Persons familiar with the inter war years will no doubt be familiar that Germany particularly enjoyed hosting world sporting events so that they could exhibit the fatherland’s prowess in ability and superiority of strength over other nations.
With this in mind Germany’s intention to hold every ISDT from the ISDT 1934 onwards was only thwarted by those pesky Brits winning the event in 1936 and ’37 earning them to hold the event. Although the British team won the International Trophy in the home ISDT 1938, politics intervened and the right to hold the event was passed back to Germany. The Germans elected to hold the ISDT 1939 in recently annexed Austria and planned to put on what could have been the best organised ISDT ever because of the state resources the Nazi Government were able to call on to organise this globally prestigious event.
As with many such well laid plans, history awkwardly intervened and at the time of the first day international relations between Germany and a number of countries was at an all time low. Before the end of the week a number of Governments were so concerned about the way events appeared to be escalating that they instructed their teams, as a matter of safety, to abandon the event and make their way home. This was to be sure no riders, especially the army’s best motorcyclists who were taking part, were caught in a war-zone becoming potentially interred in camps for the duration of the war. The Second World War began on the 1st September 1939 when Germany with agreement of Russia’s leader Stalin entered Poland, 4 days after the official end of the ISDT on the 26th August 1939.
The methods by which team British Riders reached home meant that whilst some enjoyed a cordial military escort provided by the Germans but a number chose to take routes through Switzerland and neutral countries such as Spain to reach ports they could catch ships to return them to the UK. For this reason the event became better known to many as ‘the Great Escape’ not unlike the action filled movie with Steve McQueen based on a wartime drama of a PoW escape attempt.
After checking the final results it appears 61 riders along with unrecorded team helpers took part in the event. Below for sake of a permanent record of these riders is a list of those who partook in ‘the Great Escape’. In addition to the list of riders we will try to collect as many photos as we can find of these riders to hopefully ensure their names and deeds will not go unforgotten.
List British Competitors ISDT 1939
|36||Dalby Sgt IT||War Office||Norton||490||IV||C|
|68||Riley Ltn JF||War Office||Norton||490||IV||C|
|75||Doyle Cpl AC||War Office||BSA||496||IV||C|
|77||Money Ltn RC||BSA||496||IV||C|
|101||Rist Sgt FM||War Office||BSA||496||IV||C|
|113||Wood Pt JL||War Office||BSA||495||IV||C|
|119||Galloway Dr RL||Rudge||499||III||F|
|123||Williams E||Royal Enfield||350||IV||B|
|131||Smith E||War Office||Matchless||347||IV||B|
|137||Rogers CM||Royal Enfield||346||IV||B|
|142||MacKay Sgt Major B||War Office||Matchless||347||IV||B|
|145||Jayne CL||Royal Enfield||348||IV||B|
|147||Godber Ford G||AMC||Sunbeam||347||IV||B|
|152||Champers FV||Royal Enfield||346||IV||B|
|156||Davies Sgt O||War Office||Matchless||347||IV||B|
|163||Booker JJ||Royal Enfield||346||IV||B|
|255||Cottle Miss M||Triumph||249||II||A|
A more detailed list recording the riders, their teams can be found in this article.
#27 Len Heath Ariel 497cc
#52 Alan Jeffries Triumph 498cc
#64 Harold Tozer BSA 496cc
#81 F Povey Ariel 497cc
#108 WA West Ariel 497cc
#116 JH Arnott BSA 496cc
#132 H Slim Triumph 343cc
#135 GE Rowley AJS 347cc
#137 CM Rogers Royal Enfield 346cc
#147 G Godber Ford Sunbeam 347cc
#148 G Eighteen Matchless 347cc
#152 FV Chambers Royal Enfield 346cc
#211 J Ashworth BSA 249cc
#249 HJ Flook Norton 596cc
#255 Miss Marjorie Cottle Triumph 249cc
More photos to follow as we find them.. any help welcome…