Despatch rider
A despatch rider is a military messenger, mounted on horse or motorcycle.

Despatch riders were used by armed forces to deliver urgent orders and messages between headquarters and military units. They had a vital role at a time when telecommunication
Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

s were limited and insecure.

United Kingdom

In the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, motorcycle despatch riders were first used in the World War I by the Royal Engineers Signal Service. The riders were originally volunteers, some of whom supplied their own machines. The British often referred to despatch riders as Don R's during World War 2. In World War II, Royal Corps of Signals
Royal Corps of Signals
The Royal Corps of Signals is one of the combat support arms of the British Army...

 soldiers carried out the role and the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team
Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team
The Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team , also known as the White Helmets, is a group of serving soldiers from the Royal Corps of Signals of the British Army, who give public displays of motorcycling skills, acrobatics and stunt riding...

 was formed from their number. They were also used by the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, where they maintained contact with land bases and some of the riders were members of the Womens Royal Naval Service. The British military often used Triumph Motorcycles for this purpose.

Fictional references

A military despatch rider collects and delivers the funniest joke in the world
The Funniest Joke in the World
"The Funniest Joke in the World" is the title most frequently used for written references to a Monty Python's Flying Circus comedy sketch, which is also known by two other phrases that appear within it, "Joke Warfare" and "Killer Joke", the latter being the most commonly spoken title used to refer...

in a Monty Python
Monty Python
Monty Python was a British surreal comedy group who created their influential Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on 5 October 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series...

Sketch comedy
A sketch comedy consists of a series of short comedy scenes or vignettes, called "sketches," commonly between one and ten minutes long. Such sketches are performed by a group of comic actors or comedians, either on stage or through an audio and/or visual medium such as broadcasting...

 which can be seen in the 1971 film And Now for Something Completely Different
And Now For Something Completely Different
And Now for Something Completely Different is a film spin-off from the television comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus featuring favorite sketches from the first two seasons. The title was used as a catchphrase in the television show....


Notable riders

  • Charles Kingsford Smith
    Charles Kingsford Smith
    Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith MC, AFC , often called by his nickname Smithy, was an early Australian aviator. In 1928, he earned global fame when he made the first trans-Pacific flight from the United States to Australia...

     - Aviator
  • Charles Symonds
    Charles Symonds
    Sir Charles Putnam Symonds KBE CB was an English neurologist.His initial medical training was at Guy's Hospital, followed by specialised training at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery...

     - Neurologist
  • Henry Allingham
    Henry Allingham
    Henry William Allingham was a British supercentenarian, First World War veteran and, for one month, the verified oldest living man in the world...

    - Aircraft mechanic, later briefly the world's oldest man

Memoirs of riders

  • W. H. L. Watson. Adventures of a Motorcycle Despatch Rider During the First World War: ISBN 978-1846850462
  • Raymond Mitchell Commando Despatch Rider: ISBN 085052797X
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