The Douglas motorcycle in World War One

Brothers William and Edward Douglas formed the Douglas Engineering Company in Bristol in 1882.  They built their first motorcycle between 1902 and 1904 and in World War One they produced over 70,000 motorcycles for military use.

Indeed, pictures show the Douglas used in many operations, from the early encounters in Mons through to the Armistice in France. Contemporary photographs show the motorcycle at Gallipoli beach and from Africa to Mespotomia the British and Empire armies used the motorcycle to communicate.

The motorcycle was used by all of the Allied forces, particularly the British. The motorcycle saw service with the army, navy and fledgling Royal Flying Corps, within the army it was used extensively by the Army Service Corps, Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery as well as individual regiments and it was widely used by Staff as a communications vehicle.

A Belgian soldier directs two British despatch riders at the early part of World War One

A British soldier on a Douglas

Here we see a Douglas being used by Allied armies in reconnaissance

Here we see three British DR’s. Note the variety of baggage that was stowed on the motorbike

Here we see a Douglas posed in front of requisitioned vehicles intended for military use. At the beginning of the war many civilian vehicles, including motorcycles, were requisitioned for the War Office

I’m not sure if this image was taken in the UK or overseas, but it does show how the bike would have looked in France. The motorcycle was used as much for its off road as much as on road capabilities, a useful tool when the road system is congested

A group of DR’s check for directions. At the outbreak of World War One maps were in short supply and there are even records of atlases being used, therefore finding their way was one of the biggest challenges of Despatch Riders

Without doubt my favourite image of the Douglas, this picture of Gallipoli beach not only shows the vast array of motorbikes used in theatre, but the irregular uniforms worn at that stage. This image might prove inspiration for a future release!

Researching the Douglas motorcycle today

Luckily, many examples of the Douglas motorcycle can be found and can even be seen still roaring around the English countryside. If you want to see a real example then there is a Douglas forum at www.douglasmotorcycles.net

The best place I have found to see an actual example of the bike used for this kit is at the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull, West Midlands, UK. The National Motorcycle Museum website is: www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk

Images from the National Motorcycle Museum example:

There are also a host of images on the internet, I would advise with any model kit to thoroughly browse through the web to find original sources (its amazing what is out there!), here are a few more:

I always look out for reenactment societies too, they are a great source of knowledge, inspiration and ideas and generally very approachable: