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Dagenham is thought to have been the biggest hotbed of speedway talent in the UK before it’s track all but fell into oblivion at the onset of World War Two.

A band of daredevil Bikers roared to National and International stardom after launching Careers on the one gear machines with-out brakes on a track in Ripple Road, Barking, Essex.

By May 1939, five months before the war, a correspondent wrote in Speedway News, asking if everybody was fully appreciative of the Beneficial effect of Dagenham Speedway had on the sport as it “must have produced more stars than any other track” and naming nearly 20 riders who took part in the World Championship, commonwealth tournaments and Home competitions.

Amongst `The Daggers” novices was Malcolm Craven, who was Number 17 in the 1939 World Speedway Championship semi-final.

The final of the Championship was cancelled because of the war, but the leading biker completed in the World Championships in Britain between 1949 and 1951, he also became a leading member of the West Ham Speedway Team.

Other home-grown champions included Doug Wells, Jim Boyd and Jim Baylais and Frank Hodgson who was the `Daggers` Captain in 1938.

In 1936, Arthur Warwick launched the Amateur Dirt-track Riders club in Dagenham.

He took on 25 novices, with all sharing a common dream of becoming World Champion.

He imposed a gruelling regime, teaching them theory, how to build engines and the mysteries of tuning.

The beginners raced on a 320-yard track, first used in 1932, at speeds up to 70 MPH.

They also were put through a keep-fit ordeal, with no smoking, drinking regular exercise and early bedtimes.

Dagenham Speedway racing had up to that point been an amateur affair, but Warwick launched a Silver Cup that helped to propel his team on to the National Scene.

In 1937, Frank Hodgson was snapped up by the Hackney Wick Wolves team who was one of the `Daggers` main rivals.

Commonwealth biker Jim Baylais and Hodgson fought neck and neck for the `Eric Chitty Trophy at Dagenham in 1937, pointing to the rivalry with-in the team.

Hodgson was the favourite to win, but only beat Baylais – another 1936 novice- by less than the width of a wheel.

Hodgson was regarded as a Dagenham Hero in his own right, with an illustrious career that continued after the war and saw him take part in the individual Speedway World Championship in 1951.

He passed his passion for the sport on to another young lad who was destined to become a star of the Sport, Nobby Stock became a novice with the Daggers, but was more famous as a Star with the Harringay racers Speedway team after WW11.

The Dagenham track had open as Speedway developed in the UK, four year after it was staged at another Essex Track, High Beech in Epping Forest, having been imported from Australia.

As the sport matured in the late 1930`s, the track symbolically marked its 100th meeting with a special trophy won by Captain Baylias, followed by Jack Tidbury and Stock on the 16th April 1939.

American Jack Milne,World Champion in 1937, presented the Milne Cup at Dagenham on June 4th 1939.

Despite the Clubs home-grown success and competitions, Dagenham was threaten with Closure.

Speedway News reported that the club had closed in September 1938, before being re-launched with Flying Colours a month later following a management overhaul, backing from top riders and a stadium facelift.

In 1939 Warwick’s training school temporarily closed, and plans were a foot to move the Speedway team to the Dog Track next door, but the idea was scrapped.

On the 23rd July a record crowd filled the Stadium to watch Stock win the Wilson Cup.

The near fatal blow came with the onset of war after Dagenham introduced successful Thursday night races in August on top of the Sunday Meetings.

The last known race to have taken place at Dagenham was on the 27th August, just days before war broke out.

Speedway came full circle after the conflict, reappearing on an Amateur level in 1946 under the Auspices of the Barking Racing Club, but closed for good to become a car park for the Dog Racing Stadium.

In his 2003 book, `Speedway in the South-east`, Norman Jacobs writes “ The track remained open in 1947 for Training Purposes only, but at the end of that season it closed for good.

Dagenham Daggers Speedway team

From a piece published in the Barking and Dagenham Post

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