Our Century

A motorcycling legend . . .

Len Vale-Onslow, Sutton Coldfield, Born 1900

Len Vale-Onslow

"I had six brothers and they treated me as a plaything, strapping me to the back of motorbikes and so on.

"When I was eight my brother Percy built an aeroplane out of bamboo poles, balloon fabric and bent canes. The wings were detachable and he fasted me to them and tied them to a 50-feet length of sash cord fixed to his crossbar.

"He said, When I pull, you run!' and we were off. I went 50 feet in the air.

"I could see right over Brookvale Reservoir when he suddenly stopped. I spiralled down and landed on the back of my head.

"He thought I was dead and panicked. So he took me home and laid me on a couch and disappeared, thinking someone would find me and think I'd died of natural causes.

"They took me to hospital and I was unconscious for 15 days.

"Poor Percy was killed on the Somme as a dispatch rider. After the First World War I started riding motorcycles and from 1926 I built my own, the Super Onslow Special.

"I was a competitive rider for five years and won 500 trophies.

"I still enjoy riding the motorcycle. I'd do it all the time, night and day, if I could.

"I reckon that bang on the head all those years ago made me a bit barmy and I've never recovered."

  • Leonard Vale-Onslow went on to become one of the Midlands' biggest motor-cycle dealers. In 1994 he received the MBE for his services to the world of motorcycling