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Re: BSA factory ledgers and the Birmingham Blitz

Research in the BSA ledgers has revealed that the motorcycle production didn’t stop or wasn’t delayed shortly after the August 26th air raid. It looks as if the factory where the guns were made had been hit on August 26th, rather than the factory where the motorcycles were assembled.

The situation was different after the November raids. When I look in the ledgers, the production of the M20 was going strong until November 19th 1940 (approximately WM20.30000). Some bikes were despatched the days after the raid, but then we have a gap until the end of December! It looks as if the production of the WM20 was halted for a month due to this air raid!


This is the daily production before and after the November air raids:
1/11: 82
2/11: 49
3/11: none (Sunday)
4/11: 65
5/11: 85
6/11: 81
7/11: 82
8/11: 89
9/11: 39
10/11: none (Sunday)
11/11: 59
12/11: 59
13/11: 92
14/11: 87
15/11: 80
16/11: 50
17/11: none (Sunday)
18/11: 57
19/11: 67
20/11: 33 (this is just after the air raid of 19/11)
21/11: none
22/11: 20

From November 23rd 1940 onwards (this is just after the air raid of 22/11) the production was delayed until December 22nd 1940:

22/12: 6
23/12: none
24/12: 24
25/12: none (Christmas)
26/12: 49
27/12: 23
28/12: 53
29/12: none (Sunday)
30/12: 46
31/12: 58
1/1/1941: 24 (New Year)
2/1: 50
3/1: 46
4/1: 36
5/1: none (Sunday)
6/1: 50
7/1: 47
8/1: 52
9/1: 50
10/1: 57

The November air raids clearly had an effect on the production: not only had the production been delayed by a month, but the average production of 70 motorcycles per day had dropped to an average of only 35 bikes per day when the production resumed in late December 1940 - early January 1941. Also interesting to see that production continued on New Year's day!

It is unclear to me how the 1940 air raids can be responsible for the loss of the 1943 onwards factory ledgers… 😕 Any further comments or additional information would be gratefully received!

email (option):

Re: BSA factory ledgers and the Birmingham Blitz

It seems to me that the factory ledgers were useful to insure a BSA motorcycle went through the factory and received the correct spec and colour scheme for the end customer, by 1943 there was only one spec and one customer, the ministry of supply, so the ledgers had no real purpose and were just a pointless drain on manpower, I assume they weren't lost, more not bothered with.

But this doesn't appear to be the case with other makers?


email (option): robmiller11(a)

Re: BSA factory ledgers and the Birmingham Blitz

Wonderful research and analysis, Jan. The letter confirms that by 1971, BSA had clearly lost track of the interface 'twixt arse and elbow, as far as wartime production was concerned. We can't therefore blame the closure of Small Heath and the removal of records at that time.

Someone at some point decided not to retain, but why then not dump the earlier stuff too ? Were there still a few overseas customers in the earlier records ?

We have a similar but more accute problem with the Norton records. Folklore has all the Bracebridge Street ledgers being dragged out of a skip at Andover. Considering AMC's attitude to Norton, it's a wonder that they even got that far...but as per BSA, the pre-war records were preserved more or less in their entirety, although with discrepancies in engine and frame book retention.

It may be worth bearing in mind that factory ledgers show despatch rather than production..and the Despatch Department must have been where the ledgers were held. These books are not a summary of the Tally Cards, but of when the bikes were put on the dropsides or the goods wagons. Was the bomb damage in November to the production facilities, or the Despatch Department ? I suspect production, or they would have found another way to despatch. It may just have been one or two components that held things up...

Re: BSA factory ledgers and the Birmingham Blitz

My neighbour worked at BSA around this time, as has spoke about one bomb that was dropped that took out a few floors, and killed a few workers.
He was called up and served in the RAF Regiment on AA guns, still around at 101 and a 1/2.


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