1914 is the cut-off point for my book. Neat, because that’s 100 years ago, but the book does stray a little bit beyond that date at times. The cycles and automobiles chapter, for instance, mentions the Great War. There are a few things about this conflict that probably won’t get mentioned much by the mainstream media in this, the centenary year. Such as? Well, Hitler was a WWI bicycle messenger (he like the war, hated cycling) and the first British soldier to be killed in this war, on 21st August 1914, was Private John Parr, a reconnaissance cyclist in the 4th battalion of the Middlesex regiment. (Parr’s grave faces that of George Edwin Ellison, the last British soldier killed during the Great War: he died an hour and a half before the armistice, on a patrol on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium). There were a great many cyclist casualties during the First World War because there were a number of cycling regiments, including the London Cycle Corps and the 26th Middlesex battalion and others.
Here are two cycle-themed recruitment posters from c.1913 and 1912. Bad teeth no bar…
And here’s an extract from Adolf Hitler’s military records, written in Suetterlin script (which was taught from 1915 to 1941 in German schools):
Yup, Adolf Hitler was a cyclist. In the First World War he was a bicycle messenger, as shown by his military records. This document says he was a “radfahrer”, a cyclist, not a motorcyclist, that would have been written “Kradfahrer” in military jargon.
The 25-year old Hitler was a bicycle messenger for a Bavarian regiment, taking messages to the fighting units from the command staff. He was always keen to volunteer for dangerous assignments and had a largely charmed life, avoiding death on a number of occasions.
Hitler’s time as an Austrian fixie hipster didn’t leave a good impression: when in power Hitler’s Nazi party enacted a number of anti-cycling laws, aiming to get cyclists off roads, leaving more space for the “peoples’ cars”.