After the war

The efforts made to recruit new members during the immediate postwar years of 1946-7 really paid off. 1947 saw the revival of racing in the Club and soon post-war novices were replacing the older names in the prizes. ’47 was Don Slattery’s year with 3rd place in the Balham Roughstuff. He won the 25 cup in 1.8.14 and although this and the time Sean Hayden did in the 50 were minutes slower than the pre-war Club records – they were learning. In 1947 the Club promoted a 2nd-class 50 won with 1.2l.7 by Vallack of the Paragon. Again we were learning the art of promoting and are now highly regarded for our standards. The Club was also growing in size and during 1948 we had 40 riders in one Club event. Pat wright began his distinguished racing career taking the Club BAR, the Club Events Championship shield, the 100 cup with a 5.2.00 and the Most Improved Novice Award! Another novice Ron Shiret won the 12 hour Cup with 2l0½ miles in the Counties 12. Roy Watts in spite of still being in the RAF, took the 25 mile cup with a 1.4., the 30 mile with a 1.17 and the 50 in 2.18.0. The novices were learning fast. On the admin side there was a complete change of the president and Vice-presidents. Bill Hen’s father Maurice (and our timekeeper) became president with Arthur Palmer MP and 100 miles Cup donor along with Ted Woodhall, Leader Cycles (the Club’s preferred racing bike maker). Our Open event for 1948 was a 25 and proved so popular that a duplicate event had to be held on the Pompey Road course. Another move of Clubroom saw us go to the Selkirk Arms in Tooting. This move to a pub set the pattern of Clubrooms for many years to come – the Redmon did like to enjoy itself apart from riding bikes!

1949 saw the first promotion of the Ron Bensley Memorial 30 to perpetuate the memory of Ron our pre-war General Secretary and leading racing man.  It was a shocking morning of high winds and pouring rain. Out of the 225 entrants we accepted 120 and only 70 started. It was won by Frank Eacott of the Bec with 1.13.36. It takes more than a bad morning to kill a good event and the 30 flourished for many years until a lack of courses killed it off.  1949 also saw a revived interest in massed-start racing.  Keith Bennett, Bert Poole, Pete Billson, Jimmy Looney, Tony Tindall, Martyn Winter, Vere Fraser, Tommy Gorman, Vic Stainer and Nibs Quested, all young riders, built up quite a reputation in the south during the year.  The Junior Team won the southern counties Championship at Goodwood and we had many placings in events at circuits all round the south and East. Track racing also revived this year but was not to come to fruition for another year – we had to learn the ropes. In time-trialling Geoff Wright a novice broke the 25 record with 1.1.35 in April in the Club 25. He later took the 30 Cup with 1.16.6. and the 50 in 2.12.06 beating brother Pat by a nose. Pat did 4.44.04 in the Westerley 100 just beating Bill Hen’s 4.46.53 in the WLCA 100.  George Half was 2nd in the Cambrian 100 with 4.53.55 on a poor day. Pat broke the 12 record with 233½ with Jack Wise running-up with 221 in his first 12.  Ron Shiret; Ewart Arnold and Bill Hens also rode l2’s in 1949 – we were learning about this distance racing.

Tandems played a prominent part in the Club’s racing. Pat Wright and Ron Shiret broke records in the Oak Tandem 100 with 4.5.12 and 5th place.  Ron with Ewart Arnold did 1.56.00 in the Marlborough 50 whilst Geoff Wright and Roy Watts set new figures of 1.6.21 in the Southend & City Whs 30. Pat Wright and Ron Shiret rode and broke the SRRA Purley to Eastbourne and Back with 4.18.28 a 9 minute beating of Harvey and Mundy’s time. On the same day Betty Songi (partnering Beryl Fieldhouse of the Thornton RC) beat the old competition Record for a tandem 30 with 1.13.43.

We moved Clubroom again (the Selkirk was too small).  Our new home was The George at Morden where we remained for many happy years.  At the 1949 AGM Jim Walsh became Club Secretary and Bill Hens, Racing Secretary.  Our membership stood at 90.

1950. Again the Club grew until we had 110 members and we would see about 80 each week in the Clubroom, on runs or racing.  In May we clocked 60 riders in a Club 25. Racing went on a pace and in Open events we recorded 21st, 3 2nd and 3 3rd placings plus 3 1st 2 second and 1 third handicap. We also won 7 1st Team Awards. Three men dominated the short-distances Geoff Wright, 1.1.30, John Finnigan 1.1.59 and George Palser 1.2.38.  Geoff became our first ever rider in a National Championship. He did 1.1.48 in the 25, a time well above his expectancy – ours as well.  Our best 25 of the year was by Ron Allen with 1.1.5 for 3rd place in the Easter1ey 25 with Sonny Sharpe recording 1.1.57 on this very fast morning. Another fine ride was by Junior Pete Bil1son in the Alton Longmarkers 25.  He turned up complete with gears and sunglasses and beat the lot with 1.1.57. In our Open 30 we took the Team and John Finnigan broke Club Record with 1.14.55. Geoff Wright did the fastest 50 with 2.10.3 for 2nd place and led the 1st team.  Pat Wright broke the 100 record with 4.43.39.  He also was fastest over 12 hrs with 229.

1950 saw our first ever 24-hour rider. Jack Wise rode the Catford 24 and clocked 406 1/4 miles. It was a useful dress rehearsal for many long distance rides and road records later. Betty Songi broke Club Ladies 25 record in the 29th Whs event. She also won the Gwent CC 25 in 1.9.38 for a new Welsh Ladies Record leading the winning team. On the track we were  semi fina1ists in the Surrey NCU Centre Pursuit final.  The squad piled up on the last-bend when leading easily.  Don Jemmett won the Surrey NCU 5-mile Grass Championship with Vere Fraser 2nd and Martyn Winter 3rd. They took many places in the Redhill Grass Track Series as well.

Massed start riders had a good year. The juniors took 1st team in the 20-miler at Goodwood with Ken Garbutt (father of present Cycling Weekly Editor Robert) in 1st place.  We had 6 riders in the 100kms Pete Billson was 2nd, Keith Bennett 3rd (and all the primes). Junior SCCU Championship also at Lee-on-Solent saw us take 2nd team medals with Martyn Winter 3rd., Derek Smith 6th and Dave Boorsma 9th.  In 1950 we also held our first-ever Club Massed-start Chamnpionship with Geoff Wright beating Keith Bennett by half-a-wheel.

On the admin side Sean Hayden our long serving Treasurer was succeeded by Ron Allen, still working for the Club to this day. Club runs were in the very capable hands of Bert Lowe our Club Captain.  Bert was one of Jimmy’s recruits from Herne Hill and RAF India.  The Club was now very firmly established and although times were not easy in the post-war era, it was a very happy and enthusiastic Club that now looked to enjoy the boom years of cycling.  Racing members, the club officials, the race organisers and helpers had now the experience to take the Club forward in the years to come.

Previously Printed in the Redmon Review for May 20