Monday, August 27, 2012


Oliver Godfrey, winner of the 1911 Isle of Man TT, with his Indian at Brooklands
The Vintagent's obituary of art critic Robert Hughes brought responses from far and wide, some from unexpected quarters.  One raised my eyebrow though... a roundabout connection, via an arc of sky-borne bullets, between Hughes, Lothar von Richthofen (the Red Baron's brother), and 1911 Isle of Man TT winner Oliver Godfrey.
Lothar von Richthofen
It took a memorial speech about Robert Hughes in the Australian Parliament to reveal a deeper story of the Hughes family, which included his father Geoffrey Forrest Hughes, an Australian ace fighter pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1. The elder Hughes had gained fame by shooting down Lothar von Richthofen, less famous than his brother Manfred, but still plenty deadly, with 40 'kills' to his credit.  Lothar flew in his elder brother Manfred's Jasta 11 fighter group (the 'Flying Circus'), the unit which decimated 75% of the Royal Flying Corps' planes in 1916.
Geoffrey Forrest Hughes (right) speaking with Prince Albert in 1927
One of these RFC planes, a Martinsyde 'Elephant' bomber (yes, Martinsyde made motorcycles too), was crewed by none other than Oliver Godfrey, who had joined the RFC in early 1916, before new 'hunter' squadrons were organized by Oswald Boelcke of the German Imperial Army Air Service.  Only 5 years prior, Godfrey headed the Indian 1-2-3 victory at the 1911 Isle of Man TT, and became a hero for racing, but not shooting down planes.  Thus are the connections between motorcyclists revealed; Robert Hughes, the brilliant Australian critic on his Norton Commando, and Oliver Godfrey, the taciturn English TT winner on his Indian, via a pair of German aristocrat brothers with a talent for flying, in what was once the most likely opportunity for young men to visit far-off lands...War.
Critic Robert Hughes and his Honda CB750 ca. 1972

John Jennings, Velocette stalwart in Australia, forwarded the link from the website of Australian parliamentarian Malcolm Turnbull, who spoke at a memorial for Robert (Bob) Hughes (whose brother, Tom, is also in parliament), where this information came to light.  Red the full text here.


Anonymous said...

Once again, excellent! And as fate
would have it....An Irishman was
also in the top 3....The Irish so
loved the Indian motorcycle that
they gave a native son to the factory.....Chief engineer Franklin. Love this stuff.

Blind Melon

GuitarSlinger said...

Hmmmn . Lets see now . I've got the Rodders Journal subscription for my hot rod fix . Fretboard Journal for the guitars . Surfers Journal just cause the photos etc are so good and it was the main inspiration for the first two I've mentioned .

Don't you think its about time someone did as classy a job with a motorcyclecentric quarterly journal focussing on classic bikes and extraordinary new rides ?

Methinks you're elected Paul .