Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Dispatch Rider from 1939

A British Tommy

For those who have visited the London Motorcycle Museum and listened to me my most used word is “interesting” what other word would you use when you are trying to work out a way of doing something that has not been done before? Think of those guys when motorcycling was in its infancy and people are trying to work out what to do. What were they thinking of? Many ideas were tried and their success rated by sales. Single speed motorcycles that had no clutch and were pedal assisted lasted until the 1960’s. I remember when the law was introduced about 50cc motorcycles and all the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers produced six and seven speed fifties. The law makers got it wrong with the specifications they only needed to have stipulated a single speed and that would have ensured the machines only did around 30 mph. Like the early engine makers who had to have a powerful and flexible engine. That restricts ultimate performance. Thinking about about what other people do I was in Norfolk last October and while at the Norfolk Motorcycle Museum I met a couple who lived near London and had not yet visited. I gave them a flier and left it at that. I was surprised when the couple, Peter and Rosie, came to pay us a visit last Monday. I had a very enjoyable time and I think they did too. Peter had good reason for paying us a visit. His father was a DR (Dispatch Rider) in World War 2 and rode a Triumph 3SW. 

We have an example in the Museum and he has kindly sent me a picture of his father. He was with the East Lancashire Regiment and was at Dunkirk with the British Expeditionary Force, was left behind, reported as missing in action then managed to get back by rowing home. Being a DR was not the safest job in the world and you would have to be quite smart to navigate unknown terrain to find the person you would need to get the message to. Not to mention avoiding being shot at! This particular team of riders were affectionately known as the Savage Saints.I guess that they must have looked a fearsome lot after being out all day on unpaved roads. We have, at the Museum the 1942 training video for DRs that covers every aspect of riding from learning to ride, maintenance to cross country riding and fording rivers. Although everyone thinks of the BSA M20 as the military bike every other manufacturer was used too. Most of the video has riders on Nortons.