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The Marshall Motor Group all started with David Gregory Marshall born in 1873. In 1887, at age 14, he began working as an apprentice in the kitchens of Trinity College, Cambridge. Working his way up, he was later appointed steward and manager of the University Pitt Club. Reportedly, he did a phenomenal job of recovering the club’s finances. He expanded the kitchen, offering catering on a wider level and began to turn a healthy profit to likes of which the club had never seen before. Quite the entrepreneur, he began to hire private and chauffeur driven cars to the members of the club.
In 1906 Marshall went to Paris for the first time. Impressed with the more advanced state of motoring over the Channel, he became further inspired to delve deeper into the motor trade. Three years later, in 1906, Marshall set up on his own chauffeur driven car business in a stable in Brunswick gardens in which had two Métallurgique saloon cars. In 1910, he added a Cottin-Desgouttes landaulette as well as a touring car in another garage in King Street. All of which were hired out to wealthy dons and undergraduates. By 1912, he moved his business onto the same street as the University Pitt Club, establishing his new garage and showroom on Jesus Lane.
The inspiration for the Marshall Group’s aviation side of the business probably partly stems from an incident in which saw an army airship landing pretty much on Marshall’s doorstep. Marshall had always had an interest, but he had not had any direct contact until 1912 when the airship had to make a forced landing just behind his garage on the Jesus College’s grounds. Marshall and his mechanic assisted in the repairs of “The Beta” airship, thus giving fuel to further Marshall’s interest in the field of aviation.
Not long afterwards, with the outbreak of the First World War, the company found themselves assisting the army and the war effort in general. For those four years his garage was servicing and repairing cars, including Rolls-Royce armoured cars as well as ambulances. It was at this time, he gave the business the name, Marshall’s Garage.
At over 40 years of age, Marshall was no longer of a military age during the First World War. Nonetheless, he was determined to help his country and help the forces and managed to do so through some of his connections with some Quaker members he knew through the Pitt Club. Using his vast knowledge and experience from his catering days, Marshall journeyed to France and volunteered to build up catering units at the front lines. For this incredible service, he was awarded the Mons medal.
Even after returning from France, he was catering round the clock for an incredible 50,000 meals a day at the Woolwich Arsenal for the munition’s workers. Providing yet another invaluable service to his country, he was then awarded an MBE. In this same course of work, the Ministry of Food sought his advice with some catering issues at an Austin factory in Birmingham. His dealings with the factory resulted in him being awarded the Distributorship for Austin in Cambridgeshire, becoming the first Austin dealership to open Cambridgeshire.
Not long after completing his degree in engineering, David Marshall’s son Arthur joined his father’s garage business in 1926. In addition, Arthur shared his father’s love of aviation and with this the Marshall company truly began to lay its foundations for its aviation expertise. Arthur learned to fly in 1928 and shortly afterwards, he was involved in establishing an aerodrome near the family’s Cambridge home at Fen Ditton. By 1929 the airstrip had become a fully-fledged airfield with the Marshall flying school also being formed at this time. It was a popular venture, and just six years later, Arthur and his father purchased the land upon which the present Cambridge City Airport still stands today.
Cambridge Airport was formally opened in 1937 by the then Secretary of State for Air, Sir Alan Kingsley Wood. Tensions were already brewing which would lead to the outbreak of the Second World War, thus creating an increasingly urgent need for military aircrew training. Aged over 60, David Marshall had already begun to take a backseat, retiring to Hove. However, World War II began and much as before, David returned to Cambridge to assist in the country’s war effort. By the end of the war, the company had trained over 20,000 aircrew for the Royal Air Force as well as reportedly repairing around 5,000 military aircraft. To cope with the wartime demand, the company’s workforce was around 3,000 at the time, many of whom were women.
Keen on the cutting-edge as well as more traditional forms of transportation, David Marshall also had a passion for riding as well as racing, and was an importer of Arab horses from Egypt. It was upon one of these horses that he died suddenly whilst riding on Coldham’s Common near the aerodrome in the July of 1942.
The opening of the company’s second airfield had also fostered the opportunity of opening a second garage. It had been closed down due to the Second World War, but along with their other garage, the Airport Garage re-opened and focused on Austin Trucks, while the Jesus Lane concentrated on the sale of Austin Cars. After the War, the company also expanded their motor business with various new garages opening to serve the areas around Peterborough and Bedford.
The 60s/70s/80s saw the motor manufacturing industry undergo privatisation, and Marshall’s franchise base broadened to also encompass Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Leyland, Rolls Royce Bentley, Rover and Triumph.
Giants of the aviation and motor industry for over a century, Marshall is now a billion pound company which all started from just a few chauffeur driven cars over 100 years ago. From the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of young David Marshall, the Marshall Group still provides the same type of service that helped to propel the company from its humble beginnings. Under the name of Marshall Executive Chauffeur, the company operates a fleet of long wheelbased Jaguars for door to door business and personal travel.
Whether on a plane, bus or in a car, it is likely that some part will be linked to Marshall.
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