January 19, 2014

The Vintage Motorcycle Flying Squadron

Originally posted on Riding Vintage.


The gentlemen in this picture are members of the Flying Squadron, a motorcycle unit of the American Red Cross in Great Britain during WWI.  Made up of more than a dozen young men, the Flying Squadron was on duty 24 hours a day and seven days a week.  Even after dark, two members of the Squadron were always on active duty with the others “on call” if a problem should arise.  All Red Cross calls that were made after midnight were routed to the Squadron’s direct line.

Due to the nature of their “missions” and the times in which they occurred, the Flying Squadron was allowed to do whatever was necessary without pre-approval from higher ranking members of the Red Cross.  This led to some interesting solutions to the many problems they were faced with.  One such episode took place at the end of WWI, when London was over run with American and British soldier’s with no particular place to go or proper lodgings.  The Flying Squadron’s solution was to open up the Red Cross buildings and use them as temporary barracks once the staff had left each day.  Soldier’s were given food and blankets before being escorted to an office chair, desk or spot on the floor to sleep.  Then they were awaken early each morning and fed while the Flying Squadron converted the rooms back to offices.  It seems this went on for sometime before the rest of the staff at the Red Cross had any idea what was going on.

Members of the Flying Squadron used a variety of vehicles to carry out their duties around London, including the Harley-Davidson motorcycle pictured above, equipped with a sidecar.  They prided themselves on being able to make it to any call within 3 minutes and you can bet that motorcycle could be heard roaring threw London in the middle of the night as they rushed to help those in need.

Filed under History, Panhead Jim's Blog by PanheadJim

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