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The National Speedway Museum

The Lions from 1946-1956

Wembley Lions

After the war, the world had changed, and for the next 10 years the Lions won and won, both Team and Solo events.

The Lions returned, with their Manager Major Alex Jackson, forming a team of riders, who had continued to race via the various open meetings held by some clubs during the war, pre-war riders and youngsters, who had learnt to ride motorbikes in the armed forces. During World War Two Bill Kitchen  & Tommy Price had ridden in the Wartime British Individual Championship. In 1941 Bill was second, in 1943 he came second again, with Tommy Price coming third. In 1945 he won it.

1946 the Lions won both the National League and the London Cup. On the solo front, there was no World Championship, but the biggest event was the British Riders Championship, which was won by Tommy Price, with the Lions Captain, Bill Kitchen, coming second. Bill made up for the second place in that event by winner the German Championship in Hanover.

Racing in Germany was organised by the British Occupational Army of the Rhine (BOAR). As well as some of the top star of the sport going to Germany, some of the troops showed great promise. One these was a youngster called Jimmy Gooch, who was that good, he was given a contract to ride for the Lions as soon as he was demobbed. The Laurels at Wimbledon was rode as a `Best Pairs`contest, which was won by Tommy Price & Bob Wells.

1947, League Champions again, plus the Div 1 British Speedway Cup. In the National Trophy, they were runners-up to Wimbledon. Again, no World Championship, and again Bill Kitchen was runner-up in the British Championship.

1948, and the poor Lions were made homeless for most of the season, there was a minor event being held at Wembley, the 1948 Olympic games! Despite this, the Lions were in 4th  place in the league, plus won both the National Trophy and the London Cup. Most of the Lions matches were held at Wimbledon, with the first ‘home match’ not run at home until September when the Lions got their arena back, this match saw 60,000 plus fans watch the Lions take on the Dons. On the solo front, Split Waterman, won the London Riders Championship.

1949 saw the first English winner the World Championship, with the Lions Tommy Price taking the trophy.

This was the first and only time that the top four riders in the world came from one Country, Tommy Price, Jack Parker, Louis Lawson & Norman Parker, all from England. The team, now back home won both the League and London Cup.

1950, a new decade, but Life with the Lions, was still a victorious one, with the Lions taking both the League and the London Cup. Another first in the World Championship, this time it was a Dragon who was a Lion, when Wembley’s Welsh Wizard, Freddie Williams won the title, becoming the only Welshman ever to do so.

Bruce Abernathy won the New Zealand championship back in his homeland.

1951, and the victories go on, League and London Cup yet again. The Lions were runners up in the National Trophy, again to Wimbledon. Bruce Abernathy retained his New Zealand Championship.

1952, only won the League this year! In the World Final, Lions Freddie Williams and Bob Oakley came 2nd & 3rd. The winner was a certain Mr Jack Young, a West Ham Hammer.

1953 saw another League Championship, another runner up in the National Trophy to Wimbledon, and another World Champion, with Freddie Williams winning it for a second time. This was the last time that Wembley won the League Title.

1954 was another successful year; with the Lions collecting the silver wear of the National Trophy and the London Cup. In the World Championship, a young Lion, Brian Crutcher took 2nd place. Ronnie Moore, Wimbledon was the Winner, and Olly Nygren, Sweden, was 3rd.

1955, again owing to events at Wembley, over half the `home` matches were rode at their opponent’s tracks. Despite this, the Lions were 3rd in the league. In the National Trophy they were runners up to Norwich.

In the World Championship, Eric Williams became the last Lion to mount the winners’ rostrum when he came joint 3rd with Barry Briggs.

1956 was the last year that the Lions would race in the National League, when they came second. Brian Crutcher won the London Riders Championship.

1957, saw a very different Speedway World, no Lions!

In February, Sir Arthur Elvin died. He had always championed the Lions cause, despite objections from the other Wembley Directors. In March it was announced that the Lions would no longer take part in Speedway, and all riders were sold off, or retired. It proved that in Speedway, even being one of the best, does not mean you will go on forever.

Even the League was different, after many years of top London Clubs `holding court`; with Manchester’s Belle Vue Aces being the only real challenge, it was now just the Dons from Wimbledon who represented the Capital in Division One.

It will be the 1970`s before the Lions would return to the World of Speedway.

Click images to enlarge

Written and submitted by

Robert Rogers

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