Plans have been announced that the Australian Olympic team are going to set up their Headquarters in Newham for the 2012 Games at the new Westfield Centre at Stratford, well the Sporting stars of Australia had a `second home` with West Ham (now Newham) for many years.
Since the arrival of Speedway (Dirt Track) Racing from Australia in 1928, invented by the Great Australian Showman Johnnie Hoskins in 1923, the Australians have always seen West Ham as being a` Home` for their Champions.
The first-ever Speedway meeting at West Hams Custom House Stadium in July 1928 showed three Australians who were to become Champions in Great Britain, Paddy Dean (who won the West Ham Invitation Handicap at this meeting), Billy Galloway and `Buzz` Hibbard (who became a member of the first West Ham team in 1929 along with another Aussie, Les Maguire).
Later, a young Australian called Arthur Wilkinson arrived and became a member of the team.
He was to become West Ham’s First World Speedway Champion in 1938, and know to all as `Bluey`.
West Ham second World Champion was one of the greatest ever Australian Riders, Jack Young, who was signed in 1952 for a record Transfer fee of £3500 from Edinburgh in Scotland, where he had become the first ever 2nd Division rider to win the World Championship in 1950. He went on to win it a second time as a `Hammer` in that year.
Another great Australian was Aub Lawson who for many years was the West Ham Captain.
Amongst other Aussie Hammers was Ray Crisp who rode for West Ham in 1964. Ray rode for the first ever Great Britain team to race against Russia at Wembley in 1964.
There is also some sadness; Dave Wills who came to West Ham in 1965 on the advice of Jack Young, was killed in a Track accident at Custom House in June of that year.
In 1970 in Lokern in Belgium, two young Australian riders, Peter Bradshaw and Malcolm Carmicael were killed in a tragic accident when a petrol Tanker crashed in to the mini-bus carrying members of the West Ham team returning from a tour they had of Holland. Also killed were the West Ham Manager Phil Bishop and two rising young stars Martyn Piddock (West Ham) and Gary Everett of Wimbledon .
Between 1928 and when the sport closed down in 1972 there had been many other Australian riders at West Ham, these included, John Langfield, Cliff Watson, Charlie Spink, Ron Johnson, Jack Biggs, Ern Becknell, Neville Slee, Irvine Jones, Gary Hay, Cec Platt and Keith Gurtner. Some became stars, some never really made the grade, but all wore the famous `Crossed Hammers` race jacket.
Not all Australians at West Ham were riders, Peter White who was a member of the West Ham Speedway Management in the late 1960`s was also for a while the Manager of the Australian National team when they rode in England.
The record crowd at West Ham was a reported 85000 (although some reports state the Stadium was at it full capacity for this match which was 100000) for a Test Match against Australia in 1933.
West Ham provided many English riders for Test Matches in Australia during the British `Winter`, and one of these, Gerry Hussey, was sadly killed Midget Car Racing in Australia.
A few Aussie/West Ham facts.
Bluey Wilkinson was known as the `Custom House Comet`
In 1933 he won the Star Championship, the fore runner of the World Championship.
In 1937 he was a member of the West Ham National league Champions winning team.
Aub Lawson won the London Riders Championship in 1951 (see attached Photo)
Jack Young won the London Riders Championship in 1953 & 54
Jack took over the Captaincy of West Ham from Aub.
Aub, Bluey and Jack had also been Captains of Australian Touring teams for various Test Matches over the years from the 1930-1950`s
Aub & Jack had both on more than one occasion held the `Golden Helmet`, the British Match Race Championship.
Finally Jack Young was held in such high esteem by the West Ham Management that they redesign the West Ham Track at his request!
These three riders are still remembered in the street names for some of the turnings on the estate built on the site of the Stadium which was demolished in 1972.