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Remembered Today:

Dispatch Riders.


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#1 Deleted_Adrian44_*

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Posted 09 September 2003 - 01:27 PM

Can anyone help, or suggest a puplication, I would like to know the approximate number of motorcycles that went to France with the original B E F. Also the manufacturer / type. If such were used, what Unit did they come under ie, Royal Engineers ?. Many Thanks, adrian44.

#2 Raster Scanning

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Posted 09 September 2003 - 01:44 PM

The Royal Engineers certainly used despatch riders, I have seen pictures of them at Gallipoli as well as the Western Front.
The RE riders were, I think , in the main Signal Service. But certainly other units used them as well. Not sure of the number that went over with the BEF but this model was around at that time.
It is a Triumph by the way.

John.

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#3 HERITAGE PLUS

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Posted 09 September 2003 - 02:09 PM

Adrian


The Douglas Engineering Company was formed in Bristol (about 2 miles fom where I live!) by brothers William and Edward in 1882 at first as a blacksmiths shop, but soon expanding to become an ironfounders. After the turn of the century and the advent of the motor vehicle they soon became involved in the development of engines.

The Douglas motorcycle began in 1905 as a prototype engine by Joseph Barter which by 1907 had evolved to become the Fairy Motorcycle. This was followed by a long line of horizontally opposed twin cylinder machines of 2.75 HP right through to the late twenties. 1914 saw production in large quantities for the war effort (300 per week) and also the start of the 3.5 HP models followed closely by the 4 HP machines.

The 2.75hp ( 348 cc ) was a favourite with the first world war despatch riders

Photo at http://www.users.glo...doc/1915dou.jpg

There is a strong collectors club who hold a wealth of information and may be able to help you contact:

Reg Holmes
48 Standish Avenue
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#4 GRUMPY

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Posted 09 September 2003 - 02:21 PM

Dispatch Riders not always what they seemed: see Intelligence Corps, my today posting. Used as a cover by Intelligence Corps Officer, Walter George FLETCHER.

#5 Terry_Reeves

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Posted 09 September 2003 - 06:06 PM

The Triumph 550 cc "H" type was used exclusively as a solo machine for despatch riders. 30,000 of these Coventry built bikes were provided for the British Army alone in WW1 and thousands more were manufactured for allied armies. They had a reputation for reliability and gained the soubriquet "Trusty Triumph", which was used in the firms advertising material. Two weeks after the outbreak of war, Triumph were asked to supply an emergency order of 100 "H" types for delivery to an army camp in the south of England. The order was placed by telephone on a Friday evening and all the machines were taken from stock, crated and despatched on the Sunday evening , within the 48 hour deadline specified.

The founder of Triumph was German-born Siegfreid Bettman who was badly treated in WW1 despite his efforts on behalf of his adopted country.

Amongst other Coventry built machines were the Rudge and the Humber, although the latter's machines were used as sidecar combinations, principally for the Motor Machine Gun Service.

In 1914, many of the early despatch riders were recruited on behalf of the War Office by the editor of the Motor Cycle magazine whose offices were in Hertford St, Coventry. Prospective recruits were interviewed by him and had to provide their own machines for which the War Office reimbursed the owner half the price on acceptance.

Apart from the RE, the ASC and I think, the RA also had DR's.


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#6 Deleted_Adrian44_*

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Posted 10 September 2003 - 01:04 PM

To John, Terry, and all those who responded, with such a wealth of information, and photographs, sincere thanks; adrian

#7 Jock Bruce

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Posted 10 September 2003 - 07:28 PM

Adrian

The original Intelligence Corps which went to France in Aug 14 included a 'Motor-Cycle Section using Douglas, Premier, Rudge and Triumph motor cycles'; duties included recconnaissance round the German flanks but also 'despatch work (knowledge of French proving invaluable)' - presumably to negotiate French check points.

Above from 'Forearmed' by Anthony Clayton - and a BIG thank you to Barry F for sending me a spare copy of this history of the Intelligence Corps.

Jock

#8 Cliff. Hobson

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Posted 10 September 2003 - 08:49 PM

A Newsagent I delivered papers for as a lad said he rode a motorbike all the way from the Western front to Marseille, it had solid tyres and he was still suffering the effects twenty years after.
Cliff.

#9 Charles Fair

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Posted 11 September 2003 - 09:01 PM

I have been finding despatch riders confusing - my great uncle Reggie Secretan being a case in point.

Some motorised units were raised privately. He enlisted in one such - the 1st London Machine Gun Regiment on 6 Nov 1914 at Wembly Hill (as per his service record in WO374). According to a memorial volume complied after he was killed, this was a private corps. As he had hs own m/c he was an obvious candidate. I havent so far been able to track down anything on this unit, but according to the memorial volume it was 'taken over by the War Office'.

Here is a picture in a family album which has been cut out of one of the part works and which dates from about Nov 1914. (I'm not sure which one, but it could be The War Budget.) I am almost certain my g/uncle is the second man standing from the left.

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#10 Charles Fair

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Posted 11 September 2003 - 09:12 PM

This concurs with his service record which shows the '1st London MG Regt' being crossed out and replaced with 'RH&RFA Motor Machine Gun Service' and backdated to his date of enlistment.

His service record then shows him being transferred to the ASC depot at Grove Park on 19 Dec 1914. He has a new ASC no M/2 031433.

This photo is an original from the family album and was either taken around Wembly or Grove Park and shows at least 19 m/cycles.

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#11 Charles Fair

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Posted 11 September 2003 - 09:40 PM

He was then posted to France, arriving on 30 Dec 1914. He went via the Base MT Depot at Rouen to the Reserve Park at GHQ (St Omer) where he spent a month, which was followed by another month back at the Base MT Depot at Rouen.

He was then posted on 8 March 1915 to a unit called '1st Army Signals' who was commanded by 'OC HQ Signals 1st Army'. He appears to have roles as both a despatch rider and car driver whilst with this unit. I have a couple of group photos of this unit (one 1915/1916, and the other from 1917 after he had left), both of which show 7 or 8 RE cap badges for every ASC cap badge. I am not sure whether DR responsibilities were held by RE in addition to RASC personnel. However, all appear to have the Signal Service armband.

He spent over a year with '1st Army Signals' until he was posted back to England to go to an Officer Cadet Bn in August 1916.

I am still a bit confused by the period of his service with the ASC, since I am not sure of the roles of the RE and ASC badged personnel. I am also unsure about exactly what it was he joined in Nov 1914. However, I suspect this reflects the ad-hoc nature of the expansion of the Army at this time.

The attached photo from 1917 shows only 2 ASC badged men. (Also the photographer appears to have made a mistake and put in 1906/7 - writing added after the photo was taken.)

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#12 HERITAGE PLUS

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Posted 11 September 2003 - 09:55 PM

Adrian

During 1914-18 Douglas produced c70,000 motorcycles of which c25,000 were to War department specification.

Dave

#13 Deleted_Adrian44_*

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 06:59 PM

To all who so kindly answered my questions and sent in the invaluable photographs I send my sincere Thanks. I was very saddened to learn of the fire at the wonderful Motor Cycle Museum, however, on the next day I learned from a local rebuilder or 60/70's Triumph Motorcycles, that he knows of an original 1915, "Trusty Triumph", that still is in mint condition and still running. wink.gif

#14 MartinWills

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 07:13 PM

There is an interesting account of a despatch rider in the first six months or so of the war which is a fascinating read.

Volunteer DR attd, to 5th Divisional Signal Coy. in 1914: Mons, Le Cateau, Marne, Aisne, the move to the north, La Bassee & First Ypres

Adventures of a Despatch Rider

by W H L Watson

1st Published By William Blackwood in 1915

The author was promoted as subsequent editions were printed so he is Capt. Watson for the first edition but Major Watson for the second Impression!

Martin

#15 Gary Samson

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 06:50 PM

I wonder if Pals with a motorcycling bent (although more likely with a bent motorcycle) are able to confirm this machine as a Triumph Type A. My understanding from a brief trawl of the Web is that as this model has pedals it cannot be the more common Type H.

Gary

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#16 Gary Samson

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 07:19 PM

As a follow up to the previous posting, my despatch rider seems to have a chevron on his lower left sleeve. Given that this is likely to be an early photograph, what might this apparent chevron signify?

Gary

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#17 Joe Sweeney

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Posted 14 December 2003 - 10:22 PM

Gary,

It's the Good Conduct Badge. One chevron was awarded after 2 years service on completing a "term of good conduct". That is no entry has been made against the soldiers name in the regimental conduct book.

Joe Sweeeny

#18 Gary Samson

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 07:50 AM

Thanks for this, Joe, and my apologies for asking such a basic question...I really should know better. I had (mis)understood from a previous thread that Good Conduct awards were instituted later on in the war (I was obviously confusing this with the Overseas Service Stripe). As this appears to be an early photograph I assumed that the sleeve stripe signified something else. A more thorough search through the Forum revealed, along with a wealth of other related information, that awards of this type have been available to Army personnel for quite some time before the war.

Thanks again

Gary

#19 Michael Carragher

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Posted 29 May 2010 - 05:38 PM

Does anyone have information on the Germans' use of motorcycles? I have heard that the various armies had about 4,000 on the outbreak of war, but they had the capacity to increase this to 48,000 on mobilization--presumably by commandeering civilians' machines. I also have heard that they had only a few thousand at the end.

It also seems--from von Kluck's account--that despite the numbers they had, the First Army may have had no motorcycles on its invasion.

Any information at all, but especially on sources, is very welcome.


Michael Carragher

#20 centurion

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Posted 29 May 2010 - 05:55 PM

Although the German Army first used motor cycles in 1899 they don't seem to have been serious about them until the 1920s. WW1 bikes were all impressed civilian models (mainly NSU)

#21 centurion

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Posted 29 May 2010 - 07:23 PM

German WW1 motorcyclist

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#22 Michael Carragher

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Posted 30 May 2010 - 08:23 AM

Many thanks for replies--more welcome!


Michael