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(Article from December 1943)

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An article from December 1943 recording a discussion on the ideal Home Guard motor cycle held by the Syx Don R M.C.C. in Surrey is reproduced below.


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Ideal Home Guard Motor Cycle

Varied Views on an Engrossing Subject: 125 c.c. W.D. Two-strokes the Answer ?

SURPRISING as it may seem to some, nearly every speaker at the Syx Don R M.C.C.'s discussion on the most suitable motor cycle for Home Guard use strongly urged the adoption of a small ultra-light two-stroke on the lines of the W.D. 125 c.c. Royal Enfield and James described in The Motor Cycle of October 28th, 1943. The fact is, of course, that nearly all the D.R.s in question know the Flying Fleas well—have seen them in use and in certain cases have ridden them. The Don R Sergeant can even claim to have ridden one of them, the Royal Enfield, over a typical railway footbridge—up one flight of steps and down the other, albeit with a certain amount of use of his long legs plus lifting the front wheel round by the handlebars at the right-angle corners on the bridge. The views of a number, therefore, were based upon definite knowledge.

In the chair was the Battalion's C.O., Lt.-Col. O. S. I. Northcote, who announced that the discussion was the first of what is hoped to be a series. He disclaimed knowledge of the technical aspects, but later when it was learned that on one occasion he had stripped and rebuilt a motor cycle engine at the roadside the audience began to feel doubts.

Opening the discussion, Sgt. Hussey began by setting out the conditions a Home Guard motor cycle must fulfil. A motor cyclist in the Home Guard, he pointed out, is officially described as a motor cycle orderly—a maid of all work, carrying messages, making reconaissances, sheep-dogging convoys and so on. The great point in the Home Guard D.R.'s favour was that he worked in a small area; he should know every road, by-way, footpath and even house. There were only short distances to cover, and in their battalion area it was only a few miles to the boundary. Any convoying of other troops through the area involved, therefore, only a short mileage. A need was to be quickly mobile.

Must be Light
We can, he continued, do all this, but must have a motor cycle that is suitable. It had to be light because the Home Guard D.R. went out on his own. If he got bogged—and even the best of riders can get into difficulties occasionally—he had to extricate the machine by himself. A maximum speed of 40 m.p.h. was adequate. Silence was a virtue because of the need to get near to the enemy on reconnaissance work.

The Home Guard, Sgt. Hussey pointed out, is doing a job all day—often an important job—and there is not much time for greasing, adjusting o.h.v. gear and chains. The machine he had in mind must have a light but strong frame: perhaps the pin-joint frame which Francis-Barnetts used to employ. The ground clearance needed to be high; then the roads could be left for others. Light-type telescopic forks, with a good up-and-down movement, were far better than the normal fork, he thought, though one sound type was that employing rubber; there was, however, the fact that rubber was at present difficult. Tyres of 2.75 or 3.00in. on 19in. rims were sufficiently large for a machine as light as that he had in mind, also 5in. diameter brakes, if of good width. Mudguards should have their leading-edges closer to their wheels than their trailing-edges to obviate clogging.

He thought that, in view of the work, a two-stroke of 100-200 c.c. was called for—a 125 or possibly 150—with unit construction, and a pre-stretched primary chain. A three-speed gear was sufficient, but a fourth ratio might be handy. In some parts of the battalion area an extremely low bottom gear could be very helpful. A foot change had the advantage that it was not necessary to remove a hand from the bars. Ignition by fly-wheel magneto, he felt, could not be beaten for a two-stroke, while petrol lubrication was simple and efficient.

With so light a machine a kick-starter seemed unnecessary. "A main point about these little two-strokes," continued Sgt. Hussey, "is their easy maintenance." Other features he mentioned were three sizes of nuts and bolt heads, one-gallon tank (adequate, he felt, for their work in view of the machine's economy), cam-action rear chain adjusters on B.S.A. lines, and a weight of only 120-130 lb. He ended by contrasting the performance and weight of such a machine with those of his own overhead-valve two-fifty.

Cpl. Weatherill thought the machine outlined would prove very good indeed for its purpose. He would like a cradle-type frame and, while he agreed that tyres of 2.75 or 3.00in. section were quite suitable for such a motor cycle, he would prefer a larger diameter, say, 20 or 21in. A hand change was preferable, he thought—a flick of the hand and one had found neutral. A foolproof type of kick-starter was desirable; one might get stuck on a hill and he did not like the idea of having to go down again in order to restart the engine. One other feature he favoured was a multiple belt primary drive, since it would eliminate transmission shock. He questioned the desirability of flywheel magnetos because of watersplashes. The saddle, he felt, should be fully adjustable on cycle lines.

The next speaker, Cpl. C. E. Chaplin, also considered a kick-starter absolutely necessary. For his area, he said, a one-gallon tank was not large enough. Whether there was hand or foot change was a matter of choice, though in some circumstances it could, he felt, be pretty deadly to take one hand off the bars to change gear. He did not consider there was much difference between the two-stroke and four-stroke as regards maintenance time. In any case, he liked plenty of greasing points; then one could feel certain.

Pte. Twyford said feelingly that all he wanted was a bike that did not take three men to start it by pushing, and mudguards that did not fall off immediately one got on any rough ground.

Unable to be present, Cpl. Hamilton sent a sheaf of notes, which were read out. He, too, emphasised that the Home Guard has very little time for cleaning, maintenance and overhauls and that H.G. duties were carried out when one was tired. In winter, even if the Home Guard used his machine for getting to and from work, there was a terrific drain on his battery. He therefore advocated direct lighting; he also urged that the engine should be a small, light two-stroke. It was not necessary to discuss whether a two-stroke was better than a four-stroke. "We only want a reliable bike that will get us there with the least possible trouble. The two-stroke, as we all know, has nothing to wear out, so requires little in the way of replacements, and, furthermore, there are no bits and pieces to adjust. Even decoking is simplified. An easily cleaned pressed-steel frame, hinged foot-rests, wiring in an enclosable "U" at the upper side of the tank instead of underneath, freedom from nooks and crannies and as the only controls on the handlebars, throttle, clutch and front brake controls, were further points he made.

Pte.Twyford immediately objected to hinged footrests, and Cpl. Chaplin said that an exhaust-valve lifter on the handlebars was definitely required for cross-country work. Pte. Gill pointed out that no one, as yet, had touched upon the question of shaft drive. Pte. Leadbetter said that it was pretty obvious that Sgt.Hussey had in mind the Army's 125cc lightweights. He himself thought a three-fifty side-valve better. There were times when power was wanted. "Consider convoy work," he said, "and the need to pick up on the convoy." He had, he continued, ridden two-strokes for years until recently, but did not think them ideal and he did not like petroil; care was needed in mixing petroil, and wear, he thought, was excessive. Belts in the primary drive, he imagined, would stretch. He could not see anything wrong with the modern, enclosed primary chain.

In answering various points which had been made, Sgt. Hussey stated that he had to do with woodworking machinery operating at high speeds and involving high power. For this vee belts were employed; he liked them for they were efficient and most serviceable. On the other hand, there was hardly the opportunity in these days of experimenting with motor cycle design. It was necessary to have proved features. The main point about the light two-stroke was its very low weight. The Home Guard did not have only convoy work; there was message carrying and reconnaissance.

NINETY-THREE riders started in the 56th Surrey H.G. Battalion's rough-riding competition at Headley Heath, described as suitable for instructors and potential instructors. There were 16 hazards of an extremely tricky nature.

At the finish the awards were presented by Lt.-Col. J. N. Eggar, O.C. 56th Surrey Battalion H.G., who remarked on the gruelling nature of the course, and said that riders who had completed it were obviously experts capable of surmounting any obstacles to be met with under actual Service conditions.

First: Cpl. R. Burns (59th Surrey), 24. Second: Pte. E. French (6th Surrey), 34. Third: Pte. H. L. Daniell (61st Surrey), 37. Winning Team: 55th Surrey : Cpl. P. G. Pooley, Sgt. R. O. Ellis, Pte. J. Balchin. Score, 144.
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