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Bicycle Courier

First World War Audio Archive

We were in a rest camp at a place called Petit Cims (sp)

Hill 62 Memorial Belgium.

and they loaded us on buses and took us to Saint Paul. Then put us on the train and took us to Abbeville and then we were taken off the train in Abbeville and marched every night for six nights until we got into our jump off position at Beaufort, just outside Amiens. Well every day and night you’d

Courtrai Memorial Belgium.

start off and then they’d have to have an advance party go ahead to get billets in the next town, or we generally just stopped in woods and camped in among the trees and so on for overnight. I’d slept on the ground with your blankets right there. So, anyway, and this come my turn. They asked me if I could

Le Quesnel Memorial Belgium.

ride a bicycle, and I thought, well there is nothing to riding a bicycle. I said, “Oh, I guess I could,” I said. “Well, alright you’re it. You’re on the advance party. You report to Major Hope. Next morning at 7 o’clock we would be moving off.”

Gueudecourt Memorial France.

So the next morning I got up and away I go to report to Major Hope. “Yeah, you’re going to represent ‘D’ company?” “Yes.” “Go get in the party for ‘D’ company. There is your bicycle.” So, alright. In the whole party there was five of us, you see. The other fellas got on their bicycle and Major Hope got on his and he led off, you know. So I look at this thing

Dury Memorial France.

and I tried to get on it and by darn the damned thing, I can’t make it. The handle bars were too low for one thing, you see. I got on and my knees were all binded up against the handle bars. So I thought, well then, in the meantime, you’d strapped your rifle on, your pack on the back, you see, this was what I thought

Monchy Memorial France.

was pretty good. This will beat carrying it. So I’m pushing it along and Major Hope looked back and he saw me. I wasn’t riding and he came back and he said, “What’s the matter?” And in the meantime everybody’s kept on going, you see, thank heavens. He came back and he said, “What’s the matter?” "Well," I said, “The handle bars are too low on this thing and I can’t make it

Passchendaele Memorial Belgium.

work.” “Well,” he says, “that’s kind of too bad. If we had known that we could have changed with some of the others.” He said, “Is there no wrench in that bag?” I said, “No, there is no wrench in there.” “Well,” he said, “we’ve got to keep going. Here," he says, “here is where we’ll go.” He said, “You see that.” There was an air drum ahead on the left hand side of the road.

Masnières memorial France.

He said, “If you get up there,” he says, “you can probably get a wrench there and then you can catch up to us.” Fine, I got rid of the Major then, pretty smooth. So away they went and I kept toting along. I got up to this air drum, got a wrench alright, I did turn up the handle bars. Got back out on the road again. Get on this thing and damn if it will work.

Bourion Wood Memorial France.

There was a break on the handle bar. I thought, “Well, this is alright, I’ll walk and push the bicycle along, I know where I’m going.” So after a while, I came to a part in the road where there seemed to be a long hill ahead and the road turned. I couldn’t see. There was a curve like, you see, and you

Courcelette Memorial France.

couldn’t see very far ahead. But anyways it was a hill, and I got on the bicycle, oh well this is fine going down hill, pretty good you know... Come around the last turn in the hill and by darn, here is a whole string of Chinamen. They had Chinese coolies,

Beaumont-Hamel Memorial France.

you know, spreading gravel on the road and there was a big steam roller crushing this gravel out and fixing the road. Okay, well, I’m coming along on one of these coolies and he’s shovelling, he’s got his back to me and I can’t steer this thing off when I hit him. I flopped off and the bicycle landed up on the gravel.

St. Julien Memorial Belgium.

This poor Chinaman let a squeal out of him, because he thought he was hit with a shell or something. And anyways, I picked the bicycle up and, by damn, I broke a pedal off it, you see. Well, that’s fine now, I’m finished with that.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial France.

So, but I got on and kept on moseying on down. There was a big old country sergeant in charge of these Chinamen, “Go blimey,” he says, “Canada, what the hell are you trying to do? Kill my men?”

Mr. MacLeod describes in humorous detail some of the risks of being a bicycle courier.

James Neil MacLeod

James Neil MacLeod was born on November 12, 1899. Left school to enlist in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on December 10, 1915. Mr. MacLeod was a member of the 117th Battalion in Canada and England, joining the 24th Battalion for his tour of duty in Europe. He participated in many major battles: Arras, Vimy, Amiens, Somme and Michael Offensive. He was wounded in the elbow August 27, 1918. After his discharge, Mr. MacLeod lived in Quebec, moved to New York state to work for the New York Central Railroad. Married Mae R. Mulvaney in 1927. Mr. MacLeod died June 8, 1981.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
James Neil MacLeod
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War
117th Battalion

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce


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