Monty's life in the fast lane

IN my schooldays of the 1950s, my heroes included fighter pilots and racing motorcyclists. Every week comics like the Eagle and Hotspur would feature the adventures of these brave men roaring across the sky in Spitfires and Hurricanes or racing to the line in the Isle of Man TT.

IN my schooldays of the 1950s, my heroes included fighter pilots and racing motorcyclists.

Every week comics like the Eagle and Hotspur would feature the adventures of these brave men roaring across the sky in Spitfires and Hurricanes or racing to the line in the Isle of Man TT.

A few days ago I was lucky enough to meet a real life hero who experienced the sort of exploits you find in the comic book stories. He is a man who has enjoyed the 'full monty'.

Monty Lockwood celebrated his 91st birthday recently. He lives in quiet retirement with his cat Smokey in a street not far from Norwich Road, Ipswich.


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In his youth Monty enjoyed speed and adventure few of us will ever know. He was born in Aldebugh in 1916. His family moved to Ipswich in around 1920 and he was a pupil at Nacton Road Primary and then the Ipswich Central School in Smart Street. After leaving school he became an apprentice fitter with British Rail.

Early in the Second World War he joined the RAF. Monty said: “I was based at the Isle of Sheppey with 266 Squadron. One of the worst days I recall was when the Germans pulled a surprise attack and 35 of our aircraft were destroyed or damaged. I was learning to fly in a Tiger Moth when I was posted to India to join the Indian Air Force.

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“It was a dreadful journey. There were 20,000 of us on a passenger ship built for 2,645. When we first arrived there were no aircraft for us to fly. I was based at Karachi and Calcutta until the end of the war and flew a Hurricane. We were there as a defence against the expected Japanese invasion. I carried on flying in light aircraft from Ipswich Airport until the early 1980s.”

Speed has always been with Monty Lockwood. He had his first off road motor cycle at the age of fourteen. Over recent days we have seen the annual pilgrimage as thousands of motorcyclists make their way to the Isle of Man for the TT Races. Monty entered the event in 1948 and was winner of the Clubman's Junior race, an event for road class machines, on his 350cc Excelsior. The bike was one of only 25 ever made and is now in a motor cycle museum near Chester. Monty then raced in the TT every year until 1953. In the later years he was on a 350cc AJS 7R road racing bike.

Other tracks Monty raced at were Goodwood, Donnington, Cadwell Park, Thruxton, Silverstone and Snetterton. He ran a motor cycle shop from 22a Spring Road, Ipswich from the end of the Second World War until the early 1950s. Business trips on his motor cycle soon after the war, just over the border into Norfolk, used to take him to the Snetterton Airfield, which had been mothballed at the end of the war. Monty said: “There was only a few staff on the whole base and I would get the chap on the gate to lift the barrier for me to roar along the runway and round the perimeter road. I suggested to the owners of the land that it would make an ideal race track”.

Monty was not content with road racing; he also took part in grass track and scramble racing. He was a competitor in the first ever scramble racing at Shrubland Park where once thousands attended the racing. In that event he rode an Aerial Hunter 500.

Today the Triangle (Ipswich) Motor Cycle Club has over 100 members. The club was formed in 1925, but after the Second World War the club was all but defunct. Monty and his friend Len Corder put £10 in the kitty each to help the club survive.

I asked Monty what he makes of the motor cycle racers of today. He said “I think the Isle of Man is too fast. They took out a couple of hazards, Governors Bridge and Ramsey Hairpin and the pace today is just incredible. I could never have dreamt of the sort of speeds they race at. The tyres of today are one of the main differences. Monty still likes to watch the Super Bike races on television, which he thoroughly enjoys.

Monty's other racing adventures were on the high seas when he took part in yacht racing.

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The Triangle (Ipswich) Motor Cycle Club's web site is www.trianglemcc.co.uk .

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Do you have any motorcycling memories to share? Write to Dave Kindred, Kindred Spirits, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich. IP4 1AN.

The Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Races is celebrating its centenary this year.

The race is run on public roads closed for racing by an act of the parliament of the Isle of Man.

The first race was held on the May 28, 1907, over ten laps of the St John's Short Course of almost sixteen miles.

Motor racing first came to the Isle of Man in 1904 when the Gordon Bennett car trials were held. In 1911 the racing moved to the Mountain Circuit.

The Mountain Circuit is 37.73 miles long starting and ending in Douglas.

In the mid 1950s when I was about ten, I used to go to Snetterton race track with my father, who was a member of the Triangle (Ipswich) Motor Cycle Club.

We used to spend the day flag marshalling. It was then still very much a disused airfield. It was built in 1942 and closed in November 1948.

I recall it was baking hot on a sunny day or like the arctic when the wind was from the north! I visited again a few weeks ago along with thousands from the Ipswich area for the British Superbike event. The place has changed massively. It is now a slick operation with marketing almost as important as the racing.

In the late 1940s The Hamlyn House public house at Bottesdale was run by Oliver Sear and was a meeting place for members of the Eastern Counties Motor Club, which was based at the Martlesham Red Lion.

Mr Sear approached the land owner Fred Riches with a view to using Snetterton as a race circuit. Two of Mr Sear's regulars were John and Ben Wyatt whose family farmed the land adjacent to Mr Riches. Mr Sears involved Aston Martin expert Dudley Coram to help with administration.

The first car meeting was in 1951 an event organised by the Aston Martin Car Owners Club. The bike races started a little later. They were run by the Snetterton Combine, which was collaboration between the local motor cycle clubs.

The track still includes Riches Corner, Sear Corner, and Coram Curve.

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My thanks to Leigh Trevail, of Bridge Road, Scole, for the historical information on Snetterton.

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