Jimmy Gooch

James Everard Gooch was born on 16 November 1928 at Dagenham.

His father William Englebert Gooch had joined the East Surrey Regiment in 1903 and after training in 1904 had transferred to the Army Service Corps where he served through World War 1 until he retired as a Warrant Officer.

William met and Married Eileen Helena Kingston in December 1919 at Hackney.

They had 4 boys and a girl with the 5th child being Jimmy who was born when the family had returned to their East London roots to Downing Road, Dagenham.

Jimmy's childhood spanned the war and like most young men of his generation was conscripted and so followed his father into the Royal Army Service Corps was posted to Germany.

           
                                                                 Jimmy Gooch copyright Steve Magro Jimmy near the end of his career riding for Hackney
Photo with kind permission of Steve Magro

This proved  life changing for The British Army of Occupation has established speedway tracks where soldiers could use stripped down army motorcycles to race around the tracks in competitive races that drew large crowds. Some of the riders were existing speedway stars who had been conscripted but many were ordinary soldiers like Jimmy who discovered a talent.

Jimmy won the first of his many trophies by becoming the British Army of the Rhine Combined Services Speedway Champion.

Bill Kitchen who at the time was Captain of the British Lions and one of the best known speedway rider led a team representing ENSA out to Germany to take part in the German Speedway races and this led to an untapped pool of talent from soldier racers being spotted and encouraged to join professional teams.

In 1949 Jimmy's brother provided sixty six pounds in cash that enabled Jimmy to buy out his service and leave the army.

He immediately signed for the Wembley Lions speedway team and started a career that was to last over 20 years in speedway.

Jimmy gained a reputation as a good pro rider without hitting the top levels of speedway and even had a struggle to make the Lions team on a regular basis although his fighting attitude made him a crowd favourite which he was to remain for his entire career.

Despite more lucrative offers Jimmy remained with the Wembley Lions team that had given him a break until 1955 when he was loaned to to Bradford and Swindon before Wembley Lions left the National League in 1956 at which point he transferred to Ipswich, New Cross and then Norwich until he made the move to Oxford Cheetahs in 1964.

When he moved to Oxford Jimmy was aged 35  years which was comparatively old for a speedway rider but Jimmy hit the form of his life becoming not only a regular starter but a star of the team which clinched the British title that year.

The following year his purple patch continued as his form improved even more and although the Cheetahs only finished 4th in the league Jimmy finished as 10th best rider in the league averaging 9.90 points per match.

He was selected for the first time to race for the Great British Speedway team.

To make matters better at the British individual Final he made the top 6 and qualified for the World Final that was held at Wembley Stadium on 18 September 1965. Jimmy wasn't at his best and finished 14th of 16 with 3 points scored although each of his heats contained a rider that would to finish in the top 4 positions.

Although he dropped out of the top 10 riders,  Jimmy contained to race for the Cheetahs and then for Newport and Hackney where he finished his career at the end of the 1970 season when, aged 42, he was still averaging 6 points a match.

His career brought him 10 England International Caps,3 Great Britain International caps, 5 League Championship medals, 3 National Trophy Champions Medals, Two British individual Finals and One World championship final and 1 World Team Final appearance.

He also continued to race in the Australian and New Zealand circuits in the close season.

Jimmy swapped his racing and his garage business in Rainham for the Essex coast firstly at Steeple and then nearby Waterside area of Bradwell on Sea  where he became a popular villager in his riverside bungalow

Not content to enjoy a quiet retirement Jimmy enjoyed the active life  taking part in paragliding, Micro light flying, diving, sailing after building his own yacht and even at the age of 80 did a parachute jump for the Essex Air Ambulance Charity.

He was a regular sight cycling around the rural roads until shortly before his sudden death on 18 July 2011.

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