In the 7th September 1939 issue of the Motor Cycle, the editor of the magazine A. B. Bourne who had been in Germany covering the ISDT 1939 event published an article titles ‘My Week in Germany’ giving his impressions of the events that occurred shaping the history of this notorious sporting occaision.
See the original article in our issuu.com library here
My Week in Germany – A.B. Bourne – Editor the Motor Cycle
To review the International Six Days after all that was written in last Thursday’s issue would be superfluous. Everyone knows what happened and how on Friday, the fifth day, the British contingent withdrew from the trial, left Salzburg and hurried to the Swiss frontier and home.
It is probably difficult for anyone not among the party to realise how cut off the British contingent was from knowledge of what was going on between the capitals of Europe. All at Salzburg sensed that there was a crisis, but how grave it was none knew. As we said in our description of the trial, the German papers revealed little, those British papers available were two days old, and wireless reception of the English news bulletins was next to hopeless.
Of course, there were many who started in the trial with little idea of what a modern International means. Somehow or other the impression that these trials are merely high-speed tours in glorious country still seems to exist. The facts are, as we have tried to convey in describing the event, that the modern trial as held in Germany is an Alpine Grand Prix with sections just about as bad as any included in British sporting trials.
Whether the hundred and more British riders, passengers and camp followers would have remained right until the Friday had they been aware that the bulk of the International Press had left Berlin on the Tuesday evening, is a question that cannot be answered. The Press do not hurry out of a country without very good reason. As it was, however, the riders’ job was to carry on until told to leave. This they did magnificently.
Looking back on the necessarily anxious days one cannot help smiling at the recollection of what happened on the evening the German-Russian pact was announced – how Germans came along to Englishmen, shook them by the hand and said joyfully, “Now we shall have peace!”
On Thursday, just before midnight, the decision was reached that the British contingent should make for the German – Swiss frontier by the shortest route. Colonel Bennett, who had no instruction from the War Office, decided that the Army teams should remain. What happened in this case was simply that the official intimation that he and his men should return was delayed en route. When it did arrive they, too, left for Switzerland. All this is past history, and instead of reviewing the trial as such I will endeavour to record a few personal impressions.
We have already paid well deserved tributes to the riders. I watched them at many points, sometime on the “stickiest” sections of all. Our Trophy team was outtanding. Never once did I see a Trophy man thrashing his machine, nor did I see any of the four taking a risk. The un-flurried way they forged ahead on, say, the St. Kolman section, the worst on the second day, and seemed, almost without thought, to miss all the obstacles that might damage their machines, evoked my wholehearted admiration. On the Großglockner they were again outstanding. Whereas many riders thrashed their engines and scrambled round the fourteen hairpin bends, our Trophy team gave the most polished display one could possibly imagine. A phrase I heard several times was, “You can always tell a Trophy team man.” This remark was made by Germans as well as Englishmen.
Three years ago, when the International was last held in Germany. I was impressed by the general standard of riding, particularly by the way the Germans handled their B.M.W.s and Zündapps in the rough. This time, perhaps because of some of the going was as bad as that of an exceptionally difficult English half-day trial, the riding did not seem to me to be nearly so good. The British riders on the average were easily supreme in the mud and over the rocks. The Italians, for the most part, were unhappy. A number had little idea of how to tackle such hazards, and seemed to keep to time by averaging inordinately high speeds on the road portions. Seldom have I seen riders thrash their machines more.
Of course, there were many who started in the trial with little idea of what a modern International means. Somehow or other the impression that these trials are merely high-speed tours in glorious country still seems to exist. The facts are, as we have tried to convey in describing the event, that the modern trial as held in Germany is an Alpine Grand Prix with sections just about as bad as any included in British sporting trials. One, in my opinion, was worse than any I have previously encountered in a trial either in Great Britain or abroad. And this, it has to be remembered, had to be ridden against the watch. The trial is an event suitable only for the most experienced – one that taxes even such men as Alan Jefferies, Vic Brittain, Len Heath and Co. Perhaps the most amazing show of all was that of Miss Marjorie Cottle, who rode magnificently.
My experience, which was shared, I believe, by all the British contingent, was that never have I met with greater kindness on a Six Days held on the Continent. An insight into the friendly helpfulness of one competitor towards another was given in our description of the trial. The little incidents related were of a type that occurred on numerous occasions, and I, although not a competitor, received the same sort of friendly welcome and treatment. For instance, one would stop at the roadside to take notes; the chances were that before minutes had passed an NSKK man (i.e., a member of the German national motor corps)or a spectator would endeavour to enter into conversation and offer a cigarette. Then there was a case of my being at a point not marked on my map. The NSKK man on duty misunderstood my request that he should indicate on the map the exact point at which we were standing; he proceeded to tell me where the course led and what it was like. Nearby was an officer who, realising that I was not getting the information I wanted, stepped forward and straightened things out.
Often at the time-checks there were refreshments provided by the villager or townfolk. I owe a special debt to the Press bureau who, besides being ever helpful, went right out of their way providing us with an Army dispatch rider to go specially to Munich, 90 miles away, with copy and negatives for the ‘plane to London.
My 2,000 and more miles on Continental roads caused many impressions -one rather a lasting one concerning saddle and modern riding positions! Apart from the German autobahnen I came across no sections of road, excepting a few kilometre, that were to be compared with the average British road in surface. To arrive back on British roads gave me the same feeling of “Heaven at last!” that I felt when I touched my first stretch of autobahn near Munich. We in this country may grouse about our roads, but we have little to grumble about so far as surface is concerned – only their inadequacy for the amount of traffic and their dangerous nature.
Early this year a comment about German roads was that while the autobahnen were certainly magnificent highways, work on the other road seemed to have ceased and they were becoming worse than ever. This remark was made to Herr Hitler at the Berlin Show, who replied “That can be altered!” Thus it was interesting to find on my trip to the International and back that in many places – even in the Alps -immense reconstruction work was being carried out.
As usual, I could not help marveling at how easy Continental touring proves. I met two lads with a sidecar outfit. They were touring France, had no knowledge of French, but had been getting on famously. Then there were two owner of James “Auto-cycles” on a really ambitious tour.
Simple though foreign touring formalities are, they could, and should be made more simple. The papers I had to fill up reminded me of a passport application form in their complexity. As for passing through Customs, why should entering France from Britain or vice versa be such a business when at nearly every other frontier post one is through in a matter of minutes?
Many things interested me in France. Perhaps the most notable was the way English folk were made welcome. Everywhere people went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Even gendarmes, who blew whistIe at you when you exceeded the speed limit, did no more than indicate that you should go more slowly! One final point: On many occasions in Germany I saw enticing tracks Ieading off the highway – tracks running up the hilIside or through woods, and just the thing for the lad who enjoys a little rough-stuff. But it was no good, since all (or nearly all) were marked with signs indicating that they were closed to motor cyclists. It is strange that this should be so in a country where they have been trying to do much to encourage Motorcycle and motorcycling.
In the same issue the well known Motorcycling journalist of the paper ‘Nitor’ wrote the following summery of the final race for the border by the Army riders and British support crews
Car drivers took turns at the wheel; motorcyclists every now and then sent up showers of sparks as they dozed off and their footrests touched the ground to wake them up again
JUST imagine some 30 British soldiers passing through a troop-infested part of Germany at midnight!This is what happened to British Army teams on the way back from Salzburg and the International. Seldom has there been such a nightmare ride. What had occurred was that the telegram instructing the Army teams to return did not arrive until about noon on the Friday. At that time Colonel Bennett and A.E. Perrigo, the B.S.A. team manager, were having a swim, while the Army riders were naturally out on the course completing the fifth day’s run.
IMMEDlATELY the men arrived at the finish they were told to fill up, checking that they had credit for covering the day’s run and then, instead of going into the marquees used for storing the competing machines, turn round and ride into Salzburg. Having covered 261 miles of trials course that day the men had to get ready and set off on a 250-mile ride to the Swiss frontier-this when almost all they wanted in the world was to get to bed.
AT the Hotel Pitter there was an official send-off with Korpführer Huhnlein saying good-bye and expressing his great appreciation of the British Army teams’ sporting spirit. About 5p.m. the contingent set off escorted by Colonel Grimm, who decided that the party should go by autobahn to Munich and thence to Bregenz and the frontier. The few civilians who had remained at Salzburg joined up with the party.
ALL went well as far as Munich, except that already the dog-tired riders were fighting against falling asleep in their saddles. At Munich there was a stop for food. In addition, one of the civilians became lost and the Army folk had his Custom papers! Troops were encountered by the thousand. Some 30 miles from the frontier the party was stopped, and it needed all the German colonel’s arguments and waving of his official papers to get the party through; without him the British contingent would undoubtedly have been held up
BY this time the whole party was just about asleep. Car drivers took turns at the wheel; motorcyclists every now and then sent up showers of sparks as they dozed off and their footrests touched the ground to wake them up again. Happily there were no casualties. Seldom have men been more thankful than when at last they were over the frontier and able to get to bed. The papers of the missing civilian were left at the frontier and all other frontiers posts advised of the fact by Colonel Grimm. Later it was reported that he, too, was safely through.