WAY WE WERE
Your motorcycle memories and machinery from way back when. Feels like yesterday
I was wondering if you and your readers would be able to help me with identifying one of my dad Cyril’s bikes. I was introduced to motorcycling by my dad and I spent a lifetime listening to his exploits on motor bikes. A rich period of his life was during WWII when he was a D2DR despatch rider in the Royal Signals. He used to say to me that you meet the most interesting people through motorcycling – and he certainly did.
After his training at Catterick, where he met a young Geoff Duke, in 1944/45 he was Winston Churchill’s despatch rider and during this time he met people like General Smuts and Field Marshal Montgomery. At the end of the war in Europe, dad was posted to India, where he met Gandhi and Mother Teresa. After the war had ended, we moved to the Midlands and dad had a rewarding career in automotive and aerospace although his abiding passion was always motorcycles.
Sadly, my dad passed away recently and I was thinking of renovating/buying a motorcycle from his past as a fitting tribute to his life. I have a photograph of him on what I think is a Matchless G3 (see photo above). If this is correct (I would appreciate your advice on this) then a Matchless would possibly be a good project.
However, going through dad’s belongings I came across a 1938 BSA instruction book for an Empire Star and an insurance document with a registration HDD 838. I was wondering if there was any way I can find out if this bike is still around or even what bike this registration belonged to. Perhaps a BSA would be the better bike to look for.
Your advice on the above would be greatly appreciated and hopefully I will be able to find a fitting tribute to my dad. Steve Ryder
Hi Steve. Great photos and what a fascinating life your dad had! You can check if a vehicle is currently around using the DVLA website, but unfortunately HDD 838 doesn’t come up. Obviously, although there are thousands of old bikes around, only a minute percentage of those that were made survived and unfortunately many have lost their numbers, either
because the DVLA refuse to reissue them or they ended up as ‘field bikes’ and the plates were thrown away with the mudguards. So unless the document also lists engine or frame numbers, it would be very hard to be identify the bike – even if it does exist. Yes, your dad is seated on a Matchless G3L, the most popular DR bike with riders, featuring a lively overhead-valve engine and fitted with comfy tele forks. There are some girder forks visible in the group shot, which could either be earlier G3 Matchlesses or one of the other makes used. Hope this helps and thanks for sending in the story. All the best, Rick Parkington
129 The next best thing to time travel
ABOVE: Steve’s dad (on right) aboard his Matchless G3L
INSET: During despatch rider training at Catterick (front row, second from the right) Through bikes he met the famous people above
BELOW: Steve’s dad remained passionate about motorcycles