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(Article from December 1943)

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Another full-scale demonstration and training session is held in Surrey in early December 1943, again showing the need for and benefits of training for Home Guard Despatch Riders. One wonders whether the initiative shown by the Surrey Home Guard in organising these major events was repeated in other parts of the country.

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Another Full-scale Home Guard Demonstration


L/Cpl. A. T. Hunt (Ariel) and Private Lockett (Norton), of Brooklands Fame, Tie for Best Individual Performance, and 1st Glos. Home Guard Wins Team Contest in Big Surrey Training Event Attended by G.O.C., Aldershot


A FEW, a very few, of the 126 members of the Home Guard who took part in the training event at Normandy, Surrey, last Sunday thought the hazards on the easy side. The vast majority, however, found them a tough proposition. It seemed from the riding that many had not previously had the benefit of—nay, what is essential if a Home Guard D.R. is to be efficient—cross-country riding, which was especially surprising in view of the number of battalions from rural areas that were represented.

The run to the start was gruelling and the roads were treacherous. By 9.30 a.m. by no means all had checked in, which suggested that average speeds en route to the start may not have been all some had expected them to be. One thing is certain: after the day's training they will be better equipped in the matter of tackling slithery roads.

There were, as usual, six hazards. Had it not been necessary to go some little way to include a watersplash the course would have been almost of a pocket-handkerchief variety. As it was, the length was only 4½ miles. Military experts were employed as the demonstrators and lecturers: Sgt. C. W. ("Paddy") Johnston, Cpl. Weatherill, Pte. Lewis and three sergeant instructors from the Corps of Military Police Training Depot—Sgts. Day, Milton and Murray. The event was organised — magnificently organised —by B. Coy, 1st Surrey Home Guard, with Col. A. W. Gambs as clerk of the course.

Sand hillocks provided the adverse camber hazard, which was No. 1. Here there was a taped drop down a bank followed immediately by a sharp right turn up a defile. Either one could go down the bank at an angle and trust that the adverse camber would not cause a slide, and then, if all was well, hope that the steering-lock would be adequate for the sharp turn or it was possible to drop straight down the bank, thereby having no camber to fight, make one's turn on the far bank which afforded positive camber—the bank as banking—and be heading straight for the defile. The tapes had purposely been arranged so that the far bank could be used. Many, even when shown by Sgt. Milton how easy it was to use the far bank, seemed to hesitate to use it to anything like the full. As it happened, the adversely cambered drop from the starting line was on the firm side, so those who made the descent at an angle seldom paid much penalty.

The first man to use his eyes and employ the far bank—to do so before the demonstration and lecture—was Pte. Rudd (349 B.S.A.). A number, like L/Cpl. Hudson (350 Ariel), tried to juggle with exhaust lifter and clutch, although the drop was only one of a few feet. Nearly all used their clutches on their initial attempts. Even L/Cpl. A. T. Hunt, who was to tie for best performance in the trial during Phase 2, lost his prop.......               
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Pte. N. W. Brooks (350 Ariel) on the "shell-hole" or throttle-control hazard. Immediately at the summit of this short, steep rise there was a sharp turn to the right, part of an S-bend over hummocks

Cpl. Canton (490 Norton), who tied for third best performance, wisely restarts on the heather instead of the slippery track on the left and makes an excellent get-away














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In the trial the hazard was altered a trifle so that it should not be a case of "parrot knowledge." Very few, however, made anything of a recce, or even paused on the starting line to have a look. A superb show seen in this phase was that of Pte. Biggs (498 Levis).

Paddy Johnston's "shell-hole'' hazard or, rather, "throttle-control" section, drove home the need for looking before one leaps, for immediately after a very short, steep "up" there was a sharp turn to the right. Paddy pointed out that on active service none could tell what lay behind the brow; there might be barbed wire. Thus the thing to do was to throttle back when part way up and roll over the summit. Then there would be the ability to stop if need be, and the low speed would mean that there was time to pick one's route. The hazard also emphasised the need to look well, ahead—to think in terms of a difficult point lying some way ahead. Three who were noted as putting up perfect shows here were 2/Lt. Templeman (350 Norton); Pte. Southon (Ariel) and Pte. Tonge (Royal Enfield).

The tree-root hazard was largely a natural one, and decidedly difficult—much more so than it appeared. There was a premium on path-picking and an engine which opened up cleanly. One of the neatest, seen here in the morning phase, was Sgt. Archer on a G/3L Matchless. Pte. Prudence, on a similar machine, was also good, but a fraction rough with his throttle. Pte. Smith (350 Triumph) neglected to take his weight off the saddle as his machine hit the steps. Suddenly he went flying, holding a handlebar rubber (minus handlebar) in one hand.

Two Comments
"Plenty of ambition!" remarked a spectator, as Pte. Heath (Triumph) disappeared after a fastish, wild sort of showing. A few minutes later, after Pte. Lewis had given his demonstration, there was a further comment—this time from one of the competitors; it comprised merely the four words, "Easy when you know!"

Performances were considerably better in the afternoon. Pte. Hughes (B.8.A.), Pte. Gowlett (Ariel) and Pte. W. Traish (Ariel) were all noted as good. The one rider of a 1,000 c.c. machine, an Ariel Four, paused at a root, but proceeded to make a most workmanlike restart, and successfully negotiated the remainder of the climb.

The stretch of mud employed was only about 20 yards long. It was a gullied portion of a footpath (on the W.D. land on which the local Home Guard has the training rights). On the left there was ditch, near the left of the path lay a deep water-filled gully, and on the right slime on rough and temporarily hard going. Another thoroughly nasty proposition. Some, on their first attempts, said to themselves, "Mud! This is where we turn up the taps!" And a number flew —yes, flew!—into that ditch, one having his model catch alight, happily without damage, in spite of a nasty blaze.

There was only one thing to do if one was to be utterly safe, which, as Sgt. Murray stressed, was to trickle through. The lad who got into the ditch and his machine on fire, had he been on his own, would probably never have reached his destination, he pointed out, and the job of a D.R. was to get there.

In the afternoon the mud was softer and, if possible, even more treacherous. This time not one was seen taking risks, and the vast majority were making really workmanlike showings with their weight where it was needed to afford maximum traction—in the saddle. Some still used their clutches. Two of many excellent performances seen here were those of Pte. Biggs (Levis), who gave just one wise, safety's sake dab, and Pte. Rogers (Royal Enfield).

Most difficult of all the hazards was the restarting test.. The gradient was steep and the track very slippery indeed, also there was much loose stone higher up the hill. With a perfectly co-ordinated bump-down on the saddle and clutch in, it was possible to get away on the track. A very small number took care to place their back wheels on a patch that would afford wheelgrip. All it was necessary to do was to start with the machine level with a white post. Lockett (Norton) duly had his machine level with it, but on the heather, which could be counted upon to afford reasonable wheelgrip. It was a case of a track which, like so many tracks, tempts people to use it, whereas the only way to get to the summit with fair ease and safety is by eschewing it.

Even in the afternoon quite a number still kept to the track, although its nature was such that few, other than a George Rowley, could make a perfect get-away on it.

At the watersplash, however, there was a vast improvement as compared with the morning, when a number charged the 30-yard stretch, and it was a practice with many to endeavour to get through without using the clutch. In the afternoon man after man was perfect. About the only failures seen were those of riders who omitted to give their machines enough throttle when they reached the middle, which was well over hub deep. Pte. Mace and Pte. Lockett lifted their feet almost tank high to keep them dry, yet never seemed to waver an inch.

Best Performance of the Day—L/Cpl. A. T. Hunt. (348 Ariel) and Pte. J. H. Lockett (348 Norton), a tie with 29 marks out of a possible 30 (i.e. gaining a bonus mark on each of five hazards for "outstanding confidence and ability").
Equal Third—Pte. Biggs (500 Levis), Pte. Mace (350 Velocette) and Cpl. Panton (500 Norton), 28 marks.
Other Good Performances (in order).—Pte. Masters (350 Matchless), 27; Pte. Southon (350 Ariel), 26; Pte. Major (350 Triumph) and Pte. Hollamby (490 Norton), 24; Lt. B. W. Amey (490 Norton), Pte. Cronin (350 Ariel), Sgt. Miller (350 Ariel) and Pte. Fry (350 New Imperial), 23 marks.
Best Team Performance—H.Q. 1st Glos: Pte. Mace (Velocette), Pte. Lockett (Norton) and Pte. Major (350 Triumph), with 81 marks out of a possible 90.
Second Best Team—H.Q. 55th Kent, No. 2 Team: Pte. Hitch (350 Royal Enfield), Pte. Carter (500 Velocette) and Pte. Southon (350 Ariel), 67 marks.
Third Best Team—D. Coy., 11th Berks: Cpl. Panton (500 Norton), Pte. Windsor (500 A.J.S) and Pte. Whittaker (350 Ariel), 66 marks.

    The watersplash was deep. Here Pte. Dunlop
(350 Ariel) is adding to its effective depth by travelling a fraction fast
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