Friday 13th August 1971
Walter Owen Bentley (82), MBE, English engineer who designed engines for cars and aircraft, raced cars and motorcycles, and founded Bentley Motors Limited in Cricklewood near London, died. He was known as “W.O.” without any need to add the word Bentley. W. O. Bentley was born as the ninth child to Alfred Bentley, a British businessman and Emily nee Waterhouse in 1888. From 1902 to 1905, he attended the Clifton College, a public school in Clifton, Bristol. He left the school at the age of 16 and started to work as an apprentice railway engineer at the Great Northern Railway at Doncaster, Yorkshire. W. O. completed apprenticeship in 1910. Afterwards, he studied briefly theoretical engineering at King’s College London. In 1912 W.O. Bentley and his brother H.M., with their newly formed company Bentley & Bentley Ltd., which was specialised in selling the D.F.P cars (Doriot, Flandrin & Parant (D.F.P.) was a French car maker based in Courbevoie, Seine between 1906 and 1926). W.O. Bentley and his brother H.M., had acquired the British and Commonwealth Agency for the French-built Doriot, Flandrin et Parant motor cars. The French cars were imported as rolling chassis and sent out to London coachbuilders for bespoke coachwork. W.O. successfully campaigned the 12/15hp model in competition however worked closely with his French mechanic Leroux to develop still more power from this engine. The result was the 12/40hp Speed Model, built exclusively by DFP for Bentley & Bentley. Soon, however, he started making aluminium alloy pistons for the DFP engine. After the outbreak of the First World War, he started to build rotary aero-engines. Meanwhile, he also started to make plans for his own range of cars that would bear his name. During World War I, he was a Captain in the Royal Naval Air Service, where he played a major role in improving the design and manufacture of Clerget engines for the Sopwith Camel and the Sopwith Snipe aircraft. These were known as the BR1 (Bentley Rotary 1) and BR2 and were made by Humber. For this he was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), and an award of £8,000 from the Commission for Awards to Inventors.