Jump to content
  • 0

Actual use of the Flying Flea in combat zone?


Question

Greetings. Hope someone can tell me what the actual intended use of a Royal Enfield Flying Flea motorcycle (WD/RE) would be in a combat zone. In this regard does anyone know of an account describing their actual use? It probably seems obvious. But consider: there are pictures of them being loaded into gliders, but not many photos (if any) of them in use after landing, except in what appear to be posed photos at practice or publicity events. It is often said that they were delivered (mostly by glider rather than parachute, apparently) with the British airborne. One view seems to be that there were to be used by, essentially, a commando-style force. I'd visualize this as soldiers, hurriedly mounted on these motorcycles, rushing to an objective such as a bridge, tossing the motorcycles into a hedge and taking up positions. (For instance, there was an attempt, at Arnhem, to use glider-delivered Jeeps armed with machine guns to reach the bridge, but they were ambushed en route). But when I look at the Flying Flea I see a motorcycle with full fenders, sprung seat, toolkit, tire pump, headlight with black-out hood, tail lamp and -- for gosh sakes -- a bulb horn! It does not appear to be a use-once, throw-away conveyance. So I always conceived the notion that they were for use carrying dispatches among the airborne. But, if so, why so few, if any photos of this? An explanation I have heard is that the special sealed carburetor filter, meant to prevent spills while in the air, was not understood by troops who would start the motorcycles, run them briefly until the petrol in the carburetor was used up, and then, when they stopped, dump them, considering them non-functional. Thank you all.

David in Fort Lauderdale

Royal_Enfield_history.jpg

Edited by Battlegraphics
to add illustration
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

6 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 0
5 hours ago, Battlegraphics said:

Greetings. Hope someone can tell me what the actual intended use of a Royal Enfield Flying Flea motorcycle (WD/RE) would be in a combat zone. In this regard does anyone know of an account describing their actual use? It probably seems obvious. But consider: there are pictures of them being loaded into gliders, but not many photos (if any) of them in use after landing, except in what appear to be posed photos at practice or publicity events. It is often said that they were delivered (mostly by glider rather than parachute, apparently) with the British airborne. One view seems to be that there were to be used by, essentially, a commando-style force. I'd visualize this as soldiers, hurriedly mounted on these motorcycles, rushing to an objective such as a bridge, tossing the motorcycles into a hedge and taking up positions. (For instance, there was an attempt, at Arnhem, to use glider-delivered Jeeps armed with machine guns to reach the bridge, but they were ambushed en route). But when I look at the Flying Flea I see a motorcycle with full fenders, sprung seat, toolkit, tire pump, headlight with black-out hood, tail lamp and -- for gosh sakes -- a bulb horn! It does not appear to be a use-once, throw-away conveyance. So I always conceived the notion that they were for use carrying dispatches among the airborne. But, if so, why so few, if any photos of this? An explanation I have heard is that the special sealed carburetor filter, meant to prevent spills while in the air, was not understood by troops who would start the motorcycles, run them briefly until the petrol in the carburetor was used up, and then, when they stopped, dump them, considering them non-functional. Thank you all.

David in Fort Lauderdale

Royal_Enfield_history.jpg

Good question.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

This is a well known IWM photo of Commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade near the Ranville  glider LZ 7th June 1944 note the bike on the bonnet of the jeep, not sure if it's a flea or a James

1stspecairforcenormandy.thumb.jpg.227f3e7d397d3dbcad19719a2885bd4f.jpg

Pete

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

It's a James ML on the bonnet. 

David you must be refering to the air bleed button on the petrol filler cap, which must be released before starting to avoid a vacuum in the tank.

Here is one picture of a para unit,   unless it's a re-enactment as they seem to have a captured German soldier. Ron

FADFB32CB-AC85-4A6E-A7D8-341F4430E157.jpeg.9cde6ee6cb4145a28e84770161c3f63f (1).jpeg

F.jpg

Edited by Ron
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

There is an air bleed button on the filler cap! Well, that would seem to answer the mystery of why the motorcycle might have started and run for awhile and then halted, certainly very frustrating if you didn't know about the button. I think that first photo is of the airborne operation associated with crossing the Rhine, Operation Varsity. I can't tell if that is a Flea in the photo but it certainly could be. Anyone able to tell? The other motorcycle is heavier. Perhaps that there is a mix of motorcycles in the photo suggests they are doing separate duties, perhaps directing traffic in one case and carrying messages in the other? Thank you for the photos.

All best,

David in Fort Lauderdale

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 0

It's definitely a Flea in that picture! The other option is a James ML with it's sawn off rear mudguard and silencer on the left....It's not an ML!!. The other bike looks like an M20 to me.  Ron

ML_M.L_Airborne.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Answer this question...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...