Bill Kitchen would have been 100 years old this year, born 1908 in Galgate, Lancaster.
Before taking up Speedway, Bill had also taken part in the Isle of Man TT, as well as road trials and sand racing.
He first properly rode speedway in 1933 where he became an almost overnight star for Belle Vue, although he had tried the sport out in 1929. He was one of the favourites for the 1939 World Final, though world events prevented that from taking place.
In 1946 he lead a team of British riders (with Wimbledon's Norman Parker, brother of Jack) in Germany on a tour of the B.O.A.R. (British Occupational Army of the Rhine) units, racing against local Army Units (this is where Jimmy Gooch was discovered). The track at Hanover had been built by R.E.M.E. (Royal Mechanical and Electrical Engineers)
He was made captain of Wembley Lions in 1946 (and remained their Captain until his last season in 1954, I believe, but it seems for some of this time he was a non-riding captain after an accident). He also acted as a coach at Plymouth for a while.
Bill in later years was the official track inspector for the ACU, he led the inquiry into the infamous Newcastle match at West Ham in 1970 where the majority of the Diamonds refused to ride because they said the track was too dangerous.
Bill (right) with Brian Crutcher
This article was first published on 6th March 2008
"Fantastic. For fun I wrote Bill Kitchen and Morian Hansen. Their story came up. I saw them both fighting on Danish speedway circut, when I was 12 years old. I'm 74 now :-) "
"Does anybody out there recall a rainswept Wembley Stadium in the late 1940's or fifties when Wimbledon beat Wembley Lions 42 to 41 to inflict a rare defeat on the mighty Lions? Mike Erskine and Norman Parker team rode to Dons and I believe Mike got 11 points probably his finest performance ever. Please let me know if you recall this evening....got soaking wet in the downpour...no cover at Wembley in those days....what a dump it was "
"Before I was born, my Parents were Wimbledon fans. Sometimes my mother, when exhorting us to do something, used to call 'Ride the White Line Bill Kitchen !'"
"Bill Kitchen was my all-time favourite rider. I saw him only once at the White City Stadium in Glasgow in 1946/7. This was one of several celebrity races which included Ron Johnson, Wilf Plant and Oliver Hart. Seems like only yesterday, with Bill in the white helmet, Ron Johnson in red helmet. Ron died some years ago in Perth, Australia. Bill Longley phoned in to the ABC Sydney radio programme on Christmas day in 2003, making the comment that, " I don't expect any of your listeners will remember me!" Well, one of them did!"
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