THE SOUTH AFRICAN TOUR OF EUROPE, 1951
by Ken MacLeod
This first - and only - tour of western Europe by a South African team lasted for 10 weeks, and included 21 meetings in four countries (Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), although some riders also rode in Germany at the end of the official tour. Originally, it had also been hoped to arrange matches in Austria and France.
Seven riders made the trip: Buddy Fuller, 34, (captain, centre, on bike,) was accompanied by, (Lt to Rt,) Toby Boshoff, Alec Blankfield, (Fuller), Harry du Toit, Bob Raw; kneeling: Maurice
Fenton, Joe Blankfield.
Although Buddy Fuller was quoted at the end of this 1951 tour as expressing disappointment that the tourists only won 10 of their scheduled 17 matches, losing the Test series against the Dutch, the team performed creditably, especially as they were without four of South Africa's top riders: Henry Long, Bob Serrurier (both riding for Belle Vue), Fred Wills and Doug Serrurier (unavailable).
In fact, only Fuller and Toby Boshoff had any overseas experience, and then only in British Division 3, which led the Dutch, who had toured South Africa in 1950/51, to regard the team as not particularly strong. But as so often happens, someone unexpected rose to the occasion.
A late replacement for Doug Serrurier, and described by Fuller as being inconsistent prior to the tour, Bob Raw emerged as the undisputed star of the tour. Raw, whom Fuller described as a "full-throttle artist", clearly relished the European tracks and had his particular "finest hour". On the other hand, the fact that Joe Blankfield missed most of the tour through injury after showing good form following a late start in Denmark, Fuller also missed matches through injury, and Fenton suffered recurring bouts of hay fever, didn't help their cause.
At the end of the tour South Africa lost the test series to the Dutch, who gained revenge for their defeat in South Africa earlier that year. But the tourists appear to have suffered a lot of tyre and machine trouble in particular.
Off the track the tour enabled South Africa to cement already good relations with the Dutch, (Len Rehorst of The Netherlands was team manager) and establish good relations with the Norwegians and Swedes. Several riders from the latter two countries were to tour South Africa in the next few years.
The tourists proved extremely popular with the Dutch, Norwegians and Swedes. Raw was chaired three times round the track by the home crowd after beating Basse Hveem at Oslo, and the Swedes invited South Africa back for a full-scale tour the following year. That tour never materialised, probably mainly due to personal circumstances. But the fact that the Swedes rated the South Africans as the equivalent of a British Division 2 team is an adequate reflection of the tourists' performance.
None of the tourists returned overseas, but it was not the last time they made history. Several of them featured prominently in the birth of (Southern) Rhodesian speedway two years later.
rt: Programme of the Smederna meeting at Eskiltuna
Ken MacLeod was for many years the South African correspondent of the UK magazines Speedway Star and Speedway Mail.
Stenners Annual 1952, Rhodesia Herald, Speedway News.
Additional Information : David Austin, Christian Weber.
Reproduced from 'International Speedway', courtesy of Ken MacLeod and Brian Collins.
This pits scene shows Joe Blankfield, Toby Boshoff, Buddy Fuller and Bob Raw working on their new JAPs (bought en route in London,) at Fyens, nr. Odense, Denmark on July 1st. Behind them is the 1933 bus bought for £175 on arrival in The Hague, and sold off for £100 at the end of the 2 month tour.