1942-1945 BSA Airborne Folding Paratroopers Bicycle
Frame Number R34942
Of all the 2nd Pattern BSA Airborne bicycles I’ve encountered, this is my favourite.
That’s because it has such superb original transfers and paint.
I bought it from my friend Phil, on the basis of his verbal description and a few small photos. The transfers are so good that, when I eventually saw the bike, I thought he must have put the transfers on himself! (of course, they are original).
Distinct original transfers are not easy to find on a BSA Airborne. Many had a hard working life and their transfers faded with time. By now, the majority have been repainted, either during their postwar existence – they were sold off as cheap ‘army surplus’ usually with their sliding peg pedals replaced – or by over-enthusiastic military buffs more keen on a pristine finish than preserving original paintwork.
I don’t like vintage vehicles that are cosmetically restored; they already greatly outnumber those in original condition. Sometimes, of course, there’s no option than to repaint. But my personal collection comprises ‘oily rag’ bikes wherever possible.
I had to buy various components to finish it off, as well as restoring it mechanically; it hadn’t been used for many years. But these are wonderfully low-maintenance bikes and easy to work on. As I try out various accessories on on R34942, I’ll update this page. I hope it might provide some inspiration for fellow enthusiasts.
By the way, I do not sell spares and accessories. If I have a military bike for sale, it will be on my sales website – http://BuyVintage.co.uk
Below you can see it next to the 1942 BSA Mk.V.
EASTBOURNE AIR SHOW, BEACHY HEAD, August, 2010
I visit the Eastbourne Air Show every year but, instead of going into the town, my viewpoint is always Beachy Head. With its elevation you have the advantage of seeing the planes circling lower in the sky.
I used the opportunity to give me a deadline to set up these two bikes and, in true Home Guard style, fitted the BSA Lincoln Jeffries air rifle to the BSA Airborne and the Lee Enfield to the Mk.V.
The repro rifle clips are obviously made for a Lee Enfield rather than an air rifle. They are well made, but I think they’re more suited to a Mk.V bicycle than an Airborne.
BSA TYRE PUMP & WAR GRADE TYRES
WW2 No 1 LAMP
This type of lamp is actually designed to fit onto a belt. However, they’re quite common and not expensive, so it’s a handy wartime accessory – especially as you can mount it onto a bicycle light bracket with an adaptor (below).
ORIGINAL BSA SADDLE No 40
THE BSA AIRBORNE
The BSA airborne bicycle was used in battle, but not as much as originally planned. The plan appears to have been that the bicycles would be mass produced and make the airborne soldiers mobile once they had landed. It was better and faster than walking. The British Airborne Forces used a few on operations, but as larger vehicles such as the jeep were available by June 1944, the bicycles were far less important.
Some of these bicycles are reported to have been used on the first airborne raid into Norway, as some are reported to have been found in the wreckage of the gliders. A few of these bicycles appear in memoirs about the battles of 1944-45 and a few show up in photographs – but only a few. Most photographs show them being used in training. Ironically, when the airborne did use bicycles in great numbers on the advance to Wismar in Germany in 1945, they had to use captured bicycles!
Photographic evidence shows that a few of these bicycles were carried by Commandos on raids.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, each Commando unit appears to have had a bicycle platoon though the bicycles seem to have been discarded within a few days.
Ironically the greatest use of the BSA airborne bicycle in action was by British and Canadian infantry on the invasion Normandy, France (D-Day 1944 June 6) in the second wave. Some had been used on the invasion of Sicily in 1943 by Canadian infantry (Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment “Hasty Pees” re: Farley Mowat).
Photographic evidence shows that some Canadian and British troops in armoured vehicles acquired BSA airborne bicycles and hung them on their vehicles, apparently for use as runabouts when time and circumstances permitted, just as owners of Recreation Vehicles (RVs) park the big beast and use smaller vehicles to running about on errands. Some BSA airborne bicycles MAY have been taken into combat zones by air force personnel as bicycles are very useful items to have around airfields.
Below, you can see the Queen inspecting the troops, in a 1944 photo.
Thanks to Colin Stevens for this information and these original BSA Airborne Bicycle photos.
To visit his excellent military vehicle website, PLEASE CLICK HERE