08 December 2013

Indian Bicycle Troops

Although I'm not a military or war buff, I find it interesting to see how various armed forces throughout the world have used the bicycle. If pedaled two-wheeled vehicles can be used under the conditions in which the military deploys them, it is, if nothing else a testament to their versatility. While I don't endorse colonialism, I couldn't resist publishing this photo of Indian bicycle troops on the Fricourt-Mametz road in Somme, France. 

From the Imperial War Museum

They were, of course, fighting for the British and their French allies in one of the bloodiest battles in all of human history. I hope those Indian troops continued to ride after the fighting stopped. After all, as much as I abhor war and imperialism, I've got to admit that it probably left them with bike-handling skills I'll never have!


  1. WW1 horse mortality - War horses never made it home after the war. And, it wiped out two colors of the Friesian breed - gray and bay. Finally, the movie "War Horse" told the story.

  2. Liz--That's very interesting, I knew that the war all but wiped out a generation of European men. But I didn't know that it brough gray and bay Friesians to extinction. Thanks for the info.

  3. The Finnish army used bicycles extensively in WW2. Bicycle troops made possible for the Finnish army to make fast movements in the battlefield. This tactical and strategic mobility allowed the Finnish army advance at same speed to the Soviet Union in 1941 as German Panzer divisions. Also Japanese Imperial army used bicycles extensively in WW2 and the high mobility allowed the Japanese advance through Malay much faster than the British expected. This was one of the major reasons behind the fall of Singapore so quickly. By the way Finnish army still uses bicycles quite widely as they allow much faster troop movements than on foot.

  4. Kalevi--Thanks for the information about how the Finnish and Japanese armies use, and have used, bicycles.

    Hmm...Am I about to start a new sub-specialty: the history of bicycles in the military? That would be ironic, given some of what I said in this post!

  5. A neighbour was so proud about having cleared out her attic space, throwing out a panoramic photograph of her father's cycle regiment lined up to attention!

    Do the Swiss not use Montague folding bicycles?

  6. Coline--I think the Swiss are now using Montague bikes. For nearly a century, they used three-speeds equipped with rifle mounts and other things a soldier would want.

    I wish I could have seen the photo you mention.