Riding into Battle
Did you know that the Boer War saw the introduction of battlefield cyclists riding as light cavalry and performing duties such as reconnaissance, scouting and communications? After reading Ted Glenn’s Ridingintobattle, I was struck by the role bicycles played in early modern warfare. I was also fascinated by the young men of the 1st Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion who came into their own – especially during the pivotal 100 Days Campaign toward the end of the First World War.
The story begins in three locales: Valcartier Camp north of Quebec City, Camp Exhibition i n Toronto and Paradise Grove at Niagara-onthe-lake where the five original divisional cyclist companies were organized and put through basic training between September 1914 and April 1916. The bikes were not sleek racing machines; rather, the full cyclist kit in the Great War weighed in at almost 90 lb.
Researched with rigor, and devoid of an academic’s style, the Humber College professor’s prose chugs along with a steady cadence. Glenn shares stories of two-wheeling Canadian war heroes. Interspersed are incredible period photos that help take the reader to the battlefronts. Overall, this book is a welcome record of Canadian military history. More important, Glenn succeeds in his goal to fill a gap in the history of Canada’s part i n the Great War by illuminating the valuable contributions of Canadian cyclists in its outcome.