Bombers favourite Woodcock returns to remember club on 50th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 June 2019

Phil Woodcock with former team-mate Des Luke Hurst (Pic: Jacob Ranson)

Phil Woodcock with former team-mate Des Luke Hurst (Pic: Jacob Ranson)


Speedway enthusiasts celebrated the 50th anniversary of racing at Romford by recalling good memories and big moments in the short existence of the Bombers.

Mike Vernam, Phil Woodcock and John Hammond at the Romford Speedway anniversary (Pic: Jacob Ranson)Mike Vernam, Phil Woodcock and John Hammond at the Romford Speedway anniversary (Pic: Jacob Ranson)

Scores of people gathered at Romford United Services and Social Club on Friday to share old stories, meet former riders, and get autographs to add to their collection from the days they spent over at Brooklands watching the bikes roar round the track.

Special guests on the night included fans' favourite Phil Woodcock, Des Luke Hurst, John Hammond, Mike Vernam, Richard May, Dave Percy - and even West Ham Bombers rider Vic Cross made an appearance.

Romford's second all-time leading points scorer Woodcock was a hit with the fans and says they are the main reason he wanted to celebrate the anniversary.

"I've just come back from Cyprus and John Hammond phoned me up saying Paul (Tadman) wanted me to come to this special occasion," said the 74-year-old.

"I thought 'what all the way to Romford with all that traffic?' But I thought 50 years, I'm not going to be around in another 50, so that's one of the reasons I came, but mainly because we had such a good support at Romford."

The former Exeter and Edinburgh rider revealed how nice it was to see old team-mates so many years on.

"Mike Vernam is down the same part of the country as me, same as Richard May, but it's nice to see Des Lukehurst and a few of the other riders that I haven't seen for a while," he added.

"Of course we all look a lot older than we did before!"

The team only lasted two seasons and had the likes of Ross Gilbertson, Charlie Benham, Brian Davies, Brian Foote, Tony George, Ian Gills, Lukehurst, Frank Wendon, Woodcock and Chris Yeatman among its ranks.

The late Gilbertson was Romford's top scorer of all-time with 655 points, followed by Woodcock (600) and Foote (522).

"I had good memories with speedway in general, but we had a good family atmosphere at Romford, and amongst all the boys it was good as we all looked after each other," added Woodock.

"Especially when we beat Belle Vue away. We did really well in the league and we made a good mark for Romford. The sad part about it now is that we've lost a few riders - Kevin Oldham, Charlie Benham, Ross Gilbertson, who was my hero was Poole.

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"When Ross came to ride for Romford I was in my element."

Woodcock says he absolutely loved his time at Brooklands and thoroughly enjoyed being loved by the thousands of supporters who used to turn out to watch them each meeting.

"I had a bit of a beau brummell about myself, when you're a young man and you've got this film star type aura about it all with all the supporters and girls chasing after you, it's fun!

"I had long hair then, like Elvis, so I enjoyed it.

"The best memory I suppose was the Rose Bowl when I beat all the top riders to win it - John Louis and all of them when they came down.

"David Hamilton presented the trophy and the mayor was there as well, that's one of the best memories.

"I think winning at Belle Vue was one of the pinnacles as a team and I didn't actually score that well, I only got seven points, but I won the last race.

"I beat Eric Broadbelt on the line and nobody goes over the camera at Belle Vue but I did and I managed to pass him.

"I had a small career, but I made a big mark."

The former rider insists the famously known concrete wall which operated as a safety fence at Brooklands didn't ever bother him during his time at the club.

"Trouble is it didn't scare me as I blanked it out of my mind when I was racing, it was like it wasn't there, I just raced and tried to keep away from it," he said.

"It didn't bother me at all, though, as I was concentrating on winning the race in the best possible way.

"If I had to pass someone, then sometimes I'd have to go out to the wall, but I'd make sure the bike was facing the right way when I would come up to it."

He added: "The atmosphere was what made it, and the only frightening part about Brooklands was the safety aspect, concrete wall, netted fence and if a rider did make a mistake it was dangerous.

"You see what happens now in the Grand Prix and how bikes can go out of control. Can you imagine if something went wrong there, it could have been really serious."

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