Gil Craven


Full name: Gilbert Craven
Birthplace: Ilford, Greater London, UK
Birthdate: 1920
Family: Brothers Malcolm Craven (West Ham, Wembley), Reg Craven (Yarmouth)
Gil's brother Reg was tragically killed in his first ever match for Yarmouth, at Poole, in 1948.


  Gil Craven Action



Career Record with Cradley

Year Mat Rid Poi Bon Total Aver

[Taken from the Cradley Speedway Riders Database includes all matches]

Capped once for England in Australia


Despite four seasons at Dudley Wood - with a varying number of appearances - Gil Craven remained something of an enigma. The high points included an 8 point-plus average in 1948 during his first season, and then the part he played in a fantastic Division 2 heat-leader trio with Alan Hunt and Eric Williams in 1949. The not so high points were an injury ravaged 1950 season with a sub 6 point average and the unrest of 1951 following the transfers of both Hunt and Eric Boothroyd.
Gil's speedway career stuttered to a start when signed by West Ham, and his progress was quickly halted by the War when he went to serve in the Merchant Navy. Upon his return to the sport, Gil raced in New Zealand and became the national champion in 1947, then moved onto the USA and Australia before arriving back on British shores to sign for Birmingham. After a very short stay, he moved again, this time to Cradley.
Before his Speedway days, this unique character had ran away to sea, but during his time went on to become a fully qualified chief engineer. He also served on a gun-running ship during the Spanish Civil War and allegedly only escaped the firing squad because of his youth!
On the Speedway track, he was a frequent faller, despite his undoubted ability. Among his more infamous crashes and injuries were a cracked tail-bone which knitted itself together after Gil delayed the operation to continue riding! There was also a hospital trip to be treated for a cracked skull, suffered at Oxford. Typically though, he discharged himself within 24 hours and was soon back to ride again at the Wood. After three innocuous looking spills the track doctor diagnosed a lack of co-ordination due to the Oxford crash.


Photo from the collection of Dudley Marchant (Team Manager Heathens 1949) our grateful thanks to Robert Packham

Craven will be remembered for his lightning starts which brought him many points, turned him to a heatleader with the Heathens in a short space of time and established him as a force to be recognised on the world championship qualification trail too. He was a cool and calculating rider. He never fulfilled his potential on the individual stage, but made a significant contribution to the Cradley team which reached unexpected heights in the lower league. Unfortunately, a back injury cut short his first Heathens season and forced him to miss the start of the next. However he was soon back to provide solid support in the seasons of 1949 and 50.
1951 saw a return to heatleader status with Cradley, and this time even further. Craven was named captain and number one, and looked to be pushing for the chance to move up to Division 1. After 15 matches of that year though, he left not only the club but also the country following a succession of problems at the Wood when attendances fell and team manager Dick Wise resigned. Gil emigrated to New Zealand and was never to return to speedway again neither in Britain or abroad, as far as we know.


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