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Graham

Markings

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Can anyone please explain to me the logic behind the markings on WW2 motorbikes. I have rebuilt a Royal Enfield WDCO and would like to put the correct markings on it for a rider in the BEF preferably Wiltshire Regiment DR.

Also anyone have similar info on markings for Home Guard motorcycles. Cheers

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Graham,

 

I have been looking long and hard at BEF motorcycle markings in connection with my 16H but there is much less information available than for later periods. Are you thinking of a Royal Signals Despatch Rider or a Battalion motorcyclist ?

 

Was the WD/CO available as early as 1940 ? Orchard & Madden list it as going into service in "early 1942"

 

Most BEF motorcycles seem to have had few markings, with even the census number painted over (Have you calculated yours ?) Where the census number appears, it was often on the front and sometimes rear number plate.

 

I can't recall photographic evidence of Arm of Service markings on petrol tanks for this period and have seen it stated that neither they nor Divisional insignia were to be displayed on motorcycles. However, my 16H (see post in the restoration section)has the "crossed keys" of second infantry division on the front and rear mudguards and has cobalt blue RE arm of service marking on the (pre-war type) rear number plate.

 

I suspect that those machines attached to Divisional HQ were more likely to display the markings (although the Big 4 Outfits of 4th Northumberland Fusiliers had them too).

 

Are you thinking of 2nd Wilts as part of 5 Div ? If so, for BEF, as the middle Battalion of the Senior Brigade, their vehicles are likely to have carried a number 14 on a red background.

 

I have a rather poor copy of a photo showing an abandoned KM20 on the beach at Dunkirk and it carries a "Y" which I assume to be 5 Div and a number, either a "2" or "2..." which could be either Div RAC, units of the junior brigade, Divisional RASC units (perhaps the most likely) or a Field Ambulance section.

 

I don't have any info to hand over HG but I have a lot of scanned images from period motorcycle publications. I will see what I can turn up.

 

If you pm me, I can send copies of photos through together with some info from Hodges & Taylor's "British military Markings 1939 - 1945" which is the best source that I have found so far.

 

Rich

 

 

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Wonderful stuff Ashley,

 

I haven't seen the article and assume the author is the same chap who co-wrote the markings book that I consulted.

 

Here is another shot of the same unit entering Belgium on 10th May 1940 (IWM F4342 from Gavin Birch's "Motorcycles at War"

 

 

width=150 height=137http://img168.imageshack.us/img168/4059/a1939c399999994rnfbelgium10may1940herseauxxj6.th.jpg[/img]

 

Rich

 

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This is the Dunkirk shot. It is from the French ECPA archive. I have seen a better copy but the book costs 75 euro. The original picture does have a clearly stenciled "Y".

 

width=640 height=490http://img107.imageshack.us/img107/1337/km20dunkirkgb1.jpg[/img]

 

 

 

It seems unlikely that the "Y" on the BSA is from "Y Section" 4th Northumberland Fusiliers as there is no "TT" insignia and the central position is more usually reserved for Divisional Insignia.

 

Rich

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Hi

Sorry I have been away. Thank you all for your help _ I will read all this carefully. Re the comment about the date of my bike being wrong for the BEF - I take your point. Perhaps sentiment has got in the way of originallity. It was the markings on my late father's bike I was trying to reproduce - perhaps I should think again. Anyway as of 9th July it has passed its MoT so will be on the road a lot this year. Thanks again for your help. Graham

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Hello Graham, Well done on the MOT !

 

Since we last corresponded, I have spent some time in the IWM archives looking for BEF motorcycle pictures. I did find one Royal Enfield which is a Side Valve model WD/C. It was used by a Captain Keating who was an official photographer and took many of the BEF pictures in the IWM.

 

width=150 height=106http://img509.imageshack.us/img509/6720/rewdcc68144c51071940capfb0.th.jpg[/img]

 

 

As you can see, the bike had no markings beyond its census number on the front plate and the Royal Enfield logo on the tank.

 

Pictures of WD/COs are a little few and far between. They missed out on the early war need for morale-boosting photographs and there is a suggestion that the oil tank placing was considered to make them a bit vulnerable to damage if used off-road at the "sharp end".

 

By the way, have you been in touch with Jan Vandevelde in connection with his "machine register" ? He has been carrying out some primary research on the engine, frame and contract number information and is starting to make sense of the rather confusing contract sequences. Does yours have the Albion or the Burman box ?

 

Rich

 

 

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Rich

Thanks for the information. I have to admit that my bike is a bit of a mongrel, a collection of parts from a variety of dates - forks 1930s, frame 1950s, tin ware 1940s. I will let Jan Vandevelde have the info - it may be helpful.

I like your point about the oil tank but I suppose this could also apply to other contemporary bikes.

Great picture - doesn't he look young? The bike is 'well used'.

This all started because my father was a DR for the Wiltshire Regiment, was in the BEF and in 1943 was killed riding back to base near Devizes. My perhaps too romantic idea was to dress my bike in similar markings.

Thanks again for the info I need to give this plan more thought.

Cheers, Graham

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Graham,

its your bike to do with as you please ! as you say "its a bit of a mongrel" well at least its on the road and being enjoyed :-o

 

Paint it in what markings you want to, if any one queries it you have the answer for them.

Ashley

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Ashley

You are someone with the same thoughts as me. I have built and altered bikes for some time despite the people who want only 'original' fittings. Bikes are to be used and modified to suit the riders needs.

Cheers, Graham

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Hi Graham,

 

Rich Payne told me about this thread. I have indeed started a research about the Royal Enfield WD/CO motorcycles. To find out more about the numbers which can be found on a typical WD/CO engine, I started a register for these bikes, and with this register, a lot became clear! I have put all this information in what I call a "report". This can be sent to you if you let me know your email address. It would also be nice if I could include your motorcycle in my register!

 

REgards,

Jan Vandevelde

janDOTvandeveldeATvac-machinesDOTbe

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Ive hijacked one of your pics to go on another thread, hope you dont mind Ashley. :tup:

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Graham,

I think that your tribute is a great idea. The 1940 - 1943 home front period when the army was rebuilding its depleted units post Dunkirk and probably needing to build esprit-de-corps would probably give you greater scope for specific unit markings as Divisional and Arm of Service markings were displayed.

 

The BEF era was one of coats of khaki and dirt often on civilian impressed models and sometimes covering the earlier markings. It was the point at which the authorities were ending the brass shoulder titles as well but the rules were not always followed and copies of local orders have rarely survived.

 

I first acquired my 16h intending to chuck in a post-war OHV motor (the alloy head 350 engines are fairly available)and build a girder-forked Green-laner. It was only when I started finding original markings that I became a fanatic ! :-)

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Ive hijacked one of your pics to go on another thread, hope you dont mind Ashley. :tup:

 

 

Ive no problem.

Ashley

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Rich

 

Thanks for that. I have just borrowed a copy of 'British Military Markings 1939-1945' so beginning to realise what a complicated field this is but I like your comment about the situation post Dunkirk and will follow this lead.

 

Thanks again, Graham

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Graham,

 

Is that the 1970s Almark edition By Peter Hodge or the 1990s revision with addenda by Michael D. Taylor ? The latter has a lot more info, particularly about the BEF.

 

Rich.

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Rich

Yes it is the later edition with, as you say, more info on the BEF. Just come back from a long ride - need to put more padding in the saddle!

Thanks again, Graham

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