During World War Two, York was surrounded by over 30 military airfields. Each base had over 1000 personnel – at RAF Elvington with two French squadrons there were over 2300 French airmen.
With petrol rationing the only ways to get around were either to walk or by bike, so you can imagine the numbers of bicycles on the roads then – far more than even the huge peleton arriving in July.
Airmen and soldiers on leave for the evening in York would grab any bike available to get back to base around the country lanes and especially if they were somewhat late in the morning, having partaken of one too many beers or found it difficult to leave their young lady!
If they were late for roll-call they were put on a charge which could be quite severe or even posted as a deserter, which was a capital offence. As a result the ditches and lay-bys around York were littered with bicycles where they were often dumped in a hurry the previous night only to be readi