ROUND THE WORLD ON A RUDGE
An epic journey of 1928
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Stanley in some god forsaken place on his Rudge
(probably London) . . . . . . .An
ad for Glanfield Lawrence motorcycles . . . . . . . .
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MOTORCYCLING is again coming back into favour
and it does not seem right that all the credit for the long-distance pioneering
runs of long ago should remain with the four-wheeler fraternity, does it? We
may regard with a mixture of awe and reverence the exploits of people like Birtles
who drove a Bean from London to Australia in 1927, those who raced from Paris
to Peking as long ago as 1907 when the big Thomas car proved the winner, the
Court-Treatts who coaxed a couple of Crossleys from the Cape to Cairo, taking
from 1924 until 1926 to do so, and Fred Grey who undertook trans-African journeys
in a pair of twin-cylinder Jowetts, of only 7 h.p., named "Wait" and
"See". But the motorcycle could do it too, as I now propose to remind
The outfit concerned was a 3½ h.p. Rudge-Whitworth with a box-bodied
sidecar, which Stanley Glanfield, of the well-known motorcycle factors, Glanfield
Lawrence Ltd., rode to some purpose away back in 1927/8. What Glanfield set
out to do was to ride his moderately-powered, single-cylinder Rudge for a distance
of 18,000 miles across four continents at a time in motoring history when roads,
maps, service facilities and conditions generally did not encourage a world
onslaught of this kind, even in a car and with company to share the adventures.
Pay tribute, then, to this lone rider, who on 2 July 1927, having worked at
his preparations all night, kick-started his Rudge and set off towards Folkstone
on a journey which was to occupy all his skill, stamina and resourcefulness
for the next eight months. The sidecar was useful as a repository for tins of
petrol and oil, food, blankets, and some spare parts. On the pillion Glanfield
had fitted a small vice, anticipating the need to make roadside repairs....
Even to cross Europe alone on a motor-cycle was tough going 44 years ago, but
the Rudge was at Amiens by the first nightfall and the only alarms seem to have
been a narrow escape from colliding with a train at a level-crossing near Compeigne
and a fire, quickly put out with the rider's extinguisher, near the German border.
Slightly singed, Glanfield pressed on, crossing Germany without the advantage
of speaking the language, but losing 10 days at Vienna because the frame broke
and had to be repaired there and then beside the road.
To prevent this happening again a lightweight sidecar was made specially for
the machine in Vienna. This was an improvement but the very bad roads in Hungary
and the Balkans continually threw Glanfield out of the saddle, and in Serbia
he found that if he had put 65 miles behind in a day it was good going. By August
15 our hero had reached Constantinople but the feared red-tape of Turkish officialdom
delayed him for nine days. Then it was across the Bosphorous to Haida Pasha,
where the rider was compelled to give up riding the Rudge for a time, it being
part of the official ruling that he must travel by train in order that he might
not get a sight of the Dardanelles fortifications. Indeed, at this period of
his travels officialdom did its best to bring the venture to a halt. For instance,
the Police sent him to Payas over narrow mountain tracks strewn with boulders
and crossed by dried-up river beds and gullies. Arriving there thoroughly exhausted,
Glanfield was told he must go back as far as the insignificant village of Deurtyol
to obtain permission to leave the country, and all his protests fell on unsympathetic,
deaf ears. So he turned back and faced the route in darkness, risking malaria,
an armed guard on the pillion.
Thrown into goal, then under open arrest, the motorcyclist from England eventually
got away and was soon glad to be speeding along a fine highway towards Aleppo,
with the old roman road from Alexandretta still discernible alongside. But these
easy conditions were not destined to last long. The Syrian desert had to be
crossed, which was quite a feat in itself, and at Tel-e-Far, where he asked
for water, the Arabs proved to be hostile and only a tin of cigarettes and the
Rudge's acceleration after these were handed around saved Glanfield from very
likely suffering the fate which had befallen the last white people to stop there
- the crew of an armoured car, they were all murdered....
Perhaps not surprisingly, Glanfield now fell ill with fever but after a short
spell in hospital he insisted on riding on, with a temperature of 104 deg. He
was worried about his self-imposed time schedule and knew that there would be
the welcome respite of the sea journey from Basra to Bombay. This was a much-needed
break, because the run from Bombay, across India to Calcutta was almost beyond
belief. The rivers were flooded by the monsoon and the Rudge had to be dismantled
to get it across many of them, while the combination of endless mud and rain
caused an equally endless series of small mechanical troubles. Against such
adversities Glanfield averaged 300 miles a day and his fame had preceded him
as he rode his disreputable motorcycle and sidecar into fashionable Calcutta.
Next it was by sea to Penang and then more interminable riding, through dense
jungle, and torrential Malayan rain. The under-wheel hazards were less from
Malacca to Singapore but the rain, if possible, even heavier. The rider was
frozen, which is probably why he elected to cover the last 17 miles into Singapore
at 60 m.p.h., the Rudge as game as when it began.
The plot was now to ride to Java and embark for Port Darwin, hoping to get there
before the rains came. Alas, the Australian monsoon was not beaten and the Rudge
had to do the best it could, over almost trackless going composed of bog, sand
and rock, the conditions ever deteriorating.
Improvising bridges from purloined railway sleepers, heaving and pushing, Glanfield
forced the luckless Rudge along. He had company for a time, while a young stockman
accompanied him on the pillion, but this passenger had had enough when a particularly
bad pot-hole threw him off and at the same time crushed one of Glanfield's feet
under the machine. The nearest hospital was at Boulia, 200 miles away, so there
was nothing for it but to ride, in fearful pain, solo, to salvation. To do this
although every jolt made him sick with pain, Glanfield had somehow to get the
Rudge across numerous creeks and river beds. He also had to rebuild the gearbox,
damaged by boulders after he had been crawling for miles over ridged sand in
A week after his release from another hospital, Glanfield hit a hidden tree
stump, which tore off the sidecar wheel and caused the machine to somersault
three times. A control pierced his leg but although bleeding profusely Glanfield
had to go a quarter of a mile on foot before he found the sidecar wheel. He
carried a spare spindle and at Tambo the damage was repaired and once again
he pressed on - again against doctor's orders.
There were further troubles but just before Christmas he had almost completed
the 800-mile run to Sydney when, three miles from his destination, the engine
gave up. A big combination was sent out to tow him in but it broke down and
the Rudge was eventually persuaded to motor in on its own.
After Glanfield had attended to business in Sydney, rider and Rudge crossed
the Pacific and the final part of this endurance marathon was from Los Angeles
to New York in temperatures below zero, sleet, rain and a biting head-wind.
At a level crossing the Rudge nearly ended up as it had almost done in France
but a burst of acceleration saved the day.
That was it! The Rudge had covered 18,000 miles of the worst going imaginable.
It came home triumphantly on the Olympic and rests today in the Coventry museum.
Let no-one say that motorcycles were not every bit as good as cars at these
pioneering trans-Continental runs!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How
Speedway came to England
Another Englishman who visited Australia and was taken with speedway was Stanley
Glanfield. Glanfield was co-owner of the Glanfield Lawrence motor cycle firm
in London. He and a companion had set off from London on July 2nd., 1927 on
an around the world motorcycle endurance trip. By the time Glanfield set foot
on Australian soil in Darwin, his companion had abandoned the trip due to ill
health.Glanfield rode his 3 1/2 h.p. British Rudge-Whitworth motorcycle and
sidecar overland to Brisbane where he witnessed a speedway meeting for the first
time. The meeting he attended was at the A.J. Hunting promoted venue, Davies
Park, on Saturday December 17th.,1927. Glanfield was special guest of the promotion
on the night which saw a record crowd in attendance to witness the monthly staging
of the contest for the Golden Helmet.Glanfield was enthralled with the racing
and said that he had never seen anything to equal the riding displays he had
observed on the night. He also stated that nothing as exciting as this form
of motorcycle racing existed in Britain.Glanfield could see the potential for
the sport in his country and he spoke to A.J. Hunting about the possibilities
which existed in his homeland for the staging of speedway. On his return home
to England, Glanfield set up the first workshop for the maintenance of speedway
motorcycles.It was he who was behind the opening of Coventry Speedway at Brandon
on September 29, 1928. Speedway is still run on this site today.
Stanley Glanfield's brother Len installed a track at Exeter's County Ground
and the first meeting there was staged on March 9th, 1929.The previous year
Len had worked for A.J. Hunting's International Speedways Ltd in Britain.
I'll quickly mention some of the riders Glanfield saw race at Davies Park on
his visit there in December 1927 and you will be able to see why he was impressed
with the standard of racing he witnessed. The riders to participate in the Final
for the Golden Helmet (in finishing order) were Frank Arthur riding an AJS,
Vic Huxley aboard a Douglas, Frank Pearce on a Harley Davidson and Billy Lamont
riding an Indian.......what a quality field !!!!! Just look at the names of
the riders who were eliminated at the Semi-Final stage of the Golden Helmet
contest that night......Charlie Spinks, Dick Smythe, Hilary Buchanan, and the
two Americans, Sprouts Elder and Cecil Brown. All four Golden Helmet finalists,
as well as those I have just mentioned who were eliminated at the Semi-Final
stage, were all destined to travel to Britain to race. Elder, Huxley, Arthur
and Lamont all became super-stars on the track during the first seasons of racing
conducted in Britain.
Glanfield presented the Golden Helmet to the winner Frank Arthur at Davies Park
on that December evening in 1927.
PS - Stanley Glanfield saw the sport when he
visited Brisbane in 1927, while becoming the first man to ride a motorcycle
around the world. He decided to introduce the sport in Britain and with a small
team of Australian riders, he staged the first race in Epping Forest in February
1928. By the summer, over sixty tracks had opened.