Mark's Motorcycling History


An epic journey of 1928

Stanley Glanfield



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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 you.
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 low gear.
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.