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Book Review:
Warzone Speedway
By Trevor Davies

Trevor Davies appears to have discovered the formula that many speedway authors have been desperately seeking, a speedway book with crossover appeal. The book in question is "Warzone Speedway", a follow-up publication to his well respected "Speedway Flyers" booklet. This is one book which will be sought after by military aficionados as well as speedway fans.

Setting out to write the story of wartime speedway must have been a daunting task. The events that Davies documents took place over sixty years ago and, as he points out in the introduction, the speedway press had closed down for the duration, meaning that precious few details of the meetings staged were ever recorded in the contemporary press. Perfectly understandable of course as the world had more to worry about than the heat results from Belle Vue. As a result Davies relies heavily on the accounts of those who were there to witness or participate in these largely forgotten speedway meetings.

Obviously given the circumstances this isn't a book full of statistics or hard facts, it's much more about the memories and the characters involved. The book covers a huge amount of ground, from those famous Hyde Road wartime meetings to post-war ENSA tours and all points in between.

Just listing the chapters in the book gives an idea of just how much is in it:

War Time Britain
The Army Game
In the Beginning
The Warzone Speedways
Mechanical Mayhem
Despatched to Ride
War Time Speedway Personalities
Forces Favourites
Khaki Professionals
Split Waterman's Rise to Fame
Warzone Europe Welcomes Speedway Tourists
The Hanomag Speedway
The Garrison Speedway Team
Forces Speedway - Teams and Colours
Rider Directory
British Armed Forces Motorcycling
Military Miscellany

The chapter on Split Waterman is a particular highpoint and thankfully Split is still around to give a first hand account of his story as well as providing an excellent foreword for the book.

The 'Warzone Speedways' chapter covers the many unusual places in which forces speedway took place. Libya, Kenya and Iraq are just three of the countries in which some form of speedway racing was held and although details are sparse, as much as is known is included in this book.

The book also contains many wonderful photographs of the teams and riders that competed in these meetings in far-flung parts of the world. Teams like the 'Fayid Dicers', 'Suez Lions' and 'Tel El Kabir Dons' are pictured in the traditional speedway team-shot - captain on bike and team-mates behind. It's amazing to see these old photographs reproduced for us all to see after so many years.

All in all, this is a wonderful book, thoroughly researched and well organised. It covers a period of the sport's history that has not been properly documented previously and which may have been lost forever had Davies not written this book now. The many eye-witness reports are invaluable and those involved clearly have fond memories of these happy times they enjoyed, both during and in the aftermath of, the horrendous days of 1939-45. An excellent publication and one that any speedway or military historian should not be without.

 

Warzone Speedway is available for £20 (including p&p).

Cheques made payable to "Trevor Davies" should be sent to:

Warzone Speedways
21 Gatton Way
Hucclecote
Gloucester
GL3 3DG

 

This article was first published on 14th August 2008


 

  • Henrik Andersen:

    "I wounder if there is any stories about Morian Hansen in the book. I know he did some speedway riding in Germany when he was there as an RAF officer, or was it during the occupation?"

  • James Normansell:

    "I've just come across the book review for 'Warzone Speedway' and I think one of the riders on the front cover could be my Dad, Victor Normansell. He rode speedway at Tel El Kebir in Egypt in 1947. I have some very similar pictures of him and I will compare them with the pictures in the book as soon as I can."

  • Andrew P:

    "My father speedway raced at Hanomag in 1945 (whilst waiting for demob) and I have a wealth of pictures of the races. In honesty I think the author of this book would like to see my pics! Mind you it's a bit late now, it having been published :) By the way, if you have the book, check the Hanomag chapter - my dad's race number was 3."

  • Eric Wood:

    "I well remember the book launch with Trevor Davies, Split Waterman, Jim Gregory plus many others and the presentation of certificates to veteran riders. My no 17 on the Suez Lions group photograph 1947. Jim Gregory Photograph page 103, Many happy days."

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