You were asking: Scaldis and service motorcycles

Interested in First World War history and as a motorcyclist myself, I’m always attracted to any mentions of dispatch riders and their machines.

Every military force used a variety of motorcycles during the First World War, as this British ‘selection’ underlines.

‘The diary of a dispatch rider attached to the Belgian General Staff’ by E van Isacker, in ‘The Sphere,’ December 12, 1914, informs: “Van Isacker was attached to the Belgian General Staff on August 2, 1914, and given a 2½HP Scaldis. Later on sentry duty it appears he witnessed the capture of spies in various disguises including as nuns.”

On a run on August 7, 1914, van Isacker reports: “I did not stop soon enough for a sentinel and got his bayonet through my cloak.” Later on the same day he was captured by 10 Polish Uhlans while trying to repair his motorcycle, feigned illness, rolled down a bank despite having his hands tied and escaped by wading through water under bushes. On return to the Staff he was issued with a 7HP Indian to replace the Scaldis he’d been forced to abandon.

Soon after, van Isacker spent a week in a Ghent hospital after losing consciousness during ‘a most exciting encounter’ with more Uhlans. He was then sent home as unfit for further service – in effect, a very early casualty of what would become known as shellshock.

While this report is part of First World War history, what is a Scaldis?

Michael Carragher, author of San Fairy Ann.

Read more in the April issue of TCM – out now!

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