View Full Version : British/Allied Motorcycles with Sidecars

06-04-2009, 02:55 PM
Does anyone know if the allies used any motorcycles with sidecars in any theatre after Dunkirk?



The British had six M/C sidecar battalions (with Lewis guns attached to the sidecar) at the start of the war; two of them were part of the BEF in France and were lost at/before Dunkirk.

I believe the remaining four were kept in the UK for the rest of the war.

The British clearly used hundreds of thousands of motorcycles in their armed forces, with about 30 motorcycles in the average infantry battalion, and about a dozen motorcycles in the average artillery battery.

But I think these were mostly dispatch riders and MPs and such...riding bikes without sidecars.

Anyone have any additional info about the use of sidecars outside the UK?


06-05-2009, 08:44 AM
Here's a photo of Airborne (actually airlanding) troops training with a 'Big 4' motorcycle sidecar. But it could have been as early as 1942.


The British seemed to be slowly replacing some motorcycles with jeeps. For example, a 25 Pounder light artillery battery had about 12 MCs in the early war but by 1944 had about 7 MCs and 5 jeeps.

Therefore, airborne forces probably never used MC sidecars in combat, only training; using instead the more versatile jeeps, that could load a whole infantry section (in a pinch) or tow a 6 pounder ATk gun.

But what about North Africa, or Italy? Has anyone seen a photograph of a British sidecar in North Africa?


Rising Sun*
06-05-2009, 09:14 AM
But what about North Africa, or Italy? Has anyone seen a photograph of a British sidecar in North Africa?

Not an Allied aspect, but I had a vague recollection about the Germans having problems with MCs in North Africa and here it is, at Tobruk (which reminded me of the excellent article it comes from and which I'll post elsewhere):

All motorcycles, including half-track motorcycles, proved unsatisfactory for the Germans and were replaced eventually by Volkswagens. http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/miller/miller.asp#35

11-19-2009, 07:42 PM
I found an unusual mention of British sidecars being used outside of the UK after Dunkirk. Apparently there was a series of at least nine raids by MC troops (and possibly 50 sidecars with MGs) on France in late 1940. Article here:


Apart from that, I assume that all 10,000 sidecars were kept in Britain?

Here's what looks like a British training/documentary/PR film, showing off the Humber Armoured car and supporting MC sidecar troops. The film is from 1942:


Still interested if anyone knows of Brit sidecars being used outside the UK after Dunkirk?


George Eller
11-21-2009, 02:41 PM
Norton 16H

The Norton 16H was a designation given to British motorcycles made between 1911 through to 1954 with various modifications and refers to a single cylinder 490cc side valve engine with a bore and stroke of 79 x 100 mm. The H denotes the Home model as distinct from the Colonial export model. Norton was the main military motorcycle supplier prior to WW2 and one of the main suppliers of motorcycles to the British Army in World War II with a total of nearly 100,000 produced. British Army Nortons were also supplied to the Commonwealth forces such as Australian, New Zealand, India and the Canadian Army.


A 16H was first offered for military evaluation in 1932, together with a Norton Model 18 and a Norton Model 19. It was found to be suitable and the Norton designers began working with the War Office on a range of developments and modifications. Military orders were placed for the 16H (designated WD16H for War Department use) from 1936 and continued throughout the course of the Second World War, setting a ten year record for the longest time the War Office procured a single make of motorcycle. The entire staff of the Norton factory in Bracebridge Street Birmingham were needed to meet demand - even the racing team found themselves on the WD16H production line. A popular despatch machine, the WD16H was also used for training, reconnaissance, convoy control and escort duties.

Pre war, the RAF ordered many hundreds machines with a non driven 'box' or Model G (person carrying) side-car. Military Motorcycles left the Norton factory in Army Service Green, Khaki green, Khaki brown or Olive green, depending on colour specified at time of production. Prewar RAF machines (up to September 1939)were delivered in RAF Blue. Wartime RAF bikes were identically coloured as the "Army" bikes. A number of machines were painted sand 'desert camouflage' by local workshops in the Middle East and used in Palestine and the North Africa Campaign.



Manufacturer: Norton Motorcycle Company
Engine: 490cc, side valve air cooled single
Top speed: 68mph (109 km/h)
Power: 14 bhp @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Four speed gearbox to chain final drive
Suspension: Girder front forks, solid rear
Brakes: drum brakes
Weight: 388 ib (176 kg)
Fuel capacity: 3.5 gallons (16 litres)


Post War

Postwar "civilianised" military Norton 16HAfter the end of hostilities in 1945 there were many thousands of Norton Model 16H motorcycles all over the world. Some continued in use by the British and Commonwealth Armed forces until the end of the 1950s. Many were sold by the War Department to other armed forces, including the Dutch, Belgian, Danish, Greek and Norwegian Army which used the 16H throughout the 1950s. The remainder were sold to dealers who converted them to civilian colours and specifications.

The 16H and the Model 18 were also the first civilian models built by Norton after ending of the hostilities. In 1947 the machine received its final modification with telescopic forks, improving handling and giving the bike a more modern look, despite its age. The basic engine configuration proved popular with customers so Norton continued production until the mid 1950's when the fashion for twin cylinder motorcycles was prevalent. The 16H has a strong following of enthusiasts to this day.

Postwar "civilianised" military Norton 16H


WD16H engine and frame numbers plus 16H gallery

The Norton WD 16H and BIG 4 website

Image results for "Norton WD 16H"




Norton Big 4
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Norton Model 1, or more commonly known as Big 4 was a British motorcycle made between 1907 and 1954 in various forms. With 633cc, it was the largest/most powerful sidevalve engine with plenty of low end torque in the model range made by Norton Motorcycles in Birmingham and mostly used to haul sidecars. Approximately 4700 of the nearly 100.000 military bikes made by Norton during WW2 were Big 4 sidecar outfits. Designed to carry two or three men plus their fighting equipment over very rough terrain, the Big 4 was wasn't particularly big and didn't have four of anything - but it was used for reconnaissance and carrying loads of ammunition to the front line troops.

Norton Big 4
Manufacturer: Norton Motorcycle Company
Also called Model 1
Production: 1907 - 1954
Engine: 633cc, side valve air cooled single
Top speed: 68mph
Power: 14.5 bhp @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Four speed gearbox to chain final drive
Suspension: Girder front forks, solid rear. Telescopic front fork from 47 to the end and rear suspension as option
Brakes: drum brakes
Weight: 679 lb (308 kg)

Military Norton WD Big 4

Norton Big Four military outfit (detail)It was a development of prewar trials outfit with a sidecar wheel coupled to the motorcycle rear wheel through a dog clutch and drive shaft. Initial trials were carried out at Studland in Dorset and it coped well with challenging terrain. The simple design also meant it was easy to maintain in the field. All three 18" X 4.00 wheels were interchangeable with various makes of tyres for off road use.

The sidecar was unarmoured with thin sheetmetal on the front of the sidecar and there was no suspension in the rear of the heavy duty frame, the sidecar was mounted on 4 leaf springs, and had 2 friction disc shock absorbers at the back. The Norton Big Four was eventually replaced by the Ford GP or the Willys Jeep in 1941.

The Big 4 could be equipped with a Bren gun or a 3 inch mortar, bombs could be fitted to a platform in place of a sidecar, but this seems to have been a one off model, same with the Thompson equipped Big 4.

Norton Big Four restoration

Image results for "Norton BIG 4"




George Eller
11-21-2009, 02:45 PM


The BSA M20 was a British motorcycle made by Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) at their factory in Small Heath, Birmingham. Initially viewed as a near failure by the War Office in 1936, the M20 evolved into one of the longest serving motorcycles in the history of British military motorcycling, as well as becoming the most numerous type produced for World War II with 126,000 in active service, so many are still in use around the world today.


At the outbreak of World War II BSA were Britain's largest motorcycle manufacturer with a long history of armaments supply to the armed forces. Designed by Val Page the BSA M20 started development in 1937 as a heavy framed sidecar model with a simple 500cc single cylinder side valve engine. It had low compression and plenty of low end torque through a standard BSA gearbox.

Early K-M20 models from 1939 were made from standard civilian parts with the addition of military fittings, such as a large 8 in Lucas DUl42 headlight (fitted with a black out mask), a timing-gear cover with a screw-in plug for access to the magneto drive-pinion nut and special filler caps the petrol and oil tanks. These early military M20 models were also fitted with a long spiked prop stand on the rear nearside pivoted from a lug brazed on to the rear frame tube. Factory ledgers show that BSA exported K-M20 models to Sweden, South Africa and India, as well as civilian dealers and distributors.

M20 factory bombing

BSA workers employed making the M20 were killed in an air raid on the BSA factory in Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham on the night of Tuesday the 19th of November, 1940. The factory was one of the main targets for the Luftwaffe and at 9.25pm a low flying aircraft dropped two bombs which destroyed the southern end of the BSA building in Armoury Road. Rescuers included BSA's own fire brigade who pumped the Birmingham and Warwick canal dry putting out the fire. As well as 53 workers killed, 89 were injured and it was six weeks before the last of the bodies could be recovered.[4] Much of the factory and equipment was destroyed or damaged but BSA had 67 factories so work was transferred elsewhere and production of the BSA M20 continued.


From October 1939 the K-M20 was designated the W-M20 and modified to include girder-forks and removal of the valanced rear mudguard. During late 1940 some civil specification M20's were purchased by the War Office which were civil models with a military paint scheme. In 1941 front and rear number plates were removed and between 1941 and 1942 active service use in North Africa showed the need for easy adjustment of the fork dampers. Special damper knobs were made of bakelite (later replaced with pressed steel). The DU142 headlight was replaced with a smaller 6 in Lucas DU42, with a hooded, slotted black-out shield, and a universal L-WD-MCT1A tail* light was fitted.

From 1942 there was a shortage of rubber so handlebar grips and foot pegs were replaced by canvas covered metal items and production was standardised, with only minor modifications until the end of World War II. By early 1942 a new large rear carrier was fitted to hold universal WD steel pannier-frames and bags. This meant repositioning the long prop stand to forward of the nearside rear wheel spindle nut. Further modifications include redesign of the crankcase sump shield. In early 1945 a push-button switch was introduced for the headlight and the main lighting switch relocated to a bracket beneath the offside of the saddle.

Military service

The M20 failed on its first submission to the War Office in 1936 (due to 'unacceptable engine wear') and only just passed the 10,000 mile suitability tests in at Farnborough in 1938 when a small batch was commissioned. Criticised for being heavy and slow, with poor ground clearance it was saved by its reliability and ease of maintenance. As the need for transport quickly gained pace orders were placed for larger quantities. Most BSA M20 motorcycles were used by the British Army but the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force also commissioned M20's from BSA. Designed as a general-purpose motorcycle for convoy escort and dispatch use, the M20 saw action in almost every theatre of war. After the war the BSA M20 model continued in military service throughout the national service of the 1950s and in smaller numbers until the end of the 1960s — partly due to the low cost and easy availability of spare parts - and also as a result of six years of harsh conditions with no serious failures.

Civilian versions

A former AA BSA patrol bike from 1951The BSA M20 was a reliable and affordable form of post war transport, so BSA repainted the khaki WD models black and they became particularly popular as a sidecar motorcycle. The Automobile Association placed a large order and their yellow and black M20 combinations became a familiar sight on British roads. The 1945 wartime cast iron engine continued in production until 1951, when an alloy cylinder head was introduced but otherwise it remained largely unchanged. Spares began to become harder to find in the 1950's, however, and the simple design was overtaken by modern twin cylinder motorycles, so it was discontinued in 1956 — but the 600cc M21 went on until 1963 when it was also discontinued.

112 MPH BSA M20

As well as being painstakingly restored by enthusiasts to accurate wartime specification, the M20 has also been developed by specialists for speed trials. A 1938 BSA M20 ridden by Bill Jenkins from Dallas achieved a top speed of 108mph at Bonneville Salt Flats making it the fastest M20 in the world. The original side-valve engine was extensively modified and fuelled with nitrous oxide. The intake port was drilled at a steep angle into the block so the carburetor pointed at the underside of the intake valve. The motorcycle did however retain the long BSA prop stand that hinged under the seat and clipped to the rear mudguard when not in use — so it looked like a stock M20.[8] In October 1995 an M20 fitted with a BSA Gold Star crankshaft sprocket and running on a 95% Methanol / 5% Acetone mix ridden by Pat Jeal achieved a terminal speed of 112mph at the disused airfield of RAF Elvington, Yorkshire.

The BSA M20 Forum

M20 wartime gallery

BSA WM20 Gallery

BSA M20 restoration project

BSA M20 WD 1942 video

BSA M20 in the movies

M20 (500cc):as the WD (War Department) M20 the motorcycle of the British Army in WW2

M21 (600cc): the big brother of the M20, also used by the British Army in WW2.

M series
In the 1930's the M series was a mixture of overhead valve and side-valve models. During and after the Second World War only the side-valve models of this series were continued, typically for use by the armed forces or in sidecar combinations.

Image results for "BSA M20"




Image results for "BSA M21"



George Eller
11-21-2009, 02:50 PM

Ariel W/NG 350

The Ariel W/NG 350 was a British military motorcycle based on the well proven Ariel Red Hunter singles built by Ariel Motorcycles, and designed by the firm's chief designer Val Page in 1932 around an engine he developed six years earlier. Although the Ariel was not initially selected by the War Department, they were in great demand after the evacuation of Dunkirk when much of the British Army's material had been left behind.

On the outbreak of World War II, Ariel submitted the 1939 VA 497 cc (30.3 cu in) overhead valve single for evaluation against the War Office's Norton 16H. The 1939 W/VA 497cc side-valve single was also tested. Both performed well and Ariel developed the W/NG specifically for military use. This was a 348 cc (21.2 cu in) OHV single based on a Scottish six-day Trials winning model and went into production in 1940.

Although the French military immediately placed orders for the W/NG the British War Office rated it as 'fair - for use only in emergency purposes' but following the loss of equipment resulting from the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 the 'emergency purposes' became necessary and Ariel turned over as many motorcycles as possible to the war effort, including converted civilian machines - many of which still carried an Ariel badge painted over with green or sand paint. VH & VG (500 OHV singles), NH & NG (350 OHV singles), and even the VB (598 cc/36.5 cu in SV single) models were put into military service, although most were used for training and civil defence. The British Army, Royal Air Force, Admiralty, Ministry of Agriculture and Women's Land Army all used Ariel W/NG 350s.

W/NG 350 cc (21.4 cu in) motorcycles were supplied from 1940 to 1945 and featured dual triangular tool boxes, pannier frames for bags, rear carrying racks and headlamp masks. Rubber items were impossible to source from 1942 due to a shortage of rubber, so handgrips were made from canvas and footrests from steel. As the war progressed, aluminium also became scarce and pressed steel was used for the primary chaincase and timing covers.


Post War
After the war over 800 W/NG motorcycles were supplied to the Danish Army between 1946 and 1947. The remaining W/NG's that survived were mostly converted back into civilian specification for resale by dealers, so good examples of the military model are now rare.

WW II Ariel (1935-1945)

Image results for "Ariel W/NG 350"






George Eller
11-21-2009, 02:51 PM

Matchless G3/L

The Matchless G3/L was a motorcycle developed for use by the British Army during the Second World War, when Matchless manufactured 80,000 G3 and G3/L models. The G3/L became one of the most popular motorcycles used in the Second World War[citation needed], as it was the first to replace the unforgiving 'girder' front forks with a new technology, 'teledraulic' suspension. The Ministry of Defence continued to use the bikes into the 1960s.


In 1940 the British War Office requisitioned every available matchless motorcycle to replace those lost at Dunkirk. Developed from the pre-war G3, the 'L' in the G3/L stood for "lightweight" in response to the War Office requirement for a motorcycle more suited to off-road use, as the designers managed to reduce the dry weight of the prototype by 56 pounds (25 kg) (although the later models were not so lightweight due to the additional army equipment that needed to be added). The real innovation of the G3/L was the 'teledraulic' forks, which were the first telescopic design with oil damping - an idea that was to become the standard for almost all future motorcycles.

After exhaustive military testing the G3/L lost the War Office competition for a single standard 350 cc machine to Triumph's 350cc side-valve vertical twin, the 3TW, which had a top speed of over 70 mph and weighed 240 pounds (110 kg). Triumph's Priory Street works in Coventry were completely destroyed by German bombers in November 1940 All Triumph's technical records, drawings and designs were lost and Matchless won the contract. Triumph instead produced 350cc sidevalves for the military during the war.

Production of the G3/L began in late 1941 and a series of modifications and improvements were introduced as it began military service. From 1942 the entire output of the Matchless factory was dedicated to the G3/L.

Active Service

In 1940, 110 Matchless G3/L's were ordered from England by the South African Army as the preferred machine for use by despatch riders.

As well as general army transport G3/L's were widely used for delivering messages that were too important to be sent by radio or by telephone.

They were also used for convoy escort, having to read maps and act as an 'advance party' into occupied territory. Dispatch riders were an easy target for snipers, had to use dimmed headlights and coped with poor road conditions. In a WWII study Sir Hugh Cairns identified head injuries as a major cause of loss of life among dispatch riders and recommended crash helmets instead of the standard 'tin helmet' or forage caps that were often worn. Sir Hugh' eventually led to compulsory crash helmets for motorcyclists - but not for 32 years.

Post War

1939 G3/LA war-torn infrastructure and shortages made life problematic in places like Italy, but there were a few consolations for the Italian people to help themselves get back to normality. The Germans, British and Americans had all been in and out of Italy as invaders and liberators, and they had discarded or abandoned huge amounts of military hardware including tanks, trucks and motorcycles. Some of these motorcycles, such as the Matchless G3/L, were converted from military service to civilian service by Italian riders.

Post war G3/Ls were the military version finished in black instead of green or khaki. Despite its age, the Matchless was so well proven and reliable it was able to stay in use by the Ministry of Defence for another fifteen years after the end of the war until replaced in 1960 by the BSA W-B40.

The Matchless G3/L was a popular choice for UK trials riders and after the war there were plenty of bikes and spares to enable champions such as Artie Ratcliffe and Ted Usher to win numerous national events for Matchless.

The Royal Artillery Motor Cycle Display Team gave their first performance at the St Asaph Tattoo in July 1949 and used the G3/L for displays until they were replaced with the BSA Gold Star.

The end was in sight, however, as the G3 was gaining weight without any corresponding increase in power. Suspension was upgraded to a swinging arm from 1949 and an aluminium cylinder head fitted from 1951. In 1955 the engine was uprated with stronger main bearings and an 'auto-advance' fitted to the rotating magnet magneto, (now front mounted for access). Front forks were also upgraded to improve handling and in 1958 an alternator was fitted and optional chrome tank panels, steering damper, brake light system and air filter were offered.

The wartime G3/L today has an enthusiastic following on the classic bike scene and can cost up to £3,000 in original condition with the correct WD equipment.


Matchless G3/L on active service with Dutch Army

Image results for "Matchless G3/L"





George Eller
11-21-2009, 02:53 PM

Triumph Engineering Co Ltd

Triumph Engineering Co Ltd was a British motorcycle manufacturer, originally based in Coventry. A new company, Triumph Motorcycles Ltd based in Hinckley took over the name rights after the collapse of the company in the 1980s and is now one of the world's leading motorcycle manufacturers.


1929 OHC Triumph PrototypeWhen the Great Depression hit in 1929, Triumph spun off its German subsidiary as a separate, independently owned company, which became part of the Triumph-Adler Company. The Nuremberg firm continued to manufacture motorcycles as TWN (Triumph Werke Nürnberg) until 1957. In 1932, Triumph sold off another part of the company, its bicycle manufacturing facility to Raleigh. By then, Triumph had been struggling financially, and Bettmann had been forced out of the chairman's spot. He retired completely in 1933.

In 1936, the company's two components became separate companies. Triumph always struggled to make a profit from cars, and after going bankrupt in 1939 was acquired by the Standard Motor Company. The motorcycle operations fared better, having been acquired in 1936 by Jack Sangster, who also owned the rival Ariel motorcycle company. That same year, the company began its first exports to the United States, which quickly grew into the company's single most important market. Sangster's formed the Triumph Engineering Co Ltd largely led by ex-Ariel employees, including Edward Turner who designed the 500 cc 5T Speed Twin - released in September 1937, and the basis for all Triumph twins until the 1980s. Contrary to popular belief, however, this was not Triumph's first parallel twin. This honour falls to the Val Page designed, but unpopular, 6/1. After Turner arrived, in his usual brusque manner, the 6/1 was dropped, later to be replaced with Turner's design. The 6/1 engine later resurfaced, somewhat modified, as the BSA A10. In 1939 the 500 cc Tiger T100, capable of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), was released, and then the war began.

World War II

Motorcycles were produced at Coventry until World War II. The town of Coventry was virtually destroyed in The Blitz (7 September 1940 to May, 1941). Tooling and machinery was recovered from the site of the devastation and production restarted at the new plant at Meriden, West Midlands in 1942.

Post-war era

The Triumph Speed Twin designed by Edward Turner before the war was produced in large numbers after the war. Efforts to settle the lend-lease debts caused nearly 70% of Triumphs post war production to be shipped to the United States. Post War, the Speed Twin and Triumph Tiger 100 were available with a sprung rear hub, Triumph's first attempt at a rear suspension.

Privateers put wartime surplus alloy barrels on their Tiger 100 racers, and won races, inspiring the Triumph GP model. By 1950 the supply of barrels was exhausted, and the GP model was dropped. The American market applied considerable pressure to reverse this backward step, and a die cast close finned alloy barrel was made available. The alloy head made the valve noise more obvious, so ramp type cams were introduced for alloy head models to reduce the noise.

Another motorcycle based on the wartime generator engine was the 499 cc TR5 Trophy Twin, also introduced at the 1948 Motor Cycle Show. It used a single carburettor, low compression version of the Grand Prix engine. Britain won the prestigious 1948 International Six Days Trial. The Triumph works team had finished unpenalised. One team member, Allan Jefferies, had been riding what amounted to a prototype version.

To satisfy the American appetite for motorcycles suited to long distance riding, Turner built a 650 cc version of the Speed Twin design. The new bike was named the Thunderbird (A name Triumph would later license to the Ford Motor Company for use on a car). Only one year after the Thunderbird was introduced a hot rodder in Southern California mated the 650 Thunderbird with a twin carb head originally intended for GP racing and named the new creation the Wonderbird. That 650 cc motor, designed in 1939, held the world's absolute speed record for motorcycles from 1955 until 1970.

The Triumph brand received considerable publicity in the United States when Marlon Brando rode a 1950 Thunderbird 6T in the 1953 motion picture, The Wild One.

(continued Below)

George Eller
11-21-2009, 02:55 PM
(Continued from above)

The history of Triumph Motorcycles
From 1883 to 2003,
from Coventry to Meriden to Hinckley



Tiger 90 discontinued. T100, with top speed of 95-100 mph, becomes a popular model in US. TT races put on hold again. Reggie Pink concentrates on Triumph sales. The Tiger 85 is announced, but never produced.

Edward Turner's wife dies in a car crash near Coventry.

Freddie Clarke sets a new 350cc lap record at Brooklands, doing 105.97mph on a Tiger 80, then sets another doing 118.02mph on a bored-out 503cc T100. Val Page returns to Ariel. Sangster buys the bankrupt New Imperial name for use as a manufacturer of no-frills machines. But plans to resurrect the line are halted by the war, and never brought back.

World War II declared and within six weeks, 1,400 Triumph motorcycles are requisitioned from the factory for war use. This year, Reggie Pink, New York, offers all of Triumph's 13 bike models in his shop.


In January, the British government reduced production demands, allowing Triumph to manufacture bikes for the civilian and export markets again. In March, the French government contracts to buy 500cc side-valve bikes from Triumph. In May, the British government again requisitions bikes, halting civilian production. By July production for the military is up to 300 machines a week.

350cc side-valve vertical twin with rigid frame and girder forks (3TW based on Tiger 85 design) and 3HW (350cc ohv based on the Tiger 80; a "potentially great" bike, it offered a top speed of over 70 mph, weighed 240 lbs. and had a six inch ground clearance) singles approved for Services. Bert Hopwood believed the 3TW was a seriously flawed design. Fifty prototypes were made for testing, but destroyed in the Blitz. Hopwood wrote this was a "favour" to the War Office.
Priory Street works destroyed by German bombers on November 14 during blitz of Coventry. Initial batch of 50 350cc twins ready to go out are destroyed. This was the end of this model and motorcycles were never again built at this plant. The staff salvage all of the usable tools and parts from the rubble, only stopping when an unexploded bomb is found among the debris. The Blitz also destroyed all of Triumph's technical records, drawings and designs. Production moved to temporary location in Warwick, while a new factory on the Birmingham-Coventry road outside Meriden is being built.

Sangster sells Ariel to BSA group. Canadian distributors Sammett & Blair (east) and Nicholson Brothers (west) selling Triumphs into US market, bringing much-needed foreign currency to Britain. Bruce "Boo Boo" Pearson wins 32 out of 36 competition events in California riding a Tiger 100. Johnson and Ceder move shop to Los Angeles, rename it Johnson Motors. Edward Turner visits Johnson Motors.


Temporary premises acquired in Warwick and production restarts in June. 310 and 500cc side-valves in production by June for Services (advanced 3TW never built). Work on new factory at the village of Meriden started (reputed to be at the geographic centre of Britain). The company also built 6kW generators for RAF based on the Speed Twin engine, but using light alloy cylinder head and barrel. Called the AAPP (Airborne Auxiliary Power Plant), the design went on to become the basis of the post-war Grand Prix engine. Triumph also worked on a target-towing winch for the Navy.

Annie Bettmann dies. Triumph exports are cut off.

Turner's "sprung hub" was supposed to go into production this year, adding 17 lbs to the weight of a bike. But the war delays introduction until 1948.


New factory at Meriden in production mid-year for military, with single-cylinder 350cc ohv 3HW based on pre-war 3H (basically a Tiger 80 but without an air filter, which required major servicing every couple of thousand miles), but improved with enclosed valve gear, etc. Forty thousand built for military during war, out of a total of 49,700 motorcycles produced. Triumph also made aircraft components, track links, steering housings and two-wheeled stretcher carriers. Turner designs a generator using a Triumph vertical twin engine for the Air Ministry.

After a blazing row with Jack Sangster, Turner quit and moved to BSA as chief designer, where he worked on a side-valve vertical twin. Bert Hopwood becomes Triumph's new designer and works on a new side-valve model to challenge Turner's military machine for BSA.


Bert Hopwood designs the 500cc, side-valve twin TRW model for the military, at the request of Jack Sangster (partly to challenge Turner at BSA who was working on a military 500cc twin), but it was never produced. prototypes were released in february, ahead of BSA's planned launch. The design would become the post-war TRW model. In late October, Edward Turner returned to Triumph. Hopwood worked on design for an inline four-cylinder 700cc engine that could produce 50 bhp. Turner's return to Triumph scuttled the plan.


Edward Turner is Managing Director again. Alfred "Rich" Child, Harley-Davidson's Asian sales agent, approaches Triumph to become their exclusive, factory-authorized importer into the USA. Turner and Sangster decide to stick with Johnson as their official distributor.


During the war years, Triumph built 50,000 motorcycles. Large stock of used 3HW and 3SW (side-valve) models bought from War Department for reconditioning and repainting in new colours, sold in Britain for civilian use. In March, four twins and one single are announced, but the single and one twin never see production. The Speed Twin, Tiger 100 and 350cc 3T are made. They are fitted with telescopic forks (replacing the old girder front forks), but are otherwise the same as pre-war models. Turner designs the forks, but first models spew oil when bottoming out, so they are reworked by Freddie Clarke.

Johnson draws up plans for a US nation-wide dealer network and accepts applications for Ariel and triumph franchises. JoMo moves to a new location in Pasadena, investing $85,000 in renovations, including six hydraulic lifts in the service area. JoMo drops its Indian franchise, but picks up California-made Mustang, Lucas electrical products, Amal carbs, John Bull and Dunlop tires.


WW2 1942 Triumph 3HW 350cc video

Triumph 3HW video

Image results for "Triumph 3HW"



11-21-2009, 03:33 PM
Now that's what I'm talking about...

Based on popular culture, anyone would think the German Army were the only ones using motorcycles in WWII. But the British Army was actually more motorcyclized than the German Army.

Thank you for that in depth info George.

I rode an old 350cc single cyclinder 'thumper' one time. Never forgot it...loved it...would like to ride a 500cc single some day.

Still interested if anyone knows of British sidecar use outside of the UK after 1940. Perhaps in Burma, North Africa, Italy or even after D-Day?


George Eller
11-21-2009, 06:18 PM
Now that's what I'm talking about...

Based on popular culture, anyone would think the German Army were the only ones using motorcycles in WWII. But the British Army was actually more motorcyclized than the German Army.

Thank you for that in depth info George.

I rode an old 350cc single cyclinder 'thumper' one time. Never forgot it...loved it...would like to ride a 500cc single some day.

Still interested if anyone knows of British sidecar use outside of the UK after 1940. Perhaps in Burma, North Africa, Italy or even after D-Day?


You're very welcome Saxon,

British bikes do have a mystique about them. In pop culture they were the choice of both Brando (The Wild One) and the Fonz (Happy Days).

I will check into the use of sidecars outside the UK. I know the Dutch used them in Holland and in the colonies. I will check into American usage too.


George Eller
11-23-2009, 10:00 PM

Motorcyclist Helmet (p 135)
It is spring 1945, and a motorcycle messenger from HQ London District awaits further instruction in the grounds of a country house loaned to the military as a headquarters for the duration of hostilities. Around his steel motorcyclist’s helmet are his motor transport goggles with their distinctive teardrop shape. With his BD blouse of prewar pattern he wears Breeches, Motorcyclist made of heavy whipcord fabric with kid leather reinforcing patches on the inside of the legs. They were also made in cavalry twill or green twill fabric. Where they taper at the calf a khaki drill band with a vent is secured by two buttons (these were unfastened to give greater room when pulling the breeches over the feet). Positioned high on the right thigh is a button-fastened field dressing pocket. He is armed with a webbing pistol set.

Motorcyclist Helmet (p 135)
Detail of the interior cradle of the steel Helmet, Motorcyclist.

Motorcyclist Helmet (p 70)
The helmet worn here has a white painted band visible under the camouflage net; identifying a member of the traffic control branch of the Corps of Military Police. Note the details of the motorcyclist's boot, often worn with an extra pair of long socks. Later in the war a protective metal plate was added under the right instep to prevent excessive wear by the kick-start. The gauntlets remained unchanged throughout the war typically in buff or brown leather; they were also used by some motor vehicle drivers and armoured crews.

Pictures and captions from : “The World War II Tommy: British Army Uniforms European Theatre 1939-45 In Colour Photographs”, by Martin Brayley & Richard Ingram, The Crowood Press Ltd., 1998


R Mark Davies
11-28-2009, 07:56 PM
I've got photos here somewhere of various Recce Corps Regiments using motorcycle combinations during training in the UK, which can only have been taken after 1940, as the Recce Corps didn't exist until 1941. However, I'm not aware of them ever having been used in combat.

However, the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps (HKVDC) definitely used sidecar-mounted Vickers MMGs during the defence of Hong Kong in 1941. The HKVDC MG Platoon had eight MG Sections, each of two Vickers MMGs. Four sections were mounted on Carriers, while four were mounted on BSA motorcycle combinations.

Re the motorcyclist's helmet markings above: the rank was painted in the 'break' in the white helmet-band. If you look closely, you can see that the chap pictured above is a corporal.

05-10-2014, 04:42 PM
Jeeps proved to be so effective that bikes gave way pretty fast.
HD and Indian each produced 1000 BMW clones that got little use because of theis.

Friend of mine, now gone, started in N Africa as a motorcycle scout and courier.
He said he hated the job.

He ended up in armoured cars in Italy.