National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Motorcycles in WWII

Army motorcycles were, and still are, used in a number of tasks such as convoy control, traffic control at critical points, escort duties, delivery of signals by despatch riders, and infantry reconnaissance. Although tanks are considered the descendants of cavalry on the battlefield, motorcycles can also fill the role horses used to play in tasks like reconnaissance and message delivery.  Early motorcycles were useful only on the road, and had distinct limitations on the sort of country over which it could travel.



The New Zealand Divisional Signals were one unit of the 2 New Zealand Eexpeditionary Force that, eventually, had motorcycles at its disposal.  However, the Divisional Despatch Riders were unable to train on their motorcycles until 20 Nortons eventually arrived in Egypt, some six months after their initial mobilisation. For many of the despatch riders, this was the first time they had ever ridden a motorcycle. Despatch riders were to play a vital part in all the major campaigns that the New Zealand Division took part in.

The New Zealand Army used many varied makes and models of motorcycles throughout the war. These men and their machines served in North Africa, Italy and the Pacific.