Film Vault: Testing British Army Motorcycles in 1915I like to imagine the conversation that led to the first scene in this film, which shows...
I like to imagine the conversation that led to the first scene in this film, which shows British-made army motorcycles being put through their paces in 1915.
I picture a British colonel, he's got a camera crew eager to see how the Royal Army is using these newfangled motorcycles: "You there, Pvt. Whatever-your-name-is! Hop on this mechanized dandy horse and give us a bit of a twirl in that stream!"
"But, Colonel, sir. I'm not really dressed for it, sir. I'm wearing a trenchcoat, sir."
"Pish posh, old boy! We'll never defeat the blasted Jerries with that attitude. Go on; get a leg over. As I so often say to my wife, do it for England!"
Actually, based on their attire it appears the folks testing these bikes are engineers or factory workers of some sort. Probably not a bad thing to be during World War I, while everyone else was busy being cut to ribbons by machine guns or developing trench foot.
There's something deeply charming about watching this footage from more than 100 years ago, especially in the latter half of the film when it shows seven men hopping on a motorcycle with the sort of precision normally reserved for Chinese acrobats.
I like, too, the scenes featuring a number of riders launching themselves up a hill for the amusement of a group of ladies adorned in their finest hats. There's no audio to go with this particular bit of film –– "talkies" wouldn't show up in cinemas until more than a decade later –– so, without any real backstory or explanation, anything I might say about it is just speculation.
All we know is that it was filmed "near Coventry" in England. So, possibly what we're seeing are tests of the Triumph Model H: a 499cc four-stroke single-cylinder motorcycle that produced a mind-melting 4 hp. That bike was designed for WWI dispatch riders and manufactured in Coventry.
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