|The Winged Wheel Patch is more than a book about military motorcycles. Not long into the twentieth century, the motorcycle and its rider became an integral part of Canada's military establishment, a fact that has largely been overlooked by both motorcycle buffs and historians. Dedicated bike enthusiasts tend to focus solely on the machine, forgetting that the motorcycle more than any other vehicle is inseparable from its operator. In motion, the two are interdependent, like Siamese twins.
Historians tend to treat both rider and machine as quaint sideshows, like the clown at a rodeo or the cartoon before the feature. Yet, as readers can judge for themselves, in the theatre of conventional warfare the motorcycle and rider formed as much a part of the feature as the tanks and infantry, the bombs and bullets, and the dead and survivors.
The Winged Wheel Patch is not a review of Canada's military role in the twentieth century. Instead, it is an attempt to fill in some of the motorcycle and rider "missing links" apparent in the documentation of that history. While a regiment's history can be traced with relative ease, Despatch Riders (DRs) and other military motorcyclists became lost in the paper work they delivered with such dedication.
In 1985, spurred into action out of a mutual interest in vintage motorcycling, Ken Messenger and Max Burns began collecting snippets of information scattered throughout countless books, dusty war diaries, and memories of military riders.
Originally they had hoped to gather enough data to put together a cursory look at the Canadian military motorcycle. But during the six years they ended up investing into the work, it developed into much more. They observed an overwhelming feeling among the veterans who answered Ken's and Max's requests for information that the DR's contribution to the nation had been for the most part ignored. Ken and Max could not help but agree.
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|"It is not our intention to glorify these soldiers or the wars they participated in," the book states in the preface. "The futility of humanity's conflicts is readily apparent. What is perhaps not so obvious is that when the veterans in this book went to war, they did so firmly believing that what they were doing was right, that the sacrifices they made were for the benefit of future generations, generations to which we the authors and our children belong. The close comradeship that evolves from facing death with a friend, the strength of a nation united in cause, the sheer right of it all is rarely duplicated outside a theatre of war. Those who survived the wars brought back memories framed in time and injuries to a world that would not, and could not, understand."
So the authors aimed for two goals with this bookto document the history of the military motorcycle and rider in a manner more accurate and detailed than any effort to cover the subject to date, regardless of the nation addressed, and to say thanks. No glory, just thanks.
Title: The Winged Wheel Patch
Subtitle: A History of the Canadian Military Motorcycle and Rider
Publisher: Vanwell Publishing (now out of print)
Co-Author: Ken Messenger (sadly, Kenny passed away July 5, 2001)
Suggested retail: $29.95 (current internet asking prices $200 - $1277USD for slightly used copies)
Technical stuff: 8.5x11 hardcover, 162 pages, colour dust-jacket, 112 black-and-white photos and drawings (including sketches from famed Canadian war artist Alex Colville), many which have never before been published. The authors' text is complemented with plentiful quotes from official war dairies, regimental histories, and the riders themselves, all fully indexed and footnoted. Also included are specifications for all motorcycles in official use by the Canadian Military during the 20th century.
Where to buy: Currently out of print, contact Word Dust for details.
What Others Are Saying About The Winged Wheel Patch
The is a first-class book, a most enjoyable tome and a must for motorcycle buffs, both old and young, worldwide. Wheels & Tracks
The Winged Wheel Patch has to fall into the category of a labour of love. The fact that it's an extremely good book is icing on the cake. It's beautifully produced, well-indexed, and filled with excellent photographs and personal reminiscences that range from the humorous to the tragic. Highly recommended. International Motorcycle
More important than the machinery itself, there are personal experiences in the form of ex-DRs' reminiscences, mostly from WWII. This forms the largest section and is the most intriguing part of this excellent book. All in all, a well presented and absorbing read, which though obviously focusing on Canadians, could just as well be British as far as the general content is concerned. British Bike
This really is a motorcycling book with a difference, for it sets out to put right that which the authors consider to be a serious omission within the annals of Canadian military history. The motorcycle Despatch Rider served Canada and the allied forces faithfully through two World Wars and yet nowhere were their achievements, or sufferings, given due acknowledgment. Through extensive reference to military and government archives and by interviews with many of those who rode as they served, Ken Messenger and Max Burns have certainly achieved their aim, for this is a very readable and informative book. Old Bike
Just when one despairs of seeing published a book that deals with a fresh aspect of military history, along comes this study of the Canadian military motorcycle and rider. The richness of detail shows how well the authors know their subject, and how much research they must have done. Canadian Book Review Annual, 1994
The lack of any public recognition for the efforts and sacrifices of Canadian motorcycle riders during wartime has been a source of frustration for some veterans. The Winged Wheel Patch corrects the oversight with a lavish presentation of rare photography and an abundantly detailed record about the Canadian experience on military motorcycles. It's a large-format 8 1/2 x 11 hardcover book printed on glossy paper, and the reproduction of the photography is particularly good. The Winged Wheel Patch and its authors deserve praise for gathering together what otherwise threatened to slip through the cracks of time. In words and pictures, the fragile history of the Canadian military bike and rider has been carefully sheltered between the covers of this book. Cycle Canada