'Despatch Rider' is now available in paperback!
Lots of 5* reviews on Amazon - see 'Reviews' page
New content added to 'Sgt Raymond Alvey RAF' page
Articles on 'Vintage British Bikes' and Pen and Sword's 'Warfare magazine' websites
Review by Ian Hay- Campbell, Friends of the National Archives
Review by Paul Norman in Books Monthly
Review in Nacelle (Triumph Owners' magazine)
'Despatch Rider' is spotted on the (bottom) shelves at Foyles - and the top shelf at The National Archives!
'Despatch Rider' is featured in Classic Motorcycle magazine
Forthcoming talks and events - see EVENTS
Despatch Rider on the Western Front 1915-18, in both hardback and paperback versions, can be bought direct from the editor - please email as below. The publishers, Pen and Sword Books, can also supply E-Pub and Kindle versions of the book.
If you have any queries please email me:
February 7th 1916
A beautiful bright day but very cold and windy. Our motorcycles are showing wear and tear in all parts. The mud and bad roads this winter are showing their effect, practically every wearing part requires renewal. Unfortunately there are no spares available and we have to make up one good machine from two old ones. We are told there are spares on the way but they have been saying this for a couple of months. At the same time it is wonderful how the machines stand up to the terrible roads we have out here which are broken up by the heavy transport.
Higher up the trench I came across the body of one of our men badly mutilated, one of his arms had been blown off and half of his face was missing. The front of his tunic was shredded like wool and the ammunition in his pouches had exploded. A pretty ghastly sight but it raised no more feeling in me than one feels in a butcher’s shop. War brings one down to the level of animals.
September 12th 1916
I have yet to hear of a message of any importance being sent by pigeon. While so much depends on the vagaries of the birds it is too risky to send important messages by carrier pigeon. It would be quite a tragedy if a bird arrived with a message and refused to enter the loft. I can imagine a pathetic little scene with the Staff gathered around the loft throwing corn and whistling in the approved fashion trying to entice a perverse bird from the housetops. What is really wanted is a bird of that famous Lancashire strain, a cross between a parrot and a pigeon.
There is a dressing station on the road between Engelbelmer and Martinsart. I called there to pick up their returns. Hundreds of wounded were lying in the open awaiting their turn for attention, some on stretchers, some lying on straw which had been laid on the ground. God, what a sight, plastered with mud and blood, faces yellow from loss of blood, many already dead and still the waggons and lorries rolled up. Waiting for the returns in the midst of this shambles was just as much as I could stand. Several asked me for a drink which I hadn’t got, but I gave away the few cigarettes I had with me. Among them were a fair number of Germans and I noticed that the orderlies made no distinction between friend and foe.
22 December 1916
Last night we had a farewell dinner at the Clef d’Or which was a gorgeous affair. After dinner there was a poker game with eight players, a pure gamble. It lasted two hours and by that time only three survived to play for the spoils. Then we had a sing-song with all the old smutty numbers and finally Garnier gave an exhibition of his famous bottle feat. This consists of lying full length on the floor with a bottle balanced on his forehead. Whilst rising he balances the bottle and finally stands on his feet amid the plaudits of an admiring crowd. A good trick which he does to prove he is not drunk, but I doubt if he could do it when sober.