His­tory on two wheels

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Waterford - Michele Nu­gent

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.”

Pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey

Peter Bar­row with his Har­ley David­son WLA Army bike. Be­low: The bike as it was found at a Pil­bara sta­tion in 1972.

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