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

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

  1. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    Tidying up my photos and come across these bikes with some markings still visible.
    s-l1600 (4)Beute Norton Unfall Krad Russland 1941.jpg
    s-l1600 (7).jpg
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  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I don't have the original of this yet, but it shows a partially-stripped Norton, almost certainly in Le Havre (I'm hoping to be able to read the street sign). The Arm of Service serial '7' on a light background indicates a Field Park Company R.E. The white mudguard tip and location hint at 239 Fd Pk from 51st (Highland) Division who evacuated via Havre as part of Ark Force.

    AoS 7.jpg
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  3. morrisc8

    morrisc8 Under the Bed

    Sorry, i put a bid on that as well.
  4. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Just you and me, Kid ! No worries. I was still very pleased with it. I'd been expecting to spend more, to be honest. I'm looking forward to trying to zoom in on the tool boxes etc. in the foreground, and perhaps even the street name.
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  5. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    I was going to bid but forgot about it !
    Maybe we need a consortium.:)

    Any idea what the E on the tank means ?

    I think I have a picture of a guy nicking the handlebars somewhere, I will post it.
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  6. JCB

    JCB Senior Member

    This may be the handlebar thief !
    Both these pictures were captioned Le Havre.
    le havre 2.jpg le havre.jpg
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  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Ha Ha ! Who'd have thought that someone would have pinched the bars in broad daylight ? The bike that he's working on looks French to me, and he looks civilian.

    The 'E' is an unknown for me. Maybe just a section or machine number ? This side of the bike has the WD serial number so we still don't have confirmation of the division. A Field Park Company had eight motorcycles on the establishment so 'A' to 'H' might be a possible marking system.

    I'm not very active with bidding these days. I make an exception for motorcycles with visible markings, particularly Nortons.
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  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Another view of the 'beutesammelstelle' on the beach at Malo-Les-Bains. Perhaps the clearest that I've seen so far and quite soon after the evacuation as most of the machines are still quite complete. It shows a remarkably good view of the Matador on the beach that appears in the distance on a number of photos. It shows the 2 Corps sign on the RASC Triumph 3SW very clearly. Behind it is a 1st Infantry Division Norton with their typical white leading front mudguard section and formation sign on the right hand tank side. I'd have liked to see the Norton's toolkit still in place but it's already been pinched. The Vickers Light Tanks on the beach are from 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

    Malo Norton + 2 Corps.jpg
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  9. Neil Branum

    Neil Branum New Member

    I'm wondering if someone could help me, please?
    My grandfather was a despatch rider for one of the RE Field Coys with the 52nd Div.
    I was wondering what markings he would have had on his bike? I'd always heard it was a BSA. Would he have had the saltare as per the earlier photos shown in this thread from the BEF? I dont believe he was part of the first BEF but joined later, trained in Scotland and went to northern Europe.
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Neil, Sorry for missing your question. I usually keep a close watch on this sub-forum but somehow missed it.

    There are few photos of the 52nd Division motorcycles that went to France in June 1940 as part of 2nd BEF. Many probably carried no formation sign but it's clear that some did have the saltaire.

    In terms of later use, this sign was certainly used during 1940/'41 in the UK, but the booklet 'Vehicle Marking 1941' dated 8th January 1941 carries the order that 'Formation Signs' were not to be displayed on motorcycles. It's not really clear why this was decided upon and there is evidence of it not always being strictly adhered to. This means that from 1941 onwards, the only identification was a blue 'Arm of Service' square with a white serial number that changed over time for security reasons. In actual fact, nothing to indicate to which division the RE unit (or any other) belonged. If you have specific date in mind then I can look into the appropriate serial for you.
    Neil Branum likes this.
  11. Neil Branum

    Neil Branum New Member

    Hi Rich,
    Thanks for your reply, all this information is helpful. I know he was a despatch rider but Im not sure when he became one.
    Apparently he was in the Dunkirk evacuation but his Army records have not been uploaded for me to check all his information.
    I do know that as a despatch rider his one 'war wound' was when he rounded a corner in Belgium and hit a pig asleep in the road.
    I have the Tamiya 1/35 despatch rider with BSA that I would like to build as a trbute to him.
  12. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Service Records from the Second World War are not yet in the public domain and have to be applied for. He'd certainly have recognised the saltire on a motorcycle but probably not correct for NW Europe in 1944 / '45.

    I've not seen a pig in the road in Belgium although in this part, chickens regularly cross the road. The pigs are too valuable to let loose...

  13. Neil Branum

    Neil Branum New Member

    As I said, Im not sure when he became a despatch rider. I can picture a sunny day with a pig looking for somewhere warm to sleep tho.
    OT He had said that he was so cold at Dunkirk that his signet ring fell off his finger. I wonder if it was ever found?

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