Now in its 84th year, the Worcester Auto Club also known locally as the WAC Motorcycle Club, was founded in 1934 by a small group of enthusiasts, who originally shared a small assembly room with the Worcester St Johns Co-op Cycling Club.
With the Second World War hostilities at an end, their membership began growing dramatically, a larger meeting place was required to accommodate the swelling number of fledgeling road race/trials/grass track and scramble competitors, plus those using a motorcycle purely for everyday transport and pleasure.
Rather than take the conventional easy route which other clubs chose, that of occupying the back room of a pub to hold their meetings, these pioneers opted to take a more laborious direction.
This came in the form of an abandoned structure returned to Worcester City Council by the War Department in1945, the dilapidated building situated on the former site of RAF Perdiswell, which back in the1920’s had been the site of the first Municipal Airport in the world, being located less than two miles from the city centre.
Despite the appalling state of this 1937 WD construction when acquired in 1952, its members, many of whom were ex-servicemen and women themselves, including one of the most renowned motorcycling journalist, the late Bob Currie, who went on to be editor of The Motor Cycle or “The Blue ‘un”, banded together to progressively bring the Club up to the present days thriving centre for those exclusively with an interest in all types of motorcycles, irrespective of age or origin.
In spite of losing its very own grass track and trials course adjacent to the Clubhouse, due to nearby redevelopment and Municipal golf course, the Worcester Auto Club continues to thrive with an excess of one hundred and fifty members, staging numerous social events in the clubhouse and on its extensive parking and lawn area, where the Star Bike awards are held annually, drawing motorcyclist from far and wide.
The Club is also a long established checkpoint and preferred resting place for riders taking part in the annual National Road Rally and continues to be closely associated with the training of novice motorcyclist thanks to its facilities.
The story of how Hollywood legend Clarke Gable crashed at Perdiswell Airport in Worcester during WW2.
At the outbreak of war in 1939 Perdiswell had been a Municipal Airport since the 1920’s, the first Municipal Airport in the world.
Perdiswell was quickly turned into a military base and was receiving Fairey Battle fighter-bombers from the Austin Motor Works at Longbridge.
In 1941 a flight training school was established with young pilots coming from all over the British Empire to learn to fly.
All sorts of aircraft used the field for emergency landings, sometimes with spectacular, and sadly fatal, crashes.
In September 1942 an American Douglas Dakota transport plane made an emergency landing but came in too fast for the grass field and crashed through the railings onto the Bilford Road and into the City rubbish dump.
In the co-pilots seat was Clark Gable, the handsome film star, but as the RAF Sergeant who helped him out wrote to me in 1988, Gable was not the glamorous pilot he had just watched at the cinema winning the war.
The plane was called “Idiots Delight” a pre-war film planned for Gable and the gorgeous Hedy Lamar, which was abandoned when her parents refused to let their schoolgirl daughter take part.
Also on board was General Spaatz Commander of the US Air Force newly arrived in Europe.
He, unfortunately, broke his ankle and was heard to grumble something about not crossing the Atlantic to land in the town’s trash tip.
The plane had taken off from Pershore with a film crew making a gunnery training film.
To the mess after the mess
The VIPs were taken to the Officers Mess for something stronger than tea.
I remember two British RAF officers telling my mother that Clarke Gable had been their guest and she pretended to swoon.
It was the first time I saw such a performance.
Bilford Road was blocked for some days until the plane could be dismantled and taken away on a ‘Queen Mary’ transporter.
Story from BBC Hereford & Worcester