BSA M21 camouflage

The AA in Wartime

This BSA is an example of how the AA motorcycle combinations would have looked in their rudimentary camouflage

This BSA is an example of how the AA motorcycle combinations would have looked in their rudimentary camouflage

At the outbreak of WWII in 1939, over 850 AA personnel had volunteered as members of the Military Police Supplementary Reserve. Many of them ended up on the front line. On the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, for instance, the troops were marshalled by former AA patrols.

On the home front, Local Defence Volunteers – the forerunners of the Home Guard – were enrolled at the AA's HQ at Fanum House which at that time was in Leicester Square, London.

The patrols who remained in AA service quickly took precautions against being spotted from the air by painting their bright yellow motorcycles khaki, and they rode them wearing AA-badged steel helmets.

Across the country, AA road and direction signs were removed in their thousands in case they should help an invading enemy, and the name plates on AA roadside telephone boxes were obliterated. The AA Aviation Section was taken over by the Air Ministry and the AA routes department issued maps to US servicemen in Britain.

Wooden sidecar

Wooden sidecar

At the end of the conflict 73 AA staff had been killed and 53 were prisoners of war.

This BSA is an example of how the AA motorcycle combinations would have looked in their rudimentary camouflage, although a lack of original survivors means that this particular machine was built post-war.

Unlike later sidecars which were made of glass fibre, sidecars in the wartime era were made of wood, as here.

This bike has until recently been on display at the AA's Basingstoke Headquarters, and has been painted in camouflage colours by Patrol Tony Knott.

The bike is currently being restored and looked after by AA patrols Andy McMorran and Pete Tobias from the London area.


(22 August 2012)

 

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