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The Daredevil of the Army

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The Daredevil of the Army
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Author(s): Austin Patrick Corcoran
Date Published: 2011/09
Page Count: 128
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-730-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-729-6

A bikers war—compellingly recounted

The highly dangerous task of the aide-de-camp was often to carry urgent despatches with essential calls to action across the field of battle. The young men chosen for the job were invariably dashing, brave and prepared to take risks to achieve their objectives. They were, of course, always expert horsemen. The age of the military horseman had not quite come to a close at the time of the First World War, but—as with most forms of progress—he was sharing duties with that which would eventually replace him, the machines of the new age. Now there was a another breed of ‘daredevil,’ though necessarily ‘cut from the same cloth.’ The motorcycle despatch riders were a new service created in an age of innovation. All were so called ‘amateur’ soldiers though immediately at least ranked corporal so that they could, by British Army convention, address officers directly. These were invariably intelligent, accomplished young men drawn from the professions or universities. Their creed was the same as that of their horse mounted predecessors—the messages they carried had to get through and to deliver them motorcyclists often had to outpace charging Uhlans. Many of them ended their careers tangled among the wreckage of their ‘bikes.’ The author of this book has written a thrilling first hand account of his experiences riding military motorcycles along the front lines during the early stages of the First World War. Later as an officer he took command of a unit of ‘buzzers,’ whose job it was to maintain telephone links. A highly entertaining book and thoroughly recommended to all those interested in motorcycles, motorcycling and the Great War in Europe.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

“Anything wrong?” asks Grant.<br>
“Oh, nothing much. Had a narrow squeak with some uhlans.” He seems entirely indisposed to go into detail at the moment, so we open him a tin of bully and fetch him some water to help him in recovering his aplomb. If we thought thus to elicit the story, we were mistaken, for, even under the inspiration of a full stomach and a lit pipe, he refuses to satisfy our curiosity. We might never have heard what really happened, if a strange chance had not given us an inkling of the story, and forced him to confess to being a hero.<br>
It was about half an hour later that a troop of our cavalry could be seen galloping over the hill. As they approached, we could see they were escorting some uhlans whom they hemmed in from all sides. Passing the Signal Office, the sergeant caught sight of our subaltern and immediately gave the order to halt. Then, riding over, he saluted, and explained that he had found the Huns prowling along the road leading from the Southeast to Landrecies. Now he would hand them over to the officer’s charge.<br>
They dismounted, preparatory to being led off to an inner room for the customary formality of being questioned. As they did so, one of them caught sight of Poole, and, nudging the other, he was heard to say in quite audible tones:<br>
“There he is!”<br>
But Poole, very busy for the moment with his carburettor, either did not hear or made a fine pretence of not doing so. Five minutes later, however, the sergeant’s head appeared in the doorway, calling for the reticent hero. He departed, to return with a half-happy, half-sheepish grin.<br>
“What’s the matter?”<br>
“Nothing. Some rot these Huns are talking.”<br>
But our curiosity was not to be stilled with such an excuse. By dint of probing both him and the more eloquent sergeant, we got the whole story by degrees. Here it is. It is one of our reasons for being proud of Poole.<br>
He had reached a cross-roads on his way from Landrecies. Shoot to the right—that was the turn for home. His bike took the curve at a dangerous angle, and, as he once more swept into the level, he raised his head to scan the new road. Lawrence was the object he was looking for, but what he saw at a distance of not more than a hundred yards was six uhlans seated on their fine mounts.<br>
There was no time to turn—the speed of his bike decided that. And there was little time to think, not more, indeed, than a few seconds. Would he surrender! That might ensure his life, but the idea of a German prison did not entice him. In quick succession these thoughts shot through his mind, each second making a decision more difficult, as it brought him nearer his enemy. He was making about sixty miles an hour.<br>
“I’ll chance rushing them,” he decided finally, and, banging open the throttle of his machine, he sent his speed up another five miles.<br>
Forty yards from them, he could see them fingering their carbines. Thirty-five yards—he could see one of them, probably a sergeant, shouting an order to the others. Thirty yards—they were stretching in a line across the road.<br>
Letting go one hand, he drew his revolver.<br>
Twenty-five yards—he could see the two centre uhlans taking steady aim at his head. With a sudden jerk he drew himself erect in his saddle and then suddenly let his body fall along the top of his tank, at the same time letting go his revolver. He heard their bullets whizz by him—he had spoiled their aim—and he saw one man topple over, hit square on the chest, and the horse of the second rear and come down with a crash into the two uhlans on the left of the road.<br>
Five yards from them—he could see they were in hopeless confusion, and, as he shot through the broken line exultantly—Poole avers it was the greatest thrill of his life—he sent two more bullets point blank at the men on the right, and tore past, a dark streak on the dusty highway. <br>
Crouched over his handle-bars, muscles taut, nerves quivering, he strained his ears for any sounds that might indicate pursuit. They came. He could hear the pounding of horses’ hoofs on the hard road.