For over a century the motorcycle has played a range of roles in military life. Initially those in charge knew the forces needed motorcycles but couldn’t think ‘how’, while the cavalry wanted the services to have nothing to do with the evil devices. Could they see their days were numbered for many duties?
Designers and forward thinking officers installed guns on handlebars, in sidecars and even to tricycle attachments, envisaging riders or passengers acting as ‘gunners’ while they were on the move.
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Not the soundest of ideas schemed by man… But it was discovered motorcycle combination gun ships could reach many awkward locations faster than any other motorised military vehicle.
Stretcher carriers, fire appliance equipment, workshops, radio equipment and much more was fitted to sidecars and in some instances lighter equipment was carried by solo machines too.
Through necessity, the authorities realised the motorcycle was ideal for dispatch work, a role it soon took over from the horse.
However, the solo motorcycle and sidecar outfit has fulfilled so many other roles, from personnel carriage, to DR work and ceremonial duties, to convoy escort roles. Here we take a look at British military motorcycles, combining their many aspects from the light-hearted to the deadly serious.