Between 1953 and 1961 Matchless Motorcycles Ltd. who’s factory was in Plumstead, London built and supplied 457 350cc single cylinder Matchless G3LS and G3 motorcycles to Home Office contracts. These motorcycles, built to Home Office specification and painted green, were to be used by the Auxiliary Fire Service dispatch riders who’s job it would be to escort the service’s Mobile Fire Columns around the United Kingdom in the event of a new armed conflict.
The motorcycles were issued to various AFS Units and Fire Brigades around the UK, a small number were also issued to Civil Defence Units. Many of them were never to see ‘Active Service’, remaining in storage and unused until being sold off. Those that were issued to Brigades didn’t get much use either, only being used on various exercises around the country during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Auxiliary Fire Service was ‘Stood Down’ in 1968 and, as the motorcycles were no longer needed, they were sold off between 1968 and 1977 at various Ministry of Supply auctions. Most were sold at the Ruddington Ordnance Supply & Storage Depot in Nottinghamshire, but some were sold at auctions in Kinross, Stirling, Colchester, Carlisle and Winchester, most of them in more or less ‘as new’ condition. The motorcycles, sold individually or in lots of three or four, found their way into the hands of dealers and individual owners and it is believed that an unknown number of unsold machines may even have found their way into service with the Dutch Army. Of the 457 Matchless motorcycles ordered by the Home Office for use by the Auxiliary Fire Service less that 150 are thought to have survived, making them relatively rare machines.
The aim of the Register is to record the details of all known surviving AFS Matchless motorcycles and to try and locate and record as many of the ‘missing’ machine as possible. Some of these machines have found their way overseas but many may have either been scrapped, dismantled for spares or lost in other ways over the last 40 odd years. If you own one of these distinctive motorcycles, or know the whereabouts of one, we would be very pleased to hear from you so that the details of the machine can be recorded and added to the database. Please get in touch with us using the ‘Contact Us’ link above.
Unfortunately, most of the official Home Office and Fire Brigade records relating to the Auxiliary Fire Service motorcycles have either been lost or destroyed over the years and the information contained within this website has come from a variety of sources, some of it anecdotal, so this must be borne in mind. Whilst every effort has been made to check and clarify the information presented here, some errors and omissions may be present and we would therefore welcome any comments you may have.
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