Visit by the 1903 Dreadnought motorcycle to Cornwall

The niece of its creator is able to see after 120 years her Uncles most famous creation still working.

Date Friday 15th October

Time 10.00- 12.00

Place Inn for All Seasons, off the old Redruth Bypass

Please note that Mrs Hambly is a little reluctant to have too many interviews on health grounds.

The Dreadnought, named after the famous Battleships of the time, was built by Harold Karslake in 1903. It was an attempt to create his ideal motorcycle. He obtained a second hand loop frame, and collected various parts which included a 1903 De Dion pattern MMC 405cc engine. When the machine was assembled Harold, nicknamed “Oily” by all those who knew him, used it extensively for touring and for the popular long distance trials of the Edwardian period.

During that time he experimented with various combinations of seating, tyres, gears and engine modifications. The bike had neither pedals nor a kick start, so to start it had to be paddled away by the rider until it burst into life. It was well able to climb many of the famous test hills of the time, many of which are still used in long distance trials. It could, for instance, climb the old hill at Bluehills near Perranporth, quite a feat even today. Oily continued riding his famous machine, but along the way became involved with another famous motorcycle manufacturer, George Brough.

Together they formed a relationship which at one point produced a motorcycle called a Karbro, a mix of their two names. In 1930 George Brough rode the Dreadnought in the first “Old Crocks” London to Brighton Run to commemorate the fact that Oily had won the 1914 London to Brighton trial on this very machine. Against all odds he continued riding the motorcycle, and winning with it right up to the 1940s. At this point he retired the motorcycle from active competitions, despite , he insisted, it being still competitive.

Oily Karslake bequeathed the Dreadnought to the Vintage Motor Cycle Club in 1962, just before his death at the age of 81. It is now the VMCC’s most treasured asset.

In early 2021 Jeremy Jackson was being interviewed by Radio Cornwall about one of his motorcycling books. After the broadcast he was contacted by a lady from Falmouth who told him that her uncle had invented a motorcycle called a Dreadnought, but that she had no further information about it. She believed that it still existed somewhere, but had no knowledge of its whereabouts or proper history. Jeremy passed the information to the VMCC, and Roger Fogg called Mrs Hambly to tell her that the Dreadnought did indeed still exist, and was a most prized possession of the VMCC. Held at their HQ in Burton on Trent, The Dreadnought is regularly exhibited and ridden throughout the Country by members of the club. It had been to Cornwall once before, many years ago, but this would be a great opportunity for Oily Karslakes niece to see it for the very first time. We hope it will be a very special occasion for her. Accompanying the bike will be Dr Mike Wills, National President of the VMCC, and he will be able to explain much more about the workings of the bike and what its like to ride in 2021.

Finally, there is one more little twist to the story. In the early years of the Dreadnoughts existence, much was contributed by a Mr Simkins. Both Oily Karslake and George Brough were eminent self publicists, but Simkins was an enigmatic figure who has remained very much in the background of things. There is a possibility that he is connected with the late Bill Simkins who lived at Trevellas near Perranporth. Mr Simkins died a few years ago, and we are not sure where his relatives are now. It would be nice to confirm if this story is true. Perhaps we may be able to find out sometime in the near future.