Prior to the handing–in we gained a very definite impression that the organizers themselves were surprised that the event was actually to take place
Many readers of this blog contact me with their thanks for providing what is the non existent ISDT reading room in the National Motorcycle Museum or even the Auto Cycle Union Six Days Archives. Such praise is often only due to the work and help of many readers who are ex riders or the family of ex riders who are willing to share, at no charge, their family material so as to help others who may not be so lucky to be able to recall past exploits of favourite relatives so easily to supplement my otherwise meagre budget to purchase important relics which may appear on eBay from time to time..
No more so are these gifts welcome than a recent contact from Susan Coates now based in the USA but from a British Motorcycling family who she found a collection of old magazines on a recent visit. Amongst this collection was an original copy of the 30th August 1939 edition of ‘Motor Cycling‘ with a full report of the ISDT 1939 which she rapidly sent me a scanned copy to be able to share with others through the site.
Let us hope that peace will prevail and that the 1940 event will take place under happier auspices.
Here is the Editorial article which started each issue of ‘Motor Cycling‘ and provided a useful summary and opinion on the events of 1939. In a forthcoming blog I will be reproducing the latter part of the report ‘The Great Retreat’ which is the story of the riders evacuation from the festering world war about to commence in mainland Europe. I have included in the article the images from the actual report and you can read a copy of the original report at our issuu.com library here
An Unhappy Coming-of-Age
WHATEVER the future may hold in store for the International Six Days’ Trial, the 21st event of the series will go down in history – so far as Great Britain is concerned – as the trial which never finished. In the early hours of Friday morning it was decided to withdraw the entire British entry, and it is fitting, therefore, that the facts underlying that decision should be recorded before they become distorted with the passage of time.
Image left – A wonderful view of the Grossglockner Pass .The leading rider is L/Cpl A.C. Doyle BSA of the War Office ‘A’ Team, centre – This picture gives a good idea of the interest villagers took in the trial, the rider is again L/Cpl A.C. Doyle (348cc BSA), right – A group of NSKK officials operating a time check at the top of the Grossglockner Pass during Wednesday’s run . The riders are #165 E Eisenmann (346 NSU) and #166 Colin Edge (347 Matchless) who, despite carrying on against doctors orders, did not lose a single point up to the time he withdrew with the other British Riders.
To gain a true perspective of the position in which British competitors found themselves placed, it is necessary to examine the trial day by day. Prior to the handing–in we gained a very definite impression that the organizers themselves were surprised that the event was actually to take place. There was a conspicuous absence of that magnificent organization to which we have become accustomed in Germany, and the last-minute entries of Italian teams strengthened a suspicion engendered by the very late publication of such essential details as programmes and other material.
Monday and Tuesday passed off uneventfully, but the oppressive air of uncertainty could not be disguised. On Wednesday came the news of the signing of the Russo-German Non-aggression Pact, and immediately the position became grave. The Germans were elated, congratulating themselves, and us, on what they believed to be the certainty of peace, but we were well aware that the crisis must come to a head in a matter of hours. Wednesday night will never be forgotten by the handful of British people in Salzburg. A telegram arrived from the War Office ordering back an officer taking part in the trial as a private entrant; the wireless announced that France had advised her nationals to leave Germany within 24 hours and orders were issued immediately for all tanks to be kept filled for an instant departure.
Eventually it was decided to take part in Thursday’s run, which, incidentally, was of an extremely stiff nature. Meanwhile, telegrams were arriving from England advising immediate return and telephone calls to the Embassies in Berlin and Vienna forced those in charge of our interests to take the drastic step of withdrawal-a decision made some what easier by imperative orders from a manufacturer to two of our national team men demanding their immediate departure for Switzerland.
With Great Britain placed very favourably in the Trophy, Vase and Hühnlein competitions, such a step was extremely hard to take, more particularly as we were assured of an escort to the frontier in the event of trouble breaking out. Discussion will rage round the decision for months to come, but viewing it in the comparative safety of our London office, we are more convinced than ever that the right action was taken. This conviction is strengthened by the fact that the War Office regarded the position with such gravity that an urgent telegram was dispatched to Colonel Bennett on Thursday night instructing him to leave for Switzerland with his convoy immediately upon receipt.
At this juncture it is only right to say that we received every courtesy and consideration from the German officials. Their promise of safe conduct would undoubtedly have been implemented had the necessity arisen, provided they were in a position to supply the necessary facilities but, in time of war, such men are not masters of their own actions, and there was the additional complication of mobilization in France which might well have entailed many days of delay in returning to England. Bearing all these facts in mind, we consider the only sane decision was the one taken.
History will record that Germany won the event, but the Germans will be the first to admit that their victory is both inconclusive and unsatisfactory. The excellent performance put up by our Trophy and Vase “B” teams, and the quiet efficiency of the B.S.A.-mounted Army men, gave every promise of British successes in the concluding scramble test, and we are certain that our regret in withdrawing was shared by the organizers, who proved themselves to be thorough sportsmen. Peter Chamberlain sums up the whole unhappy affair when he says elsewhere in this issue, “. A miserable and wretched end to what might have been a memorable International.”
The finale can be written in a few words –every British entrant is now safely across the border, the majority having already reached England after receiving every consideration from the German authorities. Let us hope that peace will prevail and that the 1940 event will take place under happier auspices.
Clearly the last sentence of the editorial was written with some optimism that the declaration of War would lead to a light skermish. Below are the rest of the images taken from the report a number of which will be familiar views to blog readers from the other Alpine based editions of the ISDT.