Throwback Thursday: 1955 Wessex Rally

1955 Wessex Rally 1

On this day (and tomorrow) in 1955, we were invited to Burnham Motor Club’s Wessex Rally.  We sent two teams, totalling about 30 members to compete.  Things were very different back then and some of the reported shenanigans would not be acceptable to the club today.  Here’s how it was reported in our Journal that year…

Wessex Rally

This event promoted by the Bunnham Motor Club on March 26th/ 27th, drew a total entry of 66, and eight teams—two of these being from our club. The total number of our members participating as drivers and navigators being approximately 30. Finishers totalled 29.

Richard Davis carried out his usual practice of starting NO. l, but for his sins he had to commence at Exeter, as also did the first 20 competitors. The next 16 commenced from the Paradise Roadhouse, Redhill, and the remained from Burnham-on-Sea.

The weather immediately prior to the rally was very wet, but we are very pleased to say that no rain fell during the whole period of the rally. The first section was a straight-forward trip to Yeovil via Sidcot where a clue had to be obtained. The second section was in the Yeovil area and consisted of finding 10 point destinations marked on the map supplied and obtaining the necessary clues. After some thought concerning this matter of clues, we considered it would be a simple matter for Mr. Davis to find them before anyone else and to collect them all in the rear of his car, thereby guaranteeing first prize and also first team. It is also a simple matter for these clues to be transferred to other members of similar teams, thus defeating the object of the rally.

The third section consisted of finding six or seven 6-figure map references to obtain final clue for location of time check, and as no one was aware of this position, it was a matter of luck as to whether the penultimate clue was within easy distance of the final check or not. When this check was found, it was noted that the time was being taken by an observer by the use of an ordinary 5/- alarm clock. This, to say the least, was in in our opinion rather crude. Also, as the alarm clock was perched on the observer’s car bonnet, it would have been a simple matter for the earlier arrivals to skid into his vehicle, thereby destroying the time check. After a further stage of simple 6-figure map references, we arrived at the time check approximately two hours late and as one person only was on time, the time check was in our instance declared closed. We also learned that many competitors were so far behind in the first section that they did not attempt the second.

Needless to say, up to this point we had discovered the whole of the clues without any great difficulty and were amazed to find that in order to complete the route up to this period, it was essential to do approximately 80 m.p.h. on main roads and probably 65 in the lanes. We ourselves continually proceeded at speeds of 65/70 on main roads and 40/45 in the lanes, and as our vehicle was not prepared to stay on the road at greater speeds, we were compelled to proceed at a lower speed than normal racing drivers.

After the first two sections, which apparently decided the rally, we inquired as to who was the person without fault and we were not surprised when we found that he was a member of the Yeovil Car Club. It seemed obvious that unless you had expert knowledge of the whole of the area covered by these two sections, you hadn’t a dog’s chance. After the third section, we noticed our mileage was 240 and we were able to replenish the petrol In our tank, and as we were advised in the regulations that the rally would be approximately 250 miles, we obtained sufficient petrol to carry us about 330 and then continued the next section. This was the usual 6-figure map references, as also was the sixth section. The diversion here appeared to be a large number of competitors who were short of petrol and many the tales being told of competitors being stranded altogether or proceeding to villages and knocking up garage proprietors to obtain the necessary fluid. We proceeded ourselves to Midsomer Norton where we attempted to obtain the services of three garage proprietors. We eventually located the wife of one, who apparently prodded her husband into wakefulness.

In our case, the compulsory half-hour stop after three sections was dispensed with and, later on, our stop after breakfast was reduced to about 25 minutes. Further 6-figure map reference sections continued until we reached the finish at Burnham. Here tests took place on the sea front, consisting of driving and reversing into a garage, followed by a wiggle woggle, reversing round an obstruction, and timed to a line—two runs being required on which marks were lost for variation in time either way.

To conclude, we particularly enjoyed this event and seriously hope that the promoters will provide the same entertainment next year, but with a rally of reduced mileage or of greater time. We were also amazed at the lack of marshals on the course. These were not required when the clues were in position, but should any local resident have removed any of these clues, the position would, of course, have been chaotic. Our mileage upon completion was 380 and, as our only diversion was travelling from Midford to Midsomer Norton and back—a distance of approxitnately 12 miles—we were rather astounded as to the mileage of 250 stated by the organisers. Moreover, as the weather throughout was excellent, we shudder to think of the position should it have been similar to our own Maggi Carlo. Richard Davis stated that his mileage was approximately 405. After deducting compulsory stops his average must have been 40/45 m.p.h.


Earlier members travelled along a very muddy lane, which looked like a miniature river bed, adjacent to a farm, until we arrived when a farmer appeared in pyjamas and dressing gown, together with a double-barrelled gun, and as he was insistent that no other competitors travelled this way, five vehicles were jammed solid in this narrow lane at about midnight. The efforts to turn the vehicles around were rather comical as, without exception, they all bogged completely, but as all competitors helped one another the whole were freed in about 10 minutes. Another club member with a Standard 10 stated that at 3 o’clock on Sunday morning he was completely bogged down elsewhere and only by waving a £1 note outside the farmer’s bedroom window could he obtain his services with a tractor to pull him clear. Many competitors had slid off the road into a ditch and other members, particularly those of the same team, spent time in getting them on the road again. A further club member with a Jaguar Mark VII was very sorrowful at 5.30 a.m.—he stated that he could not find the clue and, furthermore, as he had only one pint of petrol in his tank, he couldn’t care less. He no doubt camped out for several hours until the local residents appeared. The driver of a Porsche 356 endeavouring to obtain petrol from a taxi driver met with little success. He, like others, had to awaken garage proprietors to assist.

Immediately after the break of dawn, due to a misinterpretation of the map, we proceeded along a lane which ended abruptly in a cricket field and as no time must be lost under any circumstances, we proceeded round the field at great speed and removed large quantities of turf. It was also noticed that at least half a dozen other sets of tracks were visible on the cricket pitch.

A Class award was won by Alan Horner with 205 points lost (he also tied for 3rd position in the rally); and a Start award by E. Judge with 725 marks lost. The B.M.C. and L.C.C. won the team award (being the only complete team to finish), composed of J. F look E. Judge and M. J. Ward.

1955 Wessex Rally 1

1955 Wessex Rally 2