Anzac cyclists

Anzac cyclists

Prime Minister William Massey and Deputy Prime Minister Joseph Ward inspect the New Zealand Cyclist Corps at Oissy in northern France, 3 July 1918.

The New Zealand Cyclist Corps was created in New Zealand in March 1916 using recruits who were training to join the Mounted Rifles. Intended as mobile light infantry, the cyclists found on arrival in France in July 1916 that stationary trench warfare left them with little to do. They spent much of the war behind the lines performing tasks such as controlling traffic, laying cables and repairing trenches.

New Zealand cyclists, as part of the 2nd Anzac Cyclist Battalion, were involved in the Flanders offensives of 1917, building an 1800-m support track across no-man’s-land at Messines, and laying signal cables behind advancing troops at Gravenstafel and Bellevue Spur.

In early 1918, the New Zealand Cyclist Corps was called upon to fight as infantry, taking part in important defensive actions in the Battle of the Lys (April) and offensive actions in the Second Battle of the Marne (July-August).

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8 comments have been posted about Anzac cyclists

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Posted: 22 Apr 2014

I spotted a photo of the Australian cyclists at Serapeum, Egypt, in February 1915, not long after the Battle of the Suez Canal, so looks as if they could have been the mystery cyclists in the training clip. Photo can be seen here:
The Bicycle in Warfare

Kyle Dalton

Posted: 03 Jan 2014

Don't rely on the date of the clip being correct. I work with historic photographs on a daily basis and the text accompanying the image is incorrect about 20% of the time.


Posted: 10 Dec 2013

Yes, the discrepancy in the dates is a puzzle - the clip is clearly dated 1914-5. I noticed that the Cyclists Corps was initially formed from men of the Mounted Rifles (one steed as good as another, maybe?) Perhaps they were experimenting with cyclists earlier on - the group in the video clip, as you point out, seem to be training alongside the NZ Mounted troops. It will be interesting to see if someone has the answer to this apparent anomaly.


Posted: 09 Dec 2013

Hi Anne -thanks for this.

Note that according to the official history the New Zealand Cyclist Company did not have their bikes in Egypt. Also they were only in Egypt for a few weeks in June-July 1916, so the cyclists in the film are a bit of a mystery. It certainly looks like Egypt, and NZ Mounted troops, but it can't be the NZ Cyclist Company in 1915 (they weren't formed until May 1916).

According to the Australian history, Cycling to war (2008), the Australians had '30-40' bikes in Egypt which were used for trianing after the formation of their cyclists companies in March 1916. It is possible that the troops in the film were using these bikes but this is just speculation on my part.

Can any military historians help solve this mystery? Kind regards, Jamie Mackay


Posted: 07 Dec 2013

Hi Jamie

I was very intrigued when watching a clip of NZ troops training around Zeitoun before the Battle of the Suez Canal to see a small group of cyclists included but hadn't realised till now that there was actually a specialist cyclist corps.

If anyone is interested, the Regimental History of the Cyclists Corps can be read online at the NZETC website:

Video clip of troops training in Egypt can be viewed at Te Ara

Jamie Mackay

Posted: 09 Mar 2009

Hi Wayne Thanks very much for this - great to learn something about these men. If you would like to email me I can be contacted at [email protected] cheers, Jamie


Posted: 09 Mar 2009

Hi Jamie, Im writng a book called 'Sporting Legends of the Sunset Coast' (Waiuku District) and one of my legends is Oliver A Johnson, private in NZ Cycling Corps 1916-18. A bushman and farmer of Otaua, Waiuku. He went onto be a top axeman who placed 2nd in the NZ Champs twice, fisherman and hunter. I can give you more if you are interested. Another axeman who was in the NZCC was Ned Shewry ranked as one of NZ greatest woodchoppers

Jamie Mackay

Posted: 24 Apr 2008

I've been doing some research on the NZCC and would be very interested in getting any more information about what happened to members of the Corps after 1919. Please post anything you might have on this topic here