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When the Home Guard was disbanded in the Autumn of 1944, there were about a dozen of us who had been in the D. R. Section (dispatch riders) of the H.Q.Coy 55 K.H.G (Kent Home Guard) for about four years. Our numbers had fluctuated between 10 & 20. Call-Up to the 'real forces' was the main reason, but a steady trickle of newcomers countered this. Machine failures and lack of spares had caused problems because most of the bikes were 5 - 15 years old.

The news that we were to become redundant was met with mixed feelings. Two evenings, Sunday morning and an average of one night duty each week had become a bind, but the companionship and of course the meagre petrol allowance would be missed. Three or four amongst us had been involved in motorcycle sport pre-war. Geoff Hollamby and Mark Templeman in particular thought a good way of continuing our group was to form a motoring club. Geoff had been a member of the Bromley Club for years and had taken part in solo and sidecar trials.

As part of the Home Guard training, rough country riding was essential and one Sunday each month was reserved for this. Usually at Shirley Hills or Worms Heath and at various tracks and lanes near Layhams Farm. Sometimes we used our own bikes, but usually we used our three Army issue bikes. The two Ariels were quite good in spite of their weight, with low gearing and useful performance. The Enfield was a heavier bike and rather sluggish. Any damage was mainly confined to broken footrests, but somebody cast and machined some replacements and so provided some very useful spares.

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Pencilled minutes of our initial meeting at Battalion HQ's, 2 Manor Way, Beckenham, showed there were twelve present to decide on the Club formation. The name was obviously derived from the Battalion number. The aim was to foster our interest in motoring activities. Particularly motorcycle sport. Subs were to be 10/- (ten shillings = 50p) for riders and 2/6d (two and six = 12 1/2p) for non-active and for lady members. A Secretary, Chairman, Treasurer and five Committee members were elected and the first club meeting arranged for 16th November 1944 at 2 Manor Way. The club rules were made, stationary ordered and the next Committee Meeting arranged which was to be held at The Railway Hotel, West Wickham on 16th January 1945. A letter was sent to all club members advising that the first club meeting was to be at 8pm Tuesday 30th January 1945. Suggestions for social activities were darts, whist drives and pushbike trials!! Of course rationing was still with us.

One rule, No7, was that all the D.R. riders from 55KHG would automatically be given free membership for the duration of the war. We all hoped that the duration would soon expire. V.E. Day (Victory in Europe) and V.J. Day (Victory in Japan) soon followed.

The outbreak of war saw the British Government taking over Ariel's entire output and calling for a purpose-designed and built machine for dispatch riders. The results appeared in 1940, known as the model W/NG.

The W/NG was based on the standard 350c.c. single, but changed to the design used in the ISDT which included a trials frame and additional ground clearance. It was modified by the removal of some of the civilian features, and the addition of a pair of tool boxes, panniers and headlamp mask. It handled better off road than on and received heavy usage by forward troops. Like all the War Department machines, it was tough and many thousands of them went to war.

Taken from: Ariel - The Post-war models by Roy Bacon

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Later monthly meetings regularly mention Worms Heath and trying to get permission to officially use it for trials etc. During September we had become members of the N.K.T.C. (North Kent Trials Combine). Official acceptance of the birth of the Double Five Club. By late '45, with the ending of the war and the return to 'civvy street' of friends etc, the clubs membership soon increased from 13 to 60. This number did not vary greatly until the early fifties, when we started to run our very popular Saltbox scrambles. Petrol rationing and the scarcity of suitable machinery may have delayed the return of motorcycle sport, but adapted W.D. (War Dept) surplus and pre-war bikes soon guaranteed a good entry when we started to organise Group and Open to Centre trials. These were always in the Biggin Hill, Knockholt and Worms Heath areas, using cart tracks where possible to link these areas.

One considerable advantage we enjoyed at that period was that we were seldom short of observers. After the restraints of about six years of war, people were glad to get out at weekends and watch (and pick up) silly beggars who tried to heave machinery around the local hillsides and the seemingly miles of muddy lanes and ditches. Today you are very lucky if you get much assistance when you 'loop it', the solitary observer is much too busy. Perhaps this is why current riders are so good; they have to be to survive!!

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Road trials were very popular at this time as closed to club events, hence our Pathfinder road trial, which has remained to this day, as an annual event. Incidentally, the oak Shield for this and the Novice and Expert trials shields were all made by Jack Cooper. He was our original Lance Corporal (a butcher by trade as in Dads Army!!) and a very good club member. He was our Vice President for many years, until he returned to the Brighton area. Many clubs ran Open to Centre road trials, usually covering about sixty miles mainly over lanes, but with a few rough tracks thrown in to enliven proceedings.

When our late President, Capt. Pyket, donated the Presidents Cup to us in 1951, no decision could be made on a suitable event to justify such a fine cup. However, for the first year a night road trial got general approval. At about two thirds of the estimated distance to the finish, a couple of our well established members lost their way and decided to resort to the "if lost" envelope (high penalty incurred). Our heroes thought of a cunning dodge. Hold the envelope to a headlight and try to read the destination, without opening the envelope. They managed to read the last half of the place name - Hampton and decided on Southampton. Sad to say that it should have been Littlehampton.

By the early fifties we were getting more attracted to scrambling. The Owls club were using their Bombers Lane course. A few of us tried our luck using our trials bikes and decided that we must find our own circuit; we needed the practice. This led to our Saltbox Scrambles, after negotiating with the R.A.F and the Local Water Authority. The latter became important because it added to the parking space. The mile long circuit was on a steep hillside with some sharp drops and climbs, combined with the fast bottom straight made for exciting racing.

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The Saltbox scrambles continued through the fifties. We adopted the Motocross principle of the "three legs" points scoring system for Junior, Senior and All-comers classes and even a ladies race, which was subject to a minimum entry of six riders. The relative narrowness of the course limited us to thirty riders for each race, also the rather confined pits area meant that we could only accept an entry of about 90 riders. We were able to hold our meetings during the spring to autumn period, which drew a lot of spectators and made life easier for riders on the upper reaches of the circuit.

A local farmer had shown interest in using the Saltbox field for agricultural purposes and when he leased the land opposite (which we used as a spectators car park) we realised that our Saltbox days were numbered. Investigations by Ernie Pope, our club Chairman for a number of years, revealed that the tenant farmer of one of the larger farms in the area was quite happy for us to use the Jewels Hill site after the corn crop had been harvested. This led us to hold our first meeting on, I believe, August Bank Holiday '58. That meeting set the pattern for the next twelve years or so.

The much greater average width of the course enabled us to have seventy solo riders in each heat. Perhaps the sidecar fraternity enjoyed Jewels the most. We attracted them so much that we had a member race with chairs as well as solos in the same meeting. During the 70's our membership numbers exceeded two hundred. Unfortunately, as ever, these numbers were not reflected in the turnout for closed to club events and working parties!!!

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The R.A.F were the landlords of the Saltbox field and it was to them that we were indebted for its use. Our contact with them led to us becoming more ambitious with thoughts of extending our activities to motorcycle road racing on the aerodrome. This was quite an undertaking for a club with only moderate resources. Once the request was made to the R.A.F. they were surprisingly helpful. We met the appropriate officer at the control tower and he indicated that we could have the use of the perimeter track and that part of the main runway that lay behind Leaves Green. For those of you familiar with the area, that is roughly from the Kings Arms to the Crown pub. The entrance to the circuit was to be Milking Lane which pre-war went from the Kings Arms to Downe village via a section of Downe Golf Course. This lane became a dead end when the airfield extension was made.

With the help of a couple of our road racing members and in particular Gerry Seward (who four years later was to be tragically killed at Mallory Park) we decided on the layout of the course using the perimeter track and a few hundred yards of the main runway. Here we worked out a chicane, which on the day was to be composed of a multitude of yellow painted oil drums.

The usual formalities followed by applying to the ACU for inspection and approval of the prepared circuit. Angus Herbert, a well known and successful grass track and road racer of the pre-war and post-war periods, inspected the mile of tarmac and concrete. He gave us some helpful safety hints and advising the use of truckfulls of straw bales etc. One unexpected snag proved to be with insurance, because of the flying club at the other end of the drome. The ACU insisted that no racing could take place unless we could persuade them not to fly. However a compromise was reached and the flying club made an early take off and went to the continent!!

With official permission obtained, ensured that the hard work started. Our advertising in the various motorcycling journals attracted marshals, some of whom became members. Bill Knight (who still is a member) became a tower of strength in the years to come. A date in June was first applied for, to be followed by an August one. Subsequently we managed to get a third date in October, which enabled us to balance the books. Publishing the Regs and entry forms brought some surprising and very encouraging results. Names such as A. Minter, P. Read, W. Boddice and Ginger Payne promised some interesting racing and hopefully a good turnout of spectators.

The hardest part was yet to follow. The grass surrounding the perimeter track had been allowed to grow to produce a hay crop. This was to be cut, we hoped, before the first meeting. This was done at the last moment and we literally had to follow the tractor and collect the bales, which we then hired instead of straw bales. A last minute problem was driving the stakes into the deep layer of ballast on which the grass was growing. However we just managed it and the first meeting took place, I believe, on the 21st June 1959.

Our thanks go to all the racers, they provided some good entertainment and proved to be reasonably safe. I can only remember one fairly major injury and that was to Frank Perrin who broke his collarbone. The ambulances were kept far busier at our scrambles meetings. Although we managed to run three meetings, the Leaves Green residents soon put paid to our running any further meetings the following year. It seems they preferred the sounds of friendly yet hostile aero-engines. The club had not only gained some prestige and experience, but also some more rope, a few hundred yards of chestnut fencing and hundreds of plastic lampshades. I also regained the use of my dining room, which had been my office for the past six months.

Possibly our most spectacular event of the early days was the running of a TV Scrambles at Jewels Hill. As we had used our quota of four events, we were granted an extra date in January. This was not ideal on the heavy soil of Jewels Hill, but at least the entrants were all star riders. One essential for this meeting was the elastic type starting gate. This was, in the main, constructed and operated by another club member, Alan Hawe, who in those days managed a rag trade factory. I wonder where the elastic came from? The racing was very good and very muddy. I believe Jeff Smith was the overall winner, but Bill Knight may be able to confirm this, he has a great collection of past programmes.

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