“I was like a king seated on my throne, my motorcycle”

– Harry Watts on being a Dispatch Rider


Harry joined the army November 1942 and volunteered to be a dispatch rider.  He completed his training at Base Borden before being deployed overseas to the United Kingdom for further training and deployment to Italy.  When asked why he became a Dispatch Rider he responded with:

“Because I was lazy. I was like a king seated on my throne, my motorcycle,”

According to Harry:

“There was a special training area (in England) – there were streams, there were trees, there were sand hills. There was every obstacle you could think of there that you would come across,” explained Watts. “We would do that during the day and then about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, head back to Barracks and we had to ride up out of this (pit), they called it the Devil’s Punch Bowl.

Not everyone would get the chance. The instructors would send everyone home at the end of the day, but ask one or two to stay behind. You knew what was coming. They would pick out a few that they thought were ready and take you to the punch bowl. There you had to take a long run at it, get the bike to the red line and keep it there all the way to the top.”  Not everyone could do it, not everyone had the nerve. Harry did.

-Quote credits Tillsonburg NewsRead the Article: Two-Wheeled Drive to Serve

Being a Dispatch Rider:

“A lot of people may not

Devil’s Punch Bowl: training for WWII Dispatch Riders. Of the 12 trainees that started the training only 4 completed the course, including Harry.

know, but the job of the dispatch rider was a very dangerous one; they had a target on their back because the Germans always knew that they were carrying very, very valuable messages. Being a dispatcher and making it through the war would be the equivalent of a bomber crew making their 25th mission.  Imagine wet roads at night with very little light. Harry almost lost his life on a few occasions, both on the roads of London and during convoy duty in Italy and always paid tribute to his training in both Canada and the UK for saving his life.”.

-Jeremy Van Dyke via Tilsonberg News. Read the article-Dispatch Riders Share War History, Stories

Motorcycle Specs:
Basic training in Canada at Camp Bordon: Harley Davidson WLC

Photo Credit: Harrison (Sgt), War Office Official Photographer

The HD WLC was the military version of Harley Davidson’s civilian model of the WL.

Harley Davidson WLC

Engine – V twin (45’) 4 stroke air-cooled

Power rating – 23 bhp @ 4500 rpm 45.12cu inch/739cc

Chain drive 3 speed gearbox with hand shift

Weight – 625 lbs.

The WLC was a big, heavy motorcycle and use as a frontline bike was limited to good roads. It was the perfect bike for Provost work, convoy duty and basic training. One of the traits that the Canadian Forces found in regards to the WLC was the loud backfire that happened above 4500 rpm, not a great trait when under the cross hairs of an enemy sniper! This, along with the excessive weight and low ground clearance made the choice to keep this motorcycle out of the front lines during the Second World War.

As the WLC were produced in large quantities there are still a great number of these bikes around the world. The picture below is of a young Canadian Dispatch rider on an HD WLC with young children at brigade headquarters in the UK.

Client Testimonials: Lives Changed

Harry Watts

A decade ago the NSD team had the pleasure of meeting Harry through our annual Motorcycle Ride.  As a member of the 1st CAV Motorcycle Unit, Harry rode in our annual fundraiser and championed our cause. Harry had a knack for bringing people together and was an engaging story teller.  Somehow he was always able to shine a light on the positive side of his journey, even when faced with horrors of war. 

You can read more of Harry’s stories in his book “Dispatch Rider”.  All money raised from the purchase of the book goes directly to supporting Service Dogs and continuing Harry’s legacy.

This year’s Charity Ride is featuring an Online Auction with a vast selection of unique items to choose from.  The Auction will be available to all of our supporters and will go on-line July 1 and run through July 5th  – Check It Out!

Thank you to our generous partners and sponsors.