AFS Matchless Equipment

Matchless motorcycles built to Home Office specification were basically standard machines.  Additional equipment, mostly fitted by the Home Office or Fire Brigades after the motorcycles left the factory, consisted of a fire extinguisher and holder attached to the left side of the frame front down tube and a set of Midland pannier racks and webbing or canvas pannier bags.

1959 on AFS Matchless motorcycles were fitted with a unique front mudguard at the factory, having two holes drilled side by side in the top-mid section.  This was to facilitate the fitting of a Mobile Fire Column ID Plate, earlier models had the usual front registration number plate in this position with a longer bracket to mount the MFC ID plate above the number plate.

Period photographs show that there were quite a few variations when it comes to the types of equipment and fittings used on the motorcycles and this was probably due to the preferences of individual Fire Authorities, for instance some period photographs show AFS Matchless motorcycles on exercises without pannier racks fitted.  It should also be remembered that many of these motorcycles were not issued to Brigades at all, being kept in Ministry of Supply storage until sold off.  Most of these motorcycle had no additional equipment fitted   and remained in ‘Factory Fresh’ condition.  Therefore it is very difficult to say what the correct original specification was for any given individual AFS motorcycle and the information below is presented as a guide only and has been gathered from studying a number of different AFS Matchless motorcycles and period photographs.

Equipment & Fittings for AFS Matchless Motorcycles

                                     Pann 1-filtered Pann 2-filtered

Midland pannier racks and tubular mounting frames showing how the racks are secured to the motorcycle at three mounting points, these being the shock absorber top bolt, pillion footrest mount and rear mudguard/grab handle  mount.


Fire Ex Bracket 1-filtered






Fire extinguisher and holder.  On the right is a close-up of the two piece top bracket which clamps around the frame front down tube.  At the bottom the holder attaches to one of the front engine mount bolts with a short bracket.


XYM 599 – 1960 Matchless G3

This motorcycle is of particular interest as it is believed to have been the only AFS Matchless motorcycle to be fitted with a Sidecar.  Research has shown that it was probably issued to a Home Office Experimental Workshop where a sidecar was attached and a lightweight water pump mounted on the sidecar.  It was intended for use in remote areas where access by vehicles was difficult or restricted.  Records indicate that it was never issued to a Brigade and that it was sold at auction in Hereford as a Motorcycle Combination.  We would very much like to contact the current owner of this motorcycle to hopefully discover more about it’s history.


Mobile Fire Column Motorcycle ID Plates

Many period photographs show AFS Matchless motorcycles fitted with MFC (Mobile Fire Column) ID Plates attached to the top of their front mudguards.  The colour and numbers on these plates differed depending on the make up of the MFC and the Region it was operating from.  Each plate would have had three white numbers on a black background at the top with the main part of the plate in one of six different colours denoting the Company within the Column, these colours were Yellow, Red, Blue, Green, Black or White.  The first figure denoted the Region and the last two figures denoted the Column No. i.e. 01 = Column No.1, 02 = Column No.2 etc.  A letter ‘T’ in place of the first figure would indicate a Training Centre i.e. T01.  All vehicles in a MFC would have also displayed a larger number on the colored part of the plate indicating their position within the Column, this did not officially apply to motorcycles due to their role of ‘Shepherding’ the Column however, some period photos do show motorcycles displaying a number in this position.  It should also be noted that some Brigades applied their motorcycle’s Fleet number at the top of the plate, photographs of Somerset Fire Brigade motorcycles show two figures in the top position.  It is noticeable that in a few period photographs some motorcycles had no ID plate fitted at all, so once again it appears that it was very much down to individual Brigades how they applied the guidelines relating to the fitting of various pieces of equipment.

Screen shot 2012-03-09 at 20.08.20 Region Number HQ
101 (Northern) Newcastle
201 (North Eastern) Leeds
301 (North Midland) Nottingham
401 (Eastern) Cambridge
501 (London) London
601 (Southern) Reading
701 (South Western) Bristol
801 (Wales) Cardiff
An original Mobile Fire Column motorcycle ID  plate. This example is for North Eastern Region, Blue Company. 901 (Midland) Birmingham
10.01 (North Western) Manchester
11.01 (Scotland) Edinburgh
12.01 (South Eastern) Tunbridge Wells

I would like to acknowledge the advice given by Mr. John C. Thompson (co-author of  ‘The Green Machine’) on the above subject.


Riding Clothing & Equipment

It seems that there was also a variety of riding equipment used by the AFS dispatch riders, depending on the Brigade or County they were in.  For example, period photographs show a number of different helmets in use by riders ranging from Pudding Basin helmets, Corker helmets (black or white) Jet style helmets and even Army steel Dispatch Riders helmet.  Although issued by some Brigades, helmets seem to have been a personal choice.

Most riders are seen wearing either military dispatch riders style coats or the traditional double breasted fire brigade tunic.  Gloves in use were more often than not the Army style ‘Drivers’ gauntlets while the type of boots used were either the standard issue fire brigade wellingtons or leather motorcycle boots.  Leg wear was the standard fire brigade waterproof leggings worn over uniform trousers however, one former AFS member informed me that most riders often wore there own waterproof clothing when riding long distances or to an exercise but, once on the exercise, the fire brigade issue tunic and leggings were worn.

Picture 2-filtered

This photograph nicely illustrates the different variety of clothing worn by AFS Despatch Riders.