Partridge Green resident remembers delivering messages on the Front Line

JPCT 071114 S14470542x Partridge Green. George Brown,93. Former dispatch rider on Enfield motorcycle. COPY PHOTOGRAPH. DO NOT PRINT REF NUMBER  -copy by Steve Cobb SUS-140711-124149001
JPCT 071114 S14470542x Partridge Green. George Brown,93. Former dispatch rider on Enfield motorcycle. COPY PHOTOGRAPH. DO NOT PRINT REF NUMBER -copy by Steve Cobb SUS-140711-124149001

Travelling around Europe delivering messages whilst enjoying the beautiful countryside may not seem like a bad job to some.

But what if we throw in the fact that you have no map, you have to work all hours of the day in all weather conditions and the fact it is the middle of the Second World War with the constant threat of planes, bombs and tanks.

For George Brown, from Partridge Green, this was his job for four years where he braved snow, ice and also few bombings as he followed the Allied forces through Europe telling them where to go next.

George worked as a despatch rider for the British army during the Second World War and it was his job to deliver vital messages from the officers to the different regiments and the front line throughout the global conflict.

“I joined the army as a despatch rider in 1941,” he said.

“I used to get motorcycle monthly and one week there was a coupon in the magazine asking for dispatch riders.

“I filled in the coupon and didn’t think much of it. Then I got a letter back from the Home Office and was told to go to Northern Ireland.

“By the end of the war I knew Northern Ireland like the back of my hand.”

George was part of the Royal Corps of Signals regiment which included nine other despatch riders.

He was surprised with how little training he and his friend Pit Walters, who signed up with him, were given and the fact they were both thrown straight into the deep end

“I did expect to receive some training but I didn’t receive much. After two days they chucked me out on the motorbike. For some reason they did not train me and my friend. I think it was that we were quite experienced motorcyclist when we joined which is why we were thrown straight out there.”

Despite being an experienced cyclist he said nothing could prepare him for some of the weather conditions he faced and George explained there were no excuses when it came to delivering these messages.

“We had to ride whatever the weather even if there was ice, snow fog or rain. There was one time I was in Lisburn in Northern Ireland and I went over the mountains to Ballymena. I must have been one sheet of ice by the end of it.”

But if delivering these vital messages in all weathers was not enough pressure for George he also said that the riders were rarely given maps and had to memorise the route before they left.

This may not have been a big problem when he was placed in Northern Ireland and later to Essex, where he could understand the road signs, but when it came to driving around Europe this added an extra challenge to an already difficult job.

George travelled across France, through Belgium and into Germany following the Allied troops, delivering messages back and forth between the different regiments and the commanding officers.

But it wasn’t just delivering messages that George was instructed to do. He also had the job of escorting different convoys and troops through Europe and making sure they all got to their respective destinations.

“We had to escort the convoys. The despatch riders’ job was to make sure we kept them in line and got them to where they needed to go.

Sometimes when you had to ride on the outside tanks would come down the outside and get a bit close. It was always in my mind that one of the tracks would come of the tank and would hit me. Luckily that never happened.”

That was not the only danger George faced.

“We were close to the fighting but we weren’t fighting,” he said.

“We could hear the fighting. If you heard the sound of a V2 and then it went quiet that’s when you would jump on the floor.

“But I knew as long as there was fighting going on they would not bother with a man on a bike.”

Another part of the job that George remembers as not so enjoyable was a V2 bombing in Antwerp which killed many Allied workers and the despatch riding team were sent to clean it up and rescue those who survived.

“A V2 fell on the post office,” he said. “We had the horrible job of rescuing people from it. We had a team of ours that was moved there. I was quite fortunate it was not me.”

Despite the difficulties of the job George said he absolutely loved it and really enjoyed driving across Europe and being by himself.

“I loved it. I was doing something I really enjoyed.”

Both George and his wife Thelma believe that he is one of the last people alive who worked as a despatch rider during the Second World War and because of this he was recently given the opportunity by Royal Enfield to go down and see one of the old bikes he rode in the war.

He was able to see the old bike and was presented with a £400 jacket as well as getting the VIP treatment for the day.

Even though George retired more than 50 years ago from the army he still enjoys riding his two wheeled vehicles even if he can no longer ride a motorcycle.

He recently completed a 44 mile charity bike ride in May where he raised £471 for St Catherine’s Hospice and George says he has no plans to stop with preparations already under way for next year’s ride.