BEF Motorcycles - Formation Signs, Arm of Service Markings and Census Numbers.

Discussion in '1940' started by Rich Payne, Nov 12, 2011.

  1. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    This is perhaps a little self-indulgent of me but I wanted to put together a thread where I could collate all the various styles and types of markings found on the BEF's two-wheelers.

    Most of these images have appeared elsewhere on the forum but they're becoming quite difficult to search out.

    The initial pictures are of surviving components which have been found in France and Belgium and are almost certainly of BEF origin.

    Norton WD16H fuel tank which appears to be marked to 1st Infantry Division. The only appearance of the Formation sign on the fuel tank is on the upper surface, along with gas paint and what appears to have been the intention to paint a reminder of the 40 mph speed restriction but it wasn't completed.

    It may be that there is an overpainted movement number under the gas paint.

    [​IMG]

    The bike dates from approximately July 1939 and the census number at that time was still being applied on the pre-war style of black background, with the number on the (UK) 'near-side' only.
    [​IMG]

    This second fuel tank, from a 1940 BSA WM20 carries the 1st Armoured Division Rhino, once again on the upper surface, along with an area of gas detector paint. In addition, it has a tactical marking painted on the 'off-side' in red.

    [​IMG]

    Once again, census number appears only on the 'near-side' but not on a black background. It appears that BSA discontinued applying the background earlier than the Norton factory.

    [​IMG]

    This is a Matchless G3/WO rear tool box, also marked to 1st Armoured Division. There are no other surviving parts from this bike to indicate if the formation sign on the box was also applied elsewhere.

    [​IMG]

    My own Norton had lost its fuel tank but showed the 'Crossed keys' of 2nd Infantry Division on front and rear mudguards.

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    The rear number plate was coloured cobalt blue, indicating Royal Engineers and the figure '1' is displayed but curiously applied with yellow gas paint. It would seem to indicate HQ RE 2nd Div.

    [​IMG]

     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2017
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  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    1st Corps - 102nd Army Field Company RE Norton photographed at Dunkirk - The 1 Corps spearhead is alongside the AoS serial on the rear number plate. It doesn't look as if there was a corps bar applied above the AoS marking. Background colour would be RE cobalt blue.

    1 Corps 102 Army Fd Coy. RE Dunkirk a.jpg

    2nd Infantry Division Norton probably photographed around Poperinge. Formation sign on the off-side of the fuel tank. It appears that there may be a formation sign on the front mudguard also. As with the mudguard markings in post #1, the keys are a simplified stencilled version of that seen on larger vehicles - no 'cut-outs' on the 'blade' and a variable thickness on the rings which suggest that the stencil had no centre and relied on freehand skills.

    2nd Div 16H Negative.JPG

    2nd Division BSA M20 in a row of captured vehicles. It has the formation sign on the near-side which must mean that the census number had been applied elsewhere.

    2nd Div M20  Dunkirk Salvage (2).jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    1st Corps - 102nd Army Field Company RE Norton photographed at Dunkirk - The 1 Corps spearhead is alongside the AoS serial on the rear number plate. It doesn't look as if there was a corps bar applied above the AoS marking.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Photographs of 5th Division vehicles in 1940 are not common. This BSA on the beach appears to carry their 'Y' - once again on the front mudguard blade.

    The AoS serial beginning '2' is not fully visible.

    5 Div KM20 + 3 Corps Dunkirk.jpg

    The second BSA behind would seem to carry a rather crudely painted 3 Corps formation sign with the front number plate being used to display '68' on black, which could indicate No.104 Provost Company but may simply be the individual machine's identifier.

    Similar use of the front number plate, again without corps or GHQ bar. It looks to be a '65' and must surely be a machine identifier as there is a second image of the scene which clearly has the AoS marking '31' on the rear.

    Abandoned KM20 b.jpg


    The '31' is would indicate a divisonal provost company. In view of the location and that 4th Division used another series, I'd suspect 3 Div Provost.


    qqq.jpg




    Another photo from the same location in De Panne also shows a now-redundant civilian number plate holder being used to display the AoS serial - this time '110' with GHQ bar indicating 105 Provost Company.

    105 Provost Coy Abandoned KM20.jpg

    Perhaps the oddest location that I've noted for an AoS plate on the front of a motorcycle. This Triumph 3SW appears to carry a detachable 'PASS' type plate but fitted to the front forks on the near side.

    Triumph 3 SW closeup.jpg

    The burned out Morris is marked to 2nd Division's 3rd Field Regt. RA but that is no guarantee that the '26' on the motorcycle relates to 2 Div Supply Coy. RASC. There might just be a 44th Division white oval sign on the front edge of the fuel tank
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    One at a time !
     
  6. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    51st Division at St. Valery-en-Caux. Once again the formation sign appears on the off-side of the fuel tank and the front number plate is being used for the AoS serial ('31' on black - 51 Div Provost Company)

    51st  Div Provost St Valery.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Regrettably no formation signs visible here but once again the rear number plate being used for the AoS serial. It seems unlikely that the plates are black (29 would then be Div Field Ambulance) but perhaps more likely the background is RE blue and indicates a spare for Corps RE units as detailed in Hodges & Taylor.

    A 1940 Civ. imp Nortons De Panne Corps Tps 29 blue- spare RE   34 Red spare MC Btn..jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Malo Les Bains Casino.jpg A further example of number plate AoS placement - No.4 GHQ (Artillery) Coy. RASC - '174'
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2017
  9. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    A pair of Pathé stills from Leuven showing a 16H displaying the 2 Corps sign on the right hand side of the fuel tank.

    [​IMG]

    The AoS serial begins with a '5' - If the published list is accurate as at 10th May, then 2 Corps differed from the others and this would be an RASC unit. However, there seem to have been other discrepancies and it may be more likely that following 1 and 3 Corps practice, this would be an RAMC or RAOC serial.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Another variation on a GHQ Provost Company Formation sign placement. A shot from an album including images of De Panne - the rear of the Hotel Continental Osborne.

    [​IMG]

    The '109' on black with GHQ bar under indicates 101 Provost Company. The numbers appear stencilled but the panel is freehand.

    [​IMG]

    Unsurprisingly, quite a number of the motorcycles within the perimeter are from Provost units. This one has been quite well disabled. The fuel tank is punctured and the timing chest has been smashed. The missing wheel was probably pilfered afterwards.

    Another BSA M20 (I think a pre-September 1939 KM20) from 101 Provost Company, confirming their fuel tank marking with an oversize GHQ bar under.

    [​IMG]

    A search of CWGC doesn't show any casualties detailing 101 Provost as sub-unit so no indication of whether this unfortunate chap was the rider.
     
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    101 Provost Coy's diary stops in April.
     
  12. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    Deleted
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  13. rewdco

    rewdco Senior Member

    That's not a Police badge Nick, but a "Shock Absorber Knob Star Washer" (BSA part number 15-5260)... :D

    Jan
     
  14. Cisse

    Cisse Member

    Hi Rich & Jan,

    I'm thinking to change my markings on my 1939 M20 and reading here on WW2 Talk forum I'm a little bit wiser but not yet really.
    So I wonder if you can help me out with some questions :

    - gasmarking : on headlamp our petrol tank ? If petroltank : where exactly ?

    - C number : on a black back ground our not ? And on witch side ? Only on the near side ? Our shall a get numberplate from Jan ? ;-)

    - Division ? Only on the tank ? I go for the 2th Division, so I have some proof in the pictures. Also Border regt was in the 2th Division. Unless a picture turns up from the 4th Division.

    All the best,

    Cris
     
  15. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cris, my impression is that gas detector paint on the headlamp was more common. It had to be visible from the driving position and there have been suggestions that it could be affected by spilt fuel. Take your pick. Just make sure that it's a nice bright early-war yellow.

    Census number application changed several times over a fairly short period. What's your frame number ? I should be able to 'bracket' it with period photos. Generally WM20s (and later KM20s) don't seem to have had the black panel. It's quite common to see the front number plate fitted, even if not used.

    I'd certainly like to see 2nd Div markings - the two bikes should pose for a photo then. 1 Border left 2 Div for 42nd Div early in May. I don't know if they re-painted in time.

    I can't find any images of the 4 Div marking on motorcycles, odd considering they abandoned so much around De Panne.

    If you choose 2nd Div, I can supply tracings / templates taken from my original markings.

    Rich
     
  16. Cisse

    Cisse Member

    Hi Rich,

    Great ! Thanks for the info. Gasmarking will go on the headlamp.
    C number is 4140755. That is on the tank now and not on a black back ground but it is on the 2 sites, so will take one off ;). There is no front number plate, so will leave that.
    I'll go for the 2nd, love to see the 2 bikes together then :)!
    A template would be good.
    Cheers,
    Cris
     
  17. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cris, does this help ?

    [​IMG]

    These early machines used a small format, simply omitting the black panel.

    I can demonstrate from photographs that it was only displayed on the (UK) nearside.

    It should be hand-painted and using nominally 1" high x 3/4" wide figures.

    I cheated on mine by using stencils from Axholme Signs and then painting with a brush. You certainly shouldn't have stencil 'bridges' on a 1939/40 RAOC-issued motorcycle.
     
  18. LondonNik

    LondonNik Senior Member

    Deleted
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  19. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hi - these pics from ebay Germany shows an Infantry Mk 1 named DRASTIC - Is the slightly damaged motorcycle British and could it be from 4RTR?

    Not British but a Belgian-made Gillet. I'd suspect a 350cc AB38 model. It looks to be in Belgian service. They were used by the Chasseurs Ardennais amongst others. They fought in the Ardennes in 1940 and then again on the Escaut / Schelde.

    See top picture on this site :-

    Les motos militaires Belges

    Where are 4RTR likely to have lost 'Drastic' ?
     
  20. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    Just noticed the two motorcycles escorting the bigwig on this Pathe film both bear AOS 74 with white bar above.
     

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