The Vintage Motor Cycle Club

The Vintage Motor Cycle Club

Two Wheels To War Martin and Nick Shelley

A Fascinating insight into the lives of First World War despatch riders
Availability: In stock
SKU: B101
£25.00 excl tax
Two Wheels To War is a scholarly but entertaining look at the largely forgotten world of the motorcycle despatch rider in the early months of the First World War, then a new phenomenon in the field of conflict. At the heart of the book is an illustrated and annotated edition of the underrated – and initially uncensored – classic first published in 1915, Adventures of a Despatch Rider, written by Captain WHL Watson, one of the well-educated young men who volunteered as a DR for the Signal service. He and over 400 other motorcyclists were sent to France, some mounted on their own machines, direct from the recruiting office. Sometimes uncomfortably close to the fast evolving action, Watson and his colleagues played a little known but key part in the early campaigns at Mons, Le Cateau, on the Retreat and on the Aisne. They accompanied the BEF returning to the north in October 1914 when the Western Front extended to Flanders, enduring the harsh winter that followed.&edsp;
Watson’s original book was a graphic and particularly well written account of the reality of war in the first months after BEF troops landed in Le Havre in August 1914. Two Wheels To War is profusely illustrated with a treasure trove of previously unpublished photographs, many taken by three of his fellow despatch riders in the 5th Signal company, ‘Pollers’, ‘Sadders’ and Cecil Burney, using the soldier’s camera, the VPK, as the iconic Vest Pocket Kodak camera became known. As well as Watson’s book itself, his story is extended until April 1915, when he was wounded and repatriated to England. There are also many contributions from Watson’s fellow DRs, most of which have never appeared in print until now, but which add greatly to the modern reader’s understanding of the realities of the life of a DR on the Western Front.
Meticulously researched and compiled by authors Martin Shelley (VMCC OEC and Blackburne Marque Specialist) and Nick Shelley (secretary of the Marston Sunbeam Club & Register) Two Wheels To War offers a new perspective on the DR story – how the Signal service hurriedly recruited and sent to France more than 400 motorcyclists with their own machines. The authors have also researched the biographical details of the twelve despatch riders of 5th Signal company. These reveal their real identities, hidden until now behind the nicknames they used such as “Huggie” and “Spuggy” and the ironically named “Fat Boy”. The appendices describe the motorcycles and equipment the despatch riders used, and finally there is a database of the 400 men who went to France in this role in 1914, which will prove an invaluable tool for their descendants researching their forebears.
Published in 2017 after a six year research effort, the first two printings sold out and the authors took the opportunity to create a second edition which has a number of detailed improvements including a comprehensive index and additional information that has come to light since the first edition was published.&edsp;&edsp;VMCC copies are also signed by the authors.
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