Hunts Cyclist (March 2010)

Godmanchester Museum ‘Hunts Cyclist’

Another area of the museum display highlights the Hunts Cyclist Battalions, the county’s territorial regiment from around the time ofthe Great War (1914-18)  Bicycles may not have had the endurance or versatility of the horse but their worth was shown in wartime, especially in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902). No longer now just scouts & messengers, the Cyclists’ role was likened to Mounted Infantry and Cyclist Sections within the volunteer forces were bolstered in 1908 with the formation of Cyclist Battalions.

By 1908 Huntingdonshire had lost all ‘ownership’ of its regular and territorial regiments so there was a keenness amongst many within the county to see the title ‘Huntingdonshire’ feature again in the army’s Order of Battle.

Thirteen Cyclist Battal ions had been formed across the country and plans to raise one more that would carry our county name, finally got the go ahead in Feb. 1914.


Recruiting to the eight Companies was brisk. Local solicitors and other professional men joined the Ot1icers’ Mess and the Earl of Sandwich became the Honourary Colonel. They were barely back from Territorial Force camp when war was declared and the Regiment mobilised.

Tasked for Home Defence, their orders were to guard the shoreline of Yorkshire, while a swiftly raised 2“d.Bn. would patrol the Lincolnshire coast. Although most of these men would later tight in France and beyond, they went as replacement drans and rebadged to other regiments. The Hunts Cyclists never fought overseas as a unit and as the war ground on men with no county loyalties joined its ranks.

ln 1919 the Regiment disbanded, but in 1920 from its ashes rose the 5`h.(Huntingdonshire) Bn. The Northamptonshire Regt. TA. and some surviving Hunts Cyclists rejoined the Colours to serve county and country once again.

 

Steve J. Sellwood