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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.

Photo - #27 L Heath Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

Photo – #27 L Heath Ariel 497cc passes to the rear of a car bearing GB plates, presumably team supporters on a mountain pass bend in Austria ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

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

Plate Name Entrant Marque Capacity Group Class
10 Croker JB Triumph 498 IV C
14 Whitehouse FA CSMA BSA 500 IV C
20 Toomey HM Panther 498 IV C
24 Peacock WHJ Ariel 997 III G
27 Heath L Ariel Ariel 497 IV C
30 Perks FC CSMA BSA 498 IV C
34 Taylor HR Ariel Ariel 997 III G
36 Dalby Sgt IT War Office Norton 490 IV C
39 Oates G Ariel 997 III G
42 Mooney TH Ariel 497 IV C
47 Ridgeway L BSA 498 IV C
52 Jeffries A Triumph Triumph 498 IV C
58 Brittain V Norton Norton 490 IV C
63 Blockley TN BSA 496 IV C
64 Tozer H BSA BSA 496 III F
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
81 Povey F Ariel Ariel 497 IV C
87 Whitefield JF BMW 494 IV C
92 Cunningham SE Ariel 497 IV C
101 Rist Sgt FM War Office BSA 496 IV C
108 West WA Ariel Ariel 497 IV C
113 Wood Pt JL War Office BSA 495 IV C
116 Arnott JH BSA BSA 496 IV C
119 Galloway Dr RL Rudge 499 III F
121 Wood GH Triumph Triumph 343 IV B
123 Williams E Royal Enfield 350 IV B
125 Whitton TC AMC AJS 347 IV B
127 White J Ariel 348 IV B
128 Tiffen WT Velocette 348 IV B
131 Smith E War Office Matchless 347 IV B
132 Slim H Triumph Triumph 343 IV B
135 Rowley GE AMC AJS 347 IV B
137 Rogers CM Royal Enfield 346 IV B
140 Saunders AA Triumph 343 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
148 Eighteen GE AMC Matchless 347 IV B
151 Meier RR Triumph 343 IV B
152 Champers FV Royal Enfield 346 IV B
155 Bryant JH Ariel 348 IV B
156 Davies Sgt O War Office Matchless 347 IV B
158 Clayton R Triumph 343 IV B
160 Breffitt JE Norton 348 IV B
162 Bufte JS Panther 349 IV B
163 Booker JJ Royal Enfield 346 IV B
166 Edge C AMC Matchless 347 IV B
167 Bates CR BSA 348 IV B
170 Bennett CE Matchless 247 IV B
171 Wilkinson R Panther 348 IV B
174 Hall LEC Rudge 499 III F
211 Ashworth J BSA BSA 249 II A
219 Whittle FH Panther 598 III F
222 Guildford BA Matchless 350 IV B
237 Hitchcock JA Triumph 249 II A
249 Flook HJ Norton Norton 596 III F
255 Cottle Miss M Triumph 249 II A
274 Fletcher F Excelsior 125 I 4

A more detailed list recording the riders, their teams can be found in this article.

#27 Len Heath Ariel 497cc

Photo - #27 L Heath Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

Photo – #27 L Heath Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#52 Alan Jeffries Triumph 498cc

photo - #52 Alan Jeffries Triumph 498cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #52 Alan Jeffries Triumph 498cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#64 Harold Tozer BSA 496cc

Photo - #64 H Tozer BSA 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

Photo – #64 H Tozer BSA Sidecar 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo - #64 H Tozer BSA Sidecar 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #64 H Tozer BSA Sidecar 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#81 F Povey Ariel 497cc

photo - #81 F Povey Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #81 F Povey Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo - #81 F Povey Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #81 F Povey Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#108 WA West Ariel 497cc

photo - WA West Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – WA West Ariel 497cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#116 JH Arnott BSA 496cc

photo - #116 JH Arnott BSA 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #116 JH Arnott BSA 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo - #116 JH Arnott BSA 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #116 JH Arnott BSA 496cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#132 H Slim Triumph 343cc

photo - #132 H Slim Triumph 343cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #132 H Slim Triumph 343cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#135 GE Rowley AJS 347cc

Photo of # 135George Rowley on his works AJS [FXM 791] at the ISDT 1939 (courtesy Technische Museum Wien)

Photo of # 135George Rowley on his works AJS [FXM 791] at the ISDT 1939 (courtesy Technische Museum Wien)

photo - #135 GE Rowley AJS 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #135 GE Rowley AJS 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#137 CM Rogers Royal Enfield 346cc

photo - #137 CM Rogers Royal Enfield 346cc with #135 GE Rowley AJS 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #137 CM Rogers Royal Enfield 346cc with #135 GE Rowley AJS 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#147 G Godber Ford Sunbeam 347cc

photo - #147 G Godber Ford Sunbeam 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #147 G Godber Ford Sunbeam 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#148 G Eighteen Matchless 347cc

photo - #148 G Eighteen Matchless 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #148 G Eighteen Matchless 347cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#152 FV Chambers Royal Enfield 346cc

photo - #152 FV Chambers Royal Enfield 346cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #152 FV Chambers Royal Enfield 346cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#211 J Ashworth BSA 249cc

photo - #211 J Ashworth BSA 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #211 J Ashworth BSA 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo - #211 J Ashworth BSA 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #211 J Ashworth BSA 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#249 HJ Flook Norton 596cc

photo - #249 HJ Flook Norton 596cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #249 HJ Flook Norton Sidecar 596cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

#255 Miss Marjorie Cottle Triumph 249cc

photo - #255 Marjorie Cottle Triumph 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #255 Marjorie Cottle Triumph 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo - #255 Marjorie Cottle Triumph 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

photo – #255 Marjorie Cottle Triumph 249cc ISDT 1939 (Courtesy Technisches Museum Wien)

More photos to follow as we find them.. any help welcome…

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