100 years ago: TT winner shot down by the Red Baron

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the first ever winner of a race on the Isle of Man TT Snaefell Mountain course, Indian rider Oliver Godfrey, who was shot down while in combat with the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen’s squadron over France on the 23rd September 1916.

Godfrey first competed at the TT in 1907 on the St John’s course, taking a series of strong results in his debut years including fourth in 1908.


He took his first and only victory in the 1911 Senior TT, also scoring the first ever foreign manufacturer victory as he took his Indian to a one-two-three alongside C B Franklin and A J Moorhouse with a lap time of 47.63mph.

An Indian brochure later described Godfrey as ‘small in size, but a bunch of muscles and nerves and a magnificent rider.’ Despite not winning another TT, he was one of Britain’s top riders in the pre-war years.

He continued to compete at the TT up until the outbreak of the First World War, taking a second podium in the 1914 Senior TT before signing up for the Royal Flying Corps and being commissioned as a second lieutenant in January 1916.

He was killed in action in September 1916, when his Martinsyde G100 fighter-bomber and those of five 27 Squadron comrades were intercepted by von Richthofen and four other decorated aces from Jagdstaffel 2 while on a bombing mission over Cambrai in northern France.

Godfrey and two other pilots were shot down in the action, and while his body was never recovered he is remembered on a memorial at Point-du-jour Military Cemetery in Athies.

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer