During the 51 years of its existence the Birmingham Small Arms Company has had to face and overcome many difficulties and has formed a close acquaintance with mighty national and international problems in its dealings with Governments. Its progress, from its inception by a combination of a few individual gunmakers to its present world-renowned position, has been marked by a continuity of sound principles with the happy direction of far-sighted, broad-minded and progressive business men. And well it has been so. For all those problems and difficulties of the past faded into mere nothingness before the appalling situation disclosed on that memorable day in August 1914, when war was declared between England and Germany.
– Munitions of War: A Record of the Work of the BSA Company During the Great War
BSA was the world’s leading supplier of military bicycles. Prior to 1910, bicycles were supplied as fittings only, to be assembled locally. With international orders, this avoided import tax. Australia, for example, published guidelines as to how rough the imported parts must be in order to qualify for import tax exemption. The Australian bicycle and motorcycle industry was founded on BSA Fittings, so BSA parts were the most common to be found in Australian bicycles. When war was declared, BSA bicycles were supplied to Australian soldiers by the British government. You can see a typical example in the photo below.
1917 BSA Three-Speed Roadster
with Territorial Fittings
BSA bicycles were supplied worldwide before and during the Great War, both as military and civilian versions. Some territorial cyclist battalions placed bulk orders with individual manufacturers; in others, cyclists supplied their own bicycles. It often depended on whether they would be posted overseas.
As well as the standard military models, officers also placed individual orders with the company if they wished for extra specifications above the standard issue. Hire purchase was available for officers upon enlistment. This BSA Modele de Luxe with three speed gears and a chaincase was priced at 13 guineas. Its Territorial Bicycle fittings were optional extras.
The toolbag is the second pattern, fitted to the top tube rather than the rear of the saddle. The rifle mounting clips are those fitted to the War Office Mark II Bicycle illustrated below (whereas the War Office Mark I Bicycle had a ‘bucket’ style mount for the rifle butt).
1914 BSA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS