On this day in history….10th January 1985

On this day in history : 10th January 1985 – At the launch of the Sinclair C5 a row breaks out over the electric tricycle’s safety….

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1985 Sinclair C5 – harry_nl via Flickr

Launched by entrepreneur, inventor and computer millionaire Sir Clive Sinclair, the C5 was designed for short journeys…. Sir Clive said it was a perfect runabout, ideal for shopping, going to the office or school…. The open-topped, battery operated machine – steered via a handlebar located under the knees of the driver – could be driven on the road by anyone over the age of 14…. The driver was not obliged to wear a helmet, needed no driving licence, insurance or road tax…. It had a top-speed of 15mph and could be purchased at a cost of £399 (or £428 for mail order delivery)….

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Sinclair C5 sectioned – Image : Prioryman – own work – CC BY-SA 4.0

However, safety concerns were raised at the lavish Press launch, which was held at Alexandra Palace in North London…. At 6ft long and just 2ft 6″ high the British Safety Council said it was too close to the ground and the driver would have poor visibility in traffic…. At a top-speed of only 15mph safety experts expressed concern that the C5 was too vulnerable amongst other cars…. Dr. Murray MacKay, head of the Accident Research Unit at Birmingham University, described it as ‘a sort of milk float’….

To add insult to injury, many of the machines specially laid on at the launch for the journalists to try out, did not work…. The Sunday Times referred to the C5 as a ‘Formula One bath chair’….

The Sinclair C5 was to go on to become a commercial flop…. Sir Clive had predicted sales of 100,000 plus – but in reality only 12,000 were ever produced…. However, it has gained cult status in later years – with collectors paying as much as £5,000 as an investment…. Enthusiasts meet at gatherings – some even performing elaborate modifications to their machines….

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Modified with tiger stripes! – Image :  Prioryman – own work – CC BY-SA 4.0
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Sinclair C5 modified with a jet engine! – Image : Prioryman – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

The C5 also had some very notable fans…. Princes William and Harry had one each to ride around on at Kensington Palace – and Sir Elton John owned two….

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Abandoned and long forgotten…. Image : Alan Gold via Flickr

On this day in history….10th March 1988

On this day in history….10th March 1988 – Prince Charles narrowly escapes death when an avalanche hits the royal ski party at Klosters, Switzerland….one of his close friends is killed….

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Prince Charles via Wikimedia – Public domain

The royal party consisted of the Prince of Wales, Major Hugh Lindsay, Mr and Mrs Palmer-Tomkinson, a Swiss policeman and Bruno Sprecher, one of the best local guides…. The Princess of Wales and Duchess of York were also on the holiday but were back at the royal party’s chalet in Davos….

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Klosters – image credit: Florian343 via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Prince Charles and his friends were skiing ‘off piste’ – on one of the most difficult runs in the area – the Wang Run….on the steep slopes of Mount Gotschnagrat – which are among some of the steepest in Switzerland. This particular day was the first time the run had been opened that season….as it was rarely opened and considered to be suitable only for the most experienced of skiers…. Prince Charles being such a skier – having started to ski at the age of 14….

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Mount Gotschnagrat via Twitter

The previous day had seen a fresh snowfall and snow had built up on the mountain….but there had been no avalanche warnings issued…. At 2.45pm the avalanche started some 100 feet above where the party were skiing…. Prince Charles and most of the others managed to ski to safety – but Major Lindsay and Patti Palmer-Tomkinson were caught in it….and plunged 400m down the mountainside….

Once the avalanche had passed the party including the Prince of Wales desperately tried to help them – digging at the snow with their hands frantically trying to free them…. Both were airlifted by helicopter to Davos hospital….where Major Lindsay was pronounced dead…. Patti Palmer-Tomkinson suffered severe leg injuries….

Price Charles had lost one of his close friends…. Major Hugh Lindsay was 34-years-old and former equerry to the Queen…. Having accompanied Her Majesty on many official engagements he was one of her favourites…. He had been married only two years and his wife was expecting their child in May…. Prince Charles, the Princess of Wales and Duchess of York flew back to RAF Northolt with Major Lindsay’s coffin…. The Queen sent a private message of sympathy to his widow….