Ray Coker – the long, hard road to the top

Keith Rhodes tells the heart-warming story of Ray Coker, who conquered dyslexia to become a Royal Military Police motorcycle instructor, team trials rider and brilliantly successful businessman – and enjoys his motorcycle collection to this day.

Ray Coker has been defying the odds ever since, along with hundreds of other children, he was evacuated from his home in Merton, south London, after the outbreak of the Second World War. After finding a temporary home with a family in Paignton, Devon, however, he was almost killed by an incendiary bomb that exploded in the garden after just a few weeks – and for ‘safety’s sake’ his parents brought him back to London!

Ray Coker, who was at the Aldershot Training School from 1956 until 1959, is seen fourth from the left – standing and smiling because he knew what this typical group of trainees had let itself in for! If anyone can recognise any of the lads pictured, of perhaps knows Ray himself, please get in touch with our editor Pete at OBMEditor@mortons.co.uk and we’ll endeavour to put you in touch with him.

There he remained for the duration of the war, continuing to attend school as the V1 ‘Doodlebug’ flying bombs rained down, and finally started a five-year apprenticeship in motor mechanics.

Ray did not enjoy his school days, because, suffering from the then unacknowledged condition of dyslexia, he found reading and writing challenging and even today, at the age of 82, he still has to rely on others for the simplest of paperwork. “My teachers just said I was stupid, and that all I could expect would be ‘a job on the bins’ when I left school,” he reflected.

Nowadays, of course, we all recognise the importance of refuse collection and recycling, and would never dream of disparaging anyone carrying out this vital work – but that was then.

At the end of his apprenticeship Ray was called up for National Service and posted to Borden, Dorset, for basic training, but once again his dyslexia let him down and he was sent home.

He’d been riding bikes for some years, however, and when he heard from a friend that the Royal Military Police were looking for motorcycle instructors he applied and was accepted, earning a lance-corporal’s stripe, a brand new 350cc Matchless and the job of training young men to ride BSA M20 side-valve motorcycles.

Read more in the March 2018 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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