When we think about the First World War, we usually tend to think of the emergence of the tank, the use of cars and trucks, the mechanization of warfare, and the new kinds of weaponry that were used. Motorcycles, however, hardly ever come up as a point of discussion in conversations about the Great War. This might also be because horses were mostly used in the cavalry and as officers' mounts during the war, while mules were the primary transport animals.
However, motorbikes did play a small but important part during WWI. When the war began, motorcycles were mostly standard bikes with an attached engine. The British army then began developing bikes that were more suited for battles. In 1915, the Motor Machine Gun Service, a unit of the British Army in the First World War, was formed. It consisted of batteries of cycle/sidecar combinations carrying Vickers machine guns.
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The importance of motorbikes in delivering messages, too, was soon discovered. Since regular telegraph lines were often damaged during enemy artillery fire, the Triumph motorcycle came to the rescue. It went on to become a crucial tool for British communication on the frontlines.
The German army, too, tried motorcycles as a replacement for horses during cavalry charges. That plan backfired, though, as bikes were prone to flipping over on uneven terrains.
It’s estimated that more than 80,000 motorbikes were used in WWI. However, they were overshadowed by tanks and horses. But the war wouldn’t have been what it was if it wasn’t for the presence of motorcycles. Here, we look at some amazing bikes from the First World War.
Related: World War I Saw the Creation of Some Weird Vehicles
1. A detachment of motorcyclists with the military armored car section.
2. A British army dispatch rider sitting on his motorcycle, looking at a map. The motorcycle appears to be a Triumph. During the First World War, Triumph produced about 30,000 Model H Roadsters for the Allies. The machines were nicknamed the "Trusty Triumphs".
3. British WWI motorcycle troop on scout duty
4. A 1916 Douglas bike. During World War 1, around 70,000 models of the British bike was used by the military
5. Two British wartime women in Belgium on a Royal Enfield with a sidecar (between 1914 and 1918)
6. A soldier during WWI on a Harley-Davidson
7. A soldier during WWI on his Indian motorcycle, 1917. It was a lightweight motorcycle made by the Hendee Manufacturing Company from 1917 to 1919.
8. Two Italian army officers riding an INDIAN 999 cc twin-cylinder machine fitted with a sidecar during the First World War
9. Tank Corp's mascot, 'Stunter,' and his officer, France, during World War I on a Douglas bike. Mascots were kept by many groups of soldiers during both world wars.
10. Two men of the Machine Gun Corps (Motors) and their motorcycle, June 1918. Here, these two gunners are seen feeding a new ammunition belt into a gun.
11. Canadian Army dispatch riders embark on a training ride across Salisbury Plain on their Douglas 2.75 horse-power motorcycles on 28 January 1915.
12. A despatch rider in the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) enjoying a tea break while seated on her Phelon & Moore 500cc single-cylinder motorcycle, 1918.
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