After Speedway stopped at Stamford Bridge at the end of the 1932 season, Gus transferred to Wimbledon in 1933 and this proved to be Wimbledon's most successful season to date. Gus was riding alongside his chums Wal Phillips and Claude Rye and the legendary Vic Huxley.
Wimbledon was a 330 yard circuit and there was no banking, unlike Stamford Bridge, though the course was much wider at the bends.
Wimbledon's opening meeting was on Whit Monday, 28th May 1928 at which Frank Arthur narrowly defeated Vic Huxley in the Golden Helmet final. In 1929 the Wimbledon team had a dreadful year, winning just five matches and finishing bottom of the league. During the 1930 season they managed to acquire a number of top riders and the team finished fourth, equal on points with third placed Stamford Bridge and just two points behind the runners-up, Southampton.
A major event in the history of speedway took place on 30th June 1930 at Wimbledon, when the first-ever official Test Match was held. The England team was captained by Jim Kempster of Wimbledon and included Gus Kuhn (Stamford Bridge), while the Australians were led by Vic Huxley (Harringay).
In 1931 Vic Huxley replaced Jim Kempster as captain, but they only finished fifth in the league. 1932 was not much better and they once again finished in fifth place with no success in either the National Trophy or the London Cup. [Speedway in London by Norman Jacobs ISBN 07524 22219]
1933 - Their best year yet.
The year 1933 at last saw Wimbledon in the final of the London Cup. Injuries prevented them from putting out their best side, however, and they lost to Wembley by 140-109. They also had a much better year in the league, finishing as runners-up to the all-conquering Belle Vue. There were a number of newcomers to the side this year, including Rube Wilson, a junior from Greenford and Crystal Palace, Geoff Pymar, who had had a few outings on the non-league Norwich track, former Stamford Bridge riders, Wal Phillips and Gus Kuhn, and Syd Jackson, an established international star from Coventry.
The 1934 Team
L-R Claude Rye, Gus Kuhn, Wal Phillips,
Syd Jackson, A J Reynolds (in suit),
Geoff Pymar (kneeling), Vic Huxley
and Bill Rogers
[photo supplied by John Somerville]
For the fourth year running, Huxley again appeared in all five Tests for Australia, while Jackson rode four times for England and Phillips and Rye once each. [Speedway in London by Norman Jacobs ISBN 07524 22219]
The 1934 team was very much the same and included Vic Huxley, Geoff Pymar, Wal Phillips, Gus Kuhn, Claude Rye, Alf Sawford, Fred Leavis and two newcomers, Bill Rogers and Jack Sharp.
Halfway through the season, Wimbledon were still in with an outside chance of taking the league title. However, an injury to Huxley badly affected their bid for the title. Geoff Pymar progressed from the ranks of junior to England international when he appeared for England in the third Test at Wimbledon. [Speedway in London by Norman Jacobs ISBN 07524 22219]
1935 - Dons get the Wooden Spoon
The opening meeting at Plough Lane in 1935 was a challenge match against New Cross and was badly affected by rain. Huxley showed that he had recovered from his injuries the previous season and Geoff Pymar, having recently returned from Australia, showed that he had benefited from the trip. Gus Kuhn was in the side again and Wimbledon had great hopes for Jack Sharp. Syd Jackson was back again for another season and Stan Lemon and Alf Sawford completed the team.
1935 Wimbledon Team
L to R. Team Manager, Gus Kuhn, Wal Phillips, Claude Rye and Wal Morton with Nobby Clarke in the white jacket. Seated: Geoff Pymar, Vic Huxley, Syd Jackson and Aussie Jack Sharp.
The first home league match of the season was against Harringay and the season started well for the Dons as Skipper Vic Huxley led the way with a 12 point maximum in Wimbledon's 38 points to 30 victory. Phil Bishop was the highest scorer for the opposition with 8 points.
However, there was disappointment in store for the Dons at the end of April when the reigning league champions Belle Vue went away from plough Lane with both league points after winning 37 points to 34 in a closely fought match. Huxley and Pymar doing best for the home side by scoring 9 points each. Following this match, the management took the decision to split up the Huxley and Pymar team pairing, on the theory that together the most points they could score was five, but split them up and they could score 6.
The South London Cup was won on a home and away basis against local rivals New Cross, while the Dons drew a bye in the first round of the National Trophy. In an attempt to strengthen the team the Dons brought over Eric Collins from Australia and he and Wal Morton started to fight it out for the reserve position, with Collins quickly making it his own.
A big home defeat against Wembley in the league, 29 points to 41, during July effectively ended the Dons chances of league honours.
Although Wimbledon did not get to stage a Test Match during 1935, they were given official sanction for the holding of a London vs Australia match at the end of June. Unfortunately, this meeting turned out to be very one sided and the Roos easily won 74½ points to 31½, with Dick Case scoring a magnificent eighteen point maximum on his old track.
At the end of June, the Wimbledon management announced that the first meeting to be staged at Plough Lane in July would be staged on Saturday 6th July and that from then on, with the exception of Bank Holiday Mondays, all future meetings would be staged on Saturday evenings, when it was felt that the attendances would be even higher.
Claude Rye, who had not been in the Wimbledon side for some while as a result of his business commitments taking up most of his time, returned to the side for the London Cup first round match against Harringay. It was not a fairy tale return as, despite the fact that Rye scored 8, the Dons went down to a heavy defeat by 64 points to 39 and out of the London Cup as Harringay completed the task at Green Lanes later that same evening.
Unfortunately for the Dons, their opponents in the semi final round of the National Trophy were also Harringay and the home leg became a repeat of the London Cup match, with the Dons going down to another heavy defeat 64 points to 41, although by this time Syd Jackson, whose form had deteriorated to such an extent that, at his own request, he was dropped from the team.
Jack Sharp, Vic Huxley and Gus Kuhn practicing at Wimbledon in 1935
1935 was not a good season for the Dons as they ended up with the 'Wooden Spoon' in the league, having won only eight of their twenty four league fixtures. The loss of form of their number two rider had undoubtedly contributed to the teams problems, but none of the other Dons had had a particularly good season, with Geoff Pymar going off form in the middle of the season and Huxley and Kuhn both starting to show their age.
The final match of the season at Plough Lane saw the Dons go down again to Harringay, this time in the league, albeit that the defeat was by only one point.
Jack Hobbs, the famous England cricketer, made an appearance at Plough Lane in September, when he presented the Jack Hobbs Trophy to Bluey Wilkinson of Australia and West Ham, who won the meeting with a fifteen point maximum.
The season finished with Ron Johnson and Vic Huxley sharing the track record, having both recorded 70 seconds at different times during the season. [taken from www.wimbledonspeedway.co.uk - no longer online]
1936 - Huxley Takes His Leave
For the 1936 season the Dons had basically an unchanged team. Huxley, Kuhn, Rye, Pymar, Sharp, Phillips, Morton and Collins were all back and the league campaign got off to a good start when Wimbledon defeated New Cross at Plough Lane 40 points to 31, with Jack Sharp scoring a twelve point maximum.
However, in the next home league encounter the Dons went down against the powerful Wembley side, 34 points to 37, and again it looked like a difficult season for the Dons. To strengthen the side the Dons brought over Bert Spencer from Australia, a rider who had not ridden in the UK for a couple of seasons, but who had just completed a very successful season down-under. On the individual front, Vic Huxley showed a lot of his old fire and skill when, for the first time, he won the London Riders Championship at New Cross, despite the fact that was racing under the handicap of still suffering from the after-affects of a severe chill that he had picked up at the start of the season.
In the National Trophy Wimbledon went down at the first hurdle, as they lost home and away to Wembley, with an aggregate score of 89 points to 126, although their league form was a little better than the previous season. By the middle of July they has won seven of their twelve league matches and were lying third in the league table, behind the mighty Belle Vue and Wembley.
Once again Wimbledon was chosen as a venue for an England vs Australia Test Match and, for the first time at Wimbledon, England managed to emerge victorious 58 points to 47. Top scorer for the Lions was Eric Langton with 15 points, ably supported by Frank Charles on 13 and Bill Kitchen on 11. Dons' Wal Phillips weighed in with 9 for England, while on the Australian front Lionel Van Praag, who was later in the season to become the first World Champion, topped the scores with 15 points. Dons' Eric Collins contributed four points to the Australian score while Jack Sharp, riding as a reserve, scored two from three rides.
On the domestic front Wimbledon again had a poor season. In their London Cup match against Harringay, they were thumped at Green Lanes by 65 points to 43 and then by an even bigger margin at Plough Lane, where they went down by 71 points to 39.
In the league they had a losing run of results during August, when they lost home and away again to Harringay, away at Hackney and at home to Belle Vue. Some consolation was gained at the start of September, when the Dons won the South London Championship from New Cross, winning 113 points to 100 on aggregate and winning both home and away matches.
However, this good form did not carry over into the league and the Dons were beaten by Belle Vue away and West Ham home and away, before gaining a surprise victory at Wembley, where the home team won most of the races, but Wimbledon's overall consistency gained the day, with Vic Huxley top scoring with nine points. In the end, the Dons finished fifth in the league, having won eleven of their league fixtures and lost thirteen.
On the 5th October, Wimbledon staged their last match of the season, a league match against New Cross. The Dons won the match 40 points to 31, with Vic Huxley on his farewell appearance top scoring for the Dons with ten points. One last ride in the second half of the meeting, where Vic finished second in a handicap eliminator, and the career of one of the greatest Dons of all time was at an end. [taken from www.wimbledonspeedway.co.uk - no longer online]
1937 - Ronnie Green Arrives at Plough Lane
Ronnie Greene's arrival at Wimbledon was not without its problems. From the previous year's team Vic Huxley, Wal Phillips and Wal Morton were all unavailable. In fact, not only was the team weak, but Greene did not have enough riders on his books to field a full league side and the Dons early league fixtures had to be postponed. To sort things out Claude Rye was appointed Captain and two riders from the USA were signed: Wilbur Lamoreaux and Many Waln. Syd Jackson attempted a comeback, scoring six points from five rides in the International Grand Prix staged in mid April at Plough Lane, pending the start of the league campaign.
The first league fixture was against Hackney on the 26th April and Wimbledon lost a close encounter 40 points to 44. The team, which comprised Rye, Jackson, Collins, Lamoreaux, Pymar, Waln, Kuhn and Sharp, then went down to two away defeats at New Cross and Harringay.
Back at Plough Lane the Dons had a narrow two point defeat against local rivals New Cross. Further defeats followed: away against Belle Vue and at home against Wembley. Further disaster struck when Geoff Pymar crashed and broke a leg and Miny Waln could not settle with the Plough Lane circuit and left after only a few matches. By the 30th June Wimbledon were bottom of the National League by some distance, having played eleven league matches and lost them all!
In an effort to try and strengthen the side, Ronnie Greene tried out a number of riders. These included another USA import, Byrd McKinney, who did not fare much better than Waln. Alfred Rumrich, the German champion, left after only a few outings and the unfortunate Reg Vigors, who was later to be killed in a racing accident. Ron Howes, Harry Shepherd, Wilf Plant, Fred Leavis and Wally Keys also got opportunities in the side. However, despite all the team changes, a winning combination could not be found and the Dons were knocked out of the London Cup by New Cross and thrashed 67 points to 148 by Belle Vue in the National Trophy.
The Don's Fans had to wait until September 20th for that elusive first league win when, at Plough Lane, they managed to get the better of East London rivals Hackney.
Plough Lane staged two Test Matches towards the end of August. The first saw the Overseas Side (replacing Australia who were considered too weak to field a competitive team) beat England 32 points to 75 and then a week later the USA gave England its second defeat of the year at Plough Lane.
Despite again ending up with the league 'Wooden Spoon', having managed to win only two matches all season, the Wimbledon fans did have something to cheer on the individual front when Wilbur Lamoreaux went to Wembley and, in his first UK season, finished runner-up in the World Championship to fellow countryman Jack Milne of New Cross.
In 1938 the Dons had their best season ever! But, by then, Gus had moved on.[taken from www.wimbledonspeedway.co.uk - no longer online]