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Sir Stirling Moss: A Tribute at Westminster Abbey

On Wednesday, May 8th, Westminster Abbey hosted a poignant memorial service to commemorate the life of Sir Stirling Moss. The celebration served as a heartfelt tribute to one of the most famous and revered Britons of his generation. Amidst the venerable walls of the Abbey, steeped in a millennium of history, Sir Stirling Moss was remembered as a giant among men. 

Written by Archie Hill for The Apex by Custodian.

The memorial service, orchestrated by Elliot Moss and @aubreypeckautomotive, drew a crowd of approximately 2,000 attendees, among whom were distinguished figures including His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent, and the Duke of Richmond. Racing luminaries such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, and Damon Hill were also present, along with other notable personalities like Oscar Fangio, Richard Hammond, Nick Mason, Rowan Atkinson, Simon Taylor, Anthony Hamilton, and Ross Brawn.

Ross Brawn stood next to his Ferrari 250GT SWB, a car that Stirling drove to victory in the 1960 RAC Tourist Trophy, the 1960 Nassau Tourist Trophy and the Redex Trophy at Brands Hatch. Below, Sir Jackie Stewart makes his way into Westminster Abbey // Credit: Archie Hill

At the start of the service, Damon Hill and Sebastian Bell, son of Derek Bell, carried Stirling's white helmet and Monaco trophy through the Abbey and placed them on the High Altar. Elliot Moss then read a personal letter written to him by his father:

‘The Stars, to me, symbolise all I ever wanted to achieve. Look at the Stars, my son, and know you can do it too. They will be different Stars for something quite different but just as important and precious – to us both – as mine. But take time out, also to consider the helmet and be reminded that everything worth achieving comes at a cost. If you are lucky, you might never get the bill. But don’t bank on it. Before you start, be sure you are willing to pay the price. I was, and I did, and I have no regrets.'

Stirling's personal O.S.C.A FS372 // "A beautiful car to handle, I really can't think of any bad side to it, a really nice car to drive." - Sir Stirling Moss // Credit: Archie Hill

Simon Taylor gave a touching tribute, shining a light on Stirling's remarkable achievements, which included 212 victories in 529 starts, a win rate of almost 40%, and his dominance across disciplines, from rallies, hill climbs and circuit racing. He also made specific reference to Stirling's record breaking Mille Miglia win in 1955, in which Stirling averaged 98mph over the course of 1,000 miles around Italy, and recounted the late Enzo Ferrari who is quoted to have said, ‘If he had put reason before passion, he would have been world champion many times.’ Charles Shields and the Duke of Richmond also delivered beautiful readings.

Sir Jackie Stewart's tribute focused very much on Stirling the man, not just the racer. He made reference to Stirling's humility, sportsmanship, and charisma. He also entertained with a delightful story that took place shortly after he had won his first World Championship. He was waved down by a police officer near Hyde Park as a result of some rather spirited driving, and was asked the question, 'Who do you think you are? Stirling Moss?'. Upon inspection of his driving licence the police officer couldn't quite believe that he'd in fact apprehended the flying scot. He rounded off his tribute by stating in no uncertain terms that a memorial such as this within the motorsport world would never be seen again.

Stirling's Mille Miglia winning Mercedes 300 SLR '722'. Note the 'Who do you think you are - Stirling Moss?' written on the plinth // Credit: Archie Hill

Derek Bell led part of the prayer at the end of the service, and then all in attendance sang William Blake's 'Jerusalem', followed by the National Anthem. Stirling was a very patriotic man, choosing to drive British cars whenever he could, often envisaging himself as the Green Gladiator taking on the Italian Lions, so it was a fitting end to a wonderful and moving service.

Outside the Abbey were some of Stirling's most iconic racing cars. Most notably his 300 SLR 722 Mille Miglia winning Mercedes, his Ferrari 250GT SWB, the car in which he won the RAC Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in 1960, and the infamous Lotus 18 '912' that saw Stirling take victory at Monaco in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix, holding off the monstrous works Ferrari's and earning himself another record; the lowest powered car to ever win a World Championship Grand Prix.

Inside Stirling's O.S.C.A // Credit: Archie Hill

The Mercedes 300 SLR will be on display at the Royal Automobile Club in London for one week following the ceremony.

The Apex Team

The Apex Team

The Apex Editorial Team @Custodian: Archie Hill - Interviewer & Editor, Archie Hill Jeremy Hindle Charles Clegg - Editors, Archie Hill - Production, David Marcus - Transcription.