When the Lions Roared
The story of the famous Wembley Speedway team
by Peter Lush and John Chaplin
Foreword by Bert Harkins
From 1929 to 1956, the Wembley Lions were the glamour team in British speedway. They won 10 League Championships, the National Trophy four times and the London Cup on nine occasions. Three Wembley riders won the World Championship: Lionel Van Praag, Tommy Price and Freddie Williams.
Part one looks at the Lions’ fortunes from 1929 to 1939, when the team was launched by Sir Arthur Elvin and managed by the legendary Johnnie Hoskins and then Alec Jackson. From attendances of a couple of thousand, Wembley’s support grew with crowds of 60,000 flocking to the Empire Stadium. Many of the sport’s stars rode for them in the 1930s, including Buster and Roger Frogley, Colin Watson, Ginger Lees, Dick Case, Jack Ormston, Wally Lloyd, Frank Charles and Lionel Van Praag. This section is written by renowned speedway historian John Chaplin, who also recalls the exploits of Fay Taylour and other female riders and the story of the real Wembley Lions.
Part two looks at the 1946 to 1956 season-by-season. Huge crowds came to the Empire Stadium to see the Lions, who dominated the sport for nine years. Packed stadiums watched their away meetings. Riders such as Bill Kitchen, Tommy Price, Freddie Williams, Bill Gilbert, George Wilks, Trevor Redmond and Brian Crutcher starred for the Lions.
But early in 1957, following the sudden death of Sir Arthur Elvin, Wembley Stadium’s Chairman and Managing Director, and a great supporter of the sport, the Lions withdrew from British speedway. The book considers the reasons why speedway declined from the early 1950s, and the difficulties that Wembley had faced in making the sport viable in their huge stadium.
The third part of the book recalls the Lions’ return to Wembley in 1970 for a two year spell under the direction of Trevor Redmond and Bernard Cottrell. Over 20,000 people came to their first home meeting. A new generation of Wembley fans supported riders such as Ove Fundin, Gote Nordin, Reidar Eide, Bert Harkins, Tony Clarke, Sverre Harrfeldt, a young Dave Jessup, Brian Collins and Brian Leonard. But the growth of football meant that the stadium was not available for a full league season in 1972, and the Lions withdrew from the league, never to return.
The book includes a wide range of photos, profiles of the riders who rode for the Lions and comprehensive statistical records.
With a foreword by former Wembley captain Bert Harkins, this is a book for every speedway fan.