To the Brits

I was wondering if any of you blokes in pommyland could help me, I'm am trying to get in contact with Geoff Duke, the bike racer, do any of you guys know if he has a web site or email address?? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

this should be a doddle. three ways. the first is that geoffs son's run the famous 'duke marketing' on the isle of man. duke marketing, central prom, IOM should do it. if you also try 'hot lips' at the TT grandstand she will pass it on. use her proper name though; it does help.

caroline etherington, tt grandstand, glencrutchery rd, IOM. write to both & you gaurantee it will get to him. his address used to be groudle glen rd, onchan, IOM.

to be honest just put geoff duke, IOM & it'll find him. jesus the mans a saint over there!!!


Thanks Taffy, you can always count on a Welshman in a bind. Ive been trying to find him for about two years, off and on as it seems that he knew my grand-father as they both raced in the Manx T.T. and thats all I know, I'd love to find out more about his career but as he's now gone to the big track in the sky there's no one to tell me about it except Mr Duke.

Much appreciated,



you're joking! geoff won't know much. he's also such a gent that he'll call hiroshima 'a little incident'. no, the man you need to talk to is geoff cannell at Manx Radio IOM or the TT grandstand again. geoff hasn't missed a Manx since 1946 & has every fact. i've got a book that mentions every rider, result & race at the manx.

what's uncles name? i did 7/9 manx races & have only missed watching two others in 15 years. i took the WR over this year & had a wiz time.

if when you're done you write to 'island photographic's' they will have original's of him. i'm a member of the MGP riders assosiation & they could put you in touch with other riders of his period.

it doesn't sound like you've ever been to the island. there are three meuseums dedicated to just the TT/MGP. nobody calls it the Manx TT now by the way.


Taffy, This is what I know and have found out: my grandfathers name was Alan Foster I suspect that he raced between 1930 and the out break of the Second World War.

He was born and lived in Ashton Under-lyne in Lancs. I have found out that in 1937 an Alan Foster won a clubman event in the IOM T.T.

I would of never of known about my Grandfathers past until my Uncle still living in England told me that he once met Geoff Duke at a 'DON'(brake pad manufacter of which Geoff once held an agency)gathering of some sort, Geoff asked my uncle if he was related to an 'Alan Foster' my uncle of course said yes, then Geoff then said to pass on his regards to my Grandfather.

I only found out about this story three years ago when I was last over there, some 15 years after his death, it seems that my Grandmother didn't want her kids getting involved with motorcycles so I think he retired and never told me about his exploits although he did take me to the fairs and got me riding those auto puch 50's when I was about 5-6 (thats when the bug bit).

Thanks again Taffy, I hope I haven't bored the tits off you!

A. 'Bob' Foster entered the 1933 junior & senior MGP on a 'new imperial' & retired in both.

the next year a 250cc race was run for the first time. the 'lightweight'. there had only been 4 250's the previous year so it was 'a brave move'. guess he was one of the four?

i'll fax you the write up if you give me a #. essentially there were 15 starters. uncle bob led at the end of lap one from 2 more new imp's, then again at the end of lap two. now it was a 42 sec lead from CV Moore. lap three, the same. lap four & a W. donald Mitchell was 5 behind moore & a further 2m 41s behind foster.

Mitchell took second on lap 5 (always at the end of the lap by the way)& with the fastest final lap of the race of 34m 18s won the race by 34 secs from uncle. gutted or what!!!

we are talking about 3 1/2 hours in the saddle of a bike with hardly any sussies, knackered roads & jumps. dehydration, cramp & one or two stops for fuel. put in by 10 year-old boy scouts who spilt it everywhere. they also did their own punctures on the course.

even the frame would break etc.

2nd A bob foster new imperial 3h 34m 3s =63.33 mph.

in those days they came back to win again & again. now the winner moves on to the TT. i would guess that's what bob did. infact if i go have a look up in the attic sometime we had a bob foster winning TT's on a velocette in 38 (last year before superchargers)i think & again in 47 or something. i'll check it out. that's why geoff would know him. Geoff did the manx in 48 & then did the TT on the legendary 'Featherbed'.

out with the old & in with the new!

i'll get up in the attic on Friday if i can. i think your uncle was a works velocette rider, gp winner, tt winner.


You certainly seem to know your history there Taffy, I'm dead chuffed to coin the phrase. I'll give you my Uncle's fax number in Ashton, as I think he'll just as interested to find out as me. I only have one query which is; was 'Bob' a nick-name or was it part of his real name for as best as I can remember he didn't have a middle name.

I think the prefix is 0161 but the rest of the fax number is as follows 339 2888.

Once again thanks very much for your time and trouble.

P.S. It was me grand-dad not me Uncle, I'm not that old you know :)

it would appear that your grandad was A. Foster & he got the name 'bob'. the reason i say this is because all the results used to give were the initial's of a rider. i then read another book & it says B. foster!!!

anyway this isn't the definitive answer but it is a start.

lightweight TT winner in 1936 on a new imp whilst on honeymoon.

rode for AJS in 38 & 39 on the V4. during which he had many retirements.

in 47 he rode for velocette who had concentrated on keeping the little 350 going instead of several capacities & new designs.

he won the first post war junior TT.

in 48 was second at the dutch, 2nd at the TT & first in belgium braking the first post-war lap record whilst on 'pool' petrol.

in 49 he was third in the first world championship.

in 1950 he won THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP. he did the seven lap TT as hot favourite according to GD & was going straight through with an 8-gallon tank (8 1/2 to yanks) broke the lap record on the third & retired at quarterbridge with a broken rear brake cam.

he won the dutch, won the belgian, fell off at the swiss to avoid a slide by les graham on the AJS porcupine (who went on to win!) but bob's result at this point i don't know. nor the italian at monza where, with those lovely long straights i would imagine even the velo struggled against the gilera 350-just a guess.

i don't have anymore at present. except to say that his post-war entrant was an ex-army riding instructor who taught geoff duke & freddie frith named dick wilkins.

there's absolutely no mention of him in '51. geoff duke's bike 'the manx norton' went from 28 to 36bhp that '50/51 winter due to norton's development of the squish band by leo kuznicki. velocette never stood a chance! up until then they had used an all alloy head at velo's to run a higher compression-thus the advantage.

can i recommend that you get a book about the history of new imperial, of AJS (specifically the V4 years?) & on velocette's. all these marque books will have very concise chapters on the factories racing efforts.

you could look for TT books as well. my hunch wasn't far out after all.

i used to get a magazine called classic racer & years ago one called road racing in which a very authoritative author called charles rous used to dedicate 2 or 3 pages to the career's of roadracers. i'll have a good look when i get the chance.

no wonder geoff had a special attachment to bob, they were both red rose boys ala one Mr C Fogarty. both duke & fogarty had the red rose of lancashire on the front of their helmets. knowing that, they would have stuck together like thieves!!!


I'm trying to take all this in, but it's really starting to spin me out!

You mention a 'Freddie Firth' and 'Dick Wilkins' did either of them hold a land speed record? as my Grandmother seems to remember him knocking around with someone who held it at the time, she thinks it might be something like 'Jack Frost' but I think she might be getting confused with a season.

I'll try and look for a book when I'm next in town as I now know where to start.

Thanks again Taffy you've really spun me out now!!

all kinds of unknowns broke records in those days. freddie if i remember, was a bike dealer from lincolnshire when he retired. (on the east coast above the pregnant podge of anglia)

freddie was 'taught' to ride in the army by wilkins as was geoff. your grandad was clearly an expert himself having won the 36 TT. freddie was an expert himself by the outbreak of war.

for wilkins to be bob's entrant, he would have been a very close friend indeed.

freddie frith was a real velocette man. he won the first junior (350cc) world title in 49. that makes him & bob good team mates.

i'm not sure but i think that charles rous might have done land speed records.

the most famous english land speed records were done by someone Brown on supercharged Vincents. one was called nero & the other supernero.

the other man who did land speed records would be bill lacey, he broke loads of records at a place called brooklands. he then tuned engines & was most famous for the Lacey norton that hailwood rode to win the TT in '61. if you had a lacey engine you had the bee's knee's.

the names of your grandad's era would have been

harold daniel

rex & crommie mccandless

tim hunt

artie bell, ernie lyons & stanley woods of ireland

ted mellors, ken bills, vic willoughby

jimmy guthrie, cecil sandford,

bill lomas the third velo rider

jack brett the other one on the v4's.

as soon as bob had won on the new imps at the height of the depression they went pop.


[This message has been edited by Taffy (edited 12-08-2000).]

How come you Brits don't talk normal like the rest of us (that would be us Yanks! :))

Kevin in New Hampshire

Isn't New Hampshire a hold over from England??

Taffy, if I remember correctly my grandfather was also an instructor in the army except he taught tank drivers, his uncle was a dispatch rider in the First World War and lost an eye I wander if this put him off from being a dispatch rider himself.


this is our language!

your grandad was put where he could be of most use. i would presume that his day time job in civi street was on commercials so sticking him in the HGV depot was ideal.

just a hunch.

i won't go up in the attic until early next week. even then i can't gaurantee anything. i may even call classic racer & ask if any of the back-issue's did anything on him.


Cheers Taffy I owe you one, you certainly have a lot of historical road-racing material at your finger-tips for a dirt-biker. Do they still have that race on I.O.M. for enduro bikes where they partly run along the beach and if so is this held after the T.T. or before it (I've got to get to the I.O.M. next time I'm over there when ever that may be).I still havn't been to that book shop yet as I'm a bit out in the sticks (bush) but I hope to get in to Melb over Christmas, I'd like to try and track down a print of him in full flight so to speak, who knows I might get lucky.

Thanks again Taffy, I wouldn't of got this far with out your help.

Neil. :):D


i think i'd better go back a bit. there is the proffesional race = TT, held every June.

there is the amatuer race called the Manx GP held every Aug/Sep. same course, just us good 'ol boys! up until about 1930 it was called the Manx TT.

they don't do any classic dirt racing at all. the nearest the IOM gets is the ISDT every ten years. it is hoiwever without doubt the roadracing capital of the world.

i was over there green laning in between race days which are held on the Mon/Wed/Fri.

i'd go on other holidays but because of my job i only really get the 6th week of the holiday free, Xmas & Easter free. so i keep falling back on the Manx.

now to grandad bob.

it appears he came from gloucestershire which is in the south-west of england on the welsh border.

he went to the TT in 35 on the new imp & they had just machined a one-piece unit construction case. it was the only one ever made. they had rebuilt it after problems just in time to get it to the 'weigh-in' (scrutineering)on race day. he then came off at signpost corner on the first lap when the oil pump dug in. one magazine thought he went back to the std pre-unit for the race after practice trouble but no, they had rebuilt it in time.

where did this info come from? 'fearless' foster's brother!!! so now you need to know if your uncle foster is still alive (my source was a quote from 1982).

he very nearly didn't win that '36 TT because the boss, the lifeblood of new imperial was gravely ill. indeed he died weeks after the TT of '36 & THAT'S why New Imp went tits up-not the depression!

his name was Norman Downs. apparently the factory, in his absense wanted to pull out of racing, but Downs,ill, on hearing this drove to Birmingham & told them to enter the '36TT or else!

oh by the way, there were four speed record holders pre-war to do with new imps. Sammy Jones, Matt Wright, Les Archer & roadracer Ted Mellors. i would have thought Mellors was a good friend of your grandad's.

that '36 TT win was the last in the lightweight by a british machine. the last GP win by a british machine was 2 months later at the Ulster GP.

apparently bob led teammate S. 'Ginger' Wood & they were 5 minutes ahead of the rest of the field, then Wood pulled in for a top up of fuel-but nobody was ready! with fuel in (a lap was 13 miles i believe) wood chased bob but did'nt expect to catch him.

however bob was cruising oblivious to Wood who, with the gentleman's agreement not to race each other until the final lap; stormed bye miles quicker! bob chased him & caught him. Wood's won but said that "another 10 yds & bob would have beaten me!".

the machines that the OHV new imp's beat that year? the supercharged two-stroke DKW & the four-valve rudge. not bad hey!

that's about it for me. i haven't anymore books to hand. try e-mailing classic racer magazine on the following

mention you're his grandson & want to buy any articles on him (back issue's)

splint, if you think you're going to get a book on the subject from you're local library, i think you ought to wake up. call one of the aussie book specialists on biking. failing that contact me again & i'll give you some contacts over here.

bob was very photogenic! even though he's not mentioned a great deal, i've got many photo's of him, standing & at speed. i've got one of him with your gran after he'd won that '36TT. guess the honeymoon was a happy one!


It's amazing all the info you found on him Taffy,Unfortunately his brother died around the same time as my grandad, so there has been a great loss of info there, I think I'll still write to Geoff Duke and see if he can give me any personal in-sights into his younger days, before he pops his cloggs aswell, I'll let you know how I get on and if I have any trouble getting books on the subject again I'll drop you a line, but I do know of a Specialist book shop in town so I'll try that first. Thanks again mate and have a good, safe Christmas and New Year (have a few pints of Boddies for us).


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