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TWO WHEELS TO WAR. A TALE OF TWELVE BRIGHT YOUNG MEN WHO VOLUNTEERED THEIR OWN MOTORCYCLES FOR THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE 1914

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Helion and Company April 2017 Hardback 245mm x 170mm 296 pages c 100 b/w photos, 8 maps

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The republication of a forgotten classic of the 1914 campaign – Adventures of a Despatch Rider was first published in 1915 by one of the well-educated young men who volunteered for the Signals Service and went to France (some with their own motorcycles) straight from the recruiting office. Watson and his colleagues had a ringside view of all the action: they served at Mons, Le Cateau, on the Retreat and on the Aisne; they journeyed northwards with the BEF in October 1914 when the Western Front extended to Flanders. Watson describes the crucial contribution the despatch riders made in keeping the army organised in the chaotic conditions of the Retreat and during the rest of the war of movement, but after the furious fighting around Ypres, winter came and the conflict settled down into trench warfare; then the challenges for the despatch rider diminished. Like most of his colleagues, the author chose to move into a specialised unit - and in early 1915, he was commissioned into the command of a cyclist battalion.

This is the first edition of Adventures to carry the story on until April 1915, when the author was wounded. Adventures of a Despatch Rider was based on letters home which were serialised in the famous ‘maga’ Blackwoods Magazine in 1915, which was at the same time as such classics as The 39 Steps and The First Hundred Thousand. During his convalescence, Watson re-edited the articles into a book which was published late in 1915 - and he continued the story in Blackwoods under the title 'Tales of a Gaspipe Officer'. His book, which initially evaded the censors, remains a graphic and particularly well-written account of the reality of war during the Retreat from Mons; on the Marne and the Aisne; and at First Ypres. Watson’s classic prose is now enhanced with a wealth of contemporary photographs from the despatch riders he rode with. The introduction recounts the background to the story (how the Royal Engineers hurriedly recruited and sent to France more than 400 motorcyclists) and it contains the detailed stories of the 12 despatch riders of 5th Signals Company. It reveals the identities which Watson hid under their nicknames, such as 'Huggie' and 'Spuggie', and the ironic 'Fat Boy'.

"As a description of how motor cycle dispatch riding was developed there can be no better text." Brooklands Bulletin

“ … A magnificent book… Exceptionally well researched, beautifully illustrated and printed on high-quality, glossy paper, this is everything a good history book should be.” Cross & Cockade

“ … a delightful book which can holder a reader’s interest for a long period of time. If you are not tempted to buy a copy, this review has failed in its intention to enthuse readers for the subject. Highly recommended.” Vintage Sports Car Club Bulletin

“ … a studiously researched, well-written volume.” Classic Motorcycle

“This is a very comprehensive book, and even those who know little or nothing about motorcycles will learn from it, all the complexities of the machines are explained in simple terms and with great accuracy. 5 stars.” ARRSE

“It is one of those rare titles that are so emotive it is difficult not to become completely absorbed. The layout, print quality and photographic reproduction is exceptional. Highly recommended.” Society of Automotive Historians

Additional Information

Author Shelley, M. & N. Shelley
Publisher Helion and Company
ISBN 9781911096580
Date of Publication April 2017
Edition No
Binding Hardback
Book Size 245mm x 170mm
Number of pages 296 pages
Images c 100 b/w photos, 8 maps
Language English
SKU HEL0722

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