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Guest Longwood4

Clem Beckett - information urgently needed

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Guest Longwood4

I am looking for information about Clem Beckett.

I know he was from Oldham and rode for Halifax and Sheffield at different points in the early thirties I know he didnt ride for long but did break some world records and that he was a socialist who started a union for speedway riders. He went and fought and was killed in the Spanish Civil War. I know he rode the wall of death in Sheffield and that he had an accident riding the wall of death in Denmark.

 

I would be really grateful if anyone has any more information.

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Guest Sir Lunchalot

I did a quick web search and found a mention on http://www.wcml.org.uk/people/biogs.htm

 

It says "BECKETT Clem - Speedway rider UK, formed Dirt-track Riders Ass. BWSF, IB - killed Spain 1937"

 

At the top of the website it says "The following list covers individuals, mostly activists from NW England, for whom we have some information. The amount varies from a tiny mention to several boxes of personal papers"

 

You may have already seen that site but it may be worth a phone call to the WCML (Working Class Movement Library) if you haven't.

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Here is an article from Vintage Speedway Mag 1997 that may be of some interest.

Click on my webshots link below and then on the Clem Beckett one :D

Edited by iris123

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Guest Longwood4

Thanks for this - I have checked out his socialist worker records - there is just one pamphlet about him same at oldham local history library its really his racing I want more info on - he didnt ride for long but there doesnt seem to be anything about him even though he set mile record twice.

 

Thanks for the article about him thats given me a coupl of ideas of where to look

 

Sue

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Was he not the guy who was killed in the Spanish Civil War.

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If you wish to find out more about Clem Beckett, I can highly recommend the book, Clem Beckett Motorcycle Hero and War Legend, by Rob Hargreaves, published by Pen and Sword Military in 2022.

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I entirely agree with Norbold. The Rob Hargreaves book is superbly written, and is an extensive history of the life and times pf Clem Beckett. It is not a whitewash-it is very well balanced, and explores Clem's strengths and weaknesses in some detail. I

t also describes in detail the sometimes crazy world of 1928/29 speedway.

The best speedway biography I have read.

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Taken from the Speedway Riders Index 1929-2022

Clement Henry George (Clem) BECKETT

Born: 1906, Oldham, Greater Manchester, England (NOTE: Birth record states nearby Saddleworth).

Died: 12 February 1937 - fighting in Spanish Civil War for Communists.

Career record: (1929-30) Sheffield.

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An extract from an article titled ‘Clem Beckett’s Suspension’, which appeared in the Speedway Researcher magazine (Volume 16.4, March 2014):

It seems that Clem wrote an article which was published in the 14th January 1931 edition of the Daily Worker in which it is claimed he exposed the commercial exploitation of professional motor-cyclists by dirt track promoters. The article was headed “Bleeding The Men Who Risk Their Lives on the Dirt Track”.

The article goes on to say that a Mr E.B. Ware, a stipendiary steward of the Auto Cycle Union (ACU) attempted a reply a few days later. It seems that the Daily Worker considered Mr Ware’s response to be feeble and evasive which permitted Clem the opportunity to have two further blasts at the promoters on 17th and 20th February. 

The upshot was that three months later the ACU took the unprecedented action of handing out an international suspension to Clem. In the eyes of the Manchester Evening Chronicle this action appeared a bit harsh to say the least and described the ACU actions as “the most remarkable in the history of speedway racing, for it has nothing whatsoever to do with the rider’s conduct on the track.” However, and somewhat oddly, the Manchester Evening Chronicle went on to suggest that if he were to apologise “it would put matters right”.

The Daily Worker went on to say that Comrade Beckett will not apologise. He is a worker-sportsman and as such will continue to fight the tyrannical powers exercised by the governing bodies of capitalist sport. 

It seemed that the loss of dirt track activity did not deter Clem from making a living riding bikes as he took himself off to Germany to ride on the Wall of Death which the Daily Worker described as “a thrilling exhibition of motor-cycling skill and daring”.  Clem was also to become a correspondent for the Daily Worker and died fighting for his socialist ideals during the Spanish Civil War.

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Another Speedway Researcher article, this one by Alan Bates in September 2012 (15.12):

The first appearance of speedway in the Soviet Union is believed to have taken place in 1930 when a Lancastrian called Clem Beckett took a squad of riders to Russia. They performed during a Physical Training Festival at Dynamo Stadium in Moscow. The spectators are said to have been amazed at the incredible speed of the riders around the cinder track.

In an article, in the ‘Soviet Union’ magazine by the deputy chief engineer of the Lenin Stadium, M. Goldin, states that the first speedway in the USSR was held on the day before the Sports Festival. The top athletes were worried that their performances would suffer if the track was churned up by the bikes. In the end it was decided to lay a protective layer of brick chippings, mix it with clay and put a heavy roller on it, When the speedway was over the upper layer was then swept off.

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In early 1929 the services of Beckett and Skid Skinner were enlisted to assist in the construction of a track in Marseilles. Speedway Researcher (February 2007 Vol 10.2) included the following:

Those hell raisers Skid Skinner and Clem Beckett enjoyed their eight weeks in the South of France but at one stage they got a little bored. Having found that guns were freely available in France they got themselves tooled up. A few hours target practice created a bit of a disturbance which literally reached the ears of the local gendarmes who threw both of them into the slammer. With much argument, from amongst others the British Consul, they were released with a paltry 20 francs fine and a promise that they would not do it again.

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Roskilde Road Greyhound and Dirt Track.

 

In order to present the sport best possible, a selection of mainly British riders from the Manchester White City track  were contracted  from the opening day until the end of 1928. They were Dick Hayman, Ted Egerton, Mark Sheldon, Clem Beckett, Arthur Greenwood, Ernie Greenall and John Crump (all England), together with Keith McKay (Australia) and Stewie St. George (New Zealand) and others. At the end of the seas in December Dick Hayman had won  20 raced, thereof 6 in a row. Stewie St. George’s track record was 1,44 minute for 4 laps.
Clem Beckett and Dick Hayman stayed i Copenhagen through the winter and returned to England at the end of June 1929.

Season opening March 22nd 1929. Among the first foreigners to come  were Ernie Greenall, Ted Cowley and T. D. Ainthorpe. Greenall won every time he rode, which caused Count Raben to cable to England and ask for a rider “capable of  beating Grenall”. Then the Irishman “Ginger” Lees got dispatched to Copenhagen, where he immediately lowered the track record to 1,39 minute.

Dirt track goes air borne. (Sure i have seen a photo of some riders, including Clem standing by one of these planes to take them between Copenhagen and Hamburg)
The Dirt track Company’s first Air express took off from Kastrup airport at 10 o’clock this morning heading for Hamburg, with Air Cpt. Harald Hansen at the controls and with 8 passengers and 3 speedway bikes onboard.
The bikes were securely fixed in the luggage compartment early this morning. It had been necessary to remove a wheel from each of them.

http://speedwaylife.com/danish-tracks/roskildevej-dirt-track/

Also to tie in with this, Beckett's appearance in Hamburg. Maybe it was just the one, or maybe he appeared in subsequent meetings, but wasn't mentioned in the press

 

A minor sensation happened in the B class for german riders,as after a number of meetings where he so often fell off,Bill Kellner finally won a final!!!A taste of things to come........In the A class for foreign riders a newcomer from England made a sensational start.Clem Beckett won his heat in great style earning loud applause from the crowd.Unfortuntaely for him and the fans,he was carrying an injury that made it difficult for him to compete further.Ned Kelly won a hard fought heat just finishing ahead of Thorkild Claussen

Johannes Wunders new technique did bring him the win in the main handicap final ahead of the Dane Rasmussen and Herbert Drews

This time the Friday meeting with its new event could go ahead and seemed to have done what was hoped and attracted a record crowd(for a Friday)with around 18,000 turning up to see the race for the new Douglas bike.The meeting started with a match race challenge between Ned Kelly and Thorkild Claussen ,the first heat of which was described as the best so far this season.Both very evenly matched racing hard against each other.Claussen won 2-0,the second heat far easier than the first.Stewie St.George won the final for foreign riders ahead of English riders Arnold Moore and Jack Wood.And for the second meeting in a row,Bill Kellner won the B class final.He showed his improvement by also qualifying along with Herbert Drews for the handicap final,but it was the Berliner Heck who beat Claussen to the chequered flag followed by Drews and kellner

In the big final Johannes Wunder kept up his good form,taking revenge on Fritz Niss,who beat him in the quali.Wunder was ut in front from the start and no matter what Niss tried he couldn't get to him.Arnold Stölting was third ahead of Otto Heinrichs

The sunday meeting featured a match race challenge between Franz Heck and Arnold Moore Watched by 10,000+ the Berliner won the first heat in a great time,just outside the national record with 76.2.The second was far closer with Moore leading all the way in a tough race until Heck made a pass on the last bend to take the match 2-0 just 0.1  second ahead of Moore!!

 Kellner couldn't manage 3 on the trot in the B class as ever improving Herbert Drews beat him into 2nd place.Wunder again managed a good win in the handicap final,although he had a bit of luck that Walter Hulls bike played up whilst leading and Heck also had bike trouble,so onl Arnold Moore could give Johannes a scare in finishing second.

A couple of days later it was announced that for the next meeting the best dirt track rider in the world was coming to Hamburg.Sprouts Elder!!!Not only that,but track favourite Ginger Lees was making his return from Denmark, having re-taken the track record in Copenhagen.Joining him would be another favourite in Niels Sorensen!!!!

Edited by iris123
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