Bicycle – the Vehicle of the Invasion

I have recently been reading Round Ireland in Low Gear (1987), a cutting yet warm and generous account of bicycle touring in the west of Ireland by the travel writer Eric Newby. Picking up the book on a whim, I was surprised to find that the first chapter began with an extended reader account of an unnamed invasion narrative:


“When I was seven or eight I used to have an awful recurrent nightmare about Germans invading England on bicycles.

It was inspired by a story in a germ-laden, pre-First World War magazine which I rescued from a dustbin behind the block of flats we lived in by Hammersmith Bridge in south-west London. In this tale, the Germans were landed on the shores of the Wash under cover of fog – a difficult feat, but Germans were up to it. Instead of horsed cavalry, however, which would have had a pretty glutinous time of it out in the marshes, battalions of them squelched ashore with folding bicycles strapped on their backs.

Once on terra firma these pickelhaubed hordes split up into flying columns and, led by expert local navigators, traitors to a man, of whom there were inexhaustible supplies even before 1914, swept through the fog-bound low country at a terrific rate. In the course of the following night they seized all the principal cities of the Midlands […] Other columns were directed towards the metropolis. At this point the narrative ended. It was a serial and by the time I went back to have another dig in the dustbin to find the sequel it had been emptied.”[1]

This is an interesting account for all sorts of reasons, not least because it represents a relatively rare example of interwar reception (Newby being born in 1919). The details of the plot do not immediately ring any bells, can anyone illuminate me?

[1] E. Newby, Round Ireland in Low Gear (London: Picador, 1988), 4.

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