How the Great War Was Won. by Motorcyclists

Article excerpt


San Fairy Ann? Motorcycles and British Victory 1914-1918 Michael Carragher Firestep Press [euro]24 ????? Among the books to hit the shelves as the centenary of World War I approaches is a robust read with an intriguing title, San Fairy Ann? Motorcycles And British Victory 1914-1918. Unlike Max Hastings' excellent Catastrophe, which ends with the Christmas Truce, this covers the entire war - but focuses on 1914.

It examines something that so far has been overlooked: the role of despatch riders. Students of history may raise an eyebrow at the claim that without these the Allies could have been defeated in 1914, but the author is endorsed by Dr John Bourne, an acclaimed World War I scholar, and he supports his thesis with about 300 sources, over 1,000 end-notes and solid argumentation.

While he presents his conclusions tentatively, acknowledging that cavalry patrols and 'the heroic endurance of the Poor Bloody Infantry' were also essential to the survival of the British Expeditionary Force, he makes a convincing case that despatch riders, mostly young volunteers, held the BEF together in the retreat from Mons, when other forms of communication proved unsuitable or were overwhelmed. …