For more than hundred years cyclists have played an active role in the Swiss Army. In no other army of the world they got a comparable importance and in no other country they established themselves as a combat troop persisting until the begining of 3rd millenium.
Their tasks changed in the course of the time. Whether as despatch riders or surveillants, as assaulters or in the defence, they always have succeded to use the bicycle efficiently and purposefully. In the lowlands as well as in the Swiss Alps, on and off road, in severe cold and in the summer heat. As long as there was air in their tires (and otherwise on the rims), the cyclists always found a way. The actual founder of the cyclist troops, Obertsdivisionaer Alphons Pfyffer, leader of the Confederational General staff office, arranged some rides with military reporting cyclist in 1887. One of the main arguments for the use of cyclist formations was at that time to save on cavalry ressources.
For this reason exclusively cavalry troopers got the offer “to change saddles”. In addition to lighter uniforms, adapted to the requirements of the soldiers, the armament with a pistol with bayonet should contribute to give the drivers an obvious military character and recognition as regular soldiers.
In the consequence both the bicycle, as well as the equipment were further developed. The troop pool was extended gradually and terms and content of the training was adapted more and more to comparable other branches of service. The Ordonanzrad 05, which was developed around the turn of the last century and rolled out starting from 1904 to the cyclist companies, should remain loudless means of transport of Swiss army for one century, nearly without changes. By the introduction it was equipped with free-wheel, pneumatics (the first pneumatic tires invented by Dunlop in 1887), lantern and a bell. back-pedalling brake and electrical lighting were added many years later. In the meantime the cyclist troops were subordinated to the infantry. From 1949 on they were part of the ‘light brigades’ and got assigned to the mechanized divisions in 1962. In 1972 the Swiss Army’s cavalry, from that the cyclist originally came out, was definitly abolished.
I’m not sure why this World War Two Swiss Army bicycle has the word ‘Killer’ engraved in it. If only bicycles could talk I’m sure there would be an interesting story to tell. Given that Switzerland was neutral in both world wars, ‘Killer’ seems an appropriate nickname for this bicycle, which was found in a barn after decades of storage. The army bicycles were made by several manufacturers, the main companies being Condor, Schwalbe and Cosmos. This machine is a rarer Cosmos.
1943 Cosmos ‘MO 05’ WW2 Swiss Army Bicycle
Frame No B40 25280
1940 Torpedo Rear Hub
According to the Swiss Army Bike website (link at the bottom of this page) for the Condorclub Holland, serial numbers with a ‘B’ prefix + numbers from 20000 to 29999 were manufactured between 1941 and 1945. The frame number of this machine is B40 25280. As that is halfway through the production run, I’ve assumed a date halfway too, i.e. 1943. Another indicator of age on Swiss and German bicycles is the rear hub: Torpedo hubs usually have some sort of age mark on them. This Torpedo hub says ’50 million 1905-1940.’ I saw another similar hub on the Condorclub Holland website that said ’60 million 1905-1945′ and its age was shown as 1947. So that seems to confirm my estimate of 1943. The Swiss Army bicycle picture below (thanks to Condorclub Holland), of a similar bicycle used for transporting pigeons, dates from around 1943 too.
DATING A SWISS ARMY BICYCLE
SILUMA LIGHTING SET
SWISS ARMY BIKE: SPARES & ACCESSORIES
Swiss arm,y bicycle info with thanks to – http://www.radfahrer.ch/English/tax/Radfahrer.php