Film ID:
YFA 100

DEAR SERGEANT OR THE STORY OF ROUGH RIDING MOTORCYCLING COURSE

1944

Visitor Tabs

Description

Set in and around the grounds of Wentworth Hall, South Yorkshire, this film captures soldiers’ wartime training to become motorcycle riders.  The film includes footage of the riders on the extensive training course.   

Credits:  ‘Produced under the supervision of Capt. A Maynard-Taylor and the co-operation of the M T staff and trainees.  Sequence of training Sgt. Plume J C.  Production and photography PTE Chislett Chas. I.’ 

The film opens in the winter when the soldiers arrive by train at Wentworth Station.  They carry with them their kit bags.  Once at the Hall, they march across the yard.  The next morning as a soldier plays Reveille on the bugle, the Hall grounds can be seen with deer and the main part of the Hall in the distance.  Some soldiers make their way over to the washroom, and a cat is outside washing itself. 

Intertitle:  ‘After breakfast they do their best to make us look more like motor-cyclists’   

The soldiers are lined up outside for inspection and all wear motorcycle helmets, long waterproof coats.  They then march off.   

Intertitle:  ‘After the initial lecture on do’s and don’ts we get down to business’    

Soldiers wheel out their motorcycles, and some start riding around the Hall grounds.  The season has changed as now the trees can be seen in full bloom.  A group gather around an instructor who goes through the various parts of the motorcycle.  They then practice kick starting their motorcycles, and one soldier nearly falls over.  While riding around the track, the instructors look on.  Many of the soldiers are struggling, and one falls off his bike.    

Intertitle:  ‘A section is soon promoted to the gear-changing track’.   

They continue their training going over the grass and gaining in confidence.  A group of them line up their bikes on their stands and march off. 

The film shows the crest of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute (NAAFI).  They next practice slaloms, using sticks stuck into the ground. 

Intertitle:  ‘Eventually we take to the road!!’  

Near a village, a road sign shows a major road ahead and a sign for a school.  Various other road signs are shown in close up.  The riders emerge onto a road where they are overtaken by a truck carrying coal.  The instructor brings them to a stop, and they line up against the curb. 

Intertitle:  ‘The correct convoy distance of twenty feet feels very short at first’   

The motorcyclists ride in convoy along a country road when one of the bikes has some difficulties and comes to a stop.  The instructor goes back to see why he is having trouble.  He makes an adjustment to the bike and gets it going again. 

Intertitle:  ‘The other had lagged behind and then tried to catch up!’   

A motorcyclist and his bike have crashed in a ditch on the side of a road.  Again the instructor returns to find out why they are having trouble.  The rider gets up, a bit groggy, and the instructor pulls his bike out.  The convoy continues on its way. 

Intertitle:  ‘And so we live and learn’   

The soldiers have a break in a café called Fieldsends before continuing on.  The instructor shows them how to stop and start on a steep slope using the throttle and clutch, and they then each in turn practice doing this.  A truck drives past carrying milk urns. 

Intertitle:  ‘In time the convoy speeds up, and meet problems of weather and traffic with growing confidence’   

Outside in the winter with a snow-covered ground, the riders are lined up trying to kick start their bikes.  They ride through a town, but one rider has trouble kick starting his bike.  An instructor impressively fires the motorcycle up with a running start. 

Intertitle:  ‘Early days on the “rough’’’   

A group are shown how to ride while standing up on the pedals.  They then practice over rough terrain, and one rider ends up in a bush.  They are then shown how to turn around on a grassy hill by getting off the bike and using the brakes.  They practice going through very muddy terrain before being allowed time for a smoking break. 

Intertitle:  ‘By the time we graduate to the slag heaps they are more interesting than sinister’ 

A couple of riders ride over large slag heaps. 

Intertitle:  ‘Once you can deal with a ‘stall’ on a hill no graduate need worry you  . . much’   

An instructor shows a group of riders how to deal with stalling when going up a steep slag heap.  They are instructed to lay the bike down, turn it around by pulling on the handlebars and front wheel mud guard, and jump starting it going back down again.  The soldiers practice this, and one of the riders ends up with the bike on top of him.  An instructor shows them how to go down a very steep embankment. 

Intertitle:  ‘Mud, sand and water each calls for special technique’  

They practice driving over sand, waterlogged ground, and dusty off road track. 

Intertitle:  ‘Plume’s revenge’   

Driving through some tricky woodland paths, the riders eventually return to the Hall. 

Intertitle:  ‘The finished product’   

A group of riders line up in the yard to receive their tokens for having successfully completed the training.  They then go off for a ride, again making their way through woodland paths, expertly dealing with very difficult terrain.  At one point, a group of them pose for the camera. 

The End.