Hawick hero Jimmie Grecollected in new book
The remarkable life of a war hero and motorcycling champion from Hawick is commemorated in a new book, more than 80 years after his dramatic death.
Jimmie Guthrie, known as ‘Jimmie G.’, was born in 1897 and became a major star in European motorcycle road racing in the 1930s.
Previously, he had returned from the First World War as a genuine hero after nearly four continuous years away from home. He had gone to fight in the conflict soon after turning 18.
On August 8, 1937 – aged 40 and set to retire from the sport – Jimmie died after a crash while leading on the final lap of the German Motorcycle Grand Prix. But the circumstances of the incident, and its aftermath, have been steeped in mystery ever since.
The cause was not officially reported and rumours began to circulate in Britain and Germany. Jimmie’s crash – amid claims of Nazi involvement – became a geo-political incident which could have harmed UK-German diplomatic relations when the threat of the Second World War was looming inexorably closer.
Germany-based chartered engineer and motorcyling devotee Paul W. Guthrie has written the 344-page book.
The shared surname and love of motorcycling were the principal reasons – but Paul also wanted to solve the mystery of what happened and end the speculation.
The circumstances of the crash are explained from both the British and German perspectives. For the first time, German archive material exposes many previously unknown facts.
“Motorsport was very important to both Britain and Germany to showcase their technological and sporting abilities,” explained Paul.
“I hoped to provide an idea of what that really meant during that period. Knowing the context, events can be viewed as they were back then, and not through a modern awareness.
“There was Nazi involvement in the crash – but not for the reason that might spring to most minds. Furthermore, the discovery of British intelligence involvement created another dimension.”
During his career, Jimmie won 28 Grand Prix and Tourist Trophy races during his career. He was 500cc European Champion in 1935-36 and dual 350cc and 500cc European Champion in 1937. He set several world land speed records between 1934-36.
Paul added: “Jimmie’s early life and First World War service is fascinating and he was a genuine war hero. His war experience affected him and explains in part why motorcycle racing, for him, was never about the glory or recognition – rather the thrill. He was a modest gentleman who rarely spoke publicly, which made him enigmatic. However, he was admired and loved by his fans because of his success and his personal qualities.
“I think it is a great story of a man and the extraordinary times in which he lived.”