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Catterick Lions

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Catterick Lions

Catterick Lions by Norman Whitfield



June 1950 saw my call-up for National Service and I joined the Royal Signals at Catterick. I had just finished basic training and had moved to the trade training regiment when someone came into the barrack room and shouted " Is Signalman Whitfield here?". Again, out of the blue, it was Bob Devine. I did not even know he was in the Signals. He said," I have arranged a 48 hour pass for you; go home and get your bike". Bob had got himself firmly rooted in the regimental office and had been instrumental in getting the army to build what was probably the best Cycle Speedway track in the country. Totally out of the blue I was back in the sport and a full member of the Catterick Lions. We had three very good Londoners in the team, brothers by the name of Tarrant and my partner and heat leader Kid South. Because of the perks, the incentive to hold down a place in the first team was strong; also I think basic training had toughened me up a bit, and my performances at Catterick were by far my best. My best ever performance was for the army team against a Newcastle Select at Newcastle. I amazed everybody, including myself, by just not being able to do anything wrong. I was finding grip, and thinking about it now, I rode that match very much in the style of modern Cycle Speedway, pedalling as much as possible, and sliding as little as possible. Why I did it in that one match and not repeat it I cannot explain.

The matches with the army team included a Scottish tour with a match at Crossmyloof and another in Edinburgh. I did not do very well at Crossmyloof. I remember lining up outside Bill Ritchie, confident in my newly found form. I think I got to the first corner about half a wheel in front of him and tried to crowd him. At that point I think Bill coined the phrase "You cannot be serious". Next thing I knew was that the track was much nearer to my nose. I seem to remember I had a better time in the Edinburgh match. At the end of my trade training I got a rush posting to Germany. I left money for my bike to be sent home but it never did arrive. On my return to civvy street I took up Speed Skating, where else but Crossmyloof.