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Somme biker was vital Anzac link

Next month marks the centenary of the bloodiest battle of the First World War, the Battle of the Somme, and The Connexion has a two page feature on a dispatch rider who braved fire from both sides... to get carrier pigeons back to Anzac troops on the front line. 

Oswald Davis was just 32 when he joined the Royal Engineers Signal Squadron and the Birmingham-born motorbike enthusiast was immediately signed up for the pigeon carrier service. 

It put him in the firing line as, with giant bird cages strapped to his back, he dodged bullets, shells and shell holes on the muddy roads and fields to get the vital messengers to the Australian and New Zealand troops for whom it was the only means of communicating with HQ. 

His bravery earned him the Military Medal and his great-nephew, Philip Holdway-Davis, is next month heading a commemoration convoy of motorbikes that will ride from Abbeville across the battlefield to Ypres and Messines in Belgium. 
The ride, with cars, motorbikes and cycles, is open to all and takes place over five days from July 18 – exactly 100 years after Oswald was presented with his Army-issue Triumph H.

Mr Holdway-Davis will also lay a wreath at the Thiepval memorial in memory of Oswald – who survived the war – and the other despatch riders. 

Anyone who would like to join the ride can get information from philipholdway@hotmail.com or triumphonthewesternfront.com The route takes the convoy to Amiens, La Boisselle, Thiepval to Ypres and the Ramparts cemetery and the Menin Gate service before heading off on July 23 to Messines and the Mesen Plaats New Zealand soldier statue. 

The Battle of the Somme claimed 1.3million casualties, with about one third killed between its start on July 1 and the end 141 days later on November 18. There is an international service of remembrance at the Thiepval memorial on July 1, led by the French and UK governments.

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