Interview with Herman Brammer

Herman Brammer (1944) was a marshall waving the yellow flag on the race track to warn coming drivers for the accident of Roger Williamson back in 1973. He tells his story to researcher Nando Boers for Dutch VPRO televison.

"Our post #10 on the circuit was made of two bales of hay. We had to flag, just like nowadays."
Q Could you do anything?
A "Waving the yellow flag, that was all. There were firefighters near the wreck. They had to do the work. There were 12 kilo fire exinguishers as well, but we were not allowed to use them. Honestly."
Q Did those firefighters know what to do?
A "There was an old firefighter and a young firefighter for whom it was only his first or second time around. So you can not really blame the young one.
But the older firefighter was sitting on top of a sanddune watching the race. Hardly ready to act instantly."

Q What do you recall from the beginning of the race?
A "I saw Roger Williamson crash in the preceding corner, hitting the armco. Bumping, sliding and burning across the track and after all the wreck came to a halt right in front of us."
Q Did you get frightened?
A "I was scared. First I heard a loud bang. I was not looking in that direction but when you hear a bang, you automatically look in that direction. The sound of metal against metal was guided to me through the
armco. The bang came first and when I looked he was already bumping across the track. A longitudal barrelroll. The car was on fire already. We had no protective clothing. With todays clothing we might have been able to do
something. In those days we just wore our daily clothes and a black & white vest."

Q Only be able to wave the yellow flag, that must have been a strange experience for you?
A "Yes, strange but someone had to wave the yellow flag."
Q You were on automatic pilot?
A "Yes, I think I switched off all emotions. This is what I have to do, so that is what I do."
Q What was the firefighter on the dune doing?
A "He descended from that dune to the track with the fire extinguisher. When he climbed over the armco Purley grabbed the fire extinguisher from his hands. Purley parked his car on the left side of the track near our post at
a distance of 10 meters. Later I understood from Gijs van Lennep that the racing drivers thought that the driver had escaped from the wreckage and that Purley was busy with the fire extinguisher and his own car. And the
drivers focussed on the right hand side of the track as that was were the wreckage was, so they did not notice Purley's car parked on the left hand side".

Q And everybody continued racing?
A "Yes, the race continued. I do not know how the race developed and ended."
Q What happened right in front of your eyes?
A "I was waving the yellow flag and tried to take a look from time to time. I know my colleague Hans Rens crossed the track. I can not remember how we managed that. Actually I did not see him doing that, but he was there. I saw Purley with the fire extinguisher. A firetruck came as well. That was a slow vehicle that came from pit area near the Gerlach turn. It was not exactly close by. Only after this Roger Williamson accident they started with these BMW safety cars. Too little too late."
Q The wrecked car laid there for quite some time and I assume that Hans Rens returned to your post?
A "Yes, he could not do anything. I know he has tried to move the car. But that was impossible on his own."
Q Did you feel the urge to assist?
A "Yes, but waving a flag means assistance as well. That yellow flag is important to warn others for continued danger. If you drop the flag they think the track is clear again."
Q It seems to me very difficult to restrict your assistance to just waving a flag?
A "You are right. Waving a flag is obviously also a sort of assistance because I guarded people on the track. It is frustrating because I could not do anything else. I had to keep waving the yellow flag because the situation changed continuously. When a car breaks down and is parked alongside the track you wave the flag untill the driver is behind the armco and safe, than you stop waving the flag. But in this case numerous people were crossing the track."
Q Did you notice Purley's desperation?
A Yes, he was his friend. Wasn't it for that then he would not have stopped either I guess. Purley was pretty nervous. The way he grabbed the fire extinguisher. I am not sure if he really noticed the traffic when he crossed
the track."

Q And the race still continued?
A "Yes, but my enthousiasm had vanished. I did not really pay attention to the race anylonger."
Q And afterwards?
A "Colleagues wanted to talk. After the race I was pretty calm when I had left the circuit. Just like when you cut your fingers. First you do not feel any pain. But later... I could talk about it in a sensible manner, I had lost the panic I felt during the afternoon."
Q Perhaps a strange question: Did you feel, at any time, any responsibilty for his death?
A "No, I have always been thinking Roger was dead when his upside down car hit the track. I do not feel responsible.