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1899-1967

BRITISH MOTORC YCLES AND THE

MILITARY by Richard Rosenthal


Did you know... Though women acted as DRs on the home front, it was 1918 before they were at work in France, though behind the front lines.

The motorcycle section of the 1st and 2nd Volunteer Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, assembled in April 1915 near Hull City Hall after a training exercise. Many such volunteers rode their own machines or ones supplied by their officers.

Often military personnel enter club events and 100 years ago the situation was no different. Here DR Snelling 2žhp Douglas and DR Wilkinson (3½ or 4hp Grandex Precision with NSU two-speed gear) are checked in by a Harrogate MCC official.

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BRITISH MOTORCYCLES AND THE MILITARY | 1899-1967


While it was personally dangerous to crews for the gunner to fire on the move, these motorcycle outfits – photographed near Ypres – armed with Vickers light machine guns could reach more inaccessible vantage points faster than any other motorised vehicle.

Motorcyclists served on ambulance convey duty, including Lance Corporal Michael Jones ASC and DR Cecil Hambden, ASC (both on Ariel 3½hps) photographed in France while attached to the No. 5 Motor Ambulance Convoy.

BRITISH MOTORCYCLES AND THE MILITARY | 1899-1967

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To war again – and once more battle damaged motorcycles need repairing in double quick time. Here in 1940 members of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps are learning the ropes on requisitioned civilian machines.

Mounted on 346cc side valve single cylinder Royal Enfield WD/Cs is a detachment of the Traffic Control Division. Formed in 1940, the TDC’s role was to keep Britain’s traffic moving in the event of an invasion.

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BRITISH MOTORCYCLES AND THE MILITARY | 1899-1967

Again the military needed motorcycles and before ordering, models were tested over 10,000 gruelling miles, including this dismantled side valve 350cc Royal Enfield, readied for inspection.


King George VI, a keen motorcyclist and sponsor at Brooklands, chats to a member of the Home Guard who arrived for parade riding his own unit construction New Imperial – a discerning choice.

Readied for inspection by King George VI and riding requisitioned and WD issued machines, London Fire Brigade DRs – a courageous band who worked at night in a dark London, their routes illuminated by a tiny beam from blacked out headlights. BRITISH MOTORCYCLES AND THE MILITARY | 1899-1967

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British Motorcycles and the Military