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BEF M.20

I restored my first WD M.20 in 1973 and when it was completed I took it to the local motorcycle dealer for an MOT. It transpired that the local dealer had been a dispatch rider with the BEF in 1939 /40 and rode an M.20. Whilst he managed to escape back to England via Dunkirk the M.20 was lost in the retreat during an attempted river crossing. The bike was in a rubber dinghy being supported by other occupants when they came under fire and the bike fell over. The rubber dinghy was punctured by the handlebars and the whole lot sank whist the occupants swam for shore.

The dealer had a photo of himself on an M.20 together with several others also on M.20s. The machines were certainly the early model with the oil tell tale on the timing cover, rod front brake, C number painted on the front number plate, rubber drivers footrests, offset speedometer, 8 inch headlamp with hooded blackout mask, girder fork side damper being the nut type as opposed to the wheel type. The speedo drive is from the offside. Of the machines in the photo all appear to have pillion seats fitted on the basis that each machine has a pillion passenger. It is a staged photo so it is possible the pillions are sitting on the rear carrier although I think that unlikely. The tappet cover is alloy not the later steel cover. The petrol tank appears to be the balloon tank and has rubber knee grips.

The machines show a painted square badge on the exhaust side of the petrol tank in two colours with the separating line being a diagonal. Although the photo is black and white I would guess the two colours could be Red and Blue with a white painted 44 across the centre of the badge. This badge is repeated on the tip of the front mudguard. On the near side of the petrol tank is a plain coloured triangular badge and in front of that on the one machine in white lettering is M/C 4. There do not appear to be any BSA transfers on any of the fuel tanks.

Now to a question - can anyone identify the unit to which these machines may have been attached. I am aware that the 44th Division was part of the BEF contingent but am not sure which units made up the 44th Division or whether the white painted 44 on the fuel tanks even relates to the 44th Division.

I have virtually all the period parts to build a replica of an early machine and this would be the basis of that project.

Of course I should have asked these questions many years ago but I didn't and the dealer Dougie Miles sadly died a long time ago.


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Re: BEF M.20

Keith, the BEF codes for divisions didn't go as high as '44'...These appeared with the post-Dunkirk revisions as the security of the earlier series had been compromised.

I have pretty well complete tables of the BEF arm of service markings and most for the Home front during late 1940 / 1941...I suspect that the photo may have been taken at that time. In general, the BEF had either overpainted headlamps (yellow or blue depending on the date) or occasionally a paper mask.

If you mail me a copy of the image, I can see if I can turn up anything. I beleive that you have my e-mail address.

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