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Lonely tribute to 105th Anzac Day

Anzac Day tribute

Australians and New Zealanders will commemorate the 105th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli this unusual Anzac Day in a lonely tribute at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You can mark the day in your own way, or watch the Australian War Memorial annual Anzac Day service in a live ABC broadcast.

Riders should take particular note of the significant role played by military motorcycles and their riders in wartime.

Here is our annual tribute:

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

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).

Indian military motorcycles
Military motorcycles at the Indian Motorcycle Museum, Brisbane

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

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.

Despatch male and female riders were brave and highly skilled.

They had one of the most dangerous tasks delivering maps, orders, intelligence and situational updates in frontline situations.

They also had to be highly skilled riders as the roads were often bombed out and the terrain worse than a motocross course!

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

Future role

While the motorcycle’s various uses have been replaced by modern communications and helicopters, there is still a role for motorcycles in today’s military and into the future.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 unusual 105th 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.