This saddle has been specially designed for military use, and the fact that it is extensively used by H.M War Office is ample proof that it possesses points of special merit. The framing is of BROOKS popular four-wire type, giving great strength, lightness and elasticity. All materials are of the finest quality and all metal parts are bronzed.
– 1914 Brooks catalogue
Since the British government started approving various military bicycle patterns in 1901, there was a need for military cycle accessories, and Brooks were well-placed to capitalise on the increased demand. They already made gun clips for sporting rifles as well as a variety of leather bags for mounting on a bicycle. Special orders from government departments were valuable to accessory companies. War Office contracts were particularly sought-after because, as well as the order itself, a company would be able to mention it in their advertising material. This invariably resulted in further orders from foreign governments, and in particular those of the British Colonies.
The Brooks Military Saddle was specified for various companies’ Military Model bicycles, including Sunbeam and the War Office approved Mk IV pattern bicycle.
With the outbreak of war, cycle manufacturers had to work overtime to supply enough machines. They were hampered by staff enlistment as well as having to turn over factory space and equipment for diverse war production. With increased enlistment and formation of new volunteer cyclist battalions, there was invariably a shortage of military bicycles and accessories, a shortfall taken up easily by civilian machines and accessories.
1914 Brooks Military ‘No 3’ Saddle
As Adopted by H.M War Office
This is a particularly rare piece of WW1 military equipment. There was no official drive to repatriate military bicycles that had been used in Europe, the ‘disposable’ nature of a bicycle being a particularly useful aspect of its usage. Although volunteer cyclist battalion members who enlisted with their own bicycles might have been inspired to return home with them after service, the subsequent disbandment of most of those units and the high casualty rate meant that bicycles were obviously not a top priority. Despite an estimated 100,000 bicycles being used by British troops during the war, historians attached little importance to the fact, very few records exist and, indeed, the general population does not even know there is such a thing as a military bicycle. On top of that, even dedicated bicycle enthusiasts know little about military bicycle equipment.