The first time I read the catalogue of the Las Vegas 2014 Bonhams auctions, I did not notice this 1947 Vincent Rapide Series B. However, with a second look, a few B&W pictures of the description have captured my attention, and I think the history of this motorcycle worth to be mentioned. Indeed, we all like to share stories about the colorful characters that we have had a chance to know; I have obviously never met the former owner of this bike, Jack Churchill, as known as “Mad Jack”, but he was one of these real-life characters, whose story deserved to be told.

This Rapide was originally own by Alex Phillip, who entered the 1950 Isle of Man Clubman TT, and won the 1000cc class at an average speed of 78.58mph. As a “Gentleman Racer,” Phillip had ridden it all way long from Scotland to the TT with his wife Annie on the pillion, and after the race, they both went back home in the same way. Unfortunately, on their way back, they have been rammed by a truck and seriously injured in the crash. But during his long stay in hospital, Alex did not lose his faith and passion for motorcycles and asked his Rapide to be sent to the Vincent factory for repair and full Black Lightning spec upgrade. Eventually, after about a year, Phillip was back on his feet and took delivery of his bike directly at Stevenage, and rode back home.

However, in the need of cash, he sold it shortly after to Jack Churchill to who he told from his 500 miles riding experience, that the bike was performing “like a rocket ship.” It was certainly what had to be said to seal the deal with Mad Jack Churchill, who was a long time rider and not an ordinary one. Indeed, as early as the 20s, while he was serving in Her Majesty’s Army, he brought to Burma and India his own bike, a Zenith OHV single, that he has ridden in the conditions you can guess at that time in those countries.

Churchill earned his nickname during WW2, when his battle dress included a sword, and 6′ tall bow and custom-made “war arrows” with which he killed the first and only soldier during WW2, using a bow and arrow; can you imagine this picture in 1940? His numerous acts of wars made him famous all across Europe from France to Norway where he received the Military Cross for his actions. Anecdotally, his bagpipe, rowing, and archery skills were immortalized in several famous movies including The Thief of Baghdad and Ivanhoe.

Honestly would you have imagined one second that this quite “ordinary” 1947 Rapide was hiding a genuine IOM TT winning machine, which at a time, was owned by a real-life character, whose story is rather nutcase?

Philippe Guyony  © 2014

A newspaper commented, "The sight of Alex Phillip airborne at 130mph going past the Highlander pub was enough to put patrons off strong drink forever."Phillip really 'down to it.  Creg-na-Baa at top speed | Picture courtesy of Mortons Archives
Alex Phillip flat out at Creg-na-Baa in the IOM Clubman TT. A newspaper commented, “The sight of Alex Phillip airborne at 130mph going past the Highlander pub was enough to put patrons off strong drink forever.” | Picture courtesy of Mortons Archives.
Alex Phillip hitting the finish line as the winner at an average speed of 78.58mph with his stock 1947 Rapide for this second edition of the Clubman TT. | Picture courtesy of Mortons Archives
Alex Phillip hitting the finish line of this 1950 Clubman TT in the 1000cc class as the winner at an average speed of 78.58mph, with his nearly stock 1947 Rapide | Picture courtesy of Mortons Archives
As many Gentlemen Racers, Phillip rode his bike from home all way long to the TT, raced it and whent back home in the same way, but this was with his wife on the pillion!
As many Gentlemen Racers, Phillip rode his bike from home all way long to the TT, raced it and went back home in the same way, with his wife on the pillion! | Picture courtesy of Mortons Archives
Phillips' time was nearly 5 minutes faster than the Senior Clubman's Norton Inter of PH Carter, and over 5 minutes faster than the second placed 1000cc competitor J Alexander.
Phillips’ time was nearly 5 minutes faster than the Senior Clubman’s Norton Inter of PH Carter, and over 5 minutes faster than the second placed 1000cc competitor J Alexander. | Picture courtesy of Mortons Archives
Lt Colonel Churchill (1906-1996) stood out as a hero during WWII, earning two Distinguished Service Orders, and carrying a bullet in his shoulder for 55 years.
The second owner was the Lt Colonel Churchill (1906-1996) which stood out as a hero during WWII, earning two Distinguished Service Orders, and carrying a bullet in his shoulder for 55 years.
6.“Churchill earned the nickname 'Mad Jack' during WW2, when his battle dress included a clay beg basket-hilt sword, plus a 6' tall longbow with custom-made 'war arrows'. In 1940, he scored the first and only 'kill' during WW2 using a bow and arrow, while organizing the retreat of trapped British soldiers in the village of l'Epinette. Hiding in a granary, he spotted 7 Germans hiding behind a wall, and let loose a shaft, which hit its mark deeply. He was seen the next day riding a commandeered Motobecane with his bow strapped to the chassis and arrows in the panniers, with the unfortunate German sergeant's cap adorning the headlamp.”
Bonhams documentation says: “Churchill earned the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ during WW2, when his battle dress included a clay beg basket-hilt sword, plus a 6′ tall longbow with custom-made ‘war arrows’. In 1940, he scored the first and only ‘kill’ during WW2 using a bow and arrow, while organizing the retreat of trapped British soldiers in the village of l’Epinette. Hiding in a granary, he spotted 7 Germans hiding behind a wall, and let loose a shaft, which hit its mark deeply. He was seen the next day riding a commandeered Motobecane with his bow strapped to the chassis and arrows in the panniers, with the unfortunate German sergeant’s cap adorning the headlamp.”
The 1947 Vincent Series B Rapide today| Frame no. R2312 | Engine no. F10AB1313. It was not sold and will likely come back soon on the stage.
Mad Jack’s 1947 Vincent Rapide today (Frame no. R2312 | Engine no. F10AB1313). When I saw it on the Bonhams catalogue, I did not really pay attention, it is only at a second look that I was intrigued by the above old B&W pictures. Despite its historical interest, it was not sold and will likely come back on the stage next year… maybe at a more affordable asking price?
Phillip’s Rapide is highlighted on David Wright’s cover book. It was one of the seven Vincent, which entered the TT in 1950. Vincent club records confirm ownership by Alex Phillip (Nov.'47) and Jack Churchill (1951)
Phillip’s Rapide is highlighted on David Wright’s cover book. There were 7 Vincent entering the TT Clubman in 1950, finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th. Have you been thinking about the word “Domination”?. The Vincent HRD Owners club’s records confirm ownership by Alex Phillip (Nov.’47) and Jack Churchill (1951)
Seven Vincents trusted the seven first places in the Clubman 1000cc category. In 1950, there was not really room for competition. You can check all the TT results from the origin on http://www.iomtt.com/TT-Database/Events
Seven Vincents trusted the seven first places in the Clubman 1000cc category. In 1950, there was not really room for the competition in the 1000cc class. You can check all the TT results from the origin to today on http://www.iomtt.com/TT-Database/Events

Sources:

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21389/lot/333/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Churchill

http://www.iomtt.com/TT-Database/Events/Races.aspx?meet_code=TT50

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