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Eric Chitty was born in Toronto, Canada in 1909. He began his working life as an electrical engineer, an amateur racer in Hill Climbs, Trails and Dirt Track racing from 1928. In 1930 he was a runner up in the Canadian Speedway Championship also riding speedway bike at tracks at Detroit, Chicago and New York in the USA, and whilst doing that he came to the attention of Johnnie Hoskins. He retired in 1931 due to illness, returning to Speedway in 1934 to become the Canadian Speedway Champion.

Arriving in Great Britain, 1935, he was invited to do a trial for West Ham by the director and team manager, the previously mentioned Johnnie Hoskins. He, Eric Chitty failed to impress. However half a year later, probable for the 1936 season when West Ham ran two teams, he was given a West Ham contract and his long term relationship with the Hammers began.

Eric Chitty rode for West Ham with just the break for World War II from 1936 to 1951. During the enforced stop in league racing 1939 to 1946 caused by the war Eric rode in Open Meetings at Belle Vue.

Hammers supporter Robert Rogers writes;

“In the all-time West Ham top twenty riders poll held when West Ham closed in 1971 he was voted No 7 a huge achievement when many of those who voted would never have seen him ride.

Eric won the 1938 London Riders Championship held at New Cross.

Won the unofficial British Individual Championship in 1940, 1941 & 1942.

He won the Belle Vue Grand Prix, the Northern Championship & the Hundred Guineas Trophy all in 1942.

He won the all English Best Pairs Championship in 1941 with Ron Johnson and 1943 with Fred Tuck.

In 1944 he won the National Trophy (a solo event, not to be confused with the National Trophy which was a team event both before and after World War II) Also in 1944 he won the British Empire Best Pairs with Ron Clark.

In the winter of 1945-46 he toured Germany as the Captain of the ENSA Speedway team. Although called a team, it seem it was more of a Speedway Circus with Solo events being put on various parts of occupied Germany, and challenges against the local Army Dispatch Riders, many of which were Speedway riders before the war. ENSA was an organisation that put on shows and entertainment for Service personnel.”

Robert Rogers continues –

“In 1946 he became Captain of West Ham.

After he left West Ham in 1951, he seemed to have disappeared from the speedway scene.

INJURIES - It would seem Eric had suffered a few serious injuries in his life. He had missed half of the 1948 season owing to injury he received racing in Australia, during the winter of  47/48. There is a comment that although he had returned he was not his former self.

He then rode from 49-51, but he was not in the 1952 team.

He had seemingly had another serious injury, which stopped him from returning to West Ham. The last mention I can find of Eric was in a West Ham Programme dated 20th May 1952. It states that Eric will hopefully return as soon as his injury lets him.

Eric was also capped for in Test Matches against England.

Although Canada could not raise its own team, a collation of Canadian, New Zealander and South African rode as an OVERSEAS Team in 1937.

They rode a five match series.

The Overseas team won 3, England won 1 and one was a draw.

Eric rode in 3 of them and therefore was `capped 3 times.

Eric Chitty it would seem was not only a Speedway Rider; he was a Singer, Writer and Businessman.

SINGER- Eric used to sing to the fans during the half time interval. This was a John S Hosking idea, as Eric apparently had a good voice. The event was billed as a `Ditty from Chitty` (Typical Hoskins, who was a showman in the Barnum spirit).

WRITER- Eric wrote a column for the Speedway Gazette Newspaper in 1948.

BUSINESSMAN - Eric had a company called Eric `Ricky` Chitty LTD.

It shows the Directors as E.F Chitty and E.M Chitty (I assume his wife, unless he had a brother, no mention of either). They run a shop at Plaistow in Barking Road (Approximately a mile from Custom House Stadium the home of West Ham Hammers).

It sold everything thing from Children toy bikes up to the real thing, Speedway Bikes. They also seem to sell racing leathers, and had a motorcycle repair service.”

Eric was also a member of the World Speedway Riders’ Association and died in 1990

Eric Chitty

Many thanks must go to Robert Rogers who supplied and wrote most of the above and produced the photo.

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