Remembrance Sunday 2018: “Mentioned in dispatches”

Our Remembrance Sunday article. We always pay respect to those that took part in war and made the ultimate sacrifice when asked. Many of these were keen and active off road motorcyclists who in civilian times were keen competitors in events. With this year being the 100th anniversary of the end of the first world war we no longer have those who were there to remind us of the great sacrifices made by even those who survived it.

With 24/7 access to information of where in the most remote corners of the world we can get a map of where we are , we can find out where our friends are and get messages in text audio or visual form from whoever we need speak to its going to be hard to convince the children of tomorrow that people would often wait hours or days to get details of what they were to do next or what might be happening outside their line of site. At War communications has been as important as keeping troops fed and fit.

Dispatch riders in Turkey

Photo – Dispatch riders of the Royal engineers on service in the Dardanelles Campaign at Gallipoli against the Turkish Ottomans 1915-16


At an early stage of the development of the motorcycle it was evident it could get from point to point rapidly and getting it over the most difficult of terrains, whilst not easy created competitions that developed skills and and developed machinery that excelled better every year. It was an obvious component that would help in the necessary hand delivery of hand written messages that were necessary to enable military planners deliver their next tactical move. We saw in World War One across all campaign war fields the motorcycle taking a leading role replacing horses to help keep communications moving. The Army initiated the Royal Engineers Signals Service which eventually years later morphed into the Royal Signals Regiment delivering both messages and technology for delivery of messages. In many cases the motorcycle riders were already keen motorcyclists who would be racing in competitions testing the speed and off-road capability of their bikes. In August 1914 the War Department asked Motorcyclists to volunteer with their bikes. Many Owner-riders were recruited and asked to bring their bikes along to help form this new service 400 saw service in 1914.

British dispatch rider takes a message in Belgian village-$14113118$605

Photo – WW1 Dispatch rider collecting message

The story of one of these groups of volunteers, with bothers Cecil and Aleck Burney and Oxford undergraduate WHL Watson who joined the British Expeditionary Force is given in the recent book Two Wheels to War by Martin and Nick Shelley (Helion Publishing 2017.

dispatch riders

Photo – Cecil Burney, Willie Watson,George Owen, Huggie Trespass, Grimers, Fatters, Sadders Spuggie all early volunteers DR’s serving on their motorcycles in Flanders in 1914 (©Helion Company)

British Pathe‘ News newsreel below of the testing of Motorcycles in the Midlands for the British Army

The role of the ‘Dispatch Riders’ became vital to the success of a campaign where their speed, agility and stealth meant they were often less prominent than vehicles or horse riders as well as being able to tackle a wide range of ground conditions. Later companies such as BSA, Royal Enfield and Triumph made machines specifically constructed and modified to serve this purpose and the military motorcycle is a common site even today

British Pathe‘ News newsreel below with some more testing of Motorcycles in the Midlands for the British Army

DR’s as they were know had a tough job requiring supreme handling skills whilst also active at the front line they were vulnerable to enemy fire such as snipers. It required resilience and stamina along with navigational skills at any time of the day they are required. Service was often exposed to more treacherous conditions and were paid accordingly higher than an infantryman

Whilst the ISDT was stopped in its tracks when its 2nd edition fell victim to the global conflict in 1914, after the war the Army quickly saw the benefits in rider development with reliability trials and the Army teams were regular entrants to many national and international reliability trials as well as running their own events to test riders ability for speed and self reliance.

British Pathe‘ News newsreel below featuring an Army organised reliability trial that was the forerunner of modern army organised events such as the Natterjack Enduro held on Army tank ranges in the South of England


For more information on how the Dispatch Riders help win at war can be found in this article recently published by the British Motorcyclists Federation.



ISDT 1952 – The Beezer Bantam that came in from the cold.



Fitzroy Allen’s original BSA Bantam from the ISDT 1952 has been recovered recently from a garage by reader of our facebook page. After put into storage in 1953 this immaculate original ISDT bike was recently brought from the Fitzroys’s family and now resides in comfort in South West Wales. The new owner is keen to share it’s history and would welcome any advice or guidance from any ISDT fans about how best to restore this bygone classic….. am I envious.. you better bet.

The bike was shown at the recent Swansea Classic Motorbike show and attracted a lot of interest including a number of people familiar with its history as a unique one off bike built by the BSA Works factory race shop to be campaigned by Fitzroy Allen. All images are copyright Steven Beavis the lucky owner of this rare gem from this history of British Motorcycle manufacturing.

Photo – Fitzroy Allen’s Works BSA Bantam at Swansea Classic Bike Show Oct 2018

Bike detail images

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – Quick release front wheel axles

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – front brake lever

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam Twin cable clutch lever

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam handlebar mount and steering damper

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam clock with 10,431 miles recorded

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – Fuel Tank

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – Tool bag and map / check card holder

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam Spark plug and decompressor

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – Engine

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – Compressed air bottle

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam Quick release rear wheel axles and suspension

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam – rear number plate

Fitzroy in the ISDT

Image: Clipping from US ‘Cycle’ Mag from 1951 featuring gold medal winning Fitzroy Allen on his BSA Bantam

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam #30 ISDT 1952

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA BantamWelsh Three Day Trial 1952

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam #31 ISDT 1954

Photo – Fitzroy Allen BSA Bantam #31 ISDT 1954


Long live Bill Kershaw 1925 – 2018


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It is with extreme sadness tonight I have to report the passing on of Welsh Enduro legend Bill Kershaw in the early hours of the 18th March. Bill was one of the main characters of the Enduro scene in Wales where from his Newport home he was one of the driving force in the Welsh Trail Riders Association, organisers of such classic events as the Snow Run and Beacons Enduro. However not only was Bill a legend, as well as his wife, in their own right, his father Bert Kershaw had been a rider of national importance for Britain in the 1920’s and 1930’s


Photo – ISDT 1954 Wales Bill Kershaw is seen checking over his bike. Bill was to become a stalwart of the ISDT scene in Wales and later the Enduro events run by the WTRA

I knew Bill many years mostly from his work helping to protect our road network from the continual sibling that was reducing the availability of routes. Whilst at one public enquiry faced by an aggressive local authority solicitor intent on stopping motorbikes from continuing to use an ancient road he was asked to explain how good his memory was by a comparison with his understanding of the route by his recollection fo the traffic light system in Newport. In the kind of inconsequential way Bill would reply to such questions having confirmed he knew the traffic light system exceptionally well he added that has Director of Highways at Newport Council he clearly has good reason to have a good understanding of it. At that moment the wind seemed to drop out of the solicitors sails and he clearly conceded what ever cheap point he was about to make was going to only confirm his own stupidity. His loss is very personal to me as I was a great admirer of the man who gave me significant guidance on many matters that have added to my life’s successes.

Mapping the ISDT: 1967 Poland



As part of the preparation to trying to create a digital map of the original route in the modern times we are publishing a print of the event route for the event should any Polish readers or speakers be able to help us in locating a number of the places and tracks. More information can be found in the program for the ISDT 1967 event on the event page.

z67isdt_program34-35 map

Image – route map Day 1 Zakopane Poland ISDT 1967

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1938 NSU OSL 251 Sport

H & H are holding their beloved auction at the National Motorcycle Museum on the 9th December 2017.

A number of worth period pieces for the inter war years can be seen including a BMW R35 from 1939 and a Velocette MOV from 1938 which appears to have had only two owners since new.

1938 NSU OSL 251 Sport lot33

photo – NSU OSL 251 Sport 1938 – (HH Auctions)

My attention was however drawn to Lot 33, this delightful German NSU in the above photo and very much a dream ISDT machine of the inter war year German motorbike industry. From Germany there is little detail of its heritage but it clearly could have given a good performance in the ISDT with an estimate of £7500 – 8500 with bidding starting at £3750 I can see it being a popular piece for any off-road heritage collectors

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ISDT 1939: the movie


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Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, come inside come inside.

The ‘Great Escape’ as it was known amongst UK ISDT fans, possibly the ‘Great Escape 2’ to those who are most familiar also with the events around the ISDT 1914, is one of the iconic events in the international off-road motorcycle reliability series dedicated to testing motorcyclist and motorcycle endurance where they did not expect machines to excel for a mere continuous 24 hours but a full 6 days to test their mechanical stamina and that of the riders mounted on them. You will find an embedded copy of the video down underneath the below photo of a British Norton.

Norton ISDT 1939

image- frame clipped from the NSU promotional movie of a British team Norton ISDT 1939

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Mapping the ISDT:West Germany 1956


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Thank you to our Euro correspondent SB for digging up a route map for the 6th day of the ISDT 1956. We have now loaded it into Google Earth to protect it’s history and provide a copy of the scanned map here for those studying the 1956 event held at Garmisch Partenkirchen.

six day maps 1956

Image – The route of the 6th and final day of the ISDT 1956 to the east of Garmisch PartenKirchen

If any readers have any experiences or photos of this route please drop a line so we can add them to the events route profile.

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ISDT 1956: Official event programme now on-line


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With great thanks to our Euro ISDT expert we now have a scanned copy of the event programme for the ISDT 1956 which has been hand annotated to record the final starting list on the first day.

The program can be found at our library along with other programmes and magazine reports from the original events

ISDT 1925: Miss L Ball & MissE Foley at Brooklands


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I am grateful to our readerStewart Ellison who drew my attention to this excellent photo taken of #52 Miss E Foley with her Triumph 499cc ohv alongside #64 Miss L Ball James 499cc.

Vintage Photographs of Women and Motorcycles (21).jpg

#52 Miss E Foley 499c Triumph with #64 Miss L Ball James 499cc [DM4687] at Brooklands circuit ISDT 1925

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Classic Enduro – Valle Bergamasche


Thanks to Brian Catt for spotting and sharing a classic video of a major Italian Enduro that was held in Bergamo in 1964, the same year as the ISDT in E Germany that many still relate to the participation of a US team with Steve McQueen

The event was held by the Moto Club Bergamo a well known and respected motor cycle club. The following article was created by a direct translation by Google Translate and we thank the Moto Club Bergamo and hope you enjoy the videos.

Generations of fans, not only from Bergamo, have lived VALLI as an epic, generations of public administrators have applied for, desired, cajoled as a guarantee flower for tourism development to be celebrated in the municipal councils, parishes, in the newspapers.

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