By Keith Farman
In 1932 Don Hannett who had started the Firs in
1930 promoted two meetings at Yarmouth Stadium; this was in the field
south of the present Stadium. Although they were advertised as Speedway it
was a grass track that had staged two Greyhound meetings on the Good
Friday. Arthur Reynolds (Fred Leavis) was the top man in the first held on
Thursday afternoon 14th July. The second was the on the
following Sunday at 8 p.m. was a team meeting in which Yarmouth lost to
Staines 22-28. Jack Smythe (Jack Sharpe) was not beaten in his four rides,
but the rest of the riders had only three rides. That same year there had
also been racing at the Waveney Speed Rack at Bradwell, a village south of
In the winter of 1947-48 Dick set up a training
school at Norwich that was run by Paddy Hammond and Sid Hipperson and they
also had some help from Paddy Hammond. The best of these riders and the
1947 Norwich team riders, Hammond, Roy Duke, Bluey Thorpe and Charlie
Smith, competed in the first meeting at the track (20.4.48), an individual
meeting for the East Coast Trophy.
The first race was won by Ted Rawlinson and it
was his brother Bert who the meeting with 14 points. Hammond was
disqualified for crossing the white line in his first race scored 12
points as did Reg Craven. The experienced Sid Hipperson, who had rode in
1939 for Norwich, did not ride in this meeting, but joined the team for
the first League meeting at Hull.
The team name was suggested as Mariners or
Seaside’s. The local football team was called the Bloaters as at that time
the town had a large fishing industry and was famous for smoking Herrings
(Bloaters). Any one from Yarmouth was always called Bloater, so this was
the name the fans wanted and got. At first the team’s race jacket was red
and black squares and it was not until the 15th meeting that
they first rode with the famous red and black race jacket with a silver
During the season the team was hit by injuries
and two of them were fatal. In the first ever race at Poole at the first
bend Reg Craven crashed and was hit by two riders, sadly 180 hours later,
he died from his injuries. The other fatality took place in the second
half of the 13th meeting at Yarmouth on the 13th
July. Yarmouth had won the meeting and had 13 League points. The
Australian, Max Pearce who had won his first race in the meeting struck
the fourth bend fence and tried to keep going but was dragged half way
down the straight in a horror crash. At the end of the season there were
13 riders who scored more points than Max and his match average was 1.3.
Thankfully this was the only fatal crash at Yarmouth. Result wise in what
was a bad season as the team lost all their official away meetings and 8
at home, only Wombwell had a worst record.
Because of all the injuries the team used 22
riders Only Roy Duke rode in all of the teams official meetings and he had
lost form by the end of the season. When Norwich got hit by injuries the
up-and-coming teenager Fred Rogers was transferred back to the Stars
followed later by Hammond.
The highlight of the season was the form shown
by Billy Bales who because of injuries was given a chance in the teams
first home meeting against Poole. He topped scored with 10 points and only
a collarbone injury stopped him becoming the teams captain. Reg Morgan was
also a find as stared as a novic and ended the season as captain. While
Bert Rawlinson and Bill Caruthers preformed well.
The team lined up for
the 1949 season with Hipperson as captain, Bert Rawlinson, Bales, Bill
Carruthers, and Morgan from last season. Johnny White had been signed from
Hull. The reserves were Joe Rodwell and Harold Simms. After three matches
Harold was injured and replaced by a young London lad, Stan Page.
From a team that could
not win away in 1948 Yarmouth had the best away record in Division 3, in
1949. They did however lose two matches at home to Poole 41-42 and
Plymouth 41-43. They reached the Division 3 Final of the National Trophy,
losing out to Hanley 101-113. It was also Yarmouth and Hanley who fought
it out for the Championship. Yarmouth’s last meeting was at Hanley where a
crowd of 20,000 witnessed a great battle. Going into the last race
Yarmouth led by a point 38-39. Bales and Brand shot away from the gate and
the 5-1 had given Yarmouth the match 39-44 and it seemed the Championship.
Bales was near on
unbeatable, as during the season he scored more maximums than any other
rider in all three Leagues, 18 full and 6 paid in the League plus a 18
point maximum in the National Trophy. This gained him the Mr. Max title
from the Speedway Echo He was also very fast breaking 9 track records. In
one period of 20 days he rode at 7 tracks and took 6 track records. His
explanation to this ‘was that he had his first new bike and just wanted to
see how fast it would go’.
Billy and the
Bill Carruthers had proved to be one of the best pairings for
the Bloaters Fred Brand had come on Tip Mills was matching Billy’s scoring
at Yarmouth. Morgan proved a valuable captain after Hipperson departed to
excellent 1949 season Yarmouth were promoted to the Second Division for
the 1950 season. The team was expected to hold their own in the higher
League with the riders that had performed so well for the team in Division
3. They had signed Wally Higgs, who was a top rider at the Claremont track
Bales doing his
military service with the RAF but he was still expected to be able to
ride. He missed the team's first three matches and in his very first match
in the higher League, away at Cradley he topped score with 11 points.
After riding in just three Kemsley Shield matches Bales was posted to
Egypt and the team had to compete in the higher league without its star
bottom of the Southern Shield, losing all the away meetings and two at
home. In fact they had five away and two home defeats, before they managed
to win their first match at home, against Walthamstow 48-35. Walthamstow
gained revenge as they put the Bloaters out of the National Trophy. The
team's form in the League was far better that the Shield, without Bales,
on their tricky little track, the team held its own in the League, but
they were woefully weak away.
Bill Maddern (an
experienced Australian rider joined the team and at times both he and
Higgs rode exceptional well, unfortunately both received leg injuries.
Higgs had appeared very useful, but needed time to adjust to the smaller
British tracks and time was something that Yarmouth did not have. Yarmouth
also included several London junior riders, George Flower, Vic Ridgeon,
Jim Purdey, and Johnny Fry
who was having a really great season but he was involved in a very bad
crash in the home match against Ashfield (7.9.50), with Johnny White and
Bruce Semmens Bill was taken to hospital with a very bad compound fracture
of his right leg. While the wild man, Semmens was excluded.
The track surface
had been changed at the start of the season to brick dust mixed with
crushed shingle but this was not a success as the riders complained
because it penetrated the engines causing the riders considerable expense.
So the management obtained a new type of shale and the improvements to the
track was noticeable in the times. The track record was held by Billy
Bales at 72.2 at the start of the season was shattered and ended up at
69.8. This time was first set up by Eddie Rigg in the World Championship
round and was equalled by both Ken Le Breton and Phil Clarke. Both the
latter two riders achieved this time in the scratch race final, the last
race of the meeting, and Clarke's case it was the very last race of
Yarmouth's 1950 season. Track records are very rarely broken in the last
heat of a meeting and I believe that no other track could match this feat
proving that the Yarmouth track was in excellent condition in 1950.
the team by signing Bob Baker, from New Cross for £750. This proved a
great success as Bob, as over the next seasons only Brand would outscore
him. Hipperson was resigned plus Cyril Quick was brought on loan for the
remainder of the season and from then on the team just about held its own
at Caister Road, they even managed to beat Norwich 44-40.
For the second
season they failed to win away. After the disaster's Kemsley Shield
meetings they did manage to keep an unbeaten home record on their own
tricky track until the very last match of the seaon when Edinburgh, led by
the World champion, Jack Young, won by ten points. Again the team ended up
near the bottom of the League as they were eleventh out of sixteen.
After a bad start
to the season Fred Brand became near invincible at Caister Road, in a
13-march period he dropped just two points. He had two 18-point maximums
in the National Trophy won the World Championship Round with a classy
maximum. In the Test match Britain beat Overseas 65-45 he dropped one
point to Bob Leverenz
Brand had a
League CMA of 9.57 and Baker (9.28) carried the team in most of the
matches. For all official meetings Baker had 8.98 with Brand on 8.83,
Morgan 6.39, Quick 5.78, and Mills 5.06. The ever popular but injury
jinxed Hipperson (4.22) was forced to retire after 19 matches as the
insurers refused to insure him again. Ridgeon 3.82, Johnny White 2.91,
George Flower 1.33, Terry Courtnell 1.33, Alby Thomas, the only New
Zealander to ride for Yarmouth and Jim Purdey failed to score.
It was the same
story as last season, Yarmouth were an acceptable team at home, but were
the reverse away. It was Brand and Baker scoring well, and the rest
struggling for a few points. Terry Courtnell started to back them up and
became the third heat leader.
from the fans point of view, was the tiny (4 foot 9 inches) Johnny
Chamberlain. Wedon had suggested that 'he would be the new Billy Bales'.
Johnny was even smaller than Billy and he certainly seemed very frail. It
was obvious that he had the nerve to be a racer, but the points, at first
did not come. He took crash after crash and then a smaller bike was made
for him and it was then the big scores started to come.
Not only did
Johnny click with the fans but he forged a friendship with Terry Courtnell
off the tack. Wedon paired the two kids together and how the crowd took to
them. The team manager Ernie Wedon, got fed up with certain riders not
scoring on the away tracks and both Morgan and Page were averaging over 7
at home, away it was a very different matter, Morgan was just over 2
whereas Page was under 2.
New blood had to
be found and Reg Reeves was signed and he was soon scoring well. Apart
from Reeves, Roy Bowers came on loan from Harringay. Peter Harris, an
Australian who had rode at Wolverhampton as Gundy Harris, was another new
rider and he too improved during the season.
A complete alteration to
the track shape-to make it easier for the visitors and thus enable them to
put up racing that really looks like the real thing. The alterations
brought the tracks length to 325 yards for the remanding seasons and it
was again a cinder track.
It was a fine
season for Yarmouth in 1953, after two seasons in the Second Division they
at last beat their away bogy by winning away, and they staged some fine
meetings on the away tracks. They became serious challengers to Coventry
and Poole for the Second Division title.
absolutely the best side that Yarmouth had in Division 2, and, as they
were in the higher league, it was conceivably even better than the super
Division 3 side of 1949. Brand, Chamberlain, Reeves, and Baker were heat
leaders in their own rights. Brand and Chamberlain were both included in Stenner's top ten ranking for the Second Division. Brand, Chamberlain, and
Reeves all featured in the Speedway Star's top six riders. The young
riders in the side Courtnell, Ronnie Genz, Roy Bowers and George White all
played their part, in what was an excellent team.
handicapped for half the season by the absence of Chamberlain, who broke a
leg in the Queens Cup fixture at Poole in June. I am sure that if
Chamberlain had not got injured the crowds would have increased. Johnny,
like Billy Bales before him, was extremely spectacular to watch, at the
time of his injury he was starting to out-score Fred Brand. If Johnny had
kept this scoring up and there was no reason to suspect that he would not,
I believe that the team would have won the league title.
injured, Reeves who had been riding well with Baker, was made heat leader
and Genz was then moved from reserve to partner Baker, and this worked
very well. With Chamberlain and the improved form of Genz, in would be
fair to say that the team would have been able to win a few more away
matches. Chamberlain had scored 9 at Coventry in the first mach in the
second if he had scored the same it would have swung the match 44-40 to
the Bloaters and perhaps that they would also have won at Edinburgh but
they lost 39-45.
Brand was made
captain and he well and truly beat the ‘captain’s hoodoo’. He again topped
the scores and he had double points in every home meeting. Brand was ever
present in the team from 1949. He was one of the few riders, who never
missed a meeting in his entire career through injuries, as he was such a
master of the bike that he never crashed.
Yarmouth wanted to open
the 1954 season late and after some wrangling the Control Board did not
issue them with a licence. The track remained closed until Percy Leighton,
a local businessman, Alf Weedon, the ace cameraman, and Ted ‘Pop’
Courtnell, the father of Terry, who sadly had been killed in a car
accident in South Africa, took over. The former manager Ernie Wedon was
still involved as he wrote the programme notes.
The sport returned on
the 2nd July with a star line up for the East Anglia Trophy,
which was won by Ove Fundin after a run-off with Peter Craven.
After this four team
matches were held, strangely the home team was called East Anglia, but
they did ride in the Yarmouth race jackets.
The next meeting it was
back to the Yarmouth Bloaters with Yarmouth beating Oxford 66-30 with
Billy Bales and Peter Moore both scoring 15-point maximums. Fundin won the
Five Star Speedway Annual Trophy with a maximum 15 points to end the
short, but interesting season. In this meeting Peter Moore set up an all
time track record of 69.2.
One of the crowd
pleasers of the season was Albert Sparrey, who had the habit of spinning
completely round on the second bend. This gained him the nickname of
‘Spinning Sparrey’. Albert could hold his own with the top riders at
Yarmouth and at times looked world class.
The season opened with
East Anglia losing to the Rest 37-59 with the local hero, Billy Bales,
scoring a 15-point maximum for the Rest. The next meeting the home team
was back to Yarmouth with Craven and Jack Young riding for the Bloaters
who lost to Norwich 43-53. Fundin scored maximum 15 and Bales 12+1.
Jack Young won the
Great Yarmouth Championship after a run-off with Ronnie Genz another one
of the 1953 Yarmouth team. Barry Briggs was the star of this meeting and
would have won the meeting but for getting excluded in one race. Barry
clocked three times under 70 seconds 68.8, 69.6, and 69.8.
There is some confusion
to who was the track record holder at Yarmouth. The programme for this
meeting gave the shale record at 69.8 held by Eddie Rigg, Ken Le Breton,
and Phil Clarke (the track measured 327 yards). Cinder record at 70
seconds to Peter Moore 16.7.57 (325 yards). But this was an error as it
had been Barry Briggs who set up that time and Peter Moore had beaten that
time in the last meeting of 1957 with a time of 69.2, both my programme
and the Speedway Star agree on this. Briggs times were checked carefully
but his time of 68.8 was not excepted as the all time record because the
timekeeper was not an official. But nevertheless he was the fastest rider
ever at Yarmouth.
When Norwich beat
Yarmouth 50-40 it was the last time the top riders rode at Yarmouth. That
night Yarmouth included 3 World Champions Young 11, Craven 15 point
maximum, and Ronnie Moore 14. The other team members were Sparrey,
Hankins, Maury Courtnell and Are Hendrickson. Fundin 13 was the fourth
World Champion riding that night and for the last time the Bloater fans
cheered on their favourites, Billy Bales 10 and Chamberlain 5.
The season ended with
combined junior and midget car racing. The first one Ove Fundin and Aub
Lawson appeared, with Ove winning his race and Aub not finishing.
Yarmouth also entered a
team in the Junior League that both the Speedway Star and the Yarmouth
programme called the Second Division. Yarmouth had just two away meetings
in this League, and won them both, at Swindon 19½-40½ and Norwich 25-34.
Strange that they never rode at home in this League.
This season there were
no top rides as the team joined the five team Southern Area League. In the
first League match away at Eastbourne the team lost 46-26, Clive Featherby,
Derek Strutt, and Peter Atkins were missing and were replaced by
Away they won at
Ipswich and Rye House. Beat Rye House and Aldershot at home got a draw
with the eventual winners Eastbourne. But lost to the bottom team Ipswich,
who that night included the Bloaters former star Johnny Chamberlain who
was the match winner. He did drop a point to Fitzpatrick before he fell in
the last race.
The popular Albert Sparrey captained the team with Johnny Fizpatrick, Ivor Brown, and Dave
Hankins. In all 17 riders were used with the team using juniors from the
home track in many of the away meetings. Ivor Brown won the Kings of
Oxford Trophy in the first home meeting and. Dave Hankins won the Bosh
The Provincial League
was born with Yarmouth as one of the founder members. It certainly looked
a better League that the old S.A.L. Yarmouth were hit at the start by the
retirement of Sparrey and although the management tried very hard they
failed to tempt him back. They did however sign the veteran Geoff Pymar to
strengthen the team.
Brown was the new
captain; Fitzpatrick, Pymar, John Debbage, and the young Ron Bagley and
Ken Last were the main scorers. Again the team would ‘borrow’ a junior
rider at the away tracks to become the reserve. This rider had no
programmed rides and was only given rides if a team member could not take
It should have been the
launch pad for better seasons, but it was not to be as it always seemed to
rain on Tuesday nights that season. The matches against Liverpool, Poole,
and Sheffield were postponed. The Sheffield match was never run at
Yarmouth as the away meeting was rode for double points.
Rayleigh, with the
ex-Bloater, Reg Reeves won the League with 34 points with Yarmouth with 14
points was in seventh out of ten teams.
After the disaster of
1960 the team was withdrawn from the Provincial League and they had a
series of open meetings. They were also in an East Anglian League that
included B teams from Norwich, Ipswich, and Rayleigh but this was never
In the only away
meeting a make shift team lost 48-30. The home meetings they beat Rayleigh
B 44-34. Clive Featherby won the C.T.S. Trophy with a 15 point maximum
from Harry Edwards 14 and Ron Bagley 12. One of the Yarmouth fans
favourite riders ‘Cowboy’ Vic Ridgeon, so called because he would bounce
his front wheel, had rejoined the team. Vic scored 4+2 and Brown and Pymar
5 each were the top scores, as a strong Ipswich B team won 26-52, Beat
Cradley in a Challenge 45-33 and Norwich B 39-37.
The King’s of Oxford
meeting was an interesting meeting with some good racing but as the fans
left the stadium they did not know it was the last time Speedway meeting
at Yarmouth. The management then run a sidecar and midget car meeting on
the next Sunday that lost about £300 and so the track closed.
The last meeting was
not reported in the local press or the Speedway Star. After two races
Bagley and Brett were unbeaten. Heat 10 and Bagley rode hard into the
first bend and was excluded and could not take his other rides. In the
re-run Pete Jarman beat the shaken Edwards and both had 8 points. Brett
had machine trouble when leading Edwards in heat 15. Jarman won heats 15 &
16 to finish with 14 having lost to Brett in his first ride. Edwards had
to win the last race to force a run-off but was outgated by Goldfinch who
had crashed in his first two rides. The result of that last ever race was
Goldfinch, Edwards, Fitzpatrick and Peter Atkins
In had been an exciting
meeting with Jarman the winner on 14 points Edwards and Trigg had 13. On
10 were Ridgeon and Pymar. Interestingly Pymar had been programmed to ride
in the Yarmouth V Staines match in 1932 and was still going strong. He had
been billed to ride in the team match in 1932 but although he had appeared
at Norwich in the afternoon he did not ride in the evening meeting at
Yarmouth. Geoff had rode successfully at the Bradwell track that same
The track now runs
Greyhounds and Stock Cars plus a stunt show in the Summer. It is certainly
a far better stadium that its local Speedway tracks at Ipswich and Kings
Lynn. The track has been tarmaced over for the Stock Cars.
Maybe someone will one
day bring the sport back to the third largest seaside town in England. I
hope it could be me as I do the lottery each week. Last week I did get
close as I only needed another 5 numbers.
John Skinner says: Thank you Keith for the low down on
Yarmouth. I have the same dream about winning the lottery and
bringing back Speedway to one of our defunct tracks! Dream on eh?