooklands Recovery Engineering And Salvage Team)I have long since lost count, but the number of aircraft road transportations I have been involved with, must have exceeded one hundred by now. This includes aircraft as big as the Viscount and as special as Concorde. The volunteers are a unique bunch of people and you never know just who you are working with on a project. On one occasion I was unloading the cockpit sections of a Valiant 'V Bomber'. Quietly watching me was an 'old boy' cutting the grass. After an hour or so he had finished and come over to where we were having a break. We chatted for awhile and he seemed to know a bit about the V bombers so I asked him if he had worked on them. he replied "not really, but there are a lot of other volunteers here who did if you need to ask something" In the months that followed I got to know this unassuming and gentle man better and found out that indeed he had not 'worked' on them. He was in fact Capt. Jock Bryce OBE, the test pilot who had first flown it, along with the 'first flight' of the Varsity, Viscount, VC-10, Vanguard and BAC 1-11. Talk about respect! The is another Photo below that shows NRG's Brooklands Belle lifting a Viscount nose / cockpit section on to NRG's low loader A3 TUG. The Belle was the last recovery vehicle I was involved in constructing of, Gordon Jackson and I designed it in such a way, there was not an aircraft job it could not handle - It was OK with road vehicles too of course. I also own myself a very impressive AEC Militant Recovery vehicle called Milly who now lives at Brooklands. If you are interested in old Commercial vehicles, follow the links to Milly’s website because she has an incredible history as a Recovery Vehicle. First of all with London Transport, then with NRG and finally with Brooklands. My proudest 'Brooklands' moments were during 2004, when with the aid of a fantastic team. I help plan and executed the movement of the Brooklands Concorde DG from Filton Bristol, home to Weybridge. I will not go into the politics of what happened about 'who got allocated which' Concorde here, but all I will say is while the world's TV watched her sister going down the River Thames on a barge, held their breath as major roads were shut, and applauded as it arrived (a couple of million pounds later) in Scotland. We just quietly got on with the job and with the aid of many old friends from the Recovery industry, brought our Concorde home in bits, down the M4.Here is a set if picture starting with the day we first saw our Concorde aircraft at Bristol and ending a few months later when we craned it off at Brooklands. If you do look at the aircraft recovery picture links elsewhere on this site, you may notice a monochrome jumper! you may well see it again and again, this is because it brings me luck and I have been wearing it for difficult museum recoveries, for almost thirty years.!
While talking about Brooklands Museum this is a good place to mention a big surprise event, that took place there in September 2006. It was a couple of days after my sixtieth birthday and unbeknown to me, some very good friends and a group of my relatives, decided to see how old 'Leadfoot' Lambert would get on driving (or travelling in), sixty odd vehicles in just one day and they had been planning this surprise for some nine months. I was collected by wife and my daughters (complete with a wheelchair) at eight in the morning.
The wheelchair being the first set of wheels, out of the sixty items they had planned. I then spent
the whole day driving or travelling in different Vehicles including Cars, Bikes, Hovercraft, Police Cars, Ambulance,
Fire Engines, Airfield Vehicles, Recovery Vehicles, Boats, Skateboards, Tractors, Commercial Vehicles, an Underground Train and even a light Aircraft.
Although some of my mates were in fairly influential positions at the time, I can only guess at how many favours they must have 'called in' to organise this lot.
You can get a good understanding of the pain they put me through that day (but which I would do again tomorrow without even
thinking), by watching the video of the event which you will find amongst the 300 plus videos I have posted on You Tube (again links to them above).
Andy Lambert (Fareham 2016)