In June 1953 AMC (Associated
Motor Cycles) were approached by the Home Office to supply eight Matchless
motorcycles for evaluation purposes. The motorcycles were to be used by
the newly formed Experimental Mobile Fire Columns which were to test the
suitability of vehicles for use by the AFS as part of Great Britain’s Civil
Defence Services to counter the threat of the Cold War. These eight
motorcycles were taken from factory stock and repainted in matt green. The
motorcycles proved to be suitable for their purpose and further contracts were
awarded to the factory. The motorcycles were built to order in six further
batches between March 1954 and July 1961. The motorcycles in each contract
were all registered with consecutive London area civilian registration numbers
and these are as follows:
- LYO 840 to LYO 847 – Initial
Home Office Evaluation Supply Contract One: 8 motorcycles – June
- NYV 252 to NYV 336 – Home
Office Contract Two: 85 motorcycles – March 1954
- WXR 551 to WXR 600 – Home
Office Contract Three: 50 motorcycles – July 1959
- XYM 501 to XYM 690 – Home
Office Contract Four: 190 motorcycles – March 1960
- 391 ALD to 450 ALD – Home
Office Contract Five: 60 motorcycles – September & October
- 450 BGJ to 493 BGJ – Home
Office Contract Six: 44 motorcycles – December 1960 & January
- 525 BYV to 544 BYV – Home
Office Contract Seven: 20 motorcycles – July 1961
A total of 457 Matchless 350cc
single cylinder motorcycles were built to Home Office
WKP 500 to WKP 511 – Although included in the book ‘The Green Machine’ and other publications as being AFS Matchless motorcycles belonging to the Kent Fire Brigade AFS, these twelve vehicles were not part of any official Home Office or AFS contract. In fact recent research accessing the original Kent Vehicle Registration Records has revealed that only four of these registration numbers belonged to Matchless motorcycles and that the four had been ordered by the Kent Fire Brigade (KFB) in late 1955 from the AMC dealership of Frank Bannister & Son, Railway Street, Chatham, Kent. They were delivered the Brigade workshops in February 1956 in standard Black trim and first registered by Kent County Council on the 16th February 1956. The records revealed that the other eight vehicles were a mixture of makes and had no connection to the Fire Brigade.
These four KFB Matchless motorcycles were: WKP 505, WKP 506, WKP 507 and WKP 508
There is some evidence that these four motorcycles were used by the AFS in Kent as period photographs of WKP 505 and WKP 508 show the initials AFS on the toolbox and oil tank sides above the initials KFB (Kent Fire Brigade), the photographs also shows that WKP 505 was fitted with a windscreen, crash bars and leg shields, either fitted by the factory or at the Brigade workshop but the photograph of WKP 508 shows that it did not have these ‘extras’ fitted. Two example of the four machines are known to have survived and are known to the Register, these are WKP 506 and WKP 507.
In conclusion, these four Matchless motorcycles were not official Home Office vehicles intended for use by the Auxiliary Fire Service and they are included here for reference, due to their inclusion in other publications.
It should also be noted that the Kent Fire Brigade AFS were supplied with a number of Official AFS Matchless motorcycles and these were issued to fire stations around the Brigade area. Why the Brigade chose to purchase four additional Standard machines as well, via a local Matchless dealership, is not yet known.
Home Office Fire Authority Numbering System
In November 1958 the Home Office gave each Fire Authority a unique three figure identifying number, the document stated that these numbers were to be marked or stamped on all equipment in use by the County or Borough Fire Authorities, the three numbers were to be prefixed by the letters AF. For Counties the numbers ran from AF301 to AF358 and for Boroughs the numbers ran from AF359 to AF435 consecutively. To date we have only discovered one ex-AFS Matchless with this type of number applied in red paint on the toolbox lid and it is unlikely that many AFS motorcycles would have been marked in this way.
Is your Matchless motorcycle an ex-Auxiliary Fire Service or Civil Defence machine?
If your Matchless G3LS or G3 motorcycle has a registration number with any of the above prefixes or suffixes then it is likely to be an ex-Auxiliary Fire Service motorcycle. Why not contact us to find out more.