Remembering the real heroes of Motorsport

5w ago

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You will often hear a sportsman referred to as a hero in the media, a description that these days is bandied around far too readily.

This Sunday will be Remembrance Sunday, the day when we commemorate those who have fought in conflicts, starting from the First World War onwards.

Remembrance Sunday this year has more importance than usual as it marks the centenary of the end of the First World War.

To mark this occasion, we at DriveTribe thought we’d look at a selection of some of the real heroes from the world of motorsport, British and other nationalities, who served their countries in the two world wars, some who made it back and others who did not.

Murray Walker

Having celebrated his birthday last month, it is fair to say Murray Walker has crammed a lot into his 95 years.

A marketing genius, a sometime motorcycle racer and of course, for many worldwide, the voice of motorsport, Captain Walker saw service in the Second World War as a Sherman tank commander with the 4th Armoured Brigade, participating in, among other actions, the heavily fought Battle of the Reichswald.

Graeme Murray Walker, OBE. On service with the Royal Scots Greys during World War Two.

Robert Benoist

Robert Marcel Charles Benoist (20th March 1895 – 9th September 1944)

Robert Benoist, served in the First World War first in the infantry and then in the air corps.

After the war he turned to motorsport and was a Le Mans winner and Grand Prix driver,

During the World War Two occupation of his native France by Nazi Germany, Benoist, along with his friends and fellow Grand Prix drivers, Jean-Pierre Wimille and William Grover-Williams, joined the Special Operations Executive.

Following capture by the Gestapo and his subsequent escape to Britain, he returned to France for one more mission but this was one mission too far.

Robert Benoist, French resistance hero. Executed, Buchenwald concentration camp, September 1944.

William Grover-Williams

William Grover-Williams (16th January 1903 – February or March 1945)

Forging a Grand Prix career in France during the late 1920's and into the 1930's, William Grover-Williams won, among other races, the French Grand Prix (twice, 1928 and 1929) the Belgian Grand Prix (1931) and the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix (1929 pictured above).

Following the German occupation, Grover-Williams, with his fluent French, was invaluable to the Special Operations Executive in working with the French Resistance.

Arrested by the Germans in August of 1943, Grover-Williams was executed at Sachsenhausen concentration camp in February or March of 1945, just weeks before the end of the war.

Tony Gaze

Tony Gaze (3rd February 1920 – 29th July 2013) with fellow Aussie, Mark Webber at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix.

Australian, Frederick Anthony 'Tony' Gaze was a real 'Boy's Own' hero if ever there was one.

A squadron leader with the RAF during World War Two, Gaze shot down more than a dozen enemy aircraft, survived being shot down himself and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross THREE times. Only around forty men during the whole conflict achieved this feat.

After the war, Tony sought his thrills in motorsport and during the 1950s, he competed mainly in sports cars, including an appearance at Le Mans and with rallying, taking part in the Rallye de Monte Carlo and to cap it off, taking in three F1 races.

Quite a guy...

Jean-Pierre Wimille

Multiple Grand Prix and Le Mans winner, World War Two secret agent and hero of the French Resistance. Died during practice at the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix.

Enzo Ferrari

World War One recruit, 3rd Mountain Artillery Regiment. (20th February 1898 – 14th August 1988).

Bartolomeo 'Meo' Costantini

First World War Italian fighter pilot, then Grand Prix driver and later, Bugatti race team manager. (14th February 1889 – 19th July 1941).

Sir Henry Segrave

World War One. Fighter pilot, 1923 French Grand Prix winner, land and water speed record holder, Sir Henry Segrave. (22nd September 1896 – 13th June 1930).

Tazio Nuvolari

Served in the Italian Army during World War One, aged 23. Winner of 24 Grands Prix. Tazio Nuvolari. (16th November 1892 – 11th August 1953).

Raymond Mays

A Grenadier Guardsman during the Great War, motorsport pioneer, Raymond Mays, (1st August 1899 – 6th January 1980) here in a spot of bother with a Bugatti around 1925.

Eddie Rickenbacker

World War One fighter ace, Medal of Honour, Legion of Honour recipient and four-time Indianapolis 500 racer, 'Fast' Eddie Rickenbacker. (October 8th 1890 – July 23rd 1973).

Giuseppe "Nino" Farina

Giuseppe Farina (30th October 1906 – 30th June 1966). Tank officer during World War Two. In 1950 became the first official Formula One World Champion.

Tony Rolt

Tony Rolt (16th October 1918 – 6th February 2008). Second World War Rifle Brigade. Holder of the Military Cross and Bar. Escaped captivity seven times. Le Mans winner (1953) and F1 entrant.

Raymond Sommer

Raymond Sommer (31st August 1906 – 10th September 1950). Active member of the French Resistance in the Second World War. Two-time Le Mans winner. Finished fourth for Ferrari at the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix.

If you have anybody from the world of motorsport who served, that you would like to mention, please do so in the comments section below.

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Comments (7)
  • Great article. That photo of Raymond Mays is actually my Facebook banner shot, and I've just discovered who it is.

    I think we can add the amateur racers Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford to this list, who happily came back from WWII, or we wouldn't have Aston Martin.

    1 month ago
    2 Bumps
  • Fought in WW1 AND won the World Cup with Germany? What a legend!

    1 month ago

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