1940 Matchless G3/WO History Search

Discussion in 'Vehicle Names and Census Numbers' started by Lincoln Bill, Feb 6, 2012.

  1. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    :confused: Good morning all, I'm new to the site and hope this is in the right place. I've recently bought an old 1940 Matchless G3/WO as a box of bits and am almost finished restoring it to its military configuration. I've been in touch with the army museum who hold the records for British military vehicles, but just my luck, the card for my Matchless is non existant. I know the bike was part of contract C-7183 and ended up in the middle east, but apart from that I'm stuck. I just wondered if anyone on the forum knew of any other avenues I could try to find the bikes history or where it would have been likely to have ended up and with with what mob?
     
  2. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    :confused: Good morning all, I'm new to the site and hope this is in the right place. I've recently bought an old 1940 Matchless G3/WO as a box of bits and am almost finished restoring it to its military configuration. I've been in touch with the army museum who hold the records for British military vehicles, but just my luck, the card for my Matchless is non existant. I know the bike was part of contract C-7183 and ended up in the middle east, but apart from that I'm stuck. I just wondered if anyone on the forum knew of any other avenues I could try to find the bikes history or where it would have been likely to have ended up and with with what mob?

    Hi Lincoln Bill,

    Welcome to the forum. Hopefully some here will be able to help you out a little. I am not a motorcycle man but from what little info I do have I understand that contract C 7183 was in 2 parts covering the following:- C92889 - C93358 and C93889 - C96828. But I guess you already know this.
    Sorry I cannoy help further.

    Cheers
    Kevin
     
  3. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    Cheers Kevin, thanks for that. I found the serial number under the old paint on the tank and the same number was also stamped on the back of the speedo casing, which is nice. It would be right in the middle of the order as it is C-934390.
     
  4. KevinT

    KevinT Senior Member

    Cheers Kevin, thanks for that. I found the serial number under the old paint on the tank and the same number was also stamped on the back of the speedo casing, which is nice. It would be right in the middle of the order as it is C-934390.

    Sorry I missed one batch C934001 - C938590. I hould have sorted them by contract number.

    Cheers
    Kevin
     
  5. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    Hello Bill, regrettably ruling out co-incidence or surviving markings, there is very little chance of discovering the wartime history of vehicles. Rob van den Brink's WD Norton site has quite a useful page describing what documentation originally existed and why it has not generally survived.

    Individual motorcycle history

    Generally, the authorities started with a more or less clean slate in 1948 or so (perhaps not surprising considering the wartime losses and the quantities taken over by friendly countries). If your bike had seen post-1948 service then there may have been a 'Key Card' describing some post-war allocations but these are not common for Middle East bikes and in any case, the G3/WOs were generally demobbed quite quickly (although many components survived on rebuilt G3/Ls).

    You're fortunate to have a tank with a census number. Were you able to record the size and font ? I imagine that the number on the speedo was a local system designed to reduce mileage fiddling.

    Contract C7183 was an RASC contract. Prior to the formation of REME, they were responsible for supply and maintenance of transport for second-line formations so it is fairly certain that your machine was not used by an infantry or armoured division, nor by Royal Signals.

    It has been noted from several sources that the faster ohv bikes were more likely to be used by the RASC for convoy work as they were better suited to belting up the the front of the convoy than the sv Nortons and BSAs which were more often used by the slower-moving front-line units.

    The RAOC records do indeed show this contract as 'RASC ME' which confirms the information shown in Orchard & Madden (Presumably you have their book ?).

    Do your engine and frame numbers tie in at all with the census number ? Generally on the G3/WO contracts it seems that they weren't strictly consecutive.

    Did you find any markings when sanding down ? There may be some clues in which part of the Middle East you bike came from.
     
  6. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    That's great info Rich, thanks very much. I thought it was a long shot, but it's always worth asking. I didn't come across any other markings except for white blackout type painting on the very end of the back mudguard. It was apparently demobbed in 1958 and sold on to Pride and Clarke in London, who sprayed it maroon and sold it on to civvy street. It has flat profile mudguards instead of the original ribbed ones it would have left the factory with in 1940. I think the flat profile ones are from a G3L? If there had been any surviving unit markings on the mudguards, they must have gone in the scrap bin when they swapped them over at some time in the long and distant past and there is nothing on the tank except for the very faint ghosting of the cencus number. The number was fairly roughly stencilled and was about 1.5 inches high. I did take photos, but they were on my old laptop when the hard drive gave up the ghost and couldn't be retreived (always back up your files regularly!!). The engine and frame numbers fall within the correct section of contract 7183, so I think it's fairly unmolested as far as it goes? The most surprising part is that it still has perfectly servicable, original 1952 dated W.D. stamped tyres and inner tubes on it!! They are still supple and uncracked, not sure if I'll keep them on it, but I'll see how it goes on it's road tests when I get it running. I bought it on a bit of a whim, but I'm now glad I did as my wifes Grandfather, The Major, was in the RASC out in the Middle East during the war and was very keen on his motorcycles, perhaps he would have known the bike?
     
  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    Ah, the dreaded "Snide and Shark's" maroon ! 1958 is quite late for a WO. They probably bought it in the large sales at Ruddington but without the post-war registration number it would be impossible to track down.

    It might be worth posting on the BSA WM20 forum. There are a few chaps there with access to some of the post-war cards and a second look wouldn't hurt. They've got a database of the M20 numbers but not of the Matchles as far as I know.

    My impression is that motorcycles in the Middle East frequently didn't carry Formation or Arm of Service markings but it should be possible to look something up. Do you have your wife's Grandfather's service records ? I can have a look and see if there is a record of what his unit displayed.

    You could always use a plain red / green RASC square and perhaps the Cairo-based GHQ Middle East Forces badge of a gold (often painted yellow) camel on a black square.

    There is something about those old tyres. The 1939 dated pair on my Norton came off without cracking and the red rubber inner tubes were intact except that the vulcanising for the valve stems had failed.

    I would change the tyres though (maybe after a few photos) - modern compunds are much better than the 1950s type were, even when new.
     
  8. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    My wife did get her Grandfathers service records a few years back, I shall have to get her to dig them out and I'll see whats what. I'll certainly try a posting on the WM20 forum, anything is worth a try.

    The bike did have four holes in one of its tool boxes where the post war brass workshop plate had been, but the plate itself is long gone, which is a shame as that would have given me an idea of the bikes post war use.

    I managed to get the bike started last night, for the first time since it came off the road in the late 1970s and it ran like a sewing machine, lovely! The oil return pipe was clogged up, so I had to whip that off and clean it out, but apart from that, it's perfect. I've just got a few more little jobs to do and I can take it out, well, as soon as this snow has dissapeared.

    I know what a hot potato colours can be and I don't want to start a debate, but I can't find any sign of light tan/khaki brown paint you'd assume vehicles in that theatre would be. However, I am told that they often stayed in the factory Khaki Green Number 3, unless they were going to be in the front line? Certainly after having looked at as many period photographs as I can, there seems to be a good mix of both green and tan painted machines.

    I agree about the tyres, seems a shame, but I'd rather not come a cropper and have everyone saying 'look at age of his tyres, serves him right!'
     
  9. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    Rich, I had thought about using the red and green RASC square and now you've mentioned it I could also use the GHQ Middle East Forces badge of a camel on a black square, but whereabouts on the bike would they need to go? I've got a fair idea, but just wanted to confirm things with someone who knew what they were talking about.

    I've just been looking through some other threads on this site and have come across a couple of shots of your Norton, what can I say? Very, very nice indeed, a lucky find and a cracking restoration, it's a credit to you.
     
  10. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    Bill, The RASC arm of service marking is fairly straightforward and from 1941 onwards would normally be found on the fuel tank off-side. I'd expect GHQ prior to 1943 to have a white bar under the marking (it was only later that they had the diagonal stripe). The Arm of Service serial will depend upon the exact unit. Full lists of GHQ serials are hard to find as they were decided upon locally and the War Office don't seem to have retained copies. If you can confirm the unit, we can start looking. My focus is rather more BEF than MEF but some of the same reference books apply.

    Formation signs were, strictly speaking, not to be applied to motorcycles after 1941 but prior to this were usually on the fuel tank near-side such as in the examples below (Air Formation Signals on an M20 and 2nd NZ Division on something rather like yours).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Yours would probably have been delivered in Khaki Green No.3 and any 'Light Stone' would have been applied locally. That said, KG No.3 was not a very stable pigment combination and by all accounts faded rapidly in the desert. It depends whether you're going for a straight off the freighter look or a bit more 'in service'.

    Feel free to start a debate about colours by all means ! I'm not confident enough to think that I always know what was correct but some things are obviously wrong. There is no evidence for instance of UK motorcycle factories supplying in Light Stone - Apart from anything else, the machines were sent to central depots and it's obvious from period photos that bikes from the same contract could be sent anywhere - I've seen as diverse as UK, Iceland, Egypt and Malta within the same contract.

    Surviving post-war REME plates show that there were Base Workshops active in Egypt up until the time of Suez so that is probably when yours came home (one of the lucky ones, not to be dumped in the sea !)

    Thanks for the comments on my 16H. I am rather pleased with it. To be honest, I was just looking for some large lumps to build a girder-forked greenlaner and I got sidetracked ! It gets more use now than my 850 Commando and I didn't expect that to happen.

    If you've yet to choose tyres, 'Vintage Tyres' now do their Ensign in 3.25 x 19 wired on and it has a very period tread, otherwise the high-mileage chaps seem to like the old Dunlop K70s but they are more of a 1950s pattern.
     
  11. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    That's all terrific, lots to digest. I love the photo of the Kiwis lined up on their G3's, fantastic. I've actually got a little dog about the same size as the one in the photo, but i think that's probably taking the restoration too far.

    I have matched up the khaki green as best I could with what was under the various layers on the frame and so I think I'm going for what you describe as 'straight off the freighter' look. I remember having the same discussion with the Tank Museum about desert colours on WW1 tanks in Gaza in 1917. The surviving photos look like the tanks have been repainted in a light tan, but it is more likely that it was just the standard green that had faded in the sun.

    Thanks for the tip about the tyres, I'll certainly look into it. As soon as I get the thing finished and back on the road, I'll post a photo for you to have a look at.
     
  12. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    Just whist we are on the subject, why has my front tyre got EX POLAR EXPRESS stencilled on it in white paint? There are other things written on both tyres, but this is the only thing I can read clearly.
     
  13. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    I'm probably getting a bit off topic here, but as I've already mentioned my wifes Grandfather, I just thought I'd attach a nice photo of him and his driver out in the desert, probably in 1943 or 44. He was Major Dennis Eyres and a cracking bloke he was too, no longer with us unfortunatley. He was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk, went over with the BEF as a Private and came back from Dunkirk as a Sergeant. I don't suppose anyone can tell me what the dice or domino painted on the lorry door means?
     

    Attached Files:

  14. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    That's a very nice picture. I don't recognise the domino. I'd suspect an unofficial marking. The truck is a 13 cab Canadian Military Pattern Chevrolet.

    You know which Arm of Service serial to apply to the Matchy anyway. I can't find the serial '1161' in any of the books or lists that I have but 1152, 1154, 1158, 1166, 1167, 1168 and 1169 were all General Transport Companies, RASC. so there is a good chance that 1161 was too.

    The green / red diagonal is not clear but reds and greens are the devils own job to discern on b/w film, especially as a result of the various filters used. The white bar underneath is that indicating 'GHQ Troops'

    By the way, I have no idea about the stencilling on your tyre. If only they could talk !
     
  15. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    Thanks for the info on 'The Majors' old lorry. He was a keen photographer and toured Germany with two friends in 1937, so he's left us with some great shots of pre-war Germany as well as the ones he took whist on active service in the war.

    I took the Matchless down a local farm track for it's 'sea trials' yesterday between snow flurries, what a bike! It feels so sure footed and stable. The only problem is that I've rebuilt the engine and gearbox, so can't do more that 30mph until it's all run in and happy, which was a shame. The next bit is the MOT, which should be fun.
     
  16. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    Appendix 2 of British Forces Motor Cycles 1925-45 gives the following information for contract C-7183:

    Maker's Type: G3
    Military Class: M/C solo 350cc OHV
    Cat. Ref: 17
    Frame Number: 7000-12999
    Engine Number: 40-G3WO-10226 to 40-G3WO-16255
    Quantity Produced: 6,000
    Dates: 23/05/40 Demand - 29/03/41 Contract Date
    Price: £49 13s 11d
    Delivery Destination & Notes: Ashchurch and Feltham. (Dest for Middle East) 150 per week rising to 450 per week. Delivery starting from 29/03/41.
     
  17. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    That's great information, thanks very much for passing it on. The frame and engine numbers of the bike are well within the range you've listed, so it all seems to tie up. I can't believe the bike cost £49 13s 11d new, probably a lot of money in it's day, but it won't be long before it'll cost more than that to fill the tank with petrol! It is booked in for MOT on Friday, fingers crossed.
     
  18. PeterG

    PeterG Senior Member

    I can't believe the bike cost £49 13s 11d new, probably a lot of money in it's day
    The current value of £49 13s 11d for 1940 is £1,548.85, for 1941 is £1,419.64p, and for 1942 is £1,419.78. So the Ministry of Supply got a good deal with rising inflation, a saving of £129 on each bike between 1940 and 1942.
     
  19. Lincoln Bill

    Lincoln Bill Junior Member

    That's a lot of bike for the money. I wonder what they sold for when demobbed, probably not very much. My Matchless was disposed of in 1958, Rich Payne says, probably through the auctions at Ruddington, I wonder if there are any surviving records anywhere to say exactly when it was sold and for how much?
     

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