Guest Post by John de Kruif

Charles Burki was born in 1909 in Indonesia (a “Nederlands Indie”). From a very young age he combined excellent skills as an illustrator with a strong preference for technical subjects. When he settled in Holland in the middle of the 1930s, motorcycles were his favorite subject. He made many illustrations for the Dutch motorcycle magazine “Motor”, like the one below (that must be a Norton M20 and a translation is not required!).

Charles Burki and his beautiful Norton M30 International

It will not come as a surprise that he spent his earnings on fast motorcycles and in 1935 he bought an M30 International. Used solo for two years it was then hitched to a Steib sidecar; that’s his wife Sophia in the chair.

Charles Burki and his wife Sophia in the Steib S500 sidecar

In 1942 Charles was captured by the the Japanese and he spent three years in prison camps in Indonesia and Japan. He survived two dramatic events in captivity; first, when the boat he was travelling on was sunk by a torpedo…and then, on the 9th of august 1945, he survived the blast of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, from a distance of less than 2000 meters from ground zero!

One of Charles’ drawings depicting an old rivalry – Triumph vs Norton!

The drawings below were made in the Fukuoka 14 prison camp in Nagasaki on pieces of scrap paper that he had found. Obviously, they were made from memory [POW artwork and writing have been collected in exhibitions and books such as ‘Flywheel’ – pd’o].

Another epic Burki drawing of a racing Norton

After the war, Charles continued to make a living drawing illustrations for companies such as Philips, Fokker and DAF, and off course for “Motor” magazine; he died in 1994. Read more in the excellent book ‘Charles Burki’ (the Artist and His Motorcycles) by Vincent Denters (1997, Thoth…below).”

The book ‘Charles Burki’ is still available with a quick search of Dutch retailers
No translation required!
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