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A despatch rider is a military messenger, mounted on horse or motorcycle.

Despatch riders were used by armed forces to deliver urgent orders and messages between headquarters and military units. They had a vital role at a time when telecommunications were limited and insecure.

United Kingdom[edit | edit source]

A British motorcycle despatch rider, 1915

In the British Army, motorcycle despatch riders were first used in the World War I by the Royal Engineers Signal Service. The riders were originally volunteers, some of whom supplied their own machines. The British often referred to despatch riders as Don R's during World War 2.[1] In World War II, Royal Corps of Signals soldiers carried out the role and the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team was formed from their number. They were also used by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, where they maintained contact with land bases and some of the riders were members of the Womens Royal Naval Service. The British military often used Triumph Motorcycles for this purpose.

Fictional references[edit | edit source]

A military despatch rider collects and delivers the funniest joke in the world in a Monty Python sketch which can be seen in the 1971 film And Now for Something Completely Different.

Notable riders[edit | edit source]

Memoirs of riders[edit | edit source]

  • W. H. L. Watson. Adventures of a Motorcycle Despatch Rider During the First World War: ISBN 978-1-84685-046-2
  • Raymond Mitchell Commando Despatch Rider: ISBN 0-85052-797-X

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

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