History on two wheels
THIS Harley Davidson WLA WWII Australian Army bike has had a colourful life, including popular Holden Torana shade Plum Dinger Purple and even Hermitage Red.
But with a growing interest in Australia’s role in World War II, Waterford resident Peter Barrow finally returned the historical vehicle to its original khaki livery after a painstaking research project of several years.
Mr Barrow came across the bike in the Pilbara in 1972, rusted and in bits in an outbuilding due for demolition at Gidgee Station, following the property’s purchase by a mining company.
“The first purchaser got the Harley Davidson at an Army auction in Brisbane around the late 1940s-early 50s and rode it to Gidgee Station where he used it in cattle mustering until its demise,” Mr Barrow said.
“It was totally dismantled in boxes and bags pushed into a corner since the 1960s so you can imagine my initial look at it,” he said.
“It took three years to source or make the minor pieces missing and assemble the bike which is now willed to the 2/15th Infantry Battalion museum in Brisbane and while they do not wish my demise, they are very excited about receiving it.”
The bike’s history is evocative to say the least. It’s elderly owner, station manager T L Niven, provided Mr Barrow with the bike’s original maintenance manual and parts book, inside which was written lightly in pencil Neville FC QX3323
“At the time this meant nothing to me, until later I became interested in Australia’s role in World War II.
“The original owner had told Niven he got the bike at a disposal sale in the late 1940s-early ‘50s and it had been in the middle east at Tobruk and El Alamein with the 2/15 Infantry Battalion. It had insignia markings but they could not be made out.
“I researched the 2/15th and found Francis Claire Neville QX3323 was a serviceman from Queensland killed at El Alamein in July 1942 so this supported the story of the bike’s history, facts later confirmed via the Australian War Memorial museum in Canberra.”
Peter Barrow with his Harley Davidson WLA Army bike. Below: The bike as it was found at a Pilbara station in 1972.