Category Archives: Australia


For her annual holiday Miss Winifred Wells decided to motorcycle from Perth, Western Australia, to Sydney and back on her privately owned “350 Bullet”. She set out on Boxing Day, 1950, equipped with food and spare clothing in two pannier bags, a suitcase strapped to her carrier and a knap-sack. There was no need for waterproof clothing, as it was midsummer in Australia , so her outer clothing consisted of riding boots , breeches , sweater , leather jacket and an old tweed cap; the latter to protect her from the scorching glare of the sun. Miss Wells, 5ft 5in, 22 year -old daughter of a furniture manufacturer in Shenton Park, Western Austra – lia, achieved what has been acclaimed as one of the most prodigious feats in Australian motorcycling history.
In 21 days she accomplished her solo ride from Perth to Sydney and back, a distance of 5,504 miles. Thus she averaged 366 miles per day, alone, braving the barren, sandy, waterless wastes of the Nullarbor Plains, a sparsely inhabited desert more than 1,000 miles wide. To tackle the desert itself would daunt many a husky male rider. Only those who have had first-hand experience can truly appreciate the courage and determination of this slim slip of a girl in crossing the desert twice within three weeks.The following itinerary, together with the map, will enable the reader to from a rough picture of this, one of the most arduous and dangerous long-distance rides in the whole history of motorcycling.
1950 Dec. 26 : Left Perth, spent night at Southern Cross. Dec. 27 : Reached Norseman. Dec. 28 : Rode 298 miles and camped in the bush. Dec. 29 : Reached Eucla. Dec. 30 : Reached Ceduna. Dec. 31 : Reached Port Augusta
1951 Jan. 1 : Reached Adelaide 1:30pm. Jan. 2 : Reached Melbourne. Jan. 3 : Rested. Jan. 4 : Left for Sydney. Jan. 5 : Reached Sydney. Jan. 6 : Rested. Jan. 7 : Left Sydney. Jan. 8 : Arrived Melbourne 8 a.m. Jan. 9 : Rested. Jan. 10 :Left Melbourne, 7 a.m. arrived Adelaide 7 p.m.Jan. 11 : Left Adelaide 1:30pm for Port Augusta. Jan. 12 : Reached Ceduna. Jan. 13 : Reached Eucla. Jan. 14 : Reached Norseman. Jan. 15 : Reached Southern Cross. Jan. 16 : Reached Perth 1 p.m.
The letter we received from Mr. Bolton subsequently describes the next leg of the journey to Sydney, and after only one day’s rest, back again to Adelaide.
“After having covered 1,731 mile to Adelaide across arduous desert country in the blazing heat of summer, Miss Wells left the city at 5 p.m. the same day for Melbourne, and so to Sydney where she arrived at 6:15 p.m. on 5th January. She spent a day seeing the sights and set off on the return journey on the 8th, arriving in Adelaide at 7:20 p.m. on 10th January. She had completed the run of 462 miles from Melbourne the same day, having left there at 6:30 a.m. Our hopes are high that this gallant little soul will win out. When she left Adelaide at 3:00 p.m. on the 11th inst., with the machine running as new, the temperature was 104.9°C. As she travelled north to Pt. Augusta, so the temperature increase, but she succeeded in reaching Port Augusta, a distance of 204 miles, by 8 p.m. On 12th inst., we received a telegram stating that she had left Pt. Augusta at 6 a.m. and she arrived safely at Ceduna, a distance of 323 miles due west, at 4 p.m. Thus we await further progress. The roads through which she is now travelling are merely bush tracks through sandy, waterless wastes, and her very life depends on the reliability of her machine. I have the precaution of phoning the police at Pt. Augusta with whom I am personally acquainted, asking them to advise other police along this lonely track to be on the lookout for her, in case of emergencies. Mr L. B. Clarkson, our Australian representative, advised us shortly afterwards that the phenomenal journey had been completed within 21 days, as scheduled by Miss Wells. He sent us a copy of the telegram he received from Carlyle & Co. Ltd, the dealers at Perth, from whom the machine was purchased by Miss Wells two weeks before her trip.
It read:–
In recognition of her magnificent feat, this Company sent out to Australia a handsome trophy which was presented to Miss Wells at the Claremont Speedway, Perth, where she rode a lap of honour on her “350 Bullet”.
Winifred was 22 years old when she made the trip, and she lived in Shenton Park with her parents. Winifred was last traced to Victoria in 2006 where she was thrilled to hear that her journey was still remembered.
(Ed. Winifred’s feat in riding those distances in the time she did is impressive, even by today’s standards when the road is sealed all the way.)


Ken ready to leave Perth – April 1951
These days a trip on the bitumen highway across the Nullarbor in central Australia is considered “a piece of cake”. However, when I did it in 1951, it was a great adventure for me. I can still hear my father saying – ‘are you sure you know what you are doing’.
I was 22 years old and had never been away from home before when my friend Gerry Smith riding a 1950 x 350cc Douglas and myself on a 1948 x 350cc AJS (rigid frame) decided to take the challenge. Back in those days, the bitumen finished at Southern Cross (WA) and then became a graded dirt track for many hundreds of kilometres before starting again at Port Augusta (SA). (Actual distances were miles then). We left Perth on 1 April 1951 and spent the first night in an un-used woodcutters tent, which gave some shelter, but the second night near Balladonia we froze as the temperature dropped to zero. We carried one blanket each and 2 ex-army ground sheets, and really had no idea it how cold it could be at night in this location. We had to carry petrol and water on a carry frame behind the rider, as well as clothes and provisions too. The weather was generally fine during the days. The road was graded in places and varied between corrugations and limestone rocks, with lots of potholes and was very dusty (i.e. bulldust). I should tell you that the best method of communication in 1951 was to advise the Police in Norseman in which direction you were headed, and they would then telephone the next nearest roadhouse. On reaching the destination roadhouse, the staff would do the same for you when leaving, by informing the next roadhouse and so on. (Could be 150-200 kms) This explains why the Madura Pass roadhouse proprietor said to me on my arrival, ‘where the bloody hell have you been, I have been waiting for you blokes to arrive for several hours’. Back to the story, just before Madura we had electrical problems with the Douglas having no lights (due to Lucas – ‘Prince of Darkness’). The Douglas engine was losing power and the exhaust pipes (2) were a glowing red colour in the evening light; so I had to leave Gerry and his Douglas on the side of the road whilst I rode on to get assistance. During WW2 the Australian Army laid down some bitumen at both Madura Pass and Eucla Pass (only about half a kilometre in length each) to enable trucks to climb the steep slopes of the Hampton Tablelands. The lights on my AJS then failed, but I knew it was only a few more kilometres to the roadhouse. It was then that I realized from the light of the moon that I think I am on a descending bitumen surface. Taking my feet off the foot pegs so that my shoes scraped along the road surface it felt like it too. Help was obtained at the roadhouse, sending a utility vehicle back about 20kms to pick up Gerry and the motorcycle.
Eucla Pass 1951
Next morning, we both went back to look at the sloping pass. Yes, I was right about it being a bitumen surface, but what I was not aware of in the dark of the previous evening, was that on one side edge it fell away by many metres into a gully, which ran the full length of the Pass to carry away water from the high ground. That frightened the hell out of me, because had I gone off the side of the road in the dark the night before, others might not have found me for days. We earned our keep for 3 days at the roadhouse, in particular loading and stacking the old ‘long neck’ 26ozs beer bottles (now empty) in crates, which original full bottles had been delivered by trucks to Madura. I have a recollection of 5-dozen bottles to a crate, and the crates were then stacked in a bloody great heap about 1-km away. At that time it was too expensive to return the ‘empties’ to Perth. When leaving Madura I thought I would send a telegram to my parents on arrival at Eucla to let them know I was at least half way to Adelaide. Imagine my surprise when Mrs. Gurney who ran the Post Office / store in Eucla said, “Sorry the Post Office closed 30 minutes ago”.
That was my first awareness of Australian central time, which is still used today, though most Australians never think about it. So I sent telegram next day. The road from Madura to Eucla had been good, but more problems were to occur with the Douglas motorcycle. Mr. Roy Gurney managed the Old Telegraph Station as a road house / petrol station, then made a good repair to the tension spring of the magneto points system, using an old flat spring from an alarm clock. Gerry and I slept in this historic building for a couple of nights. Unfortunately drift sand from the coastal dunes today covers the Old Telegraph Station and only one chimney is still visible. Both bikes experienced punctures, and working on the side of the road I removed the cylinder head from the AJS because I reasoned the engine needed de-coking. No air filter was fitted to AJS motorcycles then.
WA – SA Border (Eucla, WA)
Trying to make it to Penong in South Australia, it was again after dark and no lights working on either bike. We both had falls trying to follow the lights of a car travelling in front of us. This meant that to keep out of the dust from the car, one of us rode on the right side and the other on the left side of the road. Lifting the bikes upright was heavy work. Quite often a ‘cattle grid’ would loom up in front of us, which narrowed the road. Braking hard, often meant we had to lay the bikes down ‘speedway style’ to stop in time before the grid fence. Port Augusta (SA) and the bitumen road at last!!! Riding around the town we came across a very large heavy engineering workshop. Stopping to enquire what kind of work was carried on there, we were told this was the Australian National Railways maintenance depot. The man on the gate then asked me if I knew another West Australian by the name of Robin Fletcher. Yes, I did know Robin. Well he said he is the only man I know of that left Perth on a similar ride across the Nullarbor with ‘only a packet of biscuits and a water bag for sustenance’. Robin is now a Member of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club too. Another well-known VMCCWA Member is Past President Ernie Serls who also made a similar journey in 1952 on a 500cc twin cylinder Triumph.
I tell most people that while I rode an AJS (all jerks and stops), I knew what BSA stood for. (Bloody sore arse) This motorcycle adventure, Perth to Adelaide, took Gerry and myself ten days. And I still have the little camera today, which took these photos. As the often used quote says ‘it is not the destination that is important – its the journey’, and I certainly learned a lot in the month of April 1951
Editor…Ken Sadly passed away in July 2017



Recently I related how Gerry Smith and I had ridden across the Nullarbor in April 1951. Gerry was on holidays and after some days in Adelaide he returned to Perth. As soon as I could I sold the AJS.  A close friend, Ron Bradbury, had shipped my 1950 350 BSA Goldstar to Adelaide. Prior to dispatch, Bill Anderson with my permission raced the bike at the Yanchep TT – 8th April 1951 where he crashed it and dented the tank.

Ken on 350cc BSA Gold Star – Woodside – South Australia

I joined the Atujara Motorcycle Club in Adelaide.  It was astounding the members who were either “big names” or went on to become big names. Dennis Minnett (ex England) – well known Brooklands/TT rider, Laurie Boulter – later killed in IOM, Rex Tilbrook – manufacturer of the Tilbrook sidecars/125 race bikes, Jim Silvey – top scrambles rider, and Les Diener – very well known successful rider/tuner 250 Velocette.  It was a great club, with great camaraderie, and I believe it still is.  The highlight of the year was the annual “Advertiser” newspaper 24-hour ReliabilityTrial.  Not for me this type of event as I had recent bad memories of the “Prince of Darkness”.

A story worth telling is riding the Goldie up the Great Northern Road (main road to Port Augusta) past Parafield Aerodrome about 30-miles from Adelaide.  This ride was for the purpose of tuning the bike in preparation for Woodside and later Gawler airstrip road races.  In company of a friend, Brian Floyd (Ariel), we had passed several riders and mechanics also doing tuning and high speed runs.  Some miles further on, having found a quieter section of road (less traffic), It was time to prepare the Goldstar.

I should say that the Goldstar was both my personal transport and race bike.  Change the silencer for a megaphone, other adjustments etc.  Now it was ready!  I did an almost top speed run to the north checking road conditions, then a full bore run back towards Adelaide, made a U-turn for another high speed run north and back to where Brian was waiting for me.

Imagine my surprise – shock – horror when slowing to stop, I looked around and there was a South Australian Motorcycle Police Patrolman on a 650cc Thunderbird Triumph right on my tail.  I felt sure he would ‘throw the book’ at me.  On stopping he came alongside me.

“How fast was it going?” he said. Utter despair gripped me and I thought there was no use in denying I was speeding. I thought he would probably do me for excess noise too, and maybe even dangerous riding. “About 85/90 mph.” I said in reply, since I was using a rev counter – no speedo.

“I thought so.” said he, “My Thunderbird was showing 95mph, and you were pulling away from me!” Speedos were optimistic then and still are now. Next thing he said  was “Have you seen Jack Pengelly anywhere, he is supposed to be out here too?”

I said that I had not. Then to my surprise he put the Triumph in gear while saying “he must be further up the road” and rode away. My mate, Brian, was incredulous at the turn of events , while I was dumb-struck too.  It turned out that the motorcycle patrolman was a close friend of Jack Pengelly’s, but he sure ‘shocked the hell’ out of me.  I duly raced at both Woodside and Gawler race meetings with moderate success.  Maurie Quincey was a star of these races, also Bert Flood on his 125cc Lambretta, and Alan Wallis (later long serving ACCA National Secretary) on the works Tilbrook, which he still has.


Kevin Cass retraces Arthur Grady’s circumnavigation of Australia

Kevin Cass retraces Arthur Grady’s circumnavigation of Australia

Seventy years on, the first circumnavigation of Australia by a powered vehicle has been retraced by an
motorcycle identical to the original.

The rattling crack of an open-piped exhaust split the lazy air of a sunny autumn morning. The motorcycle
swung into view, bearing down the main street of the Australian country town, its progress made more regal
by the rider’s stance. Large footrests and wide, luxurious handlebars contrasted with a small purposeful
motor and well proportioned running gear to cut a dash among the more mundane road users. The ancient
bike wheeled to a halt outside the largest building in the town. a towering, stone mill built last century. Its
rider climbed off the flat-tank bike. He seemed to be a man on a mission. He was.

Wollongong historic enthusiast Kevin Cass spent the Australian winter following in the wheeltracks of
Arthur Grady, the self reliant adventurer who rode a 350 cc Douglas twin from Perth across the top of
Australia to Brisbane and back through the state capitals in 1924-25 becoming the first person to
circumnavigate the country by motorised transport.

Cass left Wollongong on May 19 and a week later arrived at Adelaide’s Birdwood Mill motor museum via
Melbourne. He then headed across the Nullarbor and was back home ten weeks after leaving it.
His 1924 CW Douglas is almost identical to Grady’s right down to the unusual two- stroke exhaust pipes
fitted, which give a distinctive staccato bark.

Grady’s exploits, a publicity stunt organised by the West Australian Douglas agent Armstrong, achieved
worldwide recognition for the reliability of the new chain drive bike.

After completing the lap of Australia, Grady was immortalised by a small, pen and-ink-illustrated book
produced by the factory. It included an introduction by the editor of The Motor Cycle. Part of it read: “Very
few can appreciate fully the magnitude of the achievement, the dangers encountered, and the difficulties
overcome, for in this modern world of ours it is hard to realise that parts of an island continent like Austalia
remain unexplored and so out of touch with civilisation that failure of the explorer’s mount would mean
certain death.” But if anyone was up to the task it was Grady. A 25 year-old motorcycle racer toughened by
years of combat as a teenager in Word War 1. Grady was described in the book as “A tall good looking chap,
with auburn hair, and to quote an Australian newspaper— ‘Enough to make the average girl envious -he is a
typical British character’.

Grady travelled alone, without any support. His swag consisted of an army oilskin ground sheet and
mosquito net, bound tightly to the front forks. A toothbrush was carried in his pocket.
Enough fuel was held on the rear carrier to supplement the one-and-a-half gallon petrol tank. An extra
gallon of oil was carried to supply the prodigious thirst of the total-loss, plunger-pump oil system. An
ammunition box mounted on top of the carrier contained essential spares and a tyre-mending kit.
Grady also carried a medical outfit and basic army hard rations. Perhaps the most vital item was a two
gallon waterbag, the bare minimum for crossing such arid countryside.

Just four days after a rousing send-off from Perth in October, 1924, Grady literally ran out of roads and had
to use his wits and a compass to follow little-used bullock tracks. Not an experienced bushman, he soon
realised the enormity of his undertaking, especially with the north-west of the continent in drought.
He had fitted oversize Bates tyres to his wheels and they soon became invisible, so covered were they with
three-pronged seeds from the area’s spiky grass. However, in 8000 miles the tyres never suffered a

As he headed north-east into the edge of the Simpson desert, the station homesteads were 80 miles apart.
In one district he travelled 14 hours a day without changng out of low gear.

It was tough country. One station bunkhouse he dossed down in had the beds suspended by chains from
the roof.”Snakes are very numerous and when I wake at night I can hear them crawling about on the floor,”
the owner told him.

Station owners often gave Grady vague instructions, such as “Ride across the paddock until you reach the
fence, then turn right”. Often the fence would be a morning’s travelling. In a flat landscape where the outline
of a sheep on the horizon took on the proportions of a buffalo or a clump of bushes resembled a vital hillock,
it was inevitable that Grady would get lost.

Perhaps the worst incident was when he spent a day retracing his steps and found his waterbag had
sprung a leak, emptying its precious contents.

“Everything was hushed and awfully still” he wrote. “I would reflect a little faintheartedly on my journey,
solitary and melancholy, in that vast, rugged interior. Mile after mile of dreadful riding — it seemed to be
maddening.” Grady was also racing against time, for although he had run out of water, the weather was
shaping up for a major rain He wrote later: “When the big wet sets in, all human affairs come to a
standstill.The country is one great bog where neither man nor horse may travel.”

Eventually he abandoned the bike, tying his mosquito net on the end of a stick as a marker, and set off on
foot to follow a dry creekbed. Darkness and rain stopped even this effort and he sought refuge under
scrubby bushes from a two-hour deluge. He had been lost for two days.

In the dawn light he returned to his bike. started it up and stumbled over the faint marks of a buggy track.
Miraculously, he was safe. But he had suffered the privations that still exist for outback travellers, and there
are many motorcycle tourists on big (often rented) Japanese single-cylinder dirt- bikes who have lost their
bearings in the outback.

Now a new problem faced Grady. How to cross the swollen creeks.

“Collecting a few handfuls of grass I stuffed them tightly into the exhaust pipes and, with a piece of fat, kept
for lubricating the chains, greased the carburettor and magneto and plugged up the end of the carburettor
with a piece of greasy cloth. Then smearing grease over the petrol tank cap. I cautiously started across. In
mid-stream the handlebars were just visible.” Once over the plugs were withdrawn and the grand little
machine started up with a healthy roar.On another occasion he found it easier to cross a major riverbed by
dismantling the bike, carrying the engine across, then the rolling chassis, and reassembling it. He also
experienced fuel problems. At one point in the journey across the continent petrol was available at the
astronomical price of 10 shillings a gallon! On one occasion he rode 73 miles using kerosene (paraffin) in
place of petrol.

His oil supply dried up once, and he made do with a home-brew of six bottles of medicinal castor oil, half a
gallon of beef dripping (always semi-liquid in the summer heat) and two pints of windmill oil.
“I made it myself and any motorcyclist is free to use my recipe.” he wrote later.

One station Grady crossed was 14.000 square miles. Loneliness was not a problem as he befriended some
Aboriginals, who taught him how to harvest the desolate landscape for edible plants and berries.
But perhaps the most bizarre incident was when he met a bullock wagon team whose driver seemed to
have a knowledge of motorcycles. It transpired the man had a belt-drive Douglas strapped under the wagon
between the axles. When an incredulous Grady asked why, the bullock master said: “When I get 15 miles
from a pub I get on the Douglas and ride ahead. This gives me an extra two days drinking time before my
Aboriginal offsider arrives with the wagon.”

By the time Grady struck Brisbane the worst of his trip was over, despite the fact he was only halfway
home. He received civic receptions in the state capitals of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The journey home across the Nullabor from Adelaide was still a daunting experience, but Grady made light
of it saying it is a known road and has been travelled many times by motorists and motorcyclists. The
Douglas purred along contentedly day by day until on the 14th of March 1925 “I had the great pleasure of
riding down the streets of my native town of Fremantle and the Douglas registered the last beat after billions
of beats, in front of the town hall which I had left five months and 14 days before.

The great journey is finished and I am quietly satisfied with the honour of being the first to do it.
To the Douglas and Bates tyres I cannot give too much honour. Not one spare part was used on the
machine, which never once failed me and the Bates tyres never once punctured.”

The Douglas was eventually returned to England and put on display but what happened to it after that is

Grady was later offered a large sum of money to repeat the trip on an lndian but declined. He later raced
speedway motorcycles and continued riding motorcycles until the late 1970s. He died a few years later.


KEVIN Cass, of Wollongong, started from the opposite side of the country to Grady, not that it matters
much. He completed the journey in ten weeks, a couple less than he had given himself for the trip. He had
the help of a support truck for about half the trip — he parted company with his on-road assistance at
Broome, in north-west WA, completing the second-half of the journey by himself.
But Cass, a former Grand Prix racer on the Continental and English circuits in the 1960s, wasn’t out to set
any records.

“I’m doing it for the whole movement of historic motorcycling,” he said when he was in Adelaide. “I want to
break down the barriers between the clubs in various states and celebrate a piece of motorcycling history.”
Cass built up an almost exact replica of the original CW model Grady used. The only differences were
practical changes to allow the bike to remain safe in today’s frenetic traffic. The fuel tank was widened for
greater capacity, some bearings were replaced with modern designs, the 26-inch wheels were swapped for
19s, an air cleaner protected the engine, which used Australian-made conrods and pistons. Changes were
made to the oiling system for improved reliability, and, having sponsorship from Penrite Oils, Cass had no
fear of running out of the liquid gold.

Cass made it around the country without any major dramas, but he was nearly stopped with mechanical
failure at Mt Isa. 200 km before Mt Isa, at Camoowheal, he felt the engine’s vibration suddenly increase and
noticed a drop in power. It turned out to be a failing main bearing, which he repaired in Mt Isa with the
assistance of the local vintage car club. He says, in fact, that he spent many of the nights he was away
staying with people from the various vintage motorcycle and car clubs around Australia. and sends his
thanks out to all who assisted him.

Kevin Cass
In 1924, Arthur Grady of Fremantle, Western Australia, made the first motorcycle circuit of Australia on a Douglas in five and a half months. Neil Bromilow of the VMCCWA also replicated this on a 1922 678cc Martinsyde, from 2 June to 5 July 1984 covering over 15,985 km.

Arthur Grady arrives back in Perth