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Hellfire Pass ride commemorates Anzac Day


A group of Aussie riders is celebrating Anzac Day with their second ride to the famous River Kwai and Hellfire Pass in Thailand.

The group did the ride in 2016 and motorcycle industry stalwart Dale Schimdtchen decided to return with more Aussies.

The four are riding 150cc scooters and hoped to arrive in Hellfire Pass last night.

Dale said he decided to visit the World War II historic sights after reading a first-hand account of the horror and depravation that occurred during the brutal regime of the occupying Japanese Army and their intent to build a railway from Thailand to Burma, using prisoner-of-war labour.

Helfire ceremony

Anzac Day in Thailand
Laying wreaths at Hellfire Pass

Hellfire Pass hosts an annual Anzac Day celebration and many other riders also make the pilgrimage.

Dignitaries from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand lay wreathes and give stirring speeches at the ceremony.

Then they take the long, steep journey back to the museum and car park for a ‘gunfire breakfast’ that includes Anzac Biscuits, plus tea/coffee, with a nip of Bundaberg Rum.

Anzac Day tribute

Royal Engineers on the beaches of Gallipoli anzac
Royal Engineers on the beaches of Gallipoli

On the 104th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli this Anzac Day, riders should note the significant role played by military motorcycles and their riders in wartime.

As the above image shows, motorcycles were present on the famed beaches of Gallipoli. This Admiralty official photo shows members of the Royal Engineers (Signal Service).

Military motorcycles have played a number of vital roles in times of war and peace and are a significant feature in many motorcycle, and military and war museums around the world, including the Harley museum in Milwaukee, the Indian Motorcycle museum in Brisbane and the Australian War Memorial. We have included photos from museums we’ve visited as well as images from the Australian War Memorial on the Motorbike Writer Pinterest page.


Norton Big 4 military motorcycle
Norton Big 4 military motorcycle

Military models

Most motorcycle manufacturers have, at some time, produced military models. They include Harley-Davidson, Indian, Norton, BMW, Moto Guzzi, Royal Enfield, Honda and Velocette. In fact, some of them started life because of their military use. For example, BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms company, a manufacturer of military firearms.

Military motorcycle uses have been many and varied over the years. Apart from use in the cavalry as a rapid and manoeuvrable machine to mobilise troops, they have also played vital roles in signals regiments, for mail despatch, medical use and chaplaincy.

BRD electric military motorcycle hybrid power tvs
BRD electric donor bike for DARPA hybrid project

While the motorcycle’s various uses have been replaced by modern communications and helicopters, there is still a role for motorcycles in today’s military and into the future. For example, the American military is researching and developing a hybrid-powered motorcycle for stealth operations by special forces.

Wartime necessitates the research and development of innovative military machinery including motorcycles. One of the more interesting motorcycles developed for wartime use was the Mark 2 Welbike. It was a collapsible motorcycle powered by a Villiers 98cc two-stroke engine. Originally designed by the British Special Operations Executive for use in covert operations, the Welbike was used by British airborne and parachute regiments. The bikes folded down into a parachute container and were dropped with the airborne units for rapid deployment on landing.

Mark 2 Welbike military motorcycle
Mark 2 Welbike

The Welbike pictured from the Australian War Memorial display is understood to have been retrieved from the island of Moratai where it was used by a Light Aid Detachment to fetch the mail.

So, on this 104th anniversary Anzac Day, let’s not forget the importance of the motorcycle in helping our troops. And, of course, the brave and talented soldiers who rode them!

  • We’d like to thank the Australian War Memorial  for their help in compiling this article and for the use of their photographs.