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Winifred Wells

This article appeared in the Royal Enfield REVS magazine, Vol 13, issue 5 (Winter 1951/52)

5,504 Miles Trans-Australian Journey

For her annual holiday Miss Winifred Wells decided to motorcycle from Perth, Western Australia, to Sydney and back on her privately owned "350 Bullet".

She set out on Boxing Day, 1950, equipped with food and spare clothing in two pannier bags, a suitcase strapped to her carrier and a knapsack.

There was no need for waterproof clothing, as it was midsummer in Australia, so her outer clothing consisted of riding boots, breeches, sweater, leather jacket and an old tweed cap; the latter to protect her from the scorching glare of the sun.

Miss Wells, 5ft 5in, 22 year-old daughter of a furniture manufacturer in Shenton Park, Western Australia, achieved what has been acclaimed as one of the most prodigious feats in Australian motorcycling history.

In 21 days she accomplished her solo ride from Perth to Sydney and back, a distance of 5,504 miles. Thus she averaged 366 miles per day, alone, braving the barren, sandy, waterless wastes of the Nullarbor Plains, a sparsely inhabited desert more than 1,000 miles wide.

To tackle the desert itself would daunt many a husky male rider. Only those who have had first-hand experience can truly appreciate the courage and determination of this slim slip of a girl in crossing the desert twice within three weeks.

The following itinerary, together with the map, will enable the reader to from a rough picture of this, one of the most arduous and dangerous long-distance rides in the whole history of motorcycling.

1950
Dec. 26 : Left Perth at noon, spent night at Southern Cross.
Dec. 27 : Reached Norseman.
Dec. 28 : Rode 298 miles and camped in the bush.
Dec. 29 : Reached Eula.
Dec. 30 : Reached Ceduna.
Dec. 31 : Reached Port Augusta


©2009 Google - map data

1951
Jan. 1 : Reached Adelaide 1:30pm. Departed for Melbourne same afternoon.
Jan. 2 : Reached Melbourne.
Jan. 3 : Rested.
Jan. 4 : Left for Sydney.
Jan. 5 : Reached Sydney.
Jan. 6 : Rested.
Jan. 7 : Left Sydney.
Jan. 8 : Arrived Melbourne 8 a.m.
Jan. 9 : Rested.
Jan. 10 :Left Melbourne, 7 a.m. arrived Adelaide 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 : Left Adelaide 1:30pm for Port Augusta.
Jan. 12 : Reached Ceduna.
Jan. 13 : Reached Eula.
Jan. 14 : Reached Norseman.
Jan. 15 : Reached Southern Cross.
Jan. 16 : Reached Perth 1 p.m.

At the end of the first day Miss Wells had reached the small town of Southern Cross. Next morning she began the most gruelling part of the ride, crossing the Nullarbor Plains.

She arrived at Norseman safely by the evening of the 27th and the next night she was quite alone in the desert with no human habitation for least 100 miles.

A nasty skid on some loose gravel outside Coolgardie upset her a little, and this prevented her from pressing on to Eucla, her intended destination.

Her remarks on the incident are typical, "So I used my bike, ground sheet and blancet to rig a shelter in the bush. It was the loneliest hole you ever saw, but I wasn't scared".

She rode into Adelaide on New Year's Day. Led by our distributor, Mr. George Bolton, a great welcome was given Miss Wells by motor enthusiasts there.

The letter we received from Mr. Bolton subsequently describes the next leg of the journey to Sydney, and after only one day's rest, back again to Adelaide.

"After havingcovered 1,731 mile to Adelaide across arduous desert country in the blazing heat of summer, Miss Wells left the city at 5 p.m. the same day for Melbourne, and so to Sydney where she arrived at 6:15 p.m. on 5th January."

"She spent a day seeing the sights and set off on the return journey on the 8th, arriving in Adelaide at 7:20 p.m. on 10th January."

"She had completed the run of 462 miles from Melbourne the same day, having left there at 6:30 a.m. Our hopes are high that this gallant little soul will win out."

"When she left Adelaide at 3:00 p.m. on the 11th inst., with the machine running as new, the temperature was 104.9°C. As she travelled north to Pt. Augusta, so the temperature increase, but she succeeded in reaching Port Augusta, a distance of 204 miles, by 8 p.m."

"On 12th inst., we received a telegram stating that she had left Pt. Augusta at 6 a.m. and she arrived safely at Ceduna, a distance of 323 miles due west, at 4 p.m."

"Thus we await further progress. The roads through which she is now travelling are merely bush tracks through sandy, waterless wastes, and her very life depends on the reliability of her machine."

"I have the precaution of phoning the police at Pt. Augusta with whom I am personally acquainted, asking them to advise other police along this lonely track to be on the lookout for her, in case of emergencies."

"Mr L. B. Clarkson, our Australian representative, advised us shortly afterwards that the phenomenal journey had been completed within 21 days, as scheduled by Miss Wells. He sent us a copy of the telegram he received from Carlyle & Co. Ltd, the dealers at Perth, from whom the machine was purchased by Miss Wells two weeks before her trip."

"It read:–
WINIFRED WELLS ARRIVED BACK IN PERTH ONE PM TODAY STOP CONGRATULATED BY LORD MAYOR ON COMPLETING MERITORIOUS RIDE COAST TO COAST AND BACK IN TWENTY-ONE DAYS STOP SHE IS FIT AND WELL STOP ROYAL ENFIELD BULLET CAME THROUGH WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT ENGINE RUNNING LIKE A WATCH CARLYLE."

In recognition of her magnificent feat, this Company sent out to Australia a handsome trophy which was presented to Miss Wells at the Claremont Speedway, Perth, where she rode a lap of honour on her "350 Bullet".