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Eric Chitty....by Robert J. Rogers

Eric Chitty

One of the best known Canadian Speedway racers in England was Eric Chitty. Born in Toronto in 1909, Eric was an electrical engineer and in 1928, took up motorcycle racing in hillclimbs, trials and dirt tracks in Canada and the US riding at Detroit, Chicago and New York. In 1930 he was a runner up in the Canadian Speedway Championship. He retired in 1931 due to illness but returned in 1934 to become the Canadian Speedway Champion.

In 1935, he went to England and had trials at West Ham, but proved a flop. He attempted to get a job in the newspaper industry and was lucky to meet `The Broadsider` which was the trade name of Tommy Morgan, the speedway correspondent of `The People` newspaper. Tommy asked Johnny S Hoskins, the Father of Speedway Racing, to give Eric another chance. Johnny did this and after a hard struggle with the Hammers he became a star.

Eric Chitty rode for West Ham from 1936-1939 and 1946-1951. In the all time West Ham top twenty riders poll held when West Ham closed in 1972, he was voted No 7. The joint winners were West Ham`s two Australian World Champions, Bluey Wilkinson and Jack Young.

Eric won the 1938 London Riders Championship held at New Cross and rode Speedway during World War Two at Belle Vue.

He won the unofficial British Individual Championship in 1940, 1941 & 1942.

He won the Belle Vue Grand Prix, the Northern Championship & the Hundred Guineas Trophy all in 1942.

He won the all English Best Pairs Championship in 1941 with Ron Johnson and 1943 with Fred Tuck.

In 1944 he won the National Trophy (a solo event, not to be confused with the National Trophy which was a team event both before and after WW II) and also in 1944 he won the British Empire Best Pairs with Ron Clark.

In the winter of 1945-46 he toured Germany as the captain of the ENSA Speedway team. Although called a team, it was more of a Speedway Circus with solo events being put on in various parts of occupied Germany and challenges against the local army dispatch riders, many of which were Speedway riders before the war. ENSA was an organisation that put on shows for service personnel.

In 1946 he became captain of West Ham.

Eric Chitty was not just a Speedway Rider, he was also a singer, writer and businessman. Eric used to sing to the fans during the half time interval. He apparently had a good voice and the event was billed as a "Ditty from Chitty." In 1948, he wrote a column for the Speedway Gazette Newspaper. Eric had a company called Eric "Ricky" Chitty Ltd with a shop located at Plaistow in Barking Road about a mile from the Custom House Stadium. It sold everything from children's toy bikes up to the real thing, speedway bikes; they also sold racing leathers and had a motorcycle repair service.

Eric suffered a few serious injuries in his life. He missed half of the 1948 season due to an injury he received racing in Australia during the winter of 1947/48. Some say that although he returned, he was never his former self but continued on the team from 1949 - 1951.

He must have suffered another injury as the West Ham programme from May 20th, 1952 states - Eric will hopefully return as soon as his injury lets him. After 1951, he seemed to have disappeared from the speedway scene and assumably retired.

Sadly Eric passed away many years ago.

Eric Chitty Photo Gallery


 

  • Tom Marriott:

    "Super article Robert, Living in Canada it's good to see an article on our most famous rider. Eric's son and Grandson live here in Ontario and I know they will enjoy the article. It's a shame we don't know more of the other pre and post war Canadians that made their way to Britain.

    Eric was I believe an active member of the Riders Association and made a record with funds going to the association. I also received a photo of Eric and a Cheetah which Johnnie Hoskins had him race (never a dull moment with that man!) The injury which Robert refers to is I believe when Eric rebroke the leg he broke in Australia. I received the following note from his son on how he recollects his dad's retirement.

    'Dad retired finally I think it was 1952, he in his younger days wanted to become a jockey and just loved riding, he took my sister out one weekend and tho' not dressed for it got on a horse called "Skylon". All was well until the horse reared, slipped and came down with my Dad's left leg underneath it. Result - the same leg broken that he broke in Aussieland and that was that. One night in the third lap he just veered off into the pits and said that was that, as I have said I was in the pits and it was quite the night bikes and all equipment were sold next day and his career came to a stop.'

    As usual if anybody has information on The old Canadian riders please let me know. I have received quiet a bit so far and would like to once again thank everbody for their input and generousity.

  • Ted Breed:

    "In 1947-1948 I with others, attended a Supporters Club Dance at Stratford Town Hall. Most of the big name riders were there. During the course of the evening, a few of us were descending the rather wide staircase from the first floor down to the ground floor. On the sub-level, we came across a rather worse for wear, Eric Chitty, getting, as he said, a breath of fresh air. Eric just stopped and spoke freely with us. He was attracted by the girls and girls were attracted by him. He looked much better in that light grey suit than in his leathers, with that flowing fair hair.

    During the course of conversation I casually mentioned to Eric 'How come that you live right over in Isleworth, Middlesex. I would have thought that suburban Essex would have been more suitable. Eric smiled and said 'Well. I'll tell you a secret. After the war there was talk that I would be allocated to Wembley'. Jack Parker thought the same thing. 'Well, Isleworth is very handy for Wembley. Thanks for having me, I enjoyed it very much'.

    I met Eric Chitty several times after that. I can assure you, he was a man apart, a very special guy. Who knows whether the great man was joking, or whether his statement was based upon the anomolies of those post-war rider allocations. Most of the London-based riders I had spoken with, always had a dream of riding for the Wembley Lions. It could be that Eric Chitty was no exception. Thank God it did not happen. Just to think of post-war West Ham Speedway, without the singing Canadian Captain, is just too awful to contemplate. West Ham Speedway is forever. "

  • Dave Rowlands:

    "Nice to see my grandfather's name mentioned here, Tom Morgan, Broadsider. He doesn't seen to get a mention on many Vintage speedway sites."

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